The "fun" begins soon

A lot of changes have been legislated in education in recent years, and many of those changes due dates are almost upon us. Here is jus a sample of what we can expect and when, from Common Core and report cards to teacher evaluations.

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Next week we will begin to take a look at each of these and asses their merits and readiness.

Impact of Eroding Teacher Salaries

Not the kind of pattern one would want to see if the goal is to increasr the quality of the workforce, and make the profession more attractive to potential future educators.

Individuals who choose to teach over other professions may be doing so at a consider financial cost as teacher salaries have been in decline during the past three years. It is important to note that between 1978-1979, public elemenatary and secondary school teacher salaries fell over 3%, followed by a 6% drop the following year before picking up again in 1982. The question at large is how bad will the next leg down in teacher salaries be in 2013? So far there’s been nearly a 2.5% drop between 2011-2012. Below is a chart illustrating estimated wage erosion over the past three years for elementary and secondary public school teachers

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Education News for 06-22-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Kasich lauds his pick of ex-OSU quarterback for state school board (Dispatch)
  • Gov. John Kasich described his new pick for the Ohio Board of Education yesterday as “a man of great character,” “a man of faith” and a “great addition” to the board. On Monday, Kasich appointed former Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson, 37, to replace Dennis Reardon on the 19-member board and serve the final six months of an at-large term. The Republican governor’s critics raised questions about Jackson’s qualifications for the board and Kasich’s vetting process. Read more...

  • Ohio schools must prep for food allergy reactions (Telegraph Forum)
  • Food allergies are a part of the modern day school room. Ask just about any teacher, principal and of course school nurse (for schools that still have one) and they'll tell you that food allergies are among their many daily concerns when it comes to the well-being of students. Nationwide Children's Hospital estimates that one in 20 children have a food allergy. It's no wonder school personnel must address this very serious health concern. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Advocates complain that juveniles in jail aren’t getting schools’ attention (Dispatch)
  • They’re “off the radar” kids. Special-needs juveniles who are doing time in jails and prisons with adults are entitled to, but often are not receiving, an education behind bars. That’s the thrust of a complaint filed against Columbus City Schools and the Focus Learning Academy by the Children’s Law Center Inc. The 14-page, class-action complaint was filed with the Ohio Department of Education. It is an administrative complaint, not a lawsuit. Read more...

  • City schools cut 21 positions, $3M (Dayton Daily News)
  • DAYTON — Dayton Public Schools approved a budget Tuesday that cuts 21 positions and $3 million for fiscal year 2012, which is slightly more than 1 percent of its projected total expenditures. Those positions are for 12 part-time home instructors, three clerical employees and six high school physical education teachers. The 12 home instructors will be laid off and the other nine employees in the affected positions will be offered employment opportunities within the district, according to spokeswoman Melissa Fowler. Read more...

  • Poland board members have their work cut out for them (Vindicator)
  • News earlier this month that the Poland Board of Education will place a five-year, 5.9-mill additional operating levy on the Nov. 6 ballot has unleashed a tsunami of passionate protest among many in one of most respected and best performing school districts in the Mahoning Valley. Judging by those passions that range from polite questioning to outright outrage and the school board’s 0-3 record of winning additional tax-levy approval over the past two years. Read more...


  • A new tack on funding California's schools (L.A. Times)
  • Wouldn't it make sense for education funding in California to be transparent and equitable, with money spent according to students' varying needs? Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to inject some overdue clarity and logic into the process by allocating to schools a flat amount per pupil, plus a large additional sum for low-income students or those who aren't fluent in English. The governor's plan is far from perfect — it's especially lacking in accountability — and the Legislature appears unwilling to support it this year for reasons both political and philosophical. Read more...

Hard to measure love

Ripped from the comments of this Gates Foundation booster article in the NYT, discussing the measurement of teacher effectiveness

It's almost the end of an exhausting school year, and all I can do is laugh when I read articles like this. I'm supposed to be a "teacher," which I guess means I'm supposed to "instruct" students, and the "effectiveness" of my instruction seems to be what the Gates Foundation claims it's trying to assess. But since I've spent a large amount of my time over the last several months serving as the de facto counselor for teenagers who are depressed, anxious, suicidal, self-injurious, suffering from eating disorders, living in chaotic and destructive family situations, lonely, isolated, scared, and confused, teenagers for whom I am for whatever reason the go-to "trusted adult," I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing I have to offer my students is love. Try to measure that.

Few in the corporate education reform movement grasp this kind of sentiment and reality, which is one reason there is such a large disconnect between those in the classroom delivering education policy and those in the boardroom's making education policy.

How does this manifest itself in the real world? From the Gates article

All along, Gates says, he had been asking questions about teacher effectiveness. How do you measure it? What are the skills that make a teacher great? “It was mind-blowing how little it had been studied,” he told me. So, with the help of Thomas Kane, an education professor at Harvard, the Gates Foundation began videotaping some 3,000 teachers across the country. It also collected lots of other data to measure whether a teacher was effective. All of this work, Kane says, was aimed at “identifying the practices that are associated with student achievement.”

With a wealth of data now in hand, the Gates Foundation was ready for the next step: trying to create a personnel system that not only measured teacher effectiveness but helped teachers improve. Although pilot projects have been announced in four school districts, the one that is furthest along is in Hillsborough County, Fla. That district, which is dominated by Tampa, is in the second year of a seven-year, $100 million grant.

Only 2 years into the pilot program, tension is mouinting in Hillsbrough

Don't count school board member Stacy White as a fan of the teacher evaluation system in Hillsborough County public schools.

"I am not saying that we should not hold teachers accountable," White said today at a workshop on the topic. "But you can put me down as a critic of EET as it stands in its current form."

Empowering Effective Teachers, the evaluation system put in place after the school district accepted a seven-year, $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is nearing the end of its second year.

But the controversy around it is not by any means nearing its end.

"Our teachers feel often times that what they have is Big Brother coming in the classroom to watch over them," White said. "Folks view the peer position as the man or the woman in the black hat."

In fact, in some cases the situation is becoming so tense, one teacher has been suspending for protesting

A veteran teacher was suspended Thursday for rejecting the evaluator chosen for him under a Gates-funded initiative that is revolutionizing the way the Hillsborough County School District assesses its teachers.

School and union officials believe this is the first such act of defiance under Empowering Effective Teachers, a complex system of mentoring and evaluation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The district's action comes just one day after the couple themselves, Bill and Melinda Gates, toured Jefferson High School, where the computer mogul hailed the program as a national model and called its success "phenomenal."

Joseph Thomas, 43, a social studies teacher at Newsome High School, said he refused to schedule a peer observation because he feels the evaluator, Justin Youmans, is not qualified to judge him.

Youmans, 29, has his experience teaching elementary school and sixth grade, according to his school district biography. "He thinks like an elementary school teacher," said Thomas, a teacher for 18 years.

These concerns have also been exressed in Ohio. Who will perform the hundreds of tohusands of observations, and will they be suitably qualified in the subject and grade areas they are observing? This is a big question, and relates directly to scaling the concept of multiple classroom observations. What sounds simple in theory, in practice is complex, expensive, and judging by the experiences in Florida, controversial.

You can't do reforms like these on the cheap, let alone in a revenue declining environemt, yet that is what is being attempted.

Following the Dollars

Who benefits financially from the pro-market charter school movement?

The charter school reform emerged in part out of a progressive effort to promote innovation that could be used to improve all public schools, and to open up discus­sion on the relationship between school and community, particularly in urban areas. It was a movement initiated by Ray Budde, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and envisioned as a school that would gain freedom to try different methods of teaching that could be transferred to all public schools.

However, a funny thing happened along the way. Free-market zealots (with riches) realized that over $600 billion is spent in the U.S. on public schools. A whole new frontier leading to stable profits was recognized. Everyone knows "it takes money to make money,” and the faces behind the voucher/charter "reform” movement are not bashful in stepping up to the bar.

The economic and political consequences of abandoning public education in the US are grave. Education has always been the gateway of opportunity for working people in America, and that gate is slamming shut. With market-based schools, children from wealthy families are being educated, while those from poorer families are being denied the opportunity. While affluent customers may be satisfied with the outcome for their children, rebuilding the economy in post-imperial America will depend on a large, well-educated labor force that can only be supplied by a free and universal public education system.

But in basing schooling on consumerism the free-market zealots overlook the cultural role of schools in communities. Essential services such as the military, police protection, and schooling have been accepted for many generations of Americans as too essential to be subject to the whims of corporate interests distant from the community.

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