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I would like to reach out and contact other Kossacks who are professional educators, so we can pool our sources and discuss education issues.

Hopefully, we can understand different conditions from all over the country, and this will help us put our own situations into perspective, allowing us to shape policies that can be applied to a national as well as a local level.

Please put a comment here with a little additional information:

  1. Tell us a little about your profession.
  2. Describe the school system in your area/state.
  3. What do you see as the biggest impediment to improving schools, locally or nationally?

I guess I'll go first:
  1. I am currently a graduate student getting my master's degree in ESL. I hope to teach ESL at the community college or university level. My specialization is materials development and pedagogy. I also have a substitute teacher's certificate, and taught a high school equivalency course for adults.
  2. I live in Hawaii, where the schools are ranked #42. I went through the public school system, so I do have some first-hand experience. Generally, the southern portion of Oahu (where Honolulu and Waikiki are,) has the best schools, but the vast majority of schools are on the edges of the island. In my experience, the constant immigration to the edge schools reduces their performance, but the students in the southern portion do as well or better than their mainland counterparts.
  3. Currently, there are 3 things hindering educational reform here:
  • Teacher's union is too powerful and is controlled by the most senior members who don't want to change what they are doing.
  • Felix Consent Decree: almost all schools cannot afford to do the required changes, so money for books, supplies or teachers goes to construction. I've heard stories of kids not allowed to take textbooks home anymore.
  • The elected school board is comprised of politicians, not educators. There is a superintendent of education, but the last 3 were run out of town and now nobody wants the job. The politicans don't want to make drastic changes that the educators are insisting on.

Hopefully, if we keep this diary as a bookmark, we can keep each other up to date as new issues arise.

Originally posted to Furious Hal on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 03:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't like being first, but . . . . (none)
    Masters in elementary education, ESOL certifications in Spanish and adult literacy.

    I'm currently teaching intermediate math and science, tutoring both a couple evenings a week, and teaching adult literacy to ESL parents.

    The school system is pretty limited in Jeb's Plantation State. Needless to say, we're understaffed and underfunded. Lots of faith-based initiatives in the works, and I'm fighting to keep my science curriculum factual instead of religious.

    Biggest impediment: NCLB without proper funding, testing and procedure. It's strictly punitive as is and a huge detriment to what I consider quality education. Instead of learning, my students are rote-memorizing facts to pass tests.

    Still, teaching is its own reward. I wouldn't want any other job. :)

    •  Another! (none)
      (I'm reading upward.)
      Lotta ESL teachers here eh?

      The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

      by SensibleShoes on Sat Nov 20, 2004 at 06:22:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow (none)
        There are a lot of ESL teachers. Is English your first langauge?

        I remember my dad struggling to get the unfamiliar words right when I was a kid, and how deeply ashamed he was when he couldn't. Now I see the same in my students' parents, and it's just impossible to turn your back and not want to help them.

        •  si, es mi primer' idioma (none)
          but i've been trying to add a few

          The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

          by SensibleShoes on Sun Nov 21, 2004 at 08:54:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mis segundas (none)
            Tres idiomas como niño si usted cuenta el francés criollo de New Orleans.

            Saludos. :)

            •  Niño o niña? (none)
              Think word will ever leak out to the rest of the education community that ESL teachers have the best job in the world?

              The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

              by SensibleShoes on Sun Nov 21, 2004 at 06:32:41 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  niña (none)
                <blush> Trying to type too quickly with a ringing telephone and a puppy who wanted some "mom" time. :)

                I believe our students often teach their parents and extended families. To use a tired old cliche, language really IS a gift that keeps on giving. Many people take it for granted, but the ability to follow common conversation here in the U.S. and actually participate is truly empowering to those who learn, or are learning.

  •  ohio (none)
    i'm an unemployed school counselor in ohio.
    our biggest obstacles to education reform are
    • sagging economy causing massive lay-offs of education personnel
    • inequality in educational funding
    • charter schools
    i disagree that the unions are an obstacle to education reform. i would refer you to the working environment educators would need to endure without unions. rather, education reform needs to come from the professionals doing the job, not the politicians who are politicizing education across the country. what other profession is subject to a politically driven agenda rather than what is truly in the best interest of the clients, in this case students. a case in point is the NCLB act which creates unreasonable expectations of students and educators and the lack of funding that accompanied it.
    of course, if proficiency was a true measure of success throughout all professions, wouldn't we have a different administration in DC? let's start with reform there and allow professional educators to chart a course for reform that benefits all.
  •  5th Grade teacher, HERE! (none)
    I teach fifth in a rural/small town in Ventura County, CA. My student population is 95% Hispanic, mostly 2nd-3rd generation.
    My class is self-contained, so I'm to cover every subject imaginable! And with 31 students, that can be tough.
    I have a Master's in Humanities, Bachelors in History.
    My school system as I said is in a rural area, so our resources do not overflow. But I think that my Superintendant follows the "trickle-down" theory of very few funds coming down to my large (700 students) school and the district office overflowing with juicy positions that seem to appear as if out of nowhere. My school of 700 just "lost" our Vice-Principal, leaving our universally loved and respected principal on her own. We're still pissed about that.

    California will be looking at more budget shortfalls, as you probably read about in the frontpage diaries today, so this is and will be a huge problem. NCLB, don't get me started! But right now, it seems my district is my biggest problem!

    Someone please tell me, why are the R's afraid of Democracy?

    by MichaelPH on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 05:02:11 PM PST

  •  Okay, I'll Bite (none)
    I'm an 8th grade ELA teacher in a small district in Massachusetts.  I have a BS in Geology, a BA in English, and an MA in English Literature.  I am also elected to the regional school committee (or board in some parts of the country) where I live (about 6800 students). In the past I was a correctional educator at a 2500-inmate prison facility and taught both GED prep and the alphabet to medium security inmates.

    The quality and reputation of Massachusetts public schools need no explanation as we've always had some of the best schools in the nation, but I will say that we are having profound funding difficulties due to the efforts of our Republican governor to dismantle public education as we've known it.  In my school we feel the pain in the form of bare-bones staffing, no budget for subs, no supplies, and no books.  

    On the national scene, I believe the ESEA (or NCLB) is designed entirely to facilitate privatization and to further marginalize urban school systems thus keeping the unwashed masses down.  Until we as a nation reaffirm the historic notion and goal that all children are entitled to a free quality public education in a neighborhood school, the quality of our schools as well as the quality of education our children receive will continue to erode.  

    Still waiting for the next Great Vowel Shift.

    by lightiris on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 05:14:01 PM PST

    •  I couldn't agree more (none)
      It is time to organize all teachers and the public around dumping NCLB. The goal was never to improve public education, it was always to destroy it.

      I teach intermediate remedial math in NY state.

      •  why is there an NCLB? (none)
        i have two theories:

        1. bush is so stupid that he chose the most simplistic action possible when faced with the "improving education issue," ignoring all evidence, expert opinion, and research to the contrary: "let's blame the teachers."

        2. somewhere, somebody is making money off the NCLB and their last name is "bush."
  •  I'm a tenured professor at a large (none)
    research university, in Ohio.  It's the "flagship" campus of the state university system.  (Go Bucks!) It's a big, wide-ranging, vibrant campus.

    I teach Spanish literature and culture; upper level undergraduate, and graduate courses.  We are not unionized officially in the professoriate at my institution, though of course there is the opportunity to join a national union.  Some of us have done that (I have not yet).

    As I'm in the humanities, my big beef is the money that gets put into a) athletics (it's the nature of the beast at a school like this) and b) the "hard" sciences, and the business school.  We are the workhorse of the arts & sciences, the backbone of anyone's "liberal arts" education.  No one imagines a classic college experience without English, History, a Philosophy course, etc.  That's what we do.  We generate a helluva lot of money for the university, due to all the required humanities courses in the required curriculum.  Yet we have many fewer grant opportunities in the humanities; most grant money opportunities are for the hard and social sciences.  And guess what-- it's the sciences that dictate the models for research and funding evaluations and criteria for promotion.  This pisses me off no end-- that we are cash cows for the university, yet get shafted on the distribution of matching funds and brownie-points-for-getting-outside-grants end.

    Issues of concern to me are national-level issues, such as the cut in funding to some FLAS (foreign language area studies) fellowships in the wake of the 9/11 "terror rules our lives" culture; the dramatic reduction in applications for study by students from foreign institutions (a big source of our grad student pool until last year), due to the ramping-up of difficulty in getting visas to enter the USA; the possible reduction in freedom to research, buy books, follow through with ideas, etc. due to the Patriot Act; etc.

  •  I am an educator but I'm not involved in K-12. (4.00)
    I'm at a university.

    As someone who lives in a city, who doesn't have any idea how local school systems are run, who doesn't have any kids, yet, but whose Mother-in-Law has been an educator for many years, I'd like to offer up some ideas so that you all can shoot them down. Coming from a university, this is the model that seems most appropriate to me.

    Maximum independence for teachers, little oversight.

    Get rid of the school boards entirely. Oust them all. Take the money you save and boost the number of teachers. Cut down on the number of kids per class. Allow each teacher to choose their own textbooks and teaching materials. Get rid of standards testing. Absolutely chuck it all out the window. Get back to basics: hire the best teachers you possibly can, attract more talent to the teaching profession by restoring sanity (i.e. smaller classrooms, more independence for teachers, no requirements for testing), etc. Let the all-powerful principal run each and every school the way they please.

    Americans don't seem to understand that education is not a business. Students are there to learn. Learning is not something that can be measured in terms of production. With smaller classes, students will learn a lot more. Our problem is that we don't trust teachers, we see them as lazy and we seem to think that strict standards will force them to do a better job. That's pure idiocy.

    Sure, you'll have a few lazy teachers, but in my experince, they are few and far between, less than 5%. Sure, you'll have some teachers miseducating your kids, but take it from me, sometimes learning the wrong thing is the best education of all. you learn to become highly critical of facts. As long as the school isn't awash in misinformation, kids will survive. they are resilient. The most important thing is to build their literacy skills, their analytical skills, and to teach them how to thinkc ritically.

    I'm nuts, aren't I?

    "Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." W.H. Auden

    by upstate NY on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 05:20:30 PM PST

  •  high school social studies teacher (none)
    undergraduate degree in music
    MA in religious studies
    MAT in Secondary Social Studies
    ABD but quit in educational administration and policy studies (emphasis on the policy, in which I am published and have served as an article reader for several publications}
    Currently workin on my national baord certification [largely becus the cost is paid for, and when I get it, I will get paid $5,000/year more, which will help  -- and it really does not take much time away from my teaching]

    I work in Prince Goerges' County Maryland Public Schools.   We are a very dysfunctional system, that has in part been taken over by the state after a dispute previous the  previous superintendent and elected school board [ a pox on both their houses].   We now have an appointed school board of 9 (for whom i have taught 4 kids of 3 board members).  We are in the wealthiest predominantly African American coummnity in the nation,but we are strapped for money because of restrictive voter initiatives.

    The school at which I teach is the one shining Gem among the 21 high schools  -   we have won all kinds of awards  -- Blue Ribbon School, New American High School, National School of Character ... plus champisonships in football, Basketball, soccer, track crosscountry, Latin, Russian, technology, etc.   We are partly a competitive admission science and tech magnet program and part a geographic high school.

    Maryland is currently suffering [I use the term advisedly] from a state-imposed regiment of High School Assessment tests, which in my area are poorly designed an often have question with either no techinally correct right answer or more than on correct answer.  The pressure in the direction of high stakes testing is distorting the educational process -- more and more things become test scores, and to "achieve" improved performance we have pressure to have everyone dothings the same way.  So far our school has been able to keep our somewhat unique way of doing things because our test scores blow everyone else away, and not just our science and tech kid  --  I know,b ecause I teach all levels except special ed, I stray fairly widely from County curricular documents, pacing guides, and the like, and yet my socres equal ro exceed those of any other teacher [which means diddly  -- but it gives me some cover].

    Biggest problems? A statge educationjal hierarchy and an appointed school board that really does not understand many of the important issues in education, and which reulsted in the hiring of a very ethically challegned superintendent [we give him a different title] who was a protege of Rod Paie when they were both in Houston -- duh, anyone want to talk about cooked test results in the non-existent Houston Miracle?

    At this poin I have pretty much withdrawn from the policy battles.  I lobby my friend Jay Mathews of the Washington Post periodically - occasionally I can move him somewhat, and he will still occasionally feature my comments in his columns, perhaps once or twice a year.  I periodically post to several lists that deal with different aspects of educational policy, or research dealing with teaching, or even occasionally one or more of the lsits out of MSU that deal with different content areas.

    Instead I now mainly focus on my students and on the course I teach.  I constantly take on additional challenges (next year possibly teaching 4 preps) in order to better serve my students.  

    And despite how much time I spend here, they come first.  All papers are corrected and returned the next day.

    Issue in education?   Can we protect American public schools from the despoiling and perversions that face them from too much corporate and political influence, and mandates that some on the Christian right would impose on them, or will the idea of a free public education, one not under the influence of particular parties or religions finally be lost forever?  I came to t aching late (when almost 50), am now in my 10th year and will turn 59 in Ma.  I hope I can continue to teach until I am 70, but to be effective with my students I need teh freedom to follow my own best judgement of what to teach, how to teach it, and in what order.  I will agree to let you measure my performance by how my students test (a somewhat ridiculous idea, since the scores they achieve may have little to do with what they have learned in my class) abut do not, so long as I am "successful", attempt to dictate to me how I am supposed to get there.

    How I evaluate my own work as an educator?  from the students and the parents, and not always in the short term.  I had had students who will hate my guts, and complain about me, for the first half of the year, and then at the end of the year ask me to write recommendations for them because my challenging them has enabled them to grow.

    Since my sig is "teacherken", I felt obligated to respond.  But I rally don't know ow much of a dialog on this I want.  I believe al of my students can achieve success, and my biggest struggle is sometimes convincing them of that, of getting them to take the first step, to risk being wrong so they can learn.

    And now, I have a set of papers to correct.

    Those that can, do. Those that can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 05:29:33 PM PST

  •  Dude, this is like homework (none)
    Tell us a little about your profession.
    I teach high school English.

    Describe the school system in your area/state.
     Milwaukee Public Schools.  Slightly above the Pit of Despair, but below the third circle of Hell.

    What do you see as the biggest impediment to improving schools, locally or nationally?
    We need to pay enough and recruit better so that there really is a quality teacher in every classroom.

  •  private Catholic school near NYC (none)
    I'm a high school math teacher at a smallish Catholic school (about 700 kids) in Westchester County, NY.

    BS from RPI (Computer Eng.) and MS from Boston U. (also computer eng.). Currently in the certification program at Pace University (Pleasantville NY) - hopefully done by May 06. Found the job at the private school quite by accident.

    Big issue: Private school teachers don't get paid shit next to public school (about 50-60% from what I can see). We have some good people here, some not so good - some poor teaching methods from what I can see (especially in the math dept - my advisor from Pace was frankly horrified by some of the things she saw and heard). Some just don't want to deal with public schools (less discipline).

    We might go on strike soon - no contract currently and the Archdiocese of NYC just offered a 3-year contract with a 1-1-1 pay increase in one of the most expensive places to live in the country! Bad for morale.

    Education reform not a concern - many teachers here are not certified and therefore unschooled in the ways of good teaching. I'm amongst the Philistines here, but I enjoy the work and the kids are OK.

  •  Here I go-- (none)
    I currently teach math at "a large university in Blacksburg, VA".  Currently I teach multivariable calculus and architectural geometry.  

    The state university system here in Virginia suffers from too much football and fraternities and too little money.  The student culture encourages bad priorities and recklessness -- the campus pastime last year was getting drunk and falling out of upper-floor windows and balconies.  :(  

    My biggest impediment is that the university administration has crumbled under the dysfunctional culture:  we're encouraged to cancel classes on football game days; discouraged from assigning homework over weekends.  In fact, three years ago, the university permanently cancelled all Friday afternoon classes.  My second biggest impediment is the lack of money for appropriate resources to do my job.

    Same handbasket, different day.

    by osterizer on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 05:41:41 PM PST

  •  Hello people... (none)
    MA in TESOL.

    Lived and taught overseas for almost 18 years, just returned this January. A Rip van Winkle in the flesh.

    I don't teach anymore, but now I'm a "Faculty Instructional Technician" meaning I'm in Ed. Tech. working with faculty at the small private university. I'm at here in S. Florida (The four southern counties down here were VERY BLUE, running about 60/40 for Kerry).

    My salary comes from your Tax Dues (DUES, not burden!), so thanks. Our school is almost 75% first generation/low income/handicapped students, and we rely heavily on federal money. We've also just applied for a TRIO grant (for student support services) and I'm on a Title V grant (for Hispanic Serving Institutions).

    ALL the librarians at my school are pissed as hell with the Patriot Act (sic), and promise to "not remember" who borrowed what, if push comes to shove.

    These are interesting times we live in.

    Interesting times.

    •  Damn, another one. (none)
      Are we TESOLers radical or what?
      I joined TESOLers for Social REsponsibility, but they never seem to do anything.

      The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

      by SensibleShoes on Sat Nov 20, 2004 at 06:20:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a Secular Homeschooler (none)
    Does that count?

    Actually, I don't have the time right now to go into it, but I can't imagine doing anything other than homeschooling. It's a hoot and very effective.

    I respect anyone who tries to operate in the contemporary educational system (my wife used to teach), but the hurdles are enormous.

    Maybe I'll come back and do a spiel when I have time.

  •  I'm in... (none)
    I teach media studies at the undergraduate level in Massachusetts. I am primarily a practioner (filmmaker) but I also teach courses in design and media theory.

    I worked for a great private university that is very progressive (in the best sense) and is always thinking about the future for its students, as well as faculty.

    I worked for a public university for six years prior to this appointment and have the gray hairs to prove it.

    As far as impediments go, I think this is true of the past two institutions: Patriot Act, Patriot Act, Patriot Act.

    And, as a result of DHS in the wake of 9/11, the many difficulties of foreign students to a) study in the US generally; b) obtain the appropriate visas (and proper information) to study in the US; c) return to their institution after visiting their respective countries during school breaks because of new and/or confusing rules that now bar them entering the US again. Lack of privacy of their personal information because of the DHS is also quite questionable.

    Keep on rockin' in a free world!

    by juniper on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 08:42:03 PM PST

  •  Tom Kertes (4.00)
    1. I am a preschool/kindergarten teacher currently out of work as I prepare to get a Masters in Teaching so I can teach kindergarten or first grade in the public schools.

    I also teach workshops  on early childhood education and literacy learning.  I am interested in the application of developmental psychology, linguistics and cognitive studies in the classroom.  I am also interested in the political dimensions of education - specifically the politics  of educating (or of not educating) the poor.  Related to this, I am involved in organizing around professional wages for early childhood and child care teachers.

    I believe that caring institutions must be explicit and intentional about the role of love as their guiding principle, without apology. There can be no greater justification for providing good care and education for our children than the value of love. The basis and ultimate justification for early childhood education must be, first and foremost, love - without apology. (Love first and foremost in education)

    2. Washington state funds about 85% of the costs of schooling with state funds, with 15% coming from local levies.  The state is mandated to fully fund basic education, but this mandate has been eroded since a court order first compelled the state to meet its constitutional requirement to fully fund education for the state's children.  Currently, there is no comprehensive early childhood program  in the State of Washington.

    The state's K-12 system is currently driven by the WASL - a homegrown high stakes test.  The test is poorly designed.  

    The state system is also one with little accountability to those in charge.  There are a series of overlapping political bodies, each without full accountability or authority to manage the school system well.

    3. I would say that the first challenge is that schooling seems to be designed to be mean.  The purpose of schooling is not based on children's needs - as it was first designed for state interests in preparing a citizenry for Republican service.  Additionally, the original models of learning are empirically useless, as children learn less in stressful environments that teach seemingly unrelated facts without taking into account the learner's own reality.  If our goal is to teach children well then new learning models need to be applied in classrooms and schools. (Love first and foremost in education)

    Another major challenge it that education professionals, especially managers, are largely incompetent.  The education workforce lacks basic knowledge of learning and content to be able to critically apply theory in practice.  With incompetent managers, the system is based on lack of accountability at all levels.  Most educators lack the ability to clearly articulate an educational philosophy or to challenge poorly designed policies, programs and materials.

    Final, the educational system fails to provide equitable access to quality programs.  Many children from poor families and many children of color receive substandard educational programs because of the political realities of school funding.

    Liberation Learning

    War and Children

    Tom Kertes

    Reader's Way

  •  Fuggin' A! (none)
    I teach grad students in ESL. You're not one of my students, are you?

    I spent eight years in Alaska, teaching ESL in an all-bilingual school district. Great schools there. At the time we were getting a lot of Title VII (federal bilingual ed) funding, but that barely exists anymore thanks to the neo-cons' dread of people speaking something that isn't English. So the funding that was there then is gone now, and of course Alaska will fight to the death against a state income tax or state anything tax, but for the moment the situation there is good, quite good, and the teachers are superb.

    I moved to North Carolina a year ago to teach grad school, and the public schools here frankly appall me. The teacher shortage is so severe that plenty of classes are being taught by "lateral entry" teachers... the main problem with them is that many of them never wanted to be teachers. And, of course, the schools are resegregating via a program called "school choice".

    But I'm much more bothered by the vast "Christian" schools here, where poor, ignorant people pay cash money to ensure that their offspring will be as ignorant as themselves. Sigh.

    The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

    by SensibleShoes on Sat Nov 20, 2004 at 06:19:20 PM PST

  •  i hope (none)
    we aren't going to let this thread go dead in the water.
  •  Technology Facilitator, elementary, NC (none)
    I taught high school English for two years and have been a technology facilitator for 21.  I've worked in every grade level.  Presently in elementary school.

    Our school system should be decent.  We're one of the larger counties in North Carolina.  Unfortunately, the republicans swept the local offices and have kept control for nearly twenty years.  The schools are broke.  The leadership is pathetic.  I've been at my present school for three years and we've bought a lot of computers, mostly with Title I money.  This year, I've paid a price for my politics.  The principal is a flaming republican.  I can't get her to buy anything.  She hates No Child Left Behind but refuses to connect this with Bush.  She tells the faculty that LBJ started No Child Left Behind.  I don't know where she heard this, but she repeats it.  Arguing it with her is an exercise in frustration.  There's a religious tone to her language.  I used to think this was her personality -- but in light of the last election, it's scary.

    I recently had a group of teachers get up in the middle of a workshop I was teaching because they had to attend a meeting.  It turned out to be an after school Bible study, for teachers.  The principal, who wanted me to teach this workshop, was in the class.  The workshop, about how to use math software, was important.  The faculty meetings start with a prayer list.  This part of the meeting gets longer and longer.

    The biggest impediments to improving the schools are 1) values 2) money 3) leadership.  

    The last election proved that the public does not value education (even though they say they do).  They don't understand the difference in the parties, and how the democrats support spending for schools and republicans don't.  They are apt to argue, out of ignorance, that schools didn't need money way back when.  Why should they now?

    Money is a serious problems.  We passed a local bond referendum to build new schools.  They are badly needed in order to ease extreme overcrowding.  With the rise in the price of steel, several construction projects are on hold.  A couple of years ago, there was a budget crisis in which schools lost a lot of teacher assistants.  As a result, teachers are struggling.  Yet there's no push to get these positions back.

    Leadership.  We've had a series of bad superintendents who have hired some bad principals, who have been unable to keep good teachers.  There's a teacher shortage, such that positions get filled at the last minute -- often by first year teachers from blue states who couldn't get a job, since the salaries there are better.

    No Child Left Behind was based, in part, on North Carolina's ABC testing.  I think it's hurt the schools because it emphasizes testing in reading and math so much that other subjects, and other ways of learning, are neglected.

  •  hey, furious Hal (none)
    What about an email list for those who want to keep up with education diaries here? We could just send out a link when there's an education discussion.

    I know I miss a lot of diaries during the day. Anyone interested in this?

    Petition: Nonviolent Resistance on Inauguration Day

    by Avila on Tue Nov 23, 2004 at 10:15:56 PM PST

  •  this is fucked (none)
    results for NCLB testing also fixed.

    Will make a diary when i can.

    Here's a taste: 98% of Texas students hit the AYP standards, almost double Minnesota. However, I looked at the SAT scores, mean for Minnesota is 600, for Texas, 480.

    this is so fucked.

  •  Just found (none)
    this diary.  Connected from another thread.  Unfortuantely don't have enough time to read it all right now, but have book marked it.  I have a masters in special ed behavior disorders and completed a second masters in 2003 in teacher education.  I've taught in a residential treatment center in AZ in the 80's, have taught 4th grade at an international school in Korea (early 90's), taught multiage (6-8 year olds) in a private school in UT, various subbing experiences including a long term 4th grade position in an overseas military elementary school (DoDDS), and presently I am a Learning Impaired special ed teacher in a DoDDS middle school in Germany.  

    Since my current and most recent teaching experience is with DoDDS, I'll comment on that only. DoDDS is well funded, probaly better than any public school in the states.  Because of that, our minority students (there are a lot of them) perform much better than their counterparts in stateside schools. A high percentage of teachers have at least a masters, and salaries are not bad especially for teachers who are hired from the states and receive a housing allowance. We have better professional development opportunities than I have ever had in my previous employment.  

    The weaknesses in my opinion include:
    1- To some extent the teachers union.  Lots of teachers who just go through the motions of teaching because they know they are untouchable.
    2- Although we do not have to comply with NCLB, all of our students still take the Tera Nova from 3rd grade up yearly and test scores seem to be considered sacred.  Also, I find it noteworthy that we do not have to comply with NCLB.  How would the feds look if our nation's federal schools turned out to be failing or not making AYP?  And, trust me some of them would, especially mine where many of our students are from low income families.  And, there would be no option to go to another school, or the government would have to pay for families to send their kids  to a private internationl schools.
    3-DoDDs is extremly bureaucratic.  It is a highly top down structure.  Decisions are made in DC, that are not based on what's in the best interest of students.

    Well, gotta go cook a turkey.  Hope to keep this dialogue going. Happy Thanksgiving!  

  •  welcome new people! (none)
    just a note: i need to finish the lit review this weekend for my master's thesis, so i can't do this story. if anybody else wants to pick it up, you can use the links above to show that:

    Texas has a 98% success rate.
    Vermont (? i forget which one) using the same test as Texas has a 60% success rate.
    Hawaii is using a different test, and only 1 high school (2%) passed.
    Minnesota is at 75% passing.

    To balance this, I looked at SAT scores. They are reporting them a tad differently than before. Look for the 2004 state report for these four states and compare the SAT scores. What I found was:

    NCLB Success Rate:

    1. Texas (98%)
    2. Minnesota (75%)
    3. Vermont (60%)
    4. Hawaii (2%. high school only.)

    But, looking at SAT scores:
    1. Minnesota (average @580)
    2. Hawaii (avg @500)
    3. Vermont (avg @480)
    4. Texas (avg @400)

    can you say...FIXED TEST SCORES?
    •  Just found this! (none)
      I just now linked from one of your other posts.

      I've taught high school English & Journalism in North Carolina for the past five years, after 12 years of teaching English & Theater in Upstate NY and 2 in MA.  (only in MA it's spelled "theatre.")

      More later, but this is a great idea.  As teachers, we are absolutely on the front line of teaching the critical thinking skills that can save us from another Nov. 2nd 2004, and we have a lot to be gained by networking as Democrats.

      My hot topics:  Media Literacy, Critical Thinking, Advertising, and Character Education.  

      "How fortunate for leaders that men do not think"-- Adolf Hitler

      by mrsdbrown1 on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:18:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Texas education system (none)
      is extremely corrupt and it starts with the TEA.  I spent 2 years of my life working on our local school district before I decided to homeschool my youngest.  I have witnessed the changing of the test scores.

      I'm now at a state university and every year we get more and more students who can't even pass the remedial classes.  It's very discouraging.

      They make the weather then they stand out in the rain and say `SHIT, it's rainin!' Renee Zelweger, Cold Mountain.

      by TXsharon on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:30:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Better Late Than Never (none)
    I teach 7th and 8th grade math in a charter school in SE MA.

    I fell into teaching by accident, starting out as a teacher in a self-contained high school classroom at an all-girl's residential program where I had previously been a supervisor.

    I have a BA in mathematics and have taken a whole bunch of random education courses since becoming a teacher.  I was starting my Master's when I became pregnant with my daughter and have not continued school since.

    My school is ten years old and still going through growing pains.  Right now we are in a really good place and I think that the school has great potential but we're just starting to hit average (it's a city school).  We've had a lot of problems with staff turnover including those in administrative positions.  Our teachers are really great though with very few exceptions.

    We teach six classes per day with one prep and our school year and day are longer than our public counterparts.  I'm glad we don't have a union.  We have a couple of teachers who are used to a union and they drive me nuts- the students never come first for them.

    On the other hand, I do think the teachers are overworked.  The best teachers in our school typically are at school from 7AM to 7PM and they still bring work home.  I believe this is one of the greatest problems in education.  I'm quite lucky because my school split the math classes giving me a class size of 12, but I still feel overwhelmed.  It's very hard to be "on" all day and to plan great lessons and follow through on assignments.  I often ask myself why I'm teaching.  I could take my math degree and make twice as much money with far less pressure.

    Alas, I love to teach and I love my students.

    I think NCLB has also hurt us.  My whole school hates it.  I find the goals unrealistic.  I have no problem with a basic skills test, but I feel like the math test is advanced, not basic, and that we are hurting our students by preparing for this test.  The accomodations for special education students are a joke yet these students are still expected to pass at grade level.  

    We have learned nothing from other countries.  Study after study has shown that the problem in the U.S. is that we teach a lot of breadth, but not a lot of depth.  The standardized tests just exacerbate that.  I'm always torn between doing in-depth meaningful activities and making sure I cover every math standard.  I'm lucky though because since I was hired 50% more of our eighth grade students are passing MCAS (the state exam) so like someone mentioned above, I'm given a lot of leeway.

    I have more to say, but I have to head out.

    I hope we keep this going.

  •  Tagging along at the tail end... (none)
    I missed this thread the first time around, so I'm jumping in late, but I read all the way to the bottom and I figure I may as well add my 1/2 cent.

    I'm currently doing a career transition into teaching.  I'm a 10-year paralegal (litigation focus) with a BA in Political Science.  I'm currently doing the final round of student teaching for my Social Studies credential here in California.

    I can't offer much in the way of what's broke/how to fix comments, cause I'm just getting my feet wet.  But I look forward to sponging off the more experienced educators around here if we can keep this forum going... or someone sets up a dkos teachers blog elsewhere.



  •  Prof from NJ (none)
    I am an adjunct professor at a couple of universities in NJ due to lack of network engineering jobs (my profession) and physical challenges. I am considering getting back into that profession since my physical challenges have improved, but I like teaching. Unfortunately it is not that easy to get a full time faculty position.

    I teach classes in electronics data communications, statistics and computers for liberal arts majors. I just started teaching a class on writing persuasive research papers.

    One of the big challenges that I have is getting students to think out of the box and think critically. That doesn't seem to be taught in high school. Many of the students tend to be lazy that way. I have been told that they are much less willing to study now then 10 years ago. I would say they are not prepared to think at a college level even as a junior.

    I believe we need to instill more of a desire for learning, a work ethic and taking responsiblity in our students in high school. But, from what I here what occurs there is exactly the opposite. If you have that then you can overcome many things.

    An engineer who believes that facts still matter

    by shark on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 06:31:09 PM PST

  •  Math teacher from Florida (none)
    Right now I teach 7th./8th. grade advanced and ESOL math in a year round school. We work for about three months and then get three weeks off. Interestingly, it started as an experiment and now the district wants to put us back on the traditional schedule. Only the contract requires the teachers' approval and we overwhelmingly support year round schooling.

    My school is a magnet school which means it attracts white students by offering special programs. My school has a science and also a language magnet (Spanish, French, Japanese, and Spanish for spanish speakers.)

    Broward County is a huge school system.  Schools are given a lot of authority to make their own decisions by using School Advisory Committees. Our union is an independent union. I'm a big union supporter, but I can't stand this one. I have to serve cafeteria duty for the first time. I get less than an hour planning time a day. Some weeks I don't even get a spare minute in the morning to write my agenda on the board before the first bell rings.

    In my opinion, educational reform is being hindered by the lack of respect given to the teaching profession. In my school teachers need to stand up for themselvelves and they don't. For example, a bunch of us were given letters of reprimand for being five minutes late. (I had gone straight in to the principal's office and signed in late for the day, but the principal said I should have called too.) This same principal ends every single afternoon faculty meeting after our contract day has ended. I'm the only teacher in the school who gets up and walks out.

    Every year we have to do more and more with less and less time for preparation. It seems we have to help the administrators with their tasks and even help the cafeteria workers. But we get little or no support to do our ever increasingly difficult job. This year I had to write (for the first time) an individual learning plan for each academically deficient student and it had to be inputted online in a certain manner. I got zero instruction or extra planning time to do this.

    We know what sound educational practices are. And yet every year my district spends too much money testing new programs and inservicing us on the latest "lingo."  In my school we spend the bulk of our money and time on (1) the behavior problems and on (2) our special programs. We seem to have forgotten that the majority of our students don't fall in either category.

    On a personal note, I'm burning out after twenty years of teaching. The only thing that keeps me going is that everyday I can close the door to my classroom for 5x50 minutes, just be with my students, and not have to deal with all the other stuff.

  •  study: Computers harmful to students (none)
    Contrarian finding: Computers are a drag on learning

    By G. Jeffrey MacDonald | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

    For all the schools and parents who have together invested billions to give children a learning edge through the latest computer technology, a mammoth new study by German researchers brings some sobering news: Too much exposure to computers might spell trouble for the developing mind.

    i wonder if they grouped game consoles with desktop computers.

  •  Glad this is here! (none)
    I am currently a grad student in Chicago, and getting ready to begin my student teaching in Indiana (my home state) in a 5th grade classroom.  I received my bachelors in psychology and philosophy and taught in a daycare center and tutored elementary students for about six years.

    There will be a huge difference in the impediments between the Chicago and Indiana systems, so I'll have to update later after I begin in January.  

    I can tell you right now, and this may be known by many of you, that Chicago schools struggle in myriad ways-funding, class size, NCLB as a whole- not to mention the bureaucratic mess that it is.  The impediment regarding the Indiana classroom that I will be student teaching in has 31 students and practices inclusion, but it is well-funded.  I also can tell you that the teachers at the school have complained how hard it is to devote their first month of school to reviewing for and administering testing, which tends to put them behind schedule.

    I look forward, especially as a new teacher, to reading all of your comments.  Other than my love for kids, I decided to enter teaching as a means to help students deal with the chaos that is the education system.  It is strangely both discouraging and motivating to enter at a time when it is only getting worse, especially with the continual closing of schools, in an effort to privatize education, and the new psychological testing program requiring students to be put on meds.  Hopefully some other Indiana teachers on Kos can give me some insight.

    Great idea getting teachers and educators together!

  •  At the request of Furious Hal... (none)
    I'm linking to my latest diary entry.  It's called How No Child Left Behind Has Put America's Future In Jeopardy.

    As a public school teacher, NCLB frustrates me to no end.  As a father of two young children, it scares the shit out of me.  We are forfieting our entire future for this failure.

    Oh by the way, I'm a Junior/Senior High School Music/Computer teacher.  I have a B.A. in Music Ed and am currently working on an M.S. in Instructional Technology and Telecommunications.

    I work in a small district in Western Illinois and I believe that NCLB is the single biggest impediment to all educators.

  •  I'm willing to... (4.00)
    start our own blog so we can focus specificially on issues in education.

    I'm happy to purchase the domain, and host it on the server that I'm renting. I use MovableType.

    We need to keep track of all the education posts on Kos.

    I propose the domain or .net or .org or .cc, whichever tickles your fancy.

    I might do a diary with a poll and ask folks about this.

    What do you think?

  •  Ohio Teacher (none)
    1. Just finishing my MA in Humanities. BA in History, English, BS in Education. I currently teach high school US History, IB History and Theory of Knowledge, and Ethics. My first teaching love is eighth grade Social Studies and Language Arts...I'd kill to get back into the middle school in my district. My wife and I teach for a homestay program in Spain in the summer.
    2. I'm in Ohio. I teach in a wealthy exurban district that is 98% white, but I live in an inner-ring burb of Cleveland that is 50-50, with lots of nationalities represented. My district is one of the best in the state, but also shamelessly self-promoting. In fact, we're encouraged to be self-promoting by our administrators, as you may have noticed. We work a little harder in terms of total assignments than many comparable districts nearby, and there is a great deal of pressure to teach to the tests (OGT: Ohio Graduation Test, SAT, ACT, etc.). I do have a considerable amount of academic freedom, all things considered, though the wingnuts are working to get more of their own on the board (there's one already).
    3. The biggest issue in Ohio is that the state legislature has been told FOUR TIMES by the state supreme court that our funding system for public education is unconstitutional. Yet, the leg. refuses to do anything about it due to the huge majority the GOP has. On the positive side, we have one of the best teacher retirement systems in the nation, and we fought off a GOP attempt to raid it not too long ago.

    One more thing: Teachers unions are the vehicle for reform, not an obstacle.
  •  Things that worry me (none)
    I'm a professor at a major university near Washington, DC. Several things worry me about what's happening to our educational system.

    First:  One of the reasons the US achieved our technological and economic preeminence was that we had a good -- and universal -- educational system for children before most other countries did.  Now, our K-through-12 educational system is beginning to fall behind those of many other countries.  For example:

    Second:  Our colleges and universities are still some of the world's best, and this is another way we've kept our preeminence.  We attract the brightest kids from the rest of the world to come here to graduate school, in fields like engineering, computer science, and business.  They usually stay in the US afterward, and a great number of our recent technological advances have been due to them.  But in the last few years, in a misguided notion that it's necessary for national security, the adminstration has been making it increasingly difficult for these students to get visas to come here.  The result is that they're going elsewhere instead.  In US universities, the foreign applications are down -- but in a recent trip I made to a university in Canada, the professors there told me that the quantity and quality of their foreign grad-school applicants is a lot higher than it has ever been before.  I understand that the same is true in places like Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.  There have been some news articles about this, but don't have any URLs handy.

    If both of these trends continue, I think it's a pretty safe prediction that we'll no longer remain the world's technological and economic leader.  How many years it will take, I'm not sure -- but it will happen.

    •  couple points (none)
      >>We attract the brightest kids from the rest of the world to come here to graduate school, in fields like engineering, computer science, and business.  They usually stay in the US afterward, and a great number of our recent technological advances have been due to them.

      actually, at my graduate school, the foreign kids almost immediately return home, thus taking the scholarship, tuition waivers, and class spot of an american. i live in hawaii. my major averages 1 hawaii student per 2 years, and I didn't get a tuition waiver.

      >>If both of these trends continue, I think it's a pretty safe prediction that we'll no longer remain the world's technological and economic leader.  How many years it will take, I'm not sure -- but it will happen.

      i'd say we've already been surprassed: all our computers are made in taiwan, all electronics from korea or japan, and our cars are a joke compared to germany, italy, japan and korea. thanks to bush, our economy is gravitating towards the bottom of industrialized countries.

      and, since our schools are so crappy to begin with, i feel confident predicting that things will get worse, a lot worse, for a long time.

      •  New York Times article (none)
        If your field is ESL, then it makes sense to me that foreign students in your major would return to their home countries, in order to teach English to their compatriots.  In technical disciplines, the situation is much different: students in those disciplines have usually stayed in the US.  

        Today's New York Times has an article entitled U.S. Slips in Attracting the World's Best Students.  The gist of the article is that universities in foreign countries are ramping up to compete with US universities, and are being helped by the current difficulties that students are having getting into the US.

  •  Why Academia Shuns Republicans (none)
    Here's an excerpt from a recent LA Times article entitled Why Academia Shuns Republicans:

    The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don't particularly want to be professors. To go into academia -- a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches -- you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else -- a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. -- conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It's not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.

    Second, professors don't particularly want to be Republicans. In recent years, and especially under George W. Bush, Republicans have cultivated anti-intellectualism. Remember how Bush in 2000 ridiculed Al Gore for using all them big numbers?

    That's not just a campaign ploy. It's how Republicans govern these days. Last summer, my colleague Frank Foer wrote a cover story in the New Republic detailing the way the Bush administration had disdained the advice of experts. And not liberal experts, either. These were Republican-appointed wonks whose know-how on topics such as global warming, the national debt and occupying Iraq were systematically ignored. Bush prefers to follow his gut.

  •  1. High School Math Teacher (none)
    1. Here in Illinois, funding is a problem. I teach at a well-funded school, but the state does not give much money to education and requires school districts to hold referenda to raise money.

    2. Throughout the US, funding is a problem. We need more teachers, and we need to lighten teacher loads to allow for more information gathering and curriculum development.

    We also need to lose the attitude that our schools are horrible. Some of them are, but the attitude that we should just change everything because what we have does not work bothers me.

    We also need to stop pretending that vouchers and merit pay are important issues. I don't care which side people are on--those issues should not be on the top ten list in education in my humble opinion.

    •  heh (none)
      >>We also need to lose the attitude that our schools are horrible.

      how about this: the theory, vision, and purpose that our school system was created on is outdated and useless, making our schools horrible.

      >>We also need to stop pretending that vouchers and merit pay are important issues.

      hehe...i don't know of any private schools ever that would accept what the fed/state pays for 1 student per year. :) around here, it's roughly 20k/year private school tuition, 5k/year public funding.

  •  Failing under NCLB (none)
    I teach in a failing school in an urban community in Connecticut. Although our scores are up it won't get us off the list. 99% of our students are Black or Hispanic and we have a large bilingual population. We have 100% free breakfast and lunch program.
    The first failing school in my district was 'reorganized' - i.e. teachers were transferred. We are next in line for the ax.
    State and federal funds have been used to buy a succession of programs, none of which lasted more than 2 years. We have undergone a series of principals, and our superintendent is being bought out and a search firm has been contracted to find a new one.
    The real issue is the fact that we are surrounded by wealthy towns with high test scores, and being a poverty pocket with parents holding 2-3 jobs or overcome by chemical dependency or the poverty 'mentality' there is really little we can do.
  •  Furious Hal requested (none)
    that I put up a link to my diary on the Bush budget, and all of the cuts in education that are proposed in it (terminating 48 education programs, drastically cutting others). (Even if I'm not a teacher.)

    So, here it is. Stop by and be ready for outrage!

    Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity, only not as much fun.

    by Toktora on Sun Feb 13, 2005 at 02:51:08 PM PST

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