Teachers – Will We Ever Learn? – J. Metha

Metha, Jal.  “Teachers – Will We Ever Learn.”  OP-ED.  New York Times.  April 12, 2013.  Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/teachers-will-we-ever-learn.html?_r=0

In this OP-ED piece the author compares teaching to other professions which requires a similar educational background and also the American educational system to that of other high-achieving countries.

HERE’S what the old debates have overlooked: How schools are organized, and what happens in classrooms, hasn’t changed much in the century since the Progressive Era. On the whole, we still have the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, in the same schools, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support…

Teaching requires a professional model, like we have in medicine, law, engineering, accounting, architecture and many other fields. In these professions, consistency of quality is created less by holding individual practitioners accountable and more by building a body of knowledge, carefully training people in that knowledge, requiring them to show expertise before they become licensed, and then using their professions’ standards to guide their work.


Teachers in leading nations’ schools also teach much less than ours do. High school teachers provide 1,080 hours per year of instruction in America, compared with fewer than 600 in South Korea and Japan, where the balance of teachers’ time is spent collaboratively on developing and refining lesson plans.


Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has estimated that other fields spend 5 percent to 15 percent of their budgets on research and development, while in education, it is around 0.25 percent.


Messsage from a Charter School: Thrive or Transfer. – M. Winerip

Winerip, Michael. “Message from a charter school: thrive or transfer”. July 10, 2011.  New York Times.  Retrieved from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/nyregion/charter-school-sends-message-thrive-or-transfer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

A parent thought she “hit the jackpot” when her son was selected to go to a charter school.  After two weeks the school decided the student didn’t belong there due to his behavior and recommended a transfer back to the public schools.

From Day 1 of kindergarten, Ms. Sprowal said, he was punished for acting out.

“They kept him after school to practice walking in the hallway,” she said.

Several times, she was called to pick him up early, she said, and in his third week he was suspended three days for bothering other children.

In Matthew’s three years of preschool, Ms. Sprowal said, he had never missed time for behavior problems. “After only 12 days in your school,” she wrote the principal, “you have assessed and concluded that our son is defective and will not meet your school criteria.”

Her Last Day of Teaching First Grade. – Anon

“Her Last Day of Teaching First Grade.” Anonymous via Diane Ravitch’s Blog.  August 24, 2013.  Retrieved from: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/24/her-last-day-of-teaching-first-grade/

A recently retired teacher recounts her decision to retire along with a touching last day exercise which resulted in a comment made by a student that made all the sacrifices worthwhile.

I was absolutely floored.

That’s when I knew how much I’d miss teaching. That feeling of molding a group and helping them become better together than singly – that’s amazing.

Childhood Poverty, Test Scores, and Mayor Coleman. – K. Griffin

Today (8/28/13) the Dispatch printed a letter I submitted last friday night.  The letter was in response to Mayor Michael Coleman’s harsh words about the Columbus Schools grades on the new state report cards, which many believe, myself included, is only to make schools look bad.

There is an overuse of controversial high-stakes standardized test scores on this report card of which our lowest charter schools are exempt.  (The lowest 25% of schools, but that’s a different story.)

After 15 years of “No Child Left Behind” there are 100s of studies that show that we can predict a student’s test score based on their zip code.  The higher the poverty rate, the lower the scores.  We didn’t need to spend millions on studies to figure that one out.

According to the United Nations Children Fund, the childhood poverty rate in the United States is over 20%, the highest of any other industrialized nation.  If another country kidnapped 100 of our school age children and kept them in the same conditions they are living in here in the US the public would be screaming for action.

My blaming of Mayor Coleman for having a city where 74% of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch wasn’t fair.  That was the point.  Blaming school districts for these misleading report cards based on unproven testing practices is also unfair.  Too bad the Mayor didn’t get that before he opened his trap.

On Thursday, Mayor Michael B. Coleman called Columbus Schools’ grades on the brand new school report card “disgraceful” and “not acceptable.” He did this even though he knew the new criteria is lowering the grades of all schools across Ohio, mostly because of an overuse of controversial standardized-test scores. How would the mayor perform on one of these tests?

According to the Ohio Department of Education, in the 2001-2002 school year Columbus Schools had 57.6 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In the 2011-2012 school year, a full decade later, that percentage had risen to 74.2 percent.

This means that for a family of four the household income is below $41,348. This 16 percent increase is not the fault of Columbus Schools. This occurred on Coleman’s watch. Perhaps the mayor’s office needs to be reformed.

Schools developing art, gym, music tests to judge teachers. – C. Binkley

Binkley, Colin.  “School developing art, gym, music, tests to judge teachers.” Columbus Dispatch.  August 24, 2013.  Retrieved from:  http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/08/24/schools-developing-art-gym-music-tests-to-judge-teachers.html

The article explains how districts are needing to make more tests, many of which are given the first week of school, so that teachers can be judged.  Teachers have complained the additional testing is unnecessary, does not help students, and is taking away from creative lessons the joy of learning.

In Olentangy schools, all third-grade students took an art test last week to chart what they know now. They answered questions about the principles of art, analyzed a piece of work and were given a drawing prompt.

Some teachers fear that, with so many types of tests, the system won’t grade all teachers equally. “Good or bad, it’s not the same,” said Johnson, of Columbus schools. “I’m sure that they don’t feel that it’s fair,” she said of teachers.

Ohio’s Mostly Failing Charter Schools Continue to Grow. – S. Dyer

Dyer, Stephen. “Ohio’s Mostly Failing Charter Schools Continue to Grow.”   August 22, 2013.  Retrieved from:  http://innovationohio.org/2013/08/22/ohios-mostly-failing-charter-schools-continue-to-grow/

The report discusses the increase in funding that failing charter schools will receive through the new state budget and point out that our local schools are losing close to a billion dollars a year because of these schools.

Poll: Most Americans sick of high-stakes standardized tests. – V. Strauss

Strauss, Valarie.  “Poll: Most Americans sick of high-stakes standardized tests.”  Washington Post.  August 21, 2013.  Retrieved from:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/21/poll-most-americans-sick-of-high-stakes-standardized-tests/

The author reports the results of the 45th Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup education poll which showed that fewer than 25% of the public believe testing has improved schools, 58% think tests scores to evaluate teachers are wrong, 66% have never even heard of common core, 70% trust teachers, and 70% oppose school vouchers.

Some of the result are in conflict with an AP and Education Next Poll and the authors response is:

Perhaps the answers lies in the way the question was worded:

32. As you may know, all states are currently deciding whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards in reading and math. If adopted, these standards would be used to hold the state’s schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the adoption of the Common Core standards in your state?

Seriously, who would answer ‘no’ to that?

It isn’t easy for people who are not familiar with polling methodology — which includes me and nearly everybody else on the planet — to understand the difference between polls that have some real validity and those that don’t. The bottom line is to be very careful about competing claims from this and that poll. They aren’t all alike.