Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Power of Parent Voice! A Father Responds to The Wall Street Journal about Common Core

On 2/16/16 The Wall Street Journal published an article called The Common Core Has its Supporters.  It used the East Moriches School District in NY as the model for this.  The WSJ spoke to two teachers and the superintendent and choose to ignore parent voices!  Here one parent, who has a child in the district, responds.  After Mr. Hempfling's response here are some teachers in NY who do NOT support the Common Core and their reasons why.

East Moriches Parent Response. 

I am a father of three sons two of whom attend East Moriches School in East Moriches, New York.  After reading the Wall Street Journal article on the Common Core Learning Standards in East Moriches I felt it was necessary to write to explain the perspective of people who oppose the CCLS.

First of all I would like to state that I applaud the efforts by the teachers and administration in our district to improve instruction.  As an educator myself, it is crucial for teachers to constantly strive to improve instruction for our students.  However, I feel that the rollout of the learning standards and the overreliance of data to measure student progress have been detrimental to many of our children.  In all fairness this is an issue statewide.

I feel I have to question the Wall Street Journal as to why they never asked any parents how they felt about their child’s experience in school.  Below are some of the questions I wish they ‘d asked a person who opposes the curriculum:

Did they ask if the standards are developmentally appropriate for all children?

Did they ask about the rollout and the effect it has had on the kids who are now in middle school?

Was there any discussion about the lack of time given to Science and Social Studies to increase ELA and Math instruction?

Did they discuss the impact that these standards have on special education students?

Did they ask how the CCLS impacted English Language Learners?

As a parent it hurts me to hear my son tell me how much he dislikes school. It hurts me to hear that he hates reading now. This was a boy who brought books to me since he could walk. He told me last year when he went outside for their 13 minutes of recess that he wished he were on the other side of the fence. He sounded like an inmate not a fifth grade student.

I feel more research must be done to question how appropriate it is to push young children to perform academic tasks that they may not be developmentally ready for.  We must also ask the question:  What is being sacrificed at the expense of academic rigor?  I suspect I know the answer, social studies, science as well as recess. I feel special education students and English Language Learners can be getting shortchanged as well.  These students need “pull back” classes on a daily basis to reinforce what they have learned in class, working on organization skills and study skills to overcome the challenges they face.  

In closing, we all share the goal of giving our children the best educational experience we can and I respect the professionals who tout the standards the right to their own opinion but I must respectfully disagree with them.  We must provide our children with a challenging but developmentally appropriate curriculum and I believe we must expose our children to all of the academic subjects in a more balanced manner.  

Bill Hempfling

Here is how some NY teachers feel about the CC.  A counter narrative to those who support it in the WSJ article!

I teach pre k in NYC. Their is no magic wand to make children ready for kindergarten that expects them to be at a certain academic level. Children are not ready for K simply because kindergarten is not on their developmental level. Force children to do what is beyond their developmental level and you will have behavior problems.

I teach High School Social studies, my experience is that it has taken out the literature students used to be exposed from a historical perspective. Classics like Beowulf, Iliad, The Odyssey, Arabian Nights and the list goes on and on have been left behind, My global studies students have no background to attach the Global Studies curriculum to the Arts and Literature... I have had to infuse Literature from each time period since they no longer cover them in their English courses which is extremely difficult to do in a course that covers 10K years of history. Social Studies curriculum and English Literature curriculum used to be very well aligned making for an enriching humanities experience for our students. This no longer exists and this I believe has robbed our students of a well rounded education and appreciation for classic literature and the historical context in which they were written

I teach 4 through 8 grade. My daughter is in second grade. What I am observing about Common Core is it is teaching helplessness and not allowing children to develop metacognitive skills. It teaches the "correct work around" to use in solving a problem. When children are learning a new skill, their figuring out how to solve the problem is what causes metacognition to grow. The "work arounds" are good for kids who are having problems, but by making them part of the curriculum, we are taking away a very important part of the learning from the children.

High School English. The CCSS includes the standard that students must be able to read for irony, sarcasm, satire, and understatement. Quite a few of the passages/questions on the Regents exam assess proficiency in this skill. My objection is that the special education students who are on the spectrum CANNOT do this. It is like asking a color blind child to separate the red and green m&m's into 2 piles

I teach HS English. The Common Core purports more rigor, but only with short pieces, and moreso informational text. How am I supposed to teach theme, or characterization when I am only supposed to teach effects? Which excerpt of To Kill a Mockingbird would give you a sufficient understanding? Answer: there isn't one. And how does that prepare these kids for the incredible amount of reading at the college level? Again, it doesn't.

I teach 1st. Common Core math standards and practices are not teaching number sense at all. They teach different ways to get a number- adding, counting up, number line, subtracting, part/part/whole, 10 frame.They can do each little part but have no clue that they are all the same. There are sections on
Make 10 to add/ Make 10 to subtract. They aren't fluent in being able to make 10 at all! This just makes a one step add or subtract into 3 steps and they have no idea why.The worst parts are algebra for concrete 6 year olds and 6=8-2 where the equal sign is first. They cannot grasp it so I literally have to tell them how to plug in the numbers to get it correct. There is no understanding. If you taught basic number skills in early grades THEN when they understand basic addition and subtraction and number sense add these on in 2nd or 3rd grade, they'd be able to do AND understand it.

I teach 2nd grade. My concern is also math. Students do not have an understanding of number sense then they are expected to regroup up to 3 digit numbers in addition and subtraction. In 2nd grade, they also want students to break apart the ones to make a ten to add or subtract. Really?? Can we spend more time on basic addition and subtraction facts? My students are expected to add 24+8 by making the 8 into 6+2 and adding 24+6 = 30 and then add 2 to get 32. To add insult to injury, 2nd graders are expected to complete 2 step word problems on concepts that aren't appropriate.

I teach kindergarten. I feel the CCS are developmentally inappropriate. We are asking 4,5 and 6 year olds to "Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood." For example. We are asking them to write when many have not made the connection between letters and sounds. There's no time for social interactions and working through conflicts. There's no time to help reach them self help skills (shoe tying, buttoning, zipping) I could go on and on.

CC is as broad as it is pointless, I recall a PD where we were given activities and challenged to align it with CC standards. I opened the manual to random pages, would blindly point, and could justify the connection regardless of activity or standard.

I teach ESL, so have worked with all grades K-8. I hate the Common Core; it does not meet the needs of second-language learners, and is developmentally inappropriate for primary students.

 I'm a Teacher Librarian for grades 6-12. (I'm in my 27th year of teaching. ) I take great issue with the CC's emphasis on informational text (at the expense of story/fictional/narrative text). I work with many students who are marginally successful readers, others who are very reluctant readers, or those who are accomplished readers driven to find connections between story and their lives. A 70% diet of informational text does not meet the needs or reading desires of most of these students. In addition, a hefty diet of short, informational text does nothing to develop my students' abilities to read, understand, analyze, synthesize & reflect on longer narratives! But, perhaps that's what the authors of the CC want -- a generation of Americans unable to successfully engage in critical thinking! If citizens can't think critically, they are much more easily manipulated & controlled by those in authority!

I teach 8th grade. The emphasis on informational text makes my students hate reading.

 I teach kindergarten and bc of the CORE and the need to get them "ready" so much trickles down to my little ones. They cry, act out, tune out bc the work is too hard for them as it should be bc they are NOT READY! Some of the frustrations are part of the curriculum districts adopt that are not good and not developmentally appropriate which is the case for us, so a tangent of the CORE.

I teach high school Spanish. The Common Core hasn't directly impacted my curriculum because I teach a non-required elective, so the administration is too occupied with hounding the core teachers. That said, Common Core has impacted teaching and learning in my classroom because students endure pressure in other areas and have less endurance for the rigor of learning a foreign language. In addition, they have become programmed to believe that all learning tasks must give them a preview of a finite set of responses they will see on a test; therefore they are less willing to utilize the information and skills to create new, personally relevant knowledge. Perhaps if I taught in a district that wasn't desperate to remain accredited, the core teachers wouldn't be as forced to stop teaching and prep for the tests.

I teach 1st grade - CC's emphasis on "critical thinking" and children needing to explain in "academic language" their thinking is completely inappropriate for young children. The developers of these standards took the backfilling approach which might seem like a smart thing but does not pay attention to the fact that children do not develop in a linear fashion. I am fortunate to work in a school where I am trusted to teach in the way that I know is developmentally appropriate. But I weep for the children (and their teachers) who are being dictated to and pressured to learn reading and abstract math well before they are truly ready.

I teach 6th grade, and I echo what will undoubtedly be said by many--the emphasis on non-fiction and close reading is killing a love of reading as well as creativity in the classroom.

I teach high school English: Sophomore Language Arts, senior Rhetoric and Composition, and AP Literature and Composition. I hate the fact that Common Core does not mention reading a novel. Not. One. Not. Any.

I teach 8th grade Math. My main concern is having to teach the same material to the college bound as well as my lowest level students. I have a class that spans 8 RIT bands and it's hard to serve all of them well even with differentiation and a co-teacher. Kids who already have a dislike for Math hate it even more when forced to do something beyond their capabilities.

I teach 8th grade ELA. With the advent of the common core, our leaders decided that language arts (reading and writing) and English (grammar and writing) did not need to be separate classes at the middle school level. Their reasoning was that reading would be taught in all content areas. I am also
I teach integrated kindergarten- general education "typical peers" [15] and students with special needs [6]. I'm dual endorsed and I am their case manager. The Common Core is not developmentally appropriate for kindergarten's "typical peers" and is even less appropriate for students with special needs. The end of the year expectations in reading, writing, and math are developmentally inappropriate. Expecting ALL kindergartners to read at a Level D or E by the end of the year is wrong. Common Core moved 1st & even 2nd grade expectations into kindergarten. Child development did not change. This puts unrealistic expectations on very young children who are anything but standard, on children who need play and movement, choice and the arts, exploration indoors and outdoors to learn. Instead, Common Core pushes seat work, scripted lessons, didactic teacher control, and close-reading with a heavy emphasis on non-fiction. Writing expectations are especially difficult! Young children are just learning letter formation - yet are expected to learn to write narrative, informational, and opinion texts. And WHY in the world did they eliminate pattern instruction when all of life is connected to recognizing patterns?

The lack of patterns to me is key evidence that the people involved in writing these have no idea what learning or child development entail!

I teach 7th grade math. If a student did not have common core grades k-6 they are unprepared for what is required at the seventh grade. The idea that kids must fit the class room curriculum and not the curriculum fit the kids is il conceived. If a kid comes into my class and can't multiply with ease, that should be the standard I help him to learn. Trying to get a class to solve two step inequalities when they can't add fractions is absurd. Teach to the kid, not the test.

The over emphasis on close reading denies students the opportunity to make the connections necessary to understand why things happened. Denying students context simply robs students of understanding.

I teach 7th grade science so I am not directly affected by CC changes. However, it is obvious how detrimental the changes are to my students who are mainly ELLs. The English in particular seems the most different. All the kids do is try to find "evidence" and read nonfiction. No novels are read in my school in 7th or 8th grade.

I teach H.S. spanish. Honestly, I ignore it all. However, I'd like to make a point as a parent of a 15 year old. My daughter, when in elementary school, enjoyed reading non-fiction. However, she was not able to get her "points", for her reading goals with her non-fiction books. In other words, it was DISCOURAGE! Now, years later, she struggles with the text. Shameful! This CC disaster should not have been rolled out in all grades as kids did not have proper training in dealing with required material. That being said, the level to which all grade levels are expected to perform are inappropriate; it is beyond their maturity.

The belief that reading non fiction is so important that novels and short stories are ignored, fails to recognize the value of HG Wells and Jules Verne in getting a generation of scientists started.
I'm retired, taught GED, ESL, literacy, college composition and developmental writing. I'm very concerned about Common Core's sham promise of "college readiness." Common Core does GED students an even bigger disservice

I teach 5th grade-all subjects, however SS & Science are taught through the modules. UGH! We are told to use the module required readings and adapt when needed the rest. I have witnessed the spirit of reading and writing diminish from this nightmare. I see a great deal of the writing boring and regurgitated due to process CC wants you to use. Close reading only creates bored students. Citing evidence at such an early grade is ridiculous. I am teaching lessons geared for 7th or 8th grade students. I have decided to put the kids best interests in mind and not my own APPR crap. This year has been my best year of teaching since the last five years of CC Crap. You know why? Because I am an activist for children! After 30 some years in education, I know what is right for children. I will not keep silent. BTW Math is ridiculous. There are enough videos from others that show you the harm of this. No one can do basic math, nor do they have money skills. Oh and I forgot to mention, we now teach Human Rights, not the Constitution of Declaration of Independence. So sad. This year I introduced Responsive Classroom. My students and I love the entire process. Not much time left for CC garbage. Thank goodness. Real world learning!

I teach fifth grade--all subjects. What I dislike about CC is that it does not go deeper. We are teaching children to multiply and divide fractions. (In 37 years of teaching fifth grade we never taught division of fractions.) Their minds do not understand the concept of multiplying and getting a smaller answer, or dividing and getting a larger answer. They just aren't ready. They can do the math, but they don't understand. I can use manipulatives all day, and we can draw pictures til the cows come home, but they do not understand. And of course, the testing...

I teach middle school 6-8 ELA (reading and English in the sixth grade). I think the intense emphasis on the technical aspects of literature as opposed to content is turning kids off to writing. Most of these skill are ones that experience readers understand, but inexperienced readers have trouble comprehending them because they don't have the literacy base to really see their importance. I think the CC ELA skills are too technical to be compelling, as if we've stripped content from reading, and the only point now of reading is text analysis.

I think struggling readers need to read more — meaningful literature — instead of the snippets that they're given as test prep. I try my best to integrate the CC skills into the literature we're reading, but even I get disgusted with them.

Visual art, grades 7-12. The emphasis on a common core curriculum combined with the linking of student test scores to teacher and administrator evaluations has narrowed the curriculum. Students are being forced into courses that have the potential to raise test scores and out of non-tested subjects. 

The students that I do see, are often bewildered, some of them to the point of being paralyzed when presented with a problem that requires decisions between multiple and equally valid resolutions. They have difficulty processing and remembering how to use multiple steps to make or do something. Sadly, many students have never developed the patience necessary to accomplish a complex task. Students who are hands on...the makers, the dreamers, the artists, the innovators, and craftspeople are being cheated of the opportunity to begin their journey of discovery in the quest for uniform test proficiency.

I teach HS math. Our district math specialist was selling us CCSS a few years ago, claiming that she loved how it covers concepts slower and deeper. When we asked her what she was talking about, she said "Oh, yeah. I wouldn't want to be a high school teacher for the sheer number of things you have to get students to master." There's an inverse relationship between mastery and number of topics!

I teach second grade. While we technically have Florida Standards, not 'Common Core" if it quacks like a duck...... I have a hard time dealing with the math. Kids can regroup without difficulty, but when you start breaking apart numbers, it confuses them. It is referred to as "decomposing". When I think of that term, I think of something that stinks. Very appropriate in my opinion.

I teach 7th and 8th grade all subjects in a self-contained special education classroom with students expected to pass the Florida Standards Assessment tests--reading, writing, math, science. My biggest issues with Common Core occur in my math classes. Skills and content have been brought down about 2 grade levels--especially when it comes to algebra. Students are not maturationally ready to solve multi-step algebraic problems with synthesis or evaluation questions that follow them. The other issue is the background knowledge that is expected. When kids aren't ready for a topic/concept, they need repeated exposure to that content over several years. There is no reteaching in my Common Core textbooks. Students are also supposed to be able to remember equations and formulas after one learning experience. The new textbooks don't provide support for those students by having the equations/formulas in the new lessons as a reminder. Topics are separated by grade level and not shared across grade levels even when they are topics that are connected and should be scaffolded across years. It is frustrating as a teacher and frustrating for my students.

I teach self-contained IND Language Arts, Social Studies, and Life Skills for 6-8 grade. We don't do Common Core. We do a modified curriculum called Access Points. I like the curriculum itself- it's much easier to tweak for the individual student. However, the state is pushing more and more testing on our kids and it's stressing them out. They may not be tops academically, but they damn sure know what a test is.

I teach 4th & 5th grade special ed. The CCSS are simply not developmentally appropriate--especially at the lower grades. We're asking kids to think very abstractly in math and reading long before they are able to do that. Too much is covered at each grade level. In math, there is no time to develop any kind of mastery because so many topics have to be covered in a year. Kids are arriving in 4th grade with fewer skills and less proficiency than pre-CC$$. Now, even basic kindergarten skills (cutting, pasting, learning how to hold a pencil and basic printing) are all sacrificed so that they kids can do "academics" all day. Kids can't even print correctly when they hit 4th grade (and NO one can do cursive). In reading and language arts, young kids are asked to read and analyze numerous readings at a level well above their developmental levels. I cringe at our district writing sample prompts which ask 9- & 10-year-olds to discuss 3+ resources in a single prompt. I wasn't asked to do that until high school! We've lost our minds. We are harming children.

I teach K and 1. I don't think the Common Core is developmentally appropriate for young learners. In particular, the math standards are out of line. K students are expected to have an impressive mastery of subtraction and number decomposition. I have had students who can read years above grade level but are utterly stymied by subtraction because their brains just not ready to master the concept.

A Teacher Responds to NJ 101.5: My Pension is NOT Lavish! 

Mr. Scott, I would like to share with you what my day consisted of yesterday in my special education class. This is my twentieth year teaching in my district. I teach a self-contained special education class which is called a multiple disabilities program. My students are in a public middle school here in New Jersey and they have varying disabilities including but not limited to: autism, Down syndrome, spina bifida, general cognitive impairments, Rett’s syndrome, communication delays and more. My students range in age from 11-16 but are on a 2-7 year old educational level.
One of my students had a difficult day. She attacked my staff and me no less than 6 times throughout the day, threatened to kill me several times. She spat on me twice and left large pieces of mucous in my hair. Because of her assaults, we needed to restrain her twice for her safety and others. In the past this student has given one staff member a concussion and I had to see a vision specialist after she punched me in the eye.
This is not the first student in my class with these problems and she will not be the last. I love my job and the challenges it brings each and every day because in the end I care for my students and work over the four years that they are in my class to help them improve their behavior and their academic knowledge.
However, as I drive to work listening to the news of the day, reflecting on my previous school day and mentally preparing for what may lie ahead for today, your voice comes through the speakers of my car radio and I am quite upset. I respectfully, but vehemently disagree that my benefits are “lavish” as you reported on your 7:00 AM news report on 2-12-2016.
The news report should be reporting the facts, not opinion. The term “lavish” is clearly a subjective term not based on fact but opinion. You should be ashamed of yourself “reporting” that news. You may have that opinion and if you expressed that view while chatting with the host, although I may disagree, it would not have angered me.
Your opinion has no place in the “news” report unless you qualify your statements with “it is just my opinion that…” Try to do what I do for one day. Teaching others how to deal with severe behavior. Teaching paraprofessionals how to lift a student properly out of a wheelchair. Asking the school nurse to train a person to change the diapers of a 14 year old. Teaching students who are non-verbal to use a communication device. Trying to draw out the student with autism out of his world into ours for just a few minutes. Talking to parents about planning for their child’s future; a future that someday will not include the parent. Those little things are in addition to the lesson plans, preparation of individualized lessons and materials for my students who cannot learn from a traditional book. Completing the incredible amount of paperwork that is required for each student in special education. Doing all of this for each and every student in my class. I guarantee that you couldn’t do it. Most people can’t. That is fine. I CAN! Do not begin to think my benefits including my pension (that I was promised by the way when I was hired) are LAVISH. Would you tell a police officer or fire fighter that? I have the lives of special people in my hands every day. Their parents trust that their precious children who cannot communicate or care for themselves to me every day.  
I deserve those benefits and that pension because I earn them every day. What super power do you have?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Most Charter Schools are Public Schools in Name ONLY

By:  Steven Singer, Director of BATs Research/Blogging Committee
Originally published on his blog
Charter schools are public schools.
But are they?
They don’t look like a duck. They don’t quack like a duck. Do you really want to serve them confit with a nice orange sauce?
Sure, charters are funded by tax dollars. However, that’s usually where the similarities end.
They don’t teach like public schools, they don’t spend their money like public schools, they don’t treat students or parents like public schools – in fact, that’s the very reason they exist – to be as unlike public schools as possible.
Advocates claim charters exist as laboratory schools. They are free to experiment and find new, better ways of doing things. Once they’ve proven their successes, these improved practices will eventually trickle down to our more traditional houses of learning.
At least, that’s the ideal behind them. But to my knowledge it’s never happened.
As a public school teacher, I can never recall being at a training where charter operators taught us how to do things better with these time-tested strategies. I do, however, recall watching excellent co-workers furloughed because my district had to meet the rising costs of payments to our local charters.
Moreover, if the freedom to experiment is so important, why not give that privilege to all public schools, not just a subset?
The reality is much different than the ideal. In the overwhelming majority of cases, charter schools are vastly inferior to their more traditional brethren. To understand why, we need to see the differences between these two kinds of learning institutions and why in every case the advantage goes to our much-maligned, long suffering traditional public schools:
1) Charters Don’t Accept all Students
Charter schools are choosey. They don’t take just any old students. They only accept the ones they want. And the ones they want are usually easy and less expensive to teach.
The process is called “Creaming” because they only pick the cream of the crop. Then when these students who are already doing well continue to do well at a charter, the administrators take all the credit. It’s as if they were saying – Look how well we teach. All these former A-students continue to get A’s here at our school. It’s really quite an achievement. (Not.)
However, sometimes the bait-and-switch isn’t so obvious. Occasionally, charters actually do accept special needs and/or difficult students – for a few months. Then when the big standardized test is coming up, they quietly give these kids the boot. That way they can claim they accept everyone but still get excellent standardized test scores.
Ironically, that’s what they mean by “School Choice.” It’s usually touted as a way of giving alternatives to parents and students. In reality, the choice only goes to administrators. Not “Which school do YOU want to attend?” but “Which students doWE want to accept to make our charter look good?”
Keep in mind, this situation is allowed by law. Charters are legally permitted to discriminate against whichever students they want.
By contrast, traditional public schools accept all students who live within the district. It doesn’t matter if children have special needs and therefore cost more to educate. If a child lives within district boarders, your neighborhood public school will take him or her in and provide the best experience possible.
Bean counters complain about poor test scores, but traditional public schools aren’t gaming the system. They aren’t weeding out difficult students. They take everyone. Administrators have no choice. This is dictated by law. Public schools are equal opportunity educators.
2) Charters Have No Transparency
Have you ever been to a school board meeting? Ever listened to school directors debate the merits of one course of action versus another? Ever looked over public documents detailing district finances and how money is spent? Ever read over bids vendors provide for services? Ever spoken at a public meeting to school directors about what you think is the best way to proceed in a given situation? Ever had a school director or two disappoint and then worked to vote him or her out of office?
At traditional public schools, you can do all of this – even if you don’t have any children in the school system! At a charter school, you’re out of luck.
Charters rarely have to tell you how they spend their money, rarely debate management decisions in public, rarely invite or even permit you a seat in the audience. Heck! They don’t have to!
Charters survive on public money, but once that money goes in those charter doors, the public never sees it again. If you don’t like how the charter is treating your child, you can remove the little dear from the school. But if a non-parent doesn’t like how they suspect the charter is spending his or her tax money, there is absolutely no recourse. You are taxed without any representation. Wars have been fought over such things. It’s hard to imagine how that can be Constitutional.
In sum, traditional public schools are like most other government organizations. They are required by law to be transparent to the public. Charter schools, however, are money pits and what goes down those gaping holes is lost forever from public view.
3) Charters Advertise
Have you ever seen those huge billboards by the side of the road trying to convince motorists to send their children to a charter chain? Ever hear a radio advertisement about how happy little kiddos are at Brand X Charter School?
Those advertisements cost money. Your money, to be exact. You paid for those commercials. And what’s more, every penny spent on those glossy advertisements is one less that actually goes to educate your child.
By contrast, traditional public schools are not allowed to advertise. All their budget dollars have to be spent on things broadly educational. They have to spend on books, teachers, building upkeep, etc.
Not only are charters allowed to keep quiet about how they spend their money, even if they told you, it doesn’t all have to be spent on the children in their care. What could possibly go wrong with that?
4) Charters Defraud the Public
Despite all their best efforts at secrecy, charter school operators have been caught in countless financial scandals in recent years. According to Integrity in Education$200 million in taxpayer money was lost, misused, or wasted in just 15 of the 42 states that have charter schools.
These aren’t mere allegations. These abuses are well documented. The report states: “Charter operators have used school funds illegally to buy personal luxuries for themselves, support their other businesses, and more.”
Mountains of evidence demonstrate fraud throughout the country: Schoolchildren defrauded in Pennsylvania; “out-of-control” charters in Michigan and Florida; rampant misspending in Ohio; bribes and kickbacks, also in Ohio; revenues directed to a for-profit company in Buffalo, NY; subpoenas for mismanaged charters in Connecticut. Heck! In California alone, $100 million in fraud losses were expectedjust last year.
And that’s just the fraud we can see!
I’m not saying our traditional public schools are scandal free, but nothing like this level of malfeasance has been revealed. Traditional schools are under much stricter regulations. People are actually watching to make sure nothing like these charter scandals happen at our time-tested neighborhood schools. They are much better value for your money.
5) Charters Often Get Worse Results
It all comes down to teaching and learning. When we compare the results at charters versus traditional public schools, who does better?
Bottom line: the research shows that the overwhelming majority of charter schools are no better – and often much worse than traditional public schools. This is true even of studies backed by the charter school industry, itself!
For example, a recent study by charter-friendly CREDO found that in comparison to traditional public schools “students in Ohio charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics.”
In a study of Chicago’s public schools, the University of Minnesota Law School found that “Sadly the charter schools, which on average score lower that the Chicago public schools, have not improved the Chicago school system, but perhaps made it even weaker.”
Another report from Data First – part of the Center for Public Education – says, “the majority of charter schools do no better or worse than traditional public schools.”
However, there is plenty of evidence of charter schools producing dismal academic results for students. For instance, a Brookings report showed low performance in Arizona’s charter schools. A District of Columbia researcher for In the Public Interest group, “could not provide a single instance in which its strategy of transferring a low-performing school to a charter management organization had resulted in academic gains for the students.” The Minnesota Star Tribune reported that “Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth.” Over 85 percent of Ohio’s charter students were in schools graded D or F in 2012–2013. In the celebrated New Orleans charter experiment, the Investigative Fund found that “eight years after Hurricane Katrina…seventy-nine percent of RSD charters are still rated D or F by the Louisiana Department of Education.”
That’s not exactly a record of success!
Meanwhile, our traditional public schools often do a much better job.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that U.S. math and reading skills have improved for all levels of public school students since the 1970s, with the greatest gains among minority and disadvantaged students. Other results indicate that our schools achieve even greater success when properly funded.
The facts seem pretty clear. Charter schools are not like traditional public schools at all.
Most charter schools are a losing prospect for our children and our Democracy. Yet well-funded corporate lobbying interests continue to push charters as a public policy solution while instigating the closure of an increasing number of traditional public schools.
This is like closing hospitals and opening clinics on the power of crystals, snake oil and phrenology.
We need a national moratorium on new charter schools. We need to investigate every existent charter to determine if each are providing a quality service to students and not just the charter’s corporate share holders.
We know what works, and it isn’t charter schools. Support your friendly, neighborhood, traditional public school.

Saturday, February 6, 2016



This week's update: 
--Congress needs to address student loan debt
--President Obama to release FY2017 budget Tuesday 
--ESSA implementation ramps up!

There is a bill being introduced into the House very very soon about school choice in DC.  Call your House Representative TODAY or this week and tell them that supporting school choice is NOT supporting public education!  Here is a link to find the phone number for your rep and/or send them a personal email.

Here is the bill

Don't forget to check out the BATs Election Scorecard



Districts with voucher students fear funding cut


The PA House is Preparing More Attacks on Pennsylvania's Workers!

Our Stand for Children campaign received enough signatures to put our initiative on the ballot for November. This initiative would force the state to better fund our schools. Here is what the MEA reported in our weekly newsletter:"The game-changing amount of money would come from a ballot initiative called Stand Up for Students. The MEA is happy to announce today the initiative gathered nearly 95,000 signatures, far more than the 61,123 needed to put the issue on the ballot in November 2016. Nearly 350 members from around the state helped gather signatures in 489 cities and towns across every county in the state.

Collecting all the signatures necessary to put this funding issue before voters was not easy, and the MEA wants to say THANK YOU to all those who supported the cause.

The MEA, along with retired educators, will turn in all the petitions to the Secretary of State for final approval on February 1st. Once validated, the question to increase education funding by an estimated $157 million in the first year alone by creating a 3% surcharge on Maine's top 2% of income earners will be placed on the ballot. The ballot initiative, bringing the state to the required 55% funding level, requires funding from the surcharge be used for direct classroom instruction, including teachers, school nurses and other critical public school personnel."

That was "thumbs up." Thumbs down goes to the Maine Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. Three Democrats joined with Republican members in siding with administration over teachers to kill a bill on involuntary transfers. LD 1544 would give teachers who are being involuntarily transferred to a different position or school the right to a hearing before the School Board. Many Maine teachers have reported to the MEA that administrators are increasing their use of involuntary transfers to punish teachers or force retirements.

Tennessee Bats have been involved with legislators and other grassroots groups in a voucher fight that will come to a climax Monday. Legislators have made heavy use of our networking and social media abilities to make sure legislators hear from their constituents. We are also fighting a dues deduction caption bill that will remove almost all locals' ability to collect membership dues by payroll. We are supporting bills to do away with or reduce the ability of the Achievement School District and their ability to take local schools. There are other testing bills and a bill to attempt removing VAM. Last but not least, I have picked up papers to run for the Tennessee General Assembly House of Representatives.  They have been working with TEA on all fronts

The School Our Keiki Deserve Omnibus Education Act has been introduced in the Hawaii State Legislature and hearings in both the senate (SB2586) and the house (HB2733) will be held on Wednesday, February 10. Members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association Speakers' Bureau, including some Hawaii BATs, will be flying to Honolulu from various parts of the state to present testimony. Others will mail in testimony or call legislators. On February 5, hundreds of teachers, community members, and students rallied at the state capitol in support of the legislation that proposes a dedicated education fund created by a 1% increase in the state's general excise tax to provide an additional $700-750 million per year to end high-stakes testing, promote whole child education, improve vocational education, recruit and retain qualified teachers, improve services for students who have special needs and students who speak English as a second language, increase support for rural schools, support teachers with discretionary funds for supplies, repair and maintain facilities, including air conditioning in classrooms, and establish public preschools islandwide.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Call to Action:  You Control Accountability!
By:  Artie Leichner

I have been given the opportunity to write a piece to address this very significant organization. My name is Artie Leichner. I am a retired teacher, former union leader and a current candidate for the Florida House of Representatives.

I want to talk to all of you about accountability. It used to be such a simple concept. Individuals were assigned tasks and there was an expectation that those specific functions would be carried out. We were expected to be on time, teach and evaluate our students, communicate with parents, guardians and administrators as appropriate. We had a contract and it needed to be followed by all parties involved in it.

Of course we as teachers had a different level of accountability. Our students needed supplies, classrooms needed to look right, Xeroxing without paper, providing occasionally food, as well as ongoing management of the crisis of the moment. We held ourselves to a higher standard and placed the needs of our kids above all else. What did it get us?

It got us where we are today. Somehow the control of the dialogue has shifted. It used to be that teachers followed clergy among the most respected and responsible members of society. Now, all of a sudden it is we who are constantly tested, challenged to insert a scripted curriculum, designed for If we follow the script with fidelity and those placed in front of us have a "script-ose" intolerant system, we have few if any alternatives to turn to. At the end of it all is a career ended.

So why continue to go above and beyond? I offer you two challenges. First, simply stop and "work to the rule." The teacher inside of me is violently grinding in my gut as I type this.  Second, and far more important you need your lesson plans in exact accordance with your District Rules. I know some places have a contractual controversy, but you need to give them what they want. Now the important part - you need a calendar. Every day you record, by name, time and incident every single interruption. Who, how long, why. You need to record any student called to a meeting or late to class because of one. You need to record assemblies that disrupts your plan and how it throws you out of synch with the required daily expectation. You need to record when mechanical failures or sufficient supplies are not there. If you don't have books record every date. If you're assignment is Internet based, you need to record all students who have no access and the write an email and have the school send physical letter asking for verification. You need to record when extra testing is scheduled - time and date, and how much time there is to prepare. You have to have the evidence and be able, in a confidential setting, explain causative agents to any results.
Sick and tired of the blame game - take it to a new level.
It seems like an annoying amount of work. It also lets you have an arsenal. I had to do things like this as an advocate in many cases, but without a long term plan we were insufficiently prepared.
Then you begin. One school at a time. You need your administration to see the end game and show them they are in the same boat. They need to do the same thing.