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Modern School

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

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Jerry Brown Wants to Kill Transitional Kindergarten 0digg

California is moving toward an earlier cutoff age for kindergarten, requiring them to be 5 by Nov. 2 for the 2012-13 school year and they must be 5 by Oct. 2 for the 2013-14 school year. Many of the children affected could enroll in a transitional program to help prepare them academically and socially for kindergarten. However, with the California state budget still in miserable shape, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed killing funding for transitional kindergarten, putting the program out of reach for many lower income families.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the elimination of funding for transitional kindergarten would save the state $223.7 million in 2012-13 and $672 million in 2014-15, when the program is fully implemented, but would deprive 125,000 kids from the opportunity to go to school. Since Brown’s budget would also eliminate 71,000 childcare positions, and there were already long waiting lists for subsidized childcare, many of those kids could end up without any sort of pre-k education, thus jeopardizing their later success.

There is already a significant class-based achievement gap by the time children enter kindergarten (see here, here, here and here), but quality preschool and transitional programs can help narrow the gap for some poor students. Delaying the age at which kids enter kindergarten also improves the chances that they are developmentally ready for kindergarten. However, if they have not been in preschool or other transitional programs prior to starting kindergarten, they may still lack the social and academic skills necessary to thrive there.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-brown-wants-to-kill-transitional.html
Posted by Modern School | Fri Jan 13, 2012, 07:23 PM (0 replies)

Gates Right For Once? Of Course Not!

A new study released last week by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that rating teachers by watching them teach is possibly the best way to help them improve, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. It also found that observing teachers infrequently (once a year or less) is insufficient, and that the observers, generally school administrators, often don't know what to look for.
Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Both findings should come as no surprise to teachers (except for the seeming about face by the Gates Foundation, which has been at the forefront of merit pay, value-added, and other attempts to undermine teachers’ job security). Not surprisingly, Gates is still calling for the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, along with a host of other measures.


The Times article highlighted Memphis, which uses a new evaluation system (supported by Gates to the tune of $90 million), in which teachers are observed four to six times annually by more than one evaluator, each of whom must pass a certification program. Teachers supposedly get detailed feedback on observations within seven days. However, only 40% of their evaluation is based on observations, while 35% is based on a value-added formula, 15% on other measures of achievement, 5% on student surveys and 5% on the teacher's demonstrated content knowledge. Thus, contrary to the his Foundation’s own findings, Gates is funding a program that weights the best method for evaluating teachers—direct observations (40%)—lower than student achievement (35% + 15%).

Observing teachers or most other workers, for that matter, is often the best way to determine how well they do their job. Ensuring that the evaluator is well-trained and knows what to look for (and how to observe it) and provided ample time to make several observations also seems pretty obvious. However, the evaluators’ objectivity is seldom questioned and this, too, has considerable influence on the accuracy of the observations and the effectiveness of the evaluations and feedback. Administrators have the power to hire and fire and are therefore biased and should not be doing the observations, even if well-trained. For example, if they want to get rid of a troublesome teacher who is too outspoken or active in the union, but who is otherwise a good teacher, they can still observe and write whatever they like in their evaluations.

Training and hiring sufficient outside evaluators would be expensive and time consuming and, under current economic conditions, very unlikely to occur, which is one reason for the popularity of value-added assessments. Since districts are mandated to give the high stakes tests anyway, it costs them little to crunch the numbers and determine if a teacher’s scores are improving. The problem is that the test scores are correlated more with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds than any other factor, including the quality of their teachers. Furthermore, a student’s ability to improve on the tests is also correlated with familial wealth. Thus, teachers in low income schools are less likely to see substantial improvements in their students’ scores, even if they are exceptional at their jobs. Also, no one has yet come up with a reliable and reproducible value-added formula, with the consequence that some teachers rate well one year and poorly the next (see here, here and here).

The demand for value-added assessments of teachers is also a giveaway to the test manufacturers, the proponents of NCLB and the “Teacher-Effectiveness” Industry (see here, here and here). As long as administrators are required to use student test data to evaluate teachers, students will be required to take high stakes tests, instructional time will be sacrificed to test prep and testing, and electives and other courses will be dropped to make room for more test prep.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/gates-right-for-once-of-course-not.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jan 12, 2012, 11:14 PM (1 replies)

Military Force to Be Used Against ILWU

Members of the International Long Shore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in Longview, Washington have been battling EGT over its use of scab labor at its grain terminal at the Port of Longview. This is in violation of their contract with ILWU which guarantees that long shore jobs will go only to ILWU members. There have been 220 arrests of ILWU members during the struggle and extensive police brutality against ILWU members and their families.

EGT now plans to have its empty grain ships escorted by U.S. Coast Guard boats and helicopters from the mouth of the Columbia River to the EGT terminal, according to the San Francisco Labor Council. This is the first time that military force has been used in a labor dispute in 40 years (the last time being when Nixon unsuccessfully used the Army and National Guard to break the Great Postal Strike of 1970).

The deployment of the Coast Guard to Longview to protect private capital against labor would seem to be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (1878), which restricts the U.S. military’s use in enforcing law and order on U.S. soil. However, the Coast Guard is exempt from the act. The plan is also generally consistent with the overall move toward a police state by the Obama administration and Congress, which recently approved a defense bill that would allow the U.S. military to arrest American citizens anywhere in the world, including on U.S. soil. And though the military has not been used against American workers in 40 years, the U.S. has a long, sordid and deadly history of using the military against its own citizens. (For a few examples, please see Labor History Timeline, by Modern School)

If such heavy handed tactics are allowed to succeed in Longview, they will certainly be attempted elsewhere (remember Scott Walker’s threat to call in the National Guard if Wisconsin public sector workers were to strike?) Therefore, it is imperative for workers throughout the U.S. to oppose it in Washington and act in solidarity with the Longview ILWU.

The ILWU, for its part, should seriously consider shutting down the entire West Coast, something they are capable of pulling off (and have on several occasions), even without the support of OWS. However, with the popularity of this tactic among OWS members, a complete shutdown of the West Coast ports ought to be relatively easy to organize. However, the ILWU is explicitly removing this option from the table, at least officially, saying that the conflict is only with EGT and not the ports. The letter from ILWU President McEllrath to his union brothers and sisters suggests this is intended to avoid legal persecution under Taft-Hartley.

Click here to see the San Francisco Labor Council’s resolution in support of the Longview ILWU and against the use of military force.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/military-force-to-be-used-against-ilwu.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jan 12, 2012, 11:13 PM (1 replies)

Jerry Brown Proposes Giving Poor Districts More Money

California Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing changing the way schools are funded so that districts with higher proportions of low income students and English learners would receive more money than affluent schools. Under the proposal, districts in which 90% of students are either low income or English learners (such as Los Angeles and Long Beach) would receive $3,000 more per student than districts with only 20% disadvantaged students.

For more, see the following Toped articles: How Weighted Funding Would Works http://toped.svefoundation.org/2012/01/09/how-weighted-funding-would-work/ and Switch to Weighted Funding http://toped.svefoundation.org/2012/01/05/switch-to-weighted-funding-local-control/

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-brown-proposes-giving-poor.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jan 11, 2012, 11:53 PM (1 replies)

AFL-CIO Complicity in Violence Against Latin American Labor

Columbia has been called the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member. Since 1986, nearly 2900 unionists have been killed in that country, Counter Punch reported this week. In 2010, over half the union members killed worldwide were Columbian. At least 28 labor leaders were killed there in 2011, while 600 teachers were physically threatened.

Though the AFL-CIO has criticized Columbia’s horrendous record on labor, there have been several Wikileaks cables that show a more equivocal role for the union. The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center’s Rhett Doumitt (who aided in the coup against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, according to Counter Punch), accused members of CUT, the largest labor confederation in Colombia, of being Stalinists and hardline communists, thus setting them up in the minds of Columbia’s death squads as legitimate targets for violence. He also agreed with the Columbian government that many of the union members killed were victims of “common crime,” and not political violence, thus trivializing the violence against union members and sending the message that killing unionists is okay, so long as it is made to look like a mugging or robbery.

Of course the AFL-CIO has a long history of collaborating with the State Department and the CIA in undermining unions and revolutionary struggles throughout the world (see here, here and here), particularly during the Cold War, but starting back under Samuel Gomper’s leadership and continuing unabated through the present. A Wikileaks cable from Peru revealed that the AFL-CIO sided with the Peruvian government in a recent legal victory that reduced 10-fold the number of teachers who could engage in full-time union activities and still receive their teachers’ salaries. Cables also suggested that anti-Sandinista unions in Nicaragua seek the support of the AFL-CIO in working to unseat Daniel Ortega.

While it is reprehensible that any labor organization would doing anything to jeopardize the safety of fellow workers abroad, the AFL-CIO’s collaboration with the State Department also undermines the interests of American workers. Strong condemnation of Columbia’s treatment of union members combined with direct action locally could have derailed the Free Trade Agreement with Columbia, which has made it easier to export jobs to that country.

So long as wages and working conditions are worse elsewhere, capitalists will continue to move jobs to those countries, not only contributing to local unemployment, but driving down wages and working conditions at home.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/afl-cio-complicity-in-violence-against.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jan 11, 2012, 11:48 PM (0 replies)

Majority of Minnesota Teachers Working Without Contracts

Teachers in over 200 Minnesota school districts are currently working without contracts, according to the Star Tribune, a significant jump from two years ago. The problem should only increase now that the 2011 legislature has dropped the financial penalty for distracts that fail to reach contract agreements with teachers by January 15. In 2010, Minneapolis had to pay nearly $800,000 in penalties because it missed the January 15 deadline.

Only 100 of Minnesota’s 331 districts have agreed to contracts with teachers so far, compared with 126 districts at this point in the 2009-11 contract cycle (though many more settled within a few weeks of the deadline). Many of the unions that have settled with their districts have accepted nominal (1% or less) or no cost of living increases, as they have for the past three years, to accommodate their districts’ pleas of poverty.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/majority-of-minnesota-teachers-working.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Jan 10, 2012, 11:08 PM (0 replies)

California’s War on Public Education

California schools cut 15,000 teachers and $1 billion from their budgets last year, according to the Sacramento Bee, which amounts to a 5.5% statewide reduction in the teaching payroll. However, the state teaching payroll was also slashed 3% the previous year, while 40,000 teaching jobs and more than $20 billion have been cut over the past four years.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/californias-war-on-public-education.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Jan 10, 2012, 11:06 PM (2 replies)

Teachers Scab On Themselves in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in state education funds last year, according to Think Progress. As a result, the Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which gets nearly 70% of its funding from the state, expects a $19 million shortfall. The school district has told its teachers that by Wednesday it will not be able to pay their salaries. So the teachers, with the support of their union, have decided to work for free.

The school board and the unions both asked Corbett to provide financial aid for the district, but he refused. Pennsylvania’s Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said the district was being punished for failing to properly manage its finances. However, even if the district hadn’t mismanaged its finances, no worker should be expected to nor should they volunteer to work for free. By doing so, not only have they become slave laborers, they have weakened their bargaining positions when revenue becomes available to start paying them again.

From the bosses’ perspective, if the workers are such true believes that they’d work for free, then they’d certainly work for less and do more if asked—something that was happening even before the district ran out of money. Last fall, Chester Upland laid-off 40% of its professional staff and about half of its unionized support staff, leaving class sizes of over 40 students. They also withheld pay hikes worth approximately $800,000 from its teachers, in violation of its contract with them.

Of course it is terrible that the district is out of money and that the children will suffer. However, it is not the teachers’ fault, nor their responsibility. Working for free doesn’t fix the problem, either. Kids will still be in overcrowded classrooms, which is both unsafe and pedagogically unsound. The schools will still be unable to afford supplies. And the teachers will gradually stop coming to work when their own bills start to pile up and other means of earning a living become available.

A scab is someone who undermines workers’ struggle to improve their pay and working conditions by replacing them on the job during a strike or by working for lower wages. Teachers who work for free are serving as scabs for their bosses. They are bailing their bosses out and giving them a free ride for their mistakes and corruption. They are helping the bosses to underpay and overwork them.

They are also undermining other workers’ struggles by sending the message that at least some workers are willing to work for free if they think they are providing a public good. Considering the deplorable condition of so many other state budgets, it would not be surprising to hear that other school districts and social service providers can no longer afford to pay salaries. The administrators of these agencies might very well look to Chester Upland for inspiration.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/teachers-scab-on-themselves-in.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Jan 10, 2012, 11:05 PM (3 replies)

Teachers Scab On Themselves in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in state education funds last year, according to Think Progress. As a result, the Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which gets nearly 70% of its funding from the state, expects a $19 million shortfall. The school district has told its teachers that by Wednesday it will not be able to pay their salaries. So the teachers, with the support of their union, have decided to work for free.

The school board and the unions both asked Corbett to provide financial aid for the district, but he refused. Pennsylvania’s Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said the district was being punished for failing to properly manage its finances. However, even if the district hadn’t mismanaged its finances, no worker should be expected to nor should they volunteer to work for free. By doing so, not only have they become slave laborers, they have weakened their bargaining positions when revenue becomes available to start paying them again.

From the bosses’ perspective, if the workers are such true believes that they’d work for free, then they’d certainly work for less and do more if asked—something that was happening even before the district ran out of money. Last fall, Chester Upland laid-off 40% of its professional staff and about half of its unionized support staff, leaving class sizes of over 40 students. They also withheld pay hikes worth approximately $800,000 from its teachers, in violation of its contract with them.

Of course it is terrible that the district is out of money and that the children will suffer. However, it is not the teachers’ fault, nor their responsibility. Working for free doesn’t fix the problem, either. Kids will still be in overcrowded classrooms, which is both unsafe and pedagogically unsound. The schools will still be unable to afford supplies. And the teachers will gradually stop coming to work when their own bills start to pile up and other means of earning a living become available.

A scab is someone who undermines workers’ struggle to improve their pay and working conditions by replacing them on the job during a strike or by working for lower wages. Teachers who work for free are serving as scabs for their bosses. They are bailing their bosses out and giving them a free ride for their mistakes and corruption. They are helping the bosses to underpay and overwork them.

They are also undermining other workers’ struggles by sending the message that at least some workers are willing to work for free if they think they are providing a public good. Considering the deplorable condition of so many other state budgets, it would not be surprising to hear that other school districts and social service providers can no longer afford to pay salaries. The administrators of these agencies might very well look to Chester Upland for inspiration.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/teachers-scab-on-themselves-in.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Jan 10, 2012, 10:33 PM (2 replies)

Online Ed: Trojan Horse for Destroying Teachers Unions

Idaho teachers and parents are pissed off: Last year, their state Legislature passed a law requiring all high school students to take some online classes to graduate, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. They also mandated that students and teachers be given laptops or tablets to take and manage these online courses. In order to pay for the hardware the state will likely have to slash teachers’ wages. Adding insult to injury, the state expects teachers to manage the online classes, simultaneously adding extra responsibilities and deskilling the teaching profession.

In response, teachers marched on the capital last year to oppose the legislation, accusing lawmakers of being in bed with lobbyists from the tech industry like Intel and Apple. Together with parent groups they gathered 75,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot in November to overturn the law.

Online education is one of numerous education reforms currently being pushed by billionaire philanthropists and education entrepreneurial vultures. Supporters argue that it opens up doors for students, providing opportunities to take classes not normally offered at their school, make up classes that they have failed or get ahead. Many also make the claim that kids today are so hooked up to their electronic devices that flesh and blood teachers can’t motivate them anymore, but inanimate computers miraculously can.

While there is no compelling data to support the claim that online courses are better motivators or more effective teachers, one might reasonably ask what’s the harm in letting kids voluntarily take a few online classes at home or on weekends to makeup missing credits or to get ahead, especially if it is the parents’ responsibility to pay for the courses and there is no extra burden placed on school districts and teachers?

In Idaho and many other states, however, the opposite is happening, with online classes being imposed on students, parents, teachers and school districts, without their consent. Everyone pays for these programs because the funding comes from tax dollars. It is a Trojan horse for education privatizers who recognize they can’t outright privatize the education system, but can make billions of dollars by using their lobbying muscle to convince legislators to transfer tax dollars from education budgets directly into their pockets. It is a pretty safe investment, too, since they get millions of obligate consumers (i.e., students). Of course it is even better when the online courses are made a mandatory graduation requirement, as in Idaho. Furthermore, once they have sold their product to a school district, they can lock the district into their hardware and software for years or even decades.

For teachers, managing online courses could be trivial, or not, depending on the course, the software and the technical support provided. However, it certainly deskills and trivializes their profession, turning them into over-trained babysitters, whose main job is to make sure students are working, staying on-task, and not surfing the web and messing around on Facebook. Every minute that a teacher gives up to an online course is a minute that the teacher has relinquished his or her expertise and responsibility for teaching to Microsoft, Apple, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, or some other corporate Ed Deformer, whose objectives are profits, not the wellbeing of students.

Perhaps more insidious are the long-term implications for teachers’ salaries and collective bargaining. So-called “unskilled” and “semi-skilled” workers typically earn less money and have less organized strength than their “skilled” allies because they are more easily replaced by the bosses. Car and electronics manufacturers, for example, can easily export assembly line jobs overseas because little training and expertise are required to handle the work. As teaching and other occupations become deskilled, workers in these fields also lose collective strength for similar reasons. (For more on how this can weaken teachers’ unions, please see Carnegie, Steel and the Busting of Teacher Unions ...)

Consider school librarians, who are being replaced by parents, volunteers and non-credentialed staff in order to save money (see “Less Than 25% of California Schools Have Librarians”). In the past, schools hired librarians who were credentialed and trained both as teachers and librarians and who could deliver curricula and collaborate with teachers to design and implement complex research projects. Today, many school districts are treating librarians like retail checkout clerks, whose only responsibilities are to swipe barcodes on books and prevent theft.

Once online classes become a mandated and normal part of school, the door is opened to getting rid of teachers entirely. What need is there for a highly trained, unionized teachers to make sure a room full of kids is completing an online assignment that was prepared and will be assessed by a private corporation? Districts will argue that the job can be done noncredentialed and lower-paid proctors, which will save the districts lots of money and force more teachers into the unemployment lines. They will also be able to use the threat of downsizing as leverage against the unions to extract pay and benefits cuts and increased responsibilities and work for the teachers.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/online-ed-trojan-horse-for-destroying.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jan 5, 2012, 10:10 PM (0 replies)
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