Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monica Caldwell Reacts to SOS March Showcasing Worst in Teaching

I had said earlier that I would not be attending the dreadful Save Our Schools March in Washington this past Saturday.  I can see now that I clearly made the right decision.   According to park service officials, approximately 8,000 teachers came to the nation's capital to see among others, Hollywood's number one jerk Matt Damon talk about education.   I find this laughable.  As a Hollywood actor, what does he know about teaching?  He needs to make some movies and leave education policy to the think tanks, philanthropists, politicians, and pundits.

What is probably most shocking is that teachers find Matt Damon to be a fitting role model for today's youth.  I did a little research on Mr. Damon and what I found was shocking.  Apparently, a late night comedian named Jimmy Kimmel was having a committed long term relationship with a comedian named Sarah Silverman (or so he thought).  While this was going on, Matt Damon and Ms. Silverman were actually involved in an elicit relationship.   They actually broke it to Kimmel live on his television show.   This is the kind of influence that's appropriate for kids.  Check out this clip of Mr. Hollywood admitting to the affair and showing absolutely no remorse of his actions.  The end is particularly shocking:

Petty? He's not the one who was having an affair. I lost all credibility for Matt Damon when I heard of this sleazy behavior. You can find the disgusting video that they showed here, but even with swearing bleeped out by the network, it's very disturbing.

Now, the march itself was almost as disturbing. It seemed to be one long diatribe to preserve the status quo, which is the education system exactly as it is now or I guess exactly as it was 15 years ago before reform, which is going great and will be perfected very soon.

One final note.  I heard a lot of teachers at the march complaining about the use of test scores for accountability with the complaint that the scores were out of the teacher's control.  Some new data from Washington, DC shows that many teachers rated poorly last year were rated very highly this year and vice versa.  It just goes to show you how much teachers can improve when they buckle down or decline when they slack off.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Last Stand for Children Announces Committee on Teacher Needs

This morning, Education Week had an excellent article entitled What Do Teachers Want?   The article concerned the difficulty of assessing exactly what it is that teachers want.  The author goes so far as suggesting that we must be mind readers like Mel Gibson's character in "What Women Want."   I don't know if I'd go that far, but finding out what teachers want can be as difficult as getting through Avon Barksdale's many layers of security in subterfuge to protect his drug empire on The Wire.

Some of the most groundbreaking work in the area of assessing what teachers want was done by Bill Gates and Scholastic who spared no expense in conducting a Harris Poll of 40,000 teachers.  However, if one poll was enough to tell us anything with certainty, President McCain would running for reelection.

This area of research is very important if we are to find a way to attract and keep highly capable teachers to the classroom while at the same time increasing their workload and cutting their salary, pension, and health care costs.  That is why Last Stand for Children has spent the last two years working hard to analyze the wants and needs of classroom teachers.   Today, we take a step closer to realizing the fruits of our labor by appointing a blue ribbon committee to study and analyze the needs and wants of America's classroom teachers.  The members of the panel are as follows:

Ryan Wilson - Chief Executive Director Last Stand for Children First
Winslow Thorpe - President of Northstar Investments
Linda Voight-Kampff - President and CEO of Tyrell Corporation
Dotti Walker - Chairwoman of Prosperity for Americans
Hank Scorpio - President and CEO of Globex Corporation
Jack Kimble - United States Representative, California's 54th District
Burt Kuper - President of The Foundations Group
Alma Davis - Chairwoman Education for The Best Tomorrow
Adrian Veidt - President and CEO of Veidt Industries
Virginia Wallace - Vice-President of The Alliance for Educational Excellence
Miles Drummond - President and CEO of Anderson Testing 

Together, this group will piggy back on existing research with the goal of producing an actionable plan for reforming education to better meet the wants and needs of teachers by 2013.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Future Educator Talks About Changes She'd Like to See in Education

Katie Cunningham is a third grade student at the Our Lady of Perpetual Motion Elementary School in Glendale Valley, CA. She is an avid Irish dancer and loves to bake cookies and play Wii

I've wanted to be a teacher for sooo long. My mom says teachers are lazy, but I like Miss McCutcheon and I would like to help people just like her. During Summers I would go to Hawaii or Disney World and take care of all the animals.  It would be fun to tell students what to do and to send Nathan Wilcox to the principal's office if he was pulling people's hair.

First, I've been thinking maybe I don't want to be a teacher now.  What if I'm a really good teacher like Miss McCutcheon and the newspapers like the Wall Street Journal come do to a story on my class and even the President says I'm a great teacher, but they fire me instead of Miss Kearsey because she's so old.  Then I wouldn't have a job and I'd be homeless and die.   Why do you want me to die?  Don't you like me?  Please end Last in First Out policies.  I told my friend Matilda about this and now she wants to be a dancer instead of a teacher.  If this doesn't change you could be losing other great teachers to dancing.

Second, I also worry that when I get older teachers will do what's called collective bargaining.  That means if I'm a really good teacher, I get the same salary as Miss Kearsey.  That's not right.   I want to be paid a million dollars a year, but I can't do that this way or everybody gets a million dollars a year.  My dad said this is socialism.  He wants me to become a hedge fund manager. 

The last thing I worry about is that there won't be enough testing.  If I want to be a good teacher I need lots of data to make good choices like who does what worksheet.  We need more tests so we can have more data.

I know many of you are thinking why would I listen to a little girl who is still in school and not even a teacher yet? I don't know.  I do know I want to be a teacher someday, but my dad says before I can make a big decision like that I have to watch The Wire and he says I won't be old enough to watch that show until I'm 16.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Save Our Schools March: Why I Won't Be Marching

By: Monica Caldwell

In May, I was appointed as Last Stand for Children First's East Coast Director of Teacher Development.  This has been a wonderful experience for me and I would have to say even more rewarding than either of the other jobs I have had.  

In this capacity I have worked to lead professional development for teachers in Last Stand's 5P technique of Prepare, Predict, Practice, Proctor, and Performance.  Frequently, I hear teachers from urban schools talk about the difficulties their students face on a daily basis and immediately feel sorry for these kids being saddled with teachers who have low expectations for them.

Some of these teachers have actually tried to encourage me to go with them to Washington, DC for the Save Our Schools March from July 28th to 31st.   I'm sorry, but the last thing I need to do is hear a bunch of teachers whine about how difficult their jobs are.  Boy, I'd love to have the handkerchief concession for that cry fest.

As I look at the guiding principles of the organizers, I see a lot of talk about teachers, students, and families, but if we are going to get real reform shouldn't we start with eliminating collective bargaining?  All these other issues like child poverty, unequal funding and a well-rounded education need to take a backseat to teachers asking for raises.

I'm not totally unsympathetic to the difficulties of teaching in the inner city.  The very first thing I did when I got my Netflix account was to watch the gripping HBO drama The Wire.  I even watched the second season, which dealt with the docks, but I didn't really get it except it was cool to see Michael's girlfriend from The Office.  I cried when I saw the lives that good kids like Michael and Bug were forced to endure and how it proved too much for them in the end.   However, I also saw a movie called Stand and Deliver and I know if more teachers were like Edward James Olmos, we could defeat poverty through education.   Before you teachers complain about underfunded education, I ask you how many of your students have you tutored. while you made them dinner?

No, I won't be marching to Washington, with all the Union apologists.  However, there was a march on Washington today that gives me hope.  President Obama had an education round table at the White House today and the list of participants inspires me:

Marguerite Kondracke, president & CEO, America’s Promise
· Alma Powell, chairwoman, America’s Promise
· General Colin Powell, founding chairman, America’s Promise
· Craig Barrett, former president & CEO, Intel
· Glenn Britt, CEO, Time Warner Cable
· Steve Case, former chairman & CEO, America Online
· Brian Gallagher, president & CEO, United Way Worldwide
· William Green, president & CEO, Accenture
· Fred Humphries, senior vice president, Microsoft
· Rhonda Mimms, foundation president, ING
· Kathleen Murphy, president, Fidelity Personal Investments
· Ed Rust, CEO, State Farm
· Randall Stephenson, chairman & CEO, AT&T
· Bill Swanson, chairman & CEO, Raytheon
· Laysha Ward, foundation president, Target
· David Zaslav, president & CEO, Discovery Communications
· Former governor Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education
· Anne Finucane, chair of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Bank of America

When you put people with those kind of expertise on any subject together, what can't they do?  Imagine the company that gave us Vista, the person who gave us America Online, and AT&T together to discuss education?  This isn't Superman, this is the whole Justice League.   Now, this is reform we can all get behind.

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Last Stand for Children and Peterson Testing Partner to Create New Assessments

It was with a great deal of excitement here in the Last Stand for Children First home office that we reacted to the announcement that the second round of the Race to the Top initiative would focus on early childhood education.  That is because for the last several months, Last Stand has partnered with Peterson Testing, a purveyor of the finest in standardized testing materials for education.

We are currently designing the next generation of tests for the next generation of students and by Fall well will be ready to roll out our line of testing materials for children between 3 and 5 years of age.   It had previously been educational practice to avoid standardized testing for children of this age believing that socialization, play, and exploration are more important skills.   Fortunately, new theories in education are allowing us to do away with this time wasting coddling.

We have recently begin to understand that children as young as 2 or 3, enjoy rigorous standardized testing as a combination between letter recognition and coloring.   This is the very same approach that we used when creating our very successful line of test preparation wallpaper.  Some changes needed to be made from your typical standardized test such as larger bubbles and more frequent rest.

Here is a sample of a passage from our test.  Notice how students are doing work with a familiar nursery rhyme at their own level.

Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

 1. What happened to Humpty Dumpty?
A. He was chosen to be King
B. He fell off the wall and was broken
C. He ran away
D. He was trampled by horses

2. What forced caused Humpty Dumpty to hit the ground?
A. Gravity
B. He was pushed
C. The King
D. The King's men

3. What is Humpty Dumpty?
A. An egg
B. A person
C. A king
D. A cannon

4. Which of these was a result of Humpty falling?
A. An egg broke
B. Parliamentarians, led by Thomas Fairfax captured Colchester from  supporters of Charles I
C. Democracy was restored in England
D. Colchester fell to the royalists in 1648

5. Why is this poem important?
A. The British Civil War directly leads to the colonization of North America by the British
B. From a military tactics standpoint, Humpty Dumpty shows the value of controlling the high ground
C. Eggs are good
D. It rhymes

Answers: 1-B 2-A 3-D 4-B 5-A

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why Does Diane Ravitch Hate Children?

America's education reform movement -- the most significant reform movement in the history of this planet -- is just concluding another amazing school year.  Politicians of all stripes and parties have come together to say, "We will not accept inferior teachers destroying the lives of our children anymore".

With grim budget cuts necessitating layoffs, we are reminded once again that seniority based layoffs make as much sense as saying that U2 should have to keep Bono as their lead singer just because he's been with the band for 30 years and has tenure.

For the past 30 years, education reformers have had to fight the forces of the status quo, but in that time we have agreed that certain changes must be made to education:
  • The business principles that have made our economy great should be applied to our schools as well.
  • We need a common curriculum 
  • We need frequent standardized testing
  • We need a longer day and school year to allow more time for increased test prep
  • We need a rich curriculum focused like a laser on only math and reading
  • We need an end to tenure and LIFO policies
  • Younger perkier teachers are superior to the old saddle horses who too often dominate public education.
  • The best teachers for poor inner city students are young, preferably Ivy League educated young people from well to do families.
  • Charter schools are superior to public schools because they can council students into leaving and public schools must teach everybody.
  • We should fire the bottom 1/3 of all teachers every year.
These points are the hallmark of true education reform. They bind together Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Chris Cristie, Arne Duncan, and myself.  Several forces of the status quo have naturally opposed these moves, but lately one of the worst critics has been Diane Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch is the leader of this rear guard assault on education reform by teachers, parents, students, and other malcontents.   Now don't get me wrong Ms. Ravitch, who is a New York University professor  and an education historian is a powerful speaker.   Unfortunately,  for financial reasons obviously, she has chosen to be a mouth piece for the teachers unions and to attack Bill Gates, The Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, and many hedge fund managers who spend billions on education reform.

Diane has become the ultimate party pooper.  When Arne Duncan trumpets a charter school with a 100% graduation rate, rather than being ecstatic for the 25 graduates, she will whine that they started high school with a class of 200.   When we come up with a great idea like increasing standardized testing, she whines about how high achieving countries have less standardized testing.   Nobody likes to be constantly second guessed.  As reformers we know what works and eventually we will find a way of funding studies that show we are right.   We don't need little Professor Sunshine torpedoing all our great ideas.

"She doesn’t believe teachers and schools can make a difference in high-poverty areas,” says Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston, pointing to the fact that every time we find a great school that has had a 30% increase in test scores in one year, she seems to find something wrong with it.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently called her out saying,“Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country?"

I find Duncan's criticism right on the money.  Before becoming Secretary of Education he was was part of the miracle of remaking the Chicago Public Schools into a Renaissance and before that he averaged over 20 points of game playing basketball in Australia.  Plus his mom was an educator.

We welcome Diane's input on education matters once she stops complaining about the turds floating around the punch bowl.   You can't keep a punch bowl 100% clean.  The important thing is that it's mostly delicious punch.  When Miss Ravitch learns this lesson, we will love to hear from her.  Until then, we must ask her, "Why do you hate children so much?"