Monday, August 31, 2009

Eliminate the State Department of Education. Now's the Time!

A recent article in the Courant by Steven Goode called State Rules Schools' New Director Of Arts Lacks Certification reports that newly hired professionals may fall short of the mandatory job requirements:
The state Department of Education has ruled that a woman hired to be a districtwide director of arts for Hartford's public schools does not have the certification required to match the current job description.

Jackie Coleman, 41, has bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts and was most recently director of education for Hartford Stage, but she does not have an 092 administrator's license, which the state requires to hold a districtwide director position.

Tom Murphy, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said that without the state-required certification, which in most cases includes five years of classroom teaching experience, Coleman was not qualified to hold the position as it is described. Murphy said that if Coleman works without the appropriate certification, she would not be eligible to participate in the state teachers' retirement program and that the department also has the authority to fine Hartford for employing someone without proper credentials.

The Hartford Federation of Teachers had questioned Coleman's credentials, as well as those of former longtime Courant columnist Stan Simpson and chef/restaurateur Deborah Raviv, whom the district hired to be directors of Weaver High School's new journalism and media and culinary arts academies, respectively.

Murphy said the department would be reviewing their job descriptions and qualifications as well.

"We like to work with districts but these requirements were created by the legislature," Murphy said.

First, in these times of economic crisis, the very first cut in the State budget should be the complete and wholesale elimination of the Department of Education. This malfeasant band of overpaid, educational miscreants needs to be shown the door as quickly as they can be booted.

Secondly, the idiot legislators who pass these special interest protection schemes needd to back off and let some fresh air into the education system. By loosening the ingrown requirements for education positions, the state will not be lowering the qualifications but broadening the richness of candidates to do the job.

The last thing Hartford needs is more inbred incompetency running the show.

Christ, when will this state grow a brain?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Suspended for what!????

A story coming out of Georgia by Jim Wallace of WALB news underscores the abuse of law enforcement in schools. To describe this incident as over-the-top is inadequate to describe this horror show. The story includes a video worth watching.
Her father shows scratches on 11-year-old Treneashe Graddy's neck and back. She says she was thrown to the ground and arrested at Southside Middle School yesterday.

When school officials tried to take her picture for school identification, she refused because her hair was not fixed.

School Police Lt. Laniece Pope tried to force the girl to take the picture, and handcuffed and arrested her when she resisted.

"She put her hand around her neck, left a bruise around her neck. She handcuffed her, put her knee in her stomach and put her knee in her back, which caused injuries to her," said mom, Katrina Jackson.

The girl was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of an officer, and disrupting school. She is suspended today.
If this child was a dog, people would be lining up claiming "cruel and unusual punishment". Thirty years of right-wing education propaganda have reduced American school children to be considered less than human and not deserving the rights we bestow pets.

For the same police who trumped up the charges and committed the real crime to investigate themselves adds insult to injury. This is as unAmerican as torture.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rick Green's Eye

Courant columnist Rick Green is a keen observer of very obscure, though important facts. In a recent blog posting he dusts off and shines a spotlight on an issue that must be resolved if Connecticut ever has a hope of containing runaway tax spending. He quotes DonKlepper-Smith, Governor Rell's economist:
There is a long-standing, red-herring argument that has been backed by symphony orchestra string sections about how poorly public sector employees are paid. In fact one is led to believe that to work in the government sector is to be doing the altruistic "public service" akin to feeding the poor in starving nations.

The bare and ugly truth is that the salaries, benefits, time-off, government perks, and pensions over time far exceed the economics of the private sector for the vast majority of Americans. Government itself, as a self-regulating and self-serving consumer of tax dollars has long been an economic pig wearing lipstick.

The size of government needs to be trimmed and the obscene excesses of compensation need to be brought under control.

Two decades ago, this problem was identified and swept under the rug. The prediction at that time was that government serving government spending would first collapse the free market economy and then finally implode it's own.

We are nearing the time of that implosion. The free market economy is bare and staggering.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thank You, NEA

I had just about given up on the NEA as representing much more than a doormat for bad teaching practice and policy. Their silence during the Bush years borders on criminally insane as the No Child Left Behind social-engineering experiment decimated the minds and lives of generations of children.

Obama's misguided attempt to sugar-coat (with tax dollars and federal withholding extortion techniques) to extend that legacy has been refreshingly and shockingly rejected by the NEA.

All I can say is that it's about time. Here's NEA Attacks Administration's Education Reform Plan by Nick Anderson of the Washington Post:
The union, which boasts 3.2 million members, charged that Race to the Top contradicted administration pledges to give states more flexibility in how they improve schools. "We find this top-down approach disturbing; we have been down that road before with the failures of No Child Left Behind," the union wrote in its comments, "and we cannot support yet another layer of federal mandates that have little or no research base of success and that usurp state and local government's responsibilities for public education."

It added: "Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears that the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America's public schools -- urban, suburban, exurban and rural -- and all must comply with that silver bullet."

An Education Department spokesman had no immediate comment. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said repeatedly he wants to work with unions and not foist reforms on teachers without consultation.

When Obama announced the initiative July 24, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, praised the administration's intentions to lift standards, raise teacher quality and turn around low-performing schools.

But he said performance pay, charter schools and links between student and teacher data raise difficult issues for his union.

That last issue prompted an NEA objection earlier this year, after Obama expressed his desire to grade teachers through the test scores of their students.

Van Roekel told the New York Times that his members were unhappy with such comments.

''When he equates teachers with test scores, that's when we part company,'' Mr. Van Roekel told the Times.
Self-serving as the arguments sound, the union is finally on the right page.

The empirical evidence shows that charter schools - despite cherry picking students - rarely perform any better than the even more crippled public schools they leave in their wake and compete with. Nor is the expense diminished.

And the NEA correctly asserts that more local control of schools, policy, and curriculum is healthy thing. For the Obama administration to get this wrong is a very bad sign and a disappointment in these quarters.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Urban School Teacher Quits, Writes WaPo Op-Ed Piece

A teacher named Sarah Fine has decided to leave the teaching profession after teaching at a charter school in Washington, DC. There are few surprises in her Op-Ed piece and even fewer in the comments sections of the Daily Kos and Washington Post.

In 2005, the year I started teaching, nearly a third of new teachers in the District of Columbia were recent college graduates who had enrolled in Teach for America or the D.C. Teaching Fellows program. Statistics suggest that many of these recruits have already moved on. Nationally, half of all new teachers leave the profession within five years, and in urban schools, especially the much-lauded "no excuses" charter schools, turnover is often much higher.

But there is more to those numbers than "burnout." That term is shorthand for a suite of factors that contributed to my choice to leave the classroom. When I talk about the long hours, for example, what I mean is that, over the course of four years, my school's administration steadily expanded the workload and workday while barely adjusting salaries. More and more major decisions were made behind closed doors, and more and more teachers felt micromanaged rather than supported. One afternoon this spring, when my often apathetic 10th-graders were walking eagerly around the room as part of a writing assignment, an administrator came in and ordered me to get the class "seated and silent." It took everything I had to hold back my tears of frustration.

The teaching itself was exhilarating but disheartening. There were triumphs: energetic seminar discussions, cross-class projects, a student-led poetry slam. This past year, my 10th-graders even knocked the DC-CAS reading test out of the water. Even so, I felt like a failure. Too many of my students showed only occasional signs of intellectual curiosity, despite my best efforts to engage them. Too many of them still would not or could not read. And far too many of them fell through the cracks. Of the 130 freshmen who entered the school in 2005, about 50 graduated this spring.

There is yet another factor that played a part in my choice, something that I rarely mention. It has to do with the way that some people, mostly nonteachers, talk about the profession.
"Why teach?" they ask.

Do my lawyer and consultant friends find themselves having to explain why they chose their professions? I doubt it. Everyone seems to know why they do what they do. When people ask me about teaching, however, what they really seem to mean is that it's unfathomable that anyone with real talent would want to stay in the classroom for long. Teaching is an admirable and, well, necessary profession, they say, but it's not for the ambitious. "It's just so nice," was the most recent version I heard, from a businesswoman sitting next to me on a plane.

I used to think I was being oversensitive. Not so. One of my former colleagues, now a program director for Teach for America, has to defend her goal of becoming a principal: "When I tell people I want to do it, they're like, 'Really? You really still want to do that?' " Another friend describes her struggle to make peace with the fact that a portion of the American public sees teaching as a second-rate profession. "I want to be able to do big things and be recognized for them," she says. "In the world we live in, teaching doesn't cut it."

As a software engineer who has watched this country denigrate the Information Technologies profession over the past decade, I have little sympathy for the self-pity. In almost all private employment, salaries have shrunk, benefits have disappeared, and retirement programs are non-existent.

Lots of people work hard and are unappreciated. Let's call it a tie.

But she is right in observing that schools are mismanaged. The Feds are largely to blame for this.

The remedy is not more pay or provincial recrimination but the elimination of NCLB and the Department of Education. They are THE most obvious problem.

What Some Kids Do On Their Summer Vacation

Video Games and more video games: