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Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM PDT

A Call for a Moratorium on Common Core

by annie em

Portland Public School board member Steve Buel presented a resolution citing concerns with the implementation of Common Core $tate $tandards at Wednesday night's meeting. He called for a three-year moratorium much to the chagrin of presiding member Pam Knowles, but to the delight of a sizable contingent of the audience of parent, teachers, and students. After a verbal skirmish over the rules, Steve was permitted to read the resolution.

The resolution is the result of hundreds of hours of research by concerned members of the community who have noticed the effects of Common Core in New York and Kentucky. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools and Portland Association of Teachers met to flesh out the details of the resolution. Steve Buel and Aaron Smirl drafted the final version presented to the board. They welcome any and all concerned about the implementation of Common Core to use our resolution as a model to call for a moratorium. The text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION ON COMMON CORE AND PPS (April 16, 2014)


Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas,  the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need,  underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:

  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education.
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors.
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary.
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing.
  • Computer access throughout the year.

Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:

  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance.
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law.
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons.
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.

Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:

  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed?
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC?
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)

Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.

Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.

Also posted at Great Schools for America
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Bipartisan charter school legislation introduced in the House will allow states to "receive grants to develop and expand high-quality charter schools under a new bipartisan bill recently introduced in the House. The legislation—co-authored by House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and ranking Democrat George Miller (CA)—would allow states to use federal funds to grow and replicate existing high-quality charter schools. Previously, federal charter school funding could only be used to open new schools."

The fact that this is bipartisan legislation should raise red flags immediately since Republican and Democrats can't seem to agree on anything of substance. But when little kids, teachers, and families are the target, Congress can get their act together. Big money speaks to both sides of the aisle on the topic of education.

According to the article in ASCD:

Another provision of the bill would allow charter management organizations (such as KIPP and Uncommon Schools) to receive grants to open new schools, even if the organizations are located in states that do not receive federal charter school funding.
Is KIPP a high quality charter network?  You be the judge.

Cross-posted at Great Schools for America

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There is likely someone similar to him driving education policy in your state or school district. Watch as Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Oregon, as he delivers a message to school administrators encouraging them to threaten teachers who dissent from Common Core.

Saxton:  

Do you know what the description of a great education leader is?  

It's an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . I'm an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . You gotta be an S.O.B with a kindly manner.

Credit to Patriot Jason/Don't Tread on Farms for the video.

What does Betsy Hammond, education writer at the Oregonian report about Saxton's speech?  

Some of his speech wasn't that pretty. Either directly or using initials, he used some off-color words that a teacher would not use with students as he recounted things that have happened to him.
Hammond neglects Saxton's statement that Oregon will be required to apply for another waiver in January 2014 identifying another round of focus and priority schools. (Starts at 6:15 mark in video below.)
There is no effort that is more important right now or is getting more attention than this one: our focus on priority schools. The Governor often asks, "When are we going to start to see that we're making a difference in some of these investments? Where is that likely to happen?"

We need to be able to say to the legislature, "This is where we're moving up -- this investment. And the way we're going about doing this work is changing outcomes for students."

We have a new waiver that we need to be applying for this winter. . .(hem-hawing) When I look at the waiver that came from No Child Left Behind, I have to chuckle to myself because of what it required of us in the state. What it required of us was to sort of move away from the requirements of No Child Left Behind were to develop the new report card, work on educator evaluation systems that were already required by 290, and support Title I schools through Focus and Priority process.

What's not to like? Is that just not like some of the greatest requirements you could ever have?

. . .

Now we need to apply for a new waiver. We're going to try to go in the second part of the program which will be in January. One of the things they're asking us in the new waiver is, "How would you identify additional focus and priority schools after the this four year cohort is complete?"  

The structure of the ranking system insures that no matter how hard students and teachers work, there will always be focus and priority schools.

Sorry kids.

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In the process of delivering this hour long harangue which included two self-indulgent tales having nothing to do with educating our kids, Saxton quotes Theodore Roosevelt saying people often misquote him.  Then he proceeds to misquote him, "It is not the critic who counts," he says apparently to bolster the resolve of the administrators he has just bullied into bullying their staffs. The quote is much more fitting to describe the work that teachers and parents do than invoking it to deflect criticism of himself, the OEIB, or the administrators he is encouraging to threaten teachers.  Here is the actual quote from a speech remembered as The Man in the Arena delivered in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
You can view the entire video here to judge whether the Oregonian staff is keeping the public well informed on education issues. Watching the entire video will bear this out:  This ego-maniacal guy in charge of educating our kids poses a danger to teachers and students who value real education. Any free thinker can see that. He's not the type of guy you would want in charge of your own child's education, let alone the education of every single student in the state. 

Full length video of Rob Saxton - I'm an S.O.B. -- Oregon Deputy Super Rob Saxton Threatens Teachers Who Dissent on Common Core & P20W a.k.a. Rob Saxton Keynote Oregon's Continuous Improvement Network Meeting 10 1 13.

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Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 10:16 AM PDT

Barack Obama meet LBJ

by annie em

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Today, for the first time in our history, we have the power to strike away the barriers to full participation in our society. Having the power, we have the duty . . .

We are fully aware that this program will not eliminate all the poverty in America in a few months or a few years. Poverty is deeply rooted and its causes are many. But this program will show the way to new opportunities for millions of our fellow citizens.

No, these aren't words ripped from today's headlines. Wishful thinking. President Lyndon said those words in 1964.

Lyndon Johnson's first job right out of college was that of a teacher. He taught poor Mexican-American children who could barely speak English. He always wanted to do more for his students, saying:

Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.
Poverty is the root cause of our nation's education woes, but poverty is also pervasive throughout our democracy. Poverty is the enemy. Before his presidency was overshadowed by the war in Viet Nam, Lyndon Baines Johnson had started another war: the war on poverty. If Viet Nam hadn't sucked the funding out of that war, this country might have eliminated poverty once and for all. It's time to give it another shot. These are some of LBJ's accomplishment during his short term as President as he encouraged Americans to create a Great Society.  From the U.S. History website:
Job Corps was established to provide valuable vocational training.

Head Start, a preschool program designed to help disadvantaged students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn was put into place.

The VOLUNTEERS IN SERVICE TO AMERICA (VISTA) was set up as a domestic Peace Corps.

The Wilderness Protection Act saved 9.1 million acres of forestland from industrial development.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided major funding for American public schools.

The Voting Rights Act banned literacy tests and other discriminatory methods of denying suffrage to African Americans.

Medicare was created to offset the costs of health care for the nation's elderly.

The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities used public money to fund artists and galleries.

The Immigration Act ended discriminatory quotas based on ethnic origin.

An Omnibus Housing Act provided funds to construct low-income housing.

Congress tightened pollution controls with stronger Air and Water Quality Acts.

Standards were raised for safety in consumer products.

From his 1965 State of the Union speech to the United States Congress:
Beyond this great chamber, out yonder in 50 states, are the people that we serve. Who can tell what deep and unspoken hopes are in their hearts tonight as they sit there and listen. We all can guess from our own lives how difficult they often find their own pursuit of happiness.  How many problems each little family has. They look most of all to themselves for their futures, but I think they also look to each of us.

Today, for the second time in our history, we have the power to eliminate poverty in America. Let's do it right this time. Barak Obama, you have some mighty big shoes to fill. We are looking to you and Congress. Add an omnibus jobs bill to the list above, change Wilderness Protection Act to Planet Protection Act, and this is exactly the agenda we should be working to accomplish today. No more wars, just equitable, healthy, sustainable living for all. We can do this.

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Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 09:59 AM PDT

No pay from TFA (Teach for America)

by annie em

 photo Money-out-of-reach_zps248c4731.jpg

Summer Institute, the teacher training boot camp that according to Teach for America (TFA) advocates amazingly produces effective teachers in only five weeks, will soon begin for over 5,000 corps members. I interviewed Casey (not the real name), a TFA alum who could hardly wait to finish the two-year commitment and get on with life. I asked Casey to share advice with the upcoming batch of new recruits on how to make the most of the experience. But, Casey wanted to tell a different story.

Before the first question eschewed from my lips, Casey blurted out, "They didn't pay us."  Obviously still steamed after more than two years, Casey repeated, "They didn't pay us for Summer Institute."  This had plainly been on Casey's mind for some time, so I encouraged the TFAer to continue.

"On campus, before you apply, they promote themselves as one of the top employers of college grads in the nation. They convinced me that after five weeks of training I would be a great teacher, even better than licensed professionals they said. I couldn't find any other job, so I signed up to work for them. I expected to earn enough money at Summer Institute to pay my expenses to move halfway across the country to my new teaching job. But, they didn't pay us. I started off borrowing money through a loan plan they had set up for us."

"I don't understand. Did they promise to pay you and then renege?" I asked. I had heard a rumor about this from a disgruntled TFAer several years ago, but had dismissed it as an isolated incident.

"It isn't really clear in the beginning. It's embarrassing. We're supposed to be the best and brightest, but many of us didn't even know we weren't getting paid for the work we did in the summer. I'm not the only one who thought we were getting paid. Other recruits thought so, too. So, the first thing I would say to new TFA recruits is that you won't be paid for Summer Institute. So, make sure you have enough money saved up to move to your new job, pay your first and last month's rent and security deposit, and pay for teaching materials you'll need when school starts.

"It's kind of demoralizing," Casey continued. "Right from the beginning I felt like I was being taken advantage of; that TFA wasn't straight with us, and it was too late to do anything else. I felt like, 'What have I gotten myself into? I'm doing all this work for free?' Maybe TFA makes it clearer to recruits these days, and if they don't they should. They don't pay corps members for Summer Institute. Anyway, I started out financially in the hole and spent over a year paying them back."

As we moved on to other topics, Casey mentioned all the things I had heard before: five weeks of training isn't nearly enough; Casey was hired to teach another subject but observed only reading and math classes during the summer; corps members felt totally unprepared to manage a classroom, and so on. So, I decided to investigate the claim about not being paid by TFA. How could a sharp young person like Casey have mistakenly thought that corps members would get a paycheck for summer work from Teach for America?

This is what I found out and quite possibly why Casey and others thought they would be paid by Teach for America:

Eleven TFA Summer Institutes will be held June-July, 2013. This sample institute daily schedule delineates a 16.5 hour work day. If corps members are paid a minimum wage of $8.00 an hour, they would make $3,300 during Institute. (16.5 hrs. x 25 days (5 weeks) x $8.00 = $3,300) If they are paid a salary approximating a beginning teacher's salary, oddly enough, they would make about the same amount, $3,430. ($35,672/52 weeks x 5 weeks = $3,430) According to Casey, several corps members had expected a paycheck of about $3,000 for their work during Summer Institute.

TFA does have a salary and benefits page which clearly states CORPS MEMBERS RECEIVE A FULL SALARY AND COMPREHENSIVE BENEFITS.

As a corps member, you will be a full-time teacher and receive a full salary and the same comprehensive health benefits as other beginning teachers in your school district.
This statement doesn't address Summer Institute, nor does it say who will pay the teacher's salary. The information seems to indicate that recruits will receive a salary from Teach for America, but the amount will vary according to the school district.

Casey mentioned that campus recruiters said Teach for America was a top employer of college graduates. In 2011 College Grad.com ranked Teach for America as Number 2 in Best Companies for New Grads.

No. 2 Teach For America; hiring forecast 4,925. Average salary for teachers, $42,451
For years TV, newspapers, magazines, and websites including ABC, CBS, Washington Post, Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Schools.com have promoted Teach for America as a top employer of college grads.

In 2010 TFA boasted about its "top employer" status to win a $50 million grant from the Department of Education (DOE), saying it ranked higher than both Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. Making the same claim in 2011, TFA was granted another $8 million SEED grant by the DOE. In that grant application TFA reported that the organization spent over $43,000 on each recruit placed in the classroom. It's no wonder that Casey thought some of that money would be paid to corps members. Most likely the officials at the DOE and politicians promoting Teach for America have that impression, too.

Glass Door, a website that lists salaries paid by companies, reports Teach for America as paying corps member and teacher salaries. At this point I was confused myself. According to 2011 IRS form 990, TFA had assets of nearly $300 million dollars and revenue of over $270 million. You might think that an organization with that kind of moola could afford to pay recruits -- their lifeblood -- a salary.

Next, I called Teach for America and talked to Carrie Rankin, National Communications Director for Teach for America. I explained the claim that a corps member had made about not being paid for Summer Institute, told her I was confused about the policy myself, and asked if she could offer some clarity. She did not act surprised by my query. Neither did she confirm or deny that she had heard this complaint before. She refrained from commenting any further, and said she would send the documentation that is offered to corps members. A few days later I received this e-mail from her. I'm including her contact information here (it wasn't easy to find) for anyone seeking clarity on this issue.  

From: Carrie.Rankin@teachforamerica.org
Subject: Teach For America
Date: April 15, 2013 7:57:47 AM PDT

Deb,

I wanted to follow up on the info you requested last week.

First, you said you were investigating an alleged miscommunication about paying corps members for summer Institute. On our website, we explain that Teach For America covers the costs of Institute, but corps members are not told that they will be paid. Teach For America pays for room and board during Institute, as well as for transportation to and from school sites. Corps members are responsible for all other costs. We do have grant programs available to help corps members cover the cost of travel to and from Institute.

Best,
Carrie
---
Carrie James Rankin
National Communications Director
Teach For America
617.485.4544

The "documentation" is nothing more than a connection to TFA's Financing Your Transition page offering INTEREST-FREE TRANSITIONAL LOANS AND GRANTS. It contains no mention of compensation for Summer Institute nor does it specifically say that recruits will not be paid for their summer work.

So, it would seem that Teach for America does not tell recruits they will be paid for their summer work, nor does the organization tell them they will not be paid. The unambiguous thing to do would be to tell recruits upfront that they will not be paid for Summer Institute.  TFA should not pretend to be an employer of college grads when, in fact, they are not.  

The simple truth is this: Teach for America does not employ a single teacher straight out of college. Zero. Zip. Teach for America does not employ teachers nor does it pay teachers. Teach for America is a recruiting firm. The organization provides minimally trained temps to work in place of professionals, while falsely promoting itself as a top employer of college grads/teachers.

It does seem that Teach for America is coloring reality by promoting itself as an employer instead of a recruiting firm. It is misleading, to say the least. Some might even say it's dishonest. Certainly it is confusing to recruits who think they are employed by TFA and expect a paycheck. At any rate, the message from Casey to new TFA recruits is this: "Don't think of Summer Institute as a summer job, and you are employed by Teach for America. TFA doesn't pay you anything. You can bank on it."

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Created by a student whose mother is a 7th grade teacher photo Rhee_zps9bb96881.jpg

A memo exposing excessive erasures on high-stakes standardized tests of DC students during Michelle Rhee's tenure as Chancellor has emerged.

This image was created by a student whose mother is a 7th grade teacher and posted on Susan Ohanian. I can't imagine a cover more fitting for Michelle Rhee. She was hand-picked by the Billionaire Boys to be Chancellor of Washington, DC Public School, a position for which she was sadly unqualified. It's no wonder that she would resort to cheating or at least a cover-up to prove her worthiness. When she came to Seattle recently to promote her new book and StudentsFirst, our protest wasn't covered by any news outlet. So, it's good to see the light of day shining on Rhee's questionable actions in regard to cheating in DC schools.

In a PBS report, The Education of Michelle Rhee, she is shown ceremoniously bestowing bonuses on principals and teachers at high achieving, or greatly improved, schools. The enormous gains in test scores raise eyebrows and lead to questions of possible cheating.

In an amazing investigative piece, John Merrow exposes the memo that could be Rhee's smoking gun. Here's an excerpt on Michelle Rhee's Reign of Error, but read the entire story at Learning Matters.

Rhee failed to act on evidence of cheating because it undermined her success narrative, according to Merrow. He concludes his lengthy piece with:

This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate lesson, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”

That Michelle Rhee named her new organization “StudentsFirst” is beyond ironic.

PBS reporter, John Merrow talks further on All In with Chris Hayes, MSNBC (Emphasis mine.):
Chris Hayes:  Michelle Rhee is presented with this document.  That much we know. At least her deputy for accountablility presents her with it.  Presumably she saw it.

John Merrow:  I know she saw it. I have a reliable source. We verified this. Incidentally, people are very afraid of Michelle Rhee. A source high in DCPS confirmed the authenticity of this. And, I have been reporting now for 39 years. When I took it to this source's home, that person was trembling as I presented it to that person. I have never seen anyone quite that scared. The other confirmation came from the DC inspector general. So, we know it is authentic. We know from reliable sources that Chancellor Rhee saw this and talked about it.


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Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:59 AM PST

New rule -- the maximum wage

by annie em

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During his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama suggested a federal minimum wage.  I'm suggesting a federal maximum wage.

New rule. The United States government must stop subsidizing corporations that pay absurdly high salaries to their CEOs. At this point, if I were Bill Maher, I would tell a priceless joke, cause you all to laugh-out-loud, and then apprise you of discriminate facts on the matter. Since I’m not a comedian, and I am unemployed, broke, and in need of medical care that I can’t access, not to mention righteously indignant because this country has no place for a well-educated, highly-skilled and experienced citizen like me, I’m going to skip straight to the facts.

The President has suggested raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. Working a 40-hour-week, 52 weeks a year would amount to an $18,720 income for a minimum wage worker. A frugal person can live on that. I’m proposing a maximum wage of ten times the minimum for employees who rely on government funding to support their businesses. That would amount to a top salary of $187,200 for the CEO of any company that accepts government funding. That seems more than fair compared to the minimum.

This is what I’m proposing. The United States government should stop granting our tax money to corporations that pay employees absurdly high salaries. If corporations want to pay such high salaries to their executives, they must forego government funding. No one accepting government funding should make as much as the President, and few should make as much as our other top government officials.

Hear me out.

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Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:40 PM PST

Boycott Rhee

by annie em

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There will be a protest at 6:00 PM on February 19th in front of Town Hall where Michelle Rhee will be talking about her latest fundraising effort, her book. Join us. We will have signs…and tape.

Seattle Education posts a comprehensive, up-to-date review of Rhee -- from her Teach for America days terrorizing little children to her scandal-ridden days as Chancellor of Washington, D.C. Public Schools, to her newest nonprofit venture (from which she will profit handsomely), Students First.

"Most of Rhee’s agenda runs counter to what parents identify as their top priorities, including small class sizes, less high-stakes testing, improving neighborhood schools, recruiting and retaining strong and experienced teachers, and giving parents a real voice in governing schools."

It won't be the first time teachers, parents, and teachers have boycotted Rhee.  Last year at this time East Bay CTA & CFT Teachers Picketed Michelle Rhee chanting "We Are, We Teach The 99%."

Originally posted at Great Schools for America.

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:12 PM PST

An evening with Andy Hargreaves at PSU

by annie em

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Professor Andy Hargreaves was welcomed by Portland State University President, Wim Wiewel, who talked in vague terms of Governor Kitzhaber's pipeline to streamline Oregon education from cradle to career. He emphasized the ambiguity of the plan saying, "Where are all the boxes?" We don't know yet. And, "Who or what will live in those boxes? We don't know." Hargreaves was introduced as someone to help figure this out.

What had been billed as a lecture turned out to be a 30 minute book talk followed by a short Q & A and book signing. Here are some key points from Hargreaves' newest book, Professional Capital, co-authored with Michael Fullan, as noted in his presentation.

In his opening remarks, Hargreaves focused our attention on transforming teaching in every school. His formula: PC = f(HC,SC,DC).

"Teachers, along with parents, are the most important people in our lives. It's the teacher, stupid." he said.

He elaborated on the system we now have in place that knows only two strategies: to either reward or remove teachers. Then he said something that experienced teachers have known all along. He said in all the mountains of data collected on teacher quality and tying kids' tests scores to teacher evaluations, reliable numbers correspond to principals' judgements. Let me say that again with emphasis: He said principals are the best evaluators of teacher performance. Just as research shows that the grades a teacher assigns to a student are the best indicator of how that student will do in college (Krashen), the judgements, or evaluations, principals assign to a teachers are only reinforced by data. (One might ask why we are wasting extraordinary amounts of money on a system that tells us what we already know.)

Although I agree with much of what Hargreaves says, I am not comfortable with the language and presentation of his ideas. For example, his method of defining every idea in terms of "capital." I have a strong aversion to using the word "capital" to describe human worth since I first came across this website: Strategic Management of Human Capital some years ago. The site elaborates in no uncertain terms the value and manipulation of human life in monetary (capital) terms. Knowing that as a teacher, I am thought of as human capital forces me, on some level, to think of my students in those terms, when for decades that thought had never entered my mind. Maybe this is a compromise educators must accede to these days in order to gain a foothold in today's profit-driven, business-dominated education environment. I think the price is too dear.

In the words of Hargreaves:

Capital relates to one's own or group worth --particularly concerning assets that can be leveraged to accomplish desired goals.

Business capital assumes that good teaching:

    -- is technically simple
    -- a quick study
    -- can be mastered readily
    -- should be driven by hard performance data
    -- is about enthusiasm, effort, talent, and results
    -- is replaceable by online instruction.

He then likened  so-called "teachers" produced in droves by organizations like Teach for America, The New Teacher Project/Center, and Teaching Fellows programs as delivering curriculum "karaoke style" -- to applause from the educators in the audience.

Professional capital as it pertains to teaching:

    -- is technically sophisticated and difficult
    -- requires high levels of education and training over a long time
    -- is perfected through continuous improvement
    -- is a collective accomplishment
    -- maximizes,mediates, and moderates online instruction.

"Technology and teachers work well together.  One should not replace the other," he said.

Hargreaves defines three other types of capital as a subset of professional capital: human capital, social capital, and decisional capital.

Human capital involves qualifications, knowledge, preparation, skills, and emotional intelligence.

Social capital involves trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, mutual assistance, professional networks, and a healthy amount of push, pull, and nudge to reach goals.

Decisional capital involves judgement, case experience, practice, challenge and stretching, and reflection.

Notably absent from this discussion is the idea of how  cultural capital including race, ethnicity, socio-economic, and other conditions, factors into education.

Hargreaves mentioned Finland as an example of a country that reveres teachers as professionals. In 1992, Finland had an unemployment rate of 19%. Proactively, officials decided to invest in education by investing in teachers. Every teacher in Finland must earn a master's degree before entering the classroom. Teachers are highly qualified in the true sense of that concept: knowledgeable, prepared, skilled, and emotionally intelligent. They earn the trust of their respective communities, and together with members of the community collaborate, take collective responsibility, mutually assist each other, create professional networks, and help each other to reach goals. Based on case experience, practice, challenges, and reflection they are able to make judgements on how to meet goals. Now fifteen years later, Finland's education system is hailed as the finest in the world.

Fifteen years ago, the Finns did not articulate their education  goals in terms of capital. They did not think of their children or teachers in terms of human capital. Using the definition of humans identified as capital, how difficult will it be for us to give children in our state or country the education they need and deserve? Do the same attributes that worked so well for the Finns take on a new and different meaning when we define ourselves as capital?

He gave a statistic that I find unbelievable. He said that in this country the average time spent in the classroom by new teachers is one year before leaving. (GASP from audience.) I have not been able to confirm that statistic.

Near the end of his talk, Hargreaves announced that he would be working on the governor's vision of cradle to career. He said that he would be working with Education Northwest, Inc., which had just been awarded a $1.8 million grant for continued support of their work. He is part of the pipeline created by the OEIB that promises to do more with less. From Education Northwest:

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out, NWRCC (Education Northwest) and the nation’s network of comprehensive centers “will help low-performing schools and districts close the achievement gap. They provide valuable support of the Administration's P–12 initiatives to ensure that every child is able to receive a high-quality education.”
Hargreaves mentioned vaguely these as some of the goals for Oregon:

    -- a smaller number of schools in districts to promote social capital
    -- tighter faculty groups, and a smaller number of groups to promote decisional capital
    -- higher standards for accreditation

On testing:

    -- test prudently, not profitably
    -- do not test every student in every grade every year
    -- do test less people less often and give better tests

"We are not at a stage to give up testing altogether as Finland has done," he said.

He left us with this quote from Nelson Mandela:

There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers.
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obama-thoughtful

Diane Ravitch asked for letters to Obama from educators and parents to be collected and sent to President Obama October 17, 2012. It was difficult to narrow the scope of my criticism of the failed education policy that stemmed from No Child Left Behind under George W. Bush and thrives now in the Obama administration. I chose to write about charter schools. I want to be sure he knows how a "model" charter school shapes the lives of our poorest children and robs them of their childhood.  My letter:

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I love Alan Grayson's campaign.  You may know him as "the congressman with guts." Every day he teaches me something. Of all the announcements he's sent out over this election season, this is my favorite. If we had a House and Senate full of Alans, what a wonderful Congress it would be.

We spend so much time thinking about who will be elected to office, and so little time thinking about what they will do when they get there. Campaign consultants tell candidates that promises are inconvenient; you might have to keep them. And candidates dance around the issues as though they were lit firecrackers.

Not me. Here are my goals, after Nov. 6:

(1) Full employment.
(2) Universal healthcare.
(3) Taking corporate money out of politics and government.
(4) Reinstituting progressive taxation, to reduce the deficit and the debt.
(5) Ending corporate welfare.
(6) Improving labor standards, including pensions, sick leave and paid vacations.
(7) Ending discrimination against minorities, women and gays.
(8) Providing higher education to every student who wants it.
(9) Ending the war, bringing the troops home, and reining in the military-industrial complex.
(10) Reducing the brutal and pervasive inequality in American life.

If only President Obama would take charge and say in simple terms, "This is what I will do when elected to a second term." We want to hear it from you, Mr. President.  You'll have plenty of chances to say it.  Just say it!

Remember when Alan Grayson got the only standing ovation that anyone has ever had on The Bill Maher Show:

Alan Grayson has the courage to tell us what he stands for and that he will fight for us. Show Alan the love and send him a few bucks if you can spare it.

He has a great sense humor, too.  

Don't try this at home.

Let's send Alan Grayson back to Congress!
 

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Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:53 PM PDT

A Heads Up on Won't Back Down

by annie em

"Know the enemy."

wontbackdownJPEG

That's the only reason I went to see Won't Back Down. I already knew the movie was a schmaltzy propaganda piece produced by Walden Media, the same manipulators who had a hand in pushing Waiting for Superman as a solution to the education inequities of our public schools. I had read a review from fellow Parents Across America member, Leonie Haimson, Don't be fooled by "Won't Back Down"! It's no secret that the mighty wealthy in this country want to privatize our public schools for their own financial gain. It seems with all that money they could have produced a quality movie. Thankfully though, they didn't -- currently the movie is rated 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Four other people were in the theater besides me.

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