Comments on: The reform movement is already failing Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:57:19 +0000 hourly 1 By: breathingfire Sat, 03 Sep 2011 19:14:06 +0000 I have taught kindergarten for thirty years and primary for six. I have seen ideas and policies come and go and they are never good for children. If we make the changes that are being proposed in Florida, we are opening up a can of worms. There are many ways we could get poor teachers out, ways we can teach teachers how to teach better and to evaluate them. Everything is always blamed on teachers for the inability of the teacher to bring up test scores. Of course then it is the union who protects us. Nothing in education or in life is ever as simple as it sounds. It is never just one thing. It is complicated. We have to take it apart and work on each separate issue but the government wants a quick fix so we put all the blame on the teachers. I’m not saying that their aren’t teachers that shouldn’t be there. There has to be a way of working them out. My county has a program that works with the teacher having problems. It just seems to me that everything has come down to the tests. They wonder why they are seeing people cheating on them due to becoming disparate. I have lost respect for our school board and the educational people in Washington. We as a nation still refusing to look at the main issue here.. When children are successful, it comes from administration, teaching and parents. There are lots of things that could be changed but people don’t even look at what is good for the child. Dedicated teachers are angry because many things go against child development. No one looks at that any more. Now we are taking away play time in kindergartens because it is a waste of time. We need to push them as much as possible so that their scores go up. One of the things I noticed before I retired was that many children taking the FCAT test in third grade that I had taught were making poorer scores then I thought they should have gotten. I tutored one of them and realized that they had come with poor language skills and word recognition. It takes children many years to catch up and you are asking them to perform on tests where language is crucial. We need to close up that loop hole. No one ever looks at that. There are lots of things we can do to help children love school and use our creative techniques but that will not happen as long as we continue the way we are. Children are so vulnerable. The children of America have been in crisis for ten years. The government chooses to ignore this and turns their back on them and now they think the answer is in education so let’s blame the teachers. They need to do their homework. Many of the things people have said in this blog are true. I only wish there was a way we could prove to the American government how all of us feel about our jobs and our dedication to education. Maybe it’s time for a “march”. Something drastic needs to be done to get the country’s attention.

By: viskarenvisla Sat, 03 Sep 2011 03:44:37 +0000 It kind of makes me sick to see how many of you are so ardently opposed to teachers. Many teachers that I know are very hard working, good young people who really care about the kids and are underpaid and granted too few resources. It may be hard to improve childrens’ home lives when so many live in poverty, especially when you have conservative Christian fascists who ironically believe that helping the poor is akin to mortal sin, but we can improve our schools.

Pay teachers better. Give them more resources like computers and good technology. Stop making them buy things out of pocket. Stop deriding these people who take your little brats and put up with the scars of their crappy home lives and try to teach turn them into functional citizens. It’s nauseating how anti-intellectual, anti-education so many of you supposed fiscal conservatives are. You’d rather invest tax dollars in oil companies and fight wars in the Middle East than try to improve the teaching environment of your own kids.

Your children are your future, not the aged failures who are hoarding all of your money and slashing your wages and benefits to leave you fighting over scraps. Do not abuse teachers; without them your kids would be even more screwed up and befuddled.

By: joemac53 Mon, 29 Aug 2011 19:54:39 +0000 Hear, hear “rgod8855″! I hope your experience teaching math is as wonderful as mine was (35 years math/science, physics, calculus, oceanography…). I was getting tired of listening to reformers trying to get rid of teachers. The job is tough enough today to weed out anyone who is lazy. Focus on getting rid of teachers who: a) don’t know what they are talking about or: b) can’t get along with kids.
Those two factors are the most important for a teacher to be successful. Most kids are so good they will put forth effort they did not know they possessed for a teacher they trust and respect. Kids appreciate the effort a teacher puts into being prepared and interesting. They will forgive an occasional clunker (that great idea you knew would work, but didn’t). They know you are human.
Kids respond to the person they know is really happy to see them every day and can’t wait to teach them something.

By: AmSocietyToday Sat, 27 Aug 2011 18:53:55 +0000 Certainly, we all want our education system to be better. Politicians should be careful not to enact short-sided policies that have negative unintended consequences. Everyone in society has a responsibility to contribute to the education of the next generation because we all bear the costs as a society of poorly educated individuals who are more likely to be costly to society later in life. One-size-fits-all approaches enacted by politicians with little input from experienced educators are not likely to be successful. For more information:  /search/label/merit%20pay

By: garyravani Wed, 24 Aug 2011 23:17:01 +0000 What Diane Ravitch is talking about is a cult movement that has taken control of education and can best be understood in the context of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.”
Truthiness is a “truth” based on gut-feelings without regard for evidence, logic, or facts. Diane Ravitch began the deconstruction of reforminess with her book,
The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

Ravitch was present for the “big bang” of recent “school reform,” traceable back
to A Nation at Risk, when she was part of the conservative think tank
cabal. Their “truths” were based on fantasies of market-based
concepts of competition and choice, with pragmatic programs including
test based accountability, charter schools, and vouchers. Much of
this became the basis for NCLB and the unholy alliance of neo-liberal
and conservative school reform efforts: that is to say, reforminess.

Ravitch’s epiphany came at a think tank meeting when, one after
another, the testing gurus, the charter school proponents, and the
voucher propagandists stood up to report on a decade’s worth of
“progress.” But there wasn’t any. One research group at the
conservative, pro-charter Hoover Institution, CREDO, did a massive
study on charters and found only one in five outperformed regular
public schools, while two in five did worse, and the remainder were no
different than local public schools.

Ravitch realized that the fundamentals of neo-liberal/conservative
reform were reforminess—based on gut-feelings, intuition, and with no
basis in evidence, logic, or facts. She engaged in empirical research
and all the beliefs were found wanting. Ravitch concluded that
reforminess was not just resulting in little to no improved
achievement; it was actually narrowing, damaging, and corrupting
public education.

Enter the Obama Administration, which inexplicably appointed Arne
Duncan, experienced in neo-liberal private sector foundations but not
a day as a teacher or school administrator, as Secretary of Education.
He comes up with Race to the Top. If the fundamentals of NCLB were
utter failures than the only solution was to double down with even
more draconian reforminess: “turn-around” proposals, shutting down
schools, firing teachers and principals, turning public school
management over to private sector charter operators—all based on his
gut, but absolutely no empirical research.

Mr. Brill, like others of his ilk, has no idea of what he is talking about.

By: samuel_c Wed, 24 Aug 2011 13:46:00 +0000 The majority do learn. It’s just that we have a one size fits all school system. It serves the motivated dedicated smart kids above all. How many people in life know what they want to be at 10, or 12, or even 25? How many of our best and brightest people in history didn’t do anything of value to society till age 40 or 50?

Anyone who expects to create a factory to turn out motivated, dedicated highly focused, educated children at the 100 percent mark is a failure at the study of humanity. Humans are a messy disorganized bunch and primary and secondary school is just a foundation. Some will succeed some won’t and the demand that we meet an arbitrary number is the same kind of thinking that almost ran IBM into the ground.
Yes by test scores other countries beat us. How many of those countries have a better quality of life, the flexibility to try and fail, or the ability to criticize thier government or even lobby publicly against it?

20 years ago I remember being told Indians would take over our Engineering departments because they were turning out more engineering students than we are. The simple fact is they are taking over the low end jobs but they usually fail at the high end jobs because they were never trained to make decisions or consider anything outsider thier flowcharts. But more of them have degrees than us?

America leads in innovation and hard work. In spite of what the average american thinks we work about 1 month more a year than workers did in 1970, we have the highest productivity of any nation on earth, we produce a little over 40 percent of the worlds manufactured goods in spite of having less than 5 percent of the population. We let everyone pull us down into focusing on the details of problems that we have and we forget that we still do almost everything better than the rest of the world.

We’ve got problems they are real they need to be addressed but screaming the sky is falling never fixed anything. All it does is freak everyone out and take thier focus off any real solution. Like addressing poverty that keeps parents so focused on surviving day to day that they don’t or can’t help thier children with preparing for the future.

By: rudraksha Wed, 24 Aug 2011 10:43:24 +0000 After all if the majority of the students wont learn then why waste money on them at all.

By: Treehorn Wed, 24 Aug 2011 08:08:03 +0000 I have never heard of Mr. Brills and I read a lot of material by the giants of schooling. I started to teach my first primary class in May,1946 and I have followed a lot of issues in the interim. I’ve been around even longer than Diane; and have seen some disturbing attacks on teachers and the accompanying sterile comments over the years….the Back to Basics debate, The Minimal Competency Movement,I could go on; that just seem to come out of the blue every now and then.
Blanket-test merchants are presently in control of schooling; and they are punishing children as they have never been punished before for no justifiable reason. They have removed the freedom to learn, the joy of learning and a child’s yearning for high achievement by the creation of fear driven, profit-based schooling. It’s the worst assault on schooling in my lifetime. Mr. Brill’s version of the 1975 Black Papers, then written by non-school academics who just wanted to make a noise at the time is another sad comment.
One wonders if Brill and Klein have ever been in a public school where children almost break a leg to get to school…arriving at or before 7.30 a.m.; and having to be chased home at dark, because they wanted to learn from and in the resource-rich environment; where the worst form of punishment was being forbidden to enter the classroom before the ‘first bell’. a school where every child disliked the long midsummer vacation because they would not be able to go to school for a while. I have. I’ll wager that none of Klein’s chosen schools can create that sort of joyful, learning-based, achievemnt-seeking atmosphere.
Go Diane and Deborah. I do hope your optimism will be realised. School chilren, as vulnerable as they are seen to be, deserve a better life.

By: rgod8855 Tue, 23 Aug 2011 21:01:32 +0000 Mr. Brill and Ms. Ravitch each demonstrate the two polarize viewpoints expressed in the reform debate. Who is right? As it is with most debatable topics, it is probably somewhere in the middle.

As a relatively new teacher, I do have a different viewpoint from both these positions. It is important to report that I may be young in experience, but not young in life given my start as a teacher was after thirty years working in private industry. I have a full understanding of how businesses and workers co-exist in union and non-union environments.

To begin, let us dispense with the notion of the overpaid underworked teacher that draw from the trough of public funds to pad their lifestyle and use the union rules to get exorbitant time off or skirt shoddy practices. I was paid 45K a year and if I chose to use the negotiated health care plan, it would have cost me $700 a month to support my family’s health care needs. Fortunately, my wife has a better plan to cover us, so the option of opting-out was workable. Excessive sick time off? Not on your life. During my second year of teaching, I had to have a tumor removed from the pituitary area that kept me out of work for two months. With only two years in the tank, my sick time was good for two weeks and I had to deal with unpaid time. Obviously, the 10-15 days of sick time Mr. Brill exists, but it doesn’t exist everywhere. I think when Mr. Brill assembled his facts, he did the one thing he accused Ms. Ravich of doing – cherry-picking the worst examples and drawing across the board conclusions.

Equally distorting is Ms. Ravitch’s point of view on the effects of student in poverty and compelling these students facing daily challenges to do well in school. As a high school math teacher, I see examples of this daily, but I also see just as many with advantageous backgrounds exhibiting a lack of drive or interest in learning. When there are students that come to the class day-in and day-out sitting in class without purpose, it is hard to propagate a learning environment for the whole class. It does not take many of these students to disrupt the proceedings of an entire class. It isn’t necessarily poverty that creates these challenges. Don’t get me wrong, poverty is a factor; it just isn’t THE factor in student learning.

The last big point I believe is relevant is one that both sides miss: teacher evaluations. I cannot stress highly enough how important and useful this tool is as long as it is not used to bludgeon teachers with the intent of wrecking their careers. The objective is making teachers better, not make them sweat for the privilege of teaching. The traditionalists say they are an obstacle in allowing teachers to function in a manner they see fit and the reformers say they are necessary to weed out the poorer performers. They are both so wrong-headed.

As most schools require by contract, I was evaluated twice a year, but they were so differently handled, it was hard to believe it was in the same school. The first year was handled expertly – a time was set, lesson plans given to the evaluator, and a follow-up meeting on the observation points. The evaluator was a vice-principal that was also a seasoned math teacher capable of giving back invaluable feedback and suggestions to improve my teaching skills. As a first year teacher at the time, I was thankful! In fact, if there was money in the budget, I would have appreciated other teachers coming in and evaluating me as well. There wasn’t. The second year (last year), it wasn’t handled nearly as well. These became “drop-in” evaluations – little ten minute reviews and quickie follow ups without the detail or path to pedagogy improvement. It was the same person, but a recent principal change also changed the rules of evaluations. It did not offer much in the way of improvement.

Evaluations, when used correctly, can produce marvelous results. In my book, there weren’t enough of them. One of the most instructive learning experiences during my education to become a credentialed teacher was a required visit to a school for a week to observe classes in the content area we were expecting to teach. I learned so much in how teachers effectively teach. This could still be an effective tool if it were available now if the school could pay for a substitute to teach while I rotated with teachers in my own school. Or, they could visit my class, observe my teaching, and give me tips in improving my techniques. However, it may seem we teachers are in the building collaborating all the time, but the fact is we see so little of each other except for the precious few minutes between classes or before and after school. In fact, teachers are quite the island without much for support.

Teaching is a great craft, but it isn’t an easy one. The Great Reform Debate tends to dehumanize the functions of the teacher and doesn’t show how exposed teachers are to reform minded methods that could oust the teacher from classrooms permanently. If a teacher leaves a school because the school doesn’t want them teaching their classes, it effectively blackballs them from the teaching profession. No one wants a blemished teacher in this scrutinized environment without tolerance and without the desire to fund education properly. I predict in the next 3-5 years, there will be a large teacher shortage as teachers are sent packing, others retire early to avoid the bull crap, and new teachers reduced to fill the void stunted because the cost of education and demand to perform expertly right away detours all but the intensely dedicated. There are many other, less stressful ways to make a living.

By: JeremyA Tue, 23 Aug 2011 19:58:02 +0000 Why even give the teacher’s union a voice in this discussion? It’s clear to most parents that the average teacher is mediocre or worse, yet their union stands in the way of making positive change. Rather than be a proactive partner in reshaping our education and returning it to best-in-class, the union fights to defend the indefensible. They remind me of the Tea Party – a small and out-of-touch minority that have an outsized impact on our future. Shame on all of us for allowing this to continue.