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Reform Movement: Demonizing Teachers…Not Letting Them Teach

October 21, 2012

I am going to post two articles, both from teachers, the first article asks us to “follow the money” with regard to what is destroying public education in Indiana, the second article laments the fact that teachers can no longer teach.

More and more teachers are pushed down the rabbit hole of: all testing, all the time.  Everything about our students is seemingly encompassed in their state test scores first, and their district benchmark exams second.  At some point, this will have to give…parents are already tired of high-stakes testing pressure on their kids.

The first piece is by an educator in Indiana…please read this…and if you are a teacher, I am sure you will be nodding your head in agreement.  This posting is actually a comment, the first comment on a blog named: The Huntington Teacher.  It backs up what I have been saying (ALL THE TIME) about the push to privatize public education.  Teachers in states with Democratic control of their state governments are a little better off than those states that fell into Republican control.  The Republican agenda, along with the Reform agenda is to destroy public education.

Three key words that must be understood here: FOLLOW THE MONEY!

Here is a letter by a man who was a teacher and principal in Indiana for over 30 years…

At no time in the one-hundred-and-twenty-one years that my grandfather, my father, my kids and I have been teaching in Indiana public schools has education faced a bigger crisis. We are on the verge of losing local control of our schools to the corporate, for profit, privatization movement. This movement has started in parts of Indiana already as State School Superintendent Tony Bennett has sold off inner-city schools to private, profit making companies and charter schools.

Studies show that these schools either fail or do no better than public schools, even though they are often given more money, more staff and more resources. What this does is take money away from public schools and gives it to private, profit-making schools. This year Fort Wayne Public Schools lost 2.6 million dollars that was given to private schools in their district. This sets up public schools to fail, which some feel is the purpose anyway (the more public schools that “”fail” the more private, for profit schools we can create.)

Why is he doing this? Follow the money. Check out the big donors to Tony Bennett’s campaign. It is pouring in from out-of-state, from big corporations and testing services that stand to make a profit from privatizing Indiana’s schools. If Tony wins re-election, they stand to make a nice profit. Tony Bennett doesn’t want to answer public concerns about this. He stays out of the public eye, failing to show up over four times in my town when asked to attend a forum. He even delivered his annual State of Education speech to a hand-picked, private audience so he wouldn’t face any embarrassing questions.

How is he setting up schools to “fail” so he can take them over? By spending millions of dollars on testing programs (pleasing his donors) that don’t begin to assess what all schools really do. He repeats the dubious message that schools are “failing” until it becomes his and his followers reality, neglecting to praise schools for their many successes (when we were in high school, the graduation rate in the U.S. was 50%: now it is 85% and climbing; actually higher when you factor in those who go back and get a G.E.D.) He is setting up a grade system for schools, publicly calling them out as F, D, C, B, or A schools, based on what kids did on a test. Does anybody not know how that will come out? Indianapolis Public Schools will largely “fail.” Carmel will be “A+, and he will award them and turn IPS over to private, corporate schools which will do no better and maybe worse.

What is the elephant in the room? What Bennett and his friends don’t want to admit is what hundreds of studies have shown: that the number one predictor of lower functioning schools is their level of poverty. This is obvious to any teacher who has taught in the inner city. I personally have visited over 130 schools in Indiana and several out of state, and have served on and chaired North Central Association (the nation’s major school accreditation agency) evaluations of over 25 inner city, rural, and surburban schools, from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River . I have great respect for the teachers in the inner city schools. No one works harder under adverse conditions than they do. To let Tony Bennett label them failures is beyond reason and shows how great his disconnect is from the reality of what schools really do. Heard enough? Then hear this: after he labels them failures, he plans to get rid of them! 

No one wants to talk about poverty though…it is so much easier to blame teachers!

What can we do about this? We need to let everybody who cares about the future of education know what is going on. Feel free to share his and talk about it before the election. I have grave doubts that the schools we knew and benefited from will be available to kids in the future if we don’t speak up and become active.

The second piece is over at the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog (an excellent place to visit).  It is from an ex-marine and police officer turned teacher.  I think my readers will find this to be very interesting to peruse.  This teacher expresses a sentiment I hear often from other teachers…basically, let us do our jobs…let us do what we know how to do…let us teach!

I also really like his point about how teachers are blamed for poor student performance and how he juxtaposes this with police officers (below in bold).

Matthew Swope has been teaching physics for 10 years and before entering the teaching profession, was a Marine and a police officer. The following piece by Swope was first published on Diane Ravitch’s blog. It is both moving and important.

By Matthew Swope

I am a teacher. Year 10. High school physics. I am a professional educator in a field that demands professional credentials, continuing education, skill and knowledge based licensing exams and background checks including fingerprints so I am deemed responsible enough and safe enough to work with children. I’m a mandated reporter of physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse.

There, now I’ve established my bona fides and authority to speak knowledgeably on the subject.

Oh, wait, I have to knock out the ones who claim I’ve only ever taught. I served in and was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps. I then spent six years carrying a badge and a gun and worked a beat as a police officer in a city of 180+ thousand people. I’ve done other things than teach.

When I was a cop, if crime went up on my beat they didn’t blame me for not working hard enough. They brought in additional officers to beef up the presence and manpower. They did dispassionate studies of data to identify problems, communicated the results to me, and let me help decide how to address them. They swarmed identified problems with social assistance and community programs, assigned undercover officers to work from the inside, provided more funding for Women’s Protective Services and Children’s Protective Services, brought in the narcotics and gang task forces to assist, assigned volunteers from the DA’s office and City Council to spend weeks riding around with me as observers so they could see what I was up against, and provided me with medical aid and psychological care (mandated after certain stressful incidents like shootings) and never, ever, accused me of not working hard enough or being a good enough cop. Instead, they identified poverty, drugs, poor or absent parenting, and legitimate mental illnesses and disabilities as the root of the problem. (My Emphasis: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)!

I was provided the proper equipment to do my job and it was regularly serviced and updated. I was provided continuing training in the mental and physical duties of my job.

I got tired of seeing kids as victims or criminals and went back to a school to try and help them from the other side of life. I became a teacher. I took a $24k per year pay cut for this privilege. I saddled myself with 20 years of student loans. I spend in excess of $1000 a year of my own money to provide equipment and student supplies so I can do my job effectively. I take every student in my class, whether it was the year I am doing inclusion teaching or the year I have the AP kids. I turn none away nor should I. As an American citizen, It’s my task and privilege to educate everyone who comes through my school’s door. I make progress with every student but that progress cannot always be measured by a standardized test. I feed some of my kids. I’ve bought them clothing. I’ve visited them in juvie, hospitals, hospices and at the graveside. I’ve been praised, cussed, disrespected, honored and ignored by parents and administration.

I lead my department, my campus academic competition team and my students. I follow my principal and superintendent. I’m responsive to parents.

I love kids and teaching.

I’m tired. I am not respected. I am underpaid.

I am not responsible for what happens outside of my 45 minutes a day with your child. I only accept that responsibility for my own two children.

Please help me do my job for your child and community. Stop demonizing me, my profession, and my fellow teachers. See through the deceptive manipulation of the reform movement and high stakes standardized testing. Don’t buy into the propaganda about teachers unions and how evil they are. Don’t listen to political hacks like [Michelle] Rhee who are only in it for the opportunities to gut the profession and privatize it for the wealthy to plunder profits from.

Let me teach. Allow fellow professionals and administrators to evaluate me fairly and help me if I don’t meet expectations. Listen to me when I speak for I am a professional and I am in it to do the best job possible with the kids I am given.

Help me. I want to help you.

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