Teach for America perpetuating many of the issues that already exist within the system.

From Cloaking Inequity, below is an excerpt of a bigger piece:

Graduating from college, I was energized and ready to take my place on the front line of education reform by becoming part of the Teach For America Corps.  Many entering corps members are captured by the convincing sales pitch of TFA recruiters on campus. While I did meet with one of these recruiters who reinforced my decision to join, I had also spent time in my undergraduate coursework studying parts of education reform, including charter schools and Teach For America. I knew the criticisms, but I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I was wrong about many things regarding Teach For America.
Here are 5 things I did not expect from my Teach For America experience:
Unpreparedness for the Classroom
The 5-week summer session at Rice University was a fast-paced, well-run training session, but it was not enough to prepare me to lead my own classroom in my first year.  While I learned valuable techniques and tools to become a teacher, it certainly did not equip me for creating systems in my classroom, writing unit plans, and creating valuable assessment. Five weeks was not enough to create the type of magic that Teach For America describes in its vision.  Training was like leading us to the top of a cliff before we had to jump off into the reality of our own classrooms. All I can say is the mountain was high and the fall was hard.
Lack of Focused Support
I imagined being a part of TFA would provide a network of resources. I didn’t imagine I would have to recreate 2 high school history curriculums on my own without any training. My “manager of teaching leadership and development” (MTLD), who is supposed to be my main support in my classroom, was a Teach for America alumni who had spent two years in the classroom before moving into his current position. How is a 2 year teacher (who taught middle school math, no less) going to give me the sort of advice I needed to teach high school history?
I never thought I would feel so alone in a organization like TFA. I imagined being a part of the Corps would provide me with the support I needed, even though I would be an inexperienced first year teacher. During my first semester, I was visited two times by my TFA manager.  Afterward, we met for coffee, and he would ask questions about my vision for my students, but never offered the type of resources and support that I needed to make my teaching life more bearable. Looking back, I’m not even sure what a two-time visitor could have offered that would have really helped me.
Shame has a terrible place in this organization.  I never believed that shame would become a motivator in my Teach for America experience, but shame holds onto the necks of many Corps members.  Placing young college graduates in some of the toughest teaching situations with 5 weeks of training has negative repercussions on the mind, body, and soul of Corps members.  The message is “If only I were stronger, smarter and more capable, I could handle this. I would be able to save my students.”  Unfortunately, TFA intentionally or unintentionally preys on this shame to push Corps members to their limits to create “incredible” classrooms and “transformative” lesson plans. Would these things be good for our students? Of course.  Is shame a sustainable method for creating and keeping good teachers in the classroom? Absolutely not. It is defeating and draining.
I never imagined not making it through 2 years of teaching, but there were so many occasions that I thought about quitting. I experienced anxiety attacks and mental breakdowns from the unrealistic expectations and workload. The immense amount of pressure that TFA places on Corps members, however, is not matched by a reciprocal amount of support and preparation.  What TFA lacks in support and preparation, they replace with “inspiration.” Will this “inspiration” and “vision” change the education system? Not without some backing, and I am afraid that TFA teachers do not last long. After my two years of experience, I have learned a lot about teaching and what works for my students, but I will not teach next year. I am burnt out. I am done.
As I enter my final semester, I have to be careful when I speak about Teach For America because TFA is more than one experience. For instance, not every Corps member has experienced a KIPP school with 3 principals in a year and a half.  There are many unique stories, so I have to analyze it in two parts. There is the effect of Teach For America on its members and the effect of Teach For America on the education system. Do I believe that young people are coming out of Teach For America with important skills and knowledge about education and the education system? Yes. Do I believe that Teach For America as an organization is solving the problem of educational inequality? No. Teach For America sets forth a plan that is creating more conversations about solutions but it is perpetuating many of the issues that already exist within the system. Teach For America is like when you shake a machine because you cannot make it work, and you think what the heck, maybe this will magically solve the problem.  Unfortunately, 5 weeks of training and throwing unprepared, young people into the classroom will not create a sustainable solution. Most of us are human and the pressure to create transformational change is too great without the proper training, resources, and preparation to do the job as it should be done.

Why do we blame teachers again?

From the NYTimes, By Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegar
WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.
And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers

By Kathy Palomino via the Dallas Morning News
“So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan.”
On Friday morning at 4:30 a.m., I heard the beeps of all my electricity going off. I realized that the ice storm had caused a power outage and that I faced a day with no heat or light. I smiled because I knew that I didn’t have to teach and contentedly rolled over to go back to sleep.
Later, as I cooked on the gas grill, I realized that I must have been experiencing some serious stress — I was very happy to be stranded in my house with my family. It occurred to me that the teaching profession has gone out of control with its demands and that I would never let any of my children entertain the idea of going into the profession.
That said, I have to stress the fact that I work in a supportive workplace, and I adore my students. In my most recent evaluation, I smiled at my boss and told her, “God has been good to me!” And I sincerely mean it.
But in the teaching profession, the pressure of No Child Left Behind has left its mark. The onus of student success has fallen on the teacher, and the student’s own motivation is our responsibility also. Cultural differences, economic differences and parental style differences are the teacher’s responsibility to fix. Too many low scores on the dreaded STAAR test can spell the end of your career — an end to your livelihood. An end to being able to support a family.
Instead of the usual chatter during teacher training, there is now only the silence of shell-shocked professionals. While the presenter reads us another PowerPoint, we stare vacantly at one another and wonder when we can actually get into our classroom to synthesize our learning into lesson plans and activities.
On top of it all, student success is really a top priority for us. I have woken up on many a night in a panic over a student. Did I document problems well enough? Have I truly retaught concepts well enough? And I lie awake for hours trying to plan ways to prevent their — and my own — failure. I have been to students’ houses to take them food or firewood. I have made calls to interpret to doctors. I’ve worked in a charity so that I could search for other ways to better the life of my low-income students. I truly have to say that I have given blood, sweat and tears. And I am not unique — my co-workers are just as caring.
So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan. Pay more of our health plan so that it doesn’t cost $675 a month to provide insurance for our families. Pray for us. Above all, don’t let your babies grow up to be teachers until the profession reforms. We’re hurting out here, and something has to change — for the sake of our children.
Kathy Palomino is a first-grade teacher in Rowlett. Her email address is khpalomino99@aol.com.

Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools

By Cindy Long

Workplace bullying is on the rise. About a third of American workers have been impacted by bullying in the workplace, either as a target or as witness to abusive behavior against a co-worker. Unfortunately, it’s even more prevalent in the field of education. In a recent survey of medium-sized school districts, 25 percent of employees reported that they had been bullied.

To read more click the link: Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools

Common Core flies in the face of best practices

There is an education term, best practices, which simply
means you see what’s working some place and then do it some place else.  Well we know we have schools that are wildly successful,
lots and lots of schools, so instead of blowing up the system and putting
common core everywhere then why don’t we just emulate what those schools are
Those schools often have extra resources because of involved
parents and they don’t face poverty.  We
can’t wave a magical wand and make these problems go away but we can put in
place things that will help. Mentors, social workers and counselors can be put
in place, we could make classes smaller for more individualized attention, the
days or the year longer too to address deficits but you know what these things
don’t do? They don’t pad the wallets of testing companies.
I don’t understand why these powers-that-be think things are
going to change at our poorest schools if we put new standards in place. Won’t
those schools still have the same problems? Absentee parents, a lack of a base
and more pressing problems like violence in the streets and no food in the
cupboards? How does common core address those issues?
Common core is an expensive role of the dice that doesn’t
address our problems and furthermore it exacerbates testing which has ruined
education for untold teachers and students alike.

The reason we don’t do best practices in our struggling
schools is it will cost money not make money and that’s all you should have to
know about common core.

It is time to ask tough questions about Charter Schools!

From Mark Naison via Facebook

The powers that be in the Democratic Party, including our President, have made Charter Schools their main vehicle for educational renewal in low income communities. And there are more than a few civil rights leaders, and elected officials in Black and Latino communities who view them as a chance to give families in their neighborhoods better educational opportunities. We have now had six years of strong support for Charters from the Obama Administration, backed up by Race to the Top Money.

It is time to ask some hard questions.

In those years have we

1. Narrowed the gap in educational achievement by race and class, whether measured by test scores, high school graduation rates, college completion rates, or any more holistic measures?

2. Helped stabilize and improve inner city neighborhoods and protect them from gentrification, displacement and demographic inversion (moving the poor out of cities into the suburbs)?

3. Creating a stable force of talented committed teachers in inner city communities, many of whom live in the communities they teach in?

4. Helped reduce neighborhood and school violence or disrupted the school to prison pipeline?

If the answer to all or most of these questions is no, we– meaning advocates for public education– need to get in an honest conversation with the civil rights community about charters, understanding the basis of community support for these schools while respectfully pointing out how real estate interests, profiteers and ambitious politicians have taken what began as an experiment and turn it into a scorched earth policy that may well be doing more harm than good.

School grades shouldn’t always corelate to performance

From a reader

The main issue is that school grades don’t necessarily correlate with what people think. My school earned an A, and the students were shocked. When it comes down to certain high schools, it is about numbers that more connect with gains than achievement. Instead, people think the A represents the highest level of academic ability. It does not, and it should not.

 Schools get the students they get; teachers work with the level of students they receive. Why should schools like Stanton or Paxon be compared to our non-magnet students? They should not; in fact, they should be held to an even higher level of accountability as most of the students they receive are reading, writing, and doing math on level or way above the standard. When a school like Jackson last year earned the B as referenced in another entry, it meant that gains took place in certain categories for whatever reasons. (I understand that those reasons sometimes are variable.) 

This year First Coast and Lee went up 1 level (to a B) and 2 levels (to an A) respectively, not because every student can read and write on level, but because they made gains in various areas set forth by the Florida Department of Education. The A is sometimes about a high level of achievement, the progress a school makes, or both. What we need is a more concise and clear way to define achievement, so everyone understands what the grades mean. 

There is a research article that really redefined my beliefs about literacy and teaching pedagogy. It is called  “The Early Catastrophe: 
The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.”
How can we possibly grade all schools in the same way? 

I encourage anyone who believes that the system could or should ever work the way it does to read this article. Schools should always, and I mean always, be about progress. Even then, progress should be defined based on many things. Once you read this article, you will understand.

Charter Schools USA wants us to ignore their failures.

Jonathan Hage, make that millionaire and CEO of Charter
Schools USA Jonathan Hage complains about failing public schools and he says
that only by putting more money into his bank account  (emphasis mine) will kids have a chance. 
He talks about the greatness of his charter schools while at the same time he wants us to ignore his failures (and I am sure
his bank account) Tampa recently tuned down his application to start a Charter
School on McDill air force base sighting the poor result of several of his
schools and three schools he was given to run in Indiana buy his pal Tony “I
love charter schools” Bennett all received failing grades. 
Bob Sykes writes
in Scathing Purple Musings, Hage’s “we are the
change we’ve been waiting for” message was rich in hyperbole, but completely
lacking in policy, proposals or facts on the ground.  Who can blame
him? His outfit earned three F’s  at the three Indianapolis schools
Tony Bennett handed to him – along with $6 million more of Indiana
taxpayer money than he supposed to have gotten.  Meanwhile, he’s in
the midst of again leveraging the gamed appeals system he helped put in place
to bag another building on MacDill AFB.

I don’t know how else to say it but this guy and his
ilk don’t care about helping children, anything they say is a subterfuge to
their real intent of taking as much tax payer money as they can. 

Ed Reformers, if only the rich had more money!

It has always befuddled me the rights trickle down argument.
That is if the rich have more money they will spend it and it will benefit
everybody. We have had 30 plus years of it and all it has led to is
unprecedented income inequality. If the rich had cats or newspapers instead of
money they would be featured on cable TV shows like hoarders.
What’s my point? It’s education deformers like Robert Enlow president and
CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice are still
for education
savings accounts (ESAs), which families can use to cover private school
tuition, tutors, therapies, online courses – or a combination of those tools –
and even college expenses for everyone regardless of income. Hey make an obscene
amount of money? Well here is a few thousand more at taxpayer’s expense. That
expensive private school just got a little cheaper.
Furthermore I guess it doesn’t matter to Enlow that study
after study says kids who attend voucher private schools don’t do any better
but facts and evidence rarely deter these guys from what their gut says or what
their lifestyle demands.
Later in the article he went on to bemoan high stakes
testing saying parents did not choose private schools because of how well they
did on them saying, Moreover, not one surveyed parent said “higher standardized
test scores” were the main reason they chose a private school. Why then are we
pushing schools down the standardized path?
But his answer is not to do away with them or diminish their
importance; instead his answer is to give taxpayer money to rich people and to
siphon resources out of public schools.
I want to make one more point. He then went on to say
competition has been great for a number of industries, agriculture,
transportation, power, communication and, most recently, computers and the
Isn’t agriculture practically owned by a few super companies
and don’t we give out huge farm subsidies, didn’t taxpayers build the
transportation infrastructure and bail out Detroit, aren’t most power companies
(besides big oil) quasi-governmental institutions using tax payer funded
infrastructure, communication resulted only after the government broke up a
monopoly and they use citizen owned air waves and didn’t the government develop
the internet and then just give it away? 

of these entities owe much of their success to the tax payer and the government
and where I am not saying our schools are problem free, ignore poverty and over
test much, I am saying it’s not the hapless boogeyman people like Endlow would
have you believe. Once again facts and evidence rarely deter these guys from
what their gut says or what their lifestyle demands

Teachers, the greediest people around.

Or at least that’s the way John Hage millionaire owner of
Charter School U.S.A. makes them sound.
Writing in Redefined Ed, Jeb Bush’s
pro-privatization blog, where they never met a public school that was good or a
charter school that was bad, he said: Now that the education
reform movement has grown to nearly 2.3 million students in charter schools and
hundreds of thousands more in other reform alternatives, it is my wish that
education reformers avoid becoming like the very system we want to transform.
don’t want to be driven by adult interests. Nor do we want to become just
another blob of regulation and red tape filled with political subterfuge that
closely resembles the current broken K-12 traditional education system.
I find it rich that millionaires complain about teachers and
their adult interests. Though
I admit I
have lots of them. I like to pay my rent, I only want to eat ramen noodles
the two days before payday and occasionally I even like to go to a movie at
As for the broken system, I
admit our system has huge problems, like ignoring poverty and depending on high
stakes testing to grade our schools. The problem however is these are
championed by Hage and his ilk. They in effect have put in place roadblocks
and then chuckled while using them to prove their points.
Furthermore speaking of a
failed system, Charter Schools U.S.A. has been denied expansion in Tampa
because of poor performance. It’s the height of hypocrisy that he complains
about public schools when the schools he runs despite numerous advantages
aren’t performing any better and often times worse than their public school

This guy is a mercenary and I take some solace knowing
that if the reform movement/err privatization movement is using him as your
poster boy then they are doomed.

To read more about Hage’s utter lack of humility, click the link: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/jonathan-hages-schoolchoicewish-void-of-candor-and-humility/