There is way to much testing and not enough teaching going on

From the Stamford Advocate

by Wendy Lecker

Anyone who works in or has a child in public school has to wonder whether those making education policy have ever considered the effects their grand pronouncements and policies have in real life.

The Common Core Standards are a perfect example. Leaving aside the complete absence of evidence that articulating “standards” has ever had any effect on learning or achievement, let’s focus in on the main weapon in the Common Core arsenal: the new tests.

The Obama administration has declared that, finally, they will develop Common Core tests that will assess “higher order thinking” and will make sure all children are “college-ready.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan asserted that these tests will not just be “fill-in-the-bubble tests” but rather will be open ended. Sounds good, right? Has Mr. Duncan actually examined the open-ended tests that currently exist?

Many state standardized tests already include open-ended questions, to test writing, for example. And as Dan Rather recently reported in an eye-opening piece called “Bad Score,” the manner in which these tests are scored is horrifying. Scorers, almost always temporary seasonal workers, sit sweatshop style in a large room reading similar essays for eight hours straight. They allot 30 seconds to each essay. Their scores depend on what time of day it may be, how many similar scores they have already given (too many 4’s? start giving some 3’s!), and other completely arbitrary “criteria.” What do we expect in 30 seconds? Higher order? Really?

This assembly line will only become more frenetic as the Obama administration pushes states to institute these open-ended assessments in every subject. More tests scored in 30 seconds each are a great boon to the testing industry. But do we really expect that they will show whether or not our children can “analyze and solve complex problems, communicate clearly, synthesize information,” which Mr. Duncan trumpets they will do?

Of course not. Those who pay attention to evidence of what really goes on with children know that no test will measure the true abilities necessary for success in school and life. Nor will preparing for such a test develop them. As many studies show, discipline trumps IQ in predicting academic achievement. Thus, schools that focus on developing that discipline in children will succeed in helping them learn best.

To truly develop academic discipline, policy makers must first abandon the confusion between a lot of work and hard work. “Covering content,” copious amounts of it, is not learning. It is a lot of work, but it is mind-numbing. It certainly does not render a student “college-ready.” In fact, the vast majority of college professors complain that students arrive at college completely unprepared to do college level research and writing.

Rather than develop new standardized tests, we would serve our children better by giving them the opportunity to do some hard work. As Norm Augustine, former chair of Lockheed Martin, recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, researching and writing term papers is the kind of hard work that builds academic discipline. “An education in history can create critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information and articulate their findings. These are skills needed across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.” Mr. Augustine points out that those children who can research and write often perform better in all subjects. The kind of writing that is necessary is not the five formulaic paragraphs we find in state standardized tests or even AP exams. Students must be able to do original research, and translate that research into coherent papers.

Every child, no matter what her background, can build this discipline. Will Fitzhugh, the editor of The Concord Review, a journal that publishes exemplary high school term papers, offers a road map for schools. In his Page Per Year plan, a first grader would write one page on a subject other than herself, using one source. The pages and sources would increase per year: two pages and sources in second grade, three in third, etc. By high school, students will not only be proficient readers and writers, but they will have a chance to think deeply and form their own conclusions about world events. They will have the skills to succeed in school and to be responsible and engaged citizens.

While parents I know lament the virtual disappearance of the term paper and their children’s incessant memorization of “content,” I have never heard a parent (or teacher) say “what we really need to fix this is some more standardized tests.” Of course, to bring back the term paper, policy makers would have to ensure school districts have the capacity and resources to give teachers the time and freedom to assign, supervise and grade these papers — tasks that will surely take more than 30 seconds. That would require doing something policy makers are loath to do these days — trusting those closest to our children, those who know our children best, to do what is best for them.

Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/opinion/article/Op-Ed-Bubbles-or-not-more-tests-are-not-the-2193652.php#ixzz1Zd3VlebD

Rick Scott seeks to exclude teachers from education decisions

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Largely escaping the notice by Florida’s ed policy observers this week was a blurb from the Miami Herald that the so-called “parent trigger law ” is part of Rick Scott’s agenda for schools in the next legislative session. Scott’s mouthpieces just didn’t call it that.

* EDUCATION — The governor appears to be reviving the proposal to require a percentage of a school’s budget be spent on the classroom with a plan to require the classroom spending in districts “not meeting standards.” He also is considering asking legislators to adopt the Texas approach to higher education “and better link job market demands to degrees.” A Tier 2 priority is creating “Education Spending Accounts” so that parents can take money from the public school system and spend it on outside educational needs.

* PUBLIC PENSIONS — Unnamed reforms to the Florida Retirement System appear on the governor’s agenda again this year as a Tier 2 priority. Police, paramedics and firefighters will be stroked, however, this political year as the governor considers reversing his proposal — and the legislature’s passage — of a law to raise the retirement age for special risk workers from 55 to 60.

* CHARTER SCHOOLS — Charter schools would continue to gain strength if the governor succeeds with his proposal to allow a public school to become a charter school with a majority vote of the parents, instead of a majority vote of the teachers.

The parent trigger proposal is not new to Florida. Michelle Rhee let the cat out of the bag when she pitched the proposal to lawmakers earlier this year.

His informal education adviser Michelle Rhee also tipped off lawmakers of one more idea that’s coming: More power for parents to change the way their school is run. She called it the “parent trigger,” a nod to California’s controversial but groundbreaking law that allows parents to petition for reforms at low-performing schools.

Rhee explained that the recommendation would be a simple word change. But it could have major impact on school operations.

The charter school law [1002.33 (3)(b)] would be altered to say that 50 percent of parents or teachers can vote to convert a traditional school to a charter, rather than 50 percent of parents and teachers. That’s potentially even broader than the California law, which limits action to low performing schools.

California’s law is already under dispute, with that state Board of Education slowing its implementation at a recent meeting. Wonder what kind of reception Scott’s proposal will get if and when it arrives.

Looks like Scott wants to carve teachers completely out of Rhee’s bill. Small wonder his flacks didn’t use the name. But Scott and the legislators who will be sponsoring the Parent Trigger law will be sure to brush aside concerns about the fraudulent manner its been manipulated in California. Nevermind the facts about the shady groups who did the manipulating.

The parent trigger law was introduced by Gloria Romero, a former California state senator. She is now the director of the California branch of Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER. Ben Austin drafted the law. Austin is a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a policy consultant at Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operator. Austin has a seat on the Los Angeles school board – California governor Jerry Brown dismissed him from the state education board – and he is the executive director of a nonprofit called Parent Revolution.

DFER is a political action committee run by hedge-fund managers and investment bankers. Closely tied to KIPP charter schools and Teach for America (the single largest donor to which is now the Walton Family Foundation), DFER’s aim is to close the “achievement gap” between students in poor black Harlem and their peers in rich white Scarsdale. To that end, the PAC raises money for Democrats who push an education agenda that includes the closure of “failing” public schools and the proliferation of charter schools. It’s an agenda shared by the Obama administration, and it’s being pushed by their education reform competition, Race to the Top.

What the Los Angeles Times calls an umbrella group is actually a front group for those who would profit from schools being turned to charters. DRER’s executive director testified in front of two Florida legislative education committees this past January during the run-up to the passage of SB736. Parent Revolution already has cheerleaders in Florida. Teacher and writer Larry Ferlazzo described Parent Revolution’s California caper:

…… an outside group with zero ties to a local community parachutes several fulltime organizers into a neighborhood that they picked for its demographics; the group has a clear agenda and is generously funded by several foundations with their own clear political agenda; there are no meetings with any other stakeholders to identify common issues and explore new solutions; and a non-negotiable demand is then announced.

Opponents of what’s become education reform driven by profiteers will quickly recognize the templates and deliberately misleading AKA’s. Is the California game plan about to be run in Florida?

http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/will-rick-scotts-parent-trigger-push-bring-california-style-fraud-to-florida/

Teachers could go to jail, for sending e-mails

From ThinkProgress.org

by Marie Diamond

In a transparent attempt to punish teachers for organizing union efforts, Michigan Republicans are pushing a bill through the legislature that would prohibit public employees from sending political messages through their work emails. The bill is an attempt to stifle any union-related communication between teachers and other public employees, imposing ridiculously harsh penalties for teachers who send “political” messages:

Michigan educators could face a year in prison for conducting union or political business over public school e-mail servers under a bill advancing in Lansing.

State House Bill 4052 was reported out of committee last week, and would prohibit a public employee from using public e-mail for political campaigning, union activities, union recruitment, and fundraising.

Violators could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, which would carry a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in prison or both in the bill’s amended version. Organizations found guilty would face up to a $10,000 fine.[…]

The bill is an example of ongoing “classic scapegoating” in Lansing against teachers, and is being used to appeal to the Republican-led Legislature’s base, said Doug Norton, former Howell Education Association president.

“I think that they hate the fact that teachers are able to join a union and collectively bargain. I think they have targeted teachers in their organization,” Norton said.

The Michigan Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state, says the bill is political retribution after a conservative activist lost a legal battle over the use of school districts’ email service for union lobbying efforts. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that teachers’ emails were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which would’ve made all personal communications subject to public scrutiny.

Instead of abiding by the court’s decision, Michigan Republicans are determined to circumvent the law and crack down on unions by completely banning “political” communication by public employees. The Livingston Daily notes that the bill actually cannot be enforced without modifying the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

These so-called small government conservatives seem entirely comfortable with the prospect of a Big Brother police state that would monitor all communications by all public employees. Disturbingly, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Al Pscholka (R) said the law would depend on co-workers reporting violations by their colleagues, fostering an atmosphere of fear and suspicion and inviting public accusations based on personal vendettas.

The Michigan Education Association warns that this GOP assault is about more than public workers and their unions — if passed, it would weaken constitutional protections on every citizen’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/09/29/331816/in-stealth-assault-on-unions-michigan-gop-bill-would-jail-teachers-who-send-political-emails/

Senate bill 736 an unfunded monster

From Naples News.com

Construction paper posters hang on the walls of the Collier County Education Association meeting room.

On one poster, a red line slashes through the number 736.

The red faded posters are a reminder of the teachers union’s failed attempt to fight state legislators last year on a bill that changed the way teachers do their job and get compensated for their work.

Collier County teachers may have stopped fighting. But the Florida Education Association, which represents 65 of the 67 Florida teachers’ unions including Collier and Lee counties, has not.

“This thing is a monster. It’s unfunded,” said Jonathan Tuttle, executive director for the Collier teachers union.

On Sept. 14, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit on behalf of teachers throughout the state saying SB 736 violates the Florida constitution.

The Collier teachers union supports the lawsuit, but Tuttle said even if the Florida Education Association is unsuccessful, the bill may come “crashing down on its own.”

The law revised the evaluation, compensation and employment practices for teachers and instructional personnel. It tied evaluations based on student performance such as Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores and classroom observations to performance pay in 2014. It eliminated professional services contracts – tenure-like job security – for all teachers hired after July 1. Teacher contracts must be re-evaluated every year.

It also dictated that districts cannot use advanced degrees to set salary schedules unless the degree is held in the teacher’s area of certification.

“So where does a master’s in curriculum fall?” Tuttle asked in reference to a biology or English teacher who receives a master’s in leadership or other degree not directly linked to a teacher’s area of certification.

Are teachers in Florida paid enough? Yes.. No.. I don’t know..

No amount of money could compensate for what teachers do..

State leaders and the Collier school district see it another way. To them, the law aims to raise the caliber of Florida teachers and reward success.

Being a teacher is no longer just enough to guarantee a steadily increasing salary. Being an excellent, highly effective teacher is what does.

District administrators said that this isn’t a negative change. They say maybe it’s actually a step in the right direction to improve a struggling Florida educational system.

“The overall intent is positive,” said Michele LaBute, chief instructional officer with the district.

It’s an outlook that many other professionals face yearly or monthly. Perform well and an employee keeps his or her job. Consistently underperform, and the bonus or even the job comes into question.

LaBute explained that prior to the law, a teacher’s contract was automatically renewed unless the teacher had performance issues. But LaBute said that unless an administrator found a teacher to be incompetent, insubordinate or immoral, the contract would be renewed every year.

“It’s really hard to document incompetence. Someone could not be performing to the standard you expect for students but they’re not completely incompetent,” LaBute said.

She explained that even with those standards, a teacher’s job under the old contract still would be safe.

“The new evaluation system we have, especially the instructional practice part, will be a real benefit to teaching and learning,” LaBute said.

Even so, the Florida Education Association contends the law is unconstitutional because it denies teachers their right to effective collective bargaining on wages and the terms and conditions of employment.

Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the association, said the law substantially changed wages, employment contracts, performance evaluations, promotions and workforce provisions that previously were negotiated between teachers and local schools districts.

Depending on the success of this lawsuit, Pudlow said, it could be the first of many.

Teachers’ fears and frustration stem from politicians hundreds of miles away imposing mandates and making decisions that should be done at the local level, Tuttle said.

“It’s really hard to document incompetence. Someone could not be performing to the standard you expect for students but they’re not completely incompetent,” said Michele LaBute, chief instructional officer with the district.

“Maybe this system really is terrific. We don’t know,” he said. “But we’re so concerned with complying with state mandates rather than identifying how to improve.”

LaBute said the pressure of state mandates that come without financial support and little local control is a heavy burden.

“Something as complicated as this … there are challenges to implementation,” she said.

LaBute pointed to creating two different salary schedules, dividing current and new teachers. She said the second challenge is developing a fair and consistent evaluation system across all levels.

To teachers, the law is the exact opposite of what they have always known.

Existing teachers have the option of remaining on their professional services contract or moving to the performance pay schedule. Teachers hired after July 1 have to be on the performance pay schedule.

“We’ve developed the system and now we need to monitor it,” LaBute said. “We have to watch the data and make sure that it’s statistically sound.”

Being a guinea pig for statistically sound data doesn’t sound reassuring to teachers when their salary is on the line.

Matt Williamson, a second-grade teacher at Eden Park Elementary, said that’s why so many teachers are opting to stay on the professional services contract. Teachers don’t trust the new evaluation system yet.

Karen Pelletieri, a fourth-grade teacher at Pelican Marsh Elementary, said there are too many variables in student performance to place the results of a test all on a teacher. Pelletieri said she’s never believed in performance pay.

Added Tuttle: “Teaching is much more than administering a particular test on a particular day. On any given day, students are presented with a variety of challenges.”

He said a student’s personal challenges shouldn’t reflect a teacher’s pay.

Others say the law is “putting teachers against teachers.”

Mindy Myers, a sixth-grade teacher at Manatee Middle, had been teaching for 27 years. Myers always thought she would be one of those teachers who taught well beyond the 30-year retirement mark.

Now that this new law is in place, Myers said she is counting down the days when she can exit the district and the system.

“I’m hoping things will change in three years so that I don’t have to leave,” she said.

The teachers also argue that the law deters good, effective teachers from applying for jobs in Florida.

“The public should realize it (736) will weaken the type of teacher it is pulling into Florida. What’s the incentive of having experience and of having a master’s if it’s not going to benefit you?” asked Dorothy Lawrence, a fifth-grade teacher at Manatee Elementary.

So what happens if the Florida Education Association is successful and the law is reversed?

Collier union leader Tuttle said teachers would be grateful that the system is going back to what teachers have always known. He said the district and the union would meet once again at the bargaining table.

And when asked if the old evaluation system and traditional salary step schedule needed to be revamped regardless of 736, neither the district nor the union really had an answer.

Both expressed that leaving that decision up to the local districts would have been better for teachers and the district.

Tuttle said teacher evaluation systems and pay scales are complex, and that politicians really shouldn’t be writing them.

But without politicians and state mandates, would a change have taken place, even if it was needed?

The end goal, whether it comes from state politicians, teachers or local district administrators, is for Florida students to come out of school better educated.

To politicians in Tallahassee, achieving that end goal started with SB 736 – changing the way teachers do their job and receive compensation for it.

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2011/oct/01/teacher-merit-pay-SB-736-lawsuit-Florida-Education/

Reason number 106 Florida’s education system is messed up

At a recent faculty meeting I turned to my neighbor and asked, did he (our principal) just tell us to pass everybody no matter what. She didn’t have time to answer my question because almost as if on cue, my principal with his fingers making quotation marks said, now I am not telling you to pass everybody but you need to be aware of where you are in the game. Well friends he was right and make no mistake by thinking it otherwise but education has become a game, a shell game, where we hide the pea and there is only one winner, the corporations that provide the shells. Who are the losers? Well there are many and among them teachers and children.

In case you are wondering what a shell game is it’s a pretty common game played at carneys, street fairs and on the sides of the road, you know the most reputable of spots. It’s where a dealer hides a pea under one of three shells. First he shows the player where the pea is and moves them around some so the person playing can get a feel for where it is. It seems easy at first, like say having a standardized test to see where kids are. However once the game starts and money is on the line it becomes impossible to win as the pea seems to defy logic and is never where it should be. If the dealer does it right, no degree of concentration can save the mark, that’s the sucker playing the game from being separated from his money.

This is a pretty accurate metaphor for what education has become, with children being one of the marks separated from having any chance of a productive future and tax payers who are separated from the money they send to the government for legitimate education purposes being the other. Friends we have been sold a false bill of goods from the education companies that currently drive, more so than teachers and the needs of children, what is taking place in education.

Our principal who is just the messenger by the way, though at some point somebody needs to stand up and say enough is enough what we are doing is hurting kids, was talking about how if kids failed a grade but then made gains on the standardized tests then those gains would not count for two years. What’s the point of failing somebody who will make a four on the f-cat, he asked. Well first very few kids who can make a four on the f–cat fail, though at the same time I can think of several reasons to fail them.

If a kid never comes to class but makes a four he shouldn’t be rewarded with a passing grade. Wouldn’t it be great if you could miss 20 days in a row come in one afternoon do a report and get paid for a month. Unfortunately the real world doesn’t work like that.

What about the kid who constantly acts up and doesn’t do their work but is the one in a million who can make a four, well likewise they shouldn’t be rewarded with a passing grade. I would love for my kids to be able to remember the scientific methods I spent three weeks teaching to them twenty years from now, but the more important lesson I hope they learned how to behave and how to work. These are two of the most important lessons schools should be teaching but because teachers have been handcuffed by inane policies and procedures they often don’t.

Then what about the kids who make ones on the test, and there are far more of them than those that make fours that can’t pass classes when any degree of rigor is used. They need to fail or here is a novel idea, be held back until they can master the skills they need to be successful, education shouldn’t be just about a one size fits all destination, but about the journey and kids move at different paces as well.

We push kids along until there is no longer any place to push them to (in high school). Then we scratch our heads and wonder why they aren’t successful. How about instead we make sure they have the skills they need before we pass them there. Also why does this provision even exist, could it be to encourage teachers not to fail kids?

We do these kids no favor when we push them along with consequences for their behavior or pass them with the bare minimum amount of work or substandard work done. When they enter “real” life they are in store for a “real” wakeup call, delivered by both a bucket of cold water and a ton of bricks because the real world doesn’t work like it. You don’t get along, behave, do your work or do it well; you will very quickly find yourself on the street. That however is the real world, a place that public schools don’t seek to mimic.

Employers wonder why they can’t find capable workers, colleges’ wonder why so many kids arrive without the basics and society wonders why so many young people aren’t respectful and commit so many crimes, well friends
I’ll tell you why. It’s because schools have abdicated their responsibility to prepare the next generation, with what should be their paramount duty and that is to be productive and respectful citizens. Nope friends, all we want them to be able to do now is to pass a test and one that will have very little to do with the rest of their lives then empty their seats as quickly as we can. We don’t care about rigor, we don’t care about validity, heck we don’t care about attendance, behavior or taking care of responsibilities either. All we care about is making gains on a test, which now won’t count if a kid is retained.

It’s even worse friends because we have messengers that pass the message along all too willingly. It’s like they either don’t know or don’t care that they are tearing down the very fabric of society as they do so, after all it’s all become a game to them, a game of hide the pea, sadly the pea, or a proper education in this instance is missing, and our children and our society will be paying the price for it..

I get that a decade ago having an all encompassing assessment seemed like a good idea. Who doesn’t want to know where their kid is compared to others and what they can or cannot do. It’s unfortunate that the test turned out so much more and so much worse than what it was supposed to be but what didn’t need to happen if the fact it has turned into a G*D damn Shakespearean tragedy because the powers-that-be have doggedly allowed it to continue. Like a compulsive obsessive they can’t let go of the fact these high stake tests have been perverted into monsters that are almost single handily wrecking education. Tokyo had a better chance against Godzilla than some of our kids have against the f–cat.

It has to be that they are doggedly committed to the idea right? I mean it can’t have anything to do with the fact educational testing, that’s creating, delivering and scoring assessments/standardized tests has become a several billion dollar a year business can it? Or maybe it does because the sad truth is unless you are a teacher; education has become big business and a very lucrative one that is all about delivering it’s product to customers that are choking on it. Somebody is getting way rich and sadly it’s not the teachers who were in my faculty meeting with me.

My messenger, my principal wasn’t telling me not to fail kids and neither was the administrator a few weeks back when she told her staff that more than failing ten percent of students in a particular class could jeopardize ones job or performance pay. Furthermore the system has not told teachers they can’t fail kids either, that’s definitely not what it is saying when it requires mountains of paperwork that a teacher has to do before they dare give a child, the F that they earned or when it tells us kids who fail classes will not see any gains they make count for a school or a teacher or two years. No, nobody says it, not in words anyways, it’s all done with winks and nods and finger quotation marks.

Education has become a shell game without a pea and a game that only the people who are handsomely paid for providing the shells wins. Everybody else loses.

If Doctors were treated like teachers

By Joel Shatzky

I originally posted a similar column in The Examiner almost a year ago (12/09/2009). I’m afraid, if anything, the situation has become even more dire for the teaching profession in the past year. Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to publish the “ratings” of teachers in the press — on the basis of test scores — is one more example of the public humiliation many of the best New York City teachers have to endure in the interest of “educational reform. ” Perhaps the following article can put this absurd situation into
perspective.

If doctors were treated like teachers:

1. “Charter hospitals” could certify “smart people” as qualified to begin practicing medicine without any prior experience in the field if they had had “some business background.”

2. Since a “doctor” can “doctor” anything, a cardiologist would be on staff at a hospital in place of a urologist when there was a shortage of urologists. The cardiologist could “learn on the job.” Of course, a general practitioner could be used in the place of any specialist since such a doctor would have “general knowledge” of anything involving medicine.

3. Whenever a doctor gave a patient a prescription, the patient’s parents could come to the doctor’s office demanding he or she change the prescription since the parents “knew better.”

4. Because of a shortage of doctors, Mayor Bloomberg would institute a summer “crash course” in medicine for people who had no background in the field but “liked playing doctor” when they were little. Those who got through the six-week course would then be considered qualified to care for the most severely ill patients since no other doctors would want to do the job.

5. Doctors would qualify for “permanent license” if they showed by their rates of patient survival that they were “improving their scores.” In order to do so, doctors would only treat the healthiest patients and refuse to treat the sicker ones to keep their rates of successful treatment high.

6. Many “Charter hospitals” would be established in which unlicensed doctors could practice the latest techniques on their patients, using the funds of public hospitals to subsidize them. Of course, only the healthiest patients, whose relatives cared enough about their condition to place them in a charter hospital would be admitted. Any patient exhibiting signs of serious illness would be immediately discharged and placed in a public hospital.

7. The average longevity of a doctor’s career would be considered “normal” if he or she practiced for no more than five years.

8. If a hospital proved to have a poor “patient survival record,” it would be closed down and three new hospitals would be created in the same building with nothing to do with each other but with three times as many bureaucrats running them.

9. Any patient who entered a doctor’s care when already terminally ill would be expected to make a full recovery — or the doctor would be considered incompetent.

10. A special program — “Heal for America” — would recruit students who graduated from the top colleges in the country but with no background in pre-medicine to “try to make a difference” by being placed in the most severely crowded and understaffed clinics and hospitals so they could know “what it feels like” to be a doctor, if only for a few years.

11. The American Medical Association would be condemned by politicians and health “experts” for “protecting incompetent doctors” on the basis of mortality rates in high-risk neighborhoods and the organization would be disbanded as a “menace to public health.”

Taken from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-shatzky/educating-for-democracy-i_1_b_777236.html

Suspension centers, a noble experiment that should be put to bed

Being suspended is supposed to be a punishment, have we forgotten that,
has our touchy feely, politically correct society gotten to that point? If done correctly suspensions can have several positive outcomes. If disruptive children are sent home for a few days it gives the other students an opportunity to have a positive learning environment and teachers an opportunity to teach. The teachers lament is, if little Johnny or little Suzy wasn’t here I could teach, most students that get suspended are little Johnnies and little Suzies. Bottom line, the suspension of an unruly child often gives other students a chance to learn and teachers a chance to teach.

More importantly however is a child’s suspension gives a parent an opportunity to act like one. I knew if I was ever suspended from school there were far worse punishments than that waiting for me at home. Too many parents have abdicated their responsibilities or left it to the schools to discipline their children, well society isn’t supposed to work like that, parents are supposed to teach children how to behave and schools are just supposed to teach.

If instead of sending them home all we are going to do is send them to a suspension center which sounds like a glorified coddling center to me what’s the point in suspending them in the first place? Where is the punishment? If schools are to become the discipline tool of the family let’s not play around and let’s do it right. If we don’t it’s only all of society hangs in the balance and if you think I am exaggerating or using grandiose terms for effect, just read the crime report or law and disorder sections of any paper.

Discipline has become a huge problem in many of our schools as evident by another teachers lament and that’s the inmates are running the asylum. When we don’t give children consequences for their actions, and remember for a consequence to be effective it must have meaning, we are in danger of creating more problems down the line. Violent, disruptive and disrespectful children often become violent, disruptive and disrespectful adults. When a student gets to the point they need to be suspended it rarely is the first problem the school had had with the child. Furthermore many students who are suspended are often the recipients of multiple suspensions, this is because suspensions aren’t consequences to them and now inexplicably we are watering down suspensions further with suspension centers.

I personally don’t expect the suspended student to learn anything from not being in school, all I expect is now I will have a few days of peace where I can make sure my other students do.

Instead of going to a voluntary suspension center for a few days something that will unlikely make a difference, why not send the repeat offending child to an alternative school for nine weeks. A school where there is no P.E. or art, no talking in the halls or in the cafeteria, for every day you miss a day is added on and for every bad day you get an extra week. We can have character education and social workers there and then they can get those services for more than an easily forgettable few days. Then let’s make the parents responsible for getting them there and hold them accountable when they don’t. Why not do something that will matter, that has teeth, that will make a difference, because if we’re not going to do that then what is the point, and friends what we are currently doing isn’t worth of a hill of beans to far too many.

If students know going to an alternative center is a real possibility how do you think this will affect their decision making process? Furthermore as I stated above, students who are suspended are often those students who are repeatedly in trouble, after nine weeks away from their friends in a very restrictive environment how much repeat behavior do you think they will have? I’ll tell you how much affect a three day suspension has on many of them, it’s none.

To be honest though I don’t think it should stop there. Once you turn fifteen if you get in two fights in a year thanks for coming but instead of taking the risk you might assault someone else you can go home and be your parent’s problems for a year. Threaten or hit a teacher welcome to the alternative school for the rest of your academic career. Get caught at school with drugs (I recently had an 18 year old student return after just three weeks) feel free to reapply next year.

I don’t particularly like the idea of having these students on the street, but to be honest keeping them in the schools scares the heck out of me and has a detrimental effect on the other students. If a kid comes to hang out with his friends or to see what trouble they can find, it’s time to tell them they are no longer wanted because keeping them takes resources away from the kids that want to be there that have an opportunity to do well. In other words a few bad apples are threatening to spoil all the apples in the cart.

Ask your son or daughter if they know any students who are always in trouble or who never do their work, I bet many of them will know a handful. If a teacher has to constantly deal with disruptive children then that’s time taken away from your child. I hope your child just doesn’t need that little bit extra to be successful.

We have to wake up, by coddling these children, by not giving them real consequences for their actions, by sending them to suspension centers, which are voluntary by the way, we are courting more tragedies. I say more because we already have tragedies in our streets daily. Young people are committing and being the victim of crimes at a terrifying rate and it’s just a matter of time before this violence invades our schools more than it already has. Do we need a student or a teacher to be gunned down in the halls before we stand up and demand something meaningful be done.
In the last few weeks at my school there have been several vicious assaults that probably wouldn’t have taken place if the perpetrators would have received real consequences for past behavior. I say again we are courting tragedy, I just hope it’s not me or one of my peers, or your son or daughter that it happens to.

Suspension centers are those ideas that sound good in a vacuum, that are created by far off academics or people brainstorming around coffee and doughnuts, not by the teachers and administrators in the schools on the front lines, and I mean front lines because with some of these students it’s like going to battle daily. Suspension centers are like putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds which we will have in our halls and our classrooms if we don’t start doing something.

Florida’s education fads

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

The University of South Florida has released what s perhaps the most comprehensive look at what Florida schools have been doing. The David C. Achin Center‘s report, titled Florida’s First Comprehensive Comprehensive Conditions of Education Report, is in a five volume package which is separated by the state’s regions. “A foundation of data on which to base necessary changes is required because getting the results you want requires knowing what you already have,” said Anchin Center Director Bruce Jones. “But you can’t know that until you have the numbers at your disposal.”

Jones indicates that the data is bot clear and troubling for African American males:

A few disturbing snapshots are emerging from the data. The often spoken of achievement gap has solid numbers and trackable trends. Jones says it doesn’t take a crystal ball or mathematical computations to figure out why.

Dropout and graduation rates among African American males are particularly alarming and reading rates are no better.

“We have communities where the graduation rate for African American males is as low as eight percent. With these rates, according to Jones, “We are almost ensuring that the state will have a steady stream of Black boys heading into our corrections system. This is occurring despite the fact that we know there are models that work.”

One would hope that the almost two decades of test-based reform in Florida would have resulted in better results among black males. The Achin report indicates it hasn’t and continue to be “left behind” despite numerous interventions of which Jones is critical of as well.

The real problem is there is no sense of collective responsibility for making sure that all of our students are doing well,” Jones said. “Too often the reformers come up with all kinds of ideas without connecting to the real in-the-classroom impact on kids. Teachers see the problems right in front of them and complain amongst themselves. And now they’re on the defensive since the latest fad is to blame them.”

And fads are a problem, according to Jones. With this kind of report, there may one day be an end to what he describes as the “fad-oriented approach to finding solutions,” an approach that has been failing students for decades. He says it must stop.

“In the 1960’s the focus was on community control, in the 1970’s it was leadership, in the 1980’s and 1990’s it was curriculum reform systems. This time around it’s teacher reform. Each one failed – inevitably – because what we need is a holistic approach that uses the best of what all these approaches have to offer.”

Jones points out that when businesses bring in consultants to improve things, they don’t just go to the workers without including the leadership or vice versa. “That wouldn’t make any sense and wouldn’t work. It’s the same with the schools, you have to involve all the constituencies, teachers, parents, leadership and of course, the children. Instead we’ve been blaming each one of these groups as if any one of them could fix the problems without involving the others. Isolated reform schemes – the fads of the moment – have to come to an end.”

We haven’t had anything resembling collaboration in Florida schools for some time. Its been pretty much top down from Jeb Bush since he implemented his test-based school grade system. The latest new fad will apparently be parent triggers. While Jones points to successful market-based examples, one wonders what he thinks of another coercive, legislative manipulation by the state’s privatization zealots.

http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/ending-floridas-fad-oriented-approach-to-soultions-in-education/