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.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Parent Voices Heard in Education Debate

One of the biggest challenges of the education reform movement is to get parent voices heard.   Parents are important stakeholders in the discussion about how to improve education, but too often their voices are suppressed by the adults in the system.  Partnering with education reformers is one of the very best ways for parents to get their voices heard.  While they may have numbers, we have the money and access to the media to amplify parent messages.

The problem is lately, parents are missing this point.  Parents are actively fighting school reform and as a result, their voices are not being heard.  In Florida this week, exciting new legislation allowing a parent trigger to give parents more say in closing low performing schools for charters, was defeated in the Florida Senate by a coalition of parent groups.  In New York and Chicago parents have been actively fighting against turning around unsuccessful schools, and in Chicago parents are leading a ferocious charge against the longer school day. 

By fighting the reformist agenda, parents find themselves without a voice.  The illusion of inclusion is vital to making the changes that parents should want.  Groups like Stand for Children, Students First, and Last Stand for Children First are well funded organizations full of media savvy, but without parent buy in, there is only so much we can do.  Politicians who support are agenda have gotten so desperate that they've taken to paying protesters.  Surely, working together we can do more and appear more authentic. 

You can make your voice heard by doing the following:

1. Join an organization like Last Stand for Children First, Students First, or Stand for Children.
2. Attend regular meetings where you can be told what your interests and opinions should be.
3. Avoid causing dissension by debating policy or veering from the company line.
4. Remember that we care about students and if you do too, this is the best way to get your voice heard.