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Diane Ravitch has asked teachers, parents, administrators and anyone who supports public schools to write their congress people and the President for the October 17 Campaign for Public Schools.  After 30 hours in my school building over the last two days, here is my contribution.  It ain't perfect but  I'm too tired to proofread at this point.  Go leap over the orangey thingy.  

October 9, 2012
Dear President Obama,

I am writing this after working 30 hours in two days at my job as a high school English teacher.  I am exhausted but I can't sleep because I'm too worried about the demands of my job.  After  trying to reconfigure my classes to meet the common core standards,  trying to analyze test data to figure out which kids should be getting what intervention to catch their skills up to grade level, taking a class to learn how to implement response to intervention, working with students who are falling behind and spending three hours at parent teacher conferences, I finally got to go home and talk to my three lovely children.  

You see, President Obama, we teachers are bearing the brunt of the "failing" education in our schools.  Although for 80% of the population education is not failing, we teachers are still failures.   I am willing to do the work to help that 20% who need more time or more instruction or more support or even just a snack and a pep talk.  But the constant demoralization of teachers and education professionals on top of the extra work is taking its toll.  We need more support and less blame.  

In the last 3 years I have lost 1/2 my preparation time, been asked to reform my three classes to fit a new set of standards, and to implement before school, after school and study hall  RTI time for students who do not meet grade level benchmarks or simply do not have the support at home to complete the work required.  The 2.5 hours I had 4 years ago to evaluate students, plan new and better lessons and just think about teaching and learning are gone.  Now I must take more time away from my own children (who need support from their single mother) to plan my classes and grade papers.  And I do this at 6.5% less salary (and virtually no collective bargaining rights)  than I did 2 years ago.   I now teach 3 summer school classes and have taken on another extra-curricular assignment just so my own kids can continue with ballet, band and boy scouts.  I have cancelled cable television and allowances for my kids because they are too expensive.  

I am a highly educated, dedicated teacher with almost 20 years experience in education, but I am overwhelmed.  My classroom is a physical mess; my morale is at an all-time low.   I  and the rest of the teachers in my building cannot fix the ills of my small community alone while we are vilified by "reformers", school board members with personal agendas and state executives retaining resentment against public workers.   Something has got to give.  Please send help soon; we feel like Atlas bearing the weight of the world, and we are not gods, just teachers.

Not Dead Yet  

Originally posted to easterbunny53717 on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Would Public School Teachers accept federal... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MooseHB, a2nite, FG, chimene, karmsy


    That is, the federal government substantially increases funding for public education. In return, states and municipalities give up control.

    What may have been five school districts are consolidated into one.  Teachers are not touched, but administration is slashed by 80%.

    Furthermore, the federal government dictates lessons plans, ensuring uniformity.  The federal government, with input from the teachers, established a rating system, ensuring that top performers, even if they're in their late 20s, can make substantially more than older teachers.

    That's where I see US public education going.

    Given unfunded teachers' pension liabilities and declining property tax receipts, I foresee a few cities asking for federal aid in the very near future.  And I imagine that the federal aid will come with strings attached.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

    by PatriciaVa on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 08:19:07 AM PDT

    •  The strange thing is that for RW nutters (11+ / 0-)

      (amongst whom Obama falls on the matter of education) are horrified by government intervention into medical but consider it to be almost mandatory for education.

      •  On this topic, here's what Science (the (10+ / 0-)

        magazine) has to say in

        A Reformer's Change of Heart.  Sorry if the full article is behind a firewall, but the key point is:

        A prominent historian, policy-maker, and public intellectual, Ravitch long aligned herself with conservative school critics but has had a change of heart. The Death and Life of the Great American School System is part memoir, explaining her shifting position on market solutions to educational problems, and part jeremiad, warning readers about the ill effects of “No Child Left Behind” (2002), landmark federal legislation endorsed by Kennedy liberals and George W. Bush Republicans alike. With the appointment of Arne Duncan as the Secretary of Education, the Obama Administration has swallowed whole the prevailing ideology about the salutary influence of markets and choice, originally concocted by libertarians, neoconservatives, and Republicans.
        •  Arne's Race to the Top (4+ / 0-)

          is NCLB on steroids. Obama has accelerated the privatization agenda with cutting speed and efficiency. A republican couldn't pull off the wholesale sell-off of public schools to private EMO's without a loud backlash.  But this is exactly what both parties are doing on the backs of poor kids and public school teachers. Both parties are systematically starving public schools and funneling it's tax allotment  to black hole charter schools and Teach for America cult. It's 's a Nixon goes to China replay as Obama hides behind the rhetoric of supporting public schools and doing exactly what the republicans have  want for years- privatization.

          Arne's hedgefund managers & real estate moguls in Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) have him and Obama and Rahm to thank for the disgusting and immoral public school money grab happening all over the country. DFER and Stand for Children are buying sympathetic pols in state and local school board elections all over the country. Consider this fact+ Jeb Bush loves Obama's school "reforms".

          Ravitch spells out a good deal of their rapacious games on her blog. Check it out here:

      •  they accept control over 'other' peoples districts (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KJG52, MooseHB, Roadbed Guy

        but not their own

    •  I hope not. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grimjc, progressivist, karmsy, Roadbed Guy

      Ten years ago I would not have believed this, but top-down federal policy has been a disaster for teachers and children and a bonanza for grifters like Michelle Rhee.  Campaign donors like Gates and Broad are driving federal education policy toward profits for charter operators and "education products" companies. Federal policy is imposed by state legislatures trying to grab federal money and school boards and principals cannot fight back effectively.  Children are the losers.  Teaching professionals are being abused.  

    •  As a local community member, I would not accept it (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      semioticjim, leema, chimene, Roadbed Guy

      Our district is small. Tiny. From far away, you would consolidate it.

      But here's the thing. Every single person in our district interacts with kids every day, instead of being on another site and unaware of the day's issues.

      We have little waste, because everyone can see the whole operation. Most of our staff wear multiple hats.

      We have programs that make sense for us, but that I daresay would be problematic in other regions. For example, our high school has a vineyard. Works great for us but I'm not sure it's a practical program for NYC schools.

      The community fought to break it away from a larger nearby district, and I think both communities benefited from this.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 02:20:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Patricia you are advocating current conditions... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Federal government dictates lesson plans? ....with common core and mandated high stakes testing Feds are already dictating what goes on in the classroom.....rote based data driven test prep.
      Why is uniformity a feature of this plan? Was Bill Gates education uniform with his cohorts?
      Patricia....Have you ever taught in a public school before?

      Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

      by semioticjim on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 02:38:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Diane Ravitch and I are the same age, (14+ / 0-)

    and we went to public schools in Texas. She became a scholar in the field of education and even worked in the Department of Education under George Bush the Elder.

    It is very interesting that in recent years she has written that most of the education improvements that she supported have turned out to be failures.

    I was a teacher for a while before I began to design computer-based systems that were used to operate large enterprises. Some of the systems I helped develop nearly fifty years ago are still in use and they directly affect the daily lives of million of Americans--for the better.

    My systems-based experience enabled me to see that the education improvements that I heard about from my teacher friends would not work.

    I see this pattern throughout our society.

    So many large enterprises do not deliver what they are supposed to deliver. The reason is poor systems. This is because good systems design takes into account the effects of human nature. This is a consideration of the utmost importance. I see everywhere that human nature, as a general proposition, is almost never discussed rationally and in general terms. Instead we get caught up in human personalities. For example, many people today wonder why Mitt Romney lies so easily and cares nothing about the adverse consequences. It is because of his human nature. Examples of his nature are well-defined, have been known for centuries if not millennia, but are never taken into account in designing systems.

    In my working life,  I had to take into account power failures, equipment failures, fires, floods, staff recruiting and training, physical plant features, etc. It did not take me long to realize that I also had to take into account the possibility that a madman or madmen might be given control of the system I was designing. But I see nothing at all in our national institutions that takes cognizance of this need. No one seems to care if madmen should gain control of Wall Street banks, or political parties, or offices in the Senate and House, or the Presidency, or the medical system, etc. Yet madmen have taken control of many of our institutions and we can't do a thing about it. The reason they get control is that we never design in features to prevent it, and we never design in features that will enable us to easily remove them from power.

    This problem is as old as human society, and no one has done anything about it, except for the ancient Athenians. They alone, of all the nations I have studied, knew of the dangers and they organized their systems to deal with them, and they did so effectively. No other country has matched them.

    The Framers of our Constitution deliberately turned away from consideration of Athenian democracy as a model for our government. In fact they were rather insulting toward the Athenians. But the Framers were wrong and we have suffered and are suffering because of their error.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 08:38:51 AM PDT

    •  Nominate your comment as one of best of week (0+ / 0-)

      Bravo. Loved your comment and analysis. You should be hired in Obama's next term as Secretary of Education or at least Chief of Staff.


      Easter Bunny:

      The letter is great as is. Go with it. True to heart!

      "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" - Gandhi
      "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little" – FDR

      by smokey545 on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 04:27:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a teacher, it must be very demoralizing (16+ / 0-)

    to keep getting kicked in the teeth about how education in America is "failing" when in reality (as you allude to) it is not - it is only failing in poverty stricken areas where the real failure is the failure of "the world's richest" society to prevent this . ..

    •  poverty (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate

      The average rate of poverty for any school district in the country is about 30%.  My rural school has a little higher rate of free and reduced lunch.  By the cold, hard statistics, 30% of our kids will fail.    If 30% of school aged children live in poverty it isn't the school that are failing, it is the society.  

      •  Not sure exactly what you're saying (0+ / 0-)

        but the average rate of poverty for any school district varies dramatically from even inner cities to neighboring suburbs  (did you mean to say that the average rate of poverty for all school districts combined is about 30%? - that would make sense . . .).

        And the extrapolation that that means that 30% of our kids will fail is also tenous - it more likely than in areas where 70, 80, or 90% of students live in poverty, schools will be quite dysfunctional and many or most of the students will fail (but not all, some will make it through . . . ).

        I don't have the reference at my fingertips so I can't say the exact number, but poverty rates in the community do not scale linearly with school quality, instead there is a somewhat sharp transition (or "tipping point" some call it) where the effects of poverty overwhelm any efforts to over come them.  Perhaps somewhat like the herd immunity concept in vaccination . . ..

  •  Your letter provides an excellent (5+ / 0-)

    explanation of the current difficulties teachers face. What corporate CEO would put up with such demands and privations? Teachers are heroes of the 21st Century and should be valued as such.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 11:21:26 AM PDT

  •  What an eloquent statement - your letter really (4+ / 0-)

    captures the human side of education in a way that the Arne Duncans of this world will never understand. Bravo! I applaud you.

    Public education is headed for disaster if we can't reverse this conservative course we're on, and matters seem to keep getting worse, not better. I think the education policies of the Obama administration are its most profound (and unnecessary) failure. If there were any real choice, I'd certainly vote against Obama this time just because of his failing education policies. I guess it's ironic that Mitt Romney's education plans are pretty much the same as Obama's.

    I hope your letter and others like it do some good.

    I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Blue Knight on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 12:19:45 PM PDT

  •  Thanks easterbunny53717 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, semioticjim, peregrine kate

    I don't think people appreciate how much more teachers are being asked to do with constantly shrinking resources. Your letter is one of the best I've seen in bringing this dynamic to light. Stay strong.

    I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

    by Lcohen on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 02:01:51 PM PDT

  •  I like your letter (0+ / 0-)

    Do take another proofreading pass on it, and perhaps spell out the acronyms, before sending.

    Ravitch et al are encouraging everyone to send a letter next Wednesday, October 17. If this is an issue important to you, take the time. There are various sample letters if writing your own is too daunting.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 02:23:15 PM PDT

  •  Excellent letter and diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate

    I recently had a letter to the editor published and have written Obama, my governor, and senators regarding the damage wrought by our current approach to public education. I fear Obama's ears are deaf to these issues, as he continues to advocate principles that are the antitheses to those his daughters experience in their progressive school.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by progressivist on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 07:01:27 PM PDT

  •  community spotlight! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks ever so much!

  •  Hang in there and thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, Domestic Elf

    My partner of many years is a second grade teacher.  This year she has 30 kids in her class, and is being hammered every day by the completely unqualified cheerleaders, jocks, and politicians who control American education.

    She has 26 years of experience, a master's degree, and spent a good bit of yesterday consoling one of her 7 year-old students whose mother lay dying of brain cancer.  Mom actually passed away yesterday and the overwhelmed father, having little resources or social support decided the best place for his two stricken children was with the teachers they love.

    The answer to the problems of our schools lies not with testing, the latest curricular fad, computers in every class, etc., etc., but with the guild of dedicated professionals who actually teach, and with the rest of us honestly addressing the social deprivation that kids bring to school every day.  The teachers know what it takes.   The rest of us are at best amateurs with opinions, at worse we are foolish wreckers.

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 06:01:08 AM PDT

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