Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Stop the Attack on Net Neutrality:  A Statement from The Board of Directors of The Badass Teachers Association

The Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots national education activist organization, calls on all members of our network to contact your federal lawmaker and the FCC about net neutrality.  Tell them to vote this down and to continue to give FREE access to the internet for ALL Americans NOT just the wealthy.  They will be voting on December 14th.  Network neutrality means that all websites and services have identical access to internet users. As well cable broadband or wireless providers can’t block some sites or services and can’t demand payment to prioritize one firm’s service over a rival.  Trump’s chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Ajit Pai intends to roll back the Obama rules that made access and speed of internet the same for all.

Ending net neutrality would be disastrous for grassroots education activists that depend on a free and open internet to organize. Allowing internet service providers to dictate what sites we can access and how fast we can access them based on our willingness to pay would cripple our ability to be effective advocates. Contact your representative today and tell them you support net neutrality. ~Dr. Denisha Jones, Board Member, The Badass Teachers Association

Information has become power in this world. Limiting access to information through a cost-prohibitive structure imposes another tool of segregation amongst our students, with students from lower socio-economic backgrounds potentially losing the ability to access sites that other students would be able to access. ~Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director, The Badass Teachers Association

As it stands, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote Dec. 14 to undo strict regulations on Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon that stops them from slowing down or blocking any sites, apps, or otherwise deciding which content gets to users faster. If the Republican-controlled five-member committee votes as expected, it would muzzle free speech. It would effectively stifle hundreds, thousands of grassroots activists who’ve taken to the Web to educate and protest against the plutocracy strangling our democratic freedoms. Think about it. Close your eyes and imagine a United States where you couldn’t access your favorite Websites without paying a fee or – as in China – maybe even at all. ~Steven Singer, Co-Director Blogging, and Research, The Badass Teachers Association

The main issue with net neutrality is that it will increase costs for everyone and make it so only monied interests control everything people can access.  Americans will be paying more for broadband, and our choices will be left up to your internet service provider!  Call the FCC now at 202-418-1000.  Leave a  voicemail stating your name, state, and say NO REPEAL of net neutrality.  Then call or email your federal legislature and demand they vote NO REPEAL.  Remind them you will be following up on how they voted.  Here is a link to find your federal lawmakers

To read Steven Singers article on Net Neutrality go here

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Staggering Naivety of Those Criticizing Public Schools as Out-of-Date by Steven Singer

While public schools certainly could do with a great deal of change to improve, this criticism is incredibly naïve.
It’s the intellectual equivalent of displaying a copy of James Joyce’s Ulyssesprominently on your bookshelf without actually having read it.
It’s like demanding everything you eat be gluten free without actually having celiac disease or a wheat allergy.
It’s the conceptual analogue to learning a trendy “word of the day” and trying desperately to fit it into your every conversation regardless of need or propriety.
America’s public school system is incredibly complex. And like most complex things, any criticism of it is at least partially correct.
There are ways in which the system is antiquated and could use updating. But to claim that the entire system should be scrapped in favor of a largely untested, disproven and – frankly – profit-driven model is supremely stupid.
The criticism seems to be well encapsulated in a flashy animated video from Big Picture Learning, a Rhode Island-based charter school network operating 165 schools in 25 states and nine countries. The organization has been heavily praised by the likes of former President Barack Obama and philanthrocapitalist Bill Gates.
Let’s examine the six main components of the video explaining why the charter operators think public schools are out of date and should be replaced:

1) Public Schools are Relics of the Industrial Age 

The criticism goes like this. The public school model was created in the Industrial Age and thus prepares students to be factory workers. All day long in public schools students follow orders and do exactly what they’re told. Today’s workers need different skills. They need creativity, the ability to communicate ideas and collaborate.
First, while it is true that the American public school system was created during the Industrial Revolution, the same thing can be said for the United States, itself. Beginning in 1760 and going until 1840, manufacturing began to dominate the western economy. Does that mean the U.S. Constitution should be scrapped? Clearly our form of government could do with a few renovations, but not by appeal to its temporal genesis, to when it was created.
Second, IS it true that America’s public schools expect students to do nothing but listen to orders and follow them to the letter?
Absolutely not.
In fact, this is exactly what teachers across the country DON’T want their students to do. We work very hard to make sure students have as much choice and ownership of lessons as possible.
We often begin by assessing what they know and what they’d like to know on a given subject. We try to connect it to their lives and experiences. We try to bring it alive and show them how vital and important it is.
Do we exclude creativity, communication and collaboration from our lessons?
Absolutely not.
In my class, creativity is a must. Students are required to write journals, creative fiction, and poetry. They draw pictures, maps, posters, advertisements. They make Keynote presentations, iMovies, audio recordings using Garage Band, create quizzes on Kahoot, etc. And they often do so in small groups where they are required to collaborate.
The idea that students are somehow all sitting in rigid rows while the teacher blabs on and on is pure fantasy. It betrays a complete ignorance of what really goes on in public schools.

2) Lack of Autonomy

The criticism goes that students in public school have no choices. Every minute of the day is controlled by the teacher, principals or other adults. However, in today’s world we need workers who can manage their own time and make their own decisions about what to do and when to do it.
Once again we see a complete ignorance of what goes on in public schools.
Today’s students are not only expected to make decisions and manage their time, they could not pass their classes without doing so.
Teachers often go to great lengths to give students choices. Would you like to read this story or that one? Would you like to demonstrate your learning through a test, a paper, an art project or through a digital medium?
For instance, my students are required to read silently for 15-minutes every other day. But they get to select which books to read. Eventually, they have to complete a project using their self-selected book, but they are in charge of ensuring the book they pick meets the requirements, how much they read each day in class and outside of class, and whether they should complete a given book or pick a new one.
Even when it comes to something as mundane as homework, students have to develop time management. I give my students the homework for the entire week on Monday, and it’s due on Friday. This means they have to decide how much to do each night and make sure it gets done on time.
Today’s students have much more ownership of their learning then I did when I went to school. Those throwing stones at our public school system would know that, if they actually talked to someone in it.

3) Inauthentic Learning

Critics say most of the learning in public schools is inauthentic because it relies on memorization and/or rote learning. It relies on a generic set of knowledge that all children must know and then we measure it with standardized tests. Learning should be deeper and its subjects should be something students intrinsically care about.
Once again…
Actually this one is kind of spot on.
Or at least, it’s partially true.
It accurately represents one kind of curriculum being mandated on public schools from the state and federal government. It’s called corporate education reform, and as pervasive as it is, you’ll also find the overwhelming majority of school teachers and community members against it.
This is why Common Core is so unpopular – especially among teachers. This is why almost everyone wants to reduce standardized testing and the kind of narrowing of the curriculum and teach-to-the-test practices it brings.
However, there’s something incredibly disingenuous about this criticism coming from a charter network chain. The educational practices these critics of public schools often propose replacing this standardization with are often just a rehash of that same standardization using more modern technology.
Business interests, like Big Picture Learning, often propose using competency based education or personalized education programs on computers or devices. These are extremely standardized. They follow the same Common Core standards and use computerized stealth assessments to determine whether students have learned the prescribed standard or not.
In short, yes, corporate education reform should be challenged and defeated. However, as in this instance, often the same people criticizing public schools for these practices don’t want to undo them – they just want to expand them so they can be more effectively monetized by big businesses like them!

4) No Room for Student Interests

Critics say the standardized public school system requires each child to learn the same things in the same ways at the same times. However, each of us are different and have individual interests and passions. The current system has no room for self-discovery, finding out what children enjoy doing, what they’re good at and where they fit in.
Once again, there is some truth to these criticisms.
The corporate education model is guilty of exactly these things. However, teachers have been pushing to include an increasing amount of individualization in lessons.
This struggle is inherent in the essential dichotomy of what it means to be an educator today. We’re told we must individualize our lessons for each student but standardize our assessments. This is fundamentally impossible and betrays a lack of vision from those making policy.
As it is, many teachers do what they can to ensure students interests are part of the lesson. They gauge student interest before beginning a lesson and let it guide their instruction. For instance, if students want to know more about the weaponry used by the two sides in the Trojan War, that can become part of the unit. If, instead, they wonder about the role of women in both societies, that can also become part of the curriculum. Just because the higher ups demand students learn about the Trojan War doesn’t mean student interest must be ignored. In fact, it is vital that it be a component.
Moreover, creative writing, journaling and class discussion can help students grow as learners and engage in authentic self-discovery. Two weeks don’t go by in my class without a Socratic Seminar group discussion where students debate thematic and textual questions about literature that often spark dialogues on life issues. When students hear what their peers have to say about a given subject, it often results in them changing their own opinions and rethinking unquestioned beliefs and values.
In short, less corporate education reform means room for more student passion, interest and self-discovery.
But these critics don’t want less. They want more!

5) They Don’t Respect How We Learn

Critics say that each student is different in terms of how they learn best and in how much time it takes to learn. As a result, students who comprehend something at a slower rate than others are considered failures by the current system.
In the corporate model, this is true. However, most districts take great pains to give students multiple chances to learn a given concept or skill.
The fact that not all students will know the same things at the same times is built in to the curriculum. Teachers are familiar with their students and know which children need more help with which skills. Concepts are reviewed and retaught – sometimes through copious mini-lessons, sometimes with one-on-one instruction, sometimes with exercises for the whole class.
The further one gets from standardized tests and Common Core, the more individual student needs are respected and met.
But again that’s not the goal of these critics. They blame public schools for what they only wish to continue at higher intensity.

6) Too Much Lecturing

Critics say that under the current system, students are lectured to for more than 5 hours a day. However, this requires students to be unable to interact with each other for long periods of time. Students are at different levels of understanding and nothing can be done to help them until the lecture is over. Wouldn’t it be better to let students pursue their own education through computers and the internet so they could proceed at their own pace like at the Khan Academy?
And here we have the real pitch at the heart of the criticism.
People who wish to tear down public schools are not agnostic about what should replace them. They often prefer privatized and computerized alternatives – like the Big Picture charter chain model!
However, these are not entirely novel and new approaches. We’ve tried them, though on a smaller scale than the traditional public school model, and unlike that traditional system, they’re an abject failure.
Giving students a computer and letting them explore to their hearts content is the core of cyber charter schools – perhaps the most ineffective academic system in existence today. In my state of Pennsylvania, it was actually determined that students would learn more having no formal schooling at all than to go to cyber charter schools.
The reason? It is beyond naïve to expect children to be mature enough to control every aspect of their learning. Yes, they should have choice. Yes, they should be able to explore and develop as individuals at their own pace. But if you just let children go, most will choose something more immediately gratifying than learning. Most children would rather sit around all day playing Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty than watch even the most interesting educational video about math or science.
Adolescents need structure. They need motivation. In short, they need a teacher – a human authority figure in the same room with them who can help guide their learning and hold them accountable for their actions.
The mere presence of information on the Internet will not make children smarter just as the mere presence of a book won’t increase their knowledge. Certainly some children are self-motivated enough and may benefit from this approach, but the overwhelming majority will not and do not.
Our public schools do need a reformation, but this edtech-biased criticism only hits part of the mark.
The major problems are corporate education reform and standardization. And unfortunately edtech plans like privatization and competency based schemes only seek to increase these pedagogies.
Public schools are not outdated. They have changed and evolved to meet the needs of the students attending them. The fact that they serve every student in a given community without weeding out the less motivated or those with special needs as charter chains like Big Picture do, demonstrates this very flexibility and daily innovation.
They can be robust systems fostering self-discovery, autonomy and deep student learning. We just need to have the courage to support them, strengthen their autonomy and avoid trendy, shallow and self-centered criticisms from charter chains hoping we’ll buy what they’re selling.

As Ohio Goes, So Does The Nation? An interview With An EdChoice Parent. by Laura D. Brown

When it comes to public education, let’s hope that is NOT the trend.
Since 1964, no candidate has won the Whitehouse without winning Ohio. Ohio is not just a battleground state; it is a bell weather. Therefore, Ohio’s educational policies should be spotlighted as well. Will Ohio’s voucher programs be promoted as solutions to the problems that plague public education?
This recent Thanksgiving holiday brought lumpy mashed potatoes (my epic failure with a crockpot recipe) and visits from my funny, intelligent cousins who traveled from eastern Ohio (Cleveland and Akron) to my home in central New York. My younger cousin, a mother of three amazing girls, has chosen to send all of her daughters to private schools through EdChoice, Ohio’s voucher system. According to her, however, she had no other option.
My cousin graciously allowed me to interview her about her decision. The words below are conversational — reflecting dialogues taking place in living rooms across the nation. The following transcript, edited for the sake of interest, anonymity, and length, demonstrates one family’s struggle to find quality education in a desert of divestment.

Q: How long were your girls enrolled public schools?

A: The oldest girls attended until fifth grade and our youngest daughter attended until the until second grade. That’s when our sweet, diverse elementary school began “failing” on the state’s report card. The middle school, where the oldest girls were supposed to attend, was already failing. And, I felt they would have been eaten alive at the local public secondary school, so I KNEW they were never going to go there. I picked their middle school (a Catholic school) because it was in our neighborhood. We knew a handful of families were making the same choice — so it was a no-brainer. In retrospect, I wish I had investigated our options a little more… as a Catholic school, it was low on the list of academic and athletic performances. But it was close, (5 blocks away), small, and a better choice than the public secondary school option.

Q: Why were you dissatisfied with the public schools?

A: All of the girls were always good students: good grades, good behavior. The teachers at the public elementary school were AMAZING. But with the big girls, the behavior of other students was my biggest concern. We heard all about the fighting and bullying at the public middle school. And a lot of it was aimed at the minority students, which in this case are white kids. I was worried the peer pressure and the speed in which kids in the area were growing up.
When my youngest started at the same public elementary school that her sisters attended, I had her entire “career” planned out — down to every teacher I would request each year. Then we got an influx of refugees from Nepal. I was volunteering almost daily while my youngest was in kindergarten to help her teacher manage such diverse needs. These Nepalese students came in speaking zero English, and it was taking a lot of the teacher’s time just dealing with the new students’ basic skills. And I’m talking about basic social things, not even math, social studies, reading. Our youngest daughter was doing great: performing above average in all subjects, helping as a peer mentor — being incredibly bored waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. It was in the middle of first grade, at a state testing parent meeting, when voicing my concerns about her lack of teacher attention, that the principal said: “Don’t worry about your child because I don’t. She’s going to pass all these tests and be just fine. We have to focus on the kids that won’t.” I felt like she was never going to get challenged after this. On advice from her teachers, I jumped on the opportunity for the educational choice scholarship. I felt guilty because I loved this school and this staff. But I had to put my daughter first. Her NEEDS academically were NOT being met.

Q: How does Edchoice work? Can anyone in the state apply? How is a family eligible?

A: This is probably the subject I know the least. It has been a long time since the initial application process. For renewal, all I need to do is fill out a basic form with our address, providing a current copy of a utility bill to confirm it, and designate the school that will receive my “check.” It is not a complicated process. Anyone who lives in a district with a failing school on a list can apply. You apply in January — February & receive your approval in July- August.

Q: What was the impact on the public school? Or, what was the reaction from their teachers to you?

A: So, three years after we left our beloved public elementary school, they closed. Which is very sad for me, we had intended on attending the school’s activities. Many families in our neighborhood have taken advantage of the Edchoice program because of three main reasons: the influx of refugees with different educational needs decreases in attendance and performance, and the public school buildings in desperate need of repair. I had the support of most of the teachers, and they understood why we were leaving. One even told us she would do the same.

Q: If you did not live in an urban environment, do you think you would have removed your children from the public schools?

A: So no other school districts around us qualify for Edchoice. Because they are not failing the way our public school was. Only two of the public high schools are even eligible for Edchoice monies. So, no, if we were at a suburban school (or at a thriving urban school) we would not have left.

Q: What have Catholic Schools offered your kids that you do not think they would have received in the local public schools?

A: The obvious answer is the level of academics. We transferred our youngest daughters scholarship to a different “better performing “ Catholic school, which was not challenging. Her current school is ranked sixth in the state. The older girls are also thriving at their Catholic high school.
But our decisions are about more than just academics — it’s not about religion either, we are not devout Catholics — it is about values and a sense of community. It’s about being a good person, kindness, being your best, supporting others, and growing up with others that share those same values and moral responsibilities.
My cousin currently lives in a lovely west Akron neighborhood where well-maintained homes advertise their private school enrollment with yard signs celebrating those school choices. I fully support my cousin’s decisions. If faced with failing schools, inadequate resources for both immigrant and non-immigrant students, and buildings in disrepair, I would have made the same choices for my children.
However, as a public school teacher in upstate New York, I worry about the divestment of tax dollars, support, and faith in Ohio’s urban schools. I applaud the Syracuse City School District’s use of sheltered classrooms for the growing immigrant student population. I appreciate that private school attendance in central New York is uncommon. I am confident that creating labels of “failing” schools is not a solution to the myriad of problems facing modern institutions.
I hope we can learn from the mistakes of ignoring the education of “other” people’s children. I wish that my cousin, and other families like hers, were not compelled to run from failing schools. Ohio, and states like Michigan, Arizona, Florida, are the non-examples. Fortunately, there are so many examples of vibrant public schools across the United States. These exemplars need to be highlighted and used as starting points for the renewal of public schools.
This piece was also published in The Educator’s Room:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

MARLA KILFOYLE, Executive Director BATs
MELISSA TOMLINSON, Asst. Executive Director BATs
ENDRE JARRAUX WALLS, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer The Franklin Foundation for Innovation
215-391-8227 (Franklin Foundation)
516-987-4405 (BATs)


The Badass Teachers Association and the Franklin Foundation for Innovation proudly announce their partnership in defense of public education.  The Badass Teachers Association is a national grassroots education activist organization with over 200,000 activist members and The Franklin Foundation for Innovation operates on the premise that public schools represent the best chance all American children have for being successful.  BATs and The Franklin Foundation for Innovation is proud to announce their partnership and the creation of The Public Schools Defense Fund.  

“I think it has become apparent to everyone, parents, teachers, even kids, that their public system of education is under siege from people who are putting profits ahead of our future. The Franklin Foundation for Innovation represents a philanthropic approach to preventing the destruction of public schools. The BATs organization represents the power of the people, in the spirit of democracy, fighting against the architected decimation of our public school infrastructure. Together we will open the eyes of the public, produce the evidence that will validate our position, and speak with conviction about how critical our education system is to our national security. Our partnership should show those out there looking to destroy one of our nation’s most sacred institutions that it won’t be easy to do and that they will have to fight every parent and every educator in this country to succeed in tearing down our institutions for a buck or two in their pockets.” ~Endre Jarraux Walls, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer The Franklin Foundation for Innovation

“The privatization of the public goods necessary to build a strong democratic republic continues to be the greatest threat to our future. As public schools are turned into a commodity where corporations can experiment on other people's children it is imperative that we resist the fallacy of neoliberalism. We must organize our efforts beyond protesting in the streets to developing strategic partnerships that allow teachers, parents, and students to reclaim public education as a human right. This is why BATs is partnering with the Franklin Foundation to develop innovative strategies that will disrupt the assault on public education and create high-quality schools for all children.” ~Dr. Denisha Jones, Board Member, The Badass Teachers Association

“We are looking forward to working in partnership with The Franklin Foundation for Innovation.  We all agree that the education of our children should not be about your zip code but should be defined by equity.  We know that the BATs and Franklin Foundation for Innovation Public Schools Defense Fund will allow us to take our work to the next level.  We are looking forward to BEING the change that is right for children and communities. We look forward to working together in our fight to defend public education.” ~Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director, The Badass Teachers Association.

The Badass Teachers Association and The Franklin Foundation for Innovation Public Schools Defense Fund will be mission focused on providing every child with an equitable and stable public education in their neighborhood.  We will base our work to promote best practices and push forth education research that is rooted in what is best for children not corporations.  We hope that you will support BATs and The Franklin Foundation for Innovation Public Schools Defense Fund.  We hope that you will consider this your donation for #GivingTuesday.  Go here to donate to the Public Schools Defense Fund


***Donations are tax deductible***

Friday, November 24, 2017

Public School Teachers Are Absent Too Much, Says Charter School Think Tank by Steven Singer

Have you ever heard of media bias?
I don’t think many so-called journalists have.
At least their editors haven’t or perhaps they just don’t care.
Otherwise, why would self-respecting hard news purveyors publish the results of a study by charter school cheerleaders that pretends to “prove” how public school teachers are worse than charter school teachers?
That’s like publishing a study denigrating apples written by the national pear council.
Breaking news: Pepsi says, “Coke sucks!”
In a related story McDonalds has startling evidence against the Burger King!
I know it’s become trendy to defend the media when our lame-ass President attacks every factually-based report that puts him in a bad light as “fake news.” But the giant media conglomerates aren’t doing themselves any favors with lazy reporting like this.
And I know what many journalists are thinking when they do it, because I used to be one:
I’ll publish the report and include dissenting opinions and that will be okay because I will have shown both sides and readers can make up their own minds.
But what’s the headline? What’s the spin? Who is David in this story and who is Goliath? When multiple stories like this appear all over the news cycle, what impression is made on your readers?
And here we get one biased neoliberal think tank vs. millions of public school teachers all across the country and since you’ve given us an equal number to represent each side, you pretend THAT’S fair and balanced.
It isn’t.
No wonder they get so much coverage!
So here’s the deal.
The Fordham Institute wrote a report called “Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools.” They concluded that 28.3 percent of teachers in traditional public schools miss eleven or more days of school versus 10.3 percent of teachers at charter schools.
To come up with these figures they used data from Betsy Devos’ Department of Education.
So let the hand-wringing begin!
Look how bad public school teachers are and how much more dedicated is the charter school variety! Look at how much money is being lost! Look at the damage to student academic outcomes!
Won’t someone think of the children!?
This report brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the College Board, Education Reform Now, the Walton Family Foundation and a host of other idle rich philanthrocapitalists who are drooling over the prospect of privatizing public schools and hoovering up public money as private profit.
Oh. If that’s not enough, Fordham actually runs a series of charter schools in Ohio.
Biased much?
So what’s wrong with the report?
First of all, it’s not news.
Neoliberal think tanks have been publishing propaganda like this for at least a decade. Play with the numbers here, look only at this data and we can paint a picture of “failing” schools, “failing” teachers and therefore justify the “need” for school privatization.
Second, look at all the important data Fordham conveniently leaves out.
Look at the number of hours public school teachers work in the United States vs. those in other comparable countries, say those included in The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In fact, the OECD (which is not biased one way or another about American school privatization) released a mountain of statistics about how many hours teachers work in various countries.
American teachers spend on average 1,080 hours teaching each year. Across the O.E.C.D., the average for most countries is 794 hours on primary education, 709 hours on lower secondary education, and 653 hours on upper secondary education general programs.

Source: OECD

Yet American teachers start at lower salaries and even after 15 years in the profession, earn less money than their international counterparts.
So – assuming Fordham’s absenteeism statistics are accurate – why do public school teachers miss so much school? They’re exhausted from the hours we demand they keep!
But what about charter school teachers? Aren’t they exhausted, too?
Some certainly are.
Working in a charter school often requires grueling hours and fewer benefits. That’s why charters have a higher turnover than public schools.
Since they’re often not unionized, charter schools usually have younger, less experienced staff who don’t stay in the profession long. In fact, they rely on a constant turnover of staff. At many of the largest charter chains such as Success Academy and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), teachers average only 4 years before moving on to another career, according to the New York Times. And this is typical of most charter chains.
So why don’t charter school teachers take as many sick days as traditional public school teachers? Maybe because when they check out, they often don’t check back in.
Moreover, there is a significant difference in the student population at both kinds of school – privatized vs. public.
As their marketing departments will tell you, the students in a charter school choose to be there. The charter schools often weed out the students with behavior problems, special needs or those who are otherwise more difficult to teach. As a result, the strain on teachers may not be as severe. When you’re only serving kids who want to be there and who are easy to teach, maybe you don’t need as much downtime.
Public school teachers, on the other hand, face real dangers from burnout.
According to a study by Scholastic (that actually goes counter to its pro-privatization bias), we work 53 hours a week on average. That comes out to 7.5 hours a day in the classroom teaching. In addition, we spend 90 minutes before and/or after school mentoring, tutoring, attending staff meetings and collaborating with peers. Plus 95 additional minutes at home grading papers, preparing classroom activities and other job-related tasks.
And for teachers who oversee extracurricular clubs, that’s even more work – 11-20 additional hours a week, on average.
Add to that the additional trauma public school children have experienced over the last decade. More than half of public school students now live below the poverty line. That means increased behavior issues, increased emotional disturbances, increased special needs, increased malnutrition, increased drug use – you name it.
Public school teachers deal with that every day. And you seriously wonder that some of us need some downtime during the year to deal with it.
Moreover, let’s not forget the issue of disease.
Working in a public school is to immerse yourself in a petri dish of bacteria and viruses. My first year teaching, I got so sick I was out for weeks until I developed immunities to strains of illnesses I had never been exposed to before.
Kids are constantly asking for tissues and blowing their noses and sometimes not even washing their hands. This is why teachers often purchase the tissues and hand sanitizers that school districts can’t or won’t – we’re trying to stop the spread of infection.
When teachers get sick (and often bring these delightful little maladies home to their spouses, children and families) what do you expect them to do? Continue going to work and further spreading the sickness around to healthy children?
And speaking of illness, let’s talk stress.
Stress is a killer. Do you think pushing the responsibility for the entire school system on to teachers while cutting their autonomy has an effect on teachers individual stress levels?
I can tell you from my own personal experience I had two heart attacks last year. And in the 15 years I’ve been a teacher, my health has suffered in innumerable ways. I’m actually on medication for one malady that makes me immunosuppressed and more susceptible to other illnesses.
So, yeah, sometimes I need to take a sick day. But if you ask most teachers, they’d rather stay in the class and work through it.
Having the day off is often more trouble than it’s worth. You have to plan an entire lesson that can be conducted in your absence, you have to give the students an assignment to do and you have to grade it. Even with the day off, you have a mountain of work waiting for you when you return.
So as a practicing public school teacher, I dispute the findings of the Fordham Institute.
They don’t know what they’re talking about.
They have focused in on data to make their chosen targets, public school teachers, look bad while extolling the virtues of those who work in privatized systems.
So if we wanted today’s students to have the same experience as those of only a decade ago, we’d need to hire at least 400,000 more teachers.
I wonder why college undergraduates aren’t racing to become education majors. I wonder why there aren’t more incentives to get more teachers in the classroom and why there isn’t a boom of more teaching jobs.
And I wonder why reports like this are talked about as if they were anything but what they are – school privatization propaganda.