Marc TuckerMarc Tucker's overview of what's wrong with the current fashion of all-out war on teacher unions in the just released Winter 2012 issue of Education Next is worth circulating. While he paints with a bit of a broad brush characterizing what unions have fought for, assuming that there are no union locals focused on the quality of teaching and learning or locals taking a collaborative road at present, his reasoning for why politicians and district administrators have to refrain from attacking unions if they want teachers on-board with education reform is spot on. His warning to US policy makers that they have to learn from those heavily unionized nations who are now out-performing us is just common sense.
Steve Brill's new book is an unreleneting attack on teacher unions as the single source of what ails public education, but according to Dana Goldstein in The Nation it also is guilty of perpetuating the myth that the role of poverty in low student achievement is just not important. Her review is worth a read. Richard Rothstein's review in Slate shows how Brill's simple good vs evil narrative falls apart in the face of the facts just like the larger reform narrative being promoted by the education establishment. Toward the end of the book Brill's main heroine burns out and quits her job teaching at a charter school. She takes a job at a traditional school, protected by a union contract. Rothstein's complete review is well worth a read here.
Audrey SoglinAt an event in Washington Thursday at the Center for American Progress, IEA Executive Director, Audrey Soglin and representatives from the State Board of Education and State Legislature described the five month process of intense collaboration that led to Senate Bill 7. The result is big changes in teacher tenure, evaluation, and dismissal procedures. The event revealed details like an agreement not to use current state standardized test scores as measures of student achievement, and a recognition that snap judgement of teacher quality are unreliable. Its a unique picture of the hard work involved and an interesting result under very difficult political circumstances.
Meanwhile, a video clip has been circulating the blogisphere showing "Stand for Children" head Jonah Edelman bragging to an audience at the Aspen Institute's Ideas Conference about how he and his organization outmaneuvered and outspent the unions, taking credit for SB7. Edelman's display of arrogance also reveals the true purpose of his organization as a front for monied interests trying to counter the political and financial power of unions. It is worth watching as an object lesson in what posers and "reformer" opportunists look like.
Diane RavitchWashington DC's City Paper published an article this week detailing how Diane Ravitch got to be the clearest voice in oppostion to the reform narrative espoused by Michelle Rhee. It's a good read. According to Dana Goldstein's story, Ravitch may be the country's most prolific education user of Twitter. It turns out she tweets to her 13,000 followers as much as 99 times in one day.
TestingAccording to an article in Ed Week today, a new report by the National Accademy of Sciences looked at the real academic gains after a decade of NCLB and other test-based accountability requirements and found the gains to be slight or non-existant. The report, titled "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education," co-published with NAS by the Board on Testing and Assessment(BOTA) and Behavioral Social Sciences and Education (BSSE) was authored by a committee of 17. The research and assessment luminaries who authored the report explain what standardized tests are useful for, what they should not be used for and why the strategies underlying the reform movement being promoted so assiduously by the federal government and large corportate philanthropies Report
Dennis Van RoekelNEA's Board of Directors voted May 7th to bring a proposed policy shift on teacher evaluation to it's summer Representative Assembly. Delegates will be asked to consider responsible use of student test scores and other multiple measures to strengthen teacher evaluation systems. Ed Week reports this week that now both the NEA and AFT seem to be articulating leadership positions that are being viewed as both resonable and principled. Researcher Julie Koppich sees this as an important step forward, according to Ed Week. The NEA RA will also consider a report from a new independent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching that will be making recommendations on teacher quality more broadly.
An investigative article in Michelle RheeUSA Today March 28th revealed possible cheating in up to 103 DC Public schools with unusually high rates of erasures on standardized test answer sheets over the past two years. Michelle Rhee and her former deputy, now Chancellor, Kaya Henderson have taken a defensive posture, at first denying cheating took place and attacking the authors of the article, but later acknowledging that the calls for an investigation were appropriate. Once it became clear that it was likely that administrators and other adults may have erased student answers in order to raise student test scores, a local grass-roots organization, Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform DCcalled for a federal investigation of "erasure-gate." They want to get to the bottom of a possible cover-up by district leadership. A real investigation is needed to uncover the consequences of the high-stakes, fear-based culture in DCPS that may have created the motivation to cheat. A serious investigation is particularly important given the national role Michelle Rhee plays promoting the strategies she applied in DC Public Schools.
President ObamaIn response to a question from a high school student, president Obama this week articulated some new principles on testing and accountability that seem to conflict with the controversial approach the US Department of Educaiton has taken over the past couple of years. The publicly reported statement gives educators a sense of hope that perhaps at least the president gets it.
Both the Daily Kos and Valarie Strauss posted on their blogs a letter from a teacher that exposes the contradiction between improved teaching and learning and what is being done in the name of corporate "reform." Among other things, the teacher points out that she has never been expected as a teacher to design units and lessons, and that the needs of students has become secondary to a hierarchical production mentality. The piece is worth a read.
In the wake of the attack on collective bargaining in Wisconsin, one of the NY Times editors, A.G. Sulzberger, asks last week, whether teacher's unions, and unions in general are perhaps anachronistic. Barnett Berry on his blog gives a good answer that's worth a read. Unions are necessary, he argues, if the voice of teachers is needed in policy debates -- provided that's what unions offer.
Richard KahlenbergEducation Author Richard Kahlenberg argues in today's Wahington Post that Republican attacks on public sector collective bargaining were aided and abetted by democrats like Michelle Rhee and Barak Obama. Both unfairly and illogically painted teachers and their unions as the problem, eschewing collaborative approaches to school improvement. Although the recent US Department of Education convening on union/management collaboration might be perhaps a hopeful tilt in a better direction.
Kahlenberg further argues that restricting collective bargaining to pay and benefits is a trap that will imply to the world that teachers and others are just self-serving. When it comes to teachers, the opposite is the case. Unions need to capitalize on the truth that the real agenda of teachers is also what is in the best interest of students.
All Week the numbers were building, 10,000, than 20,000, then 30,000 on Thursday, slightly down on Friday due to snow and ice, but then up to 100,000 by Saturday -- Students, teachers, fire-fighters, and public sector workers all there to say "kill the bill" that would destroy collective bargaining in the public sector in Wisconsin. But Where is the national News Media on this story??? Its hardly being covered says Truthout.org. The democratic uprising has finally come to the US. Watch: