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).

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.

Since When Do Teacher Haters Make Up the Majority?

I hope I am not being naive but I can’t believe the things I read that members of my community post on articles or letters regarding anything education related on my local newspaper website or local message boards. Even articles hailing a certain school’s achievements or ones reporting upcoming public performances. Usually more than half of all the comments are “less than supportive” of public school teachers by describing us as tree-hugging, lazy, overpaid, unethical, “part-time”, and a complete waste of public money. Is it like this everywhere or do I just live in a conservative area? I realize that hating teachers is no different anywhere else but I don’t recall the number of people doing the bashing being the majority before. Has it always been like this and I just never noticed it?

I am more than tired of reading the incorrect information these extremists post too. It’s as bad as the propaganda you read about in college history text books. My favorite so far is, “…studies have repeatedly shown that reducing class size prove no benefit to test scores”. So not true. Every study I found after researching this, looking for what study this guy could possibly be talking about, shows nothing but the opposite. (Class Size Reduction Research) And by the way, with the public’s misconception about teacher’s unions, along with the blatent propaganda by exstremists about them, I would be EATEN ALIVE if I posted a CTA link as a source anywhere else except my own blog, lol. (I chose it because the page has link at the bottom that succintly summerizes many more recent results).

I realize that bashing and blaming teachers for all of society’s ills is nothing new but it seems like I see it soooooooooo much more in the past three months with all the media’s coverage on education budget cuts. I also realize that it comes from everywhere, not just conservatives. I questioned if was the area I live in because the onslaught of recent posts in my local newspaper website come from from the same people who disparage our “Socialist” president with Rush Limbaugh quotes. (Many more inaccurate or non-exsistant “studies” in those posts too).

The last time I noticed it being this common to use teachers as scapegoats for everything under the sun being this ridiculous was when CA had a (very expensive) “special” election during Schwarzenegger’s first year as Governor in California. Almost every proposition of his (all but two) had to do with new laws to keep public school teachers from continuing to cause most of California’s economic and social problems. The arguments in the written material were shocking as much as they unfounded and absurd. Not one of his propositions passed in this wasteful election but knowing he feels this way, I’m now thinking we shouldn’t be so surprised with his $15 billion dollar budget cut to California public education.

Speaking of, I need to go and prepare myself emotionally for the pink slip I will be getting today as well as find something pink to wear for “pink friday”. I leave begging all to not believe the incredible misinformation being spread out there about my profession. Teachers are some of the most dedicated, selfless people I have come across.

CA Budget Crisis & Teacher Layoffs

Because of education being hit so hard in California’s budget crisis, there is a good chance that I will be losing my job at the end of this school year, making this the third teaching job in 10 years. If I do get to keep my teaching position, I will have many more students both in the classes I teach and on my special education caseload, with less time in my schedule to prepare for and serve both as prep periods are being taken away. This will be the situation for almost all teachers in my state who continue to be employed.

Laying off teachers seems to be the method of choice used by most CA school districts in responding to having tens of millions of taken from their annual budget. The Napa Valley Unified School District, the district I teach high school for, has had over $17 million dollars cut and will be eliminating over 80 teaching jobs. The way most CA school districts have been able to eliminate teaching positions is to play with their numbers in class size and/or doing away with prep periods. Some, like Napa, are willing to pay the fines to have more than a 20:1 student to teacher ratio in K-3, because more money is saved overall with less teachers. The school board position is teacher salaries make up the majority of it’s budget, so there is no other way to save $17 million dollars without reducing the amount of teachers.

So far 16,087 pink slips have been delivered to California teachers as of today, March 1st. This number is increases daily and the deadline, the day the majority of us will get ours, isn’t even until March 13th, “Pink Friday”. (More info at www.pinkfriday09.org as well as ideas for that day, how to help support teachers, and a forum).

Although the affects of this will further destroy public education in California (something started years ago at the federal level with NCLB – No Child Left Behind), I have been dis-heartened to find this seems to bother very few. In fact, there are some singing it’s praises. I had no idea there was such a large group of people out there who have believed every bit of propaganda fed to them about public school educators until reading the comments on the many articles and/or letters that have been in the media recently.
I’ve included a link to show the latest example:
Rethinking School Layoffs, a letter to The Napa Register

The comments made in this letter to the editor of the Napa Register shows just little people know about public education or teaching in public schools. Some comments have left me completely amazed how gullible (or stupid) people are. Like I said, I had no idea of the number of teacher-hating extremists there were until reading the number of comments made to the several articles/letters on the topic of teacher lay-offs.

If you are one who is bothered by any of this, there will be events all over California, around March 13th, a.k.a. Pink Friday, where protests and rallies will be taking place that I strongly encourage you to attend and support your local school teachers. I also encourage you to write letters to legislators and/or a local newspaper, or at least pipe in on some discussions and support public school teachers. Especially if you see the majority of posts or comments are not in their support, like in the link I included.

And thanks for reading. I know everyone is affected by budget cuts and my post only mentions CA teachers but it is what’s on my mind as I prepare for my pink slip I will be handed next week. So because of this, please comment about how any budget cuts are, or will be affecting you or those close to you, whether it relates to education or not. I would love to read about it.

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. : )