Sunday, June 15, 2014

#169 June 15, 2014- Some Truth About Education

Truth in Education. . .
Another school year came to an end this week for my students and me.  As always it was a year filled with challenges and successes.  Even as I see myself becoming one of the "most veteran" (a kind way to say oldest) educators in my building I still have new experiences and learn so much from my students, families and colleagues.  Educators are constantly learning, refining and improving our practice, our skills and our knowledge as we seek to become the best we can for our students. 

The problem is that more and more our efforts are being degraded and discounted by a significant portion of the population, and an even greater portion of those elected to represent the citizens of our different communities fail to understand the realities of education.  "Common sense" and logic are being applied to public schools in ways that are either misleading, or simply blatant lies.  This results in a level of frustration and anxiety for educators that undermines our efforts and erodes our morale.  We are portrayed as the enemy, or as incompetent failures when the truth is very different.

We are victims of a divide and conquer strategy that has created an image of educators as part time employees who are paid full time salaries.  The efforts to undermine public support of educators and to destroy confidence in our public schools and public educators has focused on creating jealousy around the wages and benefits we receive while focusing on the perceived ineptness of our schools to educate students. 

This strategy relies on confusing the public and misrepresenting the facts about public education in order to succeed.  It has been successful in changing the tone and tenor of the discussion about our public schools and has been effective in portraying our schools in negative ways.  However, the reality that exists in our schools is quite different from what education "reformers" would have people believe. 

Certain widely-shared myths and lies about education are destructive for all of us as educators, and destructive for our educational institutions. I want to focus on eight of the myths that I think are relevant to most teachers,...

A few truths about education to get your summer started. 

Policies based on fear are poor policies.
We have become a nation that reacts to change in a tentative way at best, but usually in a fearful and anxious manner.  It seems like we are always either on the brink of disaster, or already down the path to the destruction of all that we value.  It is true that the world is a competitive and challenging place.  However, our nation has the resources and the ability to compete in a global market if we choose to embrace the challenges that exist.  The idea that we need to return to the 1950's or even the 1780's is a concept that limits our ability to grow and improve as a nation.  We should have pride in the philosophy that our nation is founded on, but also need to recognize that the strength of our nation is our diversity and flexibility not a static set of ideals that stifle opportunity for all citizens.  

Nothing should ever get in the way of bathroom breaks for students, right? Think again. In early-January, an administrator from a Chicago public school sent a letter to her staff about “new...

This climate of fear causes our conversations to continually focus on what we don't have or on how we will suffer instead of looking at the realities that we face.  We limit our thinking and fail to see the possibilities that exist.  We also narrow our vision and see alternative viewpoints as threats instead of potential improvements to our ideas. 

The debate that has erupted over the MMSD Student Senate proposals regarding the budget for next year is an excellent example.  We are fortunate to have a well informed and extremely articulate group of students who have strong opinions, represent their peers well, and who base their arguments in research and data.  The public response that we should ignore them because they're kids is ridiculous and short-sighted.  Policies like the Tech Plan should be debated and reviewed on a regular basis.  We need to be very sure of what we are doing before we commit such significant resources to any plan or proposal.        

Student Senate members also recommend that taxpayers absorb the cost of...|By Lee Enterprises

The Tech Plan debate also highlights a significant problem in America today.  The comments of a few on-line participants is given as much voice as the researched and documented proposal of the Student Senate.  Because we live in a society where comments can be posted on any issue and shared widely we get a distorted perception of public opinion.  A few inflammatory and confrontational comments can help foster a climate of ignorance and fear.  The media fuels this by giving those writing comments a forum and recognition of their opinions that go beyond what is merited.  Participation in debate is a cornerstone of democracy, however, sensationalizing and profiting from the process is harmful and limits our ability to really engage in important conversations. 

Some wondered if teachers had shaped student ideas, while taxpayers were both opposed to and in favor of paying more to save families from school lunch and student fee hikes.|By Lee Enterprises

Public educators and public employees contribute to the economic stability and success of our society.
If you've received a mailing about the supposed successes of Act 10 recently you would think that the changes made to collective bargaining rights and the ability of educators to negotiate with their employers were the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread.  However, all of the rhetoric around "reforms" like Act 10 ignore the contributions that public servants make both as professionals, and as a vital part of the economy.  

A new report from the nonprofit research group In the Public Interest shows that outsourcing public services hurts middle and working class...
Truthout|By Mary Bottari

Report shows that workers employed by state and local government...

Market-based education reform has become a mainstay of American...

We work hard for the money.
Education isn't an easy field to be employed in.  Educators aren't martyrs, but we do deserve the support and respect of our community and policy makers.   

You probably think to yourself what a lovely place to learn for your child....
The Huffington Post|By Carla Friesen

The end of the school year is approaching, so we’re checking in again with...|By Ann-Elise Henzl

There is an obvious effort to defund our public schools across America.

Public schools have struggled during the long, slow economic recovery. On...
FiveThirtyEight|By Ben Casselman
We know that educators aren't alone in our struggles to make a living in our current economic climate.  Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, working and middle class Americans should find ways to unite.

Why "efficiency" and "productivity" really mean more profits for...
Mother Jones

Experience matters!!
It's become popular to make the claim that educator experience isn't a significant factor in student achievement.  This makes about as much sense as the idea that class size doesn't matter.  These claims come from people who have an agenda that focuses on other things that actual student achievement.  Young educators cost less and this is one major goal of many "reformers."  Young educators frequently don't have strong connections to educator unions.  They aren't as likely to have the experience and knowledge to speak out about reforms that are too often bad for kids, or are simply old ideas repackaged and boxed up for profit, not performance.   

Scarcity of experienced educators is not a chance development, and it is...

This isn't to say that young educators aren't capable, or that there aren't new educators who are vocal advocates for their students.  What is happening is that we are seeing a concerted effort by "reformers" to try and weaken the power of educators.  This is done by eliminating the current leaders in schools, just look at how "reforms" like Act 10 have changed the demographics of Wisconsin educators.  It is also done by making classroom work a stepping stone to more prominent, better paying jobs in education, like administration or consulting.  Educators without experience who are not planning on staying in a school system for extended periods of time focus on short term goals and building a resume.  Our students shouldn't be vehicles for self-promotion, they deserve better than that. 

There are several ways that "reformers" are working to eliminate veteran educators from the profession.  Eliminating "tenure" is one of the key components to this movement.  Those who support this effort celebrated a win in California this week.    

Judge finds tenure amounts to civil rights violation, ruling could have broad implications...
Washington Post

The trouble is that the victory for "reformers" comes with a heavy price for students and educators.  The fact that the decision was based on misleading information and could result in changes that will harm students is troubling.  The idea that our best educators will work in the toughest conditions without the support of policy makers and the general public is a false hope.  Educator unions and the concept of seniority can be used to improve education in ways that charter schools and "free-market" education never can.    

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president elect of United Teachers Los Angeles, takes...
Common Dreams    

Tuesday's ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu declaring...|By Los Angeles Times

You can tell a lot about the true nature of any educational decision or policy by looking at those who support the changes.

A California ruling against tenure shows that educators should be rewarded.
Washington Post                 

Remember that five-story billboard five-story billboard in Times Square in  December 2013  and the accompanying full-page ad in the New York Times blaming American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Pres...

Schools and society in general are interconnected and interdependent.
Our public schools are a part of the fabric of our nation.  We can't separate what happens in our schools from what is going on outside of our classroom walls.  To try to do so is to ignore the realities that exist and the obvious connections between schools and the communities they serve.  Until we start to work on addressing the many challenges that our society faces in a comprehensive and proactive manner we will continue to struggle.  Our schools are a visible measuring stick for the success or failure of our entire society. 

The only other Oregon entry on the list stems from a Feb. 7 incident at Bend High School. A...
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . While there is still a lot of work to be done, at least the conversation is starting to become more prominent in places where decisions can be made.  Student loan debt is crippling many people's ability to enjoy the benefits that higher education can provide them personally, and it is crippling our nation's ability to benefit from the expertise, training and knowledge that these individuals acquire.   

The move is the latest effort by Democrats, including many in Wisconsin,...|By Lee Enterprises

The Bad . . .  Of course Walker's views on Marriage Equality matter.  As the chief executive of our state he is responsible for enforcing the laws and policies of our government. 

OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his personal...|By Lee Enterprises

Instead of coming out and making a clear statement about his beliefs, he simply has used the Attorney General's office to advance his agenda. 

On the other hand, Walker certainly doesn't want any attention paid to his stance on social issues given the struggles that he is facing trying to convince Wisconsinites that his economic policies are working for our state.  At least with economics he can attempt to mislead and confuse voters.

But by any measure, Scott Walker’s WEDC has failed in its mission to elevate “Wisconsin’s economy to be the best in the world.”|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . The Conservative ideals of freedom and independence only work when individuals are capable of exercising their rights and have an equal ability to succeed.  Those who suffer from issues around mental health need the support and advocacy of others to fully participate in our society.  Ignoring this reality only pushes issues on to other agencies or creates challenges for communities.

Gov. Scott Walker missed the deadline Monday to name all members to a new board to oversee mental health care in Milwaukee County.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Meg Kissinger

It isn't only GOP candidates who accept and rely on big money donations.  Too many of our politicians are beholden to special interests who purchase votes.  We just happen to have a blatant example of a "bought" politician here in Wisconsin. 

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) openly acknowledged on Thursday that...
Talking Points Memo

No sooner had Mary Burke pulled even with Scott Walker in the polls than...

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