Category Archives: Teachers

Quote Of The Day: Republicans and their priorities

Remember this quote from the 33rd President of the United State, Harry S. Truman, when you head to the polls tomorrow.

It tells you all you need to know about Republicans and their priorities which seems to as true today as it was over 60 years ago.

Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

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Filed under 33rd President, American farmers, Harry S. Truman, medical care, minimum wage, Quote of the day, Republicans, schools, Teachers

President Obama’s Weekly Address 9/24/11: Strengthening the American Education System

WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that it is time to raise the standards of our education system so that every classroom is a place of high expectations and high performance. On Friday, the President announced that states will have greater flexibility to find innovative ways of improving the quality of learning and teaching, so that we can strengthen performance in our classrooms and ensure that teachers are helping students learn rather than teaching to the test. By modernizing our schools and improving the education system, the United States can continue building an economy that lasts into the future and prepare the next generation to succeed in the global economy.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under education reform, no child left behind, President Obama, Teachers, weekly address

>Taking On The Teachers

>Consortiumnews.com 3/23/11
by Lawrence Davidson

Editor’s Note: The American Right has fully embraced Ronald Reagan’s mantra that “government is the problem” – and that dogma is being applied in a wide variety of ways, including a nationwide assault on the pay and job security of public school teachers.

Republican-controlled state legislatures and Republican governors are in the forefront of this campaign, advancing under the cover of parents’ concerns about their kids’ schooling and behind the idea that standardized tests can be a cure-all. In this guest essay, Lawrence Davidson challenges the assumptions behind this effort:

The Florida state legislature has passed Bill 736, and Gov. Rick Scott has signed it. So this effort to “reform” teaching practices in the Florida public schools is now law.

But reform them how? According to the Miami Herald, the bill will eventually “tie teacher pay to student test scores, eliminate so-called tenure for new hires as of July 1 [all subsequent hires will get only yearly contracts] and end layoffs based on seniority.”

It was, of course, a Republican-sponsored bill and that had the Democrats looking for flaws. It did not take them long to spot an obvious one.

According to the Florida House Minority leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West, “if you are basing a teacher’s pay on test scores, there’s going to be a natural incentive for the teachers to teach to the test, instead of, maybe, expanding other areas of interest.”

The Republican response to this concern was to dismiss it as a false issue. According to Rep. Eric Fresen, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill, “As long as the students are learning, I don’t think there’s a problem with that.”

The state of Florida is actually rather late in coming to this. The bill largely mimics the still-extent Bush administration policy known as “No Child Left Behind” which came into existence in 2003 and was overhauled by the Obama Administration in 2010.

As the Florida legislation suggests, this approach relies on assessment based on standardized tests and has made a lot of money for companies who put such tests together.

There are number of assumptions that lay behind all these efforts and here are some of them:

1. The American public school system is performing poorly.

2. This is the fault of bad teachers.

3. Getting rid of the tenure system will get rid of bad teachers.

4. Using standardized tests will allow you to measure necessary levels of learning for specific ages.

5. Having instituted such tests, the attainment of adequate scores means that both the student has successfully learned and the teacher has successfully taught.

It just so happens that all of these assumptions are problematic. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Is the American public school system performing poorly? Well, yes and no. There are plenty of supposedly scary statistics out there that show that the majority of public school students are not fully proficient in a number of academic areas, given a definition of proficiency set by standardized tests.

For instance, the U.S. Department of Education reports that, as of 2009, 17 percent of 12th graders are proficient in math and 18 percent are proficient in Science (let’s keep these percentages in mind), and that “in comparison to 1992, reading scores were lower in 2009.”

However, these statistics beg the question of what criteria is being used to determine proficiency? Or, if you will, just what does it mean to be educated?

Historically (and here I mean from the dawn of civilization onward), the notion of educational proficiency has always been tied to making a living. In other words, either through apprenticeship or formal schooling, what most children have learned over the ages is what their economic environments required of them.

Applied to our own time this means that, for all students in all schools, there are two curricula. Whether you want to be a lawyer or an auto mechanic, the primary curriculum is vocational and the second one is, shall we say, elective.

This elective category may or may not include independent critical thinking which, in any case, is a pursuit that is often disapproved of by local school boards.

By the time American kids are in junior high school, they usually know the difference between what is vocationally valuable and what is not, and most gear their learning efforts to what they believe are their future career interests.

That means vocational learning will most often trump elective learning. It also means that it is not the school per se, or the teachers, that are actually setting the criteria for learning. It is the economy and the student’s local culture.

So, if the economy demands reading and writing abilities at the level of business memos and technical reports, that is the proficiency, on average, that you will get. On average, all learning beyond that, regardless of the courses taken, will be seen by the student as elective and will be absorbed (or not) depending on personal interest.

Ask yourself how many American students want to – or will be required to – know anything beyond basic math in their future workplace? Seventeen percent sounds like a roughly accurate number. How many are going to want to – or have to know – much science? Eighteen percent sounds about right.

Thirty years ago, computer savvy was not a job-related skill. Schools largely ignored it and relatively few people had real proficiency in this area. Today, the situation is reversed. So you see for most students, and their schools, useful knowledge is deemed to be employment knowledge.

Actually, almost all American schools, even the “failing” ones, deliver employment knowledge. You might think that this claim is off-base, but it really is not.

High-end public schools cater to students, most of whom by virtue of their cultural background, have professional career expectations. And that is the educational preparation they get. Just so, low-end schools (admittedly underfunded) cater to students, most of whom have very different expectations, and they are educated accordingly.

I am not claiming this is a good thing, only that this is the way it works. If you want to change it, you have to change culturally driven expectations and the structural nature of the economy.

Just looking at tests and teachers won’t do it. To achieve this sort of change means a lot of social rearrangement and revenue shifting. Historically, the U.S. has never been willing to do these things.

2. And that brings us to our second assumption. If you are not satisfied with the status quo in education, but are not willing to acknowledge where the real problems lie, you might be tempted to find a scapegoat.

So, it all becomes the fault of bad teachers.

First of all it should be determined what is meant by bad teaching. Do we define it by poor student scores on a standardized test? Or do we define it as the failure or inability to make a good faith effort to address the required material?

It should be kept in mind that you can have the first without the second. I would be very suspicious of the first definition because of the reasons given above. So let use the second definition. Given that meaning, are there bad teachers in our public school system? Yes there are.

But it is highly doubtful if, in terms of percentage, they number any more than bad administrators, bad bank managers, bad lawyers, bad doctors, and even bad Florida state politicians, etc.

Nor is it true that, allegedly unlike the other categories, teachers are “insulated from accountability.” Almost every public school teacher in the country is under contract.

One assumes that failure to teach competently is a breach of a teacher’s contract. Just as in all other contractually governed employment settings, it is the administrator’s (the principal’s) job to document the situation and fire the worker who is not doing his or her job…..

Finish reading this essay by Lawrence Davidson >>> here

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Filed under consortiumnews.com, economics of education, Florida, Gov. Rich Scott, Lawrence Davidson, Miami Herald, no child left behind, public education, Ronald Reagan, student culture, teacher tenure, Teachers

>What’s The Worth Of A Teacher; What Do They Make?

>Are you one of those people that think teachers are overpaid, lazy and worthless and are only out to enrich themselves by swilling at the public trough? Be careful the next time you ask a teacher “what do they make?”, you may not get the answer you were expecting!

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Filed under stand-up comedian, Taylor Mali, Teachers, YouTube

>Daily Show Video: Daily Show: Crisis in Dairyland – Apocalypse Cow

>The video below is from last night’s Daily Show with Jon Steward, it talks about how the Republican’s in Wisconsin used a loophole to vote without Democrats in the budget standoff with Governor Scott Walker over the right for public employees to collective bargain.

The segment then quickly segways into who the real villains are in Wisconsin and across the country, they are the Teacher, the greedy, chalk dusted succubi, who so cavalierly drain Wisconsin and the rest of the country dry and continue to laugh in our faces…” .

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Filed under collective bargaining, Gov.Scott Walker, Jon Stewart, Teachers, The Daily Show, Wisconsin

>Finally Some News About Middletown’s Proposed School Budget

>In today’s issue of the Independent which was posted online Tuesday night, comes word about the proposed Middletown School budget.

According to the article, a special school board meeting was held on March 2nd to introduce the school budget. This year’s budget would increase over last year budget by 2%, which would equate to a $2,445,064 increase in the tax levy and would support a budget that would be $145,211,537 or roughly $6.5 million more than last year.
There are a few things that were mentioned in the article that strike me in a good way and one thing that potentially troubles me.
Much of this year’s budget increase would go towards restoring some of the things that were lost after last years budget defeat. Things like capital improvements to High School North, funding for technology and the hiring back of 5.5 teachers (I wonder what happen to the other half).
What I found trouble about what was contained in the article was that it mentioned that contract talks between the MTEA and the Middletown Board of Education has reached an impasse, and now both sides are waiting to hear from the Public Employment Relations Commission to determine if negotiations should resume.
It turns out that this proposed budget was put together with the idea that the MTEA would accept a wage freeze for the 20011/2012 school year and contribute more towards their health benefits, which would help to offset a $4 million increase in health care costs.
I would hope that after the beating the MTEA took last year in the public opinion of residents, they would be slightly more lenient in their contract negotiations this year with the school system for the public good and in an effort to somewhat reform their image.
Without being involved in those negotiations however, it is hard to determine if good faith negotiations and measures have taken place between the two side. So I won’t pass judgement on either side just yet.
I am sure though, that as this impasse progresses and the time comes closer to having the School budget voted on in April, we’ll hear an awful lot more about this.
You can read the article >>> Here

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Filed under budget introduction, contract impasse, Middletown Board of Education, MTEA, school budgets, Teachers

>NJPP Monday Minute 8/16/10: MORE FEDERAL MONEY, BUT NOT ENOUGH FEDERAL MONEY

>
Congress last week passed legislation that will send an additional $685 million to New Jersey – $399 million in increased Medicaid funds and $286 million to save teacher jobs. If properly implemented, these additional federal funds will save jobs; help the state’s ravaged economy and protect services to the most vulnerable.

But New Jersey’s share of the Medicaid relief was $181 million less than lawmakers expected, and that could punch a substantial hole in the state’s already anemic revenues.

JOBS FOR TEACHERS – $286 million

The new $286 million in federal funds going directly to school districts will help retain existing teachers, rehire former teachers or hire new teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, these funds should protect the jobs of about 3,900 teachers in New Jersey. That is about a third of the teachers expected to lose jobs as a result of cuts in state aid to education this year.

Gov. Christie initially opposed the aid for more teachers, but shifted his position after learning the federal government would distribute the funds in New Jersey if the state did not. That’s water under the bridge. It is now important that the state Department of Education work with the districts to accommodate these funds in their budgets as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary teacher layoffs.

FEDERAL MEDICAID FUNDS – $399 million

In an effort to help states weather the lingering recession, Washington has been providing extra Medicaid funds to help protect the neediest residents. New Jersey already has spent about $1.4 billion through May of this year and expects to receive about $800 million more through December. The problem is that Gov. Christie (and about 30 other governors) reasonably assumed these Medicaid funds would be extended until June 2011, to cover the second half of FY2011 and so they balanced their budgets accordingly.

New Jersey built $580 million from the relief program into its revenue estimates, but will only receive $399 million.

This money is needed to avoid further downward spiraling of the state’s economy. There is general agreement that the recovery will be slow, with the potential for a “double dip” recession. States are most at risk because traditionally state revenues don’t rebound until a year or two after national recovery sets in, largely because unemployment is the last area to improve when a recession ends.

The relief Congress approved, however, falls $181 million short of expectations. The shortfall won’t require an immediate budget adjustment, but if it isn’t made up by increases in state revenue collections, program cuts might be required.

The downsizing of Medicaid relief payments by one-third is the result of increasingly partisan political wrangling in Congress, where the legislation got bogged down in a false debate over deficit spending.

With only a few exceptions, Republicans were united in the Senate and the House against the bill. They argued the nation could not afford to provide the relief, even though the bill was fully funded by closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the current increase in food stamps by 2014. The bill, plainly speaking, would not have increased the federal deficit by one penny.

Gov. Christie was right to join other governors in urging Congress to pass this necessary fiscal relief measure, and all of the Democratic members from New Jersey did vote in favor of the aid. Unfortunately, the governor wasn’t as persuasive with the members from his own party. New Jersey’s five Republican members joined in the partisan bloc that opposed the relief for state budgets, even after it was scaled back.

The opposition is even more surprising given the blame assigned to the state’s Congressional delegation for New Jersey’s tepid return on its citizens’ investment in federal taxes. New Jersey lags almost every other state in federal aid received as a percentage of federal income tax paid. For every dollar New Jerseyans pay in federal taxes, they get back 61 cents, according to one estimate.

Perhaps that’s due, in part, to state budget writers leaving too much federal money on the table. (see chart)

There are several instances of substantial federal dollars being lost because of minor cuts in the state budget. Take, for example, health care. For every $1 cut from the state’s successful FamilyCare health insurance program for working families, the state lost a $2 federal match. The governor’s rejection of $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics cost the state a $9 match for each $1 spent by the state. Given the state’s diminishing revenues and the governor’s insistence on no tax increases, it seems folly to turn down money from the federal government for new teachers, social safety net programs or health care for working families and young women.

The total in lost federal funds from all state program cuts in New Jersey was about $250 million, according to NJPP estimates. That loss will multiply itself in subsequent years if the cuts are not restored.

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Filed under Congress, federal dollars, Gov. Chris Christie, Medicaid funds, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Teachers, US Department of Education