Why Join the Future exists

This piece provides as good a rationale as we have read for why Join the Future exists

"The public common school is the greatest discovery made by man," said Horace Mann. There is a direct link between public education and this nation's civility among citizens, its standard of living and its pivotal position in the world community. Multiple forces, such as the greed associated with for-profit education ventures, the philosophy that education is primarily a private benefit instead of a common good and that sectarian and other private purposes, should be supported from the public largess are unraveling the public common school system. A massive focused, committed offensive is required to preserve the public common school.

During the common school movement in the early and middle 19th century, there were strong forces that opposed the implementation of a tax-supported education system, free to all the children of all the people. Some of the opponents wanted tax money for their sectarian and private purposes. Others opposed tax funds used for the education of the children of others but tolerated public education so long as the public cost was minimal.

The common school movement was successful in spite of strong opposition because the proponents were united and totally committed to the concept that quality educational opportunities should be provided for all children via the public common school system. Thus, the constitutional provision for a thorough and efficient system of common schools was adopted by Ohioans in the mid-19th century. This provision prodded state officials in every generation to enhance educational opportunities within the state system.

The priority for improving the public system changed in Ohio in the early 1990s when the governor joined forces with a current for-profit charter school kingpin to start the voucher and charter school programs. These programs began as "pilots" and thus most local public school personnel and advocates tended to ignore these public policy changes. "This isn't my problem since it doesn't affect me" seemed to be the view. Now that charters and vouchers have grown to the point of extracting about $1 billion from school districts this year, some are becoming concerned that the public common school is unraveling; however, many within the public school community have withdrawn by indicating, "This isn't my problem. 'They' will have to fix it."

HB 59 is a prime exhibit that it is not being fixed. The entire public K-12 common school community must become involved in fixing the problem. "They" are not going to rid the mischief in HB 59 but "we", if, united in the cause of the public common school, determine to do so.

The expansion of choice and short-changing of public K-12 school districts, inherent in HB 59, demand a collective response, immediately.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

What 10,000 teachers think

Scholastic and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have just released a survey of nearly 10,000 public school teachers titled "Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession". Teachers were asked about their schools and classrooms, about student and teacher performance and about the ways it should be evaluated, supported and rewarded. They shared their honest, professional opinions on everything from the role of standardized tests to teacher tenure, from family involvement to job satisfaction, from digital content to salaries.

In this survey, teachers told us:
  • Raising Student Achievement Requires the Work Of Many

    – Teachers agree that their primary goal is helping all students learn and achieve, but a hardworking, committed teacher cannot do it alone.

    – Other factors that teachers identify as essential to raising student achievement include: family involvement, quality curriculum, and a community of educators and school leaders committed to the success of all students.

  • Teaching and Learning Are Too Complex to Be Measured by One Test

    – Teachers are clear in their call for multiple measures of student achievement, and they say that standardized tests do not accurately reflect their students’ growth. In fact, we were surprised to learn that only 45% of teachers say their students take such tests seriously. – They also call for more frequent evaluation of their own practice from a variety of sources, including in-class observation, assessment of student work, and performance reviews from principals, peers and even students.

    – Teachers are open to tenure reform, including regular reevaluation of tenured teachers and requiring more years of experience before tenure is granted. On average, teachers say that tenure should be granted after 5.4 years of teaching, more than the typical two to three years in most states today.

  • Challenges Facing America’s Schools Are Significant and Growing

    Teachers are concerned about their students’ academic preparedness. They tell us that, on average, only 63% of their students could leave high school prepared to succeed in college.

    When we asked veteran teachers to identify what is changing in their classrooms, they told us:

    – Academic challenges are growing. Veteran teachers see more students struggling with reading and math today than they did when they began teaching in their current schools.

    – Populations of students who require special in-school services are growing as well. Veteran teachers report increasing numbers of students living in poverty, students who are hungry and homeless, and students who have behavioral issues.

  • School and Community Supports Are Essential to Keeping Good Teachers in the Classroom

    When asked to identify the factors that most impact teacher retention, teachers agree that monetary rewards like higher salaries or merit pay are less important than other factors

    – though some of these factors require additional funding – including strong school leaders, family involvement, high-quality curriculum and resources, and in-school support personnel.

Here are some of the interesting highlights from the survey, but be sure to check it all out yourself below.

Teachers work long hours

Teachers work, on average 53 hours a week, or 10 hours and 40 minutes a day.

Of the time during the required school day, here is how teachers reported it being spent

The survey has lots of information, including how teachers like to and would prefer not to, spend their time.

Classroom Issues

The graph below shows how teachers feel about class sizes (hint: they think it is very important)

And what do teachers think impact student achievement? (this one's a bit harder to read, but you can see it in large size in the document below). Common core appears at the bottom, family involvement at the top

On student assessments, teachers are in serious disagreement with current reform trends that lean heavily on standardized testing to measure student achievement.

Contentious Issues

Moving on to more contentious issues, reformers should take note - teachers could be your allies if you ever decide to collaborate. Higher salaries are viewed poisitively, but pay for performance is not seen as an important or driving force

But higher salaries fall well down the list of important issues for improving teacher retention. Parental involvement and quality leadership top the list

Finally, on tenure. Teachers do not think tenure ought to be automatic, or bad teachers protected by it. There should be a lot of opportunity for reformers and educators to collaborate in this area.


How money buys education "research"

The Center for American Progress (CAP), which bills itself as a being dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action, recently produced a report titled "Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around The Nation’s Dropout Factories"

The report argues for a more prominent role for charter operators in turning around perennially low-performing high schools. Among its recommendations

the report posits that five steps might improve the likelihood of successful CMO-district partnerships (all of which strengthen the CMO’s position in the district):
1) maximizing theCMO’s autonomy over staffing, budget, curricula, operations, and pedagogy;
2) staffing turnaround schools through creative agreements among education entrepreneurs, unions, charter operators, districts, and states, such as developing thin union contracts;
3) ensuring district financial support for turnaround schools;
4) relaxing state and district administrative regulations around staffing, funding, and school operations; and
5) cultivating public will for such partnerships.

At this point, you might be wondering why a progressive think tank is advocating such right wing policies that have been proven to be unsuccessful. The answer is actually quite simple to descern, and can be found on the very first page of this CAP report.

Paid for by the conservative corporate education reform outfit - the Eli Broad Foundation.

The National Education Policy Center has just released their analysis of this report, and they don't have kind things to say about this Broad funded report.

The report bases the majority of its findings and conclusions on conversations with charter school operators—including those that have not yet engaged in turnaround work—and with school district staff, researchers, and education reformers or consultants. Interview respondents included one professor of educational policy, one researcher from the Center on ReinventingPublic Education, five reformers or consultants from reform organizations or think tanks that advocate for market-based education policies, and three district administrators who were associated with their districts’ charter school partnerships.

Secondarily, the report cites evidence from the popular media, blogs, foundation reports, non-peer reviewed literature, charter operators’ external relations materials, and ideologically identifiable think tanks.

Beyond these citations, the report routinely offers a range of unsubstantiated claims that are not supported by any evidence or that ignore existing evidence to the contrary.

At the same time, no theoretical or substantive rationale behind the report’s sources of evidence is provided to justify why the particular interview respondents or literature sources were selected or how their data were evaluated. The result is a collection of weakly supported claims based on an unsystematic, unsophisticated interpretation of the knowledge base on school turnarounds, charter schools, and charter management organizations.

This is what millions of dollars can buy you. Research and recommendations that lack intellectual rigor. Designed to further corporate education reform agendas at the expense of public education, and the possibility of real reforms and changes that would make a difference to the quality of education students receive.


It's National Teacher Day!

Today is National Teacher Day!

National Teacher Day

On this day we would like to thank everyone who has supported Join the Future, and in doing so helped to support our goals.

  • Advocate for great public schools
  • Continually build a strong network of community support
  • Promote policies that improve public education
  • Foster respect for public school teachers and education support professionals

Voucher Poll

A recent poll, noted in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review shows that most Pennsylvanians oppose vouchers

Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose creating a voucher system that would use tax dollars to pay private-school tuition, according to a public opinion poll released yesterday.
In the March poll of 807 adults, 61 percent said they were opposed to the voucher idea, while 37 percent said they supported it. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

Citizens continue to understand the benefits of a great public education and the means whereby vouchers undermine it, for the benefit of the few.