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.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Some may think I am against unions. I'm neither 100% for, or against. However, I've been a union person, a paying member in the past. But because union membership only covers so much for a "probationary", non tenured teacher, ehh....not 100% keen on the union. I had to pay my full dues but not get full representation. I could have abstained and just paid agency fees but how is that really any different than joining? I don't like that joining the local union automatically means I am a member of the state and nationwide union. I don't like that it is virtually impossible to rid of a dues-paying tenured union teacher but as easy as pie to rid of a dues-paying probationary teacher. No one seems to mention that! I do not like that my money goes towards political things supposedly "in the interest of my profession", or that it goes to paying for "administrative leave" (at best) or job-shuffling of the rare, but not-my-thing, "bad" teachers.
I think a union should exist to protect teachers from true unfair harm like crazy administrators or parents out to take you for everything you're worth over asinine things like using a red pen and writing and "F" grade, or for not bringing the despot principal donuts or whatever. Exist so that teachers do not work 17 hour days without air conditioning or potty breaks. Basically, follow worker's rights that exist in places without unions. And that is it. The school district, independent of the union, should offer insurance. And that is that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sorry....a eugenics kick lately.
The American Eugenics Society magically changed its name to "Society for the Study of Social Biology" so I'm just having fun uncovering the dirt.

Their current president, Hans-Peter Kohler (let's call him Hans for short) is quite a that make your skin crawl, evil guy way.

He received an MA in Demography and PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley. Ok, boring.
His primary research area is fertility (ok getting a little more interesting...) in developing countries (sterilize and abort minorities! Kill the poor! Sorry. He didn't say that. I just felt like perhaps he thought it.) He is all into fertility trending, HIV, twins (ok he is no Mengele) , low fertility of southern and eastern Europeans (the first "unfit" kind of immigrants to America) and he won an award from the Population Association of America (population things generally trend towards the zero population growth/population control side of eugenics).

Then, the VP, Jim Carey (not the comedian) seems all hunky-dory, studying insects. But then...he studies them for addressing things in humans such as lifespan, dietary restriction, anti-aging drugs, morbidity. In my warped little mind I kind of humorously imagine him in a lab coat, trying to develop immortality.

The Secretary/Treasurer is Christine Himes. She too studies aging, "social gerontology" (wow what a neat term, sounds so pc), body size and disability (ahem...a pc term for obesity), and family. You know, the elderly and obese...the "unfit" and "feeble". the eugenic target.

Sadly the Society for Social Biology's website is, well, lacking. More on it when I can find it.

Eugenics, Racism, and the Progressives

Sometimes I find tidbits of research I like sharing. Yep. Another cut-and-paste blog entry...sorry. And it relates to education since all are part of our educational model but ehhh.... I will at some nebulous point (aka "when I write my book") connect it to education and actually compose a well written bit without cut-and-paste mania.

from Eugenics and Economics in the
Progressive Era
Thomas C. Leonard ....

They justified racebased
immigration restriction as a remedy for “race suicide,” a Progressive Era term
for the process by which racially superior stock (“natives”) is outbred by a more
prolific, but racially inferior stock (immigrants). The term “race suicide” is often
attributed to Edward A. Ross

“The theory that races are virtually equal in
capacity leads to such monumental follies as lining the valleys of the South with the
bones of half a million picked whites in order to improve the conditions of four
million unpicked blacks.”

“every improvement . . . increases the amount of the deficiencies which
the laboring classes may possess without their being thereby overcome in the
struggle for subsistence that the survival of the ignorant brings upon society.”
In response, Patten ultimately argued for the state taking over the task of
selecting the fittest—eugenics. “Social progress is a higher law than equality,”
Patten (1899, pp. 302–303) volunteered, and the only way to progress was the
“eradication of the vicious and inefficient.”

Ross, Patten, Fetter and Farnam all saw higher living standards and Progressive
Era reforms less as a victory for social justice than as an impediment to Darwinian
weeding out. Their response was not to argue against reform, as might a social
Darwinist, but to advocate for eugenics, the substitution of state selection for
natural selection of the fittest.

Like Fisher, Ross, Patten, Fetter and Farnam, Walker endorsed eugenic policies.
“We must strain out of the blood of the race more of the taint inherited from
a bad and vicious past,” Walker (1899, p. 469) proposed, “before we can eliminate
poverty, much more pauperism, from our social life. The scientific treatment which
is applied to physical diseases must be extended to mental and moral disease, and
a wholesome surgery and cautery must be enforced by the whole power of the state
for the good of all.”

“Democracy and opportunity
[are] increasing the mediocre and reducing the excellent strains of stock . . . .
Progress is threatened unless social institutions can be so adjusted as to reverse this
process of multiplying the poorest, and of extinguishing the most capable families.”
Eugenic policies would introduce, Fetter argued, “an element of rational direction
into the process of perpetuating the race . . . .”

However, the progressive economists also
believed that the job loss induced by minimum wages was a social benefit, as it
212 Journal of Economic Perspectives
performed the eugenic service ridding the labor force of the “unemployable.”
Sidney and Beatrice Webb (1897 [1920], p. 785) put it plainly: “With regard to
certain sections of the population [the “unemployable”], this unemployment is not
a mark of social disease, but actually of social health.”

olumbia’s Henry Rogers Seager, a leading progressive economist who served
as president of the AEA in 1922, provides an example. Worthy wage-earners, Seager
(1913a, p. 12) argued, need protection from the “wearing competition of the casual
worker and the drifter” and from the other “unemployable” who unfairly drag
down the wages of more deserving workers (1913b, pp. 82–83). The minimum
wage protects deserving workers from the competition of the unfit by making it
illegal to work for less.

For progressives, a legal minimum wage had the useful property of sorting the
unfit, who would lose their jobs, from the deserving workers, who would retain their

“Better that the state should support the inefficient wholly
and prevent the multiplication of the breed than subsidize incompetence and
unthrift, enabling them to bring forth more of their kind.” A. B. Wolfe (1917,
p. 278), an American progressive economist who would later become president of
the AEA in 1943, also argued for the eugenic virtues of removing from employment
those who “are a burden on society.”

Eugenics found advocates whose ideologies spanned the entire political spectrum.
The eugenics movement attracted some reactionaries and conservatives.
Leading eugenicists, such as Francis Galton and Charles Davenport, director of the
Eugenics Record Office at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, can be described as
social conservatives. But others, such as Karl Pearson, were socialists. Eugenics won
many advocates on the left, such as birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who
began intellectual life as a radical anarchist. Fabian socialists such as Sidney Webb,
George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells were eugenicists, as were Harold Laski and
John Maynard Keynes (Paul, 1984). The Marxist economist Scott Nearing (1912)
and the feminist economist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1900) also embraced
Many biologists were drawn to eugenics. For example, David Starr Jordan,
president of Stanford, was a tireless advocate of the eugenic idea that “the blood of
nation determines its history,” as was Harvard geneticist and eugenicist E.M. East

Eugenic ideas were not new in the Progressive Era, but they acquired new
impetus with the Progressive Era advent of a more expansive government. In effect,
the expansion of state power meant that it became possible to have not only
eugenic thought, but also eugenic practice. As eugenics historian Diane Paul (1995,
p. 6) writes, eugenics legislation had to await “the rise of the welfare state.”

to the solution of the problem.”
Progressive opposition to laissez faire was motivated by a set of deep intellectual
commitments regarding the relationship between social science, social scientific
expertise and right governance. The progressives were committed to 1) the
explanatory power of scientific (especially statistical) social inquiry to get at the root
causes of social and economic problems; 2) the legitimacy of social control, which
derives from a holist conception of society as prior to and greater than the sum of
its constituent individuals; 3) the efficacy of social control via expert management
of public administration; where 4) expertise is both sufficient and necessary for the
task of wise public administration.

The legitimacy of social control meant, in practice, the legitimacy of state
control. For progressives, the legitimacy of state control derived from their conception
of the state as an entity prior to and greater than the sum of its constituent
individuals, a conception that opposed the traditional liberal emphasis on individual
freedom and the liberal view that the state’s legitimacy derives solely from the
consent of its individual creators. Lester Ward devised the term “sociocracy” to
describe the “scientific control of the social forces by the collective mind of society”

politics. As one widely read eugenics
text put it: “[G]overnment and social control are in the hands of expert politicians
who have power, instead of expert technologists who have wisdom. There should be
technologists in control of every field of human need and desire”

[O]nce we
admit that it is proper for the instructed classes to give tuition to the uninstructed,
we begin to see an almost boundless vista for possible human betterment.”

Popenoe and Johnson
argued for legislation that would abolish child labor and provide education for all
children, quintessentially progressive policies. But compulsory education and child
labor bans, for Popenoe and Johnson, were desirable because the unfit poor would
be unable to put their children to work and thus would have fewer children, a
eugenic goal.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Big Bro Knows: EVERYTHING (Thank you, schools!)

As a former data coordinator for a small district, I managed all the assessments and a lot of student data. For our assessment and data software, you needed to know 26 things about a student ie phone number, birthday, etc. These got fed into CALPADS which...I don't know much about as that was the attendance clerk's job, but anyways, CALPADS goes into a Longitudinal Data System of some sort that is used for tons of research. I know CALPADS suggests use of this enrollment form; the data all goes into CALPADS. The good news is, "Consistent with California Education Code Section 49069, parents and legal guardians have the right to access any and all pupil records related to their children that are maintained by school districts, including data in CALPADS. Parents or legal guardians desiring to inspect their child’s CALPADS data should first contact the LEA or independently reporting charter school where the student is enrolled to initiate this procedure, and then the LEA will make the data available to the parent or guardian."

But, I do not believe you can opt out of CALPADS.

I "get" why my collecting phone numbers works, in case I want to contact a parent. I like the novelty of looking at subgroup performance. But could any of this data be put in the wrong hands? How many times have important data centers/websites been hacked? Certainly the Longitudinal stuff could be. Do you want a stranger to know all of this info about your child, and even yourself? And could info on subgroups and the like be used to further marginalize peop

Anyways my point here is....the government via the school system is wanting to collect MORE information now. Go to for their list of "goodies" to collect on children AND their families. They are not collecting all of this yet; its conceptual. To quote NCES, "The National Education Data Model is a conceptual but detailed representation of the education information domain. The Education Data Model strives to be a shared understanding among all education stakeholders as to what information needs to be collected and managed at the local level in order to enable effective instruction of students and superior leadership of schools.

The Education Data Model can be used by educators, vendors, and researchers to understand the information required for teaching, learning, and administrative systems. The Education Data Model answers questions such as:

  • What data do schools need to collect and manage in order to meet the educational needs of their students?
  • What information is needed to effectively manage education organizations such that teaching and learning is successful? "
So atleast now, this very second, phew, you can all breathe a collective sigh of relief... or maybe, instead, a nervous wheeze, because who knows what they are already collecting, right?

For ease, here is their "Christmas Wish List" , their "idea box" of what to collect.


Hide All
Ability Grouped StatusAbsent Attendance CategoriesAcademic Honors Type
Activity CodeActivity Curriculum TypeActivity Involvement Beginning Date
Activity Involvement Ending DateActivity Leadership/Coordinator Participation LevelActivity Level
Activity TitleActivity TypeAdditional Geographic Designation
Additional Post-school AccomplishmentsAdditional Special Health Needs, Information, orInstructionsAddress Type
Admission DateAdmission StatusAlias
Allergy AlertAmerican Indian or Alaska nativeAmount of Activity Involvement
Amount of Non-school Activity InvolvementApartment/Room/Suite NumberAsian
AssignmentAssignment Finish DateAssignment Number of Attempts
Assignment TypeAssignment/Activity Points PossibleAt-Risk Indicator
Attendance DescriptionAttendance Status TimeAwaiting Initial Evaluation for Special Education
BirthdateBirthmarkBlack or African American
Blood Test TypeBlood TypeBoarding Status
Born Outside of the U.S.Building/Site NumberBus Route ID
Bus Stop Arrival TimeBus Stop DescriptionBus Stop Distance
Bus Stop from School IDBus Stop to School DistanceBus Stop to School ID
Career ObjectivesChange in Developmental StatusCitizenship Status
CityCity of BirthClass Attendance Status
Class RankCohort YearCommunity Service Hours
Compulsory Attendance Status at Time of DiscontinuingSchoolCondition Onset DateCorrective Equipment Prescribed
Corrective Equipment PurposeCountry CodeCountry of Birth Code
Country of Citizenship CodeCounty FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards)CodeCounty of Birth
CTE ConcentratorCTE ParticipantDaily Attendance Status
Day/Evening StatusDays TruantDeath Cause
Death DateDental ProstheticsDevelopmental Delay
Diagnosis of Causative Factor (Condition)Dialect NameDiploma/Credential Award Date
Diploma/Credential TypeDiscontinuing Schooling ReasonDiseases, Illnesses, and Other Health Conditions
Displacement StatusDistance From Home to SchoolDwelling Arrangement
Dwelling OwnershipEarly Intervention Evaluation Process Description/TitleEconomic Disadvantage Status
Education PlannedElectronic Mail AddressElectronic Mail Address Type
Emergency FactorEnd of Term StatusEnglish Language Proficiency Progress/Attainment
English ProficiencyEnglish Proficiency LevelEntry Date
Entry TypeEntry/Grade LevelEstablished IDEA Condition
Evaluated for Special Education but Not Receiving ServicesEvaluation DateEvaluation Extension Date
Evaluation LocationEvaluation Parental Consent DateEvaluation Sequence
Exit/Withdrawal DateExit/Withdrawal StatusExit/Withdrawal Type
Expulsion CauseExpulsion Return DateExtension Description
Eye ColorFamily Income RangeFamily Perceptions of the Impact of Early Intervention Services on the C...
Family Public Assistance StatusFederal Program Participant StatusFee Amount
Fee Payment TypeFinancial Assistance AmountFinancial Assistance Descriptive Title
Financial Assistance QualifierFinancial Assistance SourceFinancial Assistance Type
First Entry Date into a US SchoolFirst Entry Date into StateFirst Entry Date into the United States
First NameFormer Legal NameFull Academic Year Status
Full-time Equivalent (FTE) StatusFull-time/Part-time StatusFuture Entry Date
Generation Code/SuffixGestational Age at BirthGingival (Gum) Condition
Grade EarnedGraduation Testing StatusHair Color
Head of HouseholdHealth Care History Episode DateHealth Care Plan
Health Condition at BirthHealth Condition Progress ReportHeight
Highest Level of Education CompletedHispanic or Latino EthnicityHomeless Primary Nighttime Residence
Homeless Unaccompanied Youth StatusHomelessness StatusHonors Description
Hospital PreferenceIdentification CodeIdentification Procedure
Identification ResultsIdentification SystemIEP Transition Plan
IFSP Goals MetIllness TypeImmigrant Status
Impact of Early Intervention Services on the FamilyIndividualized Program DateIndividualized Program Date Type
Individualized Program TypeInformation SourceInitial Language Assessment Status
In-school/Post-school Employment StatusInternational Code NumberIP Address
Language CodeLanguage TypeLanguages Other Than English
Last/SurnameLast/Surname at BirthLength of Placement in Neglected or Delinquent Program
Length of Time TransportedLife StatusLimitation Beginning Date
Limitation CauseLimitation DescriptionLimitation Ending Date
Limited English Proficiency StatusMarital StatusMarking Period
Maternal Last NameMedical Laboratory Procedure ResultsMedical Treatment
Medical WaiverMiddle InitialMiddle Name
Migrant Certificate of Eligibility (COE) StatusMigrant Classification SubgroupMigrant Continuation of Services
Migrant Last Qualifying Arrival Date (QAD)Migrant Last Qualifying Move (LQM) DateMigrant Priority for Services
Migrant QAD from CityMigrant QAD from CountryMigrant QAD from State
Migrant QAD to CityMigrant QAD to StateMigrant Qualifying Work Type
Migrant Residency DateMigrant Service TypeMigrant Status
Migrant to Join DateMigratory StatusMilitary Service Experience
Minor/Adult StatusMultiple Birth StatusName of Country
Name of Country of BirthName of Country of CitizenshipName of County
Name of InstitutionName of LanguageName of State
Name of State of BirthNational/Ethnic Origin SubgroupNative Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
NCLB Title 1 School Choice AppliedNCLB Title 1 School Choice EligibleNCLB Title 1 School Choice Offered
NCLB Title 1 School Choice TransferNeglected or Delinquent Below Grade Level StatusNeglected or Delinquent Pre-test and Post-test Status
Neglected or Delinquent Program Placement Duration StatusNeglected or Delinquent Program TypeNeglected or Delinquent Progress Level
Neglected or Delinquent StatusNicknameNon-course Graduation Requirement Date Met
Non-course Graduation Requirement Scores/ResultsNon-course Graduation Requirement TypeNonpromotion Reason
Non-resident Attendance RationaleNon-school Activity Beginning DateNon-school Activity Description
Non-school Activity Ending DateNon-school Activity SponsorNon-school Activity Type
Notice of Recommended Educational Placement DateNumber of Days AbsentNumber of Days in Attendance
Number of Days of MembershipNumber of DependentsNumber of Hours Worked per Weekend
Number of Hours Worked per Work WeekNumber of Minutes per Week IncludedNumber of Minutes per Week Non-Inclusion
Number of TardiesOcclusion ConditionOral Soft Tissue Condition
Orthodontic AppliancesOverall Diagnosis/Interpretation of HearingOverall Diagnosis/Interpretation of Speech and Language
Overall Diagnosis/Interpretation of VisionOverall Health StatusParticipant Role
Participation in School Food Service ProgramsPayment Source(s)Percentage Ranking
Personal Information VerificationPersonal Title/PrefixPlacement Parental Consent Date
Points/Mark AssistancePoints/Mark ValuePoints/Mark Value Description
Post-school RecognitionPost-school Training or Education Subject MatterPreparing for Nontraditional Fields Status
Present Attendance CategoriesPrimary Telephone NumberProgram Eligibility Date
Program Eligibility Expiration DateProgram Eligibility IndicatorProgram Exit Reason
Program of Study RelevanceProgram Participation ReasonProgram Placement Date
Program Plan DateProgram Plan Effective DateProgress Toward IFSP Goals and Objectives
Promotion Testing StatusPromotion TypePublic School Residence Status
RaceReason for Non-entrance in SchoolRecognition for Participation or Performance in an Activity
Reevaluation DateReferral CauseReferral Completion Date
Referral Completion ReportReferral DateReferral Purpose
Related Emergency NeedsReleased TimeReligious Affiliation
Religious ConsiderationResidence after Exiting/Withdrawing from SchoolResidence Block Number
Resource Check Out DateResource Due DateResource Title Checked Out
Responsible DistrictResponsible SchoolRoutine Health Care Procedure Required at School
Safety Education StatusSchool Choice Transfer StatusSchool District Code of Residence
School Food Services Eligibility Status Beginning DateSchool Food Services Eligibility Status DeterminationSchool Food Services Eligibility Status Ending Date
School Food Services Participation BasisSchool Health Emergency ActionSchool ID from which Transferred
Score Interpretation InformationScore ResultsScreening Administration Date
Screening Instrument Description/TitleScreening LocationService Alternatives
Service Plan DateService Plan Meeting LocationService Plan Meeting Participants
Service Plan Signature DateService Plan SignaturesSex
Social Security Number (SSN)Special Accommodation RequirementsSpecial Diet Considerations
State AbbreviationState FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) CodeState of Birth Abbreviation
State Transportation Aid QualificationState-assigned Code for InstitutionState-assigned County Code
Street Number/NameSubstance Abuse DescriptionTechnology Literacy Status in 8th Grade
Telephone NumberTelephone Number TypeTelephone Status
Title I Instructional Services ReceivedTitle I Participation StatusTitle I Supplemental Services: Applied
Title I Supplemental Services: EligibleTitle I Supplemental Services: Services ReceivedTitle I Support Services: Services Received
Title III Immigrant Participant StatusTitle III LEP ParticipationTotal Cost of Education to Student
Total Distance TransportedTotal Number in ClassTransition Meeting Date
Transition Meeting LocationTransition Meeting ParticipantsTransition Plan Signature
Transition Plan Signature DateTransition Service DescriptionTransportation at Public Expense Eligibility
Transportation StatusTribal or Clan NameTuition Payment Amount
Tuition StatusUniform Resource IdentifierUnsafe School Choice Offered Status
Unsafe School Choice StatusUser/Screen NameVoting Status
Ward of the StateWeightWeight at Birth
WhiteWork Experience PaidWork Experience Required
Work TypeZip CodeZone Number