Friday, December 23, 2011

Cost of Testing

It costs California $53.6 million to administer the STAR test in grades 2-11.
Just a simple fact worth knowing!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Teens need to sleep in, schools should follow

School shouldn't start so early!!!!!!!
Another one of my commentary style posts...

I recall as a teen HATING high school for quite a few reasons, the thing that seemed to bind it all together? Waking up before the sun. Our school began at 7:00am and to get there was a 20 minute bus ride. That meant leaving home no later than 6:30am, which was better than some of my peers in the father reaches of the district, walking up to two miles to a bus stop with a pickup time of 5:50am! In the snow! Yes, it sounds like one of those "back in my day, I had to hike up a hill, barefoot, in the snow, both ways" stories, but it is truth. I would get up at 6:00am, perhaps the latest of any of my peers I knew, hop in clothing I'd chosen the night before, brush hair and teeth, eat some cereal, and off I went. I dreaded my alarm daily, more than I even dreaded algebra class. If I got up a few minutes early, I'd lay there nervously counting down the minutes. I KNEW something had to be WRONG making teens get up this early. To add to it, I tried to go to bed early but I just couldn't. Add sports for some or drama, esp. "hell week" or performance week for me, and I could be at school until 10pm, midnight, even 2am. I only fell asleep in class once, first period AP French IV as my teacher grabbed a yardstick and slapped it down at 1,000 mph a nanometer from my face. I woke up.

Okay, on to the story and my commentary again.
From we have,

Except for a handful of forward-thinking school districts, the continuing resistance to starting high school later to accommodate the biological time clocks of teenagers speaks to the attitudes of the adults in charge of our children. How can it be that despite overwhelming evidence that sleep deprivation in teenagers is every bit the public health menace that cigarette smoking is, school administrators have abided the status quo?Sleep researchers have convincingly demonstrated that, on average, teenagers need nine hours of sleep and that their brains are programmed for them to stay up later than adults. Sleep researchers have also convincingly demonstrated that, on average, adults need eight hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is as pervasive in today's culture as was consuming two or three packs per day of Lucky Strikes in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In reaction to a July 2010 Wall Street Journal article reporting the salutary effects of starting first period later at a Rhode Island prep school, several commenters decried what they termed the coddling of a generation and giving in to spoiled brats' laziness -- precisely how depression was depicted four decades ago -- rather than responding to a biological imperative. School boards and superintendents, whose reputation and ranking depend on how many advanced-placement tests their students pass, have not come to grips with the toll that sleep deprivation takes on the developing adolescent brain. Sleep is essential for sustained focus, concentration, and attention, the brain circuitry of which is the same in children and adolescents as it is in adults. The prefrontal cortex, center of complex reasoning, signals the striatum, a deeper brain structure which modulates activity and attention to novel stimuli, which connects to an even deeper area called the thalamus, which relays sensory input from the body and regulates alertness and sleep. Sustained attention requires that these three brain structures, known as the CST system, cooperate, a function of the brain neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. Sleep deprivation not only reduces CST function, it alters CST norepinephrine and dopamine levels. Amphetamines, the mainstay of treatment for inattention, stimulate CST circuitry artificially by either mimicking dopamine at nerve cell endings or stimulating dopamine's release. However, clinical experience shows that amphetamines interfere with sleep and in excess act like cocaine, which can overexcite nerve cells to the point they self-destruct. Prolonged amphetamine abuse can produce a syndrome that looks like schizophrenia.Clinically, every psychiatric disorder I treat in adolescents is worsened by getting too little sleep. Well over half the teenagers who come to me with attention symptoms are sleep deprived. While CST malfunction is not caused by sleep deprivation alone, and amphetamines have a role in medicine's pharmacopeia, my experience is that medicating the inattentiveness and cognitive impairment of sleep-deprived youngsters with amphetamines -- teenagers today bum Adderall from each other like cigarettes -- is like trying to paralyze the tail that wags the dog, or like treating a smoker's hacking with codeine-containing cough suppressants while failing to address the lung disease.What's at issue here is an attitude change with respect to sleep behavior. Change is hard. Change requires self-reflection; there is no way around it. Facing sleep deprivation head-on means that the adults in charge of our teenagers acknowledge and deal with their own sleeping habits, including maladaptive sleep behaviors like the widespread use and abuse of sleeping pills and alcohol at bedtime; like stimulant and caffeine dependence and abuse during the day; like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea and the toll snoring takes on sleep-partners and relationships; like arguing at bedtime, as well as a host of unattended mental and physical disorders -- depression, obesity and diabetes for instance -- that disrupt sleep patterns. Years ago, senior physicians rationalized the hundred-plus hour work weeks they demanded of their bleary-eyed trainees saying, "Four hours of sleep were good enough for me." Now that we know how many preventable mistakes were caused by secondhand sleep deprivation, medical trainee's work-weeks have been scaled back to no more than eighty hours. I am not advocating we lower academic standards; far from it. However, as a physician who cares deeply about the health and welfare of teenagers, I feel it is essential we give adolescents the opportunity to get the sleep needed for optimal brain function. These are the facts: well-rested adolescents significantly outperform their sleep-deprived counterparts academically; their moods are better; their graduation rates are higher; they watch less television; they do more homework; and they are involved in fewer car crashes. High school should start at 8:45 a.m., or better at 9 o'clock. The successful grassroots campaign of Wilton, Connecticut's League of Women voters, which moved their high school start time 50 minutes later, proves that logistical complications like busing schedules and after school activities, often cited as obstacles to change, can be overcome when the community is involved and motivated. It's only a matter of time until the family of someone killed when a teenager falls asleep at the wheel brings action for reckless endangerment. School board members and superintendents need to wake up now, before they receive the subpoena.
I am trying to find out, why do we have schools that start so early, with so much evidence against i? I've heard a few reasons....
1) A leftover practice from an agrarian lifestyle
2) To allow students to go to school and have a job
3) To accomodate busing
4) It prepares them for the work world.
Regardless, it is sleep deprivation, psychological warfare on our children. I bet if we had a mandatory later start time, test scores would improve as would graduation rates. Those who really do need to go to school and work, always would have the option of independent study or online education.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prussian Education Very American

(Ok...I'm mostly copy/pasting, with citation at the end, as I'm too busy to write this myself and it was basically what I would have written myself.... But I give my usual snippets of commentary. Here goes.)

Prussian Education
The Prussian (German) Educational System With acknowledgement to Dulce decorum who originally posted this. The Prussian (German) Educational SystemAfter the defeat of the Prussians (Germans) by Napoleon at the battle of Jena in 1806, it was decided that the reason why the battle was lost was that the Prussian soldiers were thinking for themselves on the battlefield instead of following orders.
The whole argument for socialization in schools (i.e. "homeschooled children will be misfits in society" or the notion that private school educates you to be independent - who wants that? Public school is for the good of all, it prepares citizens, able to interact in the adult world....) and public schools is evident now as it was then. Who wants the "chaos" of a nation of free thinkers? Egads, I mean, imagine an environment of englightenment, freedom, etc? For a utopian society to best work (in the eyes of the elite status quo) it is much easier to just "manage" the population, make them worship and obey you, than anything else. Blind idolatry.
The Prussian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), described by many as a philosopher and a transcendental idealist, wrote "Addresses to the German Nation" between 1807 and 1808, which promoted the state as a necessary instrument of social and moral progress. He taught at the University of Berlin from 1810 to his death in 1814. His concept of the state and of the ultimate moral nature of society directly influenced both Von Schelling and Hegel, who took an similarly idealistic view.Using the basic philosophy prescribing the "duties of the state", combined with John Locke's view (1690) that "children are a blank slate" and lessons from Rousseau on how to "write on the slate", Prussia established a three-tiered educational system that was considered "scientific" in nature. Work began in 1807 and the system was in place by 1819. An important part of the Prussian system was that it defined for the child what was to be learned, what was to be thought about, how long to think about it and when a child was to think of something else. Basically, it was a system of thought control, and it established a penchant in the psyche of the German elite that would later manifest itself into what we now refer to as mind control.The educational system was divided into three groups. The elite of Prussian society were seen as comprising .5% of the society. Approximately 5.5% of the remaining children were sent to what was called realschulen, where they were partially taught to think. The remaining 94% went to volkschulen, where they were to learn "harmony, obdience, freedom from stressful thinking and how to follow orders."
Look at the perfect bell curve, and then IQ tests and standardized testing pre-NCLB. Statisticians and status quo want people to perfectly fit into the ideal bell curve. (Even with NCLB, 100% proficient and above, there is a bell curve.) Granted the bell curve's upper eschelon is about 2% not 6% but, if you look at the extreme outliers of the bell curve (sorry, not in this image) the tippy top best is 0.1% or IQ above 145. The Prussians sought to get the best of the best, top 0.5% (so those with nearly an IQ of 145 and above) in the best of schools and "middle management" of 5.5% (IQ a bit above 130) in quite nice schools, leaving the droned masses in "regular" education. This sounds a bit like America today. Look at most of our leaders and politicians, where did they attend school? Where do their children attend school? Almost always, not the vokschulen /public school. That is because the public schools dumb down things, and teach subservience to those in power.
An important part of this new system was to break the link between reading and the young child, because a child who reads too well becomes knowledgable and independent from the system of instruction and is capable of finding out anything.
We do not allow internet or social media in many schools, or we only allow certain "screened" sites....controlling the flow of information. Also, most Americans cannot read above the 6th grade reading level, and just look at reading scores and proficiency - abyssmal. On purpose. Provide the Americans or Prussians or whomever with enough ability to read, feel proud of themselves, feel educated, but secretly disallow them to be profience readers. Make it so they cannot read Locke or Smith or anything intellectually stimulating, and please, do not allow them to ask questions or think for themselves, as that is a danger to those in power.
In order to have an efficient policy-making class and a sub-class beneath it, you've got to remove the power of most people to make anything out of available information.This was the plan. To keep most of the children in the general population from reading for the first six or seven years of their lives.Now, the Prussian system of reading was originally a system whereby whole sentences (and thus whole integrated concepts) were memorized, rather than whole words. In this three-tier system, they figured out a way to achieve the desired results. In the lowest category of the system, the volkschuelen, the method was to divide whole ideas (which simultaneously integrate whole disciplines - math, science, language, art, etc.) into subjects which hardly existed prior to that time. The subjects were further divided into units requiring periods of time during the day. With appropriate variation, no one would really know what was happening in the world.
Thus, we have today, in America, seperate subjects and discipline. You learn pre-ordained snippets of information for a specific amount of time then BZZZT! The bell sounds, you are done, move on to a new function, just like an assembly line production. No interdisciplinary lessons, where you find common themes, unity, higher level philosophies of the world, things left for the top few percentile. Just whitewashed, separated, dull facts doled out in prescribed manner and time. God forbid you make it interesting, ad that would spark curiosity and perhaps self directed learning. No no no.
It was inherently one of the most brilliant methods of knowledge suppression that had ever existed. They also replaced the alphabet system of teaching with the teaching of sounds. Hooked on phonics? Children could read without understanding what they were reading, or all the implications.In 1814, the first American, Edward Everett, goes to Prussian to get a PhD. He eventually becomes governor of Massachusetts. During the next 30 years or so, a whole line of American dignitaries came to Germany to earn degrees (a German invention). Horace Mann, instrumental in the development of educational systems in America, was among them. Those who earned degrees in Germany came back to the United States and staffed all of the major universities. In 1850, Massachusetts and New York utilize the system, as well as promote the concept that "the state is the father of children." Horace Mann's sister, Elizabeth Peabody (Peabody Foundation) saw to it that after the Civil War, the Prussian system (taught in the Northern states) was integrated into the conquered South between 1865 and 1918. Most of the "compulsory schooling" laws designed to implement the system were passed by 1900. By 1900, all the PhD's in the United States were trained in Prussia. This project also meant that one-room schoolhouses had to go, for it fostered independence. They were eventually wiped out.One of the reasons that the self-appointed elite brought back the Prussian system to the United States was to ensure a non-thinking work force to staff the growing industrial revolution.
Exactly. Not much commentary here, as I've blogged about these exact ideas previously.
In 1776, for example, about 85% of the citizens were reasonably educated and had independent livelihoods - they didn't need to work for anyone. By 1840, the ratio was still about 70%. The attitude of "learn and then strike out on your own" had to be broken. The Prussian system was an ideal way to do it.One of the prime importers of the German "educational" system into the United States was William T. Harris, from Saint Louis. He brought the German system in and set the purpose of the schools to alienate children from parental influence and that of religion. He preached this openly, and began creating "school staffing" programs that were immediately picked up by the new "teacher colleges", many of which were underwritten by the Rockefeller family, the Carnegies, the Whitney's and the Peabody family. The University of Chicago was underwritten by the Rockefellers.The bottom line is that we had a literate country in the United States before the importation of the German educational system, designed to "dumb down" the mass population. It was more literate that it is today. The textbooks of the time make so much allusion to history, philosophy, mathematics, science and politics that they are hard to follow today because of the way people are "taught to think."Align Left
Again, I've blogged about these ideas too but cannot stress them enough.
Now, part of this whole paradigm seems to originate from an idea presented in The New Atlantis, by Francis Bacon (1627). The work described a "world research university" that scans the planet for babies and talent.
Eugenics, anyone?
The state then becomes invincible because it owned the university. It becomes impossible to revolt against the State because the State knows everything. A reflection of this principle can be seen today with the suppression of radical and practical technologies in order to preserve State control of life and prevent evolution and independence. The New Atlantis was widely read by German mystics in the 19th century. By 1840 in Prussia, there were a lot of "world research universities", in concept, all over the country. All of them drawing in talent and developiong it for the purposes of State power and stability. The Birth of Experimental Psychology in Germany By the middle of the 19th century, Germany had developed a new concept in the sciences which they termed "psycho-physics", which argued that people were in fact complex machines. It was the ultimate materialist extension of science that would parallel the mechanistic view of the universe already under way. This new view of people became more or less institutionalized in Germany, and by the 1870's the "field" of experimental psychology was born. The ultimate purpose of experimental psychology was to discover the nature of the human machine and how to program it.The main proponent of this new experimental psychology in Germany was Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), who is today widely regarded as the "father" of that field. He is described by orthodoxy as having "freed the study of the mind from metaphysics and rational philosophy." Presumably in favor of irrational philosophy. Wundt obtained his PhD in medicine from the University of Heidelburg in 1856, and embarked on the study of sensory perception. His most famous work was "Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception" , done between 1858 and 1862. It is described by orthodoxy as the first work of experimental psychology. In 1875, Wundt was appointed to a chair in philosophy at Leipzig, where he instituted a laboratory for the "systematic, experimental study of experience." Back then, the phase "get a life" was not in vogue, and evidently he didn't have much interpretable experience of his own.In 1873, he began a year-long writing project which resulted in "Principles of Physiological Psychology", which became a "classic" that was subsequently reprinted through six editions over the next 40 years, establishing psychology's claim to be an "independent science". Wundt also wrote on philosophical subjects such as logic and ethics, but as he did not subscribe to "rational philiosophy", his writings presumably yielded irrational interpretations of both areas. It is conceivable that his warped view of humanity and the universe contributed in some small way to the eventual Nazi penchant for experimenting on those they didn't like, producing for them an irrational experience they would never forget.
Yep, eugenics. And the psychology field's taking over of education, a form of mind and societal control and management.
American students of Wundt who returned to the United States between 1880 and 1910 became the heads of Psychological Departments at major universities, such as Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania, to name a few. Wundt trained James Cattell, who on his return to the United States trained over 300 PhD's in the Wundt world view. The system of "educational psychology" evolved from this. Funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, the Wundtian system gains control over educational testing in the United States for soldiers of World War I.
These tests were the first "standardized tests", IQ based, in America. They're where our tests in schools "come from".
The "Educational System" Expands The wave of immigration which began in 1848, combined with the visibility of revolutions taking place all over Europe, helped foster uncertainty in the public mind. Laws requiring compulsory schooling were then legislated. It was all very Hegelian. We wouldn't want those little tykes to become reactionaries, would we? In 1890, Carnegie wrote a series of essays called The Gospel of Wrath, in which he claimed that the capitalistic free enterprise system was dead in the United States. It really was, since Carnegie, Rockefeller and Morgan, by then, owned the United States. It was about 1917 that a great "Red Scare" was instituted in the United States in order to set up a reactionary movement intended to get the public to accept the idea of compulsory schooling - Prussian compulsory schooling, of course.The implimentation of the German educational nightmare in the United States met some initial resistence. In Carnegie's home town of Gary, Indiana, the system was implemented between 1910 and 1916, mostly through the efforts of William Wirt, the school superintendent. It involved no academic endeavor whatsoever. It worked so well in supplying willing workers for the steel mills that it was decided by Carnegie to bring the system to New York City. In 1917, they initiated a program in New York in 12 schools, with the objective of enlarging the program to encompass 100 schools and eventually all the schools in New York. William Wirt came to supervise the transition.Unfortunately for Carnegie, the population of the 12 schools was predominently composed of Jewish immigrants, who innately recognized what was being done and the nature of the new "educational system". Three weeks of riots followed, and editorials in the New York Times were very critical of the plan. Over 200 Jewish school children were thrown in jail.
All I have to say here is, creepy.
The whole political structure of New York that had tried this scheme were then thrown out of office during the next election. A book describing this scenerio, The Great School Wars, was written by Diane Ravitch on the subject. Curiously, William Wirt was committed to an insane asylum around 1930, after going around making public speeches about his part in a large conspiracy to bring about a controlled state in the hands of certain people. He died two years later.In order to make sure that the independence of the one-room schoolhouse and the penchant for communities to hire their own independent teachers would cease, the Carnegie group instituted the concept of "teacher certification" - a process controlled by the teaching colleges under Carnegie and Rockefeller control. No one knew that the Communist revolutions were funded from the United States. The buildup of the Soviet Union, as well as that of Nazi Germany, would also be funded later from the United States in order to get a reactionary public to bend to the will of controlling political factions. It was a plan that worked well in the 1920's, and worked well again in the 1950's in the psychological creation of the "cold war", providing funding for the buildup of the military, industrial and pharmaceutical complex. The "non-thinking" American public never suspected a thing. Such a thing would have been "unbelievable."Because the United States was owned by wealthy businessmen, a synthetic free enterprise system was created and anti-trust laws were passed to prevent anyone else from gaining power. Everything that had already been consolidated was "grandfathered" out of the law.
The Corporate-governmental complex. Just now, OWS and the Tea Party movements are waking up to this, which has been in place for nearly a century.
It was a brilliant scheme, and it worked very well.Earlier in the century there were "school boards" in every town. Between 1932 and 1960, the number of school boards dropped from 140,000 to 30,000. Today there are about 15,000 - all controlled by extensions of the Carnegie-Rockefeller educational complex. In 1959, with the advent of the "sputnik" and the public realization that "another country was ahead of us", the embarassed educational system was forced to temporarily create a synthetic focus on science which produced a generation of scientists and technicians in order to resolve the apparent decifit in the public mind.In retrospect, in 1889 the U.S. Commissioner of Education assured a prominent railroad man, Collis Huntington, when he protested that the schools seemed to be over-educating (producing too many engineers and people who could think), that schools had been scientifically designed not to over-educate. It was a reference to the German system of education inculcated into the United States between 1806 and 1819.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

eugenics 2011

Wanted to thank wildswan for this link about the new name for the American Eugenics Society, and supposed members. I plan at some point to research the members.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ludicrous: Fed Ed is necessary?

From HuffPo, my response and commentary are in regular text, the article in italics.

Shifting power from the federal to state governments isn't the solution to education reform in America. It's a bad idea and it will only make a quality K-12 public school education for all children an unreachable ideal.Steve Jobs attended public schools in a poor California neighborhood. He had the good sense -- at a tender young age -- to demand that his adoptive parents move him to a better school by threatening to drop out.
Well, the problem here is with ESEA (1965) which really got the ball rolling on the federal control o education (all under the kind guise of the war on poverty). With Fed. Ed and ESEA, equal funding "supposedly" is given to schools. This is aided by having school boundaries so that a certain neighborhood attends a certain school, unless of course they are de-segregated schools that bus minorities to caucasian-majority schools and the like...but even then, the students do not have say in where to attend school. The only way to attend a school that best fits your needs is to a)move b)attend a charter or c) private school.

Imagine that: Jobs could have been a middle school drop out!
I can understand this argument, but, he could have been home-schooled, many successful icons were compulsory school or college drop outs. There is a difference (sadly) between education and schooling.

Steve was lucky they complied, as are legions of Apple fans. Many children are not so lucky, however.

Ahem. Back to my point that schools should have fluid borders, but gasp, the educational/institutional complex (inc. unions) want nothing of that.

And things could get much worse for them if presidential candidates promising to "turn out the lights" at the Department of Education get their wish. We all know that there is much wrong with public education in America and want to fix it. But getting the federal government out of the business of education is a bad idea.
Because Government has such a great track record...(sarcasm)

Quality schools provide a pathway to jobs, opportunities, and success. America's beleaguered public schools place many children at a competitive disadvantage relative to children with better schooling alternatives.
Exactly, our public schools are "beleaguered". I'm not against public schools necessarily, but against how they are run. The reason we have these lackluster schools is, well, a complex web of issues, but binding children by geography, to a school that perpetuates a broken system, is plain wrong. However, I do not think the author shares my perspective in this sentence.

Voters that depend on public schools should know that shifting complete authority for public education and school financing to the states is a terrible solution for black and brown children, disabled children, children of the poor, the struggling middle class, and the Occupiers all across the nation protesting the growing wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots.
And how? Why? Our educational system has not vastly improved since ESEA. The achievement gap between rich and poor, minority and not, is not disappearing. Reagan's A Nation At Risk blatantly pointed out that, hello, there is a disparaging difference among educational quality and attainment across the nation. NCLB, and now Race To The Top, yet again addresses this issue. If what we are doing, and have been doing for quite some time, was effective, we'd see it by now. But we keep doing the same thing. Garbage in, garbage out. Doing the same thing many times and expecting different results is insanity. And how is shifting education, making it more local, bad for disadvantaged students? What does DC know about the complex demographics of California? Of my small town?

Republican presidential candidates want to shift control of public education from Washington to Albany, Austin, Tallahassee, Topeka, Harrisburg, Hartford, Madison, Montgomery and other state capitals across America. Newt Gingrich wants to weaken Washington's role in public schools by limiting its power to gathering education-related statistics.
With ideas bouncing around of collecting data ( on things like age of mother at child's birth, birthmarks, condition of gums and teeth etc...I say, go Newt- strangers need not know those things about my amily, and besides, what good would they be in education? Maybe we will get more testing subgroups. Special Ed, Black, Hispanic, Gum Disease, Premature, Wine Stain Birthmark, etc.

Mitt Romney, a former defender of No Child Left Behind, now wants "to get the federal government out of education." Michele Bachmann promises to shut down the Department of Education if she's elected. And Rick Perry not only decries federal expansion into public schooling, he deems it unconstitutional and counter to the value of local control.Other Republicans, some Democrats, and many education reformers don't want to get the feds completely out of education. They want the federal government to support the creation of semi-private alternatives to traditional public schools, such as charter schools, and to support greater school choice. These pro-charter and pro-school choice reforms have gone hand-in-hand with rallying against teacher unions, teacher tenure, and calling for greater accountability of school districts receiving federal education funds.
While I disagree with some of the direction of the accountability movement, and am leary of corporations running schools, we do need more accountability. Education should be about the children, about education, and about improvement. No one can argue against that, right? And PLEASE someone, explain the "evils" behind school choice? I see it as pro-student, pro-education. I do not see it as anti-teacher. If the reactionary cry of "public education will end" is true, and with that, the fear of loss of a job, umm.....go work at the replacement school. If the free market economy dictates things properly, experienced, knowledgeable, skillfull, accountable teachers will be desired if not demanded. Voila. A job. If you are a teacher no one wants, then perhaps you are in the wrong career field. And worker's rights will still exist thanks to unions, because of worker's rights. And perhaps the workers will create their own unions, too.

Distrust of Washington has been a primary motivation for those seeking to get the feds out of education. But it's unclear why we should entrust state governments with greater authority over public education and school financing, especially when not all that long ago a sitting president had to deploy federal troops to escort children into state-enforced racially segregated schools.
True. But we as a society have come a long way and would not tolerate this. If a faction of society did, the only way you'd be "stuck" with this is if the author and like minds get their way and rid of school choice. With school choice, charter etc, you could escape segregation!

The Republican candidates will object that this is "ancient" history, and that America is now a post-racial society (for God's sake we have a black man and his family in the White House, and until recently another black man running to take his place). They will say that we have no reason to fear that states will use their new powers to return America to racial apartheid or to violate fundamental constitutional rights.
Well if we had a top-notch education in the first place, ignorance would not run rampant and people would hold enough intellect to ensure this did not occur. They'd know the laws to ensure this did not occur. Through education comes liberty, peace, tolerance.

They will say that the real problem is that the federal government is just too damn expensive, and since education is such a big drain on the federal budget (around $68 billion to be exact) it's an obvious place to cut wasteful government spending. So shifting educational authority to state governments is not about wanting to return America to a bygone era of subjecting racial minorities to the tyranny of states hell-bent on forcibly segregating them into undesirable communities with lower quality schools.
Again, school choice. That's all I have to say here.

It's simply about basic economics -- making the federal government less expensive and alleviating the burden on taxpayers struggling to make ends meet.If economics is the main motivation, it is obvious that shifting authority over education from federal to state government is the worst thing that can happen to the millions of American families struggling to find decent jobs, pay their bills, and provide their children with a quality public education. The same economic pressures that are driving Tea Partiers, Anti-Federalists, and fiscally conservative Republicans and Democrats to advocate cutting the federal education budget are also impacting state governments and forcing them to make deep cuts to public education.

It is debatable if money = educational quality, standardized test achievement and graduation rates have not correlated well with the rise in educational spending. I do not advocate cutting teacher jobs and the like, but throwing money at a broken system fixes nothing.

As a result, public schools are increasingly relying upon charity and corporate sponsors for school funding. Who knows? We may not be far from the day where we see McDonalds, Viagra, Cialis, Nike, Apple and other corporate ads and logos in classrooms and school gymnasiums.

I can agree, actually. I don't want to see this happen, but they already run behind the scenes, controlling our lunch programs, curriculum, and assessments.

Lucky families and families with economic resources can take advantage of better alternatives such as private or charter schools or public schools in affluent neighborhoods like the one the Jobs family moved to.
There goes the tired myth that only rich kids or luck kids go to charters and vouchers because they pick the cream of the crop. Sadly, yes, some states follow this practice and tell me how, and I'll rally against it. However, it is illegal in California. Everyone can attend a charter (if there is room) no matter what.
But many everyday American families -- short on luck, bailout money, and still waiting for Superman to rescue them -- can't afford these costlier options. So their unlucky kids will be at a serious disadvantage in the competition for jobs and opportunities to kids from well-resourced families that can afford to buy better schooling, or poorer kids that are lucky enough to gain entry into quality charter schools with limited slots (and not be tracked into remedial or special education slots but that's another article).Putting a quality public school education beyond the reach of some children is unfair and shameful. All parents -- including those that are unlucky or can't afford private school or a house in a quality public school district -- should be able to tell their kids that they can be the next Steve Jobs if only they go to school and make good grades. Cutting the feds out of education, and shifting authority to the states, will only expedite the process of establishing a two track public education system in America: one for haves and the lucky, and one for have-nots and the unlucky.As we look ahead to MLK celebrations, and the ten year anniversary of No Child Left Behind next month, and as we prepare for the 2012 presidential election -- where fair equality of opportunity will be the single most important issue if the 99% continue to raise their voices -- we must figure out how the federal government can work together with the states to provide equal educational opportunity so that all children have a fair shot at being America's next Steve Jobs, and so that all children have equal access to the opportunities afforded by a quality K-12 public education.
Yes. So let's improve, completely transform, our educational system from the top down.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I wrote this....visit it! it is about "transitional kindergarten". On that site, search around as I have another article about it. I could write a bunch on it and how it...has some bad parts. See? I have kind of been "with it" in the education world. I'm also working on an article for this blog on standardized testing but....I'm on self imposed sabattical, I've given up on it for the moment.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I've not blogged much, what with holidays, family visiting, a family full of sick, cold-ridden sinusitus cases, home repairs and the like. So this blog is not "dead' just on "vacation". Stay tuned, read old posts, and don't disappear!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bait 'em with honey, or bait 'em with cacti.... I have an interview.
I hope I get the position since I love data, I find it fasinating, and curriculum is a hobby. I really enjoy designing intricate lessons.

I'm published! Re: District's Corrupt Hiring

District's poor choice
Posted: 11/13/2011 07:32:37 PM PST
In the Oct. 21 article, "San
Bernardino City Unified School District hires administrator with troubled past,"
it was brought to the public's attention that an audacious administrator, Mr.
Ochoa, was hired as SBCUSD's administrative director of curriculum/instruction
and accountability and research-secondary education, to what seems to be, given
the comments online, public outrage.
The citizens of San Bernardino are beside themselves that a man who was
accused of misappropriating funds and illegally changed grades was hired on as a
highly paid SBCUSD employee, and who can blame them? He has since declined the
At the time of Ochoa's hiring, SBCUSD had other options. Ochoa was indeed not
the only qualified applicant; SBCUSD chose Ochoa over other applicants.
I know this because I was one of the qualified applicants who has not
committed any crimes, disobeyed procedures, or any other questionable actions.
On Oct. 20, I was sent an official letter from SBCUSD stating, "Thank you for
applying for the position of Administrative Director, Curriculum/Instruction and
Accountability and Research-Secondary Education. We had many fine applicants.
However, after a careful screening process, we regret to inform you that you
were not one of the candidates selected for an interview."
One must question this "careful screening process" that "missed" the recent
deplorable actions of Ochoa. If SBCUSD wishes to improve its negative image,

it should revamp its "careful screening process" and hire applicants with
clean records.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A simple question...

So I often hear that current ed reform, especially via vouchers and charters, is "killing public education". Perhaps. But that is not quite my point here, and yet maybe it is. I was reading and, this plus California's new TK, and the whole diversity thing, adding homosexuals and other monorities to curriculum, and thought to myself...where the heck will California get money for all these reforms? We are anticipating a $2 billion cut in education, and we're 43rd in per pupil spending and dropping. We supposedly need to hire 100,000 teachers in the next decade. Add the billion dollars for the NCLB waivers mentioned in Huffington Post and... numbers are spinning in my mind and I can't even fathom the cost. How will California afford all this? With unemployment in some areas still rivaling Detroit for number one, foreclosures rampant, poverty in some area at "ultra poverty" (approx. income $11,000 year for a family of four) at 40%, highest business taxes and quite high income/property/sales tax and... California is hell-bound for desctruction.
So why is California issuing expensive education mandates when it can't even afford what it has now? Might the rumor of public education "dying" be indeed kind of true?
If so, what happens next? Education is compulsory, a right, so our children will have to be educated somehow. A broke state cannot afford vouchers for every child, so that only covers some students. Charters can be corporate run but receive state funding, so if the state can't fund education, few children will be educated via charters, especially with the charter cap in place. Some students can be home-schooled, or attend independent study or an online school, but legally a parent must be present while the child is not attending a school house- a child can't be left home unattended all day, "going to school at home" while all legal guardians are at work.
I'm not sure what will happen in California, but it scares me. As I've said before, parents, educators, community members need to do everything to help educate students both in and out of the classroom, because the CDE (Ca. Dept of Education)will likely not be able to afford to educate our children properly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Soon....Soon, I hope to compose an article about this new Pre-K for California Students news. Until then, a less- indepth, less commentary-ridden article I wrote on the topic at

Job Glut, Teacher "shortage"

So I am still working on my article regarding the numbers of applicants per teaching job to dispel the "teacher shortage crisis" myth.
I talked to a district today that said they have credentialed (that means BA + 1 or more additional years of schooling), experienced (i.e. they've taught 1+ years) teachers applying for jobs... no surprise... but wait! These teachers are applying for substitute and IA (Instructional Aide aka Teacher's Aide) positions.
The average IA works 3 hours per day 180 days a year, at $8-14 an hour. That means professionals are desperate enough for employment that they are competing- rather stiffly, too- for positions that pay $4,320 to $7,560 a year. Substitutes fare better on paper, making $90- $120 a day, but working 180 days a year with earnings of $16,200 - $21,600 is but a dream. I worked in three districts, taking any and all sub positions (even the less desired i.e. adult ed, alternative ed, expulsion, medically fragile...) and worked an average of 2 days a week. This was before the budget crisis. Now, any teacher that was RIFed gets "first dibs" as a sub in their former district. A non-tenured, 1st or 2nd year RIFed teacher gets first dibs at sub jobs for 24 months, tenrued RIFed teachers, 39 months. Therefore, the thousands of teachers RIFed in the past few years are working as substitutes so that unemployed new teachers, out of state teachers, and non-union (i.e. charter, private) teachers are unlikely to support themselves as a sub.
Once the educational climate improves, the type of teachers I just listed are still out of luck for any job but an IA. Why? All unionized schools in California- covering 96% of teachers- follow the same month rule for hiring. To elaborate, let's say there is an elementary position open at District X. 100 people apply. Out of those 100, two are former employees, Mrs. Y, a two-years-ago RIFed tenured teacher of Dist. X, and Mr. Z a recently RIFed first year teacher at Dist. X. Well, the job will likely go to Mrs. Y due to unionization, seniority, and collective bargaining which covers teachers after they leave a school. If for some reason she denies the job, Mr. Z gets it. If he declines, then it goes to the "public".
This creates a permanent underclass of teachers; all new, out of state, or non-union, haven't worked in a union school for 24-39 month teachers are forever at the bottom of the barrel for jobs. They are highly unlikely to ever obtain a career in a tough job market.
And yet, even the CDE (California Dept. of Ed) perpetuates this "teacher shortage crisis" myth, as can be seen at or the even more golden article from the CTA (California Teacher Assoc.) claiming California will n
eed an additional 100,000 teachers in the next decade ; California currently employs approximately 304,000 teachers.
Maybe the moon is hiring? Lunites probably have a better education system; think I'll move.

Monday, November 7, 2011

a loosely formed post this will be.

I was thinking about the debate of using test scores to evaluate teachers. If it is used like the test scores are currently, there is no value added equation and only proficient status "wins". This would mean a class of low performing students would mean the teacher would be fired even if if is a historically low group due to external factors. This is a bad idea. But let's say,same teacher same school over time her students and her classroom scores are dropping year after year compared to neighboring classrooms of statistically similar students. Not just one student skewing if but the majority. Shouldn't this teacher be let go?
I know I am rather against the tests and validity thereof. Yes they are valid measures of what is learned but eeally just a subset of knowledge and skills necessary for life. So judging a teacher just on scores is but a piece of the puzzle. Get pocketbooks (via unions, textbook and testing companies) out of the deal and get a fuller picture of teachers. Utilize more "fuzzy" data, informative such as portfolios and grades scaled on a stakeholder created and approved rubric. As if we just use test scores, not only are we (validly) assessing just a knowledge/skill subset but setting things up for failure, the teachers will cheat to save their jobs and students will purposely fail if they decide they do not like the teacher even if because she/he told you' " no ipods in class today" - students
will know a teacher's entire future is in their hands and that responsibility lies anywhere but on them.

why must all solutions be so black and white? I see it as gray and entirely plausible, possible, effective.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Determination, Education,Courage, and Mediocrity ( a lengthy rant)

Determination, Education, and Mediocrity - such a title could be for many different posts of mine. So here is version #1.

Why do we have such a high drop-out rate, achievement gap, low test scores, etc? Many, myself included,
blame our antiquated and broken education system. I
look at my favorite organization, Shanti Bhavan in India, which schools the dredges of population, worse than our worst, the Untouchables, and turns them into scholars and then doctors, engineers,
teachers. See, I tell myself, teachers and education can make a difference.

But then I see all the demands placed on teachers, and all the blame. We do work some miracles but we're no magic genie. To blame us for the ails of society is ludicrous. As is blaming home life. See, education is a gray area. Teachers cannot fix home life and culture, and so we must make do with what we can do. I am not going to blabber on and on on what teachers can do. I am going to speak about our lackadaisical culture.

I just finished reading a remarkable memoir by Cupcake Brown, "Piece of Cake" about a worse-than-worse life of major drug addition, homelessness, prostitution, abuse, and how the woman who did all this- Cupcake, is now a lawyer, all on her own volition. I hear of these stories often, and think of The Freedom Writers and other similar examples of people overc
oming strife. Some say you have to "have it in you" to overcome adversity. I've been called racist, privileg
ed, ignorant, and not compassionate because I don't understand why people, about to join a gang, don't reach in, find some courage, and say F%^# this life, I'm bettering myself. Well, Cupcake did it. The Freedom Writer kids did it. The kids at Shanti Bhavan did it.

Courage. Yes it is quite easy to have grown up in poverty, drugs, violence, to want to just continue the cycle. "It's all I know" they say, and they often mean it. I have a friend who grew up like that and thought her family was first. But she opened her eyes and realized, nope, her family was not normal. After swearing she'd never make it past her 16th birthday alive, she did. She finished high school via alternative ed, got cl
ean, and went to college. She only knew the "ghetto" life yet she knew she did not want to continue it. She knew violence and drugs were not what she wanted in life.

Kids know right from wrong (unless there is serious mental illness involved). They might not know 100%, but they know. They know going hungry because mommy sold the food stamps for drugs is silly and hurtful. They know eviction sucks. They know a car ridden with bullets,
meant for their brother, is scary. They know t
he white stuff daddy snorts makes him all weird. Therefore, they can choose to go either way. The "straight edge", get out of this life way is NOT easy. But everyone can do it if they stop wimping out and start forcing themselves to do better.

The problem is, society glorifies mediocrity. Pop culture and the media make get-rich-quick schemes seem like a great idea and who blames them? Why go to school, work hard, get good grades, to go to college and do the same, get up at 6am daily to don a suit and drive to work....when you can earn just as much in none of the time, hustling, dealing, selling your body, your soul, thieving, smuggling, etc? I in a way don't blame kids who
choose the "easy" criminal route. But it is the weak way and really makes less, with more risk, than that silly suit and tie job. But since it is fast money with little to no perceived effort, it is seen as ideal (see pdf link at end for proof). I've talked to students who say things like, "my boyfrien
d got a nice car and cell and big screen and he never been caught. Ima be a dealer soon too. It makes more money than some job and school. And you get all the drug you want." Or "I don't care that you say I'm smart. Ima use those smarts to be a border coyote, and 'cause I'm smart I won't get caught. Makes good money." Or worse, "no offense, but why go to college for 6 years to become, say, a teacher? We all know teachers work hard and make so little, I'll make more as (welfare scam, drug dealer, stripper, etc.)." Or even "wow, Mrs ____, you got a nice car. Your hubby must deal drugs or be in the mob or something."
Yep. They do not recognize hard work ethic and income. My husband works terrible hours, rivaling an ER doctor, managing Fortune 500 clients and so he makes a decent amount. No "we are the 1%" amount, but nice enough to afford a new car. My students literally could not and did not believe we earned the car...legally. They had no concept.
They also had no concept of education. Most of my students were on free/reduced lunch, meaning a family of four earns less than 40,000 a year. Few had parents that had gone to college. So one day when I begin talking about college (since we were supposedly a everyone-goes-to-college school, albeit in reality only about 20% did...) they just...shut off. I was told things like, "College? I got bad grades. I'm dumb. I'm black or Mexican. I'm too poor." Endless excuses. They really truly thought only wealthy, smart white kids went to even community college. I began explaining scholarships to them and they were amazed- you mean, there are scholarships for Blacks? For kids with a deceased parent? For us kids on food stamps? They had no clue. Society, pop culture, school, their parents- someone had told them, and ingrained in them, that they could not and would not go to college.
Many facets of our culture penalize education. If you try and get good grades, you're s
upposedly uppity and a danger to your peers. If you try and better yourself, then you're, well, trying to better yourself which makes you think you're better than the rest of the group and thus, a risk. You're also considered "white" (even if you are, well, white) if you try and conduct yourself properly, study, and want to be someone. A culture that glorifies crime, drugs, get-rich-quick, and penalizes anyone trying to improve their lives, "get courage, get out, and better themselves" is, well, dumb. I'm sorry. Call me ignorant or racist or cruel or what have you. But a society or culture that does this is stupid and is keeping themselves down, fueling, promoting, the circle of poverty, crime, destitution.
This, my friends, is the problem with education. We will continue to have masses of children failing, dropping out, not giving it their full potential because... becoming "less than" is easy, desirable, encouraged. Us teachers and educators can try as we might to work miracles and save kids and yes, some will be saved. Our kind words of encouragement will reach some ears, but fall deaf upon others. The kids who have had it with "less than" and have the courage, the st
rength, the determination to face adversity, to face family, friends, culture nearly disowning them, to get a piece of the American dream, who know that this courage, this dream, this education is truly what is best for them, and that they CAN succeed, will. But they are far and few between. I think every child has it in them, but it is beaten, coaxed, subconsciously drawn out of them. I have had many students that tell me to stop pep talking them, they are dumb criminals and that is that. That they are not special. That they don't want to succeed. That the get-rich-quick ghetto life is the way and that I'm the one with messed up priorities and world views.
But... that does not stop me. I keep pep talking, showing students other worlds and views and ways. I might work just one miracle in my life, save but one starfish in an ocean of millions, but I won't let it stop me. I hope this drive is seen and that another student follows in my footsteps, seeing the odds I'm against, and the perseverance I hold, is hopefully an inspiration.

However, culture still reigns king. Why do the children at Shanti Bhavan become who they become? Well, as I've said and believe, everyone can better themselves. But that is not all. If they fail school, they will likely be prostitutes, hustlers, begging on the streets for money. Just like some of our kids, yes, but their fate is worse. They face, directly, in front of them, murder, famine, death, disease, and a culture which ostracizes them automatically, without question. Their poverty and destitution is real, it is thisclose to death. They can't be "poor" and own a cell phone, tv, a dozen outfits, a rented trailer home, and food (albeit ramen, white bread, and hot dogs) on the table. Diseases aren't just some pneumonia, oops, walk into the ER for free and get treated, disease is malaria, aids, dysentery, with no cure, no clinic or ER. The alternative to education is a life no one wants. It may include drugs, prostitution, crime, yes, but there is no glory to it. It is a fight to survive and they yearn for survival.
America has lost this fight. I do not propose we "go all 3rd world" and thus gain a fight for survival. But..I do not know what I propose.
We as teachers, parents, community members, students, need to rise up and say, E
nough!!! We value education, we need a better education, and education is the way.

Until then, I will continue to be baffled by the life of gang members, their choices, and by my student's yearning to not get an education. I will continue my pep talks, my encouragements, my heart-felt one on ones. I will save one, maybe more, starfish. Many will be lost. But if we all try and save a starfish, our world will improve. And I vow to raise my son, my own little starfish, to be a successful leader, motivator, game changer. He is all he wants to be in life and more.

Here's what I mean by starfish, and then the link to the economics of drug dealing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

from ...

"The man hired by the San Bernardino City Unified School District for a top administrative post had resigned recently from a San Diego district after reports surfaced that he improperly changed student grades and that money was mismanaged at his former school.

District officials discovered $21,583 had been taken from nine clubs at the 1,500-student campus without their knowledge, the newspaper reported. Officials also found $72,712 in bills, some as much as two years old, had not been paid. The bills covered everything from football and cheerleader uniforms to yearbooks and Advanced Placement tests.Ochoa also signed off on 115 grade changes, erasing Ds and Fs from student transcripts using a process not allowed under district policy. To make the changes, he used a form reserved for teachers who need to correct grading mistakes, rather than using the form for make-up classes.

San Bernardino hired Ochoa as administrative director, curriculum/instruction and accountability and research for secondary education. His salary is $102,453 to $124,392, according to a recruitment announcement.

Spokeswoman Linda Bardere said the district checked Ochoa’s background and received only positive references.

“His strength in curriculum and instruction was emphasized,” she said. “We’re giving this information the level of attention it requires and at this point it is premature to comment any further.”

Ahh. I just love it! A district with many program improvement schools and high drop-out rate hires, for good money, a man convicted to changing grades and stealing money. Then again, what else to expect? He raised grades (illegally) therefore, yeah, he has a great, on paper, track record of student achievement. When everyone appears to have good grades, it appears that academic achievement is improving. Just like the teachers (in gosh, what state? Too many) that have been either placed in rubber rooms, full pay, or had a mild pay dock and remain in the classroom plus now tutor children, this man got a job transfer and a pretty little salary.

Something is wrong with this system.

Update, 9 hours a letter in the I remember, I applied for that VERY POSITION and am/was FULLY QUALIFIED but NOT even selected for an INTERVIEW. Oh baby, here comes the press.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Education from a Child's Perspective

I asked a former student of mine about her schooling experiences. are a few tidbits.

I always felt that I was just a number, just another head in a sea full of people. I felt that I was put in classes that were way too easy for me, but I was either there to fill the class or beause they didn’t think I could do any better.


I do think tenured teachers- well, all teachers- should be protected from biased administrators and the like. But tenure needs to be tweaked a little so that 99 - 99.9% of tenured teachers don't just keep teaching when some are indeed ineffective.
I know of a school district where a teacher got tenure somehow and has been from school to school because everyone has tried to rif of her but since she is tenured, all you can do is move her around.

She now works at an alternative ed school with the "at risk" kids. She has no classroom management, and while those kids often claim they hate school and school work and refuse to do much of anything, they now have a teacher new to the school, and they write her nasty notes on how ineffective and horrible she is. When the at risk kids are telling you you're a bad teacher and can't teach... this is a sign that tenure is ineffective in some cases.
Oh well....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just...Ignore it but pretend not to or: I am a highly qualified moron

I was reflecting back to my teaching days and thought hmm...I was a LIFO case, but was there indeed any reason behind my LIFO status- was it pure coincidence, a pull-a-name-out-of-the-hat LIFO case or were there some reasons behind my LIFO status over another "equal" teacher? I will never know because you can be let go without cause, rhyme, or reason as a non-tenured, probationary teacher. No questions asked, no explanations given. Therefore, you only know if you're a LIFO case, a "we don't like you, you suck" case, or a mix of the two. Not very helpful for personal and professional growth.

I must speculate, however, that if I were "both", why? What did I do "wrong"? Yes, I was not the best teacher in the whole wide world. Studies do show beginning teachers are not, in general, as "good' as master teachers, which is as expected. But I do not feel I was the "OMG why is she in the classroom?" type of teacher. But it is all relative to perspective.

My test scores and attendance rates of my students were on par or above my c
o-workers so it was not that I was a bad teacher.

I did, however, not ignore things and that my friends may be the problem. Here goes my confessional, a possible black listing of future career if such things are relative.... (in no particular order of importance or timing of event....)

1. I am all for FAPE- Free and Appropriate Education. For all. So if I see a student struggling, I'll begin the chain of command, rigamarole, and bureaucratic tape to get to the bottom of things and help the child. That means I will hold a parent meeting, SST, vouch for IEP, etc etc which...gasp..costs staff time, effort, and money. They don't like that and seem to only want to help a few. Plus some (maybe all?) schools have a cap on how many students can, for example, be in Special Ed. There is "RTI" and other forms of "special ed light" without caps but there seems to be an unspoken for cap. Helping kids is n
ot easy- I admit this myself; having a class with say 4 IEPs, 6 ELLs, 2 GATEs, 8 RTIs etc etc gets a little tricky but's our job. Helping children is the teacher mantra. So...when little ol' me, a new teacher, asks for meetings, documents, plans to help Billy and Susie, it looks bad. The master teachers who denied or simply ignored Billy and Susie's needs all throughout school would rather not take the blame and in
stead tell the new teacher that she is new, inexperienced, dumb, don't try and do this.
I did in District B exit two children from the ELL program who were fluent, their previous teachers had "forgotten" to exit them, forgotten to look at the CELDT RFEP (Ell test, fluent redesignation, exit the program...) qualifications. I did and had two sets of happy parents and
kids. In District C I not only identified 5x the ELL students than we thought we had (n
o one thought to look at files and data to see if they were ELL, needed assessed, and/or needed service) but I also began to exit 20% of our EL population to RFEP status. However, I ne
eded teacher signatures for this one obliged.... too much extra work. I had dug up childr
en that had been lost in the system, either denied their FAPE services or denied exiting something they did not need, and that was not well taken. Yes, I followed federal, state, district EL law to the "t" which I guess a "newbie" should not do. District A, as much as I did not like how they operated, did one th
ing right- EL services.

And I'm sorry but when a child writes to me that they wish to kill themselves, no one li
kes them, I talk to them and seek a counselor. When the school is cheap and only has one counselor serving three schools, and the counselor is on maternity leave and then too "busy catching up" to help, and then "it is too close to the end of the school year, let's try it again next year"... I get a little mad. Thank God this child did not commit suicide and I was able to stabilize things on my own effort and time because I would publicly blame a suicide on t
he system that refused to help.

2. I know there is mixed research on retaining students. However, I had a student who did not qualify for Special Ed (IQ and performance did not meet the Sp. Ed equation) but was, in upper elementary, unable to add punctuation or capitalization to writing, or to add or subtract past ten- forget multiplication, graphing, geometry. Set to go to middle school after my classroom,I thought, this child needs another year of elementary as middle school will not help this child- this child will be completely "left behind" and "lost in the shuffle". I tracked down the impossible to reach, who cares, parent, got signatures, district approval and.. was LIFOed. Somehow, after all my legal docs to retain the child, the retention was revoked and off the kiddo went to middle school. Perhaps those dumb new teachers don't know when a child needs extra time in elementary. Perhaps I was supposed to ignore when this child could barely even do "finger math" such as 10-8. Just pass 'em on, social promotion my friends. Act like I am a caring teacher, out to help every
child, but really just ignore any problems and pass it on to someone else.

3. Stakeholder Influence - Teachers always say, bla bla bla, we need more parent input and help, administrator input, bla bla bla. But don't kowtow to these wishes no sir no way. I am one
to fix problems so when Ricky is not doing ANY work, I talk to Ricky, his parents, my co-workers, the curriculum coordinator, etc. Sure I am supposed to fix this all by myself because I'm super teacher! Really that means, I'm supposed to ignore Ricky's laziness or have a "heart to heart" with him, and just hope no one notices Ricky's failing test scores, besides, it is the next year's teacher's problems. By the way, "Ricky", after my initiated meetings and modifications, got sent next door to a tenured "better" teacher and continued to, gasp, not do a thing and no one batted an eye. When Anna is failing English, and parents do not care, and admin ignores me, I will not ignore her. I will work with Anna, whom everyone -including parents- says "probably does not have a chance graduating on time, she is slow and defiant" and she will come to my class at lunch, we'll eat together and work on
Romeo and Juliet, an expository essay, practice vocabulary tests. And Anna will go up a
band/level on the standardized exam.

Ok sometimes I am not super teacher and can't rescue Jose or Kristy. Some other teacher might "click" better, or perhaps no matter what, Jose and Kristy are so beaten by the system that my continual pep talks, assistance, etc are cast aside. It is sad. But I will not give up, I will try my darnedest - and involve others when I see fit- to ensure Jose and Kristy succeed.

4. Eek! I challenge the status quo, curriculum, and tradition! How dare I, a new teacher, have any thoughts let alone input on what is "right" for students. Since I have only taught for one, two, three, four years and everyone else five, ten, thirty, I know nothing. I am a credentialed, highly qualified, moron. I ne
ed tenure and experience, title of master teacher, to know that scripted curriculum is indeed
best for children. Making kids sit, feet on floor, back straight, hands folded, at attention, silent, for two hours of a lecture is research-based and something a master teacher promotes because, well, only experts know this is how a classroom should look. Because I'm a newbie, I am to blindly follow direction, not question a thing, not have a single opinion, just operate like a smiley robot meets prison guard in the institution we call school.

I cannot try and fix things or help children because, as stated, I am a highly qualified moron. I MUST act like a smiling peppy child advocate at ALL moments, happily delivering a dumbed-down curriculum, willingly stuffing children in desks and lecturing when they need to move, play, experience, discover. Any problems I see must look like they're being resolved, but really, I'm to pass the buck on to the next teacher who will in turn pass it on again until we have 40% high school drop out rates, tons
of college entrants taking remedial courses because "schools are not preparing children", children and soon, adults, who f
ollow a path of entitlement, poverty, crime because they were told, whether directly or via the system, that no one cares.

I am to just shut up, follow directions, do minimal work, and be proud of my job. I am to kowtow to damaging practices and procedures and gladly accept my position of highly qualified moron until, by turning my back or eye, ignoring my instincts and morals, I gain tenure. Then, I can use the damaging system still (what's the difference? Not much except that now I can dictate my expertise in the damaging system and prevent change).

Sorry. No.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the budget crisis, master planned, not my problem

Perhaps the budget cuts in education are on purpose. Yes, many top-notch-education countries spend less for better results, and yet our schools ask for more funding. That is an issue for another post and topic. I am talking instead about the cause of the budget crisis in education.

While reading Terry Moe's book, Special Interest, I had a possible epiphany; a perfect storm that was master planned, has given us this crisis. One may think, isn't that a shooting oneself in the foot kind of situation? Not quite.

Teachers are humans, want to be treated as such, and want- and deserve- benefits like health insurance, livable salary, etc. The average teaching salary has only increased 7 percent from 1980-2007. Education funding has not drastically lessened enough to excuse such a piddly salary rise so what is the issue? Well, teachers want smaller class size and got it- from nearly 27 in 1955 to a little over 14 in 2007-08 (I argue California is not so privileged). Therefore we are paying for more staff thus no salary boost.

With tens of thousands of teachers laid off in recent years, perhaps we're reaching equilibrium and can have a higher salary- at the cost of class size. Perhaps the research claiming class size is no issue is fabricated to support this paradigm shift, albeit manufactured. You can't always get what you want but hey a cola salary up tick may be in your future.

But wait, so we’re laying off teachers; is that to raise class size and salary? Remember it is hard to even RIF a tenured teacher with seniority so who can you get rid of? The union paying but not represented, at will, LIFO probationary teachers. They’re new and inexperienced anyways, pshaw, who wants that? How can we improve education with them around? Granted, they mostly staff the at risk failing schools but those are lined up to fail under NCLB, to be taken over anyways. Who cares about the poor kids, they are that dreaded achievement gap we don’t like. Who cares?

Another reason for budget cuts- and motivation to rid of teachers- is those dreaded retirement benefits. Unions attract members because, wow, as a union teacher you can retire before 65 with a full health package! That sounds great except that insurance costs are skyrocketing. LAUSD estimates that in the nebulous future, 80 percent of their entire yes entire budget will fund just retiree's insurance. Fresno estimates twice their budget is needed for the health coverage alone. For LAUSD, that means funds for books, teacher salary, buildings, etc will be severely cut, only 20 percent of funds allocated will pay for basically everything. Whose hair-brained idea is this? Well, board members, unions, districts appease staff with benefits. By the time the financial ramifications of these benefits come about, all those who decided the benefits are gone and it is someone else's problem. Those someone else's cant say no to staff, there would be outright war so they pass the buck on to the next guy. Pretty soon you're at a crucial crux, now, and who knows what will happen. Who knows, but staff, students, stakeholders will all suffer from well intended bad decisions.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unions, Tests, Accountabilty, LIFO

I am reading a book by Terry Moe, “Special Interest” and part way through, I just had to blog about it. This kind of connects to my prior post,

Should teachers be held accountable for student achievement? Of all union teachers surveyed, 40% support this notion and 60% oppose it. Of the rare breed of non-union teachers, 52% support this and 48% do not. So I got to thinking, well, what do I think?

I would have to abstain from answering in yes or no format. See, student achievement is part of teacher success, just like patient satisfaction and non-death rates is for doctors, for example. As much as I hate to make a business comparison to schools and children, they are a teacher’s client and product so there should be some accountability.

A similar question on the survey was, “use tests to measure achievement?” with a support/do not support response. Of all union teachers, 19% support it and 81% oppose it, and of non-union teachers, 29% support ad 71% oppose. The author argues that student achievement, especially via test scores, does, and should, matter. Teachers should be held accountable.

I say…kind of. I argue that standardized tests only test a certain amount and kind of knowledge. Tests have some validity, but the current weight given on just one test is ludicrous. I feel that the tests do not assess critical thinking, creativity, innovation… most 21st century skills, and those skills that colleges and employers look for and find lacking in today’s youth. Therefore, a blended model seems ideal, one that includes test scores (because yes, it is important to know if Billy knows how to add, how to spell, and certain common knowledge facts like what are the Bill of Rights, why does the sun rise, etc), and other “assessments”. By that I mean portfolios, projects, essays, presentations- things you would see and use outside of school. Yes, adults take assessments in the workplace but they do more than that. And skills and intellect are more than just a test.

Also, we need to look at skills growth over time. An argument I hear teachers use, which I agree with, is that it is unfair to judge a teacher by his or her students. What I at least mean by this is, let’s say you are Teacher X and PVE, Prison View Elementary. Your children are all on free lunch, half are learning English, and they are on average, 2 grades below grade level. Due to poverty, mobility is high and so you end the school year with only 1/5 of the students you started with. Ok let’s also look at Teacher Y at PME, Prestigious Millionaire Elementary. Your students take IB courses, have private tutors, no one has free lunch, all speak other languages but that is due to private lessons to learn a language aside from English and…you get the point. Testing season comes and goes and X’s students at PVE are skewed so that 85% are basic and below. Y’s students at PME are skewed so that 85% are proficient and above. So with the logic of testing and teacher accountability in place, X is fired and Y gets a bonus. Is that fair?

But on the flip side, can teachers solely blame society’s ails on student performance? I am the first to notice demographics, a culture that does not value education, etc. It is my nature as a sociologist and data person. These are indeed HUGE factors in performance. We do need to work in changing our culture to value education, we need poverty to dwindle, blab la bla. I agree. BUT a teacher should have SOME accountability. First, she/he should be held accountable via test scores (and my blended model of other “assessments”). But it should not be via raw scores or percent proficient, but rather, growth. If Teacher X has 5 students who all scored 25% correct at the end of last year, and then under her guidance and teaching, scores 55% this year, shouldn’t there be some praise? Instead of our current and proposed models, saying “hey, X, those 5 kids are still “basic” and not the NCLB necessary proficient, bad-soundung buzz, fail, you are fired” they should praise growth. And Teacher Y, whose 5 students which scores 59%, basic, last year, and under her guidance scored….hmm… 60%, yay, proficient this year, should not be rewarded for “more proficiency” when the growth was only 1%, statistically invalid.

Culture, life at home, etc is certainly a large factor in educational attainment. A teacher cannot perform miracles on 100% of students. But then I think of Shanti Bhavan in India, which takes the Untouchables- kids way worse off than our worst at risk students, and educates them and guess what? They do great in school and become professors, engineers, doctors. Above all odds. Because of a teacher. But this cannot be quite replicated in America. Why? If our kids fail school, they will just go sell drugs or go on welfare. They will still have a home (perhaps a rented trailer, but it is a home nevertheless), food via EBT (you can get filet mignon and ├ęclairs!), a tv, a cell phone, clothes….so why get an education, work your butt off, to buy the same lifestyle? In India, for these untouchables, without an education they face true dire poverty, starvation, death. So that is a motivator. However, I do argue the case that if Shanti Bhavan can do what they do, we, us American educators, can do something. We need to be held somewhat accountable because hello, we’re educators, educating. If we can’t at least help some kids succeed, why the &&%$ are we in the classroom?

But of course teachers in general will never support accountability based on student performance of any kind. Why? Unions. Unions were initiated to protect against the rare cases of abuse, i.e. 14 hour days without a break, parents suing over use of “emotionally damaging” red correcting pens, etc. Worker’s rights laws now exist, in and out of unions, to protect from this. However, unions today have gone beyond that and into protecting jobs at all costs. A teacher can cheat or even worse, physically harm students and keep a job ,or at least remain either in the classroom, or on paid leave, for years until the union can justify ridding of them. So of course teachers want no accountability because that could be an eventual threat to their job security. But how can they be so selfish? To let job security trump a child’s education?

Also, no one seems to mention the disposables. The teachers that are pre-tenure. They pay union dues but have little to no protection. Due to LIFO, they are the first to be let go in a budget crisis. Maybe their test scores are equal or better compared to the neighboring classroom, but merely because of (lack of) seniority, they’re gone. They don’t have to molest children to be placed on paid administrative leave for two years. No. They don’t have to do anything, they could be a model teacher, and they’re let go without cause. But because they’re new and thus inexperienced, dumb, second class citizens, who cares? They aren’t the great ones, the master, tenured teachers. They haven’t worked their way up, so who cares about them? And if they get laid off, better them than me. A common mentality which I have actually heard teachers discuss is, “no I won’t cut my pay for the probationary staff to keep their jobs. I need my full income, and at least it is not me losing my job. Besides, they’re new teachers, so they’re not as good at teaching as I am. So I deserve to keep my job.”

Cheating is a Crime, You Will Be Punished. Wait, No, Rewarded.

I read an article at
and just had to give my two cents. (The article excerpts are in italics, and violet or whatever color blogger is making THIS, to avoid any confusion.)

Teachers often discuss the evils and ramifications of cheating and/or plagiarizing in the classroom- shame, lowered grades, detention, suspension, removal from the school. However, teachers must be promoting the "do as I say not as I do" addage. Here's why...

Twelve teachers who were involved in a Connecticut test tampering scandal are losing 20 days pay and must serve 25 hours of community service by tutoring students after school, the Republican American reports.

These teachers are "punished" by a loss of pay... but only 20 day's worth. They're still in the classroom. They are also to do a little community service, but not picking up garbage, no, get this, by TUTORING CHILDREN. Let me get this straight. They are found tampering test scores and so they are placed back in the classroom and given additional responsibility, to tutor children? These are probably the same "at risk" children whose tests were altered in the first place. So ok, let's allow these teachers to have additional time in an environment that caused the cheating scandal to begin with. That is like releasing a criminal, who was caught robbing banks, and giving him a job in a bank, and merely trusting him to not do anything bad.

"We welcome the teachers back and we want to encourage them to be the professionals that they are and to assist the youngsters in every way possible to succeed,"

Like what....cheat? Again?

And in another post I will address the reasons, the drive, to cheat because of the pressure to excel on standardized tests, and all that rides on a score.

These teachers keep their jobs even though, had it been a student charged of this, or someone in another career, they'd be out, fired, gone, faster than you can imagine. Why are these teachers back in the classroom? Thank your local, state, and federal teacher unions for making it nearly impossible to fire a teacher. This issue, too, will be in my next post.