Participating in the excellent Twitter #edchat discussion at noon today I was reminded, no matter what the pundits say, how many intelligent, caring teachers there are. The discussion was lively and, as always, made me think.
Today’s discussion centered on the question, “What is your opinion on the number one reason education reform is being blocked? As always, participants looked at the question from different perspectives, yet several threads emerged that troubled me.
Teachers are afraid to be publically vocal with their opinions on the direction (or lack thereof) of education reform. There was concern that teachers publically critical of current reform efforts might find themselves facing disciplinary actions from their school boards or administration. What a shame.
There was discussion asking why those with the least knowledge about education - politicians and lobbyists in particular, have so much clout while educators seem to have so little. It was pointed out that teachers’ unions are strong enough to lobby and supply an educational viewpoint, yet some teachers participating on #edchat parrot the falsehood that unions protect incompetent teachers. Why do these teachers believe this? Unions exist to protect and advocate for the teaching profession. Tenure simply provides teachers with due process rights. When I was president of our local association, I made sure all evaluation procedures were being followed and the few teachers who were let go had well-documented deficiencies.
The third area that concerned me was the number of teachers who looked at the question as it affected them, in their classrooms. A question such as was the focus of discussion today screamed for a look at the big picture. Those who complain about standardized testing really should look at legislation, such as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. Ultimately, educators need to realize how and what they teach is a function of politics and culture. Currently, politics is divided and there is a major culture war going on within American society. Teachers have a very unique perspective working with children, and teachers need to advocate for what they feel best serves the needs of children regardless of politics.
After yesterday’s post, I received several good pieces of feedback. One point stated that judging teachers by degree was not much different than judging students by standardized test. On the surface this sounds like a valid comparison. However, a degree is conferred after several years of study of a prescribed curriculum, involving many different classes, and would be more like a high school diploma. Getting a college degree simply opens the door to becoming a teacher. It has nothing to do with whether one will be a “good” teacher, it simply says one has completed the requirements to enter the profession.
Another comment said that just because a teacher has a higher degree they are not necessarily a “better” teacher, and I agree. However, an advanced degree shows the desire to improve oneself in a structured manner which will provide more and better tools for teachers to transfer to the classroom. Whether or not the transfer is made is up to the teacher.
I failed to mention that once a teacher is comfortable with what they teach subject-wise, good teachers began to work on their pedagogy, the craft of teaching. Motivation, compassion, empowerment, self-actualization, these are some of the ways master teachers separate themselves from their peers. The problem for those who want quantification is how to measure this pedagogy. A score on a student’s high stakes test is a poor substitute for evaluating teachers.
My purpose for writing “Credentials and Teaching” was to point out the attack by conservative elements on teachers for needing to have an education degree in order to teach, and the extension of the attack to teachers being paid more for having advanced degrees. I feel the motivation behind these attacks is to discredit public education, discredit teachers (and their unions), and promote alternative organizations such as Teach For America. There is money to be made by privatizing education.
Finally, as to the importance of college degrees, no one has challenged my question, “would it matter if your child in college was taught by inexperienced professors who had nothing more than a bachelor’s degree?
Many jobs require certain skills in order to perform them in a competent manner and teaching is no exception. Teachers are required to have at least a BS in education, and many states require secondary teachers to have, if not a major, then a given number of courses in the subject in which they will be licensed. In addition, many states require teachers to obtain a Masters degree in order to obtain tenure, the belief being that more formal education for the teacher will make them a better instructor in the classroom. Over the course of the past few years, this belief has come under increasing attack by conservative elements who see little connection between student learning and teacher credentials.
There are three ways in which teacher credentials are being attacked. First, and foremost, is the cost of paying teachers for more education. Many states have salary schedules where teachers receive higher monetary compensation for advanced degrees. When I taught, there were separate salary schedules for teachers with a BS, with a Masters, with a Masters plus 30 additional credits, and for a Doctorate. The second way in which teacher credentials are being attacked is with studies which purport to show that student gains are negligible when taught by teachers with varying levels of formal credentials. Of course these studies measure student achievement through standardized testing. The last way in which teacher credentials are being attacked is by trying to show that younger teachers with lower credentials are just as effective in the classroom as are older, more highly credentialed teachers.
Each of these attacks are flawed. It is easy to see why advanced credentials are a source of contention to those who want to end public, and advance private, education. Paying for higher credentials could potentially mean higher taxes, anathema to many conservatives. Obviously, tying a teacher’s evaluation to student performance using the voodoo of value-added evaluations can be manipulated to show that credentials have little to do with student gains. The same manipulation can also be used to show that younger, less credentialed, employees produce student results that are equal to those of more highly credentialed employees.
The question I would ask of those who argue against paying teachers more for advanced degrees is this; would it matter if your child in college was taught by inexperienced professors who had nothing more than a bachelors degree?
This summer has been filled with the chaos of moving. Well, not just moving but the sale of our home of nineteen years in Ohio, and a move to temporary housing for a few months while our new home in Florida is being built. We sold off our furniture and put the rest of our belongings in storage. We have rented a furnished condo and our only means of communications are our iPhones and iPads. We view it as a little experiment. I view it as a chance to see whether or not my iPad could function as my primary tech device.
Before turning off my desktop computer for the last time, I made sure to upload any and all documents I might need to my Dropbox account. Everything is now accessible from either my iPhone or iPad.
My wife was not sure about giving up her desktop computer and we looked several times at MacBook Air laptops. In the end she went with an ipad 2 and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard. She has been happy with her choice.
Several years ago I made a conscious effort to become paperless and so I began scanning all sorts of receipts, mail, cards, etc. This was something I was, at first not sure how I would manage without a scanner and computer, but DocScan came to the rescue and does the job quite well.
Writing with the on-screen keyboard is not as quick or easy as with a physical keyboard but, with a little practice, it really isn’t bad. Of course I can use the bluetooth keyboard we bought for my wife, but I haven’t done so that often. I purchased Pages when I bought my iPad (an original iPad which was delivered the day they first came out) and I have used it some, but I really like PlainText for most of my writing needs. Not only is it simple, but it saves automatically with my DropBox account.
I read a lot on my iPad, and I haven’t purchased a physical book in several years. In fact, as we packed to move, I took several hundred books to my local Half-Price Books store and sold them off. In addition to using the Nook and Kindle apps, I get most of my books from the library and read them using Overdrive app.
I begin my day reading the news and my favorite apps are USA Today, Huffington Post, Slate, and NPR. For local news I turn to a couple of the local news apps that I located in the iTunes App Store.
I was worried about losing all the songs I had laboriously ripped from CDs and vinyl, so prior to moving I uploaded my library to iTunes Match. Now, I can create playlists, download and play the songs, then delete them from my iPad or iPhone to conserve space. Thus far it has been working well.
To keep myself organized I rely on on three apps: Things, NoteLife, and Everenote. Things has been my go to to-do list for several years and I have hundreds of items stored there. My only complaint is that it requires a wifi network connection to Things on a Mac in order to sync among devices. Therefore, I decided to keep my Things to do list on my iPhone, and thus the excellent Things client on my iPad will not be used until I get my iMac out of storage. I’ve long used Chronos Notes as a catch-all database for passwords, receipts, etc. The companion iDevice app, NoteLife, is an excellent app for both iPad and iPhone that, alas, also requires a Mac to sync, now that MobileMe is gone. Hopefully, iCloud integration is just around the corner. EverNote and I have had an on-and-off relationship. This summer I’ve reorganized my EverNote folders and am using it more than ever. It syncs automatically between my iPhone and iPad and i’ve even recorded voice memos with it.
Six weeks into my experiment to live on iDevices, I would have to say my wife and I are pretty happy. Writing is not really a problem, and neither is keeping myself organized, listening to music, or watching videos. There are two financial sites that don’t play well with mobile Safari, so I’ve gone to the local library when I need to access them. The pundits say the iPad is a content consumption device and I agree. However, I think it is a content creation device as well. Don’t sell it short.
After the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Affordable Care Act, a retired teaching colleague of mine posted a rant on Facebook in which he referred to “The United Socialist States of America,” mandates, violations of the constitution, the failure of the President to lead, and a fear that debts incurred now will become a burden on his grandchildren. I, and another colleague, took him to task for some of his comments. Upon reflection, I am concerned that his mode of thinking is true for many people, possibly a majority, in the country.
Mandates are official, authoritative commands made by a government. There can be consequences for not following a government mandate. For example, it was mandated that all states raise the drinking age to 21 or face the loss of federal highway funds. In the 1970s, it was mandated that the speed limit be set to 55 mph or also face the loss of federal highway funds.
Educationally, the Bush administration mandated states accept No Child Left Behind or face loss of federal funding. Obama continued the trend with his educational mandate requiring states to accept Race To The Top or also face loss of federal finds.
My former colleague also complained that the United States was becoming socialist with Supreme Court affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s legality. Socialism is usually defined as government ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth in a society. According to this definition, we do have aspects of socialism in the USA, and have had it for decades. Examples are as diverse as Medicare, Amtrak, and The US highway system.
Many people would consider public schools and universities a form of socialism. Everyone pays through taxes, whether they have children attending or not, and they are controlled by either the elected officials of our government or/and elected boards. Aspects of socialism have been around in the United States for decades, and are considered appropriate by many, if not most, Americans.
As educators, the current situation raises several concerns. There has been a concerted effort to demonize public educators and their unions by those on the extreme right. There is a movement to open more and more charter schools, many of which are for-profit charters. If there is money to be made, there are people who will “game” the system to make a profit. Manipulation of the the curriculum for political reasons has always been with us, but it seems the cry to instill a religious and politically unbalanced curriculum has become more shrill.
My former colleague and I are still friends, but I hope he realizes his thoughts are based more on emotion than on fact. I’m very worried that many of the decisions that will affect myself and others in the future are also being made emotionally, without proper reflection and information-gathering.
Good luck to all of my colleagues who are still in the classroom, and to all others who care about the health of a strong system of public education. Our democracy demands it.
The past several months have been full of Don’t Get Me Started moments, they just aren’t related to education. This Tumblr has not been at the forefront of my thoughts.
I retired after 35 years as a high school social studies teacher, a career which I thoroughly enjoyed. My children are grown, two are married, and none live near me. My wife and I had long planned to move to Florida upon retirement and escape the long, dreary winters of Northeast Ohio.
We spent the past year investigating areas along the western coast of Florida, finally deciding on a small town (Apollo Beach) on Tampa Bay. We looked at existing houses, then decided to build (my wife is a decorator/designer and loves doing this).
In the meantime, in December, we decided to throw up a For Sale By Owner sign and test the market. We figured if we didn’t sell by the time our new house was ready, we would move and turn things over to a realtor. In March, one of my former colleagues sent his sister and her husband over to look at our house. They had just sold their condominium and had to move out by the end of May.
Long story short, we sold them the house and spent two hectic months sorting through 19 years of the stuff which a family accumulates. We made three piles (keep, pitch, sell). We began packing our own boxes, had a garage sale, and made many trips to Goodwill, Volunteers of America, and Purple Hearts Veterans. I never realized how the market for old CRT televisions has collapsed. No one wants them anymore., and I had four to get rid of.
We are now in a rental in Ruskin, Florida, waiting for our house to be finished sometime in September. Our things area in storage, I’m told they are in Chicago, and we feel like vacationers (which I must admit isn’t so bad). We have three pools, a restaurant/tiki bar, an exercise room, and a private beach. Once we unwind, I think life will be good this summer after ( oh yes, we have a daughter getting married in Pennsylvania this weekend) the chaos subsides.