This is NOT ‘accidentally on purpose’ – this is absolutely on purpose.

In the last six months, many aspects of my life have gone through ‘change’. My address (a whole new state), my back office for tutoring, my weight. While those items have changed, my very real beliefs and sense of equity have not changed one bit – they just become stronger in conviction.

I know exactly why I left teaching in the classroom and now, 10 years later, when many more teachers have ‘left’ (fled and not replaced), I realize I was just a bit ahead of the curve. It is a challenge to find anyone these days who wishes to become a teacher due to the insanity of getting the credential and the further insanity of making through the first two years- never mind possibly getting through the first five years  and making it work for them, when they are seasoned and can be great.

As education went to  further extremes of the business model (charter schools, for profit secondary ed, small schools within a school, TFA and so forth, supplementary educational services) approach to education, those in charge continued to intentionally overlook and then ignore the most obvious problems arising from a ridiculous system. It is not that anyone has  forgotten or overlooked what we do in schools, it is most often the people in charge selectively choose to ignore, not address or lower the level of the problem until they  are called out.

Teachers are not by nature a dumb lot so one would have to guess administration, school boards and other community members seem to have a hand in the manipulations of kids getting an education. And this is why teachers become frustrated. We know. We know administrators and businesses (all the non-profit charter schools are BUSINESSES) intentionally on purpose have to overlook things so they meet the bottom line, present some sort of numbers to the people interested in their concept and hope to goodness no one catches them. A perfect example is how charter schools are able to skirt ADA rules for special ed students. You would be amazed at the stories, pack of lies and so forth surrounding this aspect of education.

When an article such as the one written by Jeff Guo at Storyline hits my reading, it is impossible to put down. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/09/22/these-kids-were-geniuses-they-were-just-too-poor-for-anyone-to-discover-them/?tid=sm_fb   It is the embodiment of all the things I know are going on and have never had the ‘evidence’ to prove as we don’t talk about this stuff in polite company. It is too unseemly to discuss all the ways we betray students in this country.

What Mr. Guo wrote about is the basis of work looked at by Malcolm Gladwell, Shankar Vedantam, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.  It is the not so ‘hidden’ mess right in front of our eyes if we would just pay attention.  What is shocking is the fact this information is in no way hidden at all and that is the largest disgrace.

The result was an atlas of inequality.

We blame money as the cause for ignoring the gifted and talented students within a school district. It is not money. It is will. We know these students are out there and it is our job to find them. We have to do a better job. Instead, we do the opposite of what is best practices.

We give minority students and/or students of poverty the worst teachers, the new teachers, the teachers we can not figure out how to help. We give these same students Supplementary Education Services (SES), which is polite terminology for whatever half-rate tutors we can find after some ‘business’ takes a percentage off the top for hooking us up (trust me – I know the system and have seen it as a teacher, as a tutor and having been approached to work for these organizations). We created state tests which were so low in caliber, when the common core came out, most notably the standard for the economically advantaged kids, we flipped out to see the low scores. Reality met head on with the games we played to try to fool ourselves.

We put the socioeconomically disadvantaged students in charter schools which do not (the statistics prove it out repeatedly) which do not do anything more or better than a good, well run public school.  We do everything in our power to disenfranchise this group of students including evaluating them at the same time, at the same rate for gifted and talented programs.

Is it really any wonder at all education is in a shambles?

What can YOU do?

_________________________________________________________________________________________

As a parent, you can use the SES money towards a better tutor for your  student.    http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/description.html  

Districts must make available to parents a list of State-approved supplemental educational services providers in the area and must let parents choose the provider that will best meet the educational needs of the child.

 The school districts do what is cheapest, NOT best. Find an independent tutor to work with a small group of students. They can be paid by SES funds. Trust me, the threshold to be a tutor for supplemental education services is low. You can find tutors willing to work with students for less than their ‘listed’ costs on a website such as https://www.avidbrain.com/

-Stay away from the sites which promise you tons of tutors as you will find it is a numbers game and the sites with the ‘most’ tutors are not the sites with the BEST tutors. There is a difference.  Sites with the most tutors need to prove to investors they have a business model. 20% of the tutors on the site do 98% of the work. The other tutors are window dressing……I’ve been there. I was the 20%.

-Tutors are generally independent contractors.

-If you go with an SES ‘provider’, some business is making money and the tutor is maybe getting $12-20/hr.  Since an SES tutor has a low threshold to meet to become a tutor, you are not getting your monies worth, you are getting what is cheapest for your school district.

-If you go with an independent tutor, the tutor makes the money they are worth, stick with the job and know what they are doing.

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Conundrum 6,875,248,312 – High test scores AND students not graduating???

http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/1-900-in-SF-class-of-14-may-not-graduate-4051222.php

Poor Jill Tucker at The San Francisco Chronicle.  She has been given the worst tasks – writing anything positive regarding education when the smoke screen and mirrors brought to us in California  via NCLB, The Bush Years, SDAIE requirements, charter schools, Proposition 13 and so forth are mind bendingly awful. These ‘fixes’ appear most awful when seen through the rear view mirror while  people such as Michelle Rhee are driving forward at 100 MPH and throwing  crap out the windows of said vehicle –  at teachers.

Apparently in all the positive accolades regarding test score improvement, some one some where was neglecting to look at the sign ahead regarding a CLIFF.    Admittedly there are problems such as those of Nina Collins which are unique and definitely different.  I can not imagine this is the story for the other 1,899 projected problem students.  How could so many students be missing units?  How could so many students be misdirected? Are the teachers going to be blamed/shamed again – for this?

None of the graduation requirements are new. In fact, these requirements have been around forever. What is new is parents and community members believing with their shallow little hearts and brains it has all been up to teachers. I am amazed the spin has not yet started for the blame game.

I really wonder if we had changed our focus just a bit from the prize of test scores to the reality of successful course completion, parents being held accountable, less drama surrounding how many charter schools can be propped up and reviling teachers if we would have made the ‘difference’ necessary for this article to never have been written.  It is about focus. When we allow charter schools and the slippery slopes of test score calculations to become our focus, we let other, blindingly obvious problems slip into the background.   No one could ever convince me they did not see this phenomenon coming – unless they were so busy following Michelle Rhee they simply lost their mind.

Teachers do not control the variables which bring about these types of conundrums – administrators control these issues. I hope people look up from what ever it is their head was buried in and recognize the problem – it is not test scores, rather, it is what we chose to focus and worship as the prize.

Dear Ms. Rhee 29 August 2012

Dear Ms. Rhee,

I write to you often but I am not even sure you pay attention as you have never responded. If you responded, I would be shocked as it would mean you had to deal with facts which were presented. Since you are more inclined to manipulate facts, I am not expecting responses any time soon.

So, it would appear that Aspire Public Schools has taken a page, well maybe a chapter from the playbook of  regular public schools. This is not the first time I caught the problem; I have addressed this issue at other junctures. I just keep pointing out the facts so that you don’t lose track of them as you campaign against teachers.

https://rn11.ultipro.com/ASP1000/JobBoard/listjobs.aspx?Page=List&__SVRTRID=E95F1B34-D54F-4D0E-BD91-8AE59C55609E is the URL I used on 29 August 2012 to check that once again, Aspire was exceeding what a regular public school would be doing at this time in the school year as Aspire indicates IT IS SUPERIOR to what is down the street.

Here is what I found at 10:45 AM-

12 open teaching positions, including the sciences and language arts K-12 AND things such as music, Gr 9-12, journalism and so forth. This did not include the four open substitute position postings or the Dean of Educational Capacity (clearly a name for a position which is  in no way living up to its potential), two HR managers (assumedly it is their job to find the teachers to fill the classrooms), three residency campus recruiters (to find even more teachers to fill classrooms), five substitute positions-one of which was long-term, college readiness teacher (who knew that Aspire needed a teacher to do the task of a counselor….), Senior Manager of Talent (apparently also responsible for filling empty classrooms), two recruiters…. to find teachers which the residency campus recruiters could not find??, and two SPED teachers. I did not list every open position as I pretty much matched My true love gave to me (sung to the 12 Days of Christmas) chorus usually reserved for public schools.

And so I begin to ask myself the following questions, in no particular order:

(1) There is 8.5% unemployment in the U.S. (rhetorical of course as the RNC has been bandying this about for weeks).

(2) Why don’t teachers wish to work for a charter school (Aspire is not the only gig in town, just the most self promoted in CA and now TN)?

(3) How is Aspire’s problem different from regular public schools as charter schools are supposed to be better and these numbers of empty positions after school has started indicate equal to or worse than.

(4) Why are my tax dollars paying for this unacceptable level of administration of an education program and why is Aspire not shut down when it is NOT meeting its own goals?

(5) Does anyone else know or am I the only person  who has an actual interest in education?

(6) Did Ms. Rhee or James Wilcox ever manage to read “The First Days of School” by Harry K. Wong (the supposed handbook Aspire support(s)/supported?

The list continued, however it became general reflection as to why I still believe charter schools are not an answer to what ails the American education system.

I know you like the word anomaly and use it to explain data which you are unable to manipulate to your liking so I understand you might wish to use it in this example. My problem is that something is an anomaly when it happens once or rarely  (deviation from the common rule)- not regularly so it is not appropriate this time….the problem(s) cited above are regular and ongoing.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Parenting skills for a novice

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl1ujzRidmU

Dear Parents,

I found this video  and wanted to share it with you.  Not only does this parent clearly elucidate the issues at hand and why it is unsettling to him, he clearly solves the problem.   There is a point at which talking is NOT the solution and action is required.  Oh, and by the way, children under 18 need parental consent for using some of these websites so you do get to monitor what is being done.

While I do not advocate/condone the technique used at the end of the video, there are similar things which can be equally effective with a hammer or window drop (from the 5th floor or higher).

Remember, you are the adult in the relationship. YOU are the parent. YOU get to set the standard your child lives up to.

Take time to be a parent in the same way you expect me to take time to be a teacher. I do not have as much influence on your child as you do. My job is merely to inspire your child to want to learn MORE!

Please support me in educating your child by setting high expectations of behavior at home, at school and making sure your child applies themself to learn.   All the rest will be pretty easy.

Respectfully,

Your Child’s Teacher

Grades K-12

P.S.  Dear Hannah,

You may not like your father very much right now. I am sure when you are in college, doing well and have a family of your own you will appreciate your father cared enough to love you and discipline you.

Follow up:

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/youtube-dad-who-shot-daughters-laptop-gets-visit-a/nHbcR/?hpt=us_bn5

Pertinence in Parenting or Test Scores?

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/11/opinion/bennett-good-teachers/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

http://blogs.kqed.org/americangraduate/2012/01/20/diane-ravitch-on-kqed-forum/

This past week I was able to listen to Dr. Diane Ravitch being interviewed by Michael Krasney. There was nothing startlingly different in this interview and yet it was bereft of the mention the role parents play in education.  It may well be that parents and inadequate parenting are results related to the effects of poverty, which was clearly covered in this discussion.  Engaged parents, one of the cornerstones of child success – around the world, where there is much more poverty than in America needs to be addressed with the same level of anger the public puts upon teachers for educational results.

Dr. Ravitch was clear in the fact of teachers no longer accepting of the assignation they are what is wrong with American Education and no amount of constant testing will prove otherwise.   Her clarity on this point was so sharp it was able to poke the flimsy balloon of NCLB testing and yet it was not strong enough to raise the ire of the very group who need to be involved. Parents seem to be given a constant free pass to not be part of solution.

William Bennett, who is the other side of the spectrum  of education (test students until you get numbers you like) went on to write about the necessity to have great teachers and backed his writing up with a plethora of statistics. Unfortunately   for Mr. Bennett, he managed to include the below paragraph but not bother to  follow-up on the very real fact that teachers are only SECOND to parents in educational outcomes and success of children.  Mr. Bennett wrote it in such a way as to make the comment not real and/or not noticeable or of any poignancy.

This study shows that, second only to parents, teachers are the most important part of a child’s education. Great teachers make a great difference; poor teachers hurt a child’s life chances. Isn’t that all we need to know to embark upon a serious effort to reward good teachers and encourage poor teachers out of the profession.

There is a world of difference from my own reading, listening and interpreting of professional educator ‘speak’ to the interpretations made by the general public who listen to what is, in effect, marketed at them.   The issue at hand is not what testing does or does not prove, rather the issue is the interpretation.  We as the population of the U.S. can spend our time debating test scores (multiple choice, blue book, anecdotal records, NAEP, state testing and so forth) for ever or we can choose to effect change by placing the same level of expectation upon parents that we place upon teachers. We get to choose where we place our focus.

As long as we are focused on test numbers, we neglect the more important VALUE ADDED issues affecting children – appropriate food, sleep, healthy environment (where they physically live and their community safety), literacy in the home (do the parents even attempt to learn the lingua franca of the country they live in) including adequate reading material, parenting behaviors conducive to student success (schedules, quiet time for homework, consistency, etc.) and the list goes on and on.  By focusing on test scores, which  seem to have changed little over 20 years no matter how much money we put into the machine called education, we miss the really HUGE variable – parents.

The public has done everything it can to demonstrate disdain for teachers and the results are not attractive.  It is time for the public to get past the whipping boy/girl and actual take on the problem with education.  When parents are on board, teachers can effect change in the classroom.

Teacher quality is nothing without parental quality.

Teachers Teaching/The Help – telling our truths

Side note for those of you who might have been inclined to criticize based on wrong reasons: In no way am I stating the horrific continuing racism and evils of slavery in our country completely compare to teaching. I am attempting to note that these two disparate groups of people are unduly penalized and further punished for telling truths. History is always told after the fact and is written through the lens of the author.  Take a moment to think about how you perceive history and how you would write it differently if you were not this blogger…..

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see The Help with a close friend who is bi-racial (I am caucasian).  I read the book, my friend had not. We have known each other about eight years or as adults.

Having read the book, I feel the movie did good service to the story line of the book – it actually made me wince more and perhaps that is because I could only envision in my mind what was being written while the film put it in my face.  There were multiple times when I cried, not the weepy tears down the cheek, the crying that hurts inside and you feel you are being squashed. I was thankful to leave the theatre and see the light of day as I was so terribly sad and shaken.  Perhaps it was not the movie alone – rather it may have been kinesiology rearing up and sending me the memory of times when I had been treated poorly.  What came to mind were the times when I have had to deal with parents who had ‘alternate’ agendas and principals who supported this behavior.   I was thinking of the times I had been asked to ‘doctor’ the grades – though not in those words as that would have been too obvious.  I started thinking of Natalie Munroe and her perceptions and how she was treated by her school district for putting both light of day and transparency on the topic of student behavior.

Teachers, sadly, have similar fears to the maid/nanny characters in The Help and are required to ‘listen/hear’ to what is said about them without ever being allowed to say how they feel for the very real reason of losing their job and being blackballed. You can not rock a boat and expect no waves to ripple outward.

Imagine each day telling children ‘You are smart, you are kind, you are important’, something their own parents can not or will not say and you start to catch on to what I am talking about. It is not just mothers with postpartum depression or women in the South or something which only happened pre-civil rights.  It is happening now, today all over this country when teachers, try as they might to set high standards and expectations, are denied the follow through of consequences by school administrators and parents.

Teachers are ‘separate’ and considered equal until you look at what happened to Natalie Munroe. When you realize teachers are being held to some higher standard than even that which parents can uphold, the argument becomes clear about telling the truth.

What really got to me was that many of the ‘behaviors’ exhibited by the caucasian women in the movie are not unlike what happens at a school except the parents are generally of all races.  The behavior/treatment to those who are ‘beholden’ to them via their tax dollars is similar.

The very real tears Skeeter shed about finding out the truth of Constantine was due to her genuine love for the woman. In each backflash, we see Skeeter obtaining more from Constantine than what her mother could ‘give’.  The courage Skeeter’s mother demonstrated in the end by thanking her daughter for telling truths  and bring dignity back to the family is something I hope will happen for all teachers.

When teachers are allowed to tell the truth and do what is correct as opposed to the consensus view of others who believe they are acting on behalf of children (administrators and parents who seemingly fail at their most basic tasks of child rearing, governmental officials), we will indeed bring back dignity and integrity to the classroom!

http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&task=view_title&metaproductid=1553

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Help

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathryn_Stockett

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/139084261/life-in-the-south-through-the-eyes-of-the-help

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120966815

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/07/teacher-who-blogged-about-her-lazy-students-gets-her-job-back/1

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-muscle-memory.htm

http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=133808216

http://passedupstrange.blogspot.com/2011/02/america-needs-more-teachers-like.html

http://www.healthandgoodness.com/article/what-is-three-in-one-concepts-kinesiology.html

Flight Traffic Controllers and Teachers…..There are Common Elements

Randy Babbit is proving himself to be useful for teachers…..something I doubt he even dreamed about.  Imagine a man stating the exhaustion of air traffic controllers is a blemish on the FAA (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/04/17/state/n115239D07.DTL)   …. and think about the factoid that teachers make MORE DECISIONS in any given hour in a classroom than any air traffic controller – AND TEACHERS QUITE LITERALLY DO IT ON THEIR FEET and then, after a more than eight hour day, go home to grade papers and prepare for the next day (as well as attend meetings and deal with parents of all ilks). 

I do not actually believe air traffic controllers have a cushy job – there is generally much  on the line such as a whole plane of people and unsavory weather conditions, pretty much akin to  being a science teacher with 35 students in a lab environment and one wrong move, instruction, etc. which could lead to numerous problems up to and including death (http://www.flinnsci.com/Sections/Safety/generalSafety/accidents.asp     http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=danger-in-school-labs ).

I appreciate Mr. Babbit actually acknowledging the significance of jobs such as air traffic controllers and their exhaustion.  It reminds me of the years and years of practice done by medical schools in  putting interns and ER doctors on 24 and 36 hour schedules and hoping by a  miracle no mistakes were made in the last couple hours of the sleep deprived shifts.  Again, I would not compare a doctors work to a teacher – a doctor, specifically in ER has much at stake and any wrong move, decision, etc. can mean death – to a patient and to the doctor’s career. 

When we as a society begin to explore the rationality of the amount of work output we expect from different  employee groups of people AND expect it to be done consistently well, it is important to consider all the factors.  It is irrational behavior to have air traffic controllers work crazy mixed schedules throughout a one week period where their body clocks can not adjust AND they have to deal with odd cycles of actually seeing daylight and night time in order to do their job effectively.  It is absolutely ridiculous (especially if you are the patient) to have to see an ER doctor on the 23rd or 35th hour of their shift and hope they can save your life adequately – fortunately this horrible practice has been somewhat shut down for various obvious reasons, mainly insurance and litigation (most likely also suicide rates).

No one needs to ‘prove’ how tough they are by working excessive hours under unreasonable conditions and yet the public absolutely expects and extracts this from teachers.  When teachers push back, the public uses the same horrible logic as is used below from the head of the FAA.  The fact that teachers rely on union representation to deal with issues of excessive work can best be demonstrated by the lovely charter schools and Teach for America program which have only demonstrated how to make better revolving doors – not better teachers.  

Babbitt said sleeping worker workers have put a “real terrible blemish” on the FAA.

“None of us in this business can … tolerate any of this,” Babbitt said. “It absolutely has to stop. I was absolutely infuriated when I heard the first one or two. But as we began our review, it became even more frustrating and more disappointing to me to see what has happened here.”

I personally wish to thank Mr. Babbitt for bringing to the light of day some of the egregious practices done in the artifice of cost saving measures.  Most of all, I am thankful the air traffic controllers have a union.

  Teachers do incredibly important work – I have seen studies which indicate one year with a bad (whoops – exhausted and overworked) teacher can really put a student behind academically.  This may not be life threatening – it is sure an impact on the life of a child. 

When the mud flinging is over (this blog and anything to do with how ‘easy’ teachers have it) and people can look at the real situation, I would love to see teachers have LESS on their plates, more pay and substantially more respect.  When we can face our shortcomings about work practices, we will do better for many groups, most especially our children.