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?

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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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A Different Set Of Concerns-Strength of Convictions

http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2013/04/02/public-school-reformer-michelle-rhee-sends-child-to-private-school-should-we-care/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/02/justice/georgia-cheating-scandal/

While it is quite easy to exclaim NCLB testing caused teachers and administrators in Atlanta, GA to change answers in test booklets and Michelle Rhee sends one kid to private school yet claims to be a ‘public school mother’ and so forth, the real issue is becomes the following: Where the hell is your strength of conviction?

I don’t particularly care where Michelle Rhee educates her kids – she has already proven on numerous levels she does not come from either a place of heartfelt sincerity nor background in education. What I care about is she should have enough strength of conviction to her cause and  in everything she does to be honest, have integrity and own her statements. If Michelle Rhee has to hire some one to be her ‘publicist’, there is something wrong. She needs some one to ‘couch’ what she is saying in favorable terms so others will buy into her garbage.

Ditto for the teachers and administrators in Atlanta, GA. I don’t actually care whether or not these people lied – I am outraged they did it on the backs of children who deserve better. Each and every student affected by the cheating scandal was harmed in a much more dangerous manner than test scores – they were denied an education to actually raise up their scores. Not that I actually believe Georgia has anywhere near the best or most worthy spring testing of 50 states.   Had any of the 35 involved decided to put the same time and effort into say, after school literacy, the outcome may have been the same – higher test scores, for much different reasoning.

Each and every teacher  involved should be remorseful for putting wrong interests forward and not being professional enough and own enough poise to have walked out when asked to lie/cheat for students. Maturity and integrity is knowing when to WALK OUT and not accept being asked to do something wrong – for any reason.

Ask me, I know. I have walked out of jobs for lesser reasons.  It provides for great stories and laughter at dinner parties, most especially with colleagues who know who was involved.  At the end of the day, I have my name and reputation. If I go along with the crowd, when I believe differently for reasons of moral turpitude, I am the one who has demonstrated a lack of values – not the people who put me up to the challenge. I know better.  I have no problem telling an employer exactly what I think regarding outrageous behavior in the area of ethics.  Honesty is actually amazingly easy when you apply for another job and have to explain what you found ‘unsavory’ and why you CHOSE to leave.

Teachers should have confidence to WALK out before doing something so ridiculous.  I see the behavior over and over as teachers are under the mistaken belief they will never get another job (most especially if they have tenure) and so they must play the game – whether it is testing, poor lesson planning, involvement, etc. Knowing when you are exhausted and not able to best do what students need is also a sign of maturity and dignity.

In the case of Michelle Rhee, she should be embarrassed to have to pay some one with money from the ‘StudentsFirst’ bank account to craft her answers since she can not be honest. The money spent on a publicist should be spent on students.  In fact, all charter schools should not need a marketing department or publicity department to ‘demonstrate’ their greatness. The money for said departments should be spent on students – and learning.

Again, there has to be something wrong with a system which tells you it is about the students and yet feels not one iota of contempt for deceit – whether it involves money or not.

Who do the 35 people in Atlanta think they are to take money away from students – merely since it was so easy to lie/cheat, etc. on annual test scores – when everyone else could see right through it if you compared other assessments and grades?  I don’t even think the 35 should have been involved in education. I feel the same about Michelle Rhee who believes test scores are the answer for measuring success.

Many days I wish my so-called ‘education colleagues’ would grow spines and have  courage to speak out, walk out, do whatever it takes to set the system on notice, anything but embarrassing the profession.  It is actually okay to be the one who says, “NO, I won’t play the game.”   It is actually okay to know when to leave the practice of education………

What I observe is a bunch of people who do not even have the intelligence to discern making different choices so they run with the pack of imbeciles. At the end of the day, you are very much the company you CHOOSE to keep.

And so we keep on learning…..or do we?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/my-son-is-schizophrenic-the-reforms-that-i-worked-for-have-worsened-his-life/2012/10/15/87b74a98-eadd-11e1-b811-09036bcb182b_story_3.html

I have long been troubled by what the right, correct, accurate, thought out, proper, logical and so forth  answer may be about special education.  This is based on the fact my teaching credential was obtained in a non-traditional manner (BA in speech pathology/audiology) due to my undergrad studies.  On one hand I have a better than average understanding of learning disabilities and the possible underlying basis going into the credentialing program, learned a ton being a teacher and helping to write IEP’s/504’s and being a participant of the student study team, working closely with my special ed colleagues to mainstream students into the science lab. On the other side of all the great things written in the previous sentence, I was worn down and exhausted each day from putting in all  I had for my 5-10 special needs students in each class and noticing it was never enough as well as realizing my regular ed students were not getting as much as they deserved from me. Finding a balance on this razor blade edge was never easy and there were days it felt more like a razor blade than others.

The 1980s was the decade when many of the state’s large mental hospitals were emptied. After years of neglect, the hospitals’ programs and buildings were in decay. In my new legislative role, I jumped at the opportunity to move people out of “those places.” I initiated funding for community mental health and substance abuse treatment programs for adults, returned young people from institution-based “special school districts” to schools in their home towns and provided for care coordinators to help manage the transition of people back into the community.

Every year, one in every five children and one in every four adults has a diagnosable mental illness. A quarter of all mental illnesses are considered serious.

In the case of inner city schools, this number is amplified and it is these figures which are the 5-10 students per class can be found.After all was said and done, I wonder if indeed all of us who jumped onto the mainstreaming band wagon and least restrictive environments, etc. really were on the correct train. There are many disabilities which are organic in nature and can be overcome with some routine medical and therapeutic efforts. There are substantially more disabilities which have a mental health component and require more than my professional education and experience provided, in addition to the fact there has been a gross elimination of counselors, psychologists, speech pathologists, RSP and other professionals at every school.

……….But when you look just a little more closely, what you find is a young man with a sly smile, quick wit and an inquisitive mind who — when he’s healthy — bears a striking resemblance to the youthful Muhammad Ali…………Yet it’s the policies of my generation of policymakers that put that formerly adorable toddler — now a troubled 6-foot-5 adult — on the street. And unless something changes, the policies of today’s generation of policymakers will keep him there.

And then there were the recriminations from the very people who had hoped they were enacting the best, right, correct and well thought out ideas. These thoughts could have been written by anyone in elected government, it is not specific to Connecticut.

But we legislators in Connecticut and many other states made a series of critical misjudgments.

First, we didn’t understand how poorly prepared the public schools were to educate children with serious mental illnesses.

Second, we didn’t adequately fund community agencies to meet new demands for community mental health services — ultimately forcing our county jails to fill the void.

And third, we didn’t realize how important it would be to create collaborations among educators, primary-care clinicians, mental-health professionals, social-services providers, even members of the criminal justice system, to give people with serious mental illnesses a reasonable chance of living successfully in the community.

During the 25 years since, I’ve experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of these mistakes.

It is these very recriminations which make me cringe as it was that approximate 30 year time period which I taught in public schools and experienced the anguish of educating every student to the best of my ability while my elected officials were busy cutting me to my knees.  This continues to be  the same program which is in force while teachers are being subjected to merit based on test scores.

Typically, schools and parents follow exactly what the author is stating.  It is far easier to take the easy course when you have limited resources and hope for the best. It is also the worst possible time to not take immediate action, as with children who are on the autism spectrum.

When Tim entered elementary school, it took us three years to convince school officials that his symptoms weren’t caused by problems with Tim’s having been adopted, his racial identity (we’re white, he’s black) or our parenting. That by then we had three children younger than Tim who also were adopted transracially and were thriving helped make our case. The school’s evaluations suggested he had what was then called attention deficit disorder and some learning disabilities. He was admitted into special education, and the school drew up a mandated individualized education plan (IEP) for him. It focused mostly on helping with his organizational skills and, at the school’s insistence, his “self-esteem.”

Tim’s IEP clearly needed to be revised after he received his new diagnoses. But his principal told me repeatedly that “he just needs to follow the rules,” as if Tim could will away his illness. In a due-process hearing we then demanded, Tim’s special education teacher declared that Tim’s biggest problem was “overprotective parents.”

And during my teaching years in public schools, the worst I encountered was the outset of charter schools.  Wherein the following and worse was stated more often than not:

What followed were many years during which one public school after another knew it couldn’t educate my son but had nothing to offer, holding him back in one case and bumping him ahead in another.

It was this very time period, the advent of charter schools, in which I saw how education and our elected leaders failed education the most. And it was when I realized until people came ‘clean’, the Michelle Rhee’s of the world would just continue to blame the wrong folks.

More than one educator has told me that I shouldn’t blame the schools: Their purpose is to educate children, not to treat them. I understand this. But I also learned from personal experience that ignoring a child’s special needs makes meaningless the special-education concepts of “appropriate” and “least restrictive” education that are embodied in the laws we passed.

These terminologies — and the realities they represent — were things that policymakers thought about too narrowly. The word “disability,” for instance, should have covered Tim and children like him. But as a friend who worked a generation ago on drafting the regulations for the federal government’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act told me, “Paul, we were thinking of kids in wheelchairs.”

What we really need is more people able to own up and admit to deficiencies in how funding and managing education is done so we can move forward. The blame game has long been a subtle smoke screen to demonstrate all that is wrong with education, demonize teachers and not acknowledge some of the worst possible choices in education  which have been made – NOT BY TEACHERS, RATHER, THE VERY PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE HAD OPEN EARS AND EYES.

Until we have a ‘truth and reconcilliation’  about what has happened these past 30 or so years, we will never get close to filling the gap created by politicians.  We can continue to blame teachers – it will not solve the problem so clearly laid out by Paul Gionfriddo.

Occupying The Principal’s Office With Principled Dissent

Somehow yesterday, this posting from The Washington Post made it to me. I believe it came from an RPCV/grad school buddy and was posted to Facebook.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/when-an-adult-took-standardized-tests-forced-on-kids/2011/12/05/gIQApTDuUO_blog.html

What garnered my attention was the fact that some one genuinely human and apparently not too wonky took a standardized test to be transparent about why they do/do not support certain boondoggling in education.   This person was willing to share their scores – something which means they have great self-confidence and/or believe in being genuine and authentic in how they posit their beliefs. I am guessing, as it is not indicated in the piece noted above, that the person was not initially looking to see how well the test correlated to the ‘real world’ and this was an after effect. This person did a great deal of reflection – and this made me realize that perhaps this was the latent awakening of the American conscience.

“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”

“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”

I had thought this was pretty much the end of the article and ‘point taken’. I was not expecting what came next in the way that one does not see a great mystery book or movie unfold and is dumbfounded.

Winerip writes: “As of last night, 658 principals around the state (New York) had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.”

As otherworldly as it would seem possible, administrators (principals) did something which demonstrated they would no longer follow the common thought pattern of ideologues. Principals would use their own brain to think and reason the data.  Principals would use principled, reasonable thinking – something beyond the comprehension of anyone who has ever been a teacher.   Maybe there is hope as Marion Brady states near the end of this piece. There may actually be a glimmer of  something wonderful beyond compare – a sensibility which does not come from businessmen (most charter school organizations which are not-for-profit CORPORATIONS) or supposed poser educators who think it is so easy.

It is difficult for me not to be cynical and I really would like to see the shroud of darkness removed from the intractableness of NCLB…..could it be as simple as Occupy the Principal’s Office – something teachers have been doing but the rest of the country has been against?