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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

Journal Archives

Parsing the Black-White School Suspension Gap

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights recently released data on suspension rates in the U.S. After surveying 72,000 schools that served roughly 85% of the nation’s students they found that black children represent 35% of all suspensions and 39% of all expulsions, though they comprise only 18% of the student population.

Many are calling this proof that the education system discriminates against children of color (Latino suspension and expulsion rates were also high). Considering how much prejudice and discrimination occur in our society at large, it would be surprising if some of it didn’t trickle down to our schools, as well. One would expect some outright racism to be at play, as well as some less overt racial profiling. Indeed, there are studies indicating that black students are disciplined more severely than white students for similar or lesser infractions.

Yet the problem is more complex and pervasive than simple racism or prejudice by some teachers. For example, if suspension and expulsion rates were broken down by socioeconomic status, one would likely find much higher rates of suspensions, expulsions and other disciplinary actions against lower income children than affluent children. Since higher percentages of black and Latino children are poor, it might be that poverty plays a role in discipline, too, possibly even the primary role.

The Wealth-Behavior Connection
Schools are essentially middle class institutions, run by people who either have middle class backgrounds or who have learned to thrive in a middle class environment through their educational and professional experiences. The expectations, norms and mores of the classroom are consequently the product of middle class culture. Students who come from affluent backgrounds, therefore, generally have these expectations, norms and mores internalized and are more likely to behave in the way expected by their teachers, while working class and poor children sometimes have to learn a disciplinary system and expectations that are substantially different from what they are used to.

Children who grow up in a more authoritarian disciplinary culture, for example, might respond more positively to the demand that they “clean up now!” than to the request, “Would you please clean up?” or the announcement that “it is clean up time.” These last two statements, like “Would you mind closing the door?” are actually middle class commands disguised as friendly requests. Someone who is not used to this roundabout way of speaking might believe they actually have a choice. Noncompliance would therefore not only be reasonable, but within the range of acceptable behaviors. Yet a teacher might see this as defiance or disrespect, leading to disciplinary action against the child.

There are also school policies that disproportionately target youth of color without any racist intent. Sagging pants, for example, is a typical dress code violation, yet it is more common among lower income youth of color than among middle class white boys. The question is, are black boys busted for this while white girls with exposed midriffs and white boys with inappropriate t-shirts are allowed to walk?

It is not just that lower income children have different cultural backgrounds than their teachers. They are also more likely to be behind their affluent peers in academic skills, which makes it harder for them to do the classwork and increases the likelihood of off-task or disruptive behavior. Imagine having to sit still for 30-45 minutes with a book or lecture you cannot comprehend.

While the CRDC data indicates that black children are more likely to be labeled as special needs, it is not clear that this is due to the racism of schools and teachers. It might be due to their socioeconomic status. Poverty increases the chances of that a child will have a learning disability. Poor children, for example, are more likely to suffer low birth weights and malnutrition, which can lead to disabilities. Iron-deficiency anemia, which impairs cognitive ability, is twice as common among poor children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10% of poor students have dangerous levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to decreased intelligence. Smoking, which is also significantly higher among poor and working class people, can lead to premature births and low birth weights, which both contribute to poor long-term health, cognitive impairment and learning disabilities.

Schools and teachers should obviously look at their policies and how they are enforced to reduce any institutionalized, deliberate or unintended racist inequities. They also need to do a better job of understanding the cultural backgrounds of their students so that they can better support them. However, as long as our society continues to have large socioeconomic disparities, we will continue to see not only a class-based learning gap, but a class-based discipline gap, as well.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/parsing-black-white-school-suspension_22.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:09 PM (9 replies)

Slick Union Propaganda Against the Corporate Power Grab

The wealthy are at it again, trying to bust the few remaining large unions in California by pushing an initiative on November ballot that would prevent unions from using dues collected from payroll deductions on political campaigns. The unions are calling the initiative the Corporate Power Grab Initiative (AKA the Payroll Deception Act) and are expected to spend well over $20 million to defeat the law.

Click here for the video:

The initiative would limit unions’ ability to lobby legislators and fight the corporations on the political field. It bans any direct contribution by unions to local candidates and prohibits unions from using dues collected through payroll deductions on ballot measures or candidates. Corporations, of course, can continue to spend unlimited amounts as they see fit. It would do nothing, however, to increase workers’ income, as the money saved on politics would remain in the unions’ coffers.

The bill is clearly designed to increase the political power of the wealthy and reduce that of unions. However, as stated in one of the anti-Corporate Power Grab fliers produced by the CTA, corporations already outspend labor unions 15 to 1. So even if this bill is defeated, the playing field is so far from level that working people don’t have a chance in the political arena anyway. The politicians are all members of the ruling elite. Even without the millions they collect in corporate and superpac donations they’re already aligned with corporate interests and legislate to maximize profits for themselves and their wealthy buddies.

The election of Jerry Brown ought to be proof of this. CTA and other unions spent millions to get him elected and what have we gotten in return—a CTA lobbyist on the state school board?

Teachers are still getting laid off, while Brown has quietly been going after our pensions. His tax initiative, even his new modified version, only provides a few billion extra per year, much of which will go to paying off debts. It does nothing to restore the $21 billion looted from public education over the past three years, let alone raise revenue sufficiently to adequately fund education, lower class sizes, increase wages, restore nurses and librarians, or repair and renovate schools.

Likewise, while the above video suggests that California has a pro-labor legislature that has been able to “hold the line,” what we have seen is mass layoffs of public sector workers and downsizing of schools, attacks by the legislature and governor on pensions, the slashing of programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, a gutting of higher education and the continuation of extremely low tax rates for the wealthy.

Yes, the Corporate Power Grab initiative is an attack on unions, but working people ought to ask how much the CTA and other public sector unions are throwing at this campaign and if this is really the best use of union resources. Considering that unions will never have the wealth to really go toe to toe with corporations and that the legislators share common interests with the bosses and CEOs anyway, politics really is a losing game for working people. Perhaps the money would be more effectively spent on organizing campaigns and mobilizing union members to take concerted job actions, like a general strike.

Unions have all but given up the strike as a means for achieving their goals, yet it is the most powerful weapon they have, far more powerful than lobbying and campaign contributions, especially when competing against the bottomless bank accounts of the ruling class. Other kinds of job actions, mass protests, advertising campaigns and boycotts can also be used, but ultimately, working people must go on the offensive, be proactive and demand what they deserve, rather than always being on the defensive or fighting to move one step forward each time they get pushed two steps back.

Many of the unions (including CTA and the firefighters union) are arguing that the Corporate Power Grab is an attack on collective bargaining, which is a good argument to make if you really want to rally the troops. But it isn’t true. The initiative goes after political rights, specifically how unions can raise cash to spend on political campaigns. It says nothing about collective bargaining.

It is true that the bosses would like unions to go away completely and they know that abolishing collective bargaining would get them pretty close. It is also true that without Big Labor’s to compete with, the wealthy would have an easier time getting anti-labor politicians elected.

But it is a significant jump to equate this initiative with the demise of unions. Throughout history, workers have successfully acted collectively without collective bargaining or even the legal right to strike. All that is needed is good organizing and the willingness to go on strike or engage in other forms of direct action. Should this initiative pass, the CTA and other public sector unions will retain their collective bargaining rights. They will also retain their right to strike, organize and buy advertisements to promote their cause, weapons that can be used to defend collective bargaining and even fight for gains in working conditions and compensation.

Organizing and coordinating strikes are not as easy, comfortable and plush as wining and dining politicians. The automatic dues check off, which funnels revenue directly to the unions from our paychecks, facilitates this cushy relationship with the corporate and political world for the union leadership, while alienating them from the needs and concerns of the rank and file. It ensures a steady flow of cash that supports their six-figure salaries, while insulating them from the day to day realities of being in the classroom. It discourages them from actually listening to rank and file members and acting to support their expressed needs.

In the old days, union reps came by and collected dues from each member by hand. It gave them an opportunity to organize, to check in with members, see if there were any complaints or grievances or suggestions for how the union could do things better. It also gave members the chance to say “screw you” if they felt the union was taking them for granted, forcing union leaders to be more accountable to members. In fact, if the union wanted angry members’ money, an organizer or steward would have to go meet with them, listen to their grievances, and resolve them to their satisfaction before they would start paying up.

Automatic dues check off is a much easier way to get the money quickly and it ensures that dues are collected from everyone, even the pissed off members. This has made big unions flush with resources that allow them to provide large salaries for their leaders and to lavish money on politicians who they think might do their bidding. It has encouraged the bureaucracies to grow larger and less accountable to members.

The ruling elite would love the automatic dues check off to disappear, as it would make it much more difficult for unions to support candidates who are less business friendly. It was one of the goals of Gov. Walker’s union-busting legislation in Wisconsin. It was also the preservation of the automatic dues check off that most concerned the leaders of Wisconsin’s unions, who ended up giving away significant pay and benefits concessions, without their members’ approval, in hopes of saving it.

California’s public sector unions are now engaging in a similar battle. The preservation of the automatic dues check off seems to be their main goal, rather than the improvement of their members working conditions and compensation.

Ironically, if the same energy and resources they are spending fighting this battle had been devoted to educating, organizing and mobilizing their members over the past ten years, promoting class consciousness and militancy, they wouldn’t need a slick campaign now. Teachers would be ready, able and willing to take job actions at the drop of a hat in order to achieve their goals, whether it is to defend their unions’ fundraising capabilities or to increase taxes on the rich in order to adequately fund education.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/slick-union-propaganda-against.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Mar 21, 2012, 11:26 PM (7 replies)

Slick Union Propaganda Against the Corporate Power Grab

The wealthy are at it again, trying to bust the few remaining large unions in California by pushing an initiative on November ballot that would prevent unions from using dues collected from payroll deductions on political campaigns. The unions are calling the initiative the Corporate Power Grab Initiative (AKA the Payroll Deception Act) and are expected to spend well over $20 million to defeat the law.

Click here for the video:

The initiative would limit unions’ ability to lobby legislators and fight the corporations on the political field. It bans any direct contribution by unions to local candidates and prohibits unions from using dues collected through payroll deductions on ballot measures or candidates. Corporations, of course, can continue to spend unlimited amounts as they see fit. It would do nothing, however, to increase workers’ income, as the money saved on politics would remain in the unions’ coffers.

The bill is clearly designed to increase the political power of the wealthy and reduce that of unions. However, as stated in one of the anti-Corporate Power Grab fliers produced by the CTA, corporations already outspend labor unions 15 to 1. So even if this bill is defeated, the playing field is so far from level that working people don’t have a chance in the political arena anyway. The politicians are all members of the ruling elite. Even without the millions they collect in corporate and superpac donations they’re already aligned with corporate interests and legislate to maximize profits for themselves and their wealthy buddies.

The election of Jerry Brown ought to be proof of this. CTA and other unions spent millions to get him elected and what have we gotten in return—a CTA lobbyist on the state school board?

Teachers are still getting laid off, while Brown has quietly been going after our pensions. His tax initiative, even his new modified version, only provides a few billion extra per year, much of which will go to paying off debts. It does nothing to restore the $21 billion looted from public education over the past three years, let alone raise revenue sufficiently to adequately fund education, lower class sizes, increase wages, restore nurses and librarians, or repair and renovate schools.

Likewise, while the above video suggests that California has a pro-labor legislature that has been able to “hold the line,” what we have seen is mass layoffs of public sector workers and downsizing of schools, attacks by the legislature and governor on pensions, the slashing of programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, a gutting of higher education and the continuation of extremely low tax rates for the wealthy.

Yes, the Corporate Power Grab initiative is an attack on unions, but working people ought to ask how much the CTA and other public sector unions are throwing at this campaign and if this is really the best use of union resources. Considering that unions will never have the wealth to really go toe to toe with corporations and that the legislators share common interests with the bosses and CEOs anyway, politics really is a losing game for working people. Perhaps the money would be more effectively spent on organizing campaigns and mobilizing union members to take concerted job actions, like a general strike.

Unions have all but given up the strike as a means for achieving their goals, yet it is the most powerful weapon they have, far more powerful than lobbying and campaign contributions, especially when competing against the bottomless bank accounts of the ruling class. Other kinds of job actions, mass protests, advertising campaigns and boycotts can also be used, but ultimately, working people must go on the offensive, be proactive and demand what they deserve, rather than always being on the defensive or fighting to move one step forward each time they get pushed two steps back.

Many of the unions (including CTA and the firefighters union) are arguing that the Corporate Power Grab is an attack on collective bargaining, which is a good argument to make if you really want to rally the troops. But it isn’t true. The initiative goes after political rights, specifically how unions can raise cash to spend on political campaigns. It says nothing about collective bargaining.

It is true that the bosses would like unions to go away completely and they know that abolishing collective bargaining would get them pretty close. It is also true that without Big Labor’s to compete with, the wealthy would have an easier time getting anti-labor politicians elected.

But it is a significant jump to equate this initiative with the demise of unions. Throughout history, workers have successfully acted collectively without collective bargaining or even the legal right to strike. All that is needed is good organizing and the willingness to go on strike or engage in other forms of direct action. Should this initiative pass, the CTA and other public sector unions will retain their collective bargaining rights. They will also retain their right to strike, organize and buy advertisements to promote their cause, weapons that can be used to defend collective bargaining and even fight for gains in working conditions and compensation.

Organizing and coordinating strikes are not as easy, comfortable and plush as wining and dining politicians. The automatic dues check off, which funnels revenue directly to the unions from our paychecks, facilitates this cushy relationship with the corporate and political world for the union leadership, while alienating them from the needs and concerns of the rank and file. It ensures a steady flow of cash that supports their six-figure salaries, while insulating them from the day to day realities of being in the classroom. It discourages them from actually listening to rank and file members and acting to support their expressed needs.

In the old days, union reps came by and collected dues from each member by hand. It gave them an opportunity to organize, to check in with members, see if there were any complaints or grievances or suggestions for how the union could do things better. It also gave members the chance to say “screw you” if they felt the union was taking them for granted, forcing union leaders to be more accountable to members. In fact, if the union wanted angry members’ money, an organizer or steward would have to go meet with them, listen to their grievances, and resolve them to their satisfaction before they would start paying up.

Automatic dues check off is a much easier way to get the money quickly and it ensures that dues are collected from everyone, even the pissed off members. This has made big unions flush with resources that allow them to provide large salaries for their leaders and to lavish money on politicians who they think might do their bidding. It has encouraged the bureaucracies to grow larger and less accountable to members.

The ruling elite would love the automatic dues check off to disappear, as it would make it much more difficult for unions to support candidates who are less business friendly. It was one of the goals of Gov. Walker’s union-busting legislation in Wisconsin. It was also the preservation of the automatic dues check off that most concerned the leaders of Wisconsin’s unions, who ended up giving away significant pay and benefits concessions, without their members’ approval, in hopes of saving it.

California’s public sector unions are now engaging in a similar battle. The preservation of the automatic dues check off seems to be their main goal, rather than the improvement of their members working conditions and compensation.

Ironically, if the same energy and resources they are spending fighting this battle had been devoted to educating, organizing and mobilizing their members over the past ten years, promoting class consciousness and militancy, they wouldn’t need a slick campaign now. Teachers would be ready, able and willing to take job actions at the drop of a hat in order to achieve their goals, whether it is to defend their unions’ fundraising capabilities or to increase taxes on the rich in order to adequately fund education.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/slick-union-propaganda-against.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Mar 21, 2012, 11:26 PM (0 replies)

Is Rising Teacher Productivity Increasing High school Graduation Rates?


The national high school graduation rate increased to 75.5% in 2009, up from 72% in 2001, according to a report by a nonprofit group headed by former secretary of state Colin L. Powell. Considering that socioeconomic status is the biggest influence on academic achievement and that familial wealth declined substantially during that same time period, one would have expected graduation rates to have declined. The fact that they didn’t is likely the result of increased teacher productivity.

Worker productivity across the nation has grown steadily for the past thirty years, with corporate profits rising in spite of massive layoffs and a general decades-long trend of downsizing and exportation of jobs off shore. While technological improvements have increased efficiency, many workers have also been forced to do the same work that was previously accomplished by a larger work force, working longer, harder and faster than they did in the past.

This same trend has been happening in schools, with teachers being expected to implement numerous “reforms” that require them to work longer hours and accomplish more in their workdays.

One particular way this has played out is in the closure and redesign of so-called dropout factories, where 60% of a school’s population fails to graduate on time. These schools have been under tremendous pressure to change, resulting in closures, conversions to charter schools or redesign.

Education reformers will no doubt try to take full credit for these improvements and continue their lambasting of teachers and their unions. However, even when reforms can be positively linked to improvements in graduation rates, it is ultimately the teachers who must implement the reforms and who bear the greatest burden in terms of increased workload and consequences when those reforms do not succeed.

It is also questionable whether Powell’s data are even significant. A 3.5% increase is not a very large gain, particularly in light of the fact that graduation rates for black (63.5%) and Latino students (65.0%) are still substantially lower than for white (82%) and Asian students (91.8%)—(data from the Washington Post).

Furthermore, there are several states (e.g., California, Nevada, Connecticut, Arizona, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, New Mexico) with stagnant or declining graduation rates, despite the implementation of the same types of reforms implemented in states with large gains. Indeed, Los Angeles and Oakland have among the highest percentages of charter schools in the nation and have closed many of their dropout factories, yet dropout rates are still relatively high for black and Latino students.

Ultimately, there is no doubt that teachers are working harder and that administrators are getting more out of them, despite declining wages. This would be one measure of productivity. Whether or not Powell’s graduation improvements are real or an artifact is another question.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/is-rising-teacher-productivity.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Mar 21, 2012, 11:24 PM (0 replies)

Pacifica Hires Union-Busting Law Firm

The liberal Pacifica Foundation (parent of lefty radio stations like KPFA, in Berkeley, WBAI, in New York, and KPFK, in Los Angeles) has hired Jackson Lewis, a notorious anti-union law firm, according to Cal Labor Fed. The law firm, which the AFL-CIO has called “America’s number one union-buster,” advises bosses how to obstruct their employees from forming unions and how to undermine existing unions. They not only hold seminars to teach bosses how to maintain “union free environments,” they also advise employers on how to subvert the Americans with Disabilities Act.

KPFA’s employees, who are members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9415, voted to demand that Pacifica’s National Board terminate its contract with Jackson Lewis. The board responded by symbolically flipping them the finger, choosing to leave their contract with Jackson Lewis intact.

Just a few years ago, Pacifica spent thousands of listeners’ donation dollars on a union-busting consultant to bust the KPFA union. They hired armed guards, fired many popular broadcasters, and eventually locked out the entire staff and temporarily shut down the station, enraging the station’s listeners.

The piece in Cal Labor Fed is asking for union members to seek a resolution by their unions “condemning Pacifica’s hire of one of the country’s top union-busters.” They are also asking individuals to sign this petition demanding that Pacifica drop Jackson Lewis immediately.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/pacifica-hires-union-busting-law-firm.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Mar 20, 2012, 11:29 PM (8 replies)

Illiterate Braggart to Take Over 15 Detroit Public Schools

Yes, I realize this is a rather bombastic headline, but it was hard to resist. Consider the following public statement by John Covington, Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, the agency that will be taking over 15 low performing Detroit Public Schools. In response to the agency’s plan to lengthen the school year he was quoted in the Detroit News saying:

"I don't know if people understand the magnitude of what just happened. . . This 210 days for students, it puts us at the highest in the nation, only second to Massachusetts."

Disregarding his inarticulate sentence structure and poor math skills, the fact remains that six DPS high schools and nine elementary-middle schools will be taken over by the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), created by Gov. Rick Snyder improve the state's failing schools.

The EAA was given the authority to lengthen the school year for students at its schools, from the current 170 days to 210 starting next fall. Students will have 52- to 54-day quarters and shorter breaks for the holidays.

The new rules will affect approximately 12,000 students at schools chosen because of their high percentages of at-risk children.

Covington reassured angry parents that they will be allowed to keep their kids at the affected schools or transfer to another DPS school, while students from other district schools will be permitted to enroll in the EAA schools. However, parents are unlikely to transfer their kids to a school branded as low performing unless they are already at a low performing school and want the extra days of taxpayer subsidized babysitting.

On the other hand, parents of children at the affected schools might have the right to transfer their children, but lack the means. For one, they will be expected to fill out additional paper work and jump through extra hoops, something that lower income parents are often unable to do because of their busy work schedules, difficulties communicating in English or because they lack the experience to navigate the bureaucracy confidently and effectively. Furthermore, their children could get placed at a school that is inconveniently located, preventing them from getting their children to and from school.

The Beatings Will Continue Until You Master the Content
In addition to taking away much of their vacation time and increasing the number of hours they are in the classroom, the EAA will no longer place students in classrooms with their peers. Instead, students will be placed in classrooms based on their instructional level. Thus, a child who is reading at the second grade level would be in a classroom with other students at this reading level, regardless of their age.

The Teacher Beatings Will Continue, Too
It seems like the entire staffs at the affected schools will be fired, as Covington plans to hire roughly 600 new teachers, including 200 from Teach for America (TFA), a move that ought to make everyone suspicious of the true motives of this “reform.” If the goal is to help struggling students, then the solutions should be to hire experienced teachers with demonstrated skill and staying power. TFA teachers have virtually no training, poorer outcomes with their students, and a notoriously high attrition rates.

The plan to take over these schools and hire new teachers seems to actually be about union busting. TFA teachers, being young and inexperienced, tend to be more malleable and compliant than experienced unionized teachers, making them very appealing to administrators who want to push through unpopular reforms and squeeze more work from their employees. However, the new plan does not guarantee that EAA teachers will be covered by the collective bargaining agreement between DPS and the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), even though the schools were covered by the contract prior to the takeover.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/illiterate-braggart-to-take-over-15_20.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Mar 20, 2012, 11:27 PM (3 replies)

Helping SPED Students by Increasing Their Class Sizes?

One of the latest trends in Special Education is “Full Inclusion.” The idea is that all students benefit from being in the “least restrictive” environment. Special day classes (SDC)—where many special needs students were traditionally exposed to much of their curriculum—segregated them from the general student population and relied on special education (SPED) teachers who were not necessarily credentialed in the subjects which they were teaching.

Many schools are now placing these same students in regular education classes (e.g., science, English, social studies, math). In California, this means they are sometimes in classes with 35-38 students. In the past, most SDC students would have been in small classes of 7-14 students, with a SPED teacher and another 1-3 paraprofessional aides to assist them. Thus, SDC students had very low student to adult ratios ranging from 2:1 to 15:1.

While I don’t wish to argue the merits of full inclusion in this piece, I think it should be obvious to most observers that this is a bastardization of the spirit and goals of the program. Throwing 3-5 SDC students into a class of this size, especially without any aids to assist them, is like throwing a beginning swimmer out of a boat without a life jacket. These are students who generally require additional support. They are often reading far below grade level and may have a range of disabilities that challenge their abilities to access the content.

With budget cuts plaguing school districts throughout the nation, schools are looking for any sort of trick that saves them money. Increasing student to teacher ratios is one way of doing this. More students per teacher means fewer teachers need to be on the payroll. Mainstreaming SPED students without providing paraprofessionals or other aides to assist them also saves districts money.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/helping-sped-students-by-increasing.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Mar 20, 2012, 11:26 PM (2 replies)

Survey Finds Teachers Don't Trust State Tests (And This is News?)


Earlier this week, USA Today published the results of a recent survey of 10,000 teachers in which only 16% believed that linking student performance and teacher pay was "absolutely essential" or "very important" in retaining good teachers, down from 28% in 2010. Barely half of the teachers felt like the policy would make any difference at all, down from 65% in 2010. Only 26% believed the tests were an “accurate reflection of student achievement.”

The survey was conducted by the educational publisher Scholastic, and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What’s Worse: Being Exploited by Capitalism or Not Being Exploited by Capitalism?
Sadly, the number of teachers who thought that higher pay was necessary to retain good teachers also declined from 86% in 2010 to 75% in the recent survey. This does not necessarily mean that they have given up on decent wages. Rather, it probably reflects their own insecurity about the economy and the fact that most have taken pay cuts over the past three years, either actual or de facto through wage freezes, but nonetheless continued to teach because the job prospects elsewhere were so dismal.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/survey-finds-teachers-dont-trust-state.html
Posted by Modern School | Sat Mar 17, 2012, 09:26 PM (0 replies)

Boston Teachers Mock Longer School Day With Stunt Plane

Boston’s mayor, Thomas M. Menino, has accused the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) of engaging in a publicity stunt by flying a plane over City Hall in mockery of the city’s plan to lengthen the teachers’ workday. According to the Boston Herald, the plane carried a banner proclaiming that City Hall would now be open until 6:00 pm (a half-hour longer than it currently is). The union also produced fliers and newspaper ads stating that City Hall’s 720 employees “have agreed to work an extended day without any additional compensation.”

Calling the union’s action a stunt exposes the hypocrisy of Ed Deform efforts. BTU wants to ensure that its members aren’t forced to work longer hours without compensation. This is a reasonable and conservative desire. The longer school day fad (already well under way in Chicago and other cities) could be called a stunt. Supporters argue that it is a necessary “reform” for improving student performance, yet there is little evidence to show that it will improve test scores or other, more meaningful measures of student learning. Furthermore, like all the other reforms du jour, it completely ignores the primary cause of low student achievement: poverty.

There are of course putative benefits to a longer school day. Providing more class time might help some students catch up when they are behind in academic skills like reading and math. Longer class periods can also allow teachers to teach at a more relaxed pace, address student questions more thoroughly, take advantage of “teachable moments,” or go deeper into content. More time in class also means less time to get into trouble at home or on the streets. But an extra 30-60 minutes a day is unlikely to put much of a dent in the achievement gap. It will do nothing, for example, to provide food, housing and healthcare to students who are lacking these things. It cannot reverse the damage caused by malnutrition, iron-deficiency anemia, lead poisoning, exposure to second smoke, and other environmental insults that cause cognitive impairment and learning disabilities for so many lower income children. It will not provide enriching extracurricular activities during summer, like travel abroad, camp, or art classes. It will not reduce absenteeism due to untreated illnesses or provide reading to children when they are infants and toddlers.

Furthermore, it is pedagogically unsound to impose longer work hours on teachers. Longer hours mean that teachers will be more tired, increasing burn out and attrition, while also decreasing the energy they have for helping students in class. They will have less time and energy for grading papers and exams, thus encouraging the use of Scantrons and multiple choice assessments, while decreasing their assignment of essays and lab reports. Teachers will have less time and energy to design, set up and manage complex student-centered activities, labs, and projects.

It is also unreasonable and unfair to impose increased work hours on teachers without their consent or reasonable compensation. It is, in effect, a public sector version of the factory speed up, squeezing more work out of teachers, without a raise, except here there is no tangible increase in profits on the horizon. The mayor has offered a 5% increase over four years—1.25% per year—which is not likely to cover the increased cost of living in that time and which provides nothing for the extra hours of work. The BTU is asking for a 10% increase over the next three years, with no increase in work hours, which would cover the increased cost of living over that time period, plus help recover some of the losses in earning power teachers suffered over the prior three years.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/boston-teachers-mock-longer-school-day.html
Posted by Modern School | Sat Mar 17, 2012, 09:25 PM (0 replies)

Teacher Morale Lowest in 20 Years

In a recent survey of the nation’s teachers, more than half expressed reservations about their jobs, according to the New York Times, the highest level of dissatisfaction since 1989. Nearly one-third said they were likely to leave teaching within the next five years (three years ago only 25% expected to leave teaching within five years). Many expressed concerns about job security, increased class sizes, cuts to programs and services.

The annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher revealed other anxieties and concerns pervasive among teachers. About 40% were pessimistic about achieving further gains in student test scores and many expressed anxiety about the increasing use of these scores to evaluate them. Over 75% of teachers said their schools had suffered budget cuts last year, with 50% experiencing layoffs at their schools. Nearly one-third said their schools lost arts, music or foreign language programs.

Considering the increasingly vitriolic attacks on teachers unions, the equally absurd accusations that teachers are to blame for every malady afflicting public education, real and imagined, along with the declining pay and working conditions, it is surprising that only 33% are planning on leaving the profession in the next five years. However, this is likely an artifact of the terrible state of the economy. There just aren’t a lot of jobs out there, making quitting a very risky prospect. Furthermore, teachers who have tenure and seniority have considerably more job security than they would if they found a new job, increasing the risks of quitting.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/03/teacher-morale-lowest-in-20-years.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Mar 13, 2012, 09:40 PM (2 replies)
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