Michigan Senate Approves House Version Of Anti-Bullying Bill, Drops Religious Language

There is a new article in the Huffington Post related to the Michigan anti-bullying law that I blogged about last week. VICTORY!!!

Michigan Senate Approves House Version Of Anti-Bullying Bill, Drops Religious Language.

I don’t know if you have heard of this bill but Michigan passed a bill, called “Matt’s Safe School Law” that had an added clause protecting those doing the bullying if teachers and students can claim that their actions are rooted in a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

I can’t express how relieved I am to know that they have altered the bill to be more appropriate. I was more freaked out by the original story than any thing I’ve read recently about education so I am celebrating the victory.

Watch the video of Senator Gretchen Whitmer if you haven’t seen it. She is my hero right now.

‘Teacher Evaluation’ : Real Agenda Appears to Be School PRIVATIZATION

The article from the Common Dreams website, by Gloria C. Endres, ‘Teacher Evaluation’: Real Agenda Appears to Be School Privatization is a must read for anyone interested in education in the slightest bit.

After much research over the years on this subject, I can attest to THIS IS WHAT IS BEHIND MOST EDUCATION REFORM AND THE “NEED TO IMPROVE” TEACHER EVALUATIONS.

The privatization of public schools (school-choice, voucher system, etc.) would have he most damning results on education. Don’t we have enough evidence what happens when a few billionaires control an institution? Turning education into corporate profit would only serve those who would make millions from this, NOT THE STUDENTS.

Read Michelle Rhee’s Wikipedia page (I checked all the references).

The Student’s First website makes it clear what their agenda is. Although they should be commended for their anti-bully and pro LGBT stance, that is where the students coming first stops.

(You may also want to read a piece Larry Strauss wrote for The Huffington Post called, Students First and Other Lies).

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.

What Do Teachers Make?

Taylor Mali on what teachers make

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Mali for a while and I can’t watch him perform this one enough!

It actually made me cry recently because I hadn’t seen it for a few years and with all the teachers being laid off (27,000 in Ca) with most of the money cut from local governments coming from education (60%) because of the budget crisis ($11.5 BILLION in Ca). The media covering all of this brought a rash of teacher bashing in blogs and comments in my local paper (The Napa Valley Register) and it was starting to get depressing. I wrote a blog about it called “Since when are the teacher bashers in the majority” or something like that. So after being made to feel beyond appreciated I came across this video again and the timing was perfect! It got me over feeling anything but absolute pride in what I do. Thanks Taylor.

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.

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. : )