Poll: Americans feel good about teachers

The 44th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll on public schools has some interesting findings. The very first question the poll asks

Going back 10 years to 2002, we combined the responses that include discipline concerns, such as fighting, gang violence, and drugs. In 2002, these were the biggest problems identified by 39% of Americans. Today, just 10 years later, only 14% of Americans mentioned concerns about fighting, drugs, and poor discipline. This year, as in the last few years, lack of funding was by far the most common single response Americans cited as the biggest challenge facing schools in their communities. Parents were even more unified that lack of funding was the No. 1 challenge facing schools.

A further question explored sentiment to improving urban schools

Ninety-seven percent believe it’s very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, indicating a strong continuing commitment, and almost two of three Americans said they would be willing to pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of the nation’s urban schools. However, there was a clear difference of opinion between Republicans (41% in favor) versus Democrats (80% in favor) on the taxation question.

It's hard to get 97% of Americans to agree on pretty much anything, so to have that, and 2 out of 3 citizens wanting to increase taxes to address it, one might be forgiven for thinking we're talking about apple pie not urban education. A tip of the hat must also be given for recognition that our education system is unequal

On teacher evaluations, there is a significant divide

Americans are evenly divided on whether states should require that teacher evaluations include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests, and this finding is consistent across all demographic groups. Clearly, American opinion on this doesn’t match the massive effort under way in many states and school districts to do so. Of the 52% who favor including students’ performance on standardized tests in teacher evaluations, almost half said this should constitute between one-third and two-thirds of the teacher’s evaluation.

Considering that people have only heard from one side of the debate on this, and have yet to see the consequences of these corporate education reform policies, this is likely to be a high water mark.

On the subject of teachers, few professions garner as much trust as teachers

Remaining constant over a series of years, 71% of Americans have trust in teachers, despite constant efforts to tear them down by corporate education reformers and their billionaire and media supporters .

You can read the entire survey at this link. We'll close out with words from teacher of the year, Rebecc Mieliwocki.

What a wonderful shot in the arm this year’s survey results are for the American schoolteacher. The core truth is that Americans are confident in their child’s teachers and proud of our educational system.

They see the best educators as caring, attentive, and demanding professionals. They want us to have the freedom to create relevant, rigorous, and engaging lessons for students and to have our effectiveness measured fairly through both classroom observations and student scores on standardized tests.

Americans want teachers held to high standards from the moment we enter a preparation program to our last day in the classroom, and they want us to improve how we prepare young people for the rigors of college and their careers. These are all good things. Just like teachers themselves, Americans want to see schools and the teaching profession elevated and strengthened.

The great news is that kids are learning more than ever before from teachers who are better trained than at any time in history. Walk into most classrooms in America, and you’ll see tremendous things happening. Yet, the persistent negative messages about public schools and teachers remain. If we hope to attract the best and the brightest into the profession and keep them there, we’ve got to put an end to this.

Romney - too many teachers

“He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message in Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” ~ Mitt Romney, Friday, June 8th 2012.

Does Mitt Romney truly believe that firemen, police and teachers are not Americans too? Does Mitt Romney really believe we'd all be better off with a lot less teachers? Less firefighter? Less police?

Based upon he previous policy choices while Governor of Massachusetts that very well might be what he believes

UPDATE - NEA Responds

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s disdainful comments on Friday about needing fewer teachers, police officers and firefighters showed how out of touch he is with middle class America. Appearing today on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a high-profile Romney campaign supporter and potential candidate for vice president, continued the attack on working families when he called for the elimination of unions for teachers, police officers and firefighters.

"Mitch Daniels is wrong. America isn’t better off when teachers can’t advocate for their students or first-responders can’t negotiate for better training and more safety equipment—which could mean the difference between life and death," said NEA President Van Roekel, who also appeared on the morning news program. "These divisive and politically motivated tactics Gov. Daniels is pushing to help the Romney campaign are disrespectful and demeaning to the people who teach our children, protect our communities and run into burning buildings to save lives."

Under Daniels’ leadership, Indiana’s poverty rate ballooned to 16.3 percent in 2010—a three-decade high that is more than a full percentage point above the national average. In 2008, before Obama took office and a full three years into Daniels’ first term as governor, five Indiana cities had poverty rates of at least 20 percent. Indeed, Daniels’ criticism of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ignores the 64,000 Indiana jobs it had saved as of March 2010.

"Once again, we see how Daniels is putting politics above people, and these comments counter the needs of middle class America," added Van Roekel. "We call on Romney to condemn the disdainful comments made by Daniels, a Romney supporter, about our hardworking public servants. Instead of attacking teachers, police officers and firefighters, we should respect them."

Taking a page out of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s playbook of "divide and conquer" politics, Daniels said he wants to get rid of unions for public employee like teachers, police officers and firefighters.

"As we saw in Wisconsin, it was never about the money. The reason they went after public sector unions and left some private sector alone is to try to drive a wedge between people," said Van Roekel. "We need to turn the page of these divisive tactics and instead look for ways to work together to get the economy moving again and lift up middle class families."

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

[readon2 url=""]Continue reading...[/readon2]

Corporate money vs the people

The campaign to support Issue 2 has been one of the most opaque campaigns in Ohio election history. In order to circumvent transparency laws and campaign finacne reports, Better Ohio created a Rube Goldberg like non profit system whereby donors could donote to a non profit that didn't have to expose who those donors were, or how much they donated. They they turned right around and donated that secret stash to their campaign.

If you look at their campaign financne reports it shows just one donor "BUILDING A BETTER OHIO INC" making all the contributions. That said, they did, under pressure release a list of who donated money to "BUILDING A BETTER OHIO INC", though not the amounts. In total 46 businesses and 950 individuals gave some amount of money to the BetterOhio campaign.

If that hasn't been unfair enough, a host of other corporate backed entities also provided financial heft to the Governor's campaign to hurt working people. Via PR Watch

Alliance for America’s Future

The Alexandria, Virginia-based Alliance for America’s Future (AFAF) has spent over seven figures in an effort to flood millions of Ohio voters’ mailboxes with fliers encouraging a “yes” vote on Issue 2 to uphold the bill. Heading the AFAF is Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president’ Dick Cheney, and Barry Bennert, former chief of staff to Ohio Congresswoman Jen Schmidt (R-2nd District). The Alliance does not disclose its corporate donors.

Ohio is just one of 30 states, including Wisconsin, in which the AFAF has become involved. Their official website offers no information on staff or current projects, but instead offers a single webpage stating the AFAF is “dedicated to educating and advocating sound economic and security policies that will foster growth, prosperity, and peace for America’s future.”

The group's fliers include lines such as “OBAMA wants us to do things HIS WAY? Yes on Issue 2 is our chance to do things OUR WAY,” and “Yes on Issue 2 will get POLITICIANS to do the right thing on spending.”

Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks

FreedomWorks, the D.C.-based group affiliated with the Tea Party and led by Dick Armey, has distributed tens of thousands of door hangers and yard signs in Ohio that read “Yes on Issue 2 & 3.”

FreedomWorks, which is led by people who previously worked for David Koch's "Citizens for a Sound Economy," FreedomWorks' predecessor group, does not disclose its corporate donors, and its leaders are drawn heavily from the leadership of the Republican Party and right-wing operatives. FreedomWorks asserts that it is not affiliated with any Issue 2 or 3 Campaign or Committee.

The FreedomWorks website encourages visitors to download and print available door hangers (pdf) with a promise that “tens of thousands more [are] on the way.” 

The group also created the website, which allows Ohioans to download absentee ballots and provides information on where to send them. 

Ohio Liberty Council

The Ohio Liberty Council (OLC), a Tea Party group headed by 12 council board members, has released two television ads in support of Issue 2. The OLC claims group leaders and “private citizens” fund it. President, Tom Zawistowski and Vice President, Jason Mihalick lead the OLC, which does not disclose its donors.

In one OLC ad, the narrator states that Issue 2 is not one of “pro-union” or “anti-union” but rather about “taxpayers rights.”

A second television ad, “The Story of a Broke Ohio,” states that we will be in a deficit because “96 percent of schools tax revenue will go toward staff compensation,” and what they call “Gold-plated pensions and benefits.”

This statistic was pulled from a study by The Buckeye Institute, a conservative 501 (c)(3) “research organization” that has been used in a number of campaigns and as an “expert” on SB5. The Buckeye Institute “study” highlights the projected deficits of nineteen Central Ohio School Districts, and concludes that Central Ohio School Districts will have a budget deficit of nearly $1 billion by 2015 unless compensation packages are realigned or taxes are raised.

The “study” was released as an ad that appeared in twenty-two suburban news weeklies across central Ohio. The ad on its own does not mention SB 5, but it is used in a number of pro SB 5 campaigns.

The “study” places the burden of responsibility for the deficit on government employees, and ignores the fact that Ohio union officials agreed to pay more for insurance and accept wage cuts and freezes.

Americans for Prosperity

The Americans for Prosperity Ohio branch is organizing support for SB 5. AFP Ohio has scheduled more than a dozen town hall meetings across Ohio, organized phone banks and is currently urging supporters of the bill to defend Building a Better Ohio’s “Life or Death” ad featuring great-grandmother Marlene Quinn.

Americans for Prosperity is chaired by oil billionaire David Koch and funded by Koch money and other undisclosed sources. The group includes both a 501(c)(3) that received over $10 million in 2009, and a 501(c)(4) that received over $16 million that year. Neither the national AFP nor its state arms disclose their donors.

Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio branch received a web endorsement from Gov. Kasich in June. In a web-only video, Gov. Kasich praises AFP-Ohio. He refers to the group as “fighters for freedom” and thanks them for their “support to the effort to get Ohio back on track.”

Make Ohio Great

Make Ohio Great is spending thousands to aid Gov. Kasich in his defense of SB 5. Make Ohio Great is a group founded and funded by the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which spent over $9 million to elect Gov. Kasich in 2010. The RGA is funded by billionaires like David Koch and Rupert Murdoch, as well as numerous large corporations. The RGA spent tens of millions on advertisements in the 2010 election year. In August 2010 Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation donated $1 million to the RGA, along with David Koch and others. Make Ohio Great disputes claims that they are a group set up for secret cash to flow in defense of SB 5.

Make Ohio Great reportedly bought $48,100 in airtime with WBNS-TV.

In the ad, titled “Kasich Getting the Jobs Done,” Kasich asks Ohioans to “take a new path,” and boasts that he has balanced the budget without raising taxes.

Kasich may be speaking too soon, as his economic plan for Ohio depends in part on SB 5 becoming law. The cost-savings come from requiring employees pay more for health insurance, and limiting their vacation and sick time, some of which unions had agreed to voluntarily. Ending collective bargaining, though, saved the state no money -- despite messaging to the contrary by out-of-state right-wing organizations, balanced budgets need not come at the expense of collective bargaining.

New Poll:What Americans believe about public education

The annual Phi Delta Kappa International/Gallup poll on public education has just been released. The poll delves into all manner of questions from teachers, including unions, salaries, hiring/firing practices, and curriculum.

People overwhelmingly support teachers and public schools

The survey shows the public has a generally positive view of teachers. Nearly three out of four of those surveyed said they had confidence and trust in teachers today, and two out of three said they would be in favor of their child becoming a public school teacher. It wasn’t just their own children they wanted to become teachers—they wanted the highest-achieving high school students to be recruited for the classroom.

“It’s clear that Americans recognize the importance of getting quality students to become the next generation of teachers,” Mr. Bushaw said.

The poll, in this way, points out some of the areas where current policy and public opinion don’t match up, said Thomas Toch, the co-founder of the Education Sector think tank and the currrent executive director of Independent Education, a Washington-area private school consortium. The public wants to find and retain the highest-quality teachers, and it wants to compensate them based on a number of factors, with student test scores being the least important. Experience, academic degree, and principal evaluations all ranked higher than test scores in the survey. Merit-pay, an important element of the Obama administration’s education agenda, calls for great emphasis to be placed on student test scores when determining teachers’ salaries.

“This poll today shows a much more sophisticated public that is willing and ready to invest in teachers,” Mr. Berry said.

There's a lot more fascinating results in the poll, including no support for firing teachers without cause or converting underperforming schools to charters, even though charters are well supported. People also believe strongly there is a funding crisis (wait till they get a load of the Governor's budget!). Here's the poll.

2010 Poll Report

Is election tampering of SB5 coming to Ohio

Yesterday we read an article detailing some very troubling activity by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers funded astroturf organization

Americans for Prosperity is sending absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the election date.

The fliers, obtained by POLITICO, ask solidly Democratic voters to return ballots for the Aug. 9 election to the city clerk "before Aug. 11."

Those Wisconsin recall elections are central to the fight against SB5 like measures implemented by Republican Governor Scott Walker. Meanwhile, back in Ohio the Cincinnatti inquirer has a report

Americans for Prosperity-Ohio kicks off a statewide series of Taxpayer Town Halls on August 16th in the Greater Cincinnati Area. AFP-Ohio is partnering with Tea Parties, 9-12 Groups, and other liberty organizations to host these town halls, which will focus on the financial crises many local governments across Ohio are facing, how those crises could affect citizens, jobs and our economy, what local governments can do to address their financial challenges, and how Senate Bill 5 can help.

If anyone attempts to tamper with Ohio elections they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.