The day of reckoning is near for educators in the Sunshine State. Fear is the instinctive response to the doom and uncertainty that are born inside of us the moment our students pick up their pencils or log onto their computers.
No matter how administrators and educators try to game the system, they end up getting played by the system that appears to be designed to consign public schools to a status lower than the local brothel and with much less respect from the community.
No amount of practice, preparation or previewing can ever promise success for our schools or students because the system has already been crafted to demonize, degrade and denigrate men and women who care about students but live and work with targets on their backs.
FCAT is a monster not because it was born that way. Originally intended to diagnose students’ needs in the classroom, FCAT has morphed into a handmaiden for elected and appointed officials to destroy what little joy there is in the teaching profession.
Data and accountability are nice but they are used far too often by the party in power in Tallahassee because they know that opposition is toothless, impotent or in hiding. Every Election Day that comes and goes further cements the lust for power that our so-called leaders place ahead of truly serving our state and our future.
It is only inevitable that schools have become testing factories in which district and school officials are reduced to overseers who have no choice but to monitor and micromanage a chain gang busting rocks in unison for an ever-shrinking piece of hard bread and sip of tepid water.
No matter what we educators do, it will never be enough, so why bother? It is easier for suits to justify their jobs by telling us how horrible we are than it is to say that we truly are trying and need a break.
Teaching may not be as bad as being in prison, but at least the average convict gets a fair trial. FCAT, however, is our judge, jury and executioner.
For years, free market education reformers have claimed that the U.S. public education system is broken—some have even called it a threat to our national security (Reagan’s Nation at Risk report, 1983). They have used this “crisis” to justify everything from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to attacks on teachers’ seniority, tenure and due process rights. It has led to a decade of accountability and testing mania that has eaten up instructional time and replaced activities that foster creativity and critical thinking with rote memorization. It has taken away billions of dollars that could have been used for teacher training, recruitment and remuneration, and transferred it into the pockets of test and textbook publishers, private charter school operators, and online curriculum producers.
I paraphrase some but their meaning couldn’t have been clearer. There premise was if only we had more excellent teachers, i.e. we have too many bad teachers then children would be more successful.
They start their misinformation campaign by saying the US spends more per capita on education than any other nation in the world. Unfortunately they leave out the fact to get to this number they have to include what we spend on college too. http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2008/10/17/190073/bad_education_spending_stats/?mobile=nc
The next so called fact they use is how despite these vast expenditures we rank way down in the middle of the pact. What they leave out is that when you adjust for poverty our scores shoot up to the top. Not that they mention poverty at all. It’s like it doesn’t even exist and poverty is the number one measureable factor for determining how children do in school. Kids in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. If you didn’t know, a fifth of our kids live in poverty and another fifth just above it.
If anyone is serious about improving our schools, then tackling poverty is where we NEED to start because until we do that nothing else will matter. Furthermore just so the JPEF knows the overall quality of our teachers is exemplary.
Where is the JPEF post on poverty? Where are their ideas to mitigate it? Nowhere, that’s where because instead they would rather blame the teacher.
I have met several members of the JPEF staff and have found them earnest and committed people, sadly however I must now add misinformed to the list.
To read the JPEF piece, follow the link: http://www.jaxpef.org/news/2013/02/extending-the-reach-(and-increasing-the-pay)-of-excellent-teachers.aspx
Class-size changes: Not simply increasing all class sizes to push more students into fewer classrooms, but allowing more flexibility at the school level to determine which teachers and subjects can handle a few more students without sacrificing quality, and which students and teachers would benefit most from even smaller group sizes. I don’t understand why they don’t get, if you give me a few more students I will be a better teacher, said no teacher ever.
Specialization: Having top teachers, particularly in elementary school, teach only core subjects while developing teachers learn by example and take care of students the rest of the time. I guess this could work, though I know there already is a lot of specialization going on in many schools especially in the upper elementary grades.
Multi-classroom leadership: Having top teachers take on a coaching and oversight role that puts them in charge of several classrooms – allowing them to expand what they know works to reach students across multiple classrooms, while rising in their own career path as well. My problem with this is a lot of these corporate reformers can’t conceive that many teachers just want to teach. They don’t have the desire to be principals, assistant principals or multiple classroom leaders. To them teaching is the brass ring.
Time-technology swaps: Investing in new ways to incorporate classroom technology to handle the reinforcing of basic skills lessons and practice to allow top teachers more time for small group and individual instruction with more students. Every few years teachers are forced to use a new program that experts say will revolutionize education that is quickly replaced by a new one. Thus far there has been no technological silver bullet, please do not hold your breath waiting for one.
These suggestions won’t do a bit of good unless we decide to tackle poverty and then as you may have detected I am still skeptical about some of them as well. If the JPEF is serious about improvement, mitigating poverty is the route we need to take and here are some ideas.
There are many things we can do to mitigate poverty in our so-called struggling schools. We should have social workers and mental health counselors because quite often why a student doesn’t try or acts up has nothing to do with school. We should hire skill, trade and arts teachers because this one size fits all, everybody is going to go to college curriculum that we force every kid into doesn’t play to many children’s strengths and aptitudes and because we can’t continue to make school such drudgery for kids and then wonder why they perform poorly. Then we need to have more summer school opportunities because some kids need more time to learn it and less time to lose it. Finally at least in Duval many students are taking too many classes that are too long at the same time, we should get rid of the A/B block.
The headline of Kristopher Brooks’ piece read: Gov. Rick Scott to send extra state money to improving Florida schools, First Coast school districts will share $12.1 million.
Well gosh isn’t that nice of the governor. The only problem is the headline is not all that accurate. The money being sent to several of our schools is school recognition money and the program has been in place for years. Scott might be signing the checks but it is not his idea, not even close.
Just a little detail the Times Union left out.
The Orlando Sentinel had a different take and that’s the governor may be trying to take credit for a program that has been around for longer than he has lived in Florida (14 years to 10). http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2013/02/fl-schools-to-get-school-recognition-award-money-tomorrow.html
To be honest and this may not be popular with some. I think the millions spent on school recognitions funds should be spent to pay for raises for all teachers or to create programs such as art, music, trades and skills at schools where students could benefit from them. Regardless it wasn’t Rick Scott who came up with the idea.
What did the management company do? They sued. They didn’t say, well the parents are making a choice about the education of their children so we’ll back off. They sued. They didn’t say we’ll reduce the management fees which take money out of the classroom and put it into the pocket of board members. They sued. They basicaly said, parent choice, schmarent choice, we’ll do what we want, and they sued.
To be honest I don’t have much sympathy for the parents after all charter schools steal resources from public schools but I do find this battle interesting. It shows the hypocrisy of the charter school movement.
Bob Sykes of Scathing Purple Musings has done several pieces about the battle between these charter school parents and the management company. To read more check out the links below: