Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Not My Education President!

I did not watch or listen to the State of the Union Address last night because I had already been in A-fib from stress last week and I didn’t want to do it again. But I couldn’t get away from it because of the teacher organizations’ blogs and Facebook pages exploded with it. I did have the chance to listen to the education sections of the speech and I tend to agree with the overall opinion of teachers that it was too little, too late, with a side of uh-oh.

I was happy that he chose to begin the speech with education. though I felt he didn’t say anything new, only repeating the same worn-out phrases and ideas. I would have liked him to recognize that even though he stated that school shouldn’t be a place to learn how to do bubble forms, it is that place. And bubble-form testing will remain the focus of schools until No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top is repealed or heavily amended. The same requirements for NCLB that everyone cried about, that is, the need to increase goals every year for all subgroups of students, remains the goal for Race to the Top. The consequences of not making Adequate Yearly Progress are one and the same for NCLB and RttT alike.

Schools that need the most support are still being closed or taken over by private entities, the charters. The same tired “reforms” that have not changed education in 20 years, are being touted as the salvation of education. Call it what you like NCLB/RttT has done nothing more than demoralize teachers, frustrate students, demonize administrations, and take community control away from those who need it most, the high-poverty communities. How can closing a school help it? Put some resources and high quality professional development there for the teachers, decrease class sizes and allow the parents and teacher a say in the programs and strategies they need to improve. Those things work. I know because I taught in one of those low-performing schools. We received all those things and within three years, were able to make AYP. There is only one problem. After the school is able to make AYP, the assistance is withdrawn and the school is left, once again, to fend for itself. And to once again descend into the abyss. Why? Because in high-poverty schools, small class sizes, additional personnel, and quality coaching programs work, and when they are removed, it’s back to the same old same old. And the whole time, the threat of closing or turning into a charter school hangs over your head.

I voted for Barack Obama twice. I really did vote for him, not against his opponents. I think he’s accomplished some of what he set out to do, but I discovered too late that I was opposed to his education policies and appointments at the Department of Education. His appointment of Arne Duncan was perhaps the worst of those decisions. Mr. Duncan is NOT an educator, how can the head of the DOE not be an educator? It doesn’t make sense! Linda Darling-Hammond would have made a great Secretary of Education. She understands. Decrying NCLB and then instituting RttT was a slap in the face for teachers, Then, the establishment of the Common Core Standards, without educators of every age involved in making the standards, was an even bigger mistake. I thought that RttT would replace the incessant standardized testing of the NCLB but it just made it worse.

And then there was his proposal for early childhood education and universal Pre-Kindergarten. He called upon “CEOs, Military Officers, and Law Enforcement Professionals” for support for Pre-K. No teachers? I would love to see the above professionals try to handle a class of Pre-K kids. If they’ve never taught that age, how would they know what is best? Is the inclusion of Pre-K in RttT going to mean standardized tests in those classes? I predict that the horrible curricula and assessments of K-12 will seep farther to Pre-K and remove the last semblance of childhood play from schools. Those classes will become little bubble form factories, too.

For a slightly more to-the-point comment on the disappointing speech look at this blog entry on raginghorse blog.

He did have a good idea about making sure that the student loan payments are not more than 10% of a graduate’s salary. That was the best education idea in there. But that’s it. The next president I vote for will have to undergo an awful lot of scrutiny before I cast my vote in favor.

In short, although I voted for him, he is not my education president. Mr. Obama, you’ve got to do better.

Still learning!

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