Why Speed Kills an Education

An interesting point of view from a teacher that I wanted to post in it’s entirety.

To see the source of this post, go to Testing Abuse.

Why ‘Speed’ Kills An Education

The current trend in education is to get feedback about student progress instantly. Why? There’s a race going on, don’t you know? We have to be smarter, faster, and better than all other countries. Or so the thought goes. Handheld devices called iRespond created by EduTrax are designed to do just this with regards to testing in the classroom. They are given to each student so that when they press a button, they electronically give an answer to a question that is sent to a computer. These answers are then tabulated and compiled, which gives the teacher visual feedback in terms of graphs or charts that are supposed to ‘reduce’ the amount of time correcting student work or tests in the class. Supposedly, more teaching can then be done, but many teachers today would attest that this is just another layer of assessment that will not clarify what students know and are able to do. Is this really going to help with achievement, or is it another gimmick created to take advantage of schools who need to increase their scores on high stakes tests to comply with the No Child Left Behind Law?

If we backwards map the relationship of high stakes tests being given throughout the country along with what is being done in the classroom, the results would show an increase in dropouts, a stagnant NAEP trend regarding achievement gaps, and the lessening of teaching such important subjects such as social studies and science. High stakes tests do not increase learning. Using hand held electronic devices to give instantaneous results on practice tests and benchmarks that mimic these end of year exams would only increase the rate at which students don’t learn. Just because quiz responses are faster, doesn’t make them better. Much of our community may be fooled into thinking they are—even teachers.

For example, I have a friend at my school who is a newer teacher and just loves using her scanner to score her company-made formative tests. It puts the percentages straight into her electronic grade book on a daily basis. She adores it because then she doesn’t have to take home any work to grade; the work is done for her. So, I told her a story about me.

Years ago, I was a scantron junkie, and I’m here admitting it . We had just gotten it at our school and were taught how to use it. My tests would be bubbled in and corrected instantly, and then I could slide one of those ‘data collecting’ sheets through to tell me which numbers on the test the kids missed the most. I was set. The scores would be recorded quickly, and my grades were calculated more rapidly. Then parent teacher conferences came.

During a typical meeting, as I went through a student’s grades, all I found myself doing was giving average percents in each subject. When parents asked for more detail, I struggled greatly to find anymore. The anecdotal information that I needed to corroborate my numbers was missing because I had relied almost purely on the input of numbers into my computer. If a parent asked me, “What does he need work on? How can I help him?”, what I found myself doing was looking for the lowest score and going, “Well, uh, he needs to work on math.”

The truth was I didn’t really know my kids. I had lost emotional and scholastic contact with them. I had relied on these numbers so much to tell me the truth, that in actuality they had blinded me from what was really happening. I had to change. I stopped using the scantron and decided that I would write letters to my students about their progress; they would then in turn write back to me. There was weekly assessment dialogues about how they did, what they thought about it, what they thought they could do to improve, and what they needed from me. Since I have initiated this method, my students have done very well on a longitudinal scale each year. The scantron machine was never used again by me. My teaching friend looked at me after this story and said, “You know what? You could be right about me needing to know my students better.”

This teacher still continues to use her method, but is trying to change slowly as she learns what is really important about teaching. Like the scantron machine, this ‘assess faster to teach better’ ideology will create the opposite effect it was intended for. I find it concerning that technology like this is taking over what is really important in school, and that is the teacher-student relationship. To this day I am happy bringing home papers, which allows me to appreciate my students. That’s the way it should be.


I Am A Teacher in Florida

This was originally posted on our original blog on April 11, 2010.

This poem has reached the office of a Senator in Florida where they were battling over a bill that included performance pay and high stakes testing. The governor recently vetoed the bill.

Written by Jamee Cagle Miller
2009 Seminole County Teacher of the Year

I am a Teacher in Florida.

I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando. I scour the web along with countless other resources to create meaningful learning experiences for my 24 students each day. I reflect on the successes of lessons taught and re-work ideas until I feel confident that they will meetthe needs of my diverse learners. I have finished my third cup of coffee in my classroom before the business world has stirred. My contracted hours begin at 7:30 and end at 3:00. As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked 4 hours unpaid.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. I review their 504s, their IEPs, their PMPs, their histories trying to reach them from every angle possible. They come in hungry—I feed them. They come in angry—I counsel them. They come in defeated—I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am told that every student in my realm must score on or above grade levelon the FCAT each year. Never mind their learning discrepancies, theirunstable home lives, their prior learning experiences. In the spring, they are all assessed with one measure and if they don’t fit, I have failed. Students walk through my doors reading at a second grade level and byyear’s end can independently read and comprehend early 4th grade texts, but this is no matter. One of my students has already missed 30 days of schoolthis year, but this is overlooked. If they don’t show this on ONE the test in early March, their learning gains are irrelevant. They didn’t learn enough. They didn’t grow enough. I failed them. In the three months that remain in the school year after this test, I am expected to begin teaching 5th grade curriculum to my 4th grade students so that they are prepared for next year’s test.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to create a culture of students who will go on to become the leaders of our world. When they exit my classroom, they should be fully equipped to compete academically on a global scale. They must be exposed to different world views and diverse perspectives, and yet, most of my students have never left Sanford, Florida. Field trips are now frivolous. I must provide new learning opportunities for them without leaving the four walls of our classroom. So I plan. I generate new ways to expose them to life beyond their neighborhoods through online exploration and digital field trips. I stay up past The Tonight Show to put together a unit that will allow them to experience St. Augustine without getting on a bus. I spend weekends taking pictures and creating a virtual world for them to experience, since the State has determined it is no longer worthwhile fort hem to explore reality. Yes. My students must be prepared to work within diverse communities, and yet they are not afforded the right to ever experience life beyond their own town.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary. I was assured as I signed my contract that although it was meager to start, my salary would consistently grow each year. That promise has been broken. I’m still working with a meager salary, and the steps that were contracted to me when I accepted a lower salary are now deemed “unnecessary.”

I am a teacher in Florida.

I spent $2500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore. I now average between $1000-2000 that I pay personally to supplement the learning experiences that take place in my classroom. I print at home on my personal printer and have burned through 12 ink cartridges this school year alone. I purchase the school supplies my students do not have. I buy authentic literature so my students can be exposed to authors and worlds beyond theirtextbooks. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any curriculum/materials provided, so I purchase them myself. I am required to conduct Science lab without Science materials, so I buy those, too. The budgeting process has determined that copies of classroom materials are too costly, so I resort to paying for my copies at Staples, refusing to compromise my students’ education because high-ranking officials are making inappropriate cuts. It is February, and my entire class is out of glue sticks. Since I have already spent the $74 allotted to me for warehouse supplies, if I don’t buy more, we will not have glue for the remainder of the year. The projects I dream up are limited by the incomprehensible lack of financial support. I am expected to inspire my students to become lifelong learners, and yet we don’t have the resources needed to nurture their natural sense of wonder if I don’t purchase them myself. My meager earning is now pathetic after the expenses that come with teaching effectively.

I am a teacher in Florida.

The government has scolded me for failing to prepare my students to compete in this technologically driven world. Students in Japan are much more equipped to think progressively with regards to technology. Each day, I turn on the two computers afforded me and pray for a miracle. I apply for grants to gain new access to technology and compete with thousands of other teachers who are hoping for the same opportunity. I battle for the right to use the computer lab and feel fortunate if my students get to see it once a week. Why don’t they know how to use technology? The system’s budget refuses to include adequate technology in classrooms; instead, we are continually told that dry erase boards and overhead projectors are more than enough.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of my 24 learners. Their IQs span 65 points, and I must account for every shade of gray. I must challenge those above grade level, and I must remediate thosebelow. I am but one person within the classroom, but I must meet the needs of every learner. I generate alternate assessments to accommodate for these differences. My higher math students receive challenge work, and my lower math students receive one-on-one instruction. I create most of these resources myself, after-hours and on weekends. I print these resources so that every child in my room has access to the same knowledge, delivered at their specific level. Yesterday, the school printer that I share with another teacher ran out of ink. Now I must either purchase a new inkcartridge for $120, or I cannot print anything from my computer for the remainder of the year. What choice am I left with?

I am a teacher in Florida.

I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. I am a master of my craft. I know what effective teaching entails, and I know how to manage the curriculum and needs of the diverse learners in my full inclusion classroom. I graduated at the top of my class and entered my first year of teaching confident and equipped to teach effectively. Sadly, I am now beingmicro-managed, with my instruction dictated to me. I am expected to mold “out-of-the-box” thinkers while I am forced to stay within the lines of the instructional plans mandated by policy-makers. I am told what I am to teach and when, regardless of the makeup of my students, by decision-makers faraway from my classroom or even my school. The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively determine how to provide exemplary instruction than I can. My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer,required to follow the steps mapped out for me, rather than blaze a trail that I deem more appropriate and effective for my students—students these decision-makers have never met.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I spend my weekends,my vacations, and my summers preparing for school, and I constantly work to improve my teaching to meet the needs of my students. I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.

I am a teacher in Florida, not for the pay or the hardships, the disregard or the disrespect; I am a teacher in Florida because I am given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes,both in the classroom and in the community.

I am a teacher in Florida today, but as I watch many of my incredible, devoted coworkers being forced out of the profession as a matter of survival, I wonder: How long will I be able to remain a teacher in Florida?

Where Do We Go From Here?

This was posted originally in the fall of 2009 and has been brought over from our first blog.
trickle down

Privatization is about making a profit, whether it’s utilities, war or education. In states where access to public water has been privatized, the average cost of water to the public is 30% higher. The cost of handling waste water is on average 60% higher in those states. No bid contracts or lack of contracts with private enterprise during the Iraq war and little or no oversight by the government caused cost overruns to soar. We have so little money for education in this country that I wonder sometimes what private companies are thinking when they establish charter schools. Do they honestly believe that there is a profit margin in public education to be garnered? Schools are underfunded as are all other institutions and agencies that are under the umbrella of the Federal government with the exception of the military/industrial/corporate complex. Funding for Federally mandated programs such as our public schools have dwindled over the last sixty years due to the fact that in the 1950’s, 80% of all taxes were paid by large corporations. Now, in 2009, that number has dwindled to 12-15%. For example, in 2008 Goldman Sachs paid an effective tax rate of 1% and yet $40M was paid in bonuses to the CEO.

The balance of public school funding is paid by the middle class and we can only pay so much. With every tax cut and credit provided to large corporations and wealthy individuals, we lose, our children lose, valuable dollars that are desperately needed. Meanwhile, there is a glut of money at the top and it has nowhere to go. All of those billions of dollars have instead gone to Wall Street and this phenomenon is partially to blame for the crisis that we have had to live through over the last 1 ½ years. Institutions that are part of the public domain such as schools do not enjoy the capitol that was available 40-50 years ago.

When I was attending public school in Los Angeles, we had new books every year, pleasant buildings that were clean, well lit and safe, nutritious hot meals at lunch, playgrounds with all of the equipment that one would need, physical education classes to keep us fit, art, music and well maintained grounds. This is similar to what a private school offers today. A student during that time received a good education and could go from a public school into any university. You didn’t need to attend a private school to gain access into the best schools in the United States. You were on equal footing with your counterparts. That is not the case now and it has to do with money.

As Federal money has dwindled, municipalities and states have had to rely on property taxes, bonds and levies to fund education. Unfortunately, for many taxpayers who do not have children, public education is not a priority and school bonds and levies often do not pass. I saw this happen in California several times. Because of the state of public schools, many parents who can afford it, place their children in private schools which depletes the school districts of funds that would otherwise be allocated to those students and therefore the gap increases.

We have strangled our school system. There is overcrowding in the classrooms. A student from Franklin High School noted to the school board one night that one of her classes had 40 students in it and she said that the school needed more money. She went on to say that nothing could get done in a class that large. There is also less time spent in class. Because of the decreased budgets, class time has decreased. There are now partial school days and more days off. This has put the onus on parents, if they are able to, to supplement the time through homework sessions and/or tutors. What is left in our school system are valiant and valued teachers and school staff who keep their schools together with small budgets, a vision and a lot of hope.

Then we have Arne Duncan, inculcated with the Broad philosophy, waving a carrot in front of a very hungry populace saying, you can have the money but first you have to do a few tricks. What he wants for a relatively small amount of money is to have all states allow charter schools, but charter schools are not the answer. Charter schools do not provide equality of access to all as is the mandate of public schools. Will charter schools meet the needs of the poor and the marginalized as is mandated by the Federal government for all public schools? No, not when a charter school can expel a student if they do not perform well on a test. These are public funds that are to be used to provide for all, not just a select few. Teachers in charter schools have no protections that are provided by a union in a public school. Pay is on average less and the hours are longer.

I was having a discussion the other day with some parents about charter schools and we all agreed that our children could benefit from that situation. We have the knowledge and wherewithal to either establish or select a school that would fit the needs of our children. We would have knowledge of the programs available, we would understand how to gain access to those schools, and our students would perform up to the standards set by the school. But that is not the case for all families. There are many families who do not have access to information to make these sorts of choices, maybe they do not speak English or have access to the Internet. Maybe, due to circumstances that they have little control over, there is not enough time or resources to ensure that their children will do well on a standardized test that determines whether they remain in a charter school. It is an inherently biased system towards those who have and therefore these schools should not be publicly funded.

Sometimes, when I read about these charter schools, I think that these global corporations that fund the Broad and the like are just wanting to train the cogs in the wheel, children who can have basic information drilled into them with no opportunity for developing perspective or creative thinking skills. You then have an even more divided social stratum, the unquestioning workers/soldiers and the ruling class.

The answer to the question as to where do we go from here is two tiered. First, there is the overall picture. The idea of a trickle down economy is a myth. It is apparent to all that the idea that people who have wealth will provide opportunities for others to also prosper is absurd and I would dare to say, manufactured by those with the greatest wealth. The only businesses that I have seen prosper from the wealth of others are businesses that cater to the wealthy such as yacht makers, luxury auto dealers and of course, the brokers. The accumulated wealth of a few that has nowhere to go at the top needs to be reinvested in our country and in our future. Our future is our children. Good business practice is that you reinvest part of your profits.

Corporations have made billions of dollars from the opportunities afforded to them by simply being in the United States. That money now needs to be reinvested in our children through the reinstatement of a tax structure that is equitable and no longer allows tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies and other large corporate businesses, a financial structure that demands oil companies who drill off of our coastlines pay for that privilege and end the tax breaks for the wealthy as instituted by our previous president, George Bush. Because there has not been a significant investment in education over the last 50 years, businesses have had to look elsewhere for talent, to other countries where people have been more adequately educated. The shock for many was that they had to import talent. Microsoft is an example of that. Because of their awareness of the problem, the Gates Foundation has tried, unsuccessfully, to come up with an answer to the problem. Unfortunately there is no quick solution and actually they don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

The answer is before their eyes and in their own backyard, the alternative school system that has existed in Seattle for 40 years. The public educational system can work but it requires money to function and to function well as it did 50 years ago. This gets me to the second and more quickly attainable tier. Seattle has a rich and varied history of alternative school programs starting with Alternative School #1 (AS1) which was established in Seattle about forty years ago.

When my daughter and I moved to Seattle, I discovered the alternative school program and was greatly impressed by what the school district had to offer. There are programs for students K-12 at various locations throughout Seattle. High schools such as Nova have a track record of high test scores, the WASL Language Arts scores are the higherst in the city, and placement in some of our best colleges in the country. There are waiting lists into each of these programs and the level of quality of the staff is outstanding. These well established programs need to be maintained and supported. These schools provide an opportunity for all students to succeed, not just a select few. That is what Seattle has and other schools can be developed based on the proven track record of the original alternative school program structure. Governor Gregoire has stated this to Arne Duncan when pressed about charter schools. The state of Washington should receive the additional funding that Mr. Duncan is providing under the Race to the Top program because we have those programs in place. AS#1 established a charter with the public school system in the 1960’s.

The answer can truly be in your own back yard. What we already have is tried and true. The basic tenets of these programs can be used in developing new schools that can provide an even greater diversity for our students and an opportunity for all students to succeed.

Dora Taylor

Notes From the Field: The Alliance Meeting on “Teacher Quality” held on April 20, 2010

“No Time”

Everything is controlled and scripted, from the time you walk up to the door of the building until you leave. I arrived early, thinking that I could hand out a few flyers before the meeting but there was nowhere to comfortably stand. It was the territory of the Alliance from the front door into the area that we were to meet, very similar to how the Alliance handled the NCTQ event. So I went inside to see what was going on. I was directed to an area where they were serving dinner and I must say it was a sight better than what I had at their last event (remember the cold cuts and mayonnaise?). It was actually pretty good Mexican food and plenty of it. I sat down to eat and others began to arrive. I kept waiting for what I thought would be community parents and students arriving but at that point, there didn’t seem to be anyone. It was teachers, parents from other areas of town and other familiar faces. I saw Sundquist go by but saw no other elected officials, just the usual red Alliance t-shirts with the big “A” scrawled on their chests but no red jackets this time. This was much more low key than the Alliance/NCTQ event where Dr. Goodloe-Johnson wore her red jacket that coincidentally matched the Alliance jackets and it wasn’t even Christmas.

After dining, people started to drift into the meeting area which was set up in circles of ten chairs each with a large screen that had the theme of the evening on it, “Teacher Quality Town Hall”. Wow, so this was going to be a town hall style meeting where we would be able to ask questions and have some back and forth with members of the Alliance? Not quite, well, actually, not even close.

I counted about 70 people while we all were finding a place to sit. As we settled down, the principal of South Lake High School came to the front of the room and gave us a warm welcome, the only sincerity that I heard that entire evening coming through that mic. I don’t know her but from what I had heard earlier and saw then, it seemed that South Lake High School is in good hands.

I looked around again to see if more community members had joined our group but I would be hard pressed to say I saw anyone.

George Griffin was introduced and he said a few words like this is a “defining moment in time” and something about “what we need to do to support our teachers”…a pretty bland hello and introduction and then the facilitator was introduced. This person at least had some spark but I suppose that was what he was paid to do, keep the meeting going and at least give it a sense of life and spontaneity. This guy did seem like a pro. Mind you, so far, all of the faces that we saw at the mic were African American. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.

He started out by describing the articles that were attached to the meeting’s agenda, The first one was an editorial in the Seattle Times about labor talks with the teachers’ union and the Our Schools Coalition and how we should in some way influence the negotiations. Right. Many of us had already dissected these faux roots organizations and coalitions that are being assembled to buoy support for the ed reform agenda . The sad part is that they don’t know that we know. They just keep beating that drum. Speaking of beating the drum, last I heard, only 50 people have signed that last petition that was conjured up based on the push poll that everyone has discredited. There were 1,700 signatures on the esp petition almost two years ago about the school closures and the Alliance with all of its’ money and “allies” can only drum up 50? Hmmm. That’s not a good return on an investment as a venture philanthropist would say. The other article was another editorial about the Our Schools Coalition; these people do know how to work the press. The most interesting aspect of that editorial are the comments. If you have time, you might enjoy reading them. At least there you get a better sense of reality. And finally there was an article by the News Tribune based probably on the same press release. All in all not convincing and as most of us knew, quite contrived.

Then our facilitator wanted to “start out with polls”. Are you serious?!? Of course this guy had no idea what he was about to step into with that remark. Yes, we all knew about that poll, the push poll that was so bogus it was laughable. The poll where SPS gave the names and phone numbers of 10,700 parents to 360, the strategy/marketing firm, so they could call folks and ask them questions that could only be answered in a way that served the purpose of the poll taker. Now, there is a firm, a marketing firm with some big name clients, who have the personal information of 10,700 of our students and their families. Nice job supe.

I thought that he was going to step in it and then he side stepped that remark by asking the question, and they always start out with benign questions, “How many of you believe that teachers are critical to a student’s success?” A few people raised their hands but remember, this isn’t the crowd that they had expected. These were folks who already knew how the Alliance operated and most if not all of them were not pleased with what they had seen so far from this outfit that apparently used to be a good organization. Unfortunately it has dissolved into faux polls and sound bites, tricks and trickery of the trade to try and make a community think that they need to get on board or they will be left at the station.

The facilitator began to talk about one of his teachers and how wonderful that person was. He then asked the audience to share who “touched your life”. It was kind of weird, it seems that it was going to be somewhere between a church revival and a group therapy session. This was the “Icebreaker”. So we got into our groups and “shared”. In fact, our group facilitator in a monotone voice said “Thanks for sharing” at one point and that was weird.

During this time, by the way, this lady with a flash camera was continually and annoyingly taking pictures of people in the groups. At one point I wanted to get up and tell her that she would need to get my permission before she flashed that camera again in my direction. She was upstairs, downstairs, on this side and that side all night long, taking more pictures than would ever be necessary for any photomontage. But, that was what she was paid to do so I couldn’t fault her for that.

Our ten minutes were up; remember now, just as with the NCTQ presentation, there is “no time” for anything but the program. We must always stay on schedule which means no time for questions, comments or anything else that might make these proceedings at all untidy.

So, after that warm-up exercise, we were told about the “Synopsis of the Teacher Focus Group” so that they could “give a sense of public opinion” that came out of that and the community meetings. I have a feeling that if these “community meetings” were anything like this one or the NCTQ presentation, there was not much opportunity for genuine interaction. Anyway Demorest, the VP of Operations for the Alliance, began to talk so fast, remember, no time, that it was really hard to keep up with her. This reminded me of when the person from NCTQ who presented their report, she said that there was so much to cover that she wouldn’t be stopping for questions. Well, this was the same approach. Demorest went on to say that three “themes” had emerged from the meetings with the teachers, “autonomy, professional respect and time for planning and collaboration”. This is when it starts getting thick and I don’t mean with water. Demorest continued to say that the “key findings” from the teachers was “the importance of removing ineffective teachers”, an evaluation system that is “more comprehensive” and “develop effective teachers and remove ineffective teachers”. I’m sorry but I just don’t see that as being on the top of any teacher’s list of their priorities in terms of teaching our children. I don’t buy that and I had a feeling that there were others in the room who felt that same way.

Demorest continued by saying that what came out of the “forum conversation” (at this point I don’t know if she was referring to the focus group or the community meetings but then again, it really didn’t matter, what was important to these folks was the message) was that most of the focus was on “teacher quality”. She said that this came up “again and again”. Yeah, right, that’s all I talk about with my friends who are parents, “teacher quality”. Exactly who do these people think they are talking to, blank slates that they can write anything on?

OK, so by that time I had my fill of, actually I can’t think of a polite way to say this, propaganda done with a smile and a free meal? That’s the best way that I can put it.

So, Sara Morris with Our Schools Coalition got up and talked about having “26 citywide organizations” on board with them. She said “Who are we? We are the parents, taxpayers…” she went on but, no time, she went very quickly. All I could think of was “How dare they! Who do they think they are?” “They” are folks paid for by Gates and a little by the Broad to shove RTTT down our throats and they will say anything and do anything to do that. “They” want to break the backs of the teachers’ union and bring in Teach for America to teach our kids. “They” have fooled and co-opted a lot of people in Seattle who will be as livid as others have been when these organizations and individuals find out that they had been hoodwinked and used by the Alliance just to further the agenda of others.

Then she went on to talk about the phone poll and that there was “overwhelming support for our proposals”. Morris at this point said there wasn’t much time to explain all of this, remember, no time, but that there was a handout that showed the numbers. She said that she would be happy to explain the details after the meeting. But she did add that the polling numbers were a little understated (?) and that “student growth should be the primary focus” and that this is a “real culture change”. Buzz word.

At that point we were told to get into groups of ten, all of the circles of ten were not filled and there was one completely empty, so people moved into other circles to complete them. After everyone settled into a group, I counted a total of eight groups of ten each. I still didn’t see many community people there, if any. If this was their idea of community reach out, it was a dismal failure.

There were four questions that we were to ponder and discuss. They weren’t the kind of questions that I would expect. What I will do is list each question and then give you responses that were described by the group leaders. By the way, the group leaders were Alliance folks including Demorset.

  1. “In addition to the efforts that were presented tonight by the Alliance and Our Schools Coalition, what else can we do as community members support teachers and our schools in the implementation of the new teacher contract?”

I thought that this was an odd question to ask but anyway, some of the answers were: engaging parents, books and more time for teachers.

  1. “Assuming the final teacher contract reflects most or all of the proposals outlined in the Our Schools Coalition statement, how can we as community members support teachers and our schools in the implementation of the new teacher contract requirements?”

What? Fortunately others in my group were able to take this question on. One answer was providing wrap-around services to support the student, meaning supporting the student and family in terms of health and wellness, family counseling, etc. Another answer was funding, more money for our schools, period. Someone else answered to bring back the Department of Race and Equity as well as the Family Action Teams, both of which were eliminated by our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. I learned that the Family Action Teams used to meet with families of newly arrived immigrants or families of need at the beginning of the school year to support them during the transition. Wow. We lost a valuable service and instead we’re getting MAP testing for $4.3M and more Garfield’s, the Versailles of school buildings.

  1. “If few or none of the Coalitions’ proposals are included in the final teacher contract, what are ways that we can continue advocating for these priorities?”

Well, guess what, I got my tongue back with that question. Without going into detail, I said that with good conscience, I would not answer this question because I particularly had a problem with the “Performance and Evaluation” bullet points which were about high stakes testing and performance pay and the “Compensation and Career Opportunities” bullet points that included merit pay and bringing in Teach for America.

Apparently others provided the same answer in their groups. Other answers were “creating evaluations that teachers can believe in”, bringing the community back into the schools, smaller class sizes, tutoring and wrap around services.

  1. “Outside of the teacher contract process, what are other ways that we can support great teachers and promote student success in our school district?”

Same answers as above.

At the end of this, as the facilitator was trying to bring this event to a close one woman was able to ask a question. She asked about what would happen with this information and this activity that we had all gone through, I am paraphrasing here, was this going to be used in their package of disinformation (my word).

The facilitator said that some of us were having a “misalignment of strategy” in terms of our views. A very interesting way of putting it. He went on to say that “I know that we all want the same thing” Yes of course, that’s how they try and get you in the door. Sure, who can argue the fact that we all want the best education for our children but how we want to go about it is in disagreement.

Many of the people were there because they are suspicious of or down right angry at the Alliance for trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public with their slick, and very expensive, marketing campaign. That we disagree with how they think a better education for all can be accomplished is fine. We all have our opinions on that. What bothers me and others the most is the way this entire campaign of theirs has been an exercise in manipulation, the manipulation of well-meaning people and the press.

The Alliance is losing their credibility fast in our community and I wouldn’t be surprised if they packed up their green tent next to the highway after this campaign and hit the road to go someplace else and meet more unsuspecting folks.

The Stars Have Aligned for the Broad Foundation

From the Broad Foundation’s Annual Report for 2009:

“The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of
Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”

If anyone ever doubted that our Secretary of Education has the same agenda as the Broad Foundation, I believe the above quote will dispel any such thoughts. The relationship between the Broad Foundation and Arne Duncan started when Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, if not earlier, and according to Eli Broad, it is blossoming for him and other education reformites.

If the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Broad has spent and urged others to spend on this movement had instead been spent on school districts, more teachers to create smaller class sizes, and curriculum materials that are lacking in the classroom, we would all be much farther ahead without people who have no idea about what goes in a classroom dictating to others who do how they should teach and instead creating a high-pressure, factory like atmosphere in our schools.