How long one teacher took to become great

A great piece in the Washington Post

A few weeks ago I flew into Buffalo, New York, rented a car, and drove down to northeastern Ohio for a high school class reunion — the 55th — for students I’d taught when they were 9th graders in 1952.

They told me stories about myself, some of which I wish they’d kept to themselves, but what they had to say got me thinking about the teacher I once was.

I have a lousy memory, but it’s good enough to tell me that, notwithstanding assurances that I was their favorite teacher (what else could they say?), I hadn’t really been a good one.

I certainly wasn’t a good teacher in 1952. No first-year teacher is a good teacher.

I wasn’t a good teacher in 1958 either. Some people thought I was; they had spoken sufficiently highly of me to prompt a superintendent from a distant, upscale school district to come and spend an entire day in my classes, then offer me a considerable raise if I’d come and teach in his district.

I did. But I can clearly recall leaning against the wall outside my room during a class change and saying to Bill Donelly, the teacher from the room next door, “There has to be more to it than this.”

The “this” was what I was doing — following the standard practice of assigning textbook reading as homework, then, next day, telling kids my version of what the textbook had covered. Pop quizzes and exams told me how much they remembered. (According to reunion attendees, not much.)

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Losing Sway

If the Yes On 2 campaign is truly about anything, it is about who has the most sway over who represents us. Few would argue that it should be the voters themselves, little surpise then that the Yes On Issue 2 campaign calls itself Voters First.

In reality, voters have the least sway over who gets to represent them. This is demonstrated with 2 very simple examples.

Example 1, Jim Renacci: The 13 minute Man

We know that our Republican politicians gerrymandered state legislative and Congressional districts behind closed doors, in a hotel room nicknamed “the bunker,” intentionally hiding the process from the public. These actions make many citizens wonder what exactly occurred in that room to cause their legislators to be so secretive.

A member of Speaker Boehner’s staff, Tom Whatman, sent an e-mail to NRCC staffer Adam Kinciad, and others in charge of drawing the new districts, requesting a last minute change to District 16 by adding a large business. Then, within 13 minutes of the first e-mail, the NRCC staffers had already responded that Timken would now be in Renacci’s district, no problem, no questions asked.

In our second example, Urban Voters Lose Out in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District

So how can someone like Steve Chabot, so seemingly wrapped up in suburban identity politics, be the Congressional Rep for a district that includes a major city like Cincinnati? This happens through a combination of gerrymandering, overt discriminatory voting policies, the overall loss of 2 Congressional Districts statewide, and shrinking populations in Ohio’s cities. Check out what Ohio’s Republican state legislature and governor have done to Ohio’s First Congressional District over the years… the graphic below shows where in the congressional redistricting based on Census 2010, the Republican state legislature went completely out of their way to tack on the staunchly Republican Warren County to the 1st District, and in the process, further weakening the voice of Cincinnati’s residents in speaking up for their share of federally-funded projects (this boundary will go into effect beginning with the 113th Congress starting in 2013).

Clearly, just from these 2 example, of which there are many more, our redistricting process is broken. We have waited year after year for politicians in Columbus to fix this rigged system, but they have failed us. Now we have an opportunity to fix the system ourselves, by voting Yes On Issue 2.

Voters First’s proposal will create an Independent Citizens Commission. Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders are prohibited from serving on the commission. The Commission’s work will be open and it will be accountable to the public. The Commission will empower voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.

  • Citizens, Not Politicians. Instead of the current procedures (in which politicians draw district boundaries that unfairly favor their own party and/or protect incumbents), a 12-member Citizens Commission will create the districts. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration.
  • Openness and Transparency. All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the Commission must be open to the public. No more backroom deals.
  • Balance and Impartiality. The Citizens Commission will include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and the approval of at least seven of the twelve members of the commission will be required for the adoption of any plan. This will ensure that the final plan fairly represents all Ohioans, not just those currently in power.
  • Community Representation. Districts will be created that are geographically compact, and which minimize the division of counties, townships, municipalities and wards between different districts.
  • Accountability & Competitive Districts. Politically balanced districts will be created, rather than “safe districts” which make it difficult or impossible for voters to hold elected officials accountable.
  • Fairness. To the greatest extent possible, the share of districts leaning toward a party will reflect the political preferences of the voters of Ohio.

Click here to view the summary of the ballot language

Shady group secretly plots against voters

According to Gongwer, a "by-invitation-only" meeting of lobbyists and political insiders was held Tuesday morning at a private club in Columbus by a group seeking to oppose the Voters First Amendment.

The meeting was sponsored by Protect Your Vote Ohio. Voters First responded to this new revelation

"Today's backroom meeting at a private club is yet another example of the broken political system where politicians, lobbyists and insiders rig districts for their own benefit-and exactly why we need this reform," Ms. Turcer. "The hosts of this meeting are the same people who spent months in a hotel room they called 'the bunker,' drawing political boundaries to benefit themselves. It's no surprise that they'll say or do anything to protect their own power."

The Dayton Daily News gets the scoop on who some of the people are who are forming this shady group

Protect Your Vote solicited the help of state lobbyists Tuesday during a private event at the Capital Club in Columbus, according to an invitation obtained by the Dayton Daily News. The campaign organizers listed on the invitation include fundraisers and others with ties to the Republican elected officials who had a hand in drafting the new boundaries.

Campaign Manager Brandon Lynaugh declined Tuesday to comment on the fundraiser and other Protect Your Vote activities.

One of the finance consultants listed on the invitations, Ray DiRossi, was paid $105,000 to assist elected officials in drawing the boundaries last year. Another consultant, Pamela Hashem, is a major fundraiser for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp.

Secrecy is no stranger to these people and the politicians they serve to keep the political system working for everyone but voters.

According to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report released this afternoon, Republican lawmakers at the state house implemented a strategy of deliberate secrecy to withhold information from the public about redistricting efforts. The documents paint a picture of lawmakers who purposely operated in a legal gray area to prevent their actions from ever being made public.

For months, Republican lawmakers and staff meet in secret to work on redistricting efforts in possible violation of Ohio’s open meetings law. The documents show a Republican party that are so obsessed with privacy that they used taxpayer dollars to rent a secret hotel room in Columbus that was used as a location to meet on redistricting issues.

You can read the report and all the shady secret dealings that went into drawing Ohio's new political boundaries, here.

Top reasons to take power out of the hands of the politicians

Or why the Voters First initiative is so important

  1. Ohio’s new Congressional Districts now look like they were drawn using an Etch-A-Sketch.
  2. Ohio’s new 9th Congressional District is so narrow that with a good long jump you could leap right over it — from the 4th District, right in to Lake Erie.
  3. The mapmakers put The Ohio State University and Ohio University in the same Congressional District instead of the NCAA Elite 8.
  4. Tax-payers had to foot the bill for a fancy hotel room[1] — the politicians called “The Bunker” — so the mapmakers could have more privacy to gerrymander Ohio’s new Congressional and State Legislative districts.[2]
  5. The mapmakers came up with a brand new criteria for redistricting called, ‘Save Our Politicians Millions in Future Campaign Spending.’ [3]
  6. Partisan operatives got $150,000 to help draw the maps.[4] Ohio’s voters got the shaft.
  7. Mapmakers ignored public input and protected their own political interests. Their efforts made a mockery of public redistricting hearings held across the state.
  8. Congressional districts were rigged so that most U.S. Representatives were selected during the Primary, robbing millions of General Election voters of a voice. [5]

To find out more, please visit Voters First Ohio.

[1] Map-makers worked in Room 601 of the Double Tree Guest Suites, The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 31-34

[2] Apportionment Board Secretary Ray DiRossi’s August 16, 2011 email at 9:53am noted, “I’m free all day today at the Bunker,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 35

[3] Ohio House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Troy Judy provided Ray DiRossi with an analysis which ranked the top Ohio House Districts for the amount of in-kind campaign support provide by the Republican Party or caucuses. DiRoss replied, “But we have made significant improvements to many HD on this list. Hopefully, saving millions over the coming years,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix 106-107.

[4] Both Apportionment Board Secretaries received contracts for $75,000 for map-making. Each received an additional $30,000 for their work during litigation, Elephant in the Room, Appendix pp. 41-46.

[5] Partisan indexing based on the results of the following statewide races: 2008 – President, 2010 – Governor, Auditor, and Secretary of State project no highly or heavily competitive Congressional races in 2012.

What's the matter with teachers today?

GIVEN ALL the talk about the importance of education these days, you'd think teaching would be the most revered job in America.

Forget what our CEOs with the seven- and eight-figure salaries do or don't do. When it comes to economic success, our fate seems to rest on our five-figure teachers. If they fail to impart the intricacies of algebra and physics and C++, we'll be overtaken by all those ambitious nations coming up behind us, fast.

It's enough to think we'd have fat bonus checks all written out and ready to shower on the teaching corps' best and brightest. And yet . . .

Teaching is one of the most criticized jobs in America. Our economic malaise? We lay a big chunk of blame on teachers. Our slide in the international test rankings? Ditto. State budget woes? Ditto again.

As comedian Jon Stewart might say: Whaaat?

How can teachers be the cause of our troubles . . . (Stewart pause here) . . . AND the solution?

YES, IT'S A little crazy. But it's not new.

From the days of the one-room schoolhouse on the prairie, our relationship with teachers has been, well, complicated.

We idolize them, but second-guess their judgment. Love the ones we know, but disparage the ones we don't.

We tell them, again and again, that they do the most important work in the world, but rarely ask them what we need to do to improve schools.

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Governor blasted for "lies"

The Dayton Daily News has an article about a school superintendent blasting the Governor for apparent lies about public employees at a closed door meeting.

We've been in possession of this letter for some time, but given its obvious explosiveness we had decided not to publish it, however now that the DDN has written that story we think the entire letter in context deserves to be published.

September 9, 2011

Dear Staff,

I wanted to send this email to you for a week now. It has taken me the better part of this week to make sure I form my words correctly and present to you absolute facts. I am trying to do this below. I feel very passionate that it is my duty as the superintendent of a legitimate public school district to fill you in on an occurrence I had last Thursday.

I was invited to hear Governor Kasich speak at a private “invitation” only event. At first, I declined, but after more consideration, I accepted and attended the event. Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder spoke for about 5 minutes and then the Governor spoke for about 20. The majority of people in the room were affiliated with the Republican Party.

When Batchelder spoke, he told this group point blank that Ohio is in the financial shape it is in because public employees have been bilking the state out of money for years. I promised myself that I would not become outraged to the point where I had to leave, so I stayed.

The Governor spoke for about 5 of the 20 minutes on Senate Bill 5. I thought you might be interested in some of the things he said. He told the audience that public employees do not pay a dime into their pension fund and that they do not pay a dime for their healthcare insurance. As you know, this is a bold face lie. The public pension systems of Ohio have noted that 98% of public employees DO pay 10% of their salary to the retirement system. I hope you know that you do as well. Ten percent of your salary goes to STRS and the school district does pay an additional 14% for you. This is no different from an employee who has a pension from his or her company or a matched 401 (k). Nearly every professional employee of any company that is worth its salt has one or both of these benefits. Additionally, many public employees pay a percentage of their health care cost. You pay 20%.

The Governor said that “we are at war with these people.” He also said that he wishes they would just accept Senate Bill 5 because he is going to spend millions in tax payer money to defend it in the campaign. He said if it goes down, he and the legislature are going to “ram it through” in other legislation. He commented that his polls are showing that as many as 70% of Republicans are going to vote the bill down and he doesn’t understand why.

He also tried to tell the people that he tried to sit down with union leadership and they declined. I guess he forgot that the union leadership approached him before Senate Bill 5 passed and he had the doors of the State House LOCKED for the first time ever in history. He locked us out of our building and said he was not discussing anything. His actions made that clear.

Although many people in the room clapped when he said other things, no one clapped during this Senate Bill 5 piece. He entertained about 10 questions. No one asked anything about Senate Bill 5. They all asked about why he is selling the turnpike to a foreign nation and why he is “selling jails” to private companies which may be foreign nations when the major religions have deemed this immoral, unethical and unjust. They also asked about tax abatements, Obama Care and Medicare in Ohio. After every single question, he turned the tables around and made a comment that public employees have caused Ohio to be in financial ruin and that is why he was doing all of these things.

I could tell you more.

I understand that Ohio is in bad financial shape. I really do. I understand that we need reform. You cannot “ram through” reform and you cannot blame the state of the economy on the hard working people of Ohio. The absolute thing that bothered me the most about the whole ordeal was that he lied to the people in that room. He spread a bold face lie as propaganda in order to make his bill look valid. It made me sick.

This Governor is a bully and the legislature is his posse. We have to stand up to this bully AND to his posse. We need to make sure that our family members, our friends, our neighbors—anyone who will listen—know the truth and know that these lies are coming from Columbus. If you don’t stand up for yourself now, this will only be the beginning of a downward turn from which we will never recover.

Additional information:

As we speak, HB 136 is moving rapidly through the Ohio house. If passed into law, this bill allows ANY student in ANY public school to take their daily funding, which is now nearly $6,000 per student, and go to the private school of their choice if the family income is less than $95,000 per year. This money is deducted from the public school of residence. There is no regard for separation of church and state. I believe federal funds would follow the student as well. The private school is free to take or turn away any student they choose for any reason. They are free to kick them out whenever they wish. They do are not accountable in any way shape or form as you are as a public school. If this bill passes, MANY of you will loose your job. First of all, we will deal with two different consequences of this bill. #1. Most private schools cost more than $6,000. So who will benefit? Upper middle class students and or the cream of the crop that are given scholarships by the private schools. #2. If the private school costs less than $6,000 per year, the parent gets to bank the extra money. So that means if the parochial schools in our area choose to accept this, they could charge $4,000 per student and the parent would get a check for $2,000 for each kid. The lawmakers in Columbus keep trying to crush public education and we are hanging on by a thread. This and senate bill 5 will be the final nails in the coffin.

If there ever was a time to speak up and be active in government, it is now.

Hang in there,

Dr. Mike

These are obviously very troubling comments from the Governor if this letter is accurate.