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Posts from the ‘Education’ Category

Kansas Court Could Kill the Right to a Decent Public Education

In 2012, tea party-aligned legislators in the reliably red state of Kansas, backed by deep-pocketed outside groups, were able to purge Republicans they viewed as insufficiently devoted to Governor Sam Brownback’s right wing agenda. Since then, Kansas…

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The school to prison pipeline is real and must end

I must admit I haven’t thought much about this issue. I am aware that on the whole, there is something of an overarching prison industrial complex. The war on drugs started by Nixon and continued under other administrations has been one of the major forces behind putting bodies into prisons for decades now. The prison industrial complex has gotten so pervasive that rural communities begging that prisons be built to spur economic development is not uncommon.

Yet the issue of public schools joining hands with the prison industrial complex is new to me.

The result, according to the NYCLU, is that kids with criminal records consisting mostly of minor infractions that could have been resolved in school face further discrimination when applying for college, scholarships and jobs. This can also have an effect on whether their families are eligible to live in public housing, since people with criminal records are barred from many government assistance programs. And this doesn’t even take into account the psychological toll that coming into contact with the criminal justice system can have on students who are still wading through the thickets of childhood development. Whether in school or out, these children are being subjected to state use of a police force to address social issues that governments have failed to tackle. This practice is ruining lives, mostly of black children, before they even get a chance to start.

If this were in effect during my school days in New York City; I would’ve probably had a lot of friends caught up in this reality. You know things have gotten bad when police officers become school officials and teachers want to carry guns.

The ghost of Michelle Rhee

Yesterday, I got this interesting email from Washington Teacher’s Union president, Michelle Davis talking about the legacy of former DC school’s chancellor Michelle Rhee. The email mentioned that thanks to Rhee, 600 DCPS teachers have been terminated over the years as the result of low IMPACT scores. The IMPACT evaluation system for teachers was first introduced in 2009 by Rhee.

Back in 2009, the Washington Post reported:

Rhee is investing $4 million in the system, called IMPACT, which will also assess teachers against an elaborate new framework of requirements and guidelines that cover a range of factors, including classroom presence and how carefully they check for student understanding of the material.

Fast forward to the last few days of 2013 and we’ve now learned that there were major flaws with the IMPACT system.

Davis continues:

DCPS is telling us there are two different errors in the way the District has calculated IMPACT scores: some teachers who got high scores weren’t that good, and some teachers who received low scores weren’t that bad. In other words, we now know that IMPACT’s flaws are even worse than we feared.

The irony of this story is the fact that Rhee and others wanted to implement a testing system that judged a teacher’s performance by tying it to students performance on standardized tests.

Another former Teach for America corps member dissents

Over the past year I’ve seen a number of stories written in dissent about Teach for America hit the Internet. The think tank Demos had something to say about the organization. Then there was a piece on TFA and the Chicago teacher’s strike. Another interesting article was written by a former corps member, which then led to a rebuttal here.

Now we have one more dissent to had to the collection. This piece comes from another former corps member. The point he makes is similar to other arguments I’ve heard.

I have a number of friends who did incredible things in the classroom.  Many of them are still teaching and making a difference in the lives of their students.  I’m sure that these friends would love to point out that there is even some evidence to suggest that corps members outperform their non-TFA peers.  However, this debate cannot be reduced to the level of the individual or the single classroom.  Instead, it should focus on Teach for America’s broader role in the public policy debate.  If a large institutional force of left-leaning individuals is aiding in the right’s ongoing attempt to dismantle labor unions, will we ever really move towards a more equal society?

Like others before, this former corps member is questioning the displacement of full time teachers by TFA corp members in schools all over the country. Whether done intentionally or not this appears to be a reality that TFA’s leadership might want to reevaluate.

photo by: Cali4beach

Voters Gave Corporate Education “Reform” a Big Defeat on Election Day

Major electoral contests – governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia, and wins by mayors-elect Martin Walsh in Boston and Bill de Blasio in New York City – caught progressives’ attention a week ago. Voters concerned about the future of public…

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Chris Christie yells at teacher questioning him on his hate of public schools

An interesting defense of Teach for America

Dr. Michna has done a nice job rounding up a kitchen sink full of myths about Teach For America. There are absolutely fair critiques of TFA out there—this unfortunately is not one that rests on sound arguments. I’m all ears, but give me something good.

via About that professor who refuses to write TFA recommendations | Fongalong.

I keep an open mind and can say that I’ve now heard both sides of the issue on this organization. It’s hard to argue with this rebuttal.

The problem with Teach for America summed up in one paragraph

Informative piece on the reality of Teach For America and how it is affecting low income communities and public schools in general, written by a former member of that program.

If there were a paragraph from this essay that best summed up everything that is wrong with the TFA model, it would be this one below.

Every year, TFA installs thousands of unprepared 22-year-olds, the majority of whom are from economically and culturally privileged backgrounds, into disadvantaged public schools. They are given a class of their own after only five to six weeks of training and a scant number of hours co-teaching summer school (in a different city, frequently in a different subject, and with students in a different age group than the one they end up teaching in the fall). College and university faculty allow these well-meaning young people to become pawns in a massive game to deprofessionalize teaching. TFA may look good on their resumés and allow them to attain social capital for their bright futures in consulting firms, law schools, and graduate schools. But in exchange for this social capital, our students have to take part in essentially privatizing public schools.

Another good excerpt:

Despite what you might hear, there is no teaching shortage. Schools and districts fire their unionized, more expensive professional staff in order to make slots for the cheaper, eternally revolving wheel of TFA and other non-traditionally certified recruits , who quickly burn out.

It also telling that former DC public schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee is a former Teach for America alumni. I’m sure when the idea of TFA was first devised the intent was a noble one; but sadly it has been turned into a weapon of the anti-union, pro-charter school and pro privatization movement. That’s why it’s good to hear that there is now a block of former TFA alumni agitating for change in how that organization is run.

Wall Street’s for-profit school scam

Not to be mistaken with charter schools (or can they be?),  some Wall Street investors are getting wealthy from starting for-profit school scams.

As the report explains, ex-con Milken formed several “education” companies including Knowledge Universe and Knowledge Learning.

With $10 million invested in his K12 Inc. scam, Milken let fellow junk bond dealer Ron Packard in on the action. And together they raked in millions: Okay, so they’re making a lot of money. At least the kids are getting an education, right? Wrong.

Most of the kids don’t even exist: A teacher at one of these virtual schools said three-quarters of the students in one of her classes never logged on, completed any work or responded to phone calls — yet they remained on her class roster.

The “schools” hold on to the taxpayer money allocated based on student head counts even when a majority of those kids decide to transfer back to standard brick-and-mortar schools.

This makes Donald Trump’s namesake university look saintly by comparison.

Congrats to the Working Families Party for a win against charter schools

WFP logo

WFP logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We want better public schools not a privatized education using public dollars that is the charter school as we know it. If a public high school in Scarsdale, NY doesn’t have to teach to the test and can provide a quality education, why can’t a school in Harlem do the same? It’s about the tax base, the surrounding community and the faculty at the school. But there are some that would have you think a failing school is all due to teachers’ unions. Therefore they say privatize the management through charter schools and you’ll get rid of those “pesky teachers who care more about their paycheck than teaching.”

Charter schools aren’t necessarily better than public schools anyway.

In recent years, major studies suggest that, on the whole, charter schools are producing worse educational achievement results than traditional public schools. For example, a landmark study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes discovered that while 17 percent of charter schools “provide superior education opportunities for their students,” a whopping “37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”

Here is Diane Ravitch summing up the ideology behind the charter school movement.

The message of these films (Waiting for Superman) has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit.

Like dismantling all of the New Deal and the Great Society programs, the other wet dream of the right wing and corporate Democrats/liberals has been the privatization of the public education system. There’s simply too much money to be made in doing so, just like with privatizing people’s retirement and putting it all into the stock market so brokers can earn fat commission checks–meanwhile the people lose thousands from bad investments.

As the years have passed it seems that the momentum behind the charter school movement was unstoppable. Well this past week, Democrats in Connecticut sent the corporatists a wake up call that says we want our education system back and it’s being heard loud and clear by everyone.

A coalition of teachers, parents, local activists, working families, and good-government groups — folks with a stake in the education system in Bridgeport — came together and defeated the Bridgeport political machine,” said Lindsay Farrell, state director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, which backed the winning slate of insurgent candidates. “I think we have reason to be optimistic that the tide is turning against this corporate reform movement that Paul Vallas is the poster child for.”

The Working Families Party and its allies in Bridgeport were up against some formidable opponents too. They had Michelle Rhee‘s organization and Bloomberg’s money to contend with.

I’ll end with a quote from the WFP’s spokesperson.

Now, in Bridgeport, they have struck another blow. “This was a repudiation of the corporate-reform model, a repudiation of Paul Vallas, and a call for community control of education,” Joe Dinkin, a national spokesman for the Working Families Party, told me. “There are major fights over the future of education going on in a lot of bigger cities than Bridgeport. I hope people in those places will see this and take heart. The [corporate reformers] have gone close to undefeated in expanding their agenda for the last couple of decades. But this shows they can be beaten.”

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