Archive for the ‘American Radio Works’ Category

Teach, Teacher, Teachers Union

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Newspapers have stopped writing about Race to the Top (RTTT) “winners and losers.”  TV news has been showing off New Orleans schools resurrected from the water-logged marshes.

Only Newsweek, August 23/30, 2010, p. 25 talked about the Achievement Gap, reminding readers of what works not only in the U.S. but in Europe, South America, and Singapore.  Anyone in the education world who teaches can name the first factor-family circumstances.  Those not fortunate enough to have a family that makes sure of mastery in reading and math skills by age 10 are most likely to fail in school from then on.

Most in the education world can name the strategies to overcome those factors which affect low-performing students.  That’s right.  Pre-schools galore.  Rigorous standards followed through with tutoring from the early grades on.  More time in school-the number of hours and days.  Effort in teacher training in college and during the school year, i.e. don’t cut professional development in order to balance the school district budget.

Of course, in California instead of balancing a state budget so there are enough funds for student education which is the California Teachers Association (CTA) position no matter what the issue, the legislature sits back and lets the teachers unions fight it out with school districts about teacher evaluation, seniority, and layoffs that still are looming for some.

Along came President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg to propose SB1285 which assures that urban schools with the newest teachers “would not lose a greater proportion of teachers than the districtwide average in layoff.” San Francisco Chronicle, “Seniority vs. civil rights” August 31, 2010.  Sounds like a good change, teachers having struggled with the idea of seniority vs. students’ rights to have strong teachers for a long while.

Few are happy with CTA on the issue of evaluation and seniority, but doesn’t this bill throw one more stone at the wall, given the lack of a balanced state budget and funds from RTTT.  Who is the bad guy and who is the good guy in this standoff?

Now a radio program produced by American Radio Works examined how Chattanooga Public Schools in 2000, well before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and RTTT was available, looked at achievement in reading and math and took steps.

Be aware, from the start the school district was lucky to have the Benwood Foundation and The Public Education Foundation with lots of money to support steps taken.  The school district was fortunate to have an abundance of test data from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System to answer why 9 of 20 Chattanooga public schools were so low on the achievement scale.  Yes, it is similar to the system used by the Los Angeles Times recently that is causing a huge ruckus and that is analyzed on the front page of The New York Times, September 1, 2010, “Formula to Grade Teachers’ Skill Gains Acceptance, and Critics” by Sam Dillon.

To make change happen, there was a long fight with the teachers union, but eventually it came out that firing poor teachers didn’t help students do better, increasing the professional development and standards for good teachers did help.  In the documentary the strategies that improved student success were learned right away, e.g. pacing of lessons, knowing the material and how to teach it; and long term, e.g. working as a team, analyzing what helps students learn, teaching each other, using mentors.

Though not as strong as the Chattanooga Public Schools on the hill where family circumstances help, student success continues to improve in the valley, the whole point of “turn around.”

Which tells anyone in the education world to beware of the cost of resistance to change.