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One of my Facebook friends posted a link to the provocatively titled "Why Middle School Should Be Abolished."

As a middle school teacher, I've grown rather used to hearing people point the finger at my profession or my industry and call for its teardown. What I've found is that the most vehement of the calls for reforms are not driven by statistics or evidence-based conclusions, but by the fact that unions still have a strong presence in the industry.

The sexy alternative touted by school reform critics these days is the charter school, schools that would be free from the shackles of the old bureacracy (and the unions), taking new risks and challenges (and public education funding). I just received a job inquiry from a charter school, actually. The pay is lower, the benefits and protections scantier, and by all objective measures, this job is a terrible one. This is by design.

The prior alternative du jour (or decade) was the school voucher. If you recall, the idea was that everybody could get a check from the government to pay for their children to attend the private school of their choice. For some reason, that idea never quite got traction, but its intended consequences were similar: the defunding of public schools and the subsequent withering of the teacher unions attached to them.

To the credit of this article's author, David Banks, his educational consortium, Eagle Academy, apparently is union-friendly. A NY Times feature earlier this year quoted him saying, "A lot of the Wall Street, hedge fund guys are not pro-union guys...It’s not the world they come from. They see charters as places of innovation, and that’s the narrative the business community wants to support. I’ve had people say to me, straight up, ‘We’re not just funding a school, we’re funding a philosophy, and that philosophy is anti-union.’ ”

Nevertheless, he's also contributing to the continuing narrative that "Our schools are fundamentally broken. Let's replace them with something new and magically better!" The hand-wave going on with this is the magician's misdirection that de-emphasizes the further chipping away at worker protections in favor of the well-monied, the individuals and the corporations that would stand to increase their profit margins at the expense of thousands of tiny cuts directed at those less powerful than them.

This may veer into an argument about the benefits and costs of unions, and the inevitable story about that corrupt wielding of power there that ended up costing taxpayers here. And I'm certainly not going to advocate corruption or injustice of any kind. I teach children. My job is to empower the uneducated and the powerless.

So if we're going to decry corruption and unfairness, good. Let's do this by talking about how wages for Americans have stayed stagnant since the early 1970s. Let's talk about how the accumulation of wealth for the rich during that same period has rolled up into a giant Katamari-style ball that dwarfs the avarice of imaginary misers like Scrooge McDuck or Smaug. Let's talk about the increasing legal powers and protections being granted to corporations through recent Supreme Court rulings at the expense of millions of individual women and disenfranchised minorities.

What happens when the advocates of school reform get their way, a world without unions? You get Walmart jobs that pay such low wages that its employees have to rely on food stamps and health care funded at great taxpayer expense. You get a workforce that has a fundamental negotiating imbalance with corporations to the point that its denizens become far less worried about doing a good job and far more worried about how many jobs they can juggle in order to pay rent.

What do you NOT get? A better education system.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is all about further enriching the 1% (16+ / 0-)

    Take every public product and service industry, every public asset both state and federal and give every last iota of it to private business. Every road, bridge, building, every square inch of land and water, every school, museum, hospital, fire house and police force - hand it all over to private ownership until only the armed forces are left then hand them over to head office because there won't be any need for government any more.

    The corporatists scream "government takeover" as though it's some kind of evil invasion when it's corporate takeover of public assets that is the real danger. And the politicians who so willingly facilitate this privatization don't realize that their jobs will disappear too in the Big Plan. Business won't have any need of them when they've got it all.

    The Big Plan is a stealthy plan. It's already taking over education: undermining educational standards, strangling teacher incomes and security, demonizing unions. It isn't just that they want poorly educated people (that's an extra), they just don't want education on the public purse. The Big Plan doesn't have a public purse.

    Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

    by Mopshell on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 03:16:15 AM PDT

  •  $$$$ (14+ / 0-)

    While there are some in the "reform" movement who may be well intentioned, more and more, throughout the country, we see this is about turning public schools into profit centers. Bad for kids, bad for the country.

    Keep doing what you are doing. Teaching is a noble profession. And, by all means, keep speaking up!

  •  You say this, "You get Walmart jobs that pay such (12+ / 0-)

    low wages that its employees have to rely on food stamps and health care funded at great taxpayer expense." As if it were a bad thing.

    This is the solution we've worked so hard, for so long to achieve.

    Didn't you notice that Michael Milken, yes, that Michael Milken, the guy that defrauded well over a billion dollars from pension funds by turning them into ATM's for his nefarious clients, and then paid for his crimes by taking an 18 month vacation at taxpayer expense so he could write his book, only to come out a billionaire convict and go into the education business.

    He's an ardent supporter of President Obama's education programs, who has rewarded him and all the rest of his ilk, with billions of taxpayer dollars so that they can rid themselves of those bothersome teachers and their damnable unions.

    Since when did the Democrats ever support unions? The very idea...

    This is nothing to worry about at all. Your betters have determined that you and your progeny don't need, let alone have any entitlement to, knowledge. Learning is highly over-rated. It will just upset you by causing you to think of things far above your understanding. Just keep showing up at your job and keep your mouth shut if you want a future.

    George Carlin spelled it all out for you almost 20 years ago. Are you deaf as well as blind?

    The preceding was factual satire. I believe that any Kossack with the name sarchasmic will get that. As for the rest of you, It's not my problem.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 04:17:34 AM PDT

  •  the fact that corporations are allowed to get away (7+ / 0-)

    with paying their workers one half or less of what the employee is worth and letting the taxpayers cover the rest is the crux of the problem.

    A "minimum" wage is difficult to set because the cost of living varies, but we could work it out by percentages.

       I don't see why these companies are allowed to keep their charters. We the People are still supposed to be allowing Corporations to exist, and not the other way around.

    I have been saying this for several years but let me mention it again, because although I love political theater I'm not much of a social media person. Anyhoo-

    I want to see the youtube clip that looks like Publisher's Clearing House showing up on someone's doorstep with balloons and confetti and a giant check. Only what I want is for people to show up at the homes of big-time CEOs with a giant BILL.

    BILL WALMART. In order to get help from the State, people do have to file how many hours they are working and where. Therefore there is already a list of which companies create this situation. Merge that with the patient claims payment list and then Bill their employers for that amount.

    We also need to force corporations like Home Depot and others that schedule short shifts and keep people on-call with an ever changing schedule to do more and better than that. You can't even juggle those three part-time jobs ya need when they all want you for two hours on Tuesday and then not again yet but wait for the call..

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 04:26:04 AM PDT

  •  I will say, in regards to middle school.. (9+ / 0-)

    Growing up, many of the middle schools near me were also connected to (physically same buildings) as the high school.   So, 7th grade-12th grade were in the same set of buildings on the same city 'block' basically.

    There were some real benefits to this, for teachers, cost and performance.   Gifted children were able to early take high school classes if they wanted to.   Special education could pool resources with the high school so that they were better staffed.

    Teachers tended to prefer it as well, it definitely made the transition from middle school to HS less 'scary' for kids.

    I asked once why this trend kind of stopped, and was told that it is a 'rural area only' kind of idea.

    Still, it did seem smart to me.   We need better education system and we need more funding for it.  I agree with you that part of that is better discussing how we get there and not constantly saying 'things are broken and wrong'.   Every profession I know of sometimes comes up with a better way of doing things.. education is definitely one of those where over time the method of managing has changed and improved.

    The rhetoric that defines this debate is what comes across as toxic.   It isn't the ideas as much as it is the fact that they are presented from a viewpoint that everything current is wrong and has to change.   Which is very different from saying: maybe we can improve without casting blame.  :)

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle
    >Follow @tmservo433

    by Chris Reeves on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 05:40:14 AM PDT

    •  The cloud and the ray of light (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There have been a lot of critiques of middle school education that have been around for a long time. In general, if you compare middle grades curriculum in the public schools with the curriculum in private schools, or US schools against European nations, you find that our emphasis is on repetition of basic skills with refinements. Our elementary school children test as well as any in the world, but, by the start of high school, they've fallen.

      Of course "cultural factors" have come to play during these years. Of course puberty has hit during these years. Of course all of these things, and they have been the primary focus of reform elements -- perhaps rightly.

      The thing is, as long as the GOP is devoted to destroying public schools entirely, as long as they are intent on seeing "they take my tax for them kids" as a winning issue, then there is no conversation. No one can discuss any middle school reform without its being taken up by the anti-public forces as yet another way to attack the schools themselves.

      Children must either be lab rats in an anti-tax experiment or cope with the old curriculum, because all reform is poisoned now.

      "for all the murders, rapes, and thefts,/ Committed in the horrid lust of war,/ He that unjustly caus'd it first proceed,/ Shall find it in his grave and in his seed." -- Webster, "The White Devil," IV i 8-12.

      by The Geogre on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:14:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think it's kind of a matter of size (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DFWmom, FloridaSNMOM

      Our rural school shares staff and a campus 7-12 and I think this setup has many benefits. But, I think for a situation where you have thousands of students on a single campus that there is a lot less value in such an arrangement - you have enough variation and critical mass in the school to justify middle-school only accelerated classes, and you have so many students that it would be a lot easier for the older students to create problems for younger ones. My own experience was that 9th graders and 12th graders on the same 2,000 student campus didn't work out so hot.

      I don't have those worries on a campus with a couple hundred students total.

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

      by elfling on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:40:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  “Nothing personal, just business.” (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, quill

    the same thing that is wrong with our schools is wrong with everything else in our country.  and considering all our systems and institutions are interactive, it is pretty much impossible to fix one part as an isolated problem.

    considering our imperfect world, there is always stuff that needs correcting.  in this case,  i would suggest our present crisis is rooted the post-WW II reality that fell into the lap of AMERICA.  in a nutshell, this was the role of the USA as the sole surviving military in the whole world, and we had just had the hell scared out of us by PEARL HARBOR and the NAZIS.

    thus, the emergence of the military-industrial-complex first under TRUMAN then IKE.  IKE warned us and JFK did his best to turn it around and the only thanks he got for this was his assassination.

    fast FWD to today.  the MIC has formed a coalition with WALL STREET, first to take over america, and with the globalization happening, this means taking over the whole world.

    and same as the COSA NOSTRA, the motto of wall street is something like:  “Nothing personal, just business.”  so wall street doesn’t care if you are a school or a teacher or if you are a park or a river, you serve a single purpose -- to make someone a profit.  if someone gets hurt in the process, well, sorry, the world indeed can be a cruel place.  sometimes bad things happen, and in that case, no reason not to make money from it.  it’s just business.

  •  How about non-partisan reasons? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Like junior high straight up sucking? The awkward age sucks! It can cram the Phys Ed and Battleball! The weird and punitive psycho bat home room teacher who had her bad tendencies coddled by tenture since before the flivver can also cram it!

    In a less cranky mode, I've been wondering if you could get away from some redundancies by doing away with junior high or the first two years of high school or the first two years of college?

    "If this Studebaker had anymore Atomic Space-Age Style, you'd have to be an astronaut with a geiger counter!"

    by Stude Dude on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 06:26:05 AM PDT

  •  Why my children go to a charter school (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKinTN, bobtmn, FloridaSNMOM

    I didn't want to move my kids to a charter school.   It is so easy to just send your kids to school.  I work full time.  My husband works full time.  We don't have the time or energy to get creative when there is a solution available.

    The problem was that traditional schools did not meet my child's needs.  I don't mean some vague sense of empowerment.   I mean, physically, medically, educationally, it did not meet her needs.   The physical  environment made her miserably sick.  The staff ignored her illness, belittled her, basically tortured her.

    I tried.   We worked with a doctor.  We did IEP meetings.  They were one of the most horrible experiences I've ever gone through.  After spending hundreds of dollars every month for a doctor who could offer no help for my daughter's condition, just so that I could get forms signed for the school, it all finally came to a head.   Six "helpful" school employees sat down on one side of the table.   I sat down on the other side of the table, alone.    The principal started off the session with "Here's what we are going to do.".    That didn't sound like a cooperative or problem-solving session to me.   He sounded like a dictator delivering his edicts.   I heard him out.  And then, I looked him straight in the eye, and said "That's not going to happen".   I proceeded to tell him we had six weeks left in school, and if he was incapable of getting my child through the last six weeks on homebound, then I would somehow clean up his mess, and either way, after that, it was no longer his problem, because I was transferring her OUT of his school.     You should have seen the shocked look of six over-confident school officials, when they frantically re-calculated the situation, and suddenly realized that I was  actually was the one person in the room that had the most authority,  not the least.  

    That is what schools have forgotten.   Parents have the final authority.

    I can still remember the tremendous sense of relief I felt, after escaping from that herd of ignorant, self-important asses, who would not listen to a thing that I said, and who felt that my job as a parent is simply to follow their orders, and that they had the right to make all the decisions for myself and my child.    They believe that being a "professional" in education, makes them an expert in my child's medical condition and my child's overall needs.  

    They were wrong -- as a parent, decisions regarding the welfare of my child belong to me and my husband.  We can choose to take them or leave them, and after we gave them multiple opportunities to do their jobs and regain our trust, we had to leave them.  We had no choice.  We have a child who needed an education, and they weren't giving her one.

    My child has what is called an "invisible" illness, and they believed that what they could not see did not exist -- not exactly a good quality in an educational staff who are supposed to be teaching such things as math or science to children.    I must say that having a Creationist teaching science to my kids was one of the moments when I started having serious doubts about the public school.  In contrast, my charter school offered extra credit for reading an essay from Berkeley about how Creationism is not relevant to science.

    Having been through this experience, and watching the experience of my neighbor, who is battling the standardized testing horrors and who is now considering pulling her own child out of public school because they tried to force her through summer school when she had A's and B's and one C on her report card, and my other friend who had to pull his disabled child out of public school because he was not learning to read, and my other friend whose child was charged with animal cruelty by a public school teacher due to an incident which featured poor judgement and lack of supervision on the part of the teachers, and discrimination against a disabled child, which cost the family almost ten thousand dollars in legal fees and their summer vacation, I will tell you that if there was a plot to ruin the public schools, then it has succeeded.

    The problem that I encountered, and my friends encountered, is that public school has transitioned from a public service to a centrally planned dictatorship, with the dual purpose of education and daytime prison for children, with a pipeline to transfer certain disadvantaged kids directly to adult prison.   Control has been shifted from local school boards to Washington.    Schools are unresponsive to the needs of parents and children.    Believe me, I have contacted my local school Superintendent on issues.  I tried.   My principal got all offended about it, until I pointed out to her that my actions were in response to her letter, which she then argued was simply a form letter from the State, to which I replied that, where I come from, a person is responsible for a content of a letter that she signs.   I will give her credit that when we came to that point in the discussion, her entire manner changed, and she became much more cooperative.  We had reached the point in the conversation where she could no longer avoid taking responsibility for her own actions.

    Frankly, it was somewhat terrifying to realize that I had used all our options, and that public school was never going to work for us.    It was frightening to step off into the great unknown.   Private schools were no better, because they are just pale copies, stamped from the same mold.   I did not want to leave.   I and my child were forced out of public schools.

    If it wasn't for my publicly funded charter virtual school, I would be homeschooling.   I have never wanted to homeschool.  I am still avoiding it, and that's why it's virtual school, not homeschool, for us.   I want the curriculum (sort of -- there's unnecessary filler, but it will do) and I want the teachers.   I want the association with our public schools system.   I want the funding for my child's education, because I have contributed to that system, and they have a responsibility to educate my child.  

    I was an advocate for public schools.   To some degree, I still am.   But, after my experiences, I am much more aware of the Hell that many families are being put through, and much more willing to listen to arguments about voucher systems, because I have been on the front lines, and understand what they are going through.  I understand that families have different needs, and we need to offer choices to help them find their own solutions, not dictate solutions to them.    I feel that teachers, in fighting for their jobs, are fighting against families who are just asking for choices.   I feel like we should work together.  Teachers should fight to find ways to get more choices into public schools, so we don't have to go elsewhere to meet our needs.    Bottom line, if schools don't start embracing the power of the computer to offer more flexibility in scheduling or to offer some at-home schooling options, people will find them elsewhere, like I did.

    As far as it being tough for teachers, I'm sitting in my office where they just laid off half of my team, doing twice the work, with no raises this year, and a good chance that our business will go under.   I agree that there are some policy attacks on teachers and I support teachers on those issues, but I also think there are some be economic forces at work that go beyond the public school system.

    I am in a charter school because public schools did not meet my child's needs.  They were not responsive.   They dictate to parents, instead of listening to and working with parents.   And, their answer to every issue is "The State Makes Us Do That", to which my response is, "Well, then, what are we paying you for?    Why don't we just get rid of all this deadwood management staff that has no real authority to make decisions?   Let's just prop a cardboard cutout of a principal by the front door, and use the money to pay teachers, instead."

    Better yet, let's get rid of all this State and National control over our local schools.   I used to think local control was a racist plot, but now I realize how badly the centralization of power is damaging our schools.    My view is that the role of state and federal government should be to provide tools and resources that local schools can use, if they want to.  Not to dictate to them.   By enforcing such laws as "number of school days" and attendance standards and standardized testing, we've basically tied the hands of innovative local school boards, who could be the incubators for the next best educational breakthroughs.    Parents have to look for charter or private schools, if we want our child's education to leap into the eighties.

    I have both my kids in virtual school, now.  We escaped.   Every day, we feel sorry for those that are left behind.

    I wish teachers luck.  For the most part, they are trying to do their best, with a deck that is stacked against them.   But, as a parent, my main duty is to my child.   I have to do what I have to do to get her an education.  I gave my public school more than a fair chance to do the right thing, and they failed.    I have come to the conclusion that they don't really want to be bothered by us and our inconvenient needs, anyway, and this is probably the best solution for all concerned.

    So, I am now in favor of charter schools and school vouchers.  Not because I hate teachers, but because public schools are not meeting the needs of all children, and those children need some place to go when they are abandoned by their public school.

    •  This is very similar to why we are home schooling (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      our children. Our son we pulled out after years of dealing with unresponsive administration and IEP's (his teacher was great,the rest not so much). He wandered off of campus twice,  both time with substitutes who had no knowledge of his IEP which stated that he HAD to be supervised at all times because he was a wandering risk. The first time he walked all the way home along a busy highway. The school didn't realize he was missing until I called him (we lived a half mile away).  The second time the police got involved (at my insistence after the school couldn't find him, they didn't want to involve the police, I called) and found him at a playground 3 miles away.

      Then they wanted to put him in middle school with NO IEP and NO supports because "he was working on grade level". He's a high functioning autistic child (amongst other things). Working at grade level has NEVER been his problem. His problems are developmental in MANY other ways, as well as sensory. He couldn't handle the TOUR they took of the middle school and they had to bring him back early because it was just too loud for him. All we heard about at the IEP meeting was what they COULDN'T do.

      My other half was home anyway due to his own disability. We chose to home school. We've never looked back. My daughter was a brittle asthmatic at 5 (she's much improved now at 11), and has visual deficits that make it impossible for her to read text books at this point (she did ok until the text size got smaller). So we just chose to keep her home.

      "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

      by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:53:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Two jobs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Hi, FloridaSNMom.  I agree.  We're sort of in the same boat.

        My experience is that schools do two jobs:

        1) they have physical custody of the children in their care.

        2) they educate children

        Schools really, truly SUCK at the first job.   I really cannot express how badly they suck at it.    Their idea of discipline (a word that has its root in learning) is a sting operation in the school and a policeman with handcuffs.

        They are pretty good at the second job - educating children.  

        Being in virtual school has given us the best of both worlds.    The child remains in my custody, which I am much better at.   And, the school does the educating, which they are better at.  The teacher can focus on educating children, instead of being babysitters.

        One of my biggest objections to schools is that they basically treat children of all ages at toddlers.    Children, as human beings, are endowed with certain inalienable rights, including liberty and free speech.   Young adults, in particular, are mostly adult with a bit of youngness left to overcome, and should be treated as such.    I have, over time, become aware of the extent to which I have deprived my child of her most basic rights to liberty, like the right to go pee when she needs to, for example, by dropping her at a public school, where teachers tell her she cannot take an ibuprofen if she has a headache, she cannot go to the bathroom when she needs to pee, and she cannot go to the nurse when she feels sick, and she cannot call her parents if she feels her rights are being violated by her school.

        I have come to doubt whether it is safe to leave my child in the school, because they don't treat her like a human being, and then deliberately prevent her from contacting me, when her needs are being ignored.    

        I understand that they don't understand her illness, but their ignorance makes them a danger to my child.

        •  I've considered virtual schooling (0+ / 0-)

          for my youngest, and I may still use it for some subjects later down the line. But they all seem to come with text books as well, and if I have to take the time  to read it to her because she can't see the text books, and if I have to transfer work book questions to paper in larger print for the same reasons, then I may just as well design my own curriculum where she can see it and work independently as well as one on one with us. Even in big print she has trouble reading because she has trouble with scanning as well as vision, and keeps jumping rows, so she reads VERY slowly. She does better with books on audio, on Kindle which reads to her, or on video or web sites with a text reader.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:08:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My daughter has similar issues (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I know what you mean about the Kindle.   My daughter's eyes skip rows, and the contrast of black on white is painful to her, and she has a sensory sensitivity to paper and cardboard.    However, we are fortunate that she reads pretty well despite these difficulties.  She almost never cracks a bound book anymore, though.    A lot of the material that she needs are things like famous stories or poems, that we can get on Kindle or Google.  A lot of the instructional material is in the online lessons, and quizzes are online in the browser, where we can "zoom" in the browser, or presented in Word Documents and PDFs that you can zoom.   Some of the materials for english are sent on CD.   For the most part, they ship textbooks to us, and they sit around in the box all year, and we ship them back.  

            Courses on the environment are more interactive, providing content, and then presenting an interactive quiz.   Courses presented on the "blackboard learn" environment aren't quite as interactive, and can be confusing to navigate, particularly at first.    However, the last class we took on "blackboard learn" did provide access to an online text to go with it.   Didn't have all the options of kindle, but at least you could zoom.  Most of the work in that one was online quizzes, and freeform text typed in online (you could use "zoom" in the browser to make it larger).    Basically, they were just  online discussion boards and blogs where the student answered questions provided by the teacher, just a freeform text area to type a paragraph or two into.    WWW.K12.Com also has a dropbox for dropping word documents in.   Sometimes, we create a video or sound track, and submit that in a dropbox.

            Sometimes, I have to get a bit creative to present a quiz in an online format, because it's in PDF and made to be printed out, filled out and scanned back in, but I've learned to "snip" things and then dump them into a word document, to convert a PDF to a word document, so she can type the answers in online and not have to print it out and scan it back in.   I could by a PDF converter, but that costs money, and my way works OK.   All the work and exams are done under the parent's direction, so we can assist to the extent we feel it's appropriate.

            I sometimes help with the busy work, to move things along.     I make her do the work that is absolutely essential to understanding the subject material.   But, there are sometimes things that just aren't as important, that we need to get out of our way, so we can focus on what is important.   I know that my methods are working, to the extent that she's passing the course exams, and also State standardized tests.

            Once I find something that works, even if it's not ideal, I tend to stick with it, because it was so hard to find anything that worked at all, and such a mess when it's not working.

            •  Thanks for all that information! (0+ / 0-)

              I don't think I would use K12, because I don't want my daughter to have to deal with the FCAT. She really wouldn't be able to track that and I don't really like the standardized testing spiel. But I have a friend who's considering it for  year because they're planning on moving during the school year and she doesn't want to interrupt her multi-exceptional child like that. So she's thinking about doing virtual school for a year and then decide after that year once they're settled in the new place whether to continue or try to get her into a magnet school.

              "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

              by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 10:18:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've battled that same issue (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                My daughter was getting sick in the middle of the standardized "EOC" courses, and I thought I'd have to pull her out of K12 because of the tests.   I was looking at a national virtual school because we can avoid The Test if the school does not take state funding.    However, they changed the rules to allow parents to request individual administration, and I found some ways I could help make her more comfortable (Hot Hands, for one) when she was taking the test, and I can't tell you how relieved I was when she managed to sit through the entire test, after getting sick through the two previous ones.  We had three of them to do this year.   Fifty questions, two essays, and several smaller essay questions on the last one.   They are more of an endurance test, than an academic test.

              •  Also... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I gave my daughter the option to take summer classes, and worked with the virtual school to get a plan to graduate her a year early.  

                They had a half credit in 8th grade as orientation for moving to the high school platform.   They had a couple one semester classes that count for a whole credit that she can take as electives.    We did a CBE exam to test out of a semester of English, and took summer classes between 8th and 9th and 9th and 10th.   At this point, she is leaving ninth grade and has enough credits to go into 11th grade.     We won't need summer school next year, between 1th and 12th.

                Your friend might be interested in something like that.  It's easier to go part time in college than in high school, which is really a better option for her.


                •  Right now her oldest is going into (0+ / 0-)

                  4th grade, so college concerns are a ways off. But they're moving from Houston to Dallas in the middle of the school year, and they don't want to have to change schools in the middle. Plus, they likely won't get into the 'arts school' her daughter wants to enter in the middle of the year anyway, so she'd have to spend part of the year in the public school she's been in, then part in a new one, and then hopefully change to another the next year. For a kid with several learning issues, that can be a real problem. She'd rather she have the continuity of either a virtual program or a home school program this year, she just hasn't decided which she's doing yet.

                  "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

                  by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 01:06:38 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Makes sense (0+ / 0-)

                    I was pretty nervous the first year we signed up, but I was agreeably surprised.  We settled in really quickly.   The elementary school/middle school platform is easier to navigate than the high school platform.  

    •  Charter schools and private schools don't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      guaranty compliance with an IEP. In fact we've found it a lot of work making sure that the teacher at our FORMER private school followed it and we had little support from the principal.

      The issue is this. A student with an IEP is extra work - will the teacher who is paid well (public) take better care of the student than the one not paid quite as well (private and charter)?

      We've found it really depends on the teacher, not the type of school.

      •  I no longer have an IEP !!! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Hurrah!    I no longer have an IEP.   I will never go back.   NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.

        By giving me a choice, I was able to find a solution for myself.   And, if people will stop to think for a minute, giving parents and children choices can help save money.  

        The IEP process is expensive, and the virtual school solution that I eventually chose was cheaper than the HomeBound program that was the IEP solution.

        Examples of choices that were offered to me, that helped me to not need an IEP -- the option to use virtual schooling which gave us control over our environment and work schedule, and the option to have standardized testing administered individually.   With a couple of choices available to me, I was able to cut through all of the red tape, and take control of my situation and solve it.  

        Because I don't have an IEP, I have control over the decisions.  I can get the problem solved immediately and move on, and both me and my child don't have six ignorant officious oafs making my life difficult.   I have to say that the overall stress level for the entire family dropped by at least half, when we dumped our "helpful" IEP team, and the doctor that we were forced to use to provide paperwork for the IEP team.  Now, we only go to a doctor when she actually needs medical treatment.    What a concept!

        I've lost at least 1,500 pounds of jerkwads, and I feel at least seven people lighter, now.    

        Less stress.   Better health.  Better learning.   All because we got rid of the IEP.  

        I want every parent to have more choices, and be 1,500 pounds lighter in terms of ignorant officious oafs.

        •  Whatever works for you. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          How do you handle taking standardized tests? Is there any accomodation made?

          •  It has been a challenge (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It's more of an endurance test for her.   I pack "hot hands" because her circulation is bad.   And, she dresses in several layers to keep warm.  I let the staff know that if they leave her sitting around, she'll probably get sick in the middle of the test.    I pack a drink and snacks for her, so that when she starts feeling really bad, which always happens, she can get up, move around, and take in a few calories.    We also take some supplements to help her be at the top of her game, such as B12 patches and multi-vitamins.  And, of course, rest and minimal stress before the test.

            She's gotten sick in the test twice, and was too sick to even come in, once.   It was when this happened that we discovered that makeup days don't have such large crowds.    After I knew that, I have occasionally called in sick on the regular test day as a strategy in order to force her into a makeup situation, which had a smaller group.   The sensory stimulus of the large crowd makes her condition worse, and they get the test done more quickly in a small group.   That was a pretty effective strategy.

            This year, we had a breakthrough.  The policy was changed so that any student can request that the test be individually administered, without needing an IEP.   That increases the odds tremendously.    

            We only have two more tests to get through.  She has about three shots to get each test done, so I think we'll make it.

            •  I forgot to mention... (0+ / 0-)

              I intentionally arrive late.  They start the test at 9, but ask kids to arrive at 8.   I mentioned this to the teacher, and they said it was a good strategy, and to definitely do that.   This helps to preserve her energy for the test itself, not for sitting around for an hour trying not to freeze to death, getting assaulted by sensory stimulation.

    •  That sounds horrible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm glad you found a good solution for your kids.

      I think 'the public school experience' is much more variable than most of us appreciate, and can be very dependent upon individual administrators and how they approach their jobs.

      One thing we have here is public school choice - meaning, I can enroll my child in any public school that has room for her, not just my geographically assigned local school. I think this is really valuable, even if few families take advantage of it. The ability to have the option if for whatever reason the local school isn't right or responsive or even if there's just another kid in the grade that is not compatible with yours is empowering whether the child changes schools or not.

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

      by elfling on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:46:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Public school choice (0+ / 0-)

        Is really only just a choice of different copies of the same model.   It still doesn't solve the problem.  What we need is flexibility, and options.  

        We need things like options to homeschool part time or full time, options to request, without loads of paperwork, reasonable accomodations on tests.  If these are available to all who request it, then it is not an unfair practice, such accomodations as
        - maximum length for a single test session
        - single or small group administration
        - tests on computer, or with verbal assistance (reading the test to them)

        Public school choice is also a component, but it doesn't do much to address special needs.

    •  The teachers get it from all sides. (0+ / 0-)

      They're killing the very idea that teaching is a profession with frightening speed through this four-wall corporate assault.

      Unfortunately, what you say is also true across huge parts of this nation. When I lived there, I always wondered why the parents hadn't banded together and decorated downtown LA with LAUSD administration and board members' bodies, long ago.

      I would never let a child anywhere that dysfunctional kleptocracy.

      And the teachers have little to nothing to do with the deficiencies, but they take all the blame.

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

      by Greyhound on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 06:25:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  history (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrY10cK, Bethesda 1971

    Before Brown v Bd of Education, schools were doing well.  After that decision, schools were still doing well, except now they were the target of bigots.  Integrating poor children with wealthier ones will always lower test scores because wealth buys books, tutors, vacations, museum visits, etc.  
    Add to that, unions winning decent salaries paid by local taxes, and the "pain" is felt locally.  Bigotry has a price--but also serves as a shield for offering poor services.  Money is "wasted" on those people.
    BTW, do Palo Alto and  Scarsdale need to change their curriculum each decade?  Do middle schools work there?  Does everything work there?  Is the teacher in Scarsdale better than the one in the South Bronx because she gets higher test scores?  And in the South Bronx, does the teacher who gets extra kids in her class because "only she can handle them," a poorer teacher because of test scores.  Each person is unique--as is each classroom, each school, each district, etc.  Quality can only be spotted by a competent supervisor on the spot.
    Rant over--I worked 36 years in some very poor NYC neighborhoods--and what we lacked in supplies was overwhelming.  What we had were mostly very dedicated teachers and support staff--and less than high quality supervisors.  Using education as a political football is obscene--more teachers are heroes than are soldiers--treat them that way.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 06:40:39 AM PDT

  •  What I couldn't figure out with this article (0+ / 0-)

    about doing away with middle schools, is how throwing middle school age kids into the mix with high school kids was supposed to make their emotional/developmental situation any better. They complain about these kids being more susceptible to peer pressure, etc, and yet they want to add them to high schools?? Sure, exposing them to older teens at a younger age, and those added stressors would be so much better. NOT. There would never be a problem with 17 year old boys hitting on some physically mature 13 year old girls THAT way.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:01:52 AM PDT

    •  It would probably save money (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, rexxnyc

      plus the politicians can then argue that combining two schools into the one venue causes overcrowding so... more private schools is the answer. To make sure it is also the preferred option for parents, ensure that public schools are the worst they can be: underpay the teachers, employ under-qualified teachers (don't have to pay them as much) and get rid of the good teachers. Problem solved.

      The school kids? They don't vote, do they? So this isn't about what's good for them.

      Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

      by Mopshell on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:03:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Really they should just get apprenticeships (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, Mopshell

        In a factory or walmart or 711 or something.

        Like in the 18th century. It's what the Founders want.


        •  It must really grate on them that there (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          are no 19th century factories any more. Though, with their policy of deregulating everything, they seem to be aiming to get back to those "good old days".

          I keep seeing mentions of changing vote allocation too so that it's based on the value of a person's assets - more money, more votes. They'd no doubt see this as a sure fire way of furthering their policies as quickly as possible and, if I remember rightly, there's nothing in the Constitution that explicitly says one person one vote.

          With the obstruction in Congress and SCOTUS decisions from Citizens United onward, I wonder just how far they will dare to go and how soon they aim to get there. Scares me just thinking about it sometimes.

          Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

          by Mopshell on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 10:20:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  wealth that once supported schools is gone (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mopshell, FloridaSNMOM, catilinus

    [---the same thing that is wrong with our schools is wrong with everything else in our country.]

    what is wrong specifically is that “big money” has stripped the wealth out our our country.  much of it gets hoarded, and the rest supports our imperialism that supports the next tier of wealth.  a lot of wall street investing.

    what’s wrong with our TSA and NSA is our state propaganda and encroaching martial law.  and it is affecting our schools.  rules from washington d.c.  no child left behind and all the rest.

    now couple this with the fact that taxes and wealth that once supported schools is gone.  less money for roads and bridges too.  and none for DETROIT.    but plenty of money to bomb the hell out of the mideast countries and take control of the oil production there.

  •  Middle School is important (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mopshell, FloridaSNMOM

    It is incredibly important, especially because kid get lost at that age.

    If I had to guess, I could see how the charter schools movement would push hard on middle school.  

    The reasoning is that the middle school age is so difficult for parents that they often are concerned about moving their kids from an elementary experience into the less supervised middle school.

    It's a very anxious time, so I can see how the charter schoolers could manipulate that anxiety.


    by otto on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:14:08 AM PDT

  •  Schools were broken by NCLB- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrY10cK, Gary of Austin, rexxnyc

    Our country was broken by needless wars, including Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. LBJ and George Bush, two lying Texan politicians (is there another kind?) were prominent in those. Bush relatives and friends made a lot of money off the computer programs needed for NCLB, I have read. If we had stayed with the system we had and had worked on improving it, we would have been so much better off. We, the kids, the teachers, the parents. Some of the problem is the constant rant for Christianizing with Home Schooling, Charter Schools, etc. There are decent schools scattered around, still. De-unionizing teachers only discourages qualified good people to try something else. We need some leaders who will try to turn back the rash, profit-making privatization of institutions that should not be private. It could happen-if you don't vote for any Republican I have heard about lately.

    In 2010-37% of eligible American voters voted for their U.S. Reps. (Census) The 1% is not taking this country from us. We are giving it to them.

    by Incredulousinusa on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:28:44 AM PDT

  •  Middle school should be Abolished (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but not for the reasons explained in this diary. I am opposed to standardized testing, I'm opposed to corporate run schools, and I think teachers are unfairly singled out for "failing" schools.

    I don't know of any adult who had good memories of middle school. It is a very awkard time for ALL students becuase of adolescence. You take these hormonally awkard kids out of an environment they knew and felt confident in for 6 years and throw them into a new environment only filled with other hormonally awkward kids and it is a recipe for cliques, bullying, drama, and "mean girls" as each kid tries to find his or her place in this new dynamic.

    Better to keep them in elementary school until the 8th grade when the kids are bit more developed to make the transition to high school. We currently have our kids in a private school that goes from Pre-K3 through the 8th grade and there is a real sense of community and mentoring that happens between the older kids and the younger kids. Middle school does not have this.  

  •  All 'reform' is just discriminatory tax cutting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Public schools are ok.  Esp in wealthier areas. When adjusted for income, our kids do as well as in France or Germany

    But all this reform bullshit reinforces underfunding and underinvestment in poor schools.

    We spend less on schools in poor areas than in wealthy ones.

    All this crap - blaming ' 'failing' schools,  blaming teachers distracts from the fact that our schools are still separate and still unequal.

    What's failed is implementation of Brown v Board.

  •  My district tried abolishing middle schools (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    putting grades 7 and 8 in with high schoolers and it was a disaster. Discipline problems skyrocketed.  The short people ran amuck. The older ones took their cue from the younger ones.  It's been a nightmare. They are now reopening middle schools.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 10:19:33 AM PDT

  •  Sheeps clothing (0+ / 0-)

    I'm tired of erstwhile reformers like Rhee who are simply union busting goons.

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