With the fights over high-profile, controversial bills related to reproductive rights laws in the General Assembly last year, a number of other seismic bills slipped through the media coverage cracks. On the education front, a bill allowing for tax credits to be granted to individuals giving scholarship donations to private schools passed through relatively easily and is expected to pass state constitutional muster. What this means, ultimately, is that tax dollars normally received into the general fund for public education will now be diverted to private schools that have more discriminatory leeway. It is expected that this controversial policy will survive legal challenges.
Much has been made in the coverage of education issues nationally of the so-called “Education Reform” movement. It's taken many forms, from the carrot-stick approach of the Obama/Arne Duncan-favored “Race to the Top,” to a straight-up, market-based voucher program, such as the one passed in the state of Louisiana last year where the per pupil funding follows the pupil to any public or private school. All of these plans claim to have the student at the center of any reforms. Neither really gives much say to the teachers, or parents who want their students to have the best teachers rather than the smartest sounding business plan. In both cases, the less power the teacher has, the better. While vouchers place teachers at the whim of market forces while also allowing for taxpayer-funded vouchers to be spent on religious education (as the Virginia bill is expected to do and the Louisiana bill did to wacky extremes), “Race to the Top” has quietly imposed upon school systems a number of controversial classroom “innovations,” including more high-stakes testing (despite the President's own admonishment of “teaching to the test”), the expansion of privately-run charter schools (who are in turn given low oversight of their activities, and have proven to be no better, if not worse than public schools), online schools (many of which, while attractive to technophiles and pitched as good options for students who have an attention deficit, are ineffective at best), and merit pay programs that demand job instability for teachers in exchange for school funding.
Today is a day when if at all possible you should express appreciation to a teacher.
If you have children in school, even a simple note of thanks for what that teacher has done can make a difference, especially in a time when teachers feel very much under attack by some in our society.
If you are feeling generous, a gift card - to Starbucks, or a bookstore, or - and this helps with the teaching - a copy or office supply store, even for a nominal amount, will be greatly appreciated.
Perhaps you no longer have children in school. But maybe you know teachers (other than me). Send them an email of thanks for what they do.
Write a letter of appreciation, perhaps naming a specific teacher, to your local paper.
There are things your administration has done that we respect, at least most of us. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act meant large numbers of teachers and other public employees did not lose their jobs. Under ARRA, for the first time ever the Federal government for two years just about met its commitment to provide 40% of the average additional costs imposed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. There was also the $10 billion in funds to support local government employment that also save some jobs. We acknowledge these things.
If only the policies your administration advocates were similarly supportive of teachers and what we see as the best interest of our students.
There are words - Secretary Duncan saying to Roland Martin of NBC
The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.and the Secretary and you approving of the firing of all the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. Things like these do not give us confidence that your administration has the best interest of students at heart, and give us great pause in thinking that you really care about teachers.
Would these were our only concerns.
I stand with my unionized sisters and brothers, especially in Wisconsin, but everywhere where teachers and unions are under attack.
I am the lead union representative for more than 100 teachers in my school.
Today, all across the country, teachers are blogging their support for our unionized sisters and brothers in Wisconsin, and you can follow some of the results of that at EDUSolidarity
Today I want to tell you why I am proud to be a union member as well as a teacher.
I teach my students one period a day. We have 9, since some students take a zero period at 7:15 in the morning to squeeze in an extra course. Most of my students are sophomores, with at least 6 courses besides mine. I am only one of those responsible for helping them learn.
Imagine that nation had large differences between schools with affluent students versus those with poorer students
Imagine that nation now has almost no difference in performance between schools with affluent students and those with poorer students
Imagine in that nation teachers are so respected that the best students compete to become teachers, not just for two years, but for a career
Imagine that that nation's schools are now internationally respected
Imagine that our nation might actually be able to learn from what that nation has done
Stop imagining. I'm talking about Finland, as you can read in a piece in today's Boston Globe, by Pasi Sahlberg, titled Learning from Finland and subtitled
Beginning Sunday, Sept. 26, NBC will be broadcasting a national "Summit" on education, which it has titled Education Nation. There will be panel discussions, an exhibit hall, and it will begin with an electronic town hall with Brian Williams, broadcast live at 12 Noon EDT (so much for people on the West Coast who might be attending religious services). NBC hopes to have several hundred thousand teachers signed up for that town hall.
In theory, one might think what NBC is doing is good - it is a focus on education as a national priority. In practice there are some serious concerns which have already been expressed publicly as well as in numerous communications to people responsible for organizing the event.
Perhaps the most significant concern is this - there are many voices being included, but the voices of parents and teachers are surprisingly not considered a significant part of setting the agenda.
Please keep reading for more details.
But reading the popular press, and listening to the chatter from Washington, I have just found out that we are not part of the movement to 'reform' schools.
You see we did not do all the stuff that the new 'reformers' think is vital to improve our schools. We did not fire the staff, eliminate tenure, or go to pay based on test scores. We did not become a charter school. We did not take away control from a locally elected school board and give it to a mayor. We did not bring in a bunch of two-year short-term teachers.
Nope, we did not do any of these things. Because we knew they would not work.
Let me explore his post a bit more, and offer a few additional thoughts of my own.