Sunday, June 7, 2015

#212 June 7, 2015- Another School Year Ends, The Struggle Continues

I took the last couple of weeks "off" from writing to work on report cards, attend many different meetings and to experience the roller coaster that the end of a school year is for students, staff and families. From the perspective of someone outside of a classroom it's easy to assume that the end of a school year is filled with anticipation and joy, but in our schools the emotions run the gamut from eager expectation to fear and anxiety.

This isn't anything new. When I look back over my years of teaching I can remember many examples that demonstrate the range of emotions that ending a school year brings. I remember getting paged over the intercom to come to the front of the school where two of my most challenging students were in tears, needing support and compassion just to get on the bus to start their summer vacation. A vacation filled with hunger and uncertainty that would culminate in a transition away from the school that had been their home for years to an unfamiliar middle school. I can also remember any number of students literally bouncing out the door ready for a summer of fun and adventure.

For public educators the end of a school year is always challenging for a variety of reasons. We balance the needs of our current students with the necessary preparation for the upcoming school year. We are forced to split our focus between evaluating our students' progress, reflecting on our own efforts over the past year, wrapping up the school year, and all the preparations needed for the next year like class placement, curriculum development and other planning. Added into the mix are uncertainties like changing positions or roles, switching classrooms or schools, and the potential for being laid off or otherwise having our jobs impacted by budgetary concerns. A final layer is all of the external pressures that we currently face in a climate that is increasingly anti-public education.

While much of what educators experience at this time of year is more personal in nature, the public part of our jobs is certainly something that every citizen should be concerned about. That is the dual nature of what public educators do. We operate on a very personal level with our students and families, yet what we do has a greater impact and implications for our entire society. We know that an engaged and educated population is the key to a successful democratic society. We also know that people who are educated and who have options or outlets for their skills are more positive and productive citizens.  Public schools and the people who work in them are deeply embedded in our communities and are the cornerstone of our society.

This is one of the reasons why morale is so low among public educators. We are seeing the profession that we value so highly degraded and undermined by political and economic leaders who seem to have no concern for anything beyond a narrow range of interests that center around money and power. The past few years have seen an acceleration of the efforts to drastically alter the basic foundations that our society rests on. This is occurring on all levels and influences our functioning in all areas. Because public educators are so deeply involved in their students, families and communities we feel these effects and are impacted in ways that affect our morale. When our students or their families experience trauma, so do we. When our communities suffer, so do we. The stresses that impact our students also have an effect on public educators.

Educators do so much more than simply teach the basic skills that students need to have to be academically successful. We provide emotional support. We provide supplies, food and clothing. We provide a bridge between a bureaucratic world that is impersonal and difficult to navigate and work to give students and families access to needed information and resources. We are often the faces that people connect with a greater system that should support and enhance the lives of our fellow citizens, but too often falls short for many people. Our concerns are many and far reaching.

Protecting Public Education- There are some who would say that this is simple self-interest for public educators. After all, without public schools we would all be out of a job, right? But the reality is that public educators are highly educated, highly skilled professionals who choose to work in our public schools. It is a calling for us, and one that we don't take lightly. That is why the current attacks are so troubling to all of us who support public education.  

THE PROTESTS Sun Prairie Monday June 8, 4-6 PM (they need volunteers) Green Bay Monday June 8, 7:20 AM - 8:00 AM Appleton Monday June 8 11:45 AM - 1 P

The administrators, who predominantly hailed from high-income suburban schools, gathered to urge lawmakers to amend the budget changes for K-12 schools approved by a powerful committee.|By Erin Richards

Legislators are taking a whack at the credibility of the system.

The irony is that those who say that public educators are self interested and greedy are often the ones who are profiting from the "reforms" being implemented. Public educators make a decent living, but nothing compared to those who run the corporations making the educational "products" that are sold to our schools, or forced into our classrooms.   

. “EDUCATION REFORM” TRANSLATE THIS: IT’S NOT ABOUT LEARNING OR LEARNERS! “Education Reform” is in effect, false advertising and deceptive packaging, “brought to you by” sponsors...

Two major randomized studies have been conducted to estimate the effects of early childhood education. They both find huge benefits.

Don’t look now, but there’s something creepy coming toward you, and it wants to take over your public school system. Sure, it’s connected—through all-important...

The attacks on public education have spread beyond our K-12 system and will have a significant impact on our university system as well. The impacts of these so called "reforms" go beyond just education and cause drastic results socially, politically and economically as well. 

The University of Wisconsin has weathered years of budget cuts, but many faculty members believe the elimination of tenure would be a tipping point. The...

Yes, I'm being a bit hyperbolic but not by much. When I read the so-called UW 'reforms' that passed the Joint Finance Committee the other day, that's what...

Promoting equity and opportunity for all- Critics of public schools will point to the wide achievement and opportunity gaps that exist in our schools. While these gaps are real, they are mirrors of what currently exists in our society. This doesn't excuse them, nor does it mean that nothing can be done. Rather, these gaps are a call to action for many educators who are working to try and address them in positive ways. This is occurring in a variety of ways. . .

Changing our discipline systems and the cultures of our classrooms and schools and working to support our students who have additional needs beyond "simple" educational ones.

About $802,000, or the majority of the new funds, would put at least a part-time staff member at every elementary school to handle student behavior issues and...|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

An advocacy group for students in the criminal justice system calls for an end to the practice.|By Pat Schneider

Schools are taking a more proactive role in caring for students' mental health in counseling availability, sleep, tech and play.

Speaking out against excessive, biased and punitive standardized testing.

Is the call for more testing just another way to maintain the status quo?

Why are civil rights groups fighting so hard for annual accountability testing when there is no evidence that it helps poor and minority students?

Advocating for curriculum that is nurturing, developmentally appropriate, engaging, and educationally sound. 

Research reveals negative effects of academic preschools and kindergartens.

Academic teaching in kindergarten backfires.|By David Kohn

June 3, 2015 - Career-Tracking in the Classroom, Pt 1: Some of the Most Important Public Testimony Almost No One Has Ever Heard

Speaking out against voucher and charter school schemes that are profit, not student based. Re-segregation of our schools based on racial, ethnic, economic or other criteria does little to build a unified nation or to create an educated citizenry. 

Fraud, financial mismanagement, lousy results: Reports highlight awful charter schools and people are catching on|By Jeff Bryant

Charter fans brag about their successes. They tell the starfish story. They will occasionally own that their successes are, in fact, about selecting out the... 

 Protecting democratic values and institutions- Once again, our nation's leaders have consistently touted education as the key to a successful democracy. In order to understand and appreciate the freedoms and opportunities available to us as American citizens we need to understand the implications of the proposed reforms and policy changes. One key to maintaining the integrity of our democracy is to have systems and institutions that support the rights and privileges of the general citizenry. Organizations like unions are key elements to these systems. Without them the voice of the many is drowned by the influence, wealth and power of the few.

RACINE — Racine Unified School District Superintendent Lolli Haws sought to reshape the tone of an ongoing debate over her intention to change aspects of...|By AARON KNAPP

Gov. Walker and leaders in Wisconsin’s Republican-held Legislature are pushing the University of Wisconsin system to give a board largely picked by the governor...|By MONICA DAVEY

Educators need to be able to teach, and the current attacks on public education have forced us to be political activists beyond what should be required. Our livelihoods and our profession is being subjected to a variety of assaults that leave us drained, fearful and challenge our ability to focus on what we truly care most about, our students. How can we exercise our professional expertise and fulfill our calling as educators when those in the public eye want to subject us to takeovers and remove our ability to control the environment that we work in, and that our students learn in.

What new and veteran teachers working in a challenging environment face today.

For Immediate Release Contact: Paul Sickel 414-520-1752 Wisconsin Coalition for Retirement Security.

A sweeping proposal giving control of the lowest-performing schools in Milwaukee to a commissioner who could fire all the teachers and administrators might also apply to other large, racially diverse school districts in Wisconsin,...|By Channel 3000

Those holding the reins of power don't even respect our profession enough to honor the education and licensing policies that have a long history in our state. Instead they want to quantify our efforts and ignore our expertise and experience.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin may be the first state in the country to certify teachers who don't have bachelor's degrees under a provision put in the state...
Legislative action slides teacher licensing standards toward the bottom | Wisconsin Department...
MADISON — Major changes to teacher licensing voted into the 2015-17 state budget, without a...
Using student test scores as an indicator of quality teaching is a flawed and misleading practice.

Educating our students (and fellow citizens)- In the end, public education exists to do just what it says, educate the public. For public educators this means more than just teaching students for 180 days. It means that we are actively engaged in our communities and working to address issues of social justice and to address the needs of our communities. It also means that we recognize that we are part of a larger community and must recognize and respect the voices of all those we work with. Education is a pathway that works in multiple directions, we must do all we can to work, learn and act together. The end result is a collective whole that is much stronger than the sum of the parts.  

The coalition is inviting the entire community to collaborate. We should do so.|By Cap Times editorial

A silent protest is planned for Thursday, June 4 from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM at the Spooner High School. Students, staff, and families are protesting what they

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . Incredible news. As we work to change our discipline policies at the most personal of levels, it is important to remember that on a societal level, harsh and often arbitrary punishments rarely are effective.

Nebraska became the first conservative state in 40 years to ban the death penalty after legislators voted to override the governor’s veto.|By JULIE BOSMAN

The Bad . . . The connections between people in power are difficult to unravel, but have a significant impact on what information we get about them. On another note, here is another example of just how "self-made" and independent people need connections and support to advance their careers. Does Walker receive "press welfare" because of this? We don't know, but having your spouse work for a nationally recognized columnist can't hurt.

Washington Post conservative columnist George Will has a special connection to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who may seek the Republican presidential...

The Ugly . . . Some things just shouldn't be "market-driven."

State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, wants to apply market forces to state parks.

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