Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicago Public Schools Want to Do the Right Thing

When I was a child, I had the cutest dog in the world named Milton after University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.  The dog was always happy to see me when I came home from my private tutoring and he always smiled and wagged his tail.  Unfortunately, he also drooled and as a result my cousin took an instant dislike to Milton.  My cousin used to kick the dog and pull his tail until the dog yelped and I cried.  

Finally, when I was 9 and my cousin was 11, I told him that he had better leave my dog alone or he'd be sorry.   He looked down at me and though he was much bigger than I was, he must have seen the determination in my face.  He told me, "Let me kick Milton really hard 10 times.  If you do that, I won't kick him again for 5 years."

Needless to say, I was overjoyed.  When my cousin was done, Milton was in agony for a few days, but afterwards, he didn't have to worry about my cousin teasing him or picking on him.   When I visited my cousin in prison last Summer, I reminded him of the story and we shared a laugh about how I stood up to him and negotiated on behalf a small innocent dog that looked to me to protect him.

The Chicago Public Schools have made an equally generous offer to protect the children of Chicago from the trauma from the turmoil and agony of school closings.   All they ask of us is that we allow them to wait until March 31st to announce the schools that they will close this year--a number they promise will be between 5 and 200.  In exchange, they won't close any schools down for the next 5 years.

Now, these are going to be some very hard kicks.  We're asked to allow them to announce they're closing schools when it's too late for the teachers to work in these schools to easily find employment elsewhere and more importantly, when parents have less options for their students for next year.   They're shutting up community input too.   This will be a bitter pill to swallow, but just think how great it will be to have five years without any school closings after that.  

CPS has proven their case.   Closings might not save money, but they're necessary.  The city has more desks than students and they're going to be opening a lot of brand new charter schools, which will only exacerbate the problem.  If you live in Illinois please contact your state legislators and let them know that you want them to support this deal.  After all, even little Milton survived a few hard kicks.  That reminds me, sometime I'll have to tell you about the deal that Hitler brokered with the Europeans over Czechoslovakia. 

[Last Stand for Children first Board Member and Congressman, Jack Kimble has written his memoirs.  If you like the kind of writing you find on this blog, you may enjoy his book as well.  Check it out at www.profilesincourageousness.com]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Michelle Rhee's Policies Proven a Rousing Success

I was overjoyed yesterday to see the Washington Post trumpeting a new report by the New Teacher Project trumpeting Michelle Rhee's success as Chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools.  We've always known Ms. Rhee was a force of nature since she first appeared on our radar when she founded the New Teacher Project back in 1997. 

As Chancellor, Mr. Rhee was something of a lightening rod for controversy, but even the Washington Post found the report compelling despite the New Teacher Project currently having a contract with the DC schools, many of the Washington D.C. teachers coming from the New Teacher Project, Michelle Rhee running the project for 10 years, and current Washington school chief Kaya Henderson being a former Vice-President of the New Teacher Poject.   Frankly, that's good enough for me.

In 1954, my grandfather Francis was one of the scientists who contributed to the groundbreaking report entitled “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers”.  The study was sponsored by the Tobacco Institute and was widely distributed in newspapers nationwide.   It was based on extensive research and questioned research findings implicating smoking as a cause of cancer, promised consumers that their cigarettes were safe, and pledged to support impartial research to investigate allegations that smoking was harmful to human health.  This study was backed up by many more tobacco funded studies that showed smoking was safe.  Unfortunately, people wouldn't listen and cigarettes today are considered unhealthy.  Sure, there is a small chance if you smoke that you will wind up in a cancer ward, but there's a certainly you will wind up in flavor country.

Even now, when Exxon spends $16 million of its own money to prove that global warming and climate change is a hoax, do people think them?  No, they accuse them of trying to stifle science.  Who better to fund the science that proves pollution or tobacco or Michelle Rhee's policies safe than the people most involved with them?

The New Teacher Project report found the 11% of the teachers in high poverty schools receive bonus pay under the new system compared to 42% of the teachers in low poverty schools.   This doesn't surprise me in the least.  We all know that education is the best way out of poverty, so obviously these students receiving a poor education are dooming these families.  Isn't it time to put students first?

Profiles in Courageousness Tackles Education Reform

A new book has just come out this week from Last Stand for Children Board Member and United States Congressman Jack Kimble of California's 54th District.   The book is a combination of the Congressman's life story and a road map for a Republican future.   Now, as you might expect, Kimble does not tread lightly on the sacred cows of education reform.  Here's one excerpt from his book giving his views on education:

In education, I am in agreement on a lot of President Obama's policies, but we are failing our school children.  Nearly 25% of all American high school students in 2008 scored in the bottom quartile of state standardized tests in reading and 10% scored in the bottom tenth in math while at the same time teachers unions continue to provide their membership with $20,000+ retirement packages and a lavish lifestyle that includes automobiles and oftentimes private home ownership. 
Too much of a child's day is taken up with classes like music, art, and social studies, which are not even tested.  These classes have been created by teachers unions trying to create jobs and give teachers prep periods.  All children should focus on reading and math exclusively during the school day.
Our research has shown that the best teachers to motivate inner city youth are white, fresh out of college, and preferably from a privileged background.  We also have found that the easiest way to assure that all student get a quality teacher is to increase class size.
Too often, the voice of the business community has been stifled in discussions of what is best for the children of this country.  It is time for the business community to instead stifle the voices of the less successful and enable us to do for our schools what we have done for our economy. 

This is powerful thinking and represents the cutting edge of the education reform movement.   As you know, like Students First and Stand for Children, we have a bipartisan approach to education reform.  However, Congressman Kimble clearly has higher aspirations than the House of Representatives and we are literally salivating at how pro-education reform a Kimble administration would be.  I think anybody who cares about our children owes it to themselves to read this powerful book from a great man.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Won't Back Down: Time for Accountability Now

The movie Won't Back Down makes a compelling case for accountability in our public schools.  If schools aren't doing their job, why not turn the school over to a private company?   It might be harsh, but schools exist for children after all.  Don't we have a right to demand the best from our teachers?

In Illinois, teachers who receive two unsatisfactory evaluations within a 7 year period can have their teaching certificate pulled.  This seems only fair.  After all, accountability is the new trend in education reform.

Unfortunately, education reform took a major hit this past weekend, when despite a compelling message, Won't Back Down set a record for box office futility, with the second worst ever opening weekend for a movie opening on at least 2,500 screens.  I thought the story was great, so I can only assume the problem was with the actors.  Sure, we can find all sorts of other reasons why the movie had a less than stellar open, but it doesn't make any sense to start making excuses now.

For Viola Davis, this is very disappointing.  She's been in several very successful movies lately, but that doesn't excuse movies like this one and her 2010 film Knight and Day.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is in familiar territory with this flop having made the disastrous 2006 movie Trust the Man.  Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press said, "A lot more smug and a lot less insightful than writer-director Bart Freundlich apparently assumes, and it's burdened even more by its surfeit of unsympathetic characters."

Unfortunately, despite better work, as an education reform community I believe it's important that we look at actresses like Maggie and Viola who continue to make less than satisfying films in rapid succession. We need to call for accountability.  I was just watching a documentary on TCM today on Spencer Tracy and practically every movie he made was a hit.  We must have the same high standards for today's actors.   I am calling for Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis to quit hiding behind their union and quit the movie business.  There are a lot of people who would like to be movie stars and it's time we gave them a chance.

Update:  As seen in the comment below, Won't Back Down dropped below The Rocker for worst opening since 1982

Friday, September 28, 2012

Won't Back Down is the Greatest Story Ever Told

As I am writing this blog, Won't Back Down has just been released to movie theaters across the country.   It is on its way to setting huge box office records, but if you care about children or education you must go see this film immediately and preferably multiple times.  While, I haven't seen this movie myself yet, I can guarantee you that this is a powerful and uplifting story that will forever change the way that movies are made as producers are allowed to move away from the constraints of dramatic storytelling in favor of lecture.

If Waiting for Superman was our Birth of an Education Nation, than surely this movie by the same company is our Triumph of the Will and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The acting is superb as Maggie Gylenhal and Viola Davis tell the story of a mom with a child who is Dyslexic and falling through the cracks of our public school system.  Fortunately, just as in real life charter schools are there to take these students and teach them.  At times in the trailer, Maggie Gyllenhaal was so powerful, I felt like I was watching Meredith Baxter-Birney or Valerie Bertinelli in a Lifetime movie.

Several union bosses tie Maggie Gyllenhaal's character to the train tracks. 

I urge you, if you care about children, to go see this movie.  It sheds light on the very real problem today of hedge fund managers and other wealthy philanthropists to get access to public schools.   I can't wait to see this movie and to add it to my DVD collection.  Currently, when I want an uplifting charter school story, I am reduced to watching Annie and pretending Daddy Warbucks is UNO's Juan Rangel.  I give Won't Back Down 4 very solid stars and I would give it a fifth, if my rating scale went that high.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Union Referees Need to Think of the Fans

By Jean Rangel, Vice-President of Media Affairs Canadian Football League

Let me begin by saying that I love referees,  Nobody has a tougher job than these dedicated professionals charged with running up and down the field, keeping up with world class athletes, calling a game with a lot of rules   If it were up to me, the referees would be the highest paid people on the field.   Unfortunately, it's not up to me and there are certain economic realities that the NFL Referee's Union need to be aware of.

This whole lockout began over referees refusing to give up their pension for 401k plans.   I can understand their reluctance, but frankly in today's economy nobody gets pensions anymore.  The hedge fund managers trashed our economy 4 years ago and according those managers, who should know, we are now in a time of austerity.  Even though the NFL is making more money than it ever has, many of the owners are seeing their other investments drop and impoverished cities are less likely to be able to fork over half a billion dollars to build a new stadium,.

While I love referees, I have a big problem with their union bosses.   The Referee's Union has demanded that referees be paid for every game they work despite having the shortest season in professional sports.   In 12 years, a player for the Houston Astros will have played 1,750 more games than a player for the Chicago Bears in the same amount of time.  Fortunately, this year the NFL has instituted the fuller game.   Games this season are about 20 minutes longer than last and that's allowing fans to have a more relaxed viewing experience with time to go to the bathroom or watch some fine arts television on Ovation during long replay breaks.

I really feel that the NFL referees simply don't care about the fans.   I look at some of their contract demands like refusing to be evaluated by the passing ratings of quarterbacks during the games they call and I shake my head.  Everybody knows fans like scoring and good referees will umpire games with more scoring.  The referees are also demanding that referees by paid the same rate rather than paying them on merit based on how many penalties they call in a game.

In the Canadian Football League we are having an exciting road to the Grey Cup with regular referees.  We continue to get calls from players, fans, and coaches who want to move to the CFL.  While the NFL and their greedy referees are at an impasse, it's a great time for American cities to invest in CFL football.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Parents Protest Against Chicago Teachers Union

Some people would say that 5 days after the end of a teacher strike is a lousy time to hold a protest against striking teachers, but with the kick off of education nation, we just could resist.   While it is hard to have an exact number of participants in events like this, it's safe to say that several half dozens were in attendance for our First Annual Parents Against Teachers Protest and Box Lunch.

Will Dehring of Chicago reported than many of the complaints he heard teachers make were "complete balderdash" saying that when he attended school in Chicago there was no air conditioning and that was fine with him.  The students couldn't even have erasers because of the rubber drives.

George Kallem said that teachers were much better when he went to school before the union made them lazy, "I won a geography bee in 3rd grade for naming all 46 states.  I was so proud."

Several polls conducted during the strike showed overwhelming support for the teachers, but as these active and involved CPS parents gummed their blackberry cobblers, you wouldn't hear a single positive word for the teachers or their union. 

"Get back and teach you bums!" said Ann Young summing up what many protesters were thinking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LS4C1 Interviews Bruce Louder on Chicago Education Reform

Back in 2010 when we were just a fledgling operation with a $12,000,000 operating budget and no idea how to spend it, it was Bruce Louder who suggesting we come to Chicago and make a stand for education reform.   The rest, as they say is history.  Chicago has just been through a very tumultuous week and a half as the greedy Chicago Teachers Union turned its collective back on the children and went on strike.  In an attempt to save face, we we lucky enough to be granted an interview with Mr. Louder.
LS4C1:  Welcome Mr. Louder.  Since the Chicago teacher strike, you've been outspoken in your criticism of the Chicago Teachers Union.  You have called the new contract the first step in a continuing war with the teachers union.  What is your issue exactly with the union.

BL:  First, let me say we have no problem with the hard working teachers of Chicago.  They work long hours on and off the clock, spend their own money to buy supplies, and generally make great sacrifices for the children of our city.  Our problem is with the union who believes they should be somehow entitled to a fair wage and good working conditions.   

Union bosses like Karen Lewis and her horde are basically politicians.  They haven't taught a class in 2 years.  Worse still, none of them has the business sense or skill to manage a hedge fund.   That should tell you something right there.

LS4C1:   You mention hedge funds.  I take it this is because of your belief that business style competition is the key to improving education?

BL: Look, one of my hobbies is dog fighting.  I raise pit bulls and if you've ever heard the expression, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog, that's true.  In order to get the best fighters we reward the winners and destroy the losers.  We don't congratulate the dog that loses the fight?  We should be doing the same type of competition to find the best teachers.   

When you look at the strike vote only 98% of the people voting voted to authorize the strike.   We need to find that other 2% and start there.   Let's separate those outstanding teachers from the union that rewards mediocrity.  Parents too will be our natural allies once they realize that because their teacher is pleasant and their child seems to be learning doesn't mean they're being prepared for rigorous standardized testing.

LS4C1:  We took some criticism for radio ads we did after the strike authorization vote and during the strike itself.  Do you think that was fair?


BL:  No of course not.   I think that for some reason, criticizing teachers is just something that's not allowed in the mainstream media.

LS4C1: Thank you Mr. Louder.  I can't wait until you are our governor and we can see some real reform.

BL: Thank you Myron.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicago Teachers Refuse to Return to Work

A funny thing happened on the way to ending the strike.  The Chicago Teachers Union refused to vote on a tentative agreement and instead demanded to be able to read the agreement before voting.  This unreasonable demand meant that school children would be unable to return until Wednesday and earned the ire of several Chicago alderman.  The alderman had set a great example for the untrusting teachers by agreeing to several contracts like selling off Chicago's parking meters without reading the contracts.

Obviously, the greedy teachers are striking over pay and their own cushy jobs.  Mayor Emanuel attempted to get an injunction today, because the greedy teachers refused to negotiate over pay and instead attempted to negotiate over classroom learning conditions that they are prohibited from striking over by law. 

Unfortunately, the teachers are attempting to take over the system.  They wish to have input in education policy instead of leaving it to the bankers and business people who belong in charge.  The only good thing is that a hundred parent groups have popped up in the week since the strike began--well financed by hedge fund managers and ready to channel the rage of the 1/3 of CPS parents who don't support the teachers in the strike.   Whether it's Children First, Students First, First Children, First Students, Parent Power, Power for Parents, or any existing group, there are now enough parent groups that organizations like Stand for Children will soon no longer be alone as the only parent group with only 1 member.  In fact, one parent group made all parents automatic members.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CTU Strike is Over (If you Want It)

The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have agreed to a framework for ending the week-long teacher strike in Chicago.  While this is not a done deal, it seems like the strike is over if the CTU wants it to be.  At this time, I have not seen the final contract details nor have I seen casualty figures or the total cost of the property damage inflicted on this city by the rampaging crimson hordes of striking teachers. Still, as reformer we can't deny that our noses have been bloodied.  We have a long list of things that must be done as we go forward:

There are over 140 schools in Chicago that do not have libraries, but there are many more that do.  We must do something about them,

Air Conditioning is something sought after by many teachers who believe that their rooms are too hot.  I think it was a wasted opportunity not turning on the Hyatt heat lamps on striking teachers on Thursday. 

Speaking of the Hyatt, now that we are building the Pritzkers a new hotel, it looks like a conflict of interest with Penny Pritzker on the Board of Education.  We need to fix this immediately by building hotels for the Hilton, Sheraton, and Holiday families.

Finally, there are a lot of organizations like Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform that are very well funded, but lack members.  We need to get Chicagoans to join these organizations as soon as possible.  It's getting kind of embarrassing to have Michael Butz speak for Stand for Children everytime they need to produce an actual parent.

The strike mat or may not be over, but our work rebuilding the city will not end when we have cleaned up the debris left by marauding teachers.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Teacher Calls Out CTU

My name is Alyssa Crown and I am a Teaching America fellow.  When I entered teaching, I made a very serious commitment to put my career in the financial services industry on hold for two years while I changed a generation by teaching.  Teaching America training was an intense five week boot camp, but I suffered it gladly knowing that my own classroom was my prize at the end.

In the four days, I have been teaching I have had some low points like when my lap top was stolen or when the students playfully locked me out of my classroom for two hours or when I called Pedro Cabrera's parents and talked with them on the phone for 15 minutes before I realized they didn't speak English.  However, I've also had tremendous highs.  I've counseled 7 of my students into quitting the gang lifestyle and even my most challenging students have started to come around to my mix of tough love and high expectations.

Unfortunately, all of this was threatened when the Chicago Teachers Union went out on strike.  I gladly crossed the picket line, but when I did there were no students inside for me to teach.  There were only 4 students in the Children First program and I couldn't get the bus driver watching them to give them up.  Adding insult to injury, I saw many of my students outside with their families picketing our school with the other teachers.  Now, I must say the other teachers at this school are very jealous of me and I have a lot of work to do to unbrainwash these children.

The teachers' demands border on the ridiculous.  Let's look at some of their issues:

1. Class Size - No less an expert on the Chicago Public Schools has shown us evidence that Chicago schools have an average class size of 16.

2. Salary - Students are being asked to work a much longer day and a significantly longer year.  They want an increase in pay, but Chicago teachers are already overpaid.  The average CPS teacher makes over $98,000 per year--more than double the average salary of investment bankers.  This is why most teacher's parking lots are full of Focus's and Corollas.

3. Air Conditioning - Temperate breezes off of Lake Michigan keep Chicago cool in the Summer and mild in the winter.  The weather is rarely above 75 degrees or below 65 degrees and while we have been experiencing an extreme heat wave since I've been in town, it obviously won't last.

4. Social Workers - No offense, but the sociologists at my college were always the worst students.  I don't even think of it as a real major.

Teachers also do not want to be evaluated and have the right to walk into any principal's office and demand a job.   Only Mayor Emmanuel cares about the children of Chicago enough to stand up to the marauding hordes of teachers, parents, and students who wish to take control of the school district from the people who know best.

Parent input is great and we're happy to allow it when it's funneled through a recognized organization like Stand for Children or Last Stand for Children First.  However, these free agents pose a threat to the order.  If the Chicago teachers care about children, they will come back to work and listen to my many great ideas to improve instruction in the classroom.  Let's all work together to help our kids.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicago Teachers Strike Day 3: Principals and Practice

The strike has now entered day 3 and it looks like a tough one.  Among CTU's outrageous proposals was giving teachers with good evaluations who lost their jobs because their school was turned around or the enrollment dropped first crack at jobs ahead of hiring new teachers.

While it may make sense at first glance that in a field where half the people quit in the first 3-5 years to give a nod to proven successful teachers, it ignores some key facts.  As Rahm Emanuel put it, "I don't think downtown should be in the business of selecting teachers that the local school principal should select if you're going to hold them accountable,

Emanuel spoke yesterday at Tarkington School of Exodus where several principals including former principal Mahalia "Mommon" Hines who said, "If I'm a principal and you're going to hold me accountable, you're going to fire me. I want to pick my people."

She makes an exceptional point.   Who in their right might would sit still for an evaluation that was based on the people you manage when you didn't even pick those people?  It would be pretty stupid to hold somebody accountable for what their employees were doing when you didn't pick them.  Still, it was these recall rights and also evaluation that seemed to be the big holdups?  I am very disturbed by how scared these teachers are of being evaluated by the success or failure of their students.   A good teacher should welcome this kind of evaluation.

Of course if Rahm goes through with long rumored plans to close 100 schools, there will be an awful lot of students in the recall pool.  Still, I have to agree with Rahm, it must be principal's perogative.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teachers Strike Day 2: Our Newest Radio Ad

We couldn't stand it anymore.  With our kids locked out of their beloved schools, we jumped into action with an ad buy aimed at getting the Chicago teachers to call off their strike and think of the most vulnerable in our society.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teachers Strike Day 1: Keep Calm and Continue Testing

Today, the nearly 30,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union descended on downtown with 20,000 of their parent and community allies to wreak havoc and correct grammar and spelling.  Now, is not the time for us to panic.  Our leader, Mayor Emanuel has described the differences between the teachers union and the city as being minor.  In fact, it seems like the main thing that has prevented a contract is that the differences are so small, it hardly seems worth anybody's time to compromise.

The big problem with the strike is that students are missing valuable school time.  They need 15 days for standardized testing and if the strike goes on long enough, the tests will be very much delayed.   It occurs to me that the Children's First Centers set up at 144 public schools might be the perfect place to test.  While they aren't allowed to teach, testing isn't the same thing as teaching and with students in air-conditioned rooms with 5 or 10 teachers for every student, this is  a great testing environment.

Teachers continue to be greedy.  Just look at some of the things that the city has already caved on:
  • A lunch period for clinicians (These are psychologists, nurses, social workers)
  • Text books on the first day of school
  • A quiet place for social workers and psychologists to meet with students.
  • A solid 2 percent raise for working 13 extra days.
Eventually, we will crush these teachers and continue to put in high quality charters school or at least marginal quality ones in their place.  We just need all parents to keep calm and continue testing.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When Chicago Teachers Strike, It's Time for Replacements

One of my very favorite movies is The Replacements.  This cinematic gem came out in 2000 and starred the great Keanu Reeves as quarterback Shane Falco who leads a rag tag team of replacement players when the regular players get greedy and go on strike.  Like a veritable Island of Misfit Toys, the team is full of players with major issues that would keep a pro team from ordinarily considering them.  The kicker smokes during games and has huge gambling debts, the wide receiver is fast and can't catch.  The linemen are fat and speak with accent.

In the movie, they don't win the Super Bowl, they simply connect with the fans and win some games while the regular players are out on strike.  When the strike ends, they even defeat a team using real players because their love of the game overcame the talent and training of the players who had made football their lives.

Evidently, somebody as city hall saw this movie, because with teachers threatening to go out on strike next week they're starting up Children First Schools in 144 locations throughout the city and although these schools can't provide instruction, they will provide two meals and a chance for adults a chance to live out their dreams by working with children.   Maybe they work at Central Office crunching numbers or they have a couple of arrests for indecent exposure and could never pass a criminal background check or maybe they just have a short fuse and normally would not trust themselves around kids.  It doesn't matter.  The CPS will call on them all to come forward and just like the Replacements overcome their obstacles to touch our children's lives. Just because you're convicted of drunk driving a couple of times doesn't mean you no longer have anything to offer kids.

Sure, some people might say it's dangerous putting as many as twice as many students as a school is designed for into an environment where they are being supervised by people not used to working with children and where they can't receive instruction, but that's the edge of the seat risk that only a gritty bunch of outcasts can overcome.

I wouldn't actually trust my own kids to this kind of chaotic amateur hour, but I think it could be great for some students.  Who needs teachers to get an education?  Ok, maybe not an education, but to have a great time watching Finding Nemo or Swiss Family Robinson?  Hear that Chicago Teachers?  We're putting Children First, kind of.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marketing Education Reform

The one segment of education reform that seems to always outshine the others is marketing.   I continue to be amazed at just how good we are at it.  When Walmart and other corporate reformers announced their teachers rock campaign, I expected that Americans would greet it with the same  suspicion they would regard Chick-fil-a sponsoring a gay pride parade.   Boy, was I wrong.  They ate it up.  In Chicago, corporate reformers have been battling the Chicago Teachers Union for awhile now and branding their message to appear to be grassroots.  This is great stuff as seen in this whiny CTU video:

In trying to do our part, we focused groups several key education reform concepts and found we were starting to get a lot of push back as these issues become more prominent.  However, we found a way to make them much more palatable.  We call the results Reform Catz and we present a half dozen here suitable for sharing with even the most hard core opponent to reform.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More on Using Loss Aversion with Teachers

In the movie Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese gave a good demonstration on how you could use loss aversion to run a business.   The idea is, giving somebody something and then threatening to take it away if certain goals aren't met is far more effective than just promising people something if they meet those goals.  For teachers, this has obvious implication for merit pay schemes where teachers are handsomely rewarded at the beginning of the year, but then forced to give the money back if their students do not achieve on standardized tests.

Loss aversion sounds like a new principle in economics, but it is actually quite old and only appears revolutionary when it is applied to education reform.  One way that employers have successfully used loss aversion is by having corporately run cities like Hershey, PA or the Pullman District of Chicago.   By making employees shop at a company store, you could guarantee that employees would do all they could to keep the boss happy.   Can't we do something like that with school supplies?   Teachers sure buy enough.  You were grading papers all weekend? F you.  Pay me.  Your class is upset because a classmate was shot? F you. Pay me.  Your class is all made up of children living in poverty? F you.  Pay me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Roland Fryer, Snooki, and Building the Perfect Teacher

By Monica Caldwell
People are always surprised to find out that I wasn't an education major in college.   As a hotel/motel management major I learned a lot about how to deal with employees.  This knowledge was further augmented when I began managing a tanning salon at the tender age of 20.  Teaching was the hardest job I ever had and the five weeks of training leading up to it was even tougher than the nearly 2 whole years I spent in the classroom.

Recently, a couple of studies have come out that really got me thinking.   The first study was by the awesome Roland Fryer.  He says that the key to making merit pay work is loss aversion.  Now math is hard, but the way I understand it instead of giving teachers money if they show improvement on tests, you give them the money up front and then if their students' test scores don't improve they either cough up the dough, or your Uncle Rocco pays them a little visit.   If they're like me, they'd probably spend it all on shoes.

Another really cool report I read was called The Irreplaceables.   Now, this isn't to be confused with The Expendables which is a movie about a lot of old guys blowing stuff up, but an article by The New Teacher Project says that urban schools are not making their best teachers feel valued and instead retaining the bad ones.  I can relate to this.  The fire in my classroom wasn't what got me terminated as much as all the other teachers who were jealous of my rapport with my class going to the principal.

What we need is a way to make teachers feel rewarded, retain the best teachers, and use loss aversion to scare teachers into working really hard.  Now, if you believe like I do, the best teachers come from programs like Teach for America, this is really easy.   When teachers go through the Teach for America program, put like a dozen of them up in a mansion that they could never afford on a teacher's salary.  Then as the school year goes on, have teachers vote each other out of the mansion, but if your kids improve on standardized tests, you have immunity.

The best part is we film this as a reality television show.  Now one problem is Teach for America's training is only 5 weeks and a reality tv show season is much longer, but that's fixed by following the recruits through the beginning of their teaching careers.  The teachers will try really hard because the mansion will have like a hot tub and cute guys and a kitchen that's totally stocked with everything you could want.  The good teachers will be retained and a few teachers may even get famous like Snooki.  Hey Bravo!  Call me, we'll do lunch.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fear and Bloating in the Motor City

30,000 teachers descended on Detroit last weekend and I think I surprised a lot of people by being among them.  Why did I decide to go to a city without a single Michelin starred restaurant with these lazy public servants enjoying their luxurious Summer vacations?  Because I go where the story is.

I have a natural distrust of Randi Weingarten if for no other reason than the Weingarten Rights she won for union employees, but I soon found myself rooting for her in what seemed to be a battle between the New York union and the Chicago union.  One particular bill which the New York faction was behind suggested that perhaps excessive standardized testing wasn't the best idea.  Chicago wanted to go further and actually do something about it.  Fortunately, New York teachers are as good at pulling teeth as New York Dentists and the resolution was passed with a healthy set of gum and no choppers as of yet.

The speakers ran the gamut from sleep inducing to nausea inducing.  Dr. Wendel Anthony was my least favorite.  I was in the middle of a really nice sleep when he started speaking and he was just too loud for me to get back to slumber land. I think he was rapping to the Bee Gees or something.

Of course Diane Ravitch was there, making her usual excuses for the teachers.   If you haven't seen it yet, Michelle Rhee has a hysterical video of a fat guy as an Olympic athlete that talks about how the United States has slipped and we need to regain our status as the top education country in the world.   Ms. Ravitch naturally disputed this by pointing out that this wasn't true.  I hate the way she attempts to manipulate an audience using facts.  It doesn't matter if our schools are in crisis, what matters is what we're going to do about that crisis.  Diane again and again uses facts to stop people from seeing the crisis that we all know must exist in the public schools.
The great Joe Biden spoke at the convention as well.   Once again the  Chicago Teachers Union provided interesting theater.  Rather than calling for four more years for President Obama and Vice-President Biden, they fliered his speech with yellow papers that they held up during his speech that said Stop Race to the Top.  How disrespectful of a great American hero like Joe Biden.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early so I never did see who won the election to be head of the AFT for the next 2 years.  I'm really rooting for Randi, whose call for a solutions driven union reminds me very much of Neville Chamberlain's fine leadership of England in the years before World War II.  I think with Randi in charge, we will truly have peace in our time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Students Deserve 100% from CTU

Many teachers last week rejoiced that with 91% of the teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union voting, they authorized a strike 98% to 2%.   We at Last Stand for Children First recognize that this was an important showing of unity by the teachers, but we also do not believe that our students should have to settle for 98%.   We are asking the CTU to redo the election and make it unanimous.  If 100% of the teachers vote for a strike, they have our blessing.  If not, we must demand that they reconsider their vote.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beware of Parents Across America

Parents Across America was at it again today.   They have taken the time to warn people of the dangers of seeing the new Parent Trigger movie Won't Back Down.   Apparently, their big objection to the movie stems from a viewpoint that a movie based on a true story needs to be 100% truthful, but if that was the case would we ever have learned how Jon Bon Jovi cracked the Nazi codes in World War II if it wasn't for U-571 or would we have learned how Civil War veterans banded together to save the South in Birth of a Nation.

Parents Across America wants to hold this movie to a ridiculous degree of truthfulness.   According to Parents Across America co-founder Leonie Haimson, “The movie is supposedly based on a process called the ‘parent trigger,’ which purports to empower parents. But actually, the ‘parent trigger’ has a track record of 100 percent failure, and has pitted parents against parents and torn apart school communities at the two schools where it has been tried,”

You know what Leonie, Star Wars probably didn't happen either and The Avengers was also made up, but the point is they could have happened.  A movie doesn't have to be true, it just has to be mostly true. 

Mostly true is good enough for most movie audiences.  As Pocahontas sang in the Disney movie, the truth lies "just beyond the river bend."   In the actual true story behind Won't Back Down it was actually not a crusading mom, as the PAA blog says, "it was orchestrated not by parents but by an outside organization: Parent Revolution, founded by charter school operator Steve Barr and funded by wealthy foundations."  I would say the question isn't why the movie feels the need to portray wealthy hedge fund managers as a struggling single mom, but why American can't accept wealthy hedge fund managers as the real heroes of the education reform movement.

From people like myself and Whitney Tilson to Chicago's Billion Dollar Septet Board of Education, the wealthy are the real heroes behind education reform and the quicker the American public gets around to realizing it, the quicker we can begin eroding those barriers that make it difficult to do really great things for your children.  Parents Across America should be ashamed of their anti-wealth bias.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CPS Mommy Urges Teachers Not to Strike

Today, the Chicago Teachers Union announced that in their strike authorization vote, 98% of the teachers voting and 2% voted against.  This number is out of about 91% of the teachers voting.  You know who else used to get vote results like this?  Sadam Hussein.  I'm just saying, it wasn't until he was overthrown that we learned that the people in Iraq weren't really 100% behind Hussein either.

This strike vote is clearly against the spirit of SB7 -- a law carefully crafted by lobbyists, hedge fund managers, politicians, and other education experts to take away strike votes from the Chicago Teachers Union.  There are a lot of angry people who invested a lot of money in taking away strike rights from the Chicago Teachers Union.

I am not one of these angry people.  I love, love, l-u-v teachers.   In fact, I am in the process of making 26,000 friendship bracelets that I will soon give out to the members of the Chicago Teachers Union signifying that we are all BFFs.  That is how much I love the teachers of Chicago.  I am simply a CPS mommy or at least I hope to be when I have children and move to Chicago. 

What the Chicago Public School teachers don't realize is that they have now given CTU leadership such as recording secretary Michael Brunson the ability to use a strike vote as leverage during contract negotiations.  This leverage could very well lead to a strike.   I am sure teachers didn't realize this.  After all, if they're so smart, why are they teaching?

The vote count was coordinated by financial secretary Kristine Mayle, but what do we really know about Kristine?   As seen in this photograph, Kristine is very short and much closer to the tables where votes are counted than other taller union workers.  In fact, the ABC camera person could barely get 1/4 of Kristine's face in the picture.  It would be very easy for someone of Kristine's stature to reach down and tamper with ballots before a taller person would even realize anything had gone awry.  I don't know who the ministers supervising the count were, but things like Roman Collars and monk's robes obscure the vision and make it very difficult to spot chicanery.

The teachers have allowed Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey, Kristine, and Michael to whip them into a frenzy.  They are obviously not thinking clearly or they wouldn't have voted for the strike.   As parents or hopefully future parents we need to set them straight.   Surely, a strike vote like this is too important to leave to 75% or 90% of the teachers.   Shouldn't a strike authorization vote require 100% of the teachers to vote for it?  We need both sides at the table.  If you think so too, we ask you to  text the letters D-O-O-V-E-R to 3-1-1 to let the mayor know that you believe the Chicago Teacher's Union should have to redo the vote. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Secret to Effective Teaching - Galvanic Response Bracelets

Diane Ravitch recently broke the story of the Gates Foundation awarding grants to both Clemson University and The National Center on Time and Learning for a combined 1.2 million dollars to study the use of Galvanic Response Skin bracelets to determine student engagement.   This high tech bling measures emotional arousal via skin conductance, a form of electrodermal activity that grows higher during states such as excitement, attention or anxiety and lower during states such as boredom or relaxation.

I am happy to report than working in conjunction with Tyrell Corporation, we have developed a prototype bracelet for students and teachers to be used in trials during the 2013-2014 school year.   The bracelets will also be fitted with electric fence technology to end the problem of students ditching once and for all.
We have long believed at Last Stand for Children that education must be an exciting process for students.  A relaxed student is a student that is not performing at their highest level.  We can use smart technology to find out which teachers are best able to keep students excited, agitated, and anxious throughout a full class period. 

Future enhancements are planned for the bracelet to emit a brief electric shock to return a distracted student's attention to class as well as an attachment to allow the device to release a steady dose of Ritalin throughout the school day for students suffering from ADD or ADHD.   The future of education is here today and if we have the courage to grasp it, we will finally give our students the education they deserve.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Message to Chicago Teachers from JC on the Strike Vote

Dear Teacher,

Earlier this evening, I emailed you requesting that you reconsider voting yes in the strike authorization vote in our schools beginning Wednesday, June 6.  I have it on very good authority that many of you did not heed my missive and in fact some of you have even taken to openly mocking it on forums and on Facebook.  I am asking you again to reconsider and this time the gloves are off.

I told you already about SB7.   This legislation was carefully crafted by very wealthy people both inside and out of the state to crush your union and take away your ability to strike.  Frankly, we never even thought there was an outside chance that you could hit 50% in a strike vote.  You may have seen the Jonah Edelman video going around where he explains the thinking behind the law.   You are upsetting a lot of plans and we are not amused.   Grow up and wait for the fact finder to rule on the small number of points he can rule on.

As you know, CPS and CTU are in the middle of the collective bargaining process established in SB7 and just because we've been at it since November without progress doesn't mean results aren't right around the corner.  For one thing, I haven't attended a single negotiation session yet.  When I show up there with my top secret offer, the union will be very pleasantly surprised.  When we offered a 2% raise, we really meant a 20% raise.  When we said we would absolutely not budge on things like class size, we really meant, "We welcome negotiations that will help all the city's children."  Of course, you won't know that if you go out on strike.  Will you?  If you vote for a strike you're disrespecting the process.  Believe me, if there's one thing we know about it's disrespect.

CTU continues to grossly distort our positions:

CPS is not changing its class size policy and has told CTU this repeatedly.  We are simply taking any class size protections from the contract, but come on this is JC.  You know you can trust us.
CPS has enhanced staffing levels by maintaining quota positions and giving schools an additional $130 million in discretionary funding that can be used for additional staff positions if your schools doesn't need books, or paper, or toilet paper.
CPS has offered teachers significantly more professional development time for both elementary and high school teachers by allowing teachers to stay after school until late in the evening or come into work on Saturday.

Third, Miss Lewis and Mister Sharkey have expressed interest in taking the strike vote now because teachers will be on vacation over Summer and it will be difficult to negotiate over the Fuller School Day after it has already begun.  Seriously?  You can't vote over Summer because you want to take your kids to the Dells?   Isn't it time that the children of Chicago didn't get the shaft while you got a trip down a fancy water slide?  Also, wouldn't it be made in the Fall when all teachers can make an informed decision including the 5,000 or so just hired teachers completely new to the system and lacking tenure protection?

I am confident that CPS and CTU will reach an agreement that is fair to its members, students and taxpayers. My team and I are committed to that. I was a teacher, my wife was a teacher, both my parents were teachers, I have friends who were teachers, I had a former teacher squeegee my car today and Common's mom was a teacher. We not only respect and support the work that you do, but believe very strongly that you deserve a raise.  All that talk about you not deserving a raise when we took the 4% from you last year---that was Rahm's idea.  I had nothing to do with it.   Authorizing a strike will likely derail that process, not aid it.  Then you might have to take a pay cut and while I would continue to support you, my heart just wouldn't be in it.
For more information on the intent behind SB7, watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kog8g9sTDSo.
Start thinking about the kids, you selfish jerks.


Monday, June 4, 2012

CTU Respect Yourself

I've been so upset about the Chicago Teachers Union strike authorization this week, but I haven't been able to figure out why.  Sure I care about the students who will be left without a school to go to and the hardship these families face, but I realized what the answer was when I head CPS' CEO Jean Claude Brizard tell reporters, "What are they voting on? You’re asking educated professionals to decide something that they don’t know what they’re deciding on. That is disingenuous and disrespectful of teachers."

That's the problem!  Since the Chicago Teachers Union is made up of teachers obviously, the problem is that these teachers don't even respect themselves enough to wait until the Summer to take their strike vote.  Sure they'll say things like the fact finder can't even consider some of the issues most important to them like class size and a better school or they'll say a 2% raise is so insulting, there is no point in waiting.  However, the problem is teachers simply lack self-respect.

Fortunately, philanthropists like myself the Crowns, The Pritzkers love and care about this damned teachers union.  We care about it too much to let a bunch of teachers wreck it, like they already did to the schools care about so much.  It is time we took back the Chicago Teachers Union once and for all from the teachers that are destroying it all in the name of a contract.   I looked up what the ten steps for an intervention were at www.drugintervention.org and I think it's definitely time for an intervention:

Drug Intervention Step #1: Don't Rescue the Addict
Friends and family members can attempt to protect an addict from the consequences of his behavior by making excuses about his addiction or getting him out of trouble.  We can't afford to do this with the teachers.  If they wanted a fair contract, they should have become consultants.

Drug Intervention Step #2: Don't Become an Enabler
Family members should be careful not to reward the addict by paying his bills, bailing him out of jail, letting him stay for free or ignoring his behavior. In other words, giving them a raise will hurt and will not help their self respect.

Drug Intervention Step #3: Find the Right Time
We've been telling them to wait for Summer to take a vote.

Drug Intervention Step #4: Find Strength in Numbers
Stand for Children has a couple hundred members and I think there's about a half dozen college students in Democrats for Education Reform.  I think we can scrounge up 150 or so.   We need more of you to help us stand up to these teachers and make them confront their problem.

Drug Intervention Step #5: Be Honest
No problem here.  Our school board is really good at this whole honesty thing.

Drug Intervention Step #6: State the Consequences
Tell the addict that until he gets help, you will leave him to the consequences of his behavior and will no longer bail him out. Make it clear that you are not trying to punish the addict, but protect yourself from the harmful effects of his addiction.  In education we call this accountability.  Again, we're very good at punishment.

Drug Intervention Step #7: Listen
During your drug addiction intervention, the addict might ask questions regarding potential treatment. Listen! These questions are a sign that he is reaching for help. OK, not a strength.  Brizard hasn't even shown up at a negotiation meeting yet, but we can always hire people to listen.

Drug Intervention Step #8: Be Prepared
We didn't prepare because somebody assured us they couldn't get a 75% strike vote.  Thanks a lot Jonah.

Drug Intervention Step #9: Don't Give Up
If the addict refuses help, don't give up. Be supportive and don't enable or allow his behavior. Listen whenever you can and be ready to help the addict into therapy when he is ready. It'd be a lot easier to just fire them.

Drug Intervention Step #10: Find a Good Rehab Center
Treatment Referral will help you find a center that effectively treats alcohol, drug and substance abuse beyond the initial cleansing of the system, addressing the behavioral and thinking patterns that directly contribute to the individual's disease. I would think returning to the classroom would be best.

It's just like Bruce Willis says in that song he wrote all those years ago, "If you don't give a damn about yourself than nobody else is going to give a damn about you."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sinister Teachers Union Treachery in Chicago

In its long history, the Chicago Teachers Union has done some pretty horrible thing, but the rally that they had on May 23rd may take the cake.   You know who else had rallies?   Nazis had rallies.   Looking at Chicago lawyer Matt Farmer tear into the children of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hyatt Heiress Penny Pritzker in the above video simply because their parents want better for them than for the rest of the city of Chicago was disgusting.   Who is this lawyer to tell these parents, that their children should have to go to school with poor children or that poor children could even appreciate the fine arts, technology, and small class sizes so prevalent at elite schools.

The rally itself was unique.  By this video, I judged that there must have been at least 200 people there and possible as many as 1000.  The thing that stands out is that they are all wearing red shirts.  Do you know who else all wore the same colored shirts?  Nazis all wore the same colored shirts.  In the video, you can see how the teachers intimidated parents, nurses, and even cops into supporting them.  This rally is only the first step as the CTU races head long into a strike vote on this Wednesday.   The teachers seem unwilling to accept a 2% pay increase for working only 20% more time.   They also have taken offense to the notion of having 55 students in a classroom.   They're lucky to have jobs.  

Now, at the beginning of the video is a clip of Jonah Edelman.  I feel so sorry for Jonah right now.  Stand for Children does much of the same work that Last Stand for Children First does.  Stand spent good money buying state legislators to get through a law called SB7, which allowed the Chicago Public Schools to refuse to negotiate with teachers on most issues having to do with the quality of the school day.  They covered their butts by requiring a 75% strike vote by the teachers.  How was he to know they could actually get it?  It seems to me if you spend good money on a whole branch of government, they should pass another law to protect your investment as a sort of a warranty. 

Chicago's elite are hurt the most by this turmoil.  You just wish these lazy teachers cared as much about the children of the city as heiresses and hedge fund managers do.  Heiress Susan Crown, whose family has given more than $580,000 to Stand for Children, blamed teachers union for the mess. "I don't think the unions speak to the highest common denominators anymore," said Crown, who has started her own foundation focused on digital learning. "They speak to some of the lowest." 

I can confirm just what she said.  I observed a so called 5th grade math class in a Chicago Public School last month and the whole time the teacher was talking about finding the lowest common denominator.  She kept having her children find the lowest common denominator and not once did she tell her students to find the highest common denominator.  In this way, she was already indoctrinating her children for a future teacher's strike.  You know who else indoctrinated children?  Do I really have to say it?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chicago Uses Math to Ease Budget Problems

The only thing more alarming than the $700 million dollar deficit the Chicago Public Schools is running this year, is the fact it's had these budget deficits for many years before miraculously getting saved by founding money in Springfield, Washington, or by searching the lobby furniture in Hyatt hotels for loose change.  However,  this isn't a depressing story about budget woes because CPS has found a way to extend the school day and save money at the same time.

Currently CPS students have a 5 hour and 45 minute day, which is about 45 minutes less than the state average.  This is because over 30 years ago, the Board asked the teachers to move their lunch to the end of the day and have a closed campus schedule.  While many suburban districts go 6 and a half hours with a study hall, CPS has a day that is intense, but short.

Next year, CPS will go to a 7 hour day for students that will require teachers to do 35 minutes more teaching a day and 15 minutes more supervision at the elementary level.  They are expected to this for a 2% pay increase.  The automatic roughly 4% pay increase most teachers earn up to year 12 for experience would instead be frozen.  Basically, CPS is asking teachers to work 10 more days and go from a 6 hour and 15 minute day with 45 minutes of lunch after school to a 7 hour and 25 minute day.

However, the part that I just love is CPS is now telling teachers they're not getting their salary for a 7 hour and 25 minute day, but for a 7 hour and 40 minute day.   Those extra 15 minutes are too be banked and used to make teachers stay after school or come in on Saturday for professional development.  You see a new law lets CPS add as many hours to the work day as they want.  It seems to me that it's sill to tell teachers that they're banking 15 minutes a day.  Why not make it 2 hours a day?   It's not like it costs CPS any money.  However, this would allow teachers to owe CPS 10 hours at the end of the week.  Surely, the city could use 10 hours of free labor.  There are a lot of charter schools that would love to have some certified teachers, but there are also buses to drive and parking tickets to write.

CPS has taken a bold step in using math to stretch their spending, but can't we go just a little further?  You have to wonder what Juan Rangel could do with 30,000 certified teachers who owe the city 10 hours of work each week. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reflections on the New School Venture Fund Summit

Flying into San Francisco for this year's NSVFS, I felt myself extremely lucky.   Not only was I sipping a wonderful Mimosa in my seat, but I was going to the New School Venture Fund Summit for the first time in three years.  For those of you who haven't been, NSVFS is a lifetime changing experience.  The place is full of the optimism for changing the world that only comes from giving two years of your life to teaching our nation's youth or managing a hedge fund.  It's a place where deals are done and where people who desire to serve our students come together with experts who spent nearly 400 days reaching young minds.

There was great corporate sponsorship at the Summit.  JP Morgan Chase was there with a powerful message that nobody cares more about the children of the 99% than the adults of the 1%.   Even Target hosted the opening reception showing that they believed in the future of our children regardless of how much their business relies on the children of third world countries producing clothing and other goods for their stores.

Actually, things got rather ugly at the opening reception.  There was a horrible mix-up and the hospitality table had fresh pineapple.  Let's just say that Pearson was not pleased and the pineapple was quickly removed to be replaced by a plate of pigs in blankets.  I was doing so much schmoozing and drinking, you can bet I was glad that the hotel pool, didn't have any chemical to discolor urine if you get my drift.

Later that night, we all gathered round to see a movie that I think will change education in America called I Won't Back Down.   It may just have been the liquor talking, but I think I Won't Back Down was as good as anything I've ever seen on Lifetime.  The movie will be this generations Not Without My Daughter.   Ben Austin gave a rousing speech on the need to get parents to feel more disdain for their children's teachers, so that we could have a chance to finally see the parent trigger pulled.

The next morning I was up with only a few hours sleep for morning yoga class.  That may have been a big mistake as I was hoping to meet some of the young reformers.  There were a lot of very attractive 25 year old retired teachers who were making their way into policy, but I soon collapsed on the mat for a much needed hour nap. 

I gave our presentation on the art of counseling out difficult students.   I think people were very excited to hear charter success stories this year after all the bad press and if our 22% reduction in stabbings doesn't count as success I don't know what is.  Charter schools can save a lot of money, improve test scores, and reduce problems with difficult students.  If you are willing to fine the students like Noble Charters in Chicago, you can make some nice pocket change as well. 

I attended two fantastic presentations during the day as well.  Forethought Academies, is behind the push for more power points in schools.  They gave a great power point on how power points make learning more fun and engaging for children.  At the end, they even showed a trick to make a fireworks display at the end of your power point.

The other presentation was by Young Educator and New Teacher Alliance.  They were looking for ideas on how to push out older teachers with five or more years of experience out humanely with a minimum of fuss.  They took several ideas from a science fiction novel called the giver.  They suggested having a party for teachers on the last day of their fifth year and having a "release party" for them.

The final speech of the night was by Rahm Emanuel who had the best quote of the who event saying, " failure is the most important thing in your life because it teaches you who you are."  He then went on to explain his goals for transforming the Chicago Public Schools by closing down those schools where too many kids are failing the standardized test. 

Rahm also warned that if you give parents a choice, they'll take it.  I assume this is in reference to his unwillingness to meet with parent groups unhappy with his plans for a log unfunded school day.  Finally, Rahm called for more educational entrepreneurs to set up shop in Chicago.  I will agree, there's a chance to make a real buck here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why Does Diane Ravitch Hate Teachers?

Long time readers of this blog may remember our article from last Summer, "Why Does Diane Ravitch Hate Children?"  Well, she's at it again only this time the victim of her ill-considered opinions are our nation's teachers.

When the recent survey conducted by Met Life found teacher job satisfaction at the lowest point in decades, we at Last Stand for Children First were naturally quite dismayed.   We believe attracting and retaining excellent quality teachers is the key to giving students a first rate education.  Fortunately, recent research by Teach for America shows that most excellent teachers are only in their first or second year of teaching.   Still, it is vital that we retain our best teachers for both of those important years.

Of course Diane Ravitch's response to the survey was to write an article in Education Week.  To save you the trouble of reading the article, I will tell you that Ravitch blames all the usual suspects that whining teachers love to complain about:

It cannot be accidental that the sharp drop in teacher morale coincides with the efforts of people such as Michelle Rhee and organizations such as Education Reform Now and Stand for Children to end teacher tenure and seniority. Millions have been spent to end what is called "LIFO" (last in, first out) and to make the case that teachers should not have job security. Many states led by very conservative governors have responded to this campaign by wiping out any job security for teachers. So, if teachers feel less secure in their jobs, they are reacting quite legitimately to the legislation that is now sweeping the country to remove any and all job protections. Their futures will depend on their students' test scores (thanks to Arne Duncan), even though there is no experience from any district or state in which this strategy has actually improved education.

As somebody who works in education, I can tell you that Diane Ravitch really must hate teachers to insult so many of them in this fashion.   She implies that all teachers care about is job security, learning conditions for their children, and being treated like professionals.  Fortunately, the readers to her column were much more perceptive:

The great Ed Jones told Diane, "With respect, absolute, unadulterated hog-wash. You couldn't be much more wrong.  The least satisfying two years of my life were the two I spent with a "secure" federal government job. Why? Because the people around me acted like their jobs were guaranteed. I loved our work, but could not stomach the way the people approached it."

What teacher can't relate to that story.  Ed then goes on to remind Diane that teachers are paid quite well.  Perhaps, this is part of the reason they are unhappy?

John Bennett adds, "No one is guaranteed anything besides taxes or prison and then death! Stop pointing fingers, stop wining and playing poor-me, and join the efforts to make things better?"  

Perhaps teachers would be happier if they stopped wining and worked on helping groups like our privatize education?

CJL357 says, "With all due respect, Dr. Ravitch, you do far more to demoralize teachers than Michelle Rhee. You can disagree with the methods she chooses, but Rhee argues for higher expectations of teachers coupled with higher compensation for them as well; in other words, professionalizing the field. You know what's demoralizing? To be an Ivy-League educated teacher trying to make a difference in this country by teaching while you and others in your political camp "defend" the very protections that keep teaching at blue-collar status. If we keep tenure, job security, and pay scales for teachers the way they are now, and continue to expect so little of those entering the profession, the day that people stop asking me why I went to Penn "just" to become a teacher will never come."

I don't have much to add to this, except I would not want anybody who paid for an Ivy League education to be a teacher, instructing children in math.   You know what you call a teacher with an Ivy League education?  A babysitter.

Sorry, I can never resist getting a couple good teacher digs in.  Anyway, I think the readers have something.  What teachers want is an end to tenure, merit pay, and an end to job security.  When we take these steps, teachers will once again feel good about the job they are overpaid to do.