Tag Archive: teaching

Data does not a great teacher make

Cross-posted from Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

And so the data reporting begins.

The Star Ledger reported this weekend:

For the first time, New Jersey’s Department of Education will publish a centralized database with the aggregate teacher evaluation results for each school across the state.

The 2013-14 data, to be released next week, will not include performance ratings for specific teachers. But parents will be able to see how many teachers in a school received each of the four possible ratings, according to the state….Before 2013-14, teachers were essentially graded on a thumbs up or thumbs down system, based on a century-old law that required evaluations. Nearly 100 percent of teachers were deemed acceptable….More than 97 percent of New Jersey teachers received positive evaluation scores for 2013-14, the state announced in June (Hmmm… 97% isn’t that ‘nearly 100%’? Just sayin’.) But unlike previous years, the new system creates more distinction between perforance levels and allows the state to further analyze the data for useful trends.

For example, teachers in their first or second year were twice as likely to receive a “partially effective” review as more expereinced teachers.

Meanwhile, experienced teachers were twice as likely to get the highest rating. (emphasis mine)

Ah, ya gotta love the irony. Nothing screams, “We need excellent educators in every classroom!” like underfunding public education, piling enormous amounts of data collection and test prep on top of all the mountains of work classroom teachers already have, blaming, shaming, disrespecting, devaluing, under-paying, slashing and burning, VAM-ing and scaming us into thinking all of this is good ‘for the children’. No wonder 40-50% of educators leave the profession within the first 5 years.

12 public education facts ‘reformers’ don’t want you to know

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

In two previous posts (here, here), I discussed the ways education ‘reformers’ use savvy advertising and marketing to sell the unsuspecting public the notion that US schools are failing, teachers are ‘bad’ and unions are akin to The Walking Dead.

How many of you have heard radio commercials for the math tutoring center, Mathnazium? For the record, I know nothing about this company. I’m not claiming they do anything other than tutor students in math. They may very well be doing an excellent job. If that’s the case, more power to them. But, they are a business looking to make a profit, so their advertising has to appeal to parental fears, and make promises of success. I don’t have an audio clip of their NY market radio spots, but the ones I’ve heard make simplistic claims about US math PISA scores-similar to the graphic below-to make it sound like our schools are failing kids in math education.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 1.56.11 PM

Keith Eric Benson: Pride in Being a Skeptic

What you’ll read below was originally a comment by Keith Eric Benson at Steve Danley’s Local Knowledge Blog, replying to a comment he found odious in a Courier Post editorial. Hat tip to Steve for throwing light on Keith’s words, and to Camden NAACP, which sent the link to their list. Keith is a Camden resident, teacher at Camden High, frequent contributor to Steve’s blog, and a doctoral candidate in the Education, Culture and Society program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He is also an activist on behalf of his students. Promoted by Rosi.


The last comment [in this Courier Post editorial -ed] directed at “skeptics” to “shut up and get out of the way”, in my eyes, was so out of line. I think the labeling of people who have legitimate concerns and issues with this contemporary neoliberal directed Camden, and where its headed, as “skeptics” is demeaning and dismissive.

After all, people who being referred to as “skeptics” are the people who live here, and fundamentally are simply asking for the same civic rights and democratic respect that are afforded those in neighboring municipalities.

As a “skeptic” myself, I have a problem when the beneficiaries of good public and private jobs within this 8 square mile city of 97% percent minorities don’t remotely look like the people who reside here. Am skeptical for pointing that out? Am I skeptical when I point out that I can go WEEKS without seeing a black police officer on this newly created County Police Department? Or that I don’t recognize anyone of them as current Camden residents? Am I a “skeptic” when I point out research shows charters schools largely do NO better than traditional public schools? Am I skeptical that every time Gov. Christie comes here to say how much he cares about Camden he has a perimeter set up so that NO resident who is NOT connected to the Norcross machine goes anywhere near him to voice out concerns? Am I skeptic when I get upset that our local reporters ask NO follow-up questions and are not themselves the skeptical gatekeepers of public knowledge they are supposed to be but instead prefer to be the echo chamber for those with power?

The @starledger’s Reformy Fantasyland

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.



I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Bob Braun blogging; for a while there, it felt like I was the only one who cared to point out that the Star-Ledger, Bob’s former paper, was writing education editorials that were both massively ignorant and callously dismissive of the needs of children in New Jersey’s cities.

Bob’s skewering of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board (SLEB) includes a history lesson on the civil actions that led us to the segregated apartheid schools we have today. This is a history of which the Star-Ledger’s editorial writers remain blissfully, willingly ignorant. They foolishly continue to believe the primary issue in urban education today isn’t segregation or adequate funding, but teacher quality:  

Note to Cami: 100 excellent ways to create 100 excellent schools

Cross-posted at Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Jersey Jazzman delivered yet another blistering critique of Cami Anderson’s disastrous One Newark plan calling it “illogical, innumerate, secretive, and ill-conceived”. Sir Duke once again fills his post with charts, graphs, data, links to studies-you know, actual proof-that this will probably go down as the biggest public policy boondoggle in NJ history. He pointed out that Cami likes to blame the backlash on the ‘political season’. (Hmmm… sorta like Christmas? Is there a Black Friday where I get coupons for showing up early and complaining louder and longer?) Then ends with a link to a Bob Braun post which calls out many players on the opposite side of the issue for not taking more aggressive action sooner:

Imagining the Schools We Need

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

Wondering why American students are not performing at their best? Or why we struggle to solve the problems of children getting adequate resources so they can compete in the global race for knowledge, opportunity and equity?

No need. The answer’s right hereThe answer’s right here and it doesn’t take much to figure it out. We’ve made education a commodity to be traded, cut, neglected and manipulated for the better part of the economic downturn, and even before, and the policy is catching up to us. School districts all over the country had to cut back on teachers, other staff, educational resources and worse, a commitment to enable all children to take part in what should be the world’s premier public school system.

It shouldn’t have worked out that way.

The corporate know-nothings who have wheedled their way into the public policy debate and, worse, have been elected to offices where they’ve had direct experience slashing budgets, blaming public employees and pulling money out of the system because they think it spends too much. Now we’ve reached the crisis point where schools are packing in too many students into classrooms without proper staffing and educational materials. The results are disappointing at best.

But they point to something that’s been underreported, and that is that America’s public school teachers are doing a fabulous job keeping the system afloat and educating our students to the best of their abilities. The shame is imagining just how much better the country would be if we committed to funding and supporting the people who do one of the most important paid jobs in the economy.

Imagine what we could do with class sizes that allow for debate, discussion and hands-on learning in every class. Imagine having enough staff to enable struggling students and those with classifiable learning problems to get the support they both need and are entitled to by law. Imagine having enough money to take students on more than one outside academic trip per year so that they could apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Imagine a teaching staff that is respected, emboldened and confident that the culture supported its efforts. Imagine governors making full pension payments so the system doesn’t become a political battleground and an excuse to blame teachers and other public employees from being blamed for shortfalls. Remember that the only people making reliable pension contributions are the teachers; every paycheck. Imagine a system where teachers have input into curricular implementation, and where tests are not the end result of every learning task. Imagine a collaborative, supportive environment where veteran educators are respected for their knowledge, not blamed for being too expensive.

If you can imagine such a system, then we have our work cut out for us because if we keep going as we have for the past 10 years, then we will sink further behind countries that don’t need to imagine those school systems–they already have them.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Teaching, Unions and Social Justice

Diary rescue from Sunday night. Promoted by Rosi. Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

Giving of course my humble opinion, I believe we are at the high water mark of the anti-union, pro-market-force, evaluation-by-testing mania that’s gripped education. Or I could be seriously deluded and education is going through a profound change that will see radically different protocols for years to come.

Monday is the National Day of Action, where schools and community organizations are rallying to focus public attention on how to improve schools and promote social justice. There is a set of principles behind this, and it represents a concerted effort to fight back against the corporitization of schools that started on the far right, but has been moving to the center for a few years. Even President Obama supports the principle of more testing and teacher evaluation models that erroneously support it.

Inflation: Letting The Air Out Of Teacher Pay

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if being a teacher isn’t enough of a financial challenge, here’s some worse news, compliments of a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times about the

Federal Reserve possibly injecting some inflation into the economy. Right now it’s an intellectual argument, and if you’ve ever studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you know that the real danger to the economy would be deflation. In an effort to combat that, the Fed would look kindly on an inflationary course for these reasons:

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The next paragraph, though, shows that not all people would benefit from such an economic course. Read it and weep.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages.

But wait; there’s more.

Rising inflation also punishes people living on fixed incomes.

So there you have it. The very same people who caused the financial meltdown,

destroyed the pension system and enacted laws that capped what municipalities and states could pay for social services now want an economic policy that would punish teachers and other public workers while they’re working, and it would keep on giving after they retire and are on a fixed pension and Social Security. Is that the way to continue to attract the best and brightest people to teaching, and to show them how much society respects their contributions? Absolutely not.

(As a side note, I completely reject the notion that we have not already attracted some of our best people to become teachers. America’s teachers put in an extraordinary amount of hours into their jobs and genuinely care about their chosen field. We’ve attended some of the best universities in the land and have studied with world class professors and professionals. So, it bothers me a great deal when others say that we need to get the best and brightest into our classrooms. We’re already there. Pay us what we’re worth, give us the tools to do our jobs and stop nickle and diming the schools in the name of an ideology that disrespects and ultimately wants to destroy a system that gives us the right to bargain collectively, set acceptable work rules and protect our due process rights.)

(Which leads to another side note. The right wing doesn’t know what it’s talking about on education.)

The politicians and think-tank lackeys who are presently influencing the education debate in this country have done a fine job singling out teachers, telling the public that their schools are failing, and blaming us for having pensions and benefits. Now the economists want to manipulate the economy so that it punishes us more. The contradiction is that if you continue to squeeze America’s public workers, then we won’t be able to spend and otherwise contribute to the economy. We won’t be able to afford to send our children to college. And we won’t be able to continue to do what we love.

Yes, I know there’s an old myth in this country that says that teachers don’t teach for money, they teach because they’re committed to their craft. As with most myths, this is not simply false, but dangerous, and society is playing with fire if it believes it can continue to treat us poorly.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Inflation: Letting The Air Out Of Teacher Pay

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if being a teacher isn’t enough of a financial challenge, here’s some worse news, compliments of a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times about the

Federal Reserve possibly injecting some inflation into the economy. Right now it’s an intellectual argument, and if you’ve ever studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you know that the real danger to the economy would be deflation. In an effort to combat that, the Fed would look kindly on an inflationary course for these reasons:

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The next paragraph, though, shows that not all people would benefit from such an economic course. Read it and weep.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages.

But wait; there’s more.

Rising inflation also punishes people living on fixed incomes.

So there you have it. The very same people who caused the financial meltdown,

destroyed the pension system and enacted laws that capped what municipalities and states could pay for social services now want an economic policy that would punish teachers and other public workers while they’re working, and it would keep on giving after they retire and are on a fixed pension and Social Security. Is that the way to continue to attract the best and brightest people to teaching, and to show them how much society respects their contributions? Absolutely not.

(As a side note, I completely reject the notion that we have not already attracted some of our best people to become teachers. America’s teachers put in an extraordinary amount of hours into their jobs and genuinely care about their chosen field. We’ve attended some of the best universities in the land and have studied with world class professors and professionals. So, it bothers me a great deal when others say that we need to get the best and brightest into our classrooms. We’re already there. Pay us what we’re worth, give us the tools to do our jobs and stop nickle and diming the schools in the name of an ideology that disrespects and ultimately wants to destroy a system that gives us the right to bargain collectively, set acceptable work rules and protect our due process rights.)

(Which leads to another side note. The right wing doesn’t know what it’s talking about on education.)

The politicians and think-tank lackeys who are presently influencing the education debate in this country have done a fine job singling out teachers, telling the public that their schools are failing, and blaming us for having pensions and benefits. Now the economists want to manipulate the economy so that it punishes us more. The contradiction is that if you continue to squeeze America’s public workers, then we won’t be able to spend and otherwise contribute to the economy. We won’t be able to afford to send our children to college. And we won’t be able to continue to do what we love.

Yes, I know there’s an old myth in this country that says that teachers don’t teach for money, they teach because they’re committed to their craft. As with most myths, this is not simply false, but dangerous, and society is playing with fire if it believes it can continue to treat us poorly.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest