Diane Ravitch examines new tests results from Illinois, which have been released with dire warnings about “failure.” Ravitch puts this story in the context of current trends in education. She is very strong as an advocate for teachers in a time when many forces are attacking some of our country’s most talented and dedicated employees. Is the test (PARCC) a true measure of what students are learning and teachers are teaching? Or is it a tool to promote education “reform”?
One of the blogs I read daily is written by a real education reformer, Diane Ravitch. Today she cited an article in Huffington Post that describes a teacher shortage in Kansas and what caused it. Many conservatives and pseudo-education reformers (Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, Secretary Duncan) argue that education promote choice through charter schools. They point to unions as a cause of poor education outcomes.
What’s happening in Kansas tells a different story. Teacher pay in the state is low, hours are longer, and the legislature has made it easier to fire teachers. The result is exactly what any sane person would expect. Teachers are retiring as soon as they can. Others are changing careers, and college students are choosing majors other than Education. Schools will be forced to rely on substitutes to cover classes.
In the past, I’ve asked who will want to teach if the pay is low, there is no union protection, and working conditions are poor. Market forces work in career choices just as they do in purchasing. If teaching is a difficult and disrespected profession, fewer and fewer people will pursue careers as teachers. Kansas proves this point. I expect we’ll hear similar stories from other states very soon.
I've blogged in the past about how politicians in both parties say they want good teachers and then do everything possible to drive educators to change careers. The latest example of this trend is found in my sweet hometown of Chicago. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have opted not to extend a contract with its teachers that would have given them a raise of 3%. Instead, CPS has said it will ask teachers to take a 7% cut in pay. Mayor Emanuel is quoted in today's Chicago Sun-Times that teachers are "working hard" and that schools are achieving "incredible results." At the same time, the mayor cites "serious fiscal challenges" as a reason for CPS' actions. Teacher's union president Karen Lewis call this action an "insult." There is good chance that the teachers could be forced to go on strike again.
For me, the real problem in this story is how it will affect teaching in the future. If we really want the best and brightest students to go into teaching, we need to think about how they react to stories like this. What intelligent, ambitious student would pursue a career that would cut the pay of people the mayor calls hard working and successful? Politicians and citizen need to ask themselves a difficult question: Do we care about saving a few dollars in taxes or educating children?
Today is Woody Allen's 79th birthday. When he was an undergraduate at NYU, Allen failed a course in film making. That bump in the road did not stop him from becoming one of the most acclaimed directors of all time. Allen's story is not unusual. Many successful people failed a course or were told that they would never succeed. They believed in themselves and proved their critics wrong. Believe in yourself. If you know a young person who is struggling with confidence, be encouraging and supportive. Getting an F in a class or being fired is not the end of the world. In fact, for Woody Allen, it was the start of a great career.
Diane Ravitch reports bad news about education in Detroit. 26 schools will be closed, and teachers’ pay will be cut by 10%. What angers me about this report is that Governor Rick Snyder and his allies preach the school “reform” line. They put the blame for poor education outcomes on teachers. Then they take measures that make good teachers want to leave the profession. The decision to make the cut was made by the city’s Dicta. . . Emergency Manager, who is a puppet of the Governor. Best wishes to the parents and children in Detroit. What is happening in your city is a crime against democracy – and common sense.
Writing in Common Dreams, Diane Ravitch looks at the state of teaching as a profession. She notes that some of the leading “education reformers” constantly attack teachers as the problem without proposing a real solution. In Finland teachers are given five years training before they reach the classroom. In the U.S., half of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years. That’s a problem, and the reformers only answer seems to be “bust the union.”
School starts next week, and a logical assumption would be that most jobs for teachers are filled. Once upon a time that would have been true. Now teachers (at least in Chicago) will be hired and laid off based on the number of students attending school in the first weeks. Teachers who might be laid off or looking for work should prepare a good resume.
For a public school teacher in grades K-12 every resume needs to list qualifications (education, certification, and relevant endorsements). It should also describe what classes you have taught and how you have participated in any activities that have improved the school. For example, some teachers work in before/after school tutoring programs. Others coach or run music/art programs.
As school districts have focused more on tests, teacher also need to be able to show success stories. Improving test scores is a good way to catch a Principal’s attention. Similarly, any teacher who has had success in fund raising or grant writing needs to tell those stories.
Any teacher who loses a job at the beginning of the year has a tough task ahead. That job will be made easier by writing a resume that tells potential employers why they need you on their faculty. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Take credit for how you have helped your students.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson examines the claim that charter schools give parents more choice. We have to ask if school reformers are really changing things for the better - or just cutting revenue for public schools. Why would they want to do that? To break the “evil” teachers unions, of course.
Some charter schools are very good, but the overall concept is a Trojan horse that will reduce another middle class profession with longer hours, no protection, and less pay. We also have to ask where the money that isn’t paid to teachers and principals is going. The Chicago Reader investigated local charter schools. Most refused to give information about their budgets or payrolls, information which Chicago public schools are required to make public. Ruining teaching as a profession, hiding how taxpayer money is spent – that doesn’t sound like reform.
When I started writing resumes in 2001, teachers had a much easier time getting hired. Now with budget cuts and more programs to certify teachers, it is much harder to find a job in teaching, which means teacher resumes need to sell more.
The first step in writing a teacher’s resume is to layout qualifications: certifications, endorsements, and types of classes taught. It is equally important to show other ways one has contributed to a school’s success: tutoring in before/after school programs, coaching, and in-service training. School “reform” has led to an emphasis on test scores. If a teacher has raised test scores, she should take credit for that achievements. Similarly, given funding concerns, if she has obtained grants or participated in fundraising, those elements should also be highlighted on a resume.
Use this question when editing a teacher’s resume: Would a principal want to see this? Would she want someone with this skill or achievement on her faculty? Answer these questions, and you will have the base for a winning resume.
Writing in Common Dreams, Robert Jensen, a Professor at the University of Texas,Austin, ponders his job and how it appears to be changing. Jensen recently attended an event at which representatives of the libertarian Cato Institute presented a free market model of higher education, measuring success in terms of a product.
A fine thinker and writer, Jensen tears these ideas apart. However, I could not help but think about how teachers and students in the K-12 grades are being treated. Their professional success is based on “metrics” (standardized testing). Charter schools are presented as “free market” alternatives to public schools, which are labeled as failing even when they outperform charter schools. Teachers who belong to unions are represented as self-centered takers rather than dedicated professionals who sacrifice for their students, even to the point of buying classroom materials.
Is learning simply a product? Is the student a product? Anyone who answers those questions in the affirmative should hold their own children or grandchildren to a similar standard and enroll them in the kind of schools they advocate.
Teachers develop more than knowledge. They build character and inspire the curiosity that drives life-long learning. Their role is much closer to a parent than a shop foreman. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve. They don't create products. They teach people who do great things -- if they are given a fair chance.
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