The Edu Talk blog is a Must Read!

​The Edu Talk The Edu Talk blog is one of the best blogs about what teaching I have come across. That is saying a lot coming from one who spends way to much reading about education policy and how it relates to (or interferes with) my teaching. As a teacher who occasionally blogs about such policies, I am truly in awe of this one.

The posts include everything I once aspired mine to embody. Truth to power is articulated comprehensively, eloquently, and viewpoints are powerfully supported with evidence from personal or collective experiences, or with linked references when appropriate.

My favorite topic addressed is the same one I write about – the demise of American schools with corporate privatization of public education through the demonization of teachers by placing entire blame on any perceived failing, when in fact, they have no control over decisions made on how schools are structured, the curriculum they use, the method of delivery, content standards, what gets funded, classroom size (the amount of English Language Learners, special education, etc.), student truancy, parent support at home, “college prep for all” courses being the only ones offered outside of a few SDC for severe disabilities, demanding UC entry requirements for high school diplomas, appropriate assessment criteria (determining if a student was successful for the year using one test score), use of high stakes testing, relevancy of questions such tests… OR ANY LOCAL, STATE, OR FEDERAL POLICY.

Where I spend hours trying to word short blog entries that end up rambling on, sometimes with sarcasm or bitterness like the above, The author matter of a factly states facts, or extremely thought provoking questions, that seem to flow fluently with such mastery of the English language.

My favorite so far is called, “Motives Matter” dated May 2011. Well worth reading if you are interested in education, like reading good blogs, have school age children, or think teachers alone should be “accountable” for the problems (real or perceived) and/or the measurement of every student’s learning should be assessed using one multiple choice test score by memorizing rote facts.

Rating doctors on healthy patients = teachers on state test scores

I read a comment in this article that compared evaluating teachers and doctors with the same “accountably” measures.

Teacher Development At Center Of New Center For American Progress Studies.

Rating doctors on how healthy their patients are is a perfect comparison since their patients many times come to them unhealthy in the first place.

It is the same thing as holding doctors accountabl e for how well their patients follow their medical advice or how many of their patients get cured of their ailments.

Doctors can’t force patients to lose weight or quit smoking any more than teachers can force some students to learn, or take those tests seriously or force their parents to support their child’s education (or change some of the factors that can affect low test scores like not speaking English, having a learning disability, or coming from a low socio-economic status).

School Districts Shortchange Low-Income Schools: Report

I am pleased that, as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the following article posted, “The facts are out there like they’ve never been before,” but these findings have been more than just “long suspected.”

School Districts Shortchange Low-Income Schools: Report.

In 1991, Jonathan Kozol detailed this in his book, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, that discusses the disparities in education between schools of different classes and races. It is based on his observations of various classrooms in the public school systems of East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C.
His observations take place in both schools with the lowest per capita spending on students and the highest, ranging from just over $3,000 in Camden, New Jersey to a maximum expenditure of up to $15,000 in Great Neck, Long Island.
In his visits to these areas, Kozol illustrates the overcrowded, unsanitary and often understaffed environment that is lacking in basic tools and textbooks for teaching. He cites the large proportions of minorities in the areas with the lowest annual budgets, despite the higher taxation rate on individuals living in poverty within the school district.

This article states that, “Though Duncan highlighted the glaring disparities Wednesday, his administration has so far prioritized other issues — such as standards and innovation — over funding equity.”
These glaring disparities have always been known so, unfortunately, I doubt the report will alter priorities any more than Kozal’s findings did.

My blog was quoted in a magazine again.

I was quoted in a national teachers’ union magazine (NEA Today) that is sent to just about every teacher in the country. When I started this blog, I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. I saw it more like a place to store all my writing about injustice so I could access it anywhere for quick quotes or facts when I’m writing letters or commenting on something.

The article, “If I Wrote the Law…” used educators quotes from blogs, message boards, etc. regarding NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and my quote is the is the last one. They used:

“NCLB has let parents off the hook by [only] holding teachers accountable. The alarming level of truancy, the work habits of unmotivated students, and behavior issues are the factors that affect the failure of students in our education system.”
—Ronda Gupton-Pruett, high school resource specialist Napa, California

When they called for my consent I thought it was nice that the writer pointed out that he had like a lot of what I had wrote but was using the thing about parents because he had never heard that point being made before.

You can see the online version of the article here. There are many excellent points made by teachers in it.

NCLB = Discrimination

I feel the frustrations witnessing students endure the many hardships NCLB has created for them. School is nothing like it was when most of us reading this went.
In our middle schools and high school the students must score higher than “Basic” on the state standardized test or they have to take double periods of English and/or Algebra. Most of them don’t get to take any electives until their Junior year with all the other required courses in their schedules (at least not electives that they “elect” since the extra period of English and Algebra count for their elective credits). Some students also take very little or no Science or Social Studies in middle school and elementary school. The majority of these students are English Language Learners, Special Education students, and/or at risk youth. Requiring these students to have an all academic day is robbing them of more than just a normal high school experience. It robs them of opportunities to explore new interests, find undiscovered talents, showcase those areas or fields they excel in, and develop leadership or other skills relevant to their future. It’s hard for me to not see this as discrimination against these groups of students. Not only to they not get a break from rigorous academic work all day, they are stuck in boring mandated scripted programs that only focus on scoring higher on the tests and cover little else.
Actually this is true for all students that don’t take AP or honors classes. The mandated methods and materials now used to teach state standards have turned what used to be interesting, even exciting, classes where actually learning took place into dry, monotonous, task based curriculum with routine exercises that rarely tap into higher level critical thinking skills. They have workbooks instead projects or problem solving assignments, edited anthologies instead novels, and rote tasks instead of class discussions. This is not an environment that lends to developing critical thought, communication, or appreciation for reading and literature.
And when there are interesting assignments that involve processing and analyzing information, there is so little time to teach how to do this (or have class discussions practicing it) that the lessons are often confusing and leave many not understanding what is being asked of them. With the fierce pacing guides and overpaid consultants looking over the shoulders of teachers, they must move on to the next assignment in the scripted program, knowing that few can synthesize and apply the concepts of the previous one. In my opinion it is the very skills these classes now lack that have more to do with preparing students for the work force or college, let alone successful and meaningful lives. Our students today are missing out on more than just cool classes with the creative and effective teaching methods of the past. They are missing out on instruction related how to think, form conclusions or opinions, and how to appropriately communicate these (including written expression).
An example outside English or Language Arts classes is the Algebra issue. Not everyone is ready for algebra in the 8th grade for a variety of reasons. However, schools get more credit for having everyone in algebra classes, hence the push for algebra for all in the 8th grade, ready or not.
There is still an enormous amount of students failing subjects despite many additional supports in place. NCLB has let parents off the hook by holding teachers accountable. The alarming level of truancy, the work habits of unmotivated students, and behavior issues are the factors that affect the failure of students in our education system. The expectation of above average or college prep performance from every single student with this cookie cutter approach can be directly related. Teacher accountability is necessary but it needs through a system that uses logic and is not so devastating to students and teachers.

How “No Child Left Behind” Affects Students

Going to school is nothing like it was when we went.

I teach high school at Napa High in California and due to No Child Left Behind, schools have to what ever they can to up the test scores of those students who perform below the mark George Bush says, so most of my students have double periods in math and Engligh. This means they don’t get electives until their junior or sophmore year. I can’t even imagine high school with out electives.

There is great article in the The SF Chronice explains what NCLB is by using Napa High to show how schools are graded, how many/type of goals required, and what has to happen to the whole district if just one school doesn’t meet just one goal.
I teach the Read 180 class discussed (and pictured) in the article.
Napa High School, a state standout, is considered a federal failure

You won’t regret reading it.

Because it mostly covers the effects it has, you’ll want to read the posted comments for bigger picture its obvious agenda.

…And let me know what you think of my school. : )