Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy

can teach

Excellent post from a blog at Edweek.org titled Teacher in a Strange Land by Nancy Flanagan. Her entire blog is wonderful and extremely informative. All posts include many links to the primary sources within the writing for further reading if interested.

Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy.

Not only a “Must Read” if you care just a little bit about public education in America, take action and send to all of your elected representatives (and friends, family, colleagues, etc). Even if just a few points made resonate with one of them it will be time well spent. I am actually a bit jaded and more cynical after more than 15 years of being a teacher than my request may sound. I’m trying to be more hopeful for possible changes to be made with what is happening as well trying to do what I can about it instead of just complaining.

I would like to think it is not naive but as much as I love this post, and couldn’t agree with it more, it’s almost depressing to reflect on because it seems to me that legislators and self-proclaimed experts on education are doing the complete opposite of all 10. It seems the drive to privatize public education by those who stand to make billions from this, are winning over the opinions of those in power with their mantra that the current system is completely broken and needs to be rebuilt, not just reformed. (Link with one of the many examples of this I found in another blog post by the same author).

Enjoy the post and please do send it along to any and all legislators.

 

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.

“13+ Things your child’s teacher won’t tell you” Oh Really?

Reader’s Digest has a slideshow of 34 (not 13) “Things your child’s teacher won’t tell you”.

Looks like an interesting read, but no. As a veteran teacher, I had issues with several.

I found the wording on most to come across really bitchy (some outright offensive). Some are only the opinions of a few and do NOT represent collective thinking like the title makes it sound. Some are silly and clearly come from teachers who only have white affluent students. And some were just stupid. Really? Teachers secretly want to tell parents enough with the mugs and frames because we prefer gift cards. Wtf?

I think this article makes teachers sound as bad as the media makes us out to be. Less than half are really what teachers think and I’m going by 13 years of working with them, not just what I think.

So, parents, please know that some of these are crap, or would be more accurate if re-worded positive, or even lighthearted and funny.

“13+ Things Your Child’s Teacher Wont Tell You” article in Reader’s Digest

Read them yourself and tell me what you think. Especially if you teach or work with kids and agree with them. I’d love to know if it’s just me who took them the wrong way.

Rick Santorum’s latest words and my rant about “college for all”

I’m really surprised by something that Rick Santorum said. Not that he called our president names, but that we agree on something. I also have issues with the idea that every student should be pushed to attend college. If I thought politicians could be sincere or follow through with convictions made public while campaigning, this would give me hope for the Republican party.

Rick Santorum’s Hypocrisy On Higher Education?- ABC News

This article had me taken back because I don’t think I’ve heard any politician speak against the never ending increase of demands and expectations of school children. Almost every single year a new course, test, or project is required to graduate high school. Most of the Republicans who post comments online seem to constantly admonish public school teachers for questioning “one size fits all” models like this and No Child Left Behind or “college prep for all” – which requires EVERY high school student to have an all academic schedule with college prep classes only. I have read many accusations from openly conservative bloggers how teachers want everything easy and are too lazy to embrace change, especially if it includes more work by challenging students so each one performs above grade level and goes away to college. In reality, most teachers understand comprehensive high schools need ROP programs or vocational classes along with a variety of electives for students to experience an/or develop career or personal interests. Being that teachers are the ones who actually work with students, they also know that “one size” never “fits all”.

I am one of the teachers who understand this and am concerned with the direction public schooling is going. Most high schools have already eliminated (or soon will) all general courses and only offer college prep classes for every subject (besides special education classes for students with moderate to severe disabilities). Many high schools in California have also increased the demands to earn a high school diploma. Students must now meet the eligibility requirements for admission to the University of California (A-G requirements). So now students no longer have the choice to enroll in more rigorous college prep classes or not, but in lieu of preferred or vocational electives, they also must earn extra high school credits by taking seven additional classes they may never need or may not be able to pass. This includes a third year of advanced math (Algebra 2, Calculus, or higher since Algebra 1 is now expected to be taken in the 8th grade); only “ laboratory” science classes and an extra year totaling two of these three disciplines: biology, chemistry, and physics; two years (four semesters) of the SAME foreign language; college prep Visual and Performing Arts; and one year of a College Preparatory Elective. It is important to remember that these are only the minimum requirements to be eligible to attend a University of California, not necessarily be accepted. Earning achievements, awards, a high SAT score, along with the GPA to stand out in such an extremely competitive process is different story.

Many students who do achieve all this  may still not get accepted or may not have the financial means to go straight to a four-year university and will need to attend community college anyway, and then transfer to a university as a junior. This is the actual path students should be encouraged to take advantage of. I would have never been able to go to UC Berkeley without transferring from NVC. It is upsetting that our education system makes this look inferior and only promotes (and forced preparation for) attending universities. Two different professors at Cal told me that they thought you get a better education from a community college for the first two years for many reasons and didn’t understand why parents and teachers  push to send kids away to universities right out of high school.

Back to Santorum surprising me, it sounds like he agrees with me and is advocating for lowering some expectations (a current one is 100% of students testing above grade level thanks to NCLB) and to not to stop making it sound like getting accepted into a university is the only option for a successful livelihood. I am used to hearing how it is a sign of our “failing education system” if we can’t send every kid to college right after their senior year.  Most Republicans comments about education issues claiming that public educators don’t work hard enough adequately preparing students for college and the work force (meaning work that requires a BA or higher). Teachers are often publicly berated in the media for selfishly trying to make our jobs easier by not teaching enough “21st Century Skills” and for not preparing rigorous lessons and challenging curriculum. The “evidence” to back up such claims are usually related to a standardized state test scores and the statistics with how many students will be attending universities. It sounds like double speak to come down on public schools for this while at the same time argue why it’s not necessary.

As a secondary special education resource teacher, I agree with Santorum’s statements that, “Not all folks are gifted in the same way.” An example is studies show that college students have an average IQ of 115. I also agree that, “There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor”, (although I can vouch that not all professors are liberal). There are many wonderful, lucrative careers that don’t require a college degree and I hate the rhetoric that those who choose to go into these fields have somehow failed society’s expectations or didn’t try hard enough to fit the model that was easily laid before them.

It seems to me that his statements have more to do with publicly insulting President Obama and the goal of a nation that has access to higher education for every student that desires it than it does with an actual education policy that will stop pushing to make graduating high school more and more difficult, let alone out of reach for some. I don’t see any politicians from either side backing this up unless it comes with some major financial or personal gain. For Santorum, maybe it is not having to figure out how to make higher education accessible or affordable for all of our citizens… or maybe just his fear of the masses being educated (his opinion of the college experience is clear by hinting it turns you liberal). Judging the type of things he says, I suspect it has more to do with his alliances with the private sector of manufacturing and multi-national corporations.

Santorum Slams Obama ‘Hubris’ and ‘Snobbery’ – Matthew Cooper – NationalJournal.com

Santorum was quoted saying, “We create private-sector jobs by helping the private sector be successful …putting something directly in someone’s pocket is not going to create manufacturing jobs. That isn’t going to make the local steel manufacturer or fabricator more competitive.”

I could see how a nation preparing it’s youth to pursue employment better than working in a factory for the private manufacturing industry and/or wealthy corporations goes against what he believes. He seems to support a caste-like class system where people have their roles in society to play. Someone has to put the chicken in the bucket right? However, some of his ideas seem to be contradictory in theory. In the same speech he also advocates for corporations and manufacturers using overseas labor to cut costs by avoiding all those luxuries “handed out” to American workers that the unions have corrupted our economic system with here  such as health and safety laws and wages high enough to live on.

The article stated, “Santorum echoed other Republican candidates condemning the National Labor Relations Board for its decisions against Boeing Co. over locating manufacturing jobs. He came out against so-called domestic content legislation requiring that a certain percentage of parts be produced in America — the kind of “domestic content” proposals that were popular in the 1980s and which the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll shows are back in fashion. He also denounced the auto bailout, saying “all it did was pay off a special interest” — unions — “because they’re big buddies with Barack Obama.”

Again, this sounds like more double speak to advocate against making higher education accessible to everyone because corporations and private manufactures needed an uneducated work force, but to then be in favor of laws eliminating or reducing the amount of actual jobs for this work force.

Although I know better to get my hopes up with the Republican party, or think that any changes that I want see will come from the comments a presidential candidate makes campaigning, I am still grateful that it started dialogues regarding expectations relating to every student in America graduating from college with higher education degrees.

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).

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.

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.