Where Indeed

In this blog post by Valerie Strauss she asks, “Where have all the teachers gone?”

“While teacher shortages are not new, they are getting worse in many parts of the country. A report by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute found that teacher education enrollment dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35 percent reduction, between 2009 and 2014 — and nearly 8 percent of the teaching workforce is leaving every year, the majority before retirement age.”

Ms. Strauss quotes Linda Darling-Hammond, “Across the country, districts and schools continue to struggle to meet the growing demand for qualified teachers. Since 2012, when Recession-era layoffs ended, the teacher workforce has grown by about 400,000, as districts have sought to reclaim the positions they had previously cut and replace teachers who have left. But even with intensive recruiting both in and outside of the country, more than 100,000 classrooms are being staffed this year by instructors who are unqualified for their jobs. These classrooms are disproportionately in low-income, high-minority schools, although in some key subjects, every kind of district has been hit. This is a serious problem for the children they serve and for the country as a whole.

“”. . . Current data on the 2017-18 school year confirm that most states are still experiencing difficulty hiring qualified teachers in multiple fields. The U. S. Department of Education reports that a majority of states identify shortages of teachers in mathematics (47 states and the District of Columbia), special education (46 states and D.C.), science (43 states), world languages (40 states and D.C.), career and technical education (32 states), teachers of English learners (32 states), art, music, and dance (28 states), and English (27 states).”

Business Insider reports, “Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found in their recent report, “The Economic Value of College Majors,” that education majors are paid the least . . .”

How can we expect to hire and retain excellent teachers when they are the lowest paid professionals in the country, when they are denigrated throughout society, when they are told how to do their job by individuals who have never done their job, and who are reprimanded when they try to do an excellent job?

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Everything Old, Nothing New

This article, written by Kate Taylor, appeared in the New York Times, “Regents Approve Plan to Evaluate and Improve New York Schools

It states:
“The New York State Board of Regents on Monday approved a plan laying out the state’s goals for its education system, as required by the sweeping federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

. . . Under the plan, the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools receiving Title I federal funds, which go to low-income schools and high schools with six-year graduation rates less than 67 percent, [The Rochester City School District] would be identified for comprehensive support and improvement. Those schools would receive additional funding and supervision, including visits from external reviewers, and will be required to choose at least one school improvement strategy from a list approved by the state.”

This is how the RCSD maintains its exhorbitant budget, through failure. The system is set up to support failure, regardless of the consequences for our children.

This is not new.

In a similar article by Bianca Tanis, “You Can’t Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear” Ms Tanis writes:

“After much discussion about the whether or not the proposed Next Generation PreK-2 standards align with developmentally appropriate practice, the NYS Board of Regents adopted the Next Generation ELA and Math Learning Standards on Monday, September 11th.

. . . While the narrative and language of the Next Generation standards is more sophisticated and sprinkled with examples of best practice and common sense, they are essentially the Common Core rebranded. Again.”

The Board of Regents does not now, nor have they ever made decisions that create positive change for our system of education or our children.

They are appointed by a legislature that is paid by educational lobbyists to maintain the profits of the wealthy by keeping the populous poor and ignorant.

It is only when we, the people, decide to change our system of education so that it concentrates on the gifts and talents all children possess that we will achieve educational success for all.

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We Know What Works So Why Are We Failing

This article, Learning from schools that close opportunity gaps by Sarah E. LaCour, Adam York, Kevin Welner, Michelle Renée Valladares, and Linda Molner Kelley appeared in Phi Delta Kappan’s publication.

The article outlines ten “exemplary practices” recognized by the Schools of Opportunity project.

The ten steps are:
1. Broadening and enriching learning opportunities
2. Creating and maintaining a healthy school culture
3. Providing more and better learning time during the school year and summer
4. Using a variety of assessments designed to respond to student needs
5. Supporting teachers as professionals
6. Meeting the needs of students with disabilities in an environment that ensures challenge and support
7. Providing students with additional needed services and supports, including mental and physical health services
8. Creating a challenging and supported culturally relevant curriculum
9. Building on the strengths of language minority students and correctly identifying their needs
10. Sustaining equitable and meaningful parent and community engagement

One thing that was mentioned in the article but does not appear explicitly in the ten steps is, “Redefining excellence in public education”.

Before any of the ten steps are initiated in any school, it is imperative that we must first demand excellence in our system of public education and then define that excellence as being the discovery, development and direction of the natural gifts and talents that all children possess.

As well, this must not be measured by the achievement of any one group of individuals but by the ability of the individual to achieve success in their particular area of giftedness.

If a child is a gifted artist than success for that child is the ability to express through art that which cannot be expressed through language. This is not to discount the importance of language skills but to eleviate the stress of being able to express, in words, the feelings that generate the emotions one experiences throughout life’s situations.

By allowing our children the freedom of expression through the mode in which they feel most comfortable, we can effectively put an end to the self-hatred that is the basis of all the “ism’s” that divide us.

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More Rhetoric – More Denial

This article, Forget about ‘fixing’ black kids: What If we fixed white liberals instead? by Lynnell Mickelsen written in February of 2015 was circulated recently.

In it Ms Mickelson states:

“We’ve spent years — nay, decades — bemoaning our achievement gap in which white kids in Minneapolis are mostly doing fine while less than 30 percent of black and Latino kids are working at grade level; less than 48 percent graduate on time, etc.

Children of color now make up 67 percent of our enrollment in Minneapolis. (Vocab reminder to the Greatest Generation: This why we can’t call them “minorities” any more.) So you’d think the mass failure of the majority of the city’s school children would be a moral emergency. As in something that demanded bold action.

After all, if white kids were failing at these rates, we’d have already redesigned the schools to work better for them. We’d have changed the teachers, administrators, length of the school day or year or curriculum and anything else. Because if white kids were failing en masse, we’d demand a big fix of the education system.

But when nonwhite kids are failing, we tend to instead discuss how to fix brown children and their allegedly … ahem … chaotic families, which is white code for screwed-up.”

Ms. Mickelson could very well be talking about the Rochester City School District and any other large urban district in America.

Unfortunately, she believes our current system of education is working for caucasian children because they are passing tests designed to make them feel superior to those that fail, perpetuating an attitude of supremacy that is hostile and volitile.

Our current system of education is dehumanizing for ALL children. It reduces them to data bits and dollar signs, never considering their gifts and talents or the importance of what education calls “soft skills” in building a more humane society.

Until we change our current system of education to concentrate on the gifts and talents all children possess, realizing and promoting critical thinking and communication skills, compassion and empathy, all of our children will continue to fail educationally.

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Institutionalized Racism Through Education

This post, Why Aren’t We Talking About This? by Emily Talmage speaks of the institutionalized racism contained within our system of education, especially in the charter school setting.

She states:
“When I was twenty-five, I interviewed at a charter school in Brooklyn.

Before I sat down to talk to the dean, I observed a kindergarten class that looked nothing like any kindergarten class I had ever seen: just shy of thirty children sitting in rows on a carpet, each with legs crossed and hands folded, all completely and utterly silent.

. . . I took the job – foolishly – and soon found out what this “hard work” meant: scholars, as we called them, were expected to be 100% compliant at all times. Every part of the nine-hour school day was structured to prevent any opportunity for deviance; even recess, ten-minutes long and only indoors, consisted of one game chosen for the week on Monday.

. . . There weren’t any white children at the school, but there I was – a white teacher, snapping at a room full of black children to get them to respond, in unison, to my demands.

. . . Everyone in the nation is talking about our racist history, but do people know what type of racism is happening today, beneath our noses, under the banner of education reform?

. . . With useless, commercial junk-tests as justification, we have been told, for years now, that we must serve up our low-income schools – those schools filled mostly with children of color – to profiteers, who are then free to experiment on children in whatever ways they see fit.

. . . Why aren’t more people demanding that these racist institutions and policies be taken down?

. . . It’s modern eugenics: the molding of children’s personalities, starting from preschool, to suit the needs of our Wall Street masters.”

The most racist aspect of our current system of education is the “achievement gap” which juxtapositions every child against “white males”. This is a norm that no child can achieve except white males.

Every child has the right to be considered gifted and talented regardless of socio-economic status, color, gender or health.

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Ignorance Is A Condition Of Lack Of Education Not Poverty

On Sep 13, 2016 this blog, We Have a Poverty Crisis in Education by Kristina Birdsong was posted and was recently sent out again.

In it Ms. Birdsong states:

“What is the impact of poverty on students?
Students living in poverty struggle in ways most others do not. They face a plethora of issues, including but not limited to the following:

Increased risk for behavioral, socioemotional, and physical health problems
Decreased concentration and memory
Chaotic home environment
Higher rates of suspension, expulsion, absenteeism, and drop out
Poor hygiene and malnutrition
Lack of preparedness for school

Additionally, schools in poor communities are ill-equipped and suffer more staffing issues and lack of grant funding for more diverse and special programs, including extracurricular opportunities. Due to higher attrition rates, even the most well-intentioned teachers in low-income schools often lack the experience and tools required for narrowing the gap.”

Ms. Birdsong equates the ignorance associated with ill-equipped schools to poverty thereby making the assumption that children who are considered to be impoverished are slow witted, dirty, hungry and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.

This is the general attitude of many who consider poverty to be an issue in education. Yes, these conditions exist for some children but not because they are poor, it is because their parents are ignorant.

There are middle class and wealthy children who suffer the same maladies due to ignorance as well.

Being poor does not mean your family is dysfunctional it means your family does not meet the economic conditions of being considered “middle income”.

Being ignorant means your family has never been taught to live a healthy lifestyle regardless of their socio-economic status.

Poor families may not have money but that does not assume that they also do not have any sense of health and well-beingness or that having money automatically makes you cognisant of how to live a healthy life.

The Beverly Hillbilly’s may have been a television show but it was an important commentary on how money may change your socio-economic status but may not change your attitude toward life.

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Eliminate the Gap To End The Poverty

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) sent this e-mail:

2017 Test Boycott Numbers Remain High; Parents from all Demographics Continue to Reject Test & Punish System

It states:

” Over 225,000 parents across the state, including tens of thousands of first-time refusers, rejected the state’s test-and-punish system, as evidenced by a third consecutive year of opt out numbers hovering near 20%. This is remarkable given that NYSED and local districts continue their attempts to squelch opt out by distributing misleading information and threatening dire consequences that create an environment of confusion and fear for families.

While Commissioner Elia would like to portray students who boycott the state ELA and math tests as ‘white students in rich or average wealth districts’, the data says differently. Only 8% of public school districts even met the required 95% testing participation rate, demonstrating how parents from all districts and demographics are boycotting the testing regime.”

“. . . Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, Long Island Opt Out founder and founding member of NYSAPE said, “While State education officials and corporate-reform lobbyist interests debate and interpret the assessment results and opt out numbers using the usual rhetoric, we see parents from all school districts including first-time refusers, overwhelmingly rejecting this test and punish system. Not only have they chosen to protect their children, but they have also joined our community of parents committed to advocating for whole-child policies in our classrooms. This network of hundreds of thousands of advocates will continue to grow and develop strategies to fight against those who wish to profit from our children.”

“. . . Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of the Black Student Leadership organization, expressed, “I would like to see more realistic efforts towards meeting the needs of children and not making our children testing ‘lab rats.’ I’m extremely angry that we keep obsessing over testing; instead of partnering with teachers and parents to ensure our children discover their greatness and learn the brilliance they bring to their schools and the world.”

Until we remove the conditions that create the “achievement gap” in education the system will not change.

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