Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the Patrick Lynch Danger #2: NYPD Officers & Supporters Must Resist and Reject Racist Rhetoric; Bratton Must Investigate

The statements of Patrick Lynch, Police Benevolent Association (PBA) president of the patrol officers of the New York Police Department are noxious enough.

Additionally noxious are the racist discussions on police message boards, as exposed in Max Blumenthal's Alternet article here: "Emails and Racist Chats Show How Cops and the GOP are Teeming Up to Undermine DeBlasio."

Support the New York Times' Call for the Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to take action against police rebellion actions. 
The Economic Uprising site ["Has the Blue Coup Started? How Can It Be Opposed?"] reports that the New York Post has claimed that rank and file police have followed through on a [Patrick Lynch-instigated slowdown], and that the Post has published figures it alleges back up the claim that they have resisted certain duties. The New York Times has concurred with the figures, and in an editorial yesterday, it called for the police to take action. 
On principle of the authority of the police coming from the mayor, to the commissioner, to the police, not from PBA president Lynch, the Police Commissioner should investigate the actions of the police.

De Blasio - Doesn't Apologize - But did he need to?
As Kareem AbdulJ-abbar wrote in "The Police Aren't Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is," one does not necessarily oppose the police when one protests and supports protestors. People have free speech rights. Shame on some police union leaders for goading de Blasio to refrain from supporting people's right to protest,

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Patrick Lynch Danger #1: PBA Head is Arguing that the Police Should Consider NYC Civilian Government Illegimate

The New York Police Department (NYPD) head Patrick Lynch is undermining the civilian authority of democratically elected mayor Bill de Blasio.

These words, alone, demonstrate that Lynch is working to undermine the legitimacy of the civilian government. (From the New York Post, last Friday, December 19, 2014)

Mayor Bill de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a f- -king revolution” than a city, police union president Pat Lynch said at a recent delegate meeting.
“He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday.
Lynch, who was secretly recorded, also all but ordered a rule-book slowdown, according to the seven-minute tape obtained by Capital New York.
“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs . . . then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Lynch said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.”
Lynch, when referring to de Blasio, encouraged members to be wary of what he called “enemies.” “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion,” he said. “The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well, now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Those words plus the fact that many in the New York Police Department see a conflict between First Amendment Free Speech rights and police power should be very chilling to New Yorkers.

See also Jacobin magazine, posted, December 23, 2014:

New York’s Cop Coup

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mr. Fitz, a Hoot of a Cartoon Strip on the Follies of Modern Teaching

A Florida middle school teacher has a cartoon that nails the truth in education better than TV talking head pundits do. His cartoon strip runs in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. His strips are collected at He has introduction this week at his blogpost: "I Test Under Duress."

And there's more where that came from at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Teacher: No longer can I throw my students to the ‘testing wolves’

At Valerie Strauss' "Answer Sheet" column in the Washington Post, 9/5/14:

By Dawn Neely-Randall
I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a politician. I’m not part of the 1 percent. I don’t own an education testing company. I am just a teacher and I just want to teach.
My life changed dramatically after a Facebook lament I wrote was published on The Answer Sheet last March. I was explaining how weary I was from the political addiction to mass standardized testing and how educationally abusive it had become to so many of the students in my care.
Last spring, you wouldn’t find the fifth-graders in my Language Arts class reading as many rich, engaging pieces of literature as they had in the past or huddled over the same number of authentic projects as before. Why? Because I had to stop teaching to give them a Common Core Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) online sample test that would prepare them for the upcoming PARCC pilot pre-test which would then prepare them for the PARCC pilot post test – all while taking the official Ohio Achievement Tests. This amounted to  three tests, each  2 ½ hours, in a single week, the scores of which would determine the academic track students would be placed on in middle school the following year.
No time left for learner - a point
made by a CTU teacher
 In addition to all of that, I had to stop their test prep lessons (also a load of fun) to take each class three floors down to our computer lab so they could take the Standardized Testing and Reporting (“STAR”) tests so graphs and charts could be made of their Student Growth Percentile (SGP) which would then provide quantitative evidence to suggest how these 10-year-olds would do on the “real” tests and also surmise the teacher’s (my) affect on their learning.
Tests, tests, and more freakin’ tests.
And this is how I truly feel in my teacher’s heart: the state is destroying the cherished seven hours I have been given to teach my students reading and writing each week,  and these children will never be able to get those foundational moments back. Add to that the hours of testing they have already endured in years past, as well as all the hours of testing they still have facing them in the years to come. I consider this an unconscionable a theft of precious childhood time.
Children have less exciting news to share with
moms and dads.
One parent sent me her district’s calendar showing that students would complete 21 mandated (K-3) assessments before a child would even finish third grade.  When I asked an Ohio Department of Education employee about this, she insisted there were not that many tests. When I read them to her one by one from the district’s calendar, she defended her position by saying that some of them were not from her department, but from another one. “But it’s the SAME kid!!!” I told her.
Indeed, it sure seems that school just isn’t for children anymore.
As I sat in my recliner writing about my frustrations all those months ago, I felt that I was sitting alone in a darkened theater watching a horror movie with my students in the starring roles. After it was published, however, it seemed as if the lights had been switched on and I found that the room was full of people from across the nation and they were just as traumatized as I.
Many Ohio teachers told me they were afraid to speak out because it might hurt their rating based on the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) framework for scoring (now House Bill 362).  When I, for example, worked through this process last year, I was evaluated based on my students’ test scores as well as the evidence of “teacher performance” my principal had collected on me. One 40-minute lesson alone took me over seven hours to write up.
Since OTES also evaluates teachers based on their “positive rapport” as well as their “active volunteer, community, and family partnerships,” of course, teachers were afraid to speak out against harmful test practices and risk sounding negative and, of course, they worried about not being perceived as a team player if they didn’t want to be a part of test pep rallies or hosting parent PARCC information nights.
When teachers are being rated based on student test scores as well as their own attitudes about such, speaking out becomes a very risky business.
Principals too are afraid to speak out. Why? What if their disgruntlement empowers their staff to rally against all the testing and parents started opting their children out of taking the tests?  In Ohio, a zero is given in place of a score if a student does not take a standardized test. This zero is then averaged into the school’s rating on the state report card, which then affects the district’s rating. Administrators don’t have a union backing them to give them the freedom to advocate on behalf of students; most of them only have term contracts.
Parents were afraid to speak out because they are worried that school officials might consider them trouble makers or, worse, hold it against their child. And parents have no idea how their child’s teacher feelst because — back to the beginning — many teachers are afraid to speak out.
One parent told me recently that she asked her daughter’s teacher if she thought her 10-year-old could handle the stress of the new PARCC pilot test and the teacher said she had been advised to say “no comment” when it came to either topic of the Common Core curriculum or testing. (What country do we live in, anyway?!)
Many students didn’t speak out as much as they acted out. Cried. Gave their parents a hard time about going to school. Disengaged in class. Got physically sick. Or became a discipline problem. Struggling students struggled even more.
Last school year, one of my fifth-grade below-level readers was working hard and making great gains. However, during the big Ohio Achievement Assessment in reading at the end of April, when she had already put in about an hour and a half of testing with an hour to go, the stress became too much and she had a total meltdown. As much as I had already reminded her “this is just one test on one day in your life” and “just do your best”, this student was smart enough to know that this “one test” would determine the class she would get into in middle school and I knew she was worried about being pulled out of class for remediation (again).
This child sobbed because she cared so much and watching her suffer became a defining moment for me. It became blatantly obvious how one high-stakes standardized test had just negated the year’s worth of reading confidence and motivation she had worked so hard to attain. I can no longer be a teacher who tries to build these 10-year-olds up on one hand, but then throws them to the testing wolves with the other.
My student had trusted me and jumped through hoops for me all year long, but then in her greatest moment of testing distress, all I could do was hand her some tissues.
A lot of people in our Buckeye state (and country) are making nutty decisions that aren’t at all good for children; ones I feel sure teachers could prove are harmful in a court of law (don’t even get me started with the testing that’s going on in kindergarten classes with 5-year-olds).
And most disconcerting of all, in my entire 24-year career, not one graded standardized test has EVER been returned to the students, their parents, or to me, the teacher.  Also, for the past three years here in Ohio, released test questions have no longer been posted online. In addition, teachers have had to sign a “gag order” before administering tests putting their careers on the line ensuring they will not divulge any content or questions they might happen to oversee as they walk around monitoring the test.
This lack of transparency seems very suspicious to me and many educators and parents alike are beginning to agree that testing companies have been given a “full faith” free pass for way too long.
Aren’t schools supposed to be in the business of teaching and learning? If we’re forced to stop instruction to give state tests, shouldn’t a student’s results at least be used to help further that student’s academics?  Just how exactly is my student taking a high-stakes standardized test at the end of the year, the test questions of which I never see, the scored tests and essay questions which are never returned to the child, helping that fifth-grader to learn?

If you are still with me, let’s talk about Ohio’s 8-year-olds who are getting caught right in the middle of the madness. Our state legislature has mandated a Third Grade Reading Guarantee that fails an 8-year-old an entire school year even if he or she is only one point off from passing a  2 ½-hour standardized reading test (the same amount of time as a tenth-grader taking an Ohio Graduation Test), which is first administered in October.
That same 8-year-old must try to pass yet another 2 ½-hour reading test again in the spring. If the child fails again, the child must take yet another (shorter) test to try to get into fourth grade.
So, apparently, a third grader is going to fail a school year based on tests that the teacher and parents have never seen, neither the questions nor the answers, and yet, the test company held the key to the specific errors the student made and could have learned from all along the way, after the very first test was given in October?  In my opinion, this is complete and utter education malpractice.
Are the third graders failing the test or is the test failing the third graders?
Let’s add to that all the test-scoring nightmares that have been reported in state after state after state (students receiving zeros due to scoring errors, missed graduations due to erroneously failed tests, parents receiving incorrect scorecards, blank pages found on tests, appealed scores found to have been miscalculated, etc…) and what does our nation do?  It keeps shelling out millions upon millions of dollars for standardized testing.
Shouldn’t our country demand accountability from the testing company? Is simply accepting phantom test scores from assessors even good business?
One Ohio School Board member shared with me that although she asked, the testing company would not allow board members to take the same PARCC tests the students would soon be mandated to pass.  Shockingly, she was told that board members could not see a sample test in its entirety until the students piloted them. She said the legislature had, indeed, mandated that Ohio third-graders pass a reading test that not one legislator or Ohio School Board member had even seen; one that had not yet even been written.
Also, please note: If so many of our schools are seen as “failing,” yet so many of our students are using a test company’s test prep materials ($$$) which are being reported to the state via the test company’s computerized program ($$$) and then taking the test company’s multitude of standardized tests ($$$), which are then assessed by the test company’s evaluators ($$$), and then remediation is done with students using, again, the test company’s intervention materials ($$$); and are then taking the same test company’s own graduation test ($$$) that the test company has prepared the K-12 materials for in the first place……. then, just exactly who, or what, is really failing that child?  But have no fear, dropouts can later take a GED ($$$) administered by the same testing company.
As for my language arts classroom, just give me some uninterrupted time with my students, some paper and pencils, and a great book and I’ll show you what amazing things my fifth-graders can do.
I’m just a teacher, but I do propose that we (myself included) stop the education bickering, the lawsuits, the union bashing, the political polarization and the spinning of our wheels and all take a moment to at least start SOMEWHERE to be the adults in the room and start a patriotic, non-partisan revolution for lasting, real school reform on behalf of our students who are already getting slammed by way too many societal woes.
Let’s all come together to find one area, at least ONE, in which the majority of our citizenship (legislators and constituents alike) can agree will be in the best interests of our nation’s youth.
I think I know one starting place that not one person could dispute would benefit students and their learning.  I can’t imagine how anyone, other than a test company executive, could say this request is unreasonable. I hope you agree so our country can then move on and figure out a Reform #2.
So, may I, just a teacher, speak?
Transparency in Education Reform #1 : No student, in the United States of America, will be given a high-stakes standardized test by any state or testing company unless said standardized test is returned scored, and in its entirety, to the parents, teacher, and child in an efficient and timely manner.
Can we at least start there? Let’s just then see how “failing” our schools really are. Let’s publicly lay the tests out, in full K-12 panoramic view, and evaluate how many tentacles of testing are being inflicted upon the psyches of our children.  Let’s analyze if these tests are truly measuring what we would like and if these tests are, indeed, an appropriate measurement tool to be used to determine “good” or “bad” teachers or to label, or flunk, our children.  Let’s just see what exactly is wrong with the answers our students are giving, anyway. And let’s do it quickly, because we might just be failing an entire generation.
However, in the meantime, beware.  Remember that the current climate of education bashing will keep wafting down into the ears of our children until they take to heart that in those failing schools sitting in the classroom of those “bad teachers” can be found them, the “failing” students.
Is this the way we do education today in the United States of America?  Is this the way we treat the children on our watch?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lily Eskelsen García Poised to Set Stronger Face, Representing U.S. Teachers, in Leading the NEA This Fall

*Eskelsen García is no Weingarten, and that's great *Great keynote at Netroots Nation, Video: "I cannot exaggerate the social justice crisis in schools today"
*The real progressive, in contrast to Weingarten
Lily Eskelsen García was elected president of the National Education Association this July. She takes office in September, and so far she appears to be setting herself apart from current national teacher union leaders, Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten (president of the American Federation of Teachers). A bona fide veteran teacher, and a union leader that is pledged to support the call for Arne Duncan's resignation, she is certainly setting a different tone from the AFT leader.

Compared to Weingarten she's had real experience, teaching ten years, full-time, in high poverty schools, indeed, for a period, teaching homeless students. And she was validly elected, not cherry-picked, in the iustitutional virtual dynasty, as happens in the American Federation of Teachers with New York City's United of Federation of Teachers so happening to provided every president (and readers national need to know of the virtual dynasty --as opposed to democratic presidential succession in the UFT: presidents hand-picked by institutional elders Weingarten by Sandra Feldman, Michael Mulgrew by Weingarten -read herehere here and here at Ed Notes --and it is not well known that Weingarten only taught full-time for six months). No, not every NEA president is from suburban Salt Lake City, Utah either. In fact, Eskelsen García is not only the first Latina-American to head a teachers federation, she is the first teachers federation president from Utah. Rotation of NEA leadership from one particularly powerful local is a tradition, in contrast to the almost perennially NYC UFT-dominated AFT. In the AFT Edward McElroy, hailing from Warwick, Rhode Island, was the rare exception of an AFT president from outside of the Unity caucus-dominated UFT, serving for the short term of 2004 to 2008. The NEA has term limits on its presidents. The AFT does not. However, term limits can remove the electoral success incentive that leaders have, in order remain effective and loyal to members' interests. Yet, when we see Weingarten's advantage from the UFT's control over the AFT, we see that it is perhaps futile to expect any successful challenge to Weingarten's leadership.

Eskelsen García, by contrast, is critical of high stakes tests, and to that end, she is backing up the NEA's call this summer for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's resignation. (Read also, the immediate report from Ed Week on the NEA's Duncan resolution. As proposed by the California Teachers Assocation (CTA), the resolution noted "the Department's failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores".) Note, by contrast, that the AFT's resignation call has some qualifications. She has adopted Finnish educator and activist Pasi Sahlberg's term, Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), in a perspective that criticizes the movement, for months before her election.
And she has excoriated the role that the Koch Brothers play through the American Legislative Exchange Council in affecting politics. So, while the Weingarten-AFT "Progressive Caucus" --the national extension of the UFT-dominating Unity Caucus (& patronage mill) adopts the "progressive" moniker, yet, endorses accomodation with education reformers, in the name of being people that can "work with" business, Eskelsen García looks poised --by her rhetoric and her topical focal points-- to be the real deal progressive union leader, advocating for the rank and file teachers toiling under the most arduous, hostile, unconscionable climate and conditions in decades.

Would a Weingarten or Mulgrew ever say something as defiantly oppositional as this? (The statement is from Eskelsen Garcia's conversation with Daily Kos' Laura Clawson at the Netroots Nation.)
What we have to do is to say there is no federal law that says we have to obsess over this test score. You give it as little credence as possible, you stop worrying about the punishments that come with that, you let the chips fall where they may, and you let nothing get in the way of giving these kids everything they need to make their lives what they want them to be.

Yet, she has supported the Common Core and the role that Bill Gates has played in promoting the Common Core.
According to the NEA's site:
When asked about the Gates Foundation, whose influence on education policy is a constant source of debate among educators, Garcia said she applauds the work they've done to promote the Common Core State Standards. "I read those standards, and I love them," she said.
To her credit, she is aiming to better pitch the union cause to the public. In the past, and in too many places, currently, teacher union leaders have not bothered to make the teachers' case to the public.

At Netroots Nation in Detroit, on July 17, she said in her keynote speech (12:36):
"I cannot exaggerate the social justice crisis in schools today. Privateers and profiteers and corporate factory school reformers have corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn and we see it every day."

She then told of El Paso's Bowie High School where one administrator in made almost $60,000 from testing bonuses. The administrator devised a list of students that did poorly on standardized tests, most of them English Language Learners. He bullied, humiliated and threatened the students with stories that La Migra (ICE) would maybe visit their parents, encouraging students to drop out of school, then student scores shot up sky high. Read of the 2012 scandal in "Victims of EPISD cheating: Students were removed, says Bowie High School administrator" by Zahira Torres, in El Paso Times.

Aptly, she says that the drivers behind the corporate school reform are "zombies who will not die and they are eating our children's brains. They are well-funded and they are motivated. ALEC loves this model. They love the absurdity of No Child Left Untested. They got a critical mass of politicians to believe it was possible for 100 percent of our students to be above average. Because all things are possible [then she shifts to early elementary teacher tone] to people who don't know what they're talking about."

As Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC noted, her stances put her in direct conflict with president Obama's Arne Duncan-led Education Department and the bi-partisan political alignment to evaluate teachers on the basis of test scores.
“This year [the NEA] had a critical mass of people that said enough is enough.”
Although he did not note that Eskelsen García is regularly drawing attention to the deep poverty that exists in many schools and that there is unequal access to resources among the nation's schoolrooms.

At Politico:
Next NEA leader's first task: Win back public
Salon's portrait, "'Stupid, absurd, non-defensible': New NEA president Lily Eskelsen García on the problem with Arne Duncan, standardized tests and the war on teachers," says,

Arne Duncan has met his worst nightmare -- an NEA president armed with facts and guts. She tells Salon what's next

But we know there are politics involved. Right now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a sore spot for both your union and the AFT. Both NEA and AFT have asked for Duncan’s resignation. Your demand was unconditional, and AFT’s had some very interesting conditions …
Yes, The Arne Duncan Improvement Program. I love it.
 . . . 
What’s wrong with basing teacher evaluations on test scores?
The years I taught at the homeless shelter, I had different kinds of students than the year I taught at Orchard Elementary. Also, there was the year I had 24 kids and the year I had 39 kids. You can’t put that in a value added formula. It doesn’t work. Then there was the year I had three special ed kids with reading disabilities, and I did a bang-up job with them. So the next year they gave me 12. I had all of the special ed kids that year. No other teachers had any. Just me. So in a class of 35 kids, 12 had reading disabilities. Now I’m guessing if we had just used test scores back then to evaluate me, you maybe would have thought that I had suddenly become a really crappy teacher that year. Test scores alone wouldn’t have told you what happened. They wouldn’t have given you an analysis of why.
Other than being unfair to individual teachers, does basing evaluations and school ratings on test scores hurt students too?
Using test scores is basically saying to educators, “Hit your number or you get punished.” Or even worse, “Hit your number in El Paso, if you’re an administrator, and we’ll give you a bunch of money.” That would encourage the administrator to use a push-out program for low-scoring students like those who don’t speak English. That’s what Lorenzo Garcia did as district superintendent in El Paso, and he is in jail now. He was the first person to go to jail for lining his pocket with bonus dollars because he could hit his numbers. And he made presentations about how you can “light a fire under lazy teachers to get those numbers up.” But what really happened is he would call individual students into his office to threaten and humiliate them with deportation if they wouldn’t drop out or transfer. He pushed out over 400 students in his high school. It was the El Paso Teachers Association that got the community together to talk about what was happening and to make sure that never happened again. That NEA chapter just won a national human and civil rights award for establishing a way for parents and teachers to alert the community when they see district administration engaging in unfair practices to students.
What does Arne Duncan think about this? Why does he still insist on basing his policies on test scores?
I spoke with Secretary Duncan yesterday [July 16]. He’s very upset with the NEA Representative Assembly’s decision to call for his resignation. We had a hard conversation. He was very straightforward with me. He felt he wasn’t being given enough credit from NEA for advocating for expanded early childhood education and greater access to affordable college. And it’s true there is no light between us on those issues. So he asked why we didn’t explain to people all the good things he has advocated for. I said I would send him copies of speeches I give where I’ve been supportive of the good things the Obama administration has done, and I’d give him position papers from the NEA addressing the need to work closely with his department.
So what’s the frustration for teachers?
Here’s the frustration – and I’m not blaming the delegates; I will own this; I share in their anger. The Department of Education has become an evidence-free zone when it comes to high stakes decisions being made on the basis of cut scores on standardized tests. We can go back and forth about interpretations of the department’s policies, like, for instance, the situation in Florida where teachers are being evaluated on the basis of test scores of students they don’t even teach. He, in fact, admitted that was totally stupid. But he needs to understand that Florida did that because they were encouraged in their applications for grant money and regulation waivers to do so. When his department requires that state departments of education have to make sure all their teachers are being judged by students’ standardized test scores, then the state departments just start making stuff up. And it’s stupid. It’s absurd. It’s non-defensible. And his department didn’t reject applications based on their absurd requirements for testing. It made the requirement that all teachers be evaluated on the basis of tests a threshold that every application had to cross over. That’s indefensible.
So any good the Obama administration has tried to accomplish for education has been offset by the bad?
Yes. Sure, we get pre-K dollars and Head Start, but it’s being used to teach little kids to bubble in tests so their teachers can be evaluated. And we get policies to promote affordable college, but no one graduating from high school gets an education that has supported critical and creative thinking that is essential to succeeding in college because their education has consisted of test-prep from Rupert Murdoch. The testing is corrupting what it means to teach. I don’t celebrate when test scores go up. I think of El Paso. Those test scores went up overnight. But they cheated kids out of their futures. Sure, you can “light a fire” and “find a way” for scores to go up, but it’s a way through the kids that narrows their curriculum and strips their education of things like art and recess.
Doesn’t Duncan understand that?
No. That reality hasn’t entered the culture of the Department of Education. They still don’t get that when you do a whole lot of things on the periphery, but you’re still judging success by a cut score on a standardized test and judging “effective” teachers on a standardized test, then you will corrupt anything good that you try to accomplish.
So are the tests the problem?
I told him I personally don’t like standardized tests. I think they’re a waste of time and money. I agree with Finland that when something tells you so little you have to question why you are doing it. But the problem is not the standardized test itself. I gave the Standards of Achievement Test to my fifth graders in Utah. When the district used the scores to look at big picture reading achievement data over time, they realized, “Oh look, our reading achievement scores are going down.” So they analyzed the data for probable causes and realized that they were getting many more English language learners in their schools. So their response was to pump up the English language learner training for teachers. In other words, they used the test score results to analyze what’s going on and use the scores as information to guide what to do better to serve students. But now the test scores are being used to print teachers’ names in the L.A. Times with an “Effecto-Meter” next to them, so, “Boys and girls, look up your teacher’s name to see if they suck.”
With Al Jazeera America's Ray Suarez (broadcast on 8/23/14):

Esekelsen Garcia (l.) and Suarez (r.) on Al Jazeera
If you missed Lily Eskelsen García' lengthy interview on Al Jazeera, you can read an edited and condensed version at their site. Here are key excerpts from "Lily Eskelsen Garcia talks to Al Jazeera - Eskelsen Garcia is the president-elect of the National Education Association, a union of 3 million educators":

She defends tenure, straight-on:

Ray Suarez: Recently in Vergara v. California the teachers' unions defending the notion of tenure were handed a big defeat in a California court. What's more interesting is who was lined up on the side of Vergara, a young California schoolgirl who was the petitioner: Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. If you believe what you read, the Democrats are in lockstep with the NEA, but here's the secretary of education saying, "No, no, taking down teacher tenure in California, the largest single state-administered system in the country — that's a good thing."
Lily Eskelsen Garcia: Tenure is making sure that a good teacher cannot be fired. Tenure is due process. Most states like mine, in Utah, we don't even use the word "tenure." After a probationary period, after you've met your performance expectations and you've had good evaluations, when you get to that level that says now you have tenure, it simply means if you are going to be fired, you get two things. You get to know why you're being fired, and if you believe you're being fired unfairly, you get a chance to defend yourself in front of a hearing officer.
Every state has different timelines of exactly how those two things play out. Every state should always be looking at are those timelines fair? Are you protecting someone who's incompetent while you're trying to protect the people who are doing their job well and being treated unfairly? So you always have to weigh that.
She adamantly opposes high-stakes tests as measures of teacher effectiveness:
One of the hottest ideas in American education right now is that if a teacher is effective, I should be able to test his or her children, and their effectiveness as a teacher will show because the kids know math, science, English. Does the NEA support performance-based compensation that's judged by testing children?
No, absolutely not. I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever, not just on a practical level but on any study it shows wild fluctuations of things like test scores. That's what it usually comes down to when someone says performance or merit pay, when you go, "And how would you judge Ray against Lily, these two teachers? Oh, well, we would just look at their kids' standardized tests because …"

She has recognized that the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have created incentives against taking teaching positions in high poverty areas:

If we go to this testing-based performance assessment, will you choose Wilmette instead of Chicago, Alamo Heights instead of San Antonio, Scarsdale instead of the South Bronx — just by, almost by a rigid law of averages, better-off kids are going to do better, you're going to look better, you'll get your raise, and you'll go on and be able to put together a career as a teacher instead of taking on some of the heaviest lifting in American education?
Let me tell you why I got into teaching. I get excited about seeing kids get excited about learning. It's just this wonderful virtuous circle for me. The more they do, the more I want to do for them. And I taught in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, not a wealthy district — working-class neighborhood — with moms and dads that worked for very modest paychecks. I enjoyed that. But I wanted something different after a while. I wanted a different challenge after I had been teacher of the year. And I asked to have the assignment at the homeless shelter school in Salt Lake City. I wanted to work with those kids.
But would every teacher make that request if their future job security and pay were based on whether or not they pulled those kids up?
That was pre–No Child Left Behind for me. I didn't have to face what you just described. For me it was, where am I needed? Where do I want to really make a difference? And that was all I looked at when I asked to go to the shelter school kids. Today it's a very different situation. It is more what you just described. People are being asked to make these incredibly tough choices about where they want to put their talents.
And when you start saying we may actually be threatening your very livelihood if you choose to teach the most challenging kids, I know that a lot of folks who believe there's a simple — a good teacher, kids always have good test scores, bad teacher, the kids will have bad test scores, and they really believe that it's wrong, but they really believe it in their hearts — they're going to say, "Well, if you're a good-enough teacher, move from that AP chemistry class over here" with the hover parents where no kid has ever gone hungry at night, where they've got technology and they have very educated families that help guide them through, here's what you should be doing and taking, how do to your homework, because they had someone guide them through.
And they're saying if we just took all of those teachers and put them in the schools with the least-prepared kids, with the kids who have the greatest challenge, they'll be able to do the very same. Will they? Will they be able to do the very same? 

She has criticized schools' zero tolerance policies and their impacts on students' futures:

We've also instituted zero tolerance so kids who get in trouble are expelled or suspended. And that in a lot of cases ends their education at a time when it's pretty critical to keep them school involved if they're ever going to finish a credential.
There are some dangerous situations, and you can't just let that continue. But whatever happens, if you just tell that child goodbye at the door, you're expelled, and you don't have someplace for them to go, some help for them to get, then what have you done to the rest of that community? You haven't solved any problems. Again, all of those simple answers, well, you just get rid of those children. They don't disappear. 
For the full interview, go to Al Jazeera.

This lead from Eskelsen Garcia's blog, Lily's Blackboard:

From New American Media, last Wednesday she publicly called high-stakes tests "toxic:"
Eskelsen Garcia at right, in Los Angeles, with
UTLA's Alex Caputo-Pearl and CTA's Mikki Cichoki

Speaking at a briefing for ethnic media in Los Angeles Wednesday, Eskelsen García acknowledged the challenges ahead of her. “What we’re up against,” she said, “are people who use good words like reform, and accountability, and progress.” But their real meaning will be to “narrow what it means to teach a child to fit on a standardized test.” 

Eskelsen García believes the push toward high stakes testing and efforts to measure teacher performance on how well students do on these tests is "poisoning what it means to teach and learn in this country." She points to Texas, where she says teacher salaries have been determined by test results, leading many to artificially inflate scores. In Oklahoma, some 8000 third graders were held back because they failed to “hit a cut score that some politician decided meant something.”

Eskelsen García described such practices as “toxic.”
She has raised attention to the difficulty many students, particularly, minority students, have in paying for their higher education:
The child of immigrants, Eskelsen García also acknowledged the challenge around serving an increasingly diverse student population even as teacher ranks remain predominantly white. She noted part of the problem stems from the high costs for college that “block out a lot of minorities,” an issue the NEA is looking to tackle through its new Degrees Not Debt campaign.

“We want to work to identify not just problems, but solutions,” she said. “A huge part of the solution will involve reaching out to minority communities.” 
Eskelsen García on the Stephanie Miller Show (15:08) --show's listening link, Miller's great-- she recognizes the war on teachers. Eskelsen García responded with humor, "If you don't like the weather today -- blame a teacher":

As covered by Univision, July 9: "Prometo no más "exámenes tóxicos" where she pointedly noted that research shows that charter schools do not perform better than public schools.

From her interview with Laura Clawson of Daily Kos during Netroots Nation 2014,
On testing and where she wants to take the NEA:
It is to me the epitome of wrongheaded corporate solutions to things like boys and girls and it is a factory model of quality control that is all wrapped around hitting a cut score on a commercial standardized test and what's being lost is the whole happy child. [...]
I got involved in my union because I had 39 kids in my classroom in Utah, where we stack 'em deep and teach 'em cheap. ... I said I want somebody who's going to fight for what I need to do my job as a good, creative, caring, competent teacher, and I got more and more involved as I saw the forces from outside education coming in and telling us that teaching and learning was reduced to multiple choice tests, because that what not what made me the teacher of the year ...
As much as I want to move a very positive agenda, if we can't move this incredible boulder out of the road and that boulder is you hit your cut score or you fail, we're never going to be able to move toward whole child reform. Whole child means the arts. It means kids who don't speak English or special ed kids or gifted and talented or gifted and talented special ed kids who don't speak English, you know, in all of their wonderful variety. I never met a kid that came in a standardized box. Not one! So what we want to do is to say how do you open that public school to all of the opportunities that that kid should have, and while we obsess over hitting a cut score on a standardized test, that's never going to happen.
We've got to approach it on two fronts. First of all, legislatively, we have to change No Child Left Untested, we've got to stop racing to chasing our tails around a cut score on a test. We have to get rid of those policies, change them dramatically, but I am not one who would tell my teachers "and we can't do anything until that happens." I have no faith in Congress all of a sudden getting smart, all of a sudden learning to look at the evidence and go "oh, this is actually hurting kids." So you have to proceed until apprehended. You have to say there's a whole lot of things you, your building principal, your school board, your superintendent—we're all sick of it. We're not always on the same side of issues, a union and the administration, but we're on the same side of this. What we have to do is to say there is no federal law that says we have to obsess over this test score. You give it as little credence as possible, you stop worrying about the punishments that come with that, you let the chips fall where they may, and you let nothing get in the way of giving these kids everything they need to make their lives what they want them to be.
Valerie Strauss' portrait in the Answer Sheet in the Washington Post: "New NEA leader to nation’s educators: Revolt, ignore ‘stupid’ reforms."

Diane Ravitch's post, "I Think I Love Lily Eskelsen."

At CBS WINS radio of New York City: "Many Teachers Paying Out Of Pocket For School Supplies," August 25.

                        *      *     *
Will Eskelsen García be Duncan's worst nightmare, or will she continue to be another union leader cheerleader for the Common Core? Or both?
Yet, remember that the NEA is unconditionally asking for Duncan's resignation. The AFT's resignation call has some qualifications: it is just asking for Duncan to follow an "improvement plan." (-Like he will willingly improve. Great, AFT-- given Arne an out.) Eskelsen García is defending tenure and addressing the challenges more directly and articulately, without reform-accomodating hedging than Weingarten has.
Whereas Weingarten sometimes shocks by saying or doing the right thing, you see that she's still preaching the gospel of accomodation (more like Petainesque collaboration) with the corporate ed reformers --which Eskelsen García properly calls part of GERM), the new NEA president's rhetoric here at Netroots Nation 2014 or here on Al Jazeera, is speaking from the heart, from someone with ten years of full-time classroom experience --six years of her time with students in the deep poverty she speaks of --not someone who was parachuted into a cushy token (six month) plum teaching assignment.
Watch out, Weingarten, perhaps some AFT locals, enamored of Eskelsen García, might want to switch to the NEA.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Seven Things Teachers are Sick of Hearing from School Reformers & 11 Lies About Teachers That People Need to Stop Saying

*Seven Things Teachers are Sick of Hearing from School Reformers *11 Lies About Teachers That People Need to Stop Saying

Note the real crux of the problem that David Berliner (cited under point 1. below). As noted at the California Federation of Teachers website, "Researcher Berliner describes how the education “crisis” is manufactured," April-May 2013
There are two things preventing public schools from presenting better scores, Berliner said. The first is the disappearance of a broad middle class and the other is a system that ignores the evidence. He linked the war on education and the war on the poor. “We lost a strong middle class through legislation and we can regain it through political action.”
Berliner has written,
The evidence shows that public schools serving the middle class and the wealthy are doing very well, suggesting that an unequal economy, not bad teachers, create the problem.
The bracketed comments in Altman's text are mine. On the collapse of the U.S. middle class, read here and here.

Seven Things Teachers are Sick of Hearing from School Reformers, by Ian Altman, as presented by Valerie Strauss, at the Answer Sheet in the Washington Post, August 14

Teachers have long been accustomed to “going along to get along” but increasingly are raising their voices to protest standardized test-based education reforms of the last decade that they see as harmful to students. In this post, Georgia teacher Ian Altman explains what he and his colleagues are really sick of hearing from reformers. Altman is an award-winning high school English teacher in Athens, where he has lived since 1993, as well as an advocate for teachers and students.  He has presented at several national conferences and published in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education. He won the 2014 University of Georgia College of Education Distinguished Alumni Crystal Apple Award as well as the 2012 University of Chicago Outstanding Educator award.
Altman’s list of seven things that reformers should stop saying to teachers comes from conversations he has had with educators across the country and speaks to the fury felt by many teachers who see their expertise being devalued and their profession denigrated.
By Ian Altman
recent psychological study concludes that polite people are far more likely than ornery and contrarian people to harm others because they are more likely to follow orders — bad ones as well as good. Teachers, acting from their socialization into the profession but also as a result of fear and intimidation, are far too likely to stay quiet about harmful practices school reformers are imposing on classrooms. It’s past time for teachers to stand up for themselves and their profession. In that spirit, here’s a list of things reformers should quit saying to teachers because they are wrong-headed. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

1. Don’t tell us that you know more about good instruction than we do. 
This tells us there is an institutionalized disregard for our professional judgment. Some teachers get scripted curriculum that is often sub-par and that gets in the way of real teaching and learning. Others work under policies that are so broad that they are essentially meaningless.
The purpose of the policies is the same in both cases: to serve a top-down structure that is in place not to help students but to serve a kind of aesthetic of educational toughness, which itself is in place to combat a “crisis” in education that scholars such as David Berliner have thoroughly exposed as a sham. [e.g., see his new book, 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools which Strauss reviewed this May] Most instructional policies are unnecessary and empty at best, roadblocks to real learning at worst, and either way merely devices to make the whole top-down structure appear justifiable.
How about leaving instructional policies to us, the instructional experts?  Good teachers are good because we know what we’re doing, not because we blindly follow instructional policies.
Good teachers are good because we know what we’re doing, not because we blindly follow instructional policies that make little or no sense.

2. Don’t talk to us about the importance and rigor of the standards.
I teach high school English, and I can tell you that language arts standards, whether the current Common Core Standards or some other set of standards, are neither rigorous nor non-rigorous. Everything depends on what individual teachers actually do with them.
Furthermore, language arts standards simply describe an assumed, conventional set of behaviors that competent readers and writers are expected to display.  But though a competent and hardworking student may incidentally do what the standards describe, displaying certain literate behaviors is not the same as seriously and conscientiously engaging texts and writing.
I work very hard to ensure that students do not simply go through the motions of studying literature and writing, even though going through the motions is usually enough to ensure good test scores. I require that they take the texts and assignments seriously and learn something important from them beyond what the standards specify. All of it is standards-based, not because I try to make it so, but because the Common Core language arts standards are so general that just about any assignment can be interpreted and defended in terms of the standards. Two teachers can teach the same standard using different texts, different methods, and with different purposes, giving students radically different experiences.In essence, that means the standard, ostensibly the same in both cases, is internally incoherent, and in that sense non-standard. “Standards-based” is a meaningless criterion for high school language arts lessons.
3. Don’t tell us about testing data.
I do not believe that standardized tests (End of Course Tests, PARCC exams, Graduation Tests, Georgia Milestones, AP Exams, the SAT, the ACT, IQ tests, or any other [e.g., SBAC]) have any value whatsoever, for anybody except those who make money from them.  In fact, I believe the use of those tests is inherently and necessarily damaging to all of us, including to those students who do very well on them.
Educators talk about and analyze test score data, and supposedly let that data “drive instruction,” but the truth is that numbers and measurements gleaned from those tests are not data.
They are a flat, bleached replacement of data, because they replace the substance of learning with an abstraction, a false image of learning, much the way Descartes replaced the idea of physical things with the concept of graphable spatial extension.  The acts of thinking, learning, and knowing, are not objects that can be replaced with abstractions about thinking, learning, and knowing. In that specific but crucial sense, all school test data are fake.

4. Don’t tell us “The research says…” unless you’re willing to talk about what it really says.
It’s not that we don’t care about research, but that most often when research is mentioned in a school context, it is used to end legitimate conversation rather than to begin it, as a cudgel to silence us rather than an opening to engage us constructively. Very often when confronted with a “research says” claim that I find dubious or irrelevant, I ask for a citation and get a blank or vaguely menacing stare, or some invented claim about the demands of the Common Core, or a single name, “Marzano,” as though he completed all instructional research.

Research is also of varying quality. Peer-reviewed journals are to be taken seriously; ideological think tanks not so.

Don’t talk to me about “the research” as though I’m a student in need of guidance.

Instead, cite the article, explain the argument and evidence, and most importantly, tell exactly how you think it might apply to my classroom. Then, let’s talk about it. Because research is not some giant, single edifice of settled conclusions; it is multifaceted and full of endless debates.

5. Stop with the advice about teaching critical thinking skills.          
Be careful what you wish for. Our current education “reform” leaders like to preach about the importance of critical thinking.  Of course critical thinking is important what exactly does that mean? For many reformers, critical thinking usually means problem-solving skills, and they say the phrase with technical and technological innovations – the STEM disciplines – in mind.
For me, critical thinking means analyzing ideas to understand them completely and find ways to improve them or dismiss them, including ideas about the value and purpose of technical and technological innovation.  That is why it’s important to know and teach about the nature and history of ideas themselves in English classes. Here are some of the questions for critical thought that my American literature students engage through both fiction and nonfiction sources:
* In the wake of the Citizens United decision, may we still claim to live in a democracy? [No, some Princeton researchers concluded this April.] And what then are we to make of the notion of “free speech”? In what exact sense is it free? (The Common Core says to study major court decisions.)
* How may we ethically defend or condemn our wealth gap? (See Frank Norris, “A Deal in Wheat,” and many other titles especially from the naturalist period.)
* What constitutes an American identity? What is a “real” American and what does that look like? Who gets to decide that, and how? (Along with hundreds of articles, novels, plays, and stories, we can do a rhetorical analysis of the Common Core standards themselves to engage those questions. )
6. Stop using education reform clichés.
Here is a compendium of common education reform clichés:
“After consulting the research and assessment data, and involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process, we have determined that a relentless pursuit of excellence and laser-like focus on the standards, synergistically with our accountability measures, action-oriented and forward-leaning intervention strategies, and enhanced observation guidelines for classroom look-fors, will close the achievement gap and raise the bar for all children.”
You can’t talk like that and expect to be taken seriously by educated adults.
7. Don’t tell us to leave politics out of the classroom. 
Don’t be naïve.  Learning always has some kind of political efficacy. Some opinions are more sensible than others, some arguments stronger than others, some interpretations and theories better supported than others. It is okay to say so out loud.  One need not disparage another to do so, and good teachers do not shy away from it.
For example, the theory of intelligent design made a big splash a few years ago among creationists who insist that evolution is merely an unproven theory on equal footing with other theories in the “marketplace of ideas.” It is very easy to show two vitiating things: there is no contravening scientific evidence against evolution, and intelligent design derives from Aristotle’s teleological argument which was soundly critiqued by David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the 18th Century.
Explaining these things to students will harm one side of the political spectrum more than the other. As far as I’m concerned, that is the fault of the politicians themselves for getting involved in classroom issues that are beyond their legitimate concern as politicians. They can say whatever they want, of course, but it is acceptable academic practice to teach why and how their arguments are strong or weak, and it’s not our fault if that involves politics, too.
Verbal logic and argumentation are the province of English teachers, especially now that under Common Core, we are told we have to teach more non-fiction texts. I expect all my students to learn how to argue sensibly and with decency, seeking the truth rather than just defeating the opposition, and I expect them to push those arguments with each other and with me.  The vitality of my classes depends on it.
Too many people never learn how to discuss and debate sensibly and with decency. Too many people are trained to shy away from controversial ideas for the sake of being polite because confrontation might be considered embarrassing or impolitic. My students will not fall to those trappings if I can help it. I will continue to do everything I can, as a teacher and as a citizen, to disrupt everybody’s settled thoughts.
Teachers didn’t choose this fight. It has been imposed on us by a misguided and deeply conservative “reform” movement. It’s time for reformers  to back off because I, and my colleagues, will do a better job if you just get out of the way.
I welcome you to disrupt my thoughts with real argument if you can. But don’t insult me and my profession by telling me just to believe what I’m told and accept the way things are.
                                                                    *    *    *
From 11 Lies About Teachers That People Need to Stop Saying 
[click each Lie to link to response at --OK, I have some problems with #7, but I haven't omitted it]
#1: Teachers used to be better
#2: Teachers are paid too much money
#3: Anyone can teach
#4: The school day ends when students leave
#5: Those who can't do, teach
#6: Teachers determine whether students learn
#7: Paying teachers more will create more effective teachers
#8: Teachers unions detract from students' learning
#9: Preschool and Kindergarten are baby-sitting programs
#10: Teachers must give a lot of homework
#11: Teachers don't care about their students