Rep. So when we see that teachers have fought and won for themselves a due process right, people ask ‘Why? I don’t have that.’ Because teachers are different from other workers, the way they are different is a source of debate. “It is simply wrong to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools while cutting programs that help millions of students in public schools,” said Anderson and Kustler. “Pulling 1,200 children out of a system that serves 65,000 doesn’t solve problems – it ignores them.” NEA takes the nation’s fiscal challenges seriously, but it is working with lawmakers to find long-term solutions, based on proven educational research. They would often point the finger at the school system and ignore some of the systemic causes. A lot of the coverage really fanned the flames and was much less nuanced than the report itself. When I was working on the book, I went back and watched videos of Chris Christie yelling at teachers, which are really difficult to sit through. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said the announcement was a “step in the right direction.” The NEA has long been calling for an end to high-stake testing consequences, particularly during the Common Core transition period. “We applaud the Department of Education for this common-sense flexibility that will allow educators and students to focus primarily on teaching and learning rather than high-stakes standardized tests.
The pillorying of teachers and the championing of misguided “reform” policies has a long and exasperating history, chronicled by journalist Dana Goldstein in her new book, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the concerns of educators across the country by announcing a waiver that would free students of this burden and allow states to give only one end-of-year test. We know from surveys that first year teachers really struggle with these issues. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan placed technology front and center in the national dialogue over education reform earlier this month when he unveiled the Obama administration’s education technology plan. You see how he or she establishes a healthy classroom climate and discipline from the very beginning.
With the transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) speeding up, states are faced with the prospect of having to “double-test” their students in 2013-14 – administering both the new field test tied to the CCSS and the statewide standardized test. It’s easy to understand why. People wondered how to make teaching a more respected profession and a more attractive job, considering the low pay, and tenure or due process was something that was going to help. The combination of a feminized teaching profession and unionism in the early 20th century triggered a slew of politicized attacks and what you refer to in the book as “moral panics” across the nation. There is nothing magical that would happen for kids if we ended teacher tenure. He has a successful blog and he’s gotten the chance to meet with Arne Duncan.
Conceptual questions teach kids how to think, how to question, and how to learn over the course of a lifetime. We’re entering the “hype disillusionment cycle” with teacher evaluations based on student test scores. The year? 1924. The book describes how the flaws in merit pay were evident back in the late 1980s – typical of what you call the ‘hype disillusionment cycle’ that follows many reform ideas. This flexibility will ensure that as new and better assessments are being field tested and piloted, students are not forced to take outdated state tests as well.
Without this flexibility, students will be wasting precious time taking unnecessary tests. “We must take the necessary time to get it right.” A high-ranking education official in a major U.S. city feverishly argues that schools should be operated like a business. Dana Goldstein Secondly, at the turn of the 20th century, like we do today, we looked to other countries for ideas about how to improve our schools. It was the consensus position in 1909 when New Jersey became the first state to pass a comprehensive tenure bill. To what extent does that fact that the profession is roughly 80 percent women today still make it an inviting political target? Dana Goldstein: We tend to have more of a public debate over teacher pay, teacher job protection, and the cost of teacher health care plans than we do about policemen or firefighters. Demands on the teacher are high and getting higher all the time.
Are we seeing other policies reaching a similar point today? DG: Definitely. The idea came from Prussia, where teachers had more job security. Duncan is also inviting the 37 states that have gotten waivers from parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to apply for a delay in using high-stakes tests to evaluate teachers. “We want to support states that would like to avoid double-testing, which as you know often happens during the shift to a new test,” Duncan said in a letter addressed to chief state school officers. A lot of doors have opened up for him and people are listening because he has dared – and somehow managed to find the time! – to get involved. So when teachers ask me ‘what can I do?’ I encourage them with the success stories of some of the teachers who have built up a profile and have found an audience.
Tuesday’s announcement is undoubtedly welcome news to schools that are feeling the pressure from the transition. When you hear Arne Duncan, whose policies have incentivized that to a great extent, coming out a couple of weeks ago and saying that standardized testing is ‘sucking the oxygen out of the room,’ we are at a turning point from where we were in 2009 or 2010. States can delay high-stakes testing consequences for up to one year until 2016-17. But what happens next? Are we really going to search for new ideas or are we going to go back and find another failed idea from the past? You write that the teacher wars can be reined in when we come to a basic agreement about what great teaching is and then work together to support that vision.
While many teachers have embraced the higher standards of the CCSS, Duncan heard from educators and a number of state officials who told him it was important to hold off on the consequences for teachers and principals while they come up to speed. “These concerns are real and honest,” Duncan said. At the turn of the 20th century, teachers got fired very often for very stupid reasons. You include a quote by John Dewey, the 19th century educator and social reformer, in the front of the book that reads in part: ‘The teacher …is not like a private soldier, or like a cog in the wheel. They were pregnant or they were black. Turnover is just as much a driver in poor student performance than those ineffective teachers who are stuck in those schools. Also, articles can become talking points.
But this description also fits William McAndrew, Chicago schools superintendent. A few years ago, there was Stephen Brill’s “The Rubber Room” in The New Yorker, which failed to mention that these rubber room teachers make up something like only 1/10th of 1 percent of all teachers. Teaching is a larger profession, so it’s more expensive – because there is more of them. But we can’t just pluck teachers straight out of college and drop them into the classrooms. A very famous story by Gene Lyons in The Texas Monthly called “Why Teachers Can’t Teach,” published in 1979, was one.
Or they disagreed about the mayor about something. The plan focuses on five key goals to revamp education by 2015: 1) create a more engaging and dynamic learning experience for all students, 2) develop more sophisticated and accurate tools for student assessment, 3) ensure all educators have all the latest teaching tools, 4) expand access to broadband, and 5) use technology to cut costs and heighten efficiency in school districts. When we look at other high-performing nations, teachers learn pedagogy but they are expected to achieve academically in a subject they are going to teach. There’s a lot of research on this that I cite in the book. People want to know – are schools sending kids out with the tools and skills they need to survive what is an unforgiving job market? Has the media generally informed the public about public education in a constructive way or has it done more to escalate the teacher wars?
DG: Over history the media has played a big role in both calling attention to quality issues in our schools but also fanning the flames of these “moral panics.” The muckrakers wrote these sometimes overheated exposés of child labor and truancy. You’re right if you think this sounds like Michelle Rhee, the former DC schools chancellor, circa 2009. Anyone who wonders “How did we get here?” – the divisive and polarizing rhetoric, the mystifying staying power of discredited ideas and the recent raid on teachers’ collective bargaining rights – will find the answers in Goldstein’s engaging and valuable book. There’s very little systematized structures to take the skills of those great teachers and share them with others. Their expertise as the practitioners in the classroom is often not respected. To avoid “double-testing,” the Department of Education will allow schools to administer only one assessment in 2013-14 – either the current statewide assessment or the Common Core field test. Regarding specific pedagogical skills, we know it is more important to have more conceptual questions be guiding lessons, not simple factual questions.
Mike Honda, of California, that would maintain funding for Head Start, elementary and secondary education, and do so by cutting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and closing tax loopholes for companies that choose to do business overseas. “Our nation’s economic strength and future success depend on our ability to innovate, educate, and compete in the global marketplace,” Anderson and Kusler wrote. “Failing to invest when investment is called for is a plan for permanent austerity, not long-term success.” _____________________________________ Take Action on the Ryan Budget Proposal For more information on funding issues, visit Education Funding on NEA.org I do believe that teachers who start a blog or find other ways to get involved in the policy debate will be listened to. Consider this: A high school dropout earns about $260,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate and pays about $60,000 less in taxes. Time magazine takes the teacher wars up a notch in 2014. America loses $192 billion—1.6% of our GDP—in combined income and tax revenue with each cohort of 18-year-olds who never complete high school. The plan, titled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology,” was developed over the past 18 months (an initial plan was released last March) by leading education experts, and refined and updated with input from educators, the general public, and industry officials. That doesn’t work to prepare teachers on any large scale.
That’s partly because recruiting teachers to work in the neediest schools is so hard. So the vast majority of teachers, even if they are interested in the policy debate and the political questions, feel that they don’t have time. A lot of the student teaching isn’t realistic to the conditions they will find. I think that makes sense. Unapologetic about targeting and firing ineffective teachers, the official pushes for an evaluation system that is rooted in student test scores. NEA urges House lawmakers to consider an amendment by U.S. Seeing how politicized these firings were, good government reformers and teachers unions agreed about tenure.
I think of someone like Jose Vilson, a full-time middle school math teacher in New York. We talk so much about these accountability systems, which are meant to measure teachers, but tell us so little about what great teachers are actually doing. Goldstein recently spoke to NEA Today about the origins of the most contentious education debates, the players in politics and media that have heightened the teachers wars, and how a greater teacher voice can help move the national dialogue in a more constructive direction. What I like about homework market the residency model in Memphis that I talk about in the book is that you are there with a master teacher, who has already created the conditions of control in the classroom, on day one. Their day is exhausting. About the delay in new teacher evaluations, Duncan said, “Given the move to college- and career-ready standards, the dramatic changes in curricula that teachers and principals are now starting to teach, and the transition to new assessments aligned to those standards, the Department will consider, on a state-by-state basis, allowing states up to one additional year before using their new evaluation systems to inform personnel determinations.” Duncan’s move is widely seen as an acknowledgment that, with the rapid implementation of the Common Core, too much is changing too soon.
When A Nation at Risk was released in 1983, you saw the media getting very, very excited. There have been many eras in which teachers have been targeted, but this particular wave of concern has a lot to with the weak economy. But we need teacher voices in the debate much, much more than they are currently. Most people want to learn from teachers and welcome the opportunity to hear from them. Why is everyone talking about this so much? I use a term in the book that teaching is seen as a somewhat “peculiar profession.” Only 7 percent of private sector workers are in unions.
What kind of training, expertise, classroom climate and other qualities promote great teaching? DG: In terms of training, I think there’s a good argument to be made that a teacher’s college education be rigorous and focused on a specific content area. He must be an intelligent medium of action.’ Given how under assault teachers have been recently and the daily pressures of the classroom, what would you tell a teacher who is struggling to find the time and energy to take on such a role? DG: I’m very sympathetic to that. It’s always a middle-aged woman, and the condescension is seething out of him in these confrontations!
It’s like this concept of “mansplaining” – I think that happens a lot to teachers. But I do think that, because this is a job done by women, it makes it easier to vilify. Probably the most contentious issue in education right now is teacher due process or “tenure.” What do you think is most important for people to understand about tenure and its origins? DG: We have to understand why we have tenure in the first place. And some teachers are afraid that administrative action will be taken against them, which is not an unrealistic fear. There’s no evidence that suggests ending tenure will lead to student improvement, so why are we talking about it so much?
DG: Yeah, I agree with your take.