Friday, October 31, 2014


By Andy Spears

This article appears on the Tennessee Education Report

The race for Tennessee’s 13th District House Seat features incumbent Democrat Gloria Johnson versus an army of out-of-state special interest groups who have teamed up with Governor Bill Haslam to unseat one of the most outspoken defenders of public education in the General Assembly.
Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has sent mailer after mailer comparing Johnson to such horrible figures as Lane Kiffin and Barack Obama (it is difficult to tell which of the two is viewed less favorably in Knoxville).
The Tennessee Federation for Children has spent $100,000 against Johnson. The outfit is curiously named, since it is based in Washington, DC, and doesn’t have a Tennessee presence until it is time to push for risky and expensive voucher schemes at the General Assembly. Thanks in part to Johnson’s leadership, the TFC’s voucher plans have failed in two consecutive General Assemblies. Now, they’re coming after Johnson.
Joining (leading?) the parade of attacks against Johnson is Governor Bill Haslam. His Advance Tennessee PAC is spending $50,000 on a new TV attack ad against Johnson.
What’s Haslam’s beef against the Knoxville teacher-legislator? Gloria Johnson has routinely criticized Haslam for his lack of leadership and general failure to communicate, especially when it comes to education issues.
Johnson correctly warned that Common Core would die in Tennessee unless Haslam did a better job of talking with teachers and parents about the merits of the program.
The good news for Johnson is that Haslam and the Koch Brothers teamed up with TFC in the primary in August to challenge Republicans who weren’t sufficiently in support of privatizing public schools, and they lost many of those races.
Of course, a teacher and defender of public schools can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with such intense spending. But the focus on House District 13 when the GOP already holds a big majority in the General Assembly makes one wonder what exactly these groups want for their money.
I wrote a piece about the GOP 2013 legislative agenda on education that I think is exactly what these groups want to see pass in 2015. If only they can get Gloria Johnson out of the way.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow@TNEdReport

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Little School Privatization History About Memphis

If you think it is just the poor schools that will be turned to charters, think again.  Sooner or later they will want to turn your middle class school into one, and my guess is you will pay for it, and you will have no say into how it is run.
In the fall of 2009, a strange change took place in Memphis City Schools (MCS) that may have been one precursor of more drastic things to follow. Certainly, there were already monumental shifts going on: principal removals, “everyone to college” mantras, and so-called school turnarounds. But this particular change I think is noteworthy.
Parents and teachers were startled to learn of a new high school block schedule and the addition of two more classes to an already crowded six course regimen. This transformation was districtwide. Most troubling perhaps, was that all this took place seemingly overnight, with scant input from the public. There was little time for teachers to prepare for such a drastic change. Many worried how this would affect students.
At White Station High School, in Memphis, one of the best schools in the city, and in the state, parents scratched their heads as they learned of this new schedule and how it would affect their school. Teachers were angered to hear they would lose planning time. Already the school had the highest number of National Merit Scholars, even higher than the area’s prestigious private schools. And they had college recruiters from an array of high level universities.
Of course, according to critics, all is not perfect at White Station, a school that has, what some call, an elitist optional program. This program attracts students from around the Memphis area. There are poor students there too, and the diverse school is often criticized for not integrating students better once they walk through the door. But was a block schedule with 8 classes the answer? Shouldn’t parents and teachers and school officials have had a discussion about it? Couldn’t the school’s difficulties been fixed? Shouldn’t what worked at White Station have been applied at other schools?
And White Station was not the only good school in Memphis by any means. Other schools were improving–some by leaps and bounds. For example, Whitehaven High School had received $143 million in scholarship money just that previous June, and not just sports scholarships. What was Whitehaven doing right? Didn’t anyone want to know? Why was an arbitrary new schedule being foisted on schools when poor schools were already striving hard and succeeding to make the kind of improvements that would help kids?
According to school board member at the time Dr. Jeff Warren the board followed the ideas of Eli Broad, a prominent business man turned school reformer. Why, Warren was asked by parents, would the board listen to Broad, an outsider with no children in the school district? Why would he not, instead, listen to his hometown constituents? Warren replied that the board liked Broad’s ideas. Indeed, the MCS board was working in one of Broad’s three school reformation programs, the Broad School Board Governance Program. Broad’s activity in any school district is highly sought after by administrators who see his stamp of approval like a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize for schools. Memphis is not alone.
At the same time, in 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also came to Memphis, awarding the cash-strapped Memphis City School System $90 million to work primarily on Teacher Effectiveness. Supt. Kriner Cash, who would later lose his job in the overall school transition plan, reflected the feelings of many when he said, “This is huge, this is huge, this puts Memphis City Schools in a very elite territory, on the front page of the nation.”
The grant included $1.9 million for training which included videotaping teachers under the guidance of Harvard economist Thomas Kane. And a lesser known plan for teachers involved setting them up with earbuds where they would listen to coaches across the room giving them directions on how to teach.
The larger project, however, involved the use of Value Added Measurement (VAM) with teachers, promoted by the Gates Foundation in the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study. VAM has become a serious issue in Tennessee and the country. The Tennessee Education Association has pushed back against its use when it comes to their licenses. But VAM was used to fire four Nashville teachers just this week. And one can expect, with the draconian atmosphere in Tennessee against teachers, that more firings are around the corner.
While Gates and Broad looked to be all about effecting changes within public schools, it is important to note, what many of us know, that they also support groups that are all about privatizing schools. Teach For America (TFA), The New Teacher Project, the Memphis Residency Program, New Leaders for New Schools and Stand for Children all work towards replacing career teachers with novices and converting public schools to charter schools. These are all organizations heavily supported by not just Broad and Gates, but many other businesses and politicians, local and nationwide.
In 2011, the Memphis City School district (approx. 100,000 students) surrendered its charter, forcing a merger with the Shelby County Schools (approx. 40,000 students in the suburbs) outside of Memphis. Many in the county saw it as a hostile takeover on the part of the city schools. Others saw it as a way to finally bridge the racial divide between the city and the county. The merger, which went into effect in 2013, became the largest school consolidation measure ever. But it was not to last. The following year the county schools broke into municipalities. And the actions seem to have made way for more charter schools and a city school administration with few, if any, real educators.
The suburbs, which had always opposed charter schools, had to eventually accept them. Matt Throckmorton who was the director of the Tennessee Charter School Association stated, “Unfortunately, many school districts think of charter schools as a penalty. We need to stop looking at it that way. We need to focus on what is best for the children. Children should have the option of going to a zoned school or to a charter school. These schools could take kids just sort of getting by and turn them loose (academically).” Yet, there is no proof of this. CREDO.
The Transition Planning Committee (TPC) which dealt with the merger was made up primarily of individuals who had signed on to Stand for Children, politicians and businessmen. One of the commissioners, Mike Carpenter, eventually left his post to join Michelle Rhee’s Students First. One of the Memphis City School board members, Tomeka Hart, is now Vice President of African-American Community Partnerships for Teach For America.
I was a finalist for my district to originally be on the TPC, but I was oddly removed from the process before my final presentation to the Shelby County Commissioners. I was the only educator, a longtime teacher, with a PhD in my field. One of the commissioners, Terry Rowland, gave an impassioned speech to the press, before the last meeting, claiming the candidates had been chosen ahead of time. The individual who eventually got the position was also from Stand for Children.
Jump ahead to 2014. Many changes have occurred to the schools in Memphis. Everyone is getting over the takeover that broke up the old county system into small municipal school districts, each led now by different superintendents. While parents want this to work, there has been much concern over how to fund schools well. The conversion of Memphis City Schools to Shelby County Schools produced a lot of changes, but few will tell you it brought people together. Much gnashing of teeth took place pitting people against each other. The way it was done, the lack of involvement by the people who were affected, stripped the city schools especially of a sense of community. And there has been much chaos and loss of money including $48.4 million in missing equipment.
The Memphis City Schools now have the Achievement School District, which includes an array of charter schools, none which have proven to be better than regular public schools. They also have i-Zone schools which are turnaround schools that get extra money from a school improvement grant, and the regular schools, many which are fighting to remain open. The charter schools with their eyes on Memphis include Yes Prep and Green Dot, among others, which have been supported by Broad and Gates and other business leaders in the past. When the real schools close, the teachers will have to reapply to the charter schools to get their jobs back. But those from Teach For America, or other like groups will most likely get hired instead.
There have been other changes too in Memphis, most of which have not been well-received. The University of Memphis will begin offering a Memphis Teacher Residency Program, similar to Teach For America, prep program, across the hall from the real teacher program to make authentic career teachers. While the university has made it more difficult for career bound teachers to graduate, trying to squelch years of criticism that they aren’t doing a good job, the new program looks like it is posing to take over. Many business leaders are all onboard for the TFA types, calling Memphis “Teacher Town.” The Gates Foundation is rumored to be behind the program. The professors in the College of Education were not included in the decision-making.
To be sure, the Memphis changes are disconcerting in many ways, but mostly because of how they seem to separate and divide under a false sense of progress. Recently, I attended a meeting of the Memphis Leadership Institute which, as its name implies, grooms young, bright individuals, many of color, to become leaders in charter schools and the community. They are well-dressed and sharp talkers. It is obvious that they are deeply committed to doing their idea of a good job. In many ways they epitomize those seen by the black community, and the community in general, as fine leaders.
The problem is that few of them have any real background or understanding of children and their development. They speak authoritatively and positively about data points and high-stakes testing, Common Core and getting students to college, but they don’t seem to realize that education is much more than that. When I asked one gentleman from Stand for Children what credentials it would take to start a charter school, his answer was none. All you needed was a good application–a plan. This is alarming.
The good news is that there is pushback against charter schools. Several have pulled out citing capacity concerns. Parents are questioning if their schools are really failing, many don’t seem to be, and they wonder how any charter school business from outside Memphis could be good for their children. And more recently, the Shelby County School Board looks to be slowing down on the ASD. Starting more charters when the ones you have aren’t doing well doesn’t make a lot of sense, like many of the changes in Memphis haven’t made much sense.
There are many teacher and parent activists. Tennessee teachers Lucianna Sanson and Lee-Ann Pepper Nolan from the National and State BAT groups have written strong articles in defense of real public schools. HERE. Parent groups like TREES and Momma Bears have also stood strong against privatization.
Yet, thus far, the state is stating that more public schools will close and be turned over to the ASD. It is to them a done deal. Remember when charters were sold as what parents would want. Well, now we are finding out what happens when they don’t want them.
As far as the block schedule and the 8 classes: the schedule was dropped and they also dropped one class, students have 7 classes now, which still seems like too many. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens to high-performing schools like White Station and Whitehaven and all those that are making steady progress. And what will happen to the municipal suburban schools? Will they all be turned into charter schools too eventually?
Memphis is a lovely city, and I like the people here too. But the poverty is severe. There is no sign that the charters that have taken over are doing better. Certainly, they aren’t doing well enough to take over more schools and move into the suburbs. There is little to be seen of true efforts to bring people together when those at the top fail to listen. If the schools don’t make progress, it is because there are too many competing against each other. Children in poor schools also need real teachers, not substitutes from fast-track programs. It is very sad to think about what could have been and what is actually happening in Memphis.
Clark, Kym. “Extra Credit: Whitehaven High Scholarship Money.” WMC Action News 5. June 2, 2009.
Roberts, Jane. “Parents angry over many city schools changes.” Commercial Appeal.October 6, 2009.
Five School Boards and Superintendents Selected to Participate in Executive Governance Trainings to Improve Student Achievement. Business Wire. July 16, 2008.
Roberts, Jane. “Memphis City Schools. Accept $90 million Gates Foundation Grant.”Commercial Appeal. November 18, 2009.
Roberts, Jane. Memphis City Schools Teachers Get An Earbud-ful of Class Coaching.”Commercial Appeal. February 22, 2011.
Learning About Teaching: Initial Findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project. The MET Project. December, 2010.
Dillon, Sam. “Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges.” The New York Times. November 5, 2011.
“Charter Schools Unwelcome in the Suburbs.”
Editorial. Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland Lashes Out at Newspaper, Process of Appointing School Board. Commercial Appeal. September 12, 2011 .
Roberts, Jane. “Audit of Shelby Schools Shows ‘Staggering’ $48.4 million in Missing Equipment.” Commercial Appeal December 2, 2013.
Morrison, Oliver. Memphis Teacher Residency Program Expands, Gets Statewide Recognition. Chalkbeat TENNESSEE. August 14, 2014.
Dries, Bill. “Teacher Town.” Memphis Daily News. March 23, 2013.
Burnette, Daarel. “Citing Capacity Concerns, KIPP, Freedom Prep Pull Out of ASD Takeover Process. Chalkbeat TENNESSEE, October 27, 2014.
Sanson, Lucianna and Lee-Ann P. Nolan. “Making Money Off Students.” LA Progressive. October 2, 2014 and “Tennessee Students ‘Fastest Improving at Making Money for Venture Capitalists.’” Herald Chronicle. October 29, 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New York Badass Teachers Association
For Immediate Release - October 29, 2014
Information Contact
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager

Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager


The New York State Badass Teachers Association, an organization of over 2000 educators, was enraged today to read comments made by Governor Cuomo to the Daily News editorial board […/cuomo-vows-bust-school-monopoly-…]. It was reported that Governor Cuomo stated emphatically that he would “break” the state’s public school system. His plan to end this “public monopoly” would include expanding charters, tougher teacher evaluations, and a continued agenda to punish the children and families who choose to attend New York's public schools.

We have already endured a roll-out of evaluations Cuomo himself has called “a disaster.”  Its byzantine algorithms fraught with inaccuracy and called “arbitrary and capricious” are in a legal challenge announced this week. Even more absurdly, the current evaluations actually attribute student test scores in Math and English Language Arts to teachers of other subjects, such as music, art, gym, foreign language, and others.

Schools that struggle with high poverty rates have been hit hardest under Cuomo’s education agenda. This needs to be investigated fully as a civil rights violation mandated by Cuomo towards our children that attend these struggling schools.

NY teacher Jamy Brice Hyde stated, “Public schools are not a business therefore not a monopoly. The monopoly is in the Charter school movement where public tax dollars go to private business. THIS IS TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”

“Charters do not in any way get held accountable by any objective evaluation or standard--nor are they compelled to follow Common Core or any other state mandate. That's like having a race where one runner has to carry a cannon ball while the other gets to use roller skates,” stated former NY teacher Steve Corso.

Bronx teacher Aixa Rodriguez and BAT DREAM Manager commented strongly, “Cuomo is once again giving into special interests and attacking public education, teachers unions, and therefore parents and children.”

Cuomo’s choice of words shows a distorted understanding of public versus private enterprise. Matt Steiniger adds “To call public education a monopoly is to presume that education is a marketplace. The implication here is that there is profit to be gained. Education is a public good. The only people that should be allowed to exploit education for personal gain are the students.”

Finally, NY BAT Sue Parla commented, “ I wonder why Cuomo is fighting so hard against teachers when he could be opening a dialog with us to find out what will truly help our schools. The underlying issue is those who are funding his campaign. He puts their desire to make money off privatization over the needs of children.”

New York teachers go to the polls on Tuesday to vote. No teacher in New York State should vote for Cuomo. NY BATs have officially endorsed the Hawkins/Jones Green Party ticket for their support of public education, its children, parents, and teachers. VOTE GREEN!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Opting Out: Our Strongest Weapon against the Corporate Education Reform Machine

Since No Child Left Behind was implemented and schools across the country were held hostage to unreasonable goals, punished for educating low achieving students, and besieged with an alarming increase of high stakes standardized testing, parents, teachers, and students have been fighting back. Unfortunately President Obama and his administration doubled down on the false narratives set by NCLB with Race to the Top which increased testing and evaluating teachers based on those tests, also known as value-added measures.  Nonetheless, those of us who know that high stakes testing is not a valid measure of a student’s academic achievement or a reliable measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, continue to fight back against these dangerous policies that have created an atmosphere of blame, punishment, and failure.  United Opt Out (UOO) is a grassroots national organization formed in 2011to lead the fight to resist high stakes standardized testing. The mission of UOO is “to strengthen public education; fight corporate based reforms . . . and, in particular, to end the practice of punitive, high-stakes [testing] and related activities that are fraudulently being used as ‘proof’ of the incompetence of public education/ teachers [and schools].”
            UOO has encouraged parents to opt their children out of high stakes standardized testing in an effort to deny the corporate model of education reform the data they need to profit off our children’s education.  Parents have a right to say no to policies and practices that they believe are unethical and harmful to their children. Although many states and education leaders claim that opting out is not legal, UOO has developed state guides that inform parents of their right to opt out is indeed a recognized right for parents to have control over the education of their children. UOO also instructs parents on how to inform the principal at their child’s school that they will be opting out of high stakes testing.  Some parents have felt resistance and have been scared into thinking that if they opt their child out it will have a negative effect on their school but to date that has not happened and thousands of parents across the country have been successful in opting their child out of high stakes standardized tests, field testing, and testing used to evaluate teachers.
            Parents are our first line of defense when it comes to opting out because unlike teachers they cannot be fired for their decision. However, teachers are increasingly choosing not to administer tests that they know are harmful to their children. In January 2013, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle Washington voted not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test to their students. The teachers argued that the tests lacked any significant value because they were not aligned to the state standards. Superintendent Jose Banda threatened to suspend any teacher who did not administer the test but after receiving numerous emails and calls of support from parents he backed down and the teachers were not punished for their actions. 
            In February 2014 both Drummond Elementary School and Saucedo Elementary School boycotted the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Parents, students, and teachers were also threatened with dire consequences if they went through with the boycott but they refused to back down. As the opt out movement continued to grow, President Obama continued to pay lip service to the concerns of parents, teachers, and students about the alarming increase of high stakes testing. During his State of the Union Address in 2012 he called for an end to teaching to the test and this past month he issued a statement that appeared to be a call to reduce the escalation of high stakes testing. The Christian Science Monitor writes that President Obama said, “I have directed [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan to support states and school districts in the effort to improve assessment of student learning so that parents and teachers have the information they need, that classroom time is used wisely, and assessments are one part of fair evaluation of teachers and accountability for schools,” in a statement on Wednesday October 15, 2014. 
            Two days letter Secretary of Education Arne Duncan writes an article for the Washington Post where he claims to support the cutback in testing but continues to argue that tests are the best ways for parents to know how their students are performing. Dr. Yohuru Williams, a professor and education activist reminds us that these words are not surprising given that we are in an election year and that we should not be fooled into thinking that the Obama Administration is going to back down from the mantra of high stakes testing.  Despite the continued rhetoric that does not correspond to real action from our supposed education leaders, teachers, parents, and students continue to fight back and say no to corporate education reforms that seek to privatize public education.
            Last month, kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles from Gainesville, Florida issued a statement to the parents of her students that explained why she would not be administering the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) tests. Citing her ethical concerns that administering a test for six weeks to kindergarten children was not something she could do in good conscience she risked being fired to do what she felt was right.  In response Florida education officials have dropped the FAIR test for kindergarten students throughout the state. A small step but immensely important victory for the opt out movement.
            Following closely in Bowles steps, Peggy Robertson, an administrator for UOO and a teacher in Aurora Colorado also issued a letter stating that she refuses to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, a new test aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  She argued that the tests along with the CCSS “have placed unrealistic expectations on our youngest learners, many who now view themselves as failures because they are unable to meet the developmentally inappropriate expectations set by the . . . standards.”  UOO next issued a plea for unions to support teachers who refuse to administer the test. When asked by Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss if they would support teachers who refused to administer the test both NEA and AFT said they would support teachers who did not administer the test but failed to elaborate on what kind of support they would issue.
            So what should be our next move? We know we cannot wait for the Secretary of Education to follow up his claims with tangible actions that actually reduce or eliminate our national reliance on high stakes standardized testing. And we know that we cannot continue to allow our children to be over-tested and turned into data points instead of human beings who are entitled to a high quality public education.  So we must continue to fight. But we need to be strategic in how we fight. The unions say they will support teachers but what will that support look like and will it be enough? The only way to know for sure is for more teachers to refuse to administer the test. If teachers are disciplined for their refusal then we will demand that the unions offer the support they promised.
Now we understand that every teacher is not in a position to risk losing his or her job. Many teachers work in right-to-work states and have zero protections including tenure and the right to due process. And although the unions claim they will support teachers who refuse to administer tests we do not know what this support will look like and if it will keep teachers from losing their jobs or being disciplined.  So we are looking for teachers who are preparing to retire or leave the profession and are willing to risk retaliation if they refuse to administer the test. If the teacher is disciplined or fired for their actions we will reach out to their union leaders to demand the support and advocacy they said would be there.  Then we will know just how far the unions are willing to go to support teachers.  Therefore, if you are willing and able to refuse to administer high stakes standardized tests, which are not a valid and reliable measure of student’s ability and promise, please write and publish a letter stating your intentions.  Send a copy to so we can keep track of your situation. Together we can deny the corporate reformers the data they so desperately need and drive out the testing insanity that has dismantled our public education system.

To learn more about how you can actively fight back against corporate education reforms, please join United Opt Out at their Standing Up for Action Spring Event January 16-18th at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, UOO is hosting an event that brings advocates for public education together to form plans of actions.  For more information and to register visit our Eventbrite page

Denisha Jones is a professor in the School of Education at Howard University. She is former kindergarten teacher and preschool director. She is an admin for the Badass Teachers Association and United Opt Out. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Badass Teachers Association
For Immediate Release - October 27, 2014

For Information Contact
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager

BATs Respond to Time Magazine Cover

As representatives of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the image selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible and unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.

The gavel smashing the apple, the universal symbol of education, reinforces the text that applauds tech millionairesin finally figuring out how to deal the deathblow to teacher tenure widely misunderstood as job protection for life for teachers.

In addition, the cover perpetuates the myth of the badteacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American educationmore borne of structural inequalities and chronic underfunding than teaching professionals.

"Labeling of teachers is hurtful and stigmatizing to teachers, students, and communities", states Aixa Rodriguez, BAT DREAM Manager and Bronx teacher.

The cover deliberately privileges the bad teacher narrative with the misleading statement, It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.

In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for studentsespecially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, ELL and Special needs interventions, and needed financial resources to combat the poverty and inequality that plague public schools and are most to blame for hurting young people.

Terry Kalb, BAT administrator, former Special Education teacher, and Special Education advocate says, "Teachers are whistleblowers- we protect children who are denied IEP services, devices, accommodations- all costly and complicated for administrators looking to streamline budgets and staff."

Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage being teachers of color.

BAT Administrator, historian, author, and college professor Dr. Yohuru Williams states, "More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fightthe creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires."

In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Times decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.


For Teachers

For Teachers
For my colleagues
Past present future
Don't forget you know how to nurture
You know why you chose this profession
It wasn't for the money
We could have made more
Choosing another
It wasn't for the summers off
Though opponents keep sounding off
It was because we are special
We have a love of children
We have a love to help them succeed
We love when we see that light bulb
Show its bright face
That smile or hug from 
A child can never be replaced
So hold your heads up
You know who you are
You know what you do
Forget those words from those
Who haven't a clue
And could never ever 
Do what we do
I'm proud to say I am a
Bonnie Bushman Forrester  copyright 10/26/14

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why I Don’t Want an Apology from Time Magazine
By:  Patte Carver-Hevia

This week Time Magazine (November 3 issue) is running a piece about how difficult people think it is to fire bad teachers and how deep pockets may have found a way to change that.
I have read the teacher outrage. “Cancel my subscription!” “Boycott Time!” “Time owes teachers an apology!”
No offense to my colleagues, but I don’t want an apology.
When my husband (a Cuban political dissident and then rafter) and I first started going out, his English was rudimentary and my Spanish was just a bit better. One Sunday afternoon we went to an electronics show at the county fairgrounds. You know the kind. Everything for sale at an inexpensive price. Nothing worth spending money on.
At the entrance, we spotted the “Win a Vacation” (in this case, a cruise to the Bahamas) papers to fill out. My husband wanted to fill one out. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was a scam. He filled out the paper, used my address and phone number because he didn't have a phone, and dropped the paper in the box.
On Monday we were watching Wheel of Fortune at my apartment when the phone rang. A young man wanted to speak to my husband. He claimed that my husband won a vacation. He (my husband) would have to pay a boarding fee and purchase airline tickets and what credit card did he want to use to pay for everything.
I explained the language issue and that I would have to translate. As I translated the young man asked if my husband was interested in the vacation. I had to answer that I didn't know yet because I was still translating. Sometimes translating can take time. For example, for a long time I couldn't pronounce “refrigerator” in Spanish, but I could say, “That thing in the kitchen that keeps food cold.”
As I was translating, I heard the line click. I wasn't sure if the young man had put me on hold or if he had hung up. I continued to translate as I held the phone against my ear. I heard another click, and I could tell the young man was back on the line because I could hear others speaking in the background. He said nothing. Then I heard another click. Silence.
I hung up. About thirty seconds later, as I was explaining what had just happened to my husband, the phone rang again. This was before the days of caller ID for me, so I answered the phone.
And I heard:
“You f*cking spic. Why didn't you just say you don’t want the god d*mned vacation? Get the h*ll off my line.”
Normally I wouldn't give something like that a second thought. This was different though.
I spent six hours the next day climbing the phone tree. I started with the county fairgrounds staff. To another number and another and another and another.
Each time I repeated the story and what the young man had said. And anyone who knows me knows that I do not use vulgar language. I was careful to explain that I was simply repeating what was said to me.
Each time I heard a gasp on the other end of the line.
Each time I heard, “I’m so sorry!”
Each time I answered, “Thank you. I appreciate that. What I want though is to speak to that young man’s boss.”
Finally, I was on a speaker phone with the boss.
I told my story one last time.
And one more time I heard, “I’m so sorry.”
I said, “Thank you. I appreciate that. I don’t want an apology though. I want that young man’s job. He had access to my address and telephone number and he said that. I don’t think he’s someone you want representing your company to the public.”
He said, “You have it.”
I have no way of knowing if that young man truly lost his job or not. I had my say. I moved on.
So how does this tie to the Time article? Do I want to talk to the editor of Haley Sweetland Edwards and demand her job? Do I want an apology from her or her editor or from Time?
Not really.
What do I want?
I want a voice.
I want a seat at the educational policy table.
I want someone like Haley Sweetland Edwards to write the WHOLE story. She had access to so much more information and decided to write that. She’s talking to deep pockets about education, as if money makes the expert, but she isn't talking to teachers. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one.
I want Time to get it right.
I want judges like Treu (in the Vergara case in California case) to know what they are talking about before they make rulings.
I want people to understand that the likes of Gates and Welch are businessmen, not teachers. No matter what they say and no matter how philanthropic some of their efforts may be, their goal is to make a profit, not to benefit students. If they were truly interested in helping students, they wouldn't go about it by going after teachers.
I want action.
No, I do not want an apology. Like a PPO, an apology from Time would just be words on a paper. Meaningless. The toothpaste isn't going back in the tube, and I have a feeling Time would just make a bigger mess trying to shove it back in.
I’m willing to educate you, Haley, Time, Welch, Gates, Treu, and so many more.
The question is are you willing to put in the time, effort, and mental energy to LEARN?

Rotten Apples or Low-Hanging Fruit?
By: Wilma de Soto

The controversial TIME Magazine cover story has teachers from around the country up in arms and rightly so.

It’s an apparent corporate education reform piece from stem to stern, written without any balanced input from a single teacher with the intent to defame and malign teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to helping children of all persuasions make better lives for themselves.

Or is it?

While checking out the cover photo that has been passed around social media this week, I took note of something.  The headline proclaims “ROTTEN APPLES”, but the cover photo does not. Instead the reader sees a beautiful red apple, ripened to the point of perfection. A gavel is poised over it ready to deliver the destructive, smashing blow.

In my opinion, this photograph is a perfect and powerful visual metaphor for what Corporate Education reformers have done to the careers of many great teachers around this country; labeling teachers as rotten fruit while they are in the prime of their teaching careers.  Perfect specimens of educational acumen relegated to the garbage heap of history by a few corporate entities whose minions have never taught a single class in public school; they have been demoralized, defamed, denigrated and ultimately destroyed.

So has TIME Magazine goofed on this piece?  Did they inadvertently reveal the corporate education agenda while purporting to support it?  In this case I do not believe, “Only ‘TIME’ will tell.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Check Your Wallet! You Too Can Be An Expert on Teacher Tenure!

By:  Steven Singer

This can also be read on his blog

It is IMPOSSIBLE to fire a bad teacher.
Unless of course you document how that teacher is bad.
You know? Due process. Rights. All that liberal bullshit.
Thank goodness we have tech millionaires to stand up for the rights of totalitarians everywhere!
A slew of Microsoft wannabes is taking up the mantle of the bored rich to once again attack teacher tenure.
They claim it’s almost impossible to fire bad teachers because of worker’s rights.
You know who actually is impossible to fire!? Self-appointed policy experts!
No one hired them to govern our public schools. In fact, they have zero background in education. But they have oodles of cash and insufferable ennui. Somehow that makes them experts!
I wonder why no one wants to hear my pet theories on how we should organize computer systems and pay programmers. Somehow the change in my pocket doesn’t qualify me to make policy at IBM, Apple or Microsoft. Strange!
But that doesn’t stop millionaires and billionaires with nothing better to do than try to increase their already skyrocketing profits.
It’s disgusting. They’re nothing but wealth addicts looking for a new score by stealing whatever crumbs have fallen to the floor that the rest of us need just to survive.
Time Magazine, which decided to put this non-story on the cover for Nov. 3, should be ashamed. But something tells me the editors could care less about things like facts, truth, integrity…
These are the same folks, after all, who propelled Michelle Rhee to fame on theirinfamous cover with the then-DC-schools chief holding a broom to sweep out all the bad teachers. Oh! That worked out so well! Cheating scandals, anyone!?
But instead of any apology or retraction for their faulty journalism, one can imagine the following conversation at Time’s last editorial meeting:
Editor 1: I’ve got a great idea for the cover! How about a bunch of know-nothing idle rich talking out of their asses!?
Editor 2: Brilliant!
I know I’m just a teacher and I don’t have millions in the bank, a bulging wallet or even a platinum credit card – but let me try to draw on my poor more-than-a-decade of experience in the classroom to explain.
1) Tenure does not mean a job for life. It just means you have to follow due process before firing a teacher. Many other jobs have similar due process rights for their workers that they don’t call tenure. Unfortunately that leads to the belief that teacher tenure is special or unique. It isn’t.
2) Teachers are Evaluated Based on Student Test Scores. This is ridiculously inaccurate and unfair. Standardized tests do NOT effectively measure student learning. They measure family income. So teachers who have richer students have generally more favorable evaluations than those who teach the poorest and most difficult children. Value-Added Measures, as these are often called, have been labeledjunk science by national statistical organizations. They violate a basic principle of the field that you cannot use a test designed to evaluate one factor as a way to evaluate an entirely different factor. Removing due process would make the teachers who serve the most at-risk students, themselves, unfairly at risk of losing their jobs.

3) Firing the “least effective” teachers doesn’t improve education.
 I know this goes against common sense, but facts are facts. If you fire someone, you have to find a replacement. Ideally, you want a replacement who will do a better job than the person being removed. However, this is incredibly difficult and expensive. Half of teachers who enter the field leave in 5 years. It’s a tough job that many people just can’t handle. Moreover, it takes a long time to get good at it. A much more cost-effective approach is providing high-quality professional development. You can’t fire yourself to the top. Yes, if a teacher has no interest and doesn’t improve after multiple attempts to help, then it may be best for that person to seek employment elsewhere. But it’s not step 1!
4) Tenure Protects the Most Experienced Teachers. Without it, veteran teachers could not compete with new hires who enter the field at a lower salary. In the long run, it costs less to keep and train veteran teachers than hire new ones. But administrators and school directors often only see short-term gain. Without due process, veterans would be in danger of unfair firing to increase the short-term bottom line. This would reduce the quality of education kids receive because they’d be denied a wealth of experience and talent. Moreover, who would enter a field that only values new hires? There’s no future in such a job and it would just be a repository for a series of temps with no other choice than to teach for a few years before moving on. Teach for America, anyone?
5) Tenure Allows Teachers to Innovate. With due process, teachers can more easily make decisions based on what’s best for their students and not what’s politically acceptable. They don’t have to give the school board director’s son an A just because of his patronage. Kids actually have to earn their grades. And if a student doesn’t like a teacher, he can’t destroy the adult’s career by making a baseless accusation.
But to know any of this, one would have to possess some actual information about the field. That takes experience, not big money.
For some reason, the same people who are investing heavily in privatization just can’t see it. The people who champion for-profit charter schools, toxic testing and Common Core can’t wrap their heads around the concept. All they see are dollar signs of public money meant to pay for the public good being diverted into their private bank accounts.
Human suffering? Educational outcomes? Struggling students?
Who gives a shit?
Teachers do. That’s why they’re trying so hard to get rid of us.