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Marching to save the education profession…

July 10, 2011

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This is a good write-up in Education Week on why one woman, who is an educator in Oklahoma, will be marching on July 30th in Washington D.C. with Save Our Schools.

Teachers are under severe pressure about our profession.  The teacher who wrote this piece, Claudia Swisher, spells it out nicely in the excerpts below:

I march because the family business is under attack. Smug bureaucrats who’ve never stood in front of a hostile class of non-readers, or a fidgety group of kindergartners just before lunch are now calling the shots in education, at the national level, and in my own state of Oklahoma.

When did the Billionaire Boys’ Club get their education degrees? Where did they intern in the classroom? Why is their voice valued over mine?

This is a really excellent point!  Eli Broad has admitted to knowing NOTHING about education, but his dollars, and those of the Broad Foundation are skewing public policy towards the education profession.  Bill Gates has also been using his vast wealth to change education, one of his fantastic ideas is: Class size doesn’t matter much….!  With a statement like that you can easily discern he has never been in front of a class of students.

I just finished my thirty-sixth year in the classroom. I have taught every level in public education, kindergarten through seniors. I’ve taught in three states, in seven schools, for ten different principals. I’m a National Board Certified Teacher, renewed until 2020. I have a master’s degree, a reading specialist, and hours in special education past my masters.

This lady knows what she is talking about.  We need more, lots more, veteran teachers to get vocal about what is happening and knock some sense into Obama.  I would take this experienced lady over Arne Duncan for Education Secretary any day of the week.

When did my voice and my experience become a liability? Why does the world believe Bill Gates and not me? Why do my letters to my legislators and my own State Superintendent of Public Instruction get ignored?

I can answer one of those questions: Your experience became a liability because you are more expensive than a starting teacher, or a recruit from Teach for America.  It all boils down to the almighty dollar nowadays.

I am marching to join my voice with others as committed as I am to a quality education for every student, not just students whose parents can afford to buy homes in “good” school districts, or even afford to send them to private schools. Every child, every day, deserves the best teachers, the best schools, the best administrators. My daughter-in-law teaches elementary music in a school that is 99% free-and-reduced-lunch. These children deserve and receive her best every day. These students are the consumers of my family business.

I’m marching to draw attention to the horrifying abuse of standardized testing in the nation and in my own state of Oklahoma, where all third graders now must read at grade level, teachers will be evaluated partially on student scores, and schools will be graded based on the same scores.

I remember when we took a test at the end of the school year, the results went into our permanent file, and perhaps, someone compares scores from previous tests, and that was the end. Now, however, the testing industry has taken over education. Now, instead of teaching, we prepare students for tests. Now, instead of learning, students prepare for these tests.

How true!  We prepare students all the time for the Coming Test!  It is a ritual, the test has become an entity in and of itself, it is really terrible to do this to children.  Again, it is all about money, the testing industry is massive, and they want federal dollars earmarked for education to go into their coffers.

In my state, just this year new laws are being enacted that will retain any third grader who does not read at level on one test, one day. Teachers will be evaluated on students’ scores on that one test, one day. And schools will be graded according to the scores of one test, one day. Legislators enacted some of the most repressive laws, and now they leave schools and teachers to figure out how to make all these mandates work.

I am sorry to say this but I could not live in a “Red” state.  I live in California where we at least have some kind of political protection against right-wing policies that are destroying education. Look at what is happening to teachers in Republican run states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey – they are having their voices and rights stripped.  If you are a teacher living in a Red state, get active, vote Democrat.

We know what will happen: curricula will narrow, recesses will be shortened. Instruction will cease as we all chase the all-important scores. Even though we as educators know the scores are not a true measure of learning or of teaching.

I’m marching to make the point to my granddaughters that there will be an honorable profession for educators when they graduate from college. If they choose to join the family business, it will still be there for them, as it was for me.

The last time I visited with my father we found a little hole-in-the-wall lunch room in Southern Indiana. As we sat and had really bad coffee, an equally elderly man approached my dad and asked, “Are you C.B. Lisman’s son? He was my geometry teacher. He helped me understand that class.” Then these two old men sat and laughed about their high school careers in tiny New Lebanon High School, their faces lit up while talking about a teacher. That’s what I want for my son and daughter-in-law. That’s what I want for my granddaughters.

That’s why I’m marching in Washington, D.C. on July 30 with the Save Our Schools movement. 

Excellent letter!

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2 Comments
  1. Claudia Swisher permalink

    Thank you for the support! I love seeing you braid your reflections with mine. I appreciate the audience.

  2. Hi Claudia,

    You wrote such a good letter that I felt I had to write about it and inform people about the march. I really hope that you can get some of your veteran teacher friends to write letters like yours and send them to editorial boards all across this country.

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