Throw on some kevlar as you get ready to teach to the common core.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/06/living/teachers-want-to-tell-parents/index.html

A close personal friend gave me this article under a truly hilarious pretense – she went back to look at the author after reading as she was pretty sure I wrote the article for  CNN.  Alas, I did not. I don’t know Ron Clark, don’t know of Ron Clark or his new book and in fact, generally do not read education pieces on CNN.  I felt complimented my friend thought I wrote this piece and at the same time, I am positive I ‘did’. It is the collective consciousness of any good teacher for the last 25-30 years.  It is the same thing we all say and the reasons indeed are why we leave/left education.

In no small part, a huge thank you should go out to anyone who was involved with bringing NCLB to life and Michelle Rhee as well as most charter school companies.  These people/groups helped those of us who ‘knew better’ to put on our walking shoes and leave. Those who remained, well, I often hear their complaints about the same issues, they are just to scared to leave the profession after so much effort and cost to get a credential. Ron Clark sounds like a wonderful man and surely his intentions are great. I can only hope he has staying power as there are many students who will benefit from him.

If anyone thought the past 20 years were challenging, Fall 2013 is going to make it all look easy peasy!  Taking parents from  M/C and T/F test scores to the actual task of  having their child write something compelling AND marshal evidence AND  think/reflect……well, get the kevlar ready teachers. I don’t think I envy a one of you.  Without parents on board, administrators are going to once again do what they always do when backed into a corner – blame it on teachers, take it out on teachers (ask them to ‘revise’ their grades as it were) and essentially kiss up to every parent they see.  Administrators, even those who once were teachers, do little to support teachers.

Teachers are in fact left in their classrooms, told what to do and how to execute it and most of all told to suck it up when the crazy (pretty much all) parents come to solve something for their children.  Teachers are expected to be everyone’s whipping boy/girl to make public education work. If it were not for unions, even limited unions, public education would not exist as anything more than a thought experiment.

Currently I do tutoring and work in ed tech doing a variety of things from soup to nuts, sponge to hose, etc. If a parent contacts me for tutoring and I find our personalities and world views do not mesh, I get to say, “I don’t think I would be the BEST tutor for your child” and walk away from the situation. It does not happen often, yet it does happen. Most of what I find as a tutor is a student who could benefit from some basic things – structure, note taking skills, proper math syntax, organized thinking or graphic organizers, better resources.  Usually after a few weeks to  a couple of months, the training wheels are off and the kid is soaring. I could not be happier if I tried.  Sometimes I find a new or very ‘experienced’ teacher who is intractable and the student suffers. I do everything I can to educate the parent, give them strength to ask for what should be done (and is really reasonable) at school and advocate.  I write notes, send copies of things.  Of the times I meet the teachers, I inevitably find the people mentioned by Ron Clark. The ones who will be walking out of the profession or those who should have and are now so bitter they do not teach well.

I attend IEP meetings and help parents get more than the minimum written on the IEP – the more specific and defined you can be, the more likely the chance of IEP being followed and incremental success. I educate parents on having another set of books at home,  how to parent conference, how to check in with teachers, what should be going on in a SPED classroom vs. a mainstream classroom and what mainstreaming looks like, feels like and how it ‘goes’.  I help parents in the vernacular of ‘teacher’ for the benefit of their child. Again, if parents do not demonstrate they are on board, I can leave. There is only so much I can do in this lifetime and parents need to work on ‘change’ as opposed to thinking all teachers need to change for their child.

There are students who need help with SAT/ACT studies, AP course work, etc. Not only have I worked with these students, I have found the number of students really able to do AP course work were students who got their game on before Grade 4 and mom and dad were not excuse makers.  Students who do not do well are those who are shocked by the amount of reading and work necessary for AP.  Students and their parents,  prepping for SAT/ACT end up learning  the sad facts regarding inference and analogy, grammar and algebraic reasoning are not something you can be taught in a cram course – it comes from reading, writing, discussing, thinking since forever. All I can offer them are strategies for how to take the test and think about it.  The time when parents would have done far more to help their child by enforcing SSR (silent sustained reading) at home, encouraged studying atop assigned homework, etc. was wasted and I can not come in and splash that information on their child – nor can Princeton or Kaplan Review. SAT/ACT prep works for students who made learning their priority, not blaming their teacher(s) when they did not succeed every time.

Change is incredibly difficult for parents as they believe they ‘know’ it all. They would never question a dentist, doctor, lawyer (even court appointed), Apple Technician at Apple Store…….yet questioning and blaming a teacher for any ‘less then perfect’ grades, etc. on behalf of their child MUST be the teachers fault as parents have been taught and shown how to scapegoat teachers (Michelle Rhee actually brought this to an art form). Teachers do more ‘change’ in a day then anyone other than flight traffic controllers and ER doctors.  Unfortunately, with all the change teachers do, parents are the ones who need to redouble their efforts the most.

I think next school year will be interesting. If nothing else, people such as Ron Clark will become ever more popular and revered for what they are saying – whether or not parents come to terms with reality. Thank goodness there are Ron Clark’s and hopefully I will be thankful there are parents who will read this and do those things necessary to change for their child’s benefit. It is a long road filled with cliffs, channels, hikes, bike rides, hang gliding, zip lining and all the rest of out doors metaphors.

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In-accuracy at Ratemyteachers.com = A+

I absolutely love the idea of rating teachers by students.   In fact, I think it is a valuable way for the teacher, administrators and the public to get a read on what/how a teacher is doing. This allows for teachers to self reflect and plan a strategy to improve. These are all positive aspects of this system.

In order for the data to be accurate, it must be from a large enough sample (ex: at a middle or high school, say 100 students over two years), it must be anonymous and the sampling must be done at specific intervals.  The data must be for current teachers at a particular school and the data can not overlap from different subject areas, grades taught, etc. If the data is not managed, it becomes slipshod and does not help anyone do an effective evaluation or work on improvement.

When students are allowed to rate teachers randomly, as is the case with Ratemyteachers.com   ,  what happens is that teachers are allowed to (1) develop a personality cult if they so desire by having students ‘vote’ for them, especially multiple times (2) students are allowed to run a hate campaign at a teacher who may not have given them the grade they WANTED.  Parents and students are able to rig the system and determine how education is delivered by creating inaccurate data.

In theory, Ratemyteachers is great but in actuality it has many mistakes which make it a useless tool.

Example in point:   I have not worked at Wood Middle School in Alameda, CA for over three years and yet I am still on the posting for being rated. I currently live in Eldoret, Kenya and yet a student just rated me……….pretty interesting.

When I have tried to e-mail the website for removal, it can not be done as the captcha code on the website requires 3-D glasses that I do not have in Kenya.

Since I know enough about data, I find it more amusing at this point and would use this as a tool myself to evaluate a school administrator who puts any credence into the numbers. Ratemyteachers.com seems to do a fine job of not teaching statistics.…..oh, wait, isn’t that math?

Is This Part Of The NEW ‘Transparency’?

 

 

California High School To Inform Parents When Crimes Occur On Campus.

 

 

 

 

California’s Mercury News (4/17, Oakley) reports, “Berkeley High School administrators have pledged to start informing parents of assault, theft, robbery and drug dealing at the school following formal complaints made in January and February.” This month, Vice Principal Maggie Heredia-Peltz sent a letter “to the school safety committee,” saying that “the school would notify parent and employees of violent crime via e-mail, it will implement a confidential reporting process for kids who are victims of crime and it will work to bring down incidents of theft at the school.” Berkeley will also “make a better effort to enforce restraining orders concerning people at the school.” Meanwhile, school officials maintain that Berkeley High “has less crime than other urban high schools of similar size.” Still, “parents said they should at least know about it so they can protect their children.”

 

I read this blurb this morning with mixed emotion-glad administrators were being taken to task, sad that a group of parents had to ask for this transparency, happy there will be some truth to the numbers, sad for the fact the teachers have had to be in some unsavory situation until the parents stepped it up.

Myself and many other teachers KNOW that there are many instances of criminal (and not so criminal behavior – simple bullying) behavior that get ‘buried’ since schools must show statistics.  This occurs at public schools and private schools, albeit often for varying/different reasons.  While principals are attempting to ‘protect’ the so called innocent victims and make nice, the principals are in effect creating a hostile work place for teachers AND sending the message to the student population that it is okay to behave in manner X ( not much will happen, so being great teenagers, they raise the bar and do something worse). 

 My question is why would a group of parents have to ask administration to be TRANSPARENT?  Doesn’t this seem strange – the very people charged with protecting our most precious asset (children) have been allowed to misrepresent (lie) factual data…Schools can do ‘damage control’ to keep the numbers nice?

The most recent situation I know of is a close friend of mine who teaches HS in the east bay.  A student used the N word on her in front of the whole class (she is bi-racial). Even though she asked the student to leave the room, the student resisted. Ultimately the student left. The student was written up and guess what – back in class the next day. There was nothing from administration in any way to indicate to this student or the class or the school that this behavior will not be tolerated. You can guess what started happening after that – the kids had been given a free pass to use the N word, the G word, the R word and a few other choice words, all equally offensive and disruptive to learning, never mind making this teacher feel embarrassed for being part black.  Imagine all the other students at the school who get to have these words used on them for surely if it is okay to say it to a teacher, it must be okay to say it to another student.

Another friend of mine, in a slightly more well to do part of the east bay, had a situation where a school supervisor (after school type program) lost a key to the school buildings. Rather than report the missing key (which would have been costly and required the entire school to be rekeyed), this person asked some students to help find the missing key…..oh, the key was found and ultimately used to perpetrat multiple thefts on campus. Did administration inform the staff at the school? No. In fact it was not until a couple computers, purses and ultimately my friends personal LED projector was stolen that the administration told staff-by then the staff had talked to each other and realized something was up. The worst part was that rather than administration expressing to my friend they would like to try to help the teacher out in obtaining another LED which was used regularly in the science classroom to show a variety of media from the computer, they didn’t say anything.   The students involved violated the trust of their teachers and made the teachers feel just slightly more defensive and ‘aware’ of behaviors – the administration showed a complete lack of respect to their teachers.  I am not even sure if this made the local newspaper as the school didn’t want to broadcast what they had done.

When I taught/long term subbed in Los Angeles (after returning from Peace Corps but waiting to get into grad school and had a 5 month layover of time), I had a knife pulled on me in front of the whole class by an 8th Grader. I do not know how, even today, I had the wherewithall to count to 10 in my head and not react, but I was able to get the student to walk out of the room and go towards the office. Of course this school did not have a functioning phone in the classroom.  I ended up sending another student out the opposite direction to run to get some one (school security, etc.) so we could get the kid with the knife safely away from campus –  as I watched the one with the knife walking down the hall one way and facing me (walking backwards).

When all of this was reported to the dean and principal, the student was asked to sit in the office at school, was allowed to eat lunch with his classmates and it was not until I INSISTED that a police report be made that anything was done.  Because I made the police report, the kid was removed from the school.  I was severly chastised by administration for taking it so ‘seriously’ and needing to instigate things by making a police report.   No one asked if I wanted to go home for the day, just when I was going back to my classroom. I later found out this same student had assaulted a teacher with a chair which is why he got put in my class – I was the long term sub after 13 other subs).  Needless to say, when I was accepted to graduate school, I was eternally grateful – both for being accepted and being ALIVE to attend.

Students are not held accountable in most situations as it would mean the principal/dean actually has to meet with parents and state to parents why the behavior is unacceptable and what has to change. At a regular public school, students get multiple opportunities to do bad things (only severe things lead to actual suspension or expulsion) which range from mentally abusive (bad/threatening language, bullying) to dangerous but not actually something which kills another person (this seems to be the bottom line for expulsion).  At a charter school, principals/deans can amp it up a little bit as charter schools are schools of choice, although charter schools can’t amp it up too much for they run three risks (1) declining school enrollment (2) not serving the very students they have promised to educate/rehabilitate (3) make the school seem too difficult so other students will not ‘choose’ to come there – the school is not fun enough.  In private schools, principals/heads of school can not afford to lose the tuition so a great deal of things are tolerated and, in fact, many parents ‘donate’ money to the school to cover up some of the lesser student indiscretions, often involving drug use.

When a student is suspended/expulsed, it is shown by school and by district. If a principal obtains too many, the principals job can be on the line so the principal works diligently to qwell the  various ‘situations’ rather than actually have to suspend a student.   A principal will do just about anything to sanitize a situation. 

The sad part about the sanitizing and lack of transparency is the very fact that the behaviors teachers document, point out, discuss in school meetings, call parents about and are avoided by administration are the very behaviors which get us Columbine and other horrible situations. 

Do not ever assume ‘know one knew’ – I can assure you there were a ton of teachers who knew but the administration was busy making nice with the teachers (denying tenure if untenured, move you to a position with more preps or at a less savory school if tenured, letting you go if at a charter school or private school) in the way only administration can play when they are not asked to be accountable and transparent.

Hopefully more parents will stand up to administration and demand they have a conscience and do what is in the best interests of education – not the numbers.

This was found on 4/22/09 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/22, Matteucci) reports, “Most schools across the metro area — and across the nation — have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against fights, which means both the bully and the victim are disciplined, said Steven Teske, president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges of Georgia.” Judge Teske said, “Zero tolerance is zero intelligence,” adding that “administrators won’t investigate to see who the primary aggressor is … So it is difficult to identify who the true bully is.” He plans to “start enforcing a chronic discipline policy, which will require parents to follow the school’s recommendations” regarding bullying. The recommendations “can include everything from court-mandated counseling to intervention from the Division of Family and Children Services.”

This was found on 6/11/2009 and seems to be the best form of transparency ever!!!

 

Hillsborough County, Florida, To Allow Students To Post Complaints On District, School Websites.

The Tampa Tribune (6/10, Peterson) reported that beginning “next fall, Hillsborough County students who are being bullied will be able to post their complaints anonymously on a school district Web site.” In addition, “students and parents with a complaint will also be able to make a report at the school site, using a new form the district has created especially for bullying cases.” District leaders “say that giving students anonymity will embolden them to reveal incidents they have seen or experienced and been afraid to talk about.” Site planners have thus far “decided they want each report to go directly to the school involved. The school will then investigate and report back to district officials.”