The Weekly Update: Teachers Speak Up

The Weekly Update for the news and views you might have missed.

This week has been a slower news week than usual for obvious reasons but the internet is burning up with announcements of new Facebook pages sprouting up started by an array of parents and teachers from around the country standing with their teachers and students and against the privatization of their schools. Just this morning I was invited to like four Facebook pages related to education. They are:

Parents: What Colorado School Grades Doesn’t Want You to Know

Parents & Educators against the Daniels & Bennett Educational Reform

Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Edushyster

Now on to the news and views.

“Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change”

Milton Friedman

“For Freidman and his followers, disaster was not just a chance to get rich but an opportunity to push through all kinds of unpopular policies like privatizing public schools, shutting down public hospitals, and kicking people out of their homes.”

Noam Chomsky

First up, Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the advice of the ed reformers’ guru Milton Friedman:

Document shows Emanuel administration had detailed school closing plans

An internal Chicago Public Schools document obtained by the Tribune shows for the first time that the Emanuel administration has weighed how many elementary and high schools to close in which neighborhoods and how to manage the public fallout.

Labeled a “working draft,” the Sept. 10 document lays out the costs and benefits of specific scenarios — revealing that the administration has gone further down the path of determining what schools to target than it has disclosed.

While schools are not listed by name, one section of the document contains a breakdown for closing or consolidating 95 schools, most on the West and South sides, as well as targeting other schools to be phased out gradually or to share their facilities with privately run charter schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his top school leaders have said they are in the early stages of making difficult decisions and that the city cannot afford to keep operating deteriorating schools with dwindling student populations in the face of a billion-dollar budget deficit. The document goes well beyond what the administration has outlined to the public.

Amid a September teachers strike, the Tribune reported that the Emanuel administration was considering plans to close 80 to 120 schools, most in poor minority neighborhoods. Administration officials have repeatedly denied they have such a figure.

“Unless my staff has a hidden drawer somewhere where they’ve got numbers in there, we don’t have a number,” schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in November.

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, Byrd-Bennett said that she will make and “own” all decisions related to closings, and “whatever has been floated does not reflect what I endorse or support.”

“I need to reiterate to the board that there is no list of schools to be closed,” she told the board.

But the internal document, prepared at a time when school leaders faced a December deadline to make their decisions public, lays out multiple scenarios for closing neighborhood schools and adding privately run charters — a key component of Emanuel’s plans for improving public education. Chicago Teachers Union members, aldermen and other charter school critics have accused the administration of favoring the charters while depriving schools in poor neighborhoods of needed improvements.

The document discusses how to deal with public reaction to school closing decisions, with ideas ranging from establishing “a meaningful engagement process with community members” to building a “monitoring mechanism to ensure nimble response to opposition to proposed school actions.”

For the full story, go to the Chicago Tribune.

But wait, there’s more.

From Democracy Now

Chicago Teachers Union Sues City for Discrimination

The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a lawsuit accusing the city of discriminating against African-American teachers and staff through its effort to reform or shut down local schools. The federal suit says more than half of the tenured teachers who lost their jobs in the most recent wave of school closings were African American, despite African Americans comprising just 30 percent of tenured teachers overall and 35 percent in the under-performing schools that wind up being closed. The teachers’ union is seeking an injunction to stop Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from closing any more schools.

This should make for an interesting new year in Chicago.

Out of sheer frustration from what has been happening in public education with the influence of privatization under the misnomer of “education reform”, a 15 year veteran elementary school teacher quits and he believes that parents need to know what is being done to their children in many of today’s public schools.

“I believe my goal as an educator should be to create life-long learners. Rather than creating life long learners Our new goal is to create good test takers. our students are now relegated to experiencing a confining and demeaning education.

“I would rather leave my secure $70,000 a year job, with benefits and tutor in Connecticut for free than be part of a system that is diametrically opposed to everything I believe education should be.”

You can watch the video here.

And another teacher on the Common Core Standards (CCS).

This is How Democracy Ends — An Apology

Almost a year ago, I offered my time to the middle school at which I was employed to give a two-night presentation that promised to ease parents’ concerns about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP).  I was given kudos by my boss, my coworkers, and many of those parents.  We talked about the future, the upcoming tests by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and we even did some hands-on math demonstrations.  It was a good time for me, and I hope those parents can say the same.  My message was simple: trust us–we got this!

Some of them were still skeptical, and they should be praised for that skepticism.

First, I want to offer you my apologies.  It wasn’t long after my presentation that I had a crushing realization that the entire thing (minus the hands-on stuff) was completely misguided.  I felt like a flip-flopper, but I’ve always valued the truth more than feeling good.  So, I’m here to clear the air.  The truth hurts and it should start scaring the hell out of you, because your children are your most precious gift and you will do anything to protect them.

The whole reason I was part of the team that put those presentations together was to ease your worry about the changes that were coming.  I’m here to retract everything I said.  You should be worried.  Very worried!

I was wrong.  The Common Core State Standards is a sham, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an instrument of devastation, and it’s all run by the process you see in the following Venn diagram (don’t you love Venn diagrams?):

Before I start sounding too nutty, let me get down to the reality.  You’ll see that I’m not exaggerating.

America has long been known–despite our problems–as the country of freedom, innovation, and wealth.  There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is our democratic and free public education system.  Prior to NCLB in 2002 and Race to the Top eight years later, standardization was limited to SAT and ACT tests, NAEP and PISA tests, and graduation exams for Advanced Placement courses.  We valued music, art, drama, languages and the humanities just as much as valued science, math, and English (for the most part).  We believed in the well-rounded education.

Now, the Common Core State Standards has one goal: to create common people.  The accompanying standardized tests have one purpose: to create standardized people.  Why?  Because the movers and the shakers have a vested interest in it.  It’s about money and it’s about making sure all that money stays in one place.

It’s been happening for a few years already.  StudentsFirst, ALEC, the Walton and Broad and Gates Foundations, and other lobbying groups have created a false crisis in American education.  They want you to believe that America is in sad educational shape so that they can play the hero.  However, what they’ve begun is a snowball effect of legislation that devastates public education, teachers, and an already underfunded school system so that they can replace the public system, the unions, and the government employees with private systems that promise to pay less, bust unions, and remove benefits and pensions.

Teach For America is a prime example of a way to steal government funding, place it in the hands of private corporations, and remove that pesky career (tenure) teacher problem.  It’s worked like a dream–the average TFA teacher stays in the classroom for about 2-3 years.  Only a few remain for 5 or more years.  So, the new American teacher is a mass-produced, temporary worker in an ongoing assembly line.  Cheaper?  Usually.  And they don’t complain about pay, pensions, or benefits, since this is just a step in their career ladders.

Which means that students don’t have highly qualified and seasoned teachers leading their learning anymore.  Even worse that, TFA teachers are prepared and trained with test data as the be-all-to-end-all of priorities.  These teachers only know effectiveness by the scores their students receive on standardized tests.

To read this article in full, go to Middle Grades Mastery.

Dora Taylor

Posted on by DoraTaylor Posted in Weekly Update

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