Posts Tagged ‘NEA’

The Future: Teachers and Unions

Saturday, July 21st, 2018
West Virginia Teacher's Strike

West Virginia Teacher’s Strike

This past Educator’s Spring 2018, after strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kentucky with weak unions, hampered by ‘right to work’ legislation, the slogan “enough is enough” won the day. Colorado walked out also, but the stronger unions in their state can collect ‘fair share’ fees.

Turns out a mid-April NPR/Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of Americans believe educators have the right to strike and only one in four feel teachers are paid fairly. Those numbers overruled the political establishment pushback from governors, legislators, and U. S. Superintendent Betsy DeVos which named the usual suspects: not enough money in the state budget, unions want everything, teachers disregard what’s best for students, to name the most often said.

Interesting that the states where teachers went on strike are bastions of conservative values and of teachers who do not usually rock the boat. But when you read stories about having to work second jobs, using ancient text books, scrambling to find sources for leftover crayons, and turning dried out markers into watercolor paints, teachers who have reaped the benefits from states where unions can negotiate with school districts root for the teachers in the states that don’t have that right.

However, if you’re oppressed long enough, the ‘people’ will rebel and stand up against legislators that finally do something when they realize they need those teachers’ votes in November if they wish to stay in power.

So, the union song “Which side are you on, boys?” is a good question for state legislators and governors as well as for the people striking. And “I’m sticking to the union” was the right choice for the teachers in those states.

On 6/27/2018 after the strikes were over and settled, the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided Janus v AFSCME. A worker who is employed by the school district, or hospital, or government facility can ‘opt out’ of paying ‘fair share’ fees to a union that represents and negotiates terms for every employee (whether the person joined the union or not). In other words, SCOTUS sided with calling ‘pay or not pay’ a free speech decision. It doesn’t matter whether a person pays ‘fair share’ fees to the union – that person can still benefit from the negotiations that a union makes with their employers.

Whether unions in the states named above will be able to maintain their wage and benefit settlements depends on how strong their teachers’ unions can stand behind them. The SCOTUS decision can mean fewer union members, but every teacher should hope they stick together.

Now that Janus v AFSCME has been decided, what other school-related issues are showing up this summer that teachers’ unions support or oppose?

In Washington D.C. the controversy continues about federally funded voucher programs that allow students to attend private schools with public money. Unions quote studies by the Institute for Educational Science’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance that continue to show lower gains in math (10%) and reading scores (3.8%) in schools receiving vouchers compared to public schools.

Think about the effects on the children that someday will be taught in U.S. public schools, when the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in the FY2019 appropriations bill has endorsed long-term detention with their families. It undoes the Flores v Reno ruling that defines the amount of time children can be held in custody.

The Koch Brothers and DeVos Family has spent the summer funding the campaign to advertise the ‘opt out’ provision of SCOTUS’ Janus v AFSCME decision in the effort to limit union membership and influence.

However, last week, youth groups – the Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road-New York, and Urban Youth Collective – gathered at the U. S. Department of Education for a “People’s Listening Session” to debate actions on Superintendent DeVos’ School Safety Commission. They called on the Education Secretary to maintain Obama-era guidelines aimed at addressing racial bias in school discipline policies and protested her decision to ignore any discussion of gun safety.

At the recent annual conventions of the National Education Association (June 30-July 5) and the American Federation of Teachers (July 13-15), teachers connected their workplace grievances and union organizing, including fights for economic equality, racial and gender equity, and sensible gun control.

Public schools are one of the few remaining institutions that are truly public. Teachers interface with the community, are entrusted to teach the values of democracy, to be catalysts for dissent and engines for economic equality. (The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, July 17, 2018.)

“Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?”

 

 

 

Title IX and What is Causing Uproar for Schools

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

 Title IX

On Friday, September 22, 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced changes to Title IX procedures affecting sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. Her statement confirms suspicion that the U.S. Department of Education intends to roll back critical civil rights protections for students. A new “Dear Colleague” letter to all educational entities explicitly stated the two 2011 actions to be rescinded – the Obama administration actions to clarify procedures for investigations of sexual harassment and violence to students.

When educational environments are unsafe because of sexual harassment, assault, and violence, students can’t learn — and their right to an education free of discrimination is put at risk.

#1: Forty-eight percent of students in grades 7–12 still face sexual harassment.

#2: Girls still receive $1.2 million less in funding for high school sports than boys.

#3: Although approximately 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault, 89 percent of college campuses disclosed zero reported incidences in 2015.

Title IX, part of a U.S. Education amendment in June 1972, signed by President Richard Nixon, states

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Usually, the public thinks only of Title IX legislation affecting sports. It also affects classes offered to boys and girls, job discrimination in an educational institution, biased academic advantages and opportunities for scholarships, and sexual assault and harassment discrimination, especially on college campuses.

After Title IX regulations went into effect, women in sports increased 600%. However, the issues of sexual harassment showed numbers not so well improved. 8 in 10 boys and girls were still harassed, 25% very often. Girls were more likely to be harassed, 56% girls vs. 40% boys. See titleIX.info.

In 2011 regulations in a “Dear Colleague” letter explained in more explicit detail who and how Title IX would be implemented at all educational institutions. At that time, the criticism was that not enough victims’ complaints were pursued or decided. New regulations said the case would be decided by the preponderance of the evidence (POTE), the principal objective being to avoid use of federal monies to support sexual discrimination and provide protection against discrimination.

The argument about and the reason for the changes made September 22, 2017 are because Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, claims that the accused in a sexual discrimination case and decisions that come before a school’s administration are diminished unless legal counsel is hired and forced to sue. The Office of Civil Rights of the DOE wishes to change the regulations to more equally weigh the claims of the victim and the accused. To do so, the OCR has sent another “Dear Colleague” letter to require clear and convincing evidence that what happened, happened.

When this decision first came to light on September 7, 2017, National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskalon Garcia said, we “are appalled that the Department of Education has decided to weaken protections for students who survive campus sexual assault or harassment. This decision offends our collective conscience and conflicts with the basic values of equality, safety, and respect that we teach our students every day.” See USA Today link above.

It’s 45 years since Title IX regulations first went into effect. Speaking personally, my daughter was harassed in middle school and the administration knew the rules and handled the situation well. My son-in-law dealt with the issue as coach at the local high school.

Brett Sokolov, director of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), has posted many interim measures used while a matter of harassment is investigated in 80% of the schools in the U.S. that have a Title IX coordinator. He notes that the need to improve is not the excuse to remove the moral, ethical, and legal obligations of any educational institution.

Remember nobody can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Claiming the need for clear and convincing evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence may seem useful, but can overwhelm the investigation and decision.

In addition, such heavy-handed investigations and decisions interfere with getting help for the survivor so s/he can succeed equably in education – the purpose of Title IX.

For all things Title IX go to https://www.titleix.com/law/

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble with Testing #2

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Since the last post about testing trouble, written 6-15-15, the House of Representatives has voted for a bill on July 19, 2015. HR 5 is called the Student Success Act,  the newest House revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which has not been touched since 1965. All those interested in education issues heard from the Senate several months ago, but nothing has been forthcoming since then.  Even after reconciliation, the bill will be vetoed. That is assured. Can it then be resurrected by 2/3 vote? Unlikely.

PARCC elementary school

PARCC elementary school

Of course, resistant states’ tails are wagging in glee about HR 5. The four principles claimed by the House Education and Workforce Committee, sponsored by John Kline (R- MN) and Tom Rokita (R-IN), reduces the federal footprint, restores local state control, supports effective teachers, and empowers parents. The four principles are supported by two grants: Local Academic Flexible Grant and Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant.

In spite of glowing words used to describe HR 5, is this bill for real? Critics determine that resources are taken away from struggling schools. Most federal Department of Education requirements, including Title I, are said to be coerced and therefore are included in a block grant which local recipients can divide as they choose. School choices, i.e., vouchers are proposed (using taxpayer funds?) and called local opportunity for students and parents. Local-driven teacher evaluation systems are asserted, though not spelled out. What does the NEA and AFT say?

What is said about providing a decent set of standards so that teachers in any state can be assured that students who move into their classroom will be informed? HR5 declares states make their own standards that address the needs of each state’s students. Are we going back to the same spot the country was at 7 years ago?

Lovely words are written about accountability and evaluation, but few words address assessment and analysis. The bill scoffs at federal Adequate Yearly Progress, but calls for similar accountability.

So now what? A month ago, this post worried about the wealth of assessment (testing) and the poverty of inquiry about results to promote more learning.

Teachers and parents complain vociferously about testing, but ‘summative,” or once-a-year, tests won’t disappear until something better is advocated. However, with inquiry to analyze results, let us call for the assessment named criterion-referenced testing, the model that tells the school how well students have learned the subjects taught at the grade level. Not so helpful are norm-referenced testing results which only tell you how a student does in comparison to all students taking the test. A well-known test of that sort is the old Iowa Standardized Test that was given in the 1960’s.

Important! Once the state or whatever group like Measured Progress scores and analyzes the results to break down the assessed outcomes into strengths and weaknesses, teachers and administrators can then make an action plan on what to do the following year.

A far better alternative exists! This post recommends substituting “formative” tests instead of once-a-year exams. Using a “cycle of inquiry” students are assessed after each 8 or 10 weeks of instruction. Then teachers analyze how students are doing in that frame of time and make action plans to determine how to revise their teaching during the current year, not the following year.

You may have heard of a “cycle of inquiry,” a business strategy for improvement, used by some schools. Teachers unions, administration associations, SBAC, and PARCC should demand professional development money to train schools in this strategy. Thus, the purpose of testing is changed.

Funds, supposedly, will be available in any ESEA transformation. All those business-oriented legislators will love inquiry. Low-performing schools and high-achievement schools will have successful students, the goal of the 21st century.

*SBAC-Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

*PARCC- Partnership Assessment for Readiness for College and Career

 

 

 

Small Steps To Good Schools

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

What to do for the two-thirds of the school year to go? Keep a stiff upper lip? Put on rose-colored glasses? Dip a finger into the cup half-full?

What if your school was one of those that volunteered to have students take the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment test (PISA)? The test of math, science, reading is given to 510,000 fifteen year old students in 65 countries every three years. Since the results came out this past autumn, the hurtles for U.S. students to overcome in order to stifle the cries of failing public schools has filled pages of education articles.

The United States education community does want students to perform well in math, language arts and reading, as well as science, history, art and music. One hopes experts look to find the evidence of success anywhere on earth. For example, countries doing well promote early childhood education and champion the teaching profession.

Of course, the number of school-age children in the U.S. (about 6,000,000) is far grander and more diverse than most countries against which we are compared and so requires strategies that education experts don’t see in many countries. However, there are also policies carried on in U.S. public schools that should be expelled.

For instance, fast-track certification for teachers should not be the norm for the profession. Countries with students who do well on PISA spend much money for high-grade teacher education programs.

Incentives like salary bonuses for teachers who have students that perform well on state tests, a tool that supposedly makes students and teachers succeed, is not a world-wide standard. Nor should vouchers to move students from low-achieving schools be the answer to upgrade U.S. student success.

Countries held up as the best do not penalize struggling schools by allowing the in-and-out procession of principals and teachers, a major problem for low-achieving U.S. schools.

There is not a constant uproar in high-ranking country governments over education funding. In Costa Rica, for example, 8% of GDP is budgeted for education. See “Letters to the Editor” in the New York Times, Monday, December 23, 2013.

To raise student performance level in the United States, curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards suggest a coming together in 45 states on acceptance of robust norms for student progress. Rather than complain about poor results on tests, attention to a school’s climate invites the community to find ways to have open communication, give teachers an opportunity to make decisions, create a positive ambience among the adults.

Last, but certainly not least, rich and poor countries that have high scores every three years on PISA address the issue of poverty. U.S. students will perform better when this factor is pursued country-wide, the recommendation of Dennis Van Roekel from the National Education Association (NEA). All of these qualities are difficult to maintain and can’t be assessed by an exam, but benefit students.

Think about the rest of 2014’s school days. There’s still time to look up, not down, and take a few small steps for a positive year.

Charter Schools-the Latest

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

David Sirota, liberal but not an expert on education details, wrote a piece for the New York Times, Friday, March 23, headlined “Charter schools aren’t solving education ills.”

a beach town elementary in California

a beach town elementary in California

No kidding! But dutiful as this blog is, earlier charter school posts, dated 9-9-2009, 12-9-2009, 1-27-2010, and 6-23-2010, were reviewed to see if some other answer could be found. Nope.

The topic is brought up every few months. According to Sirota “inevitably the conversation turns to charter schools-those publicly funded, privately administered institutions.” As of 2012 the statistics claim 2 million American students at charter schools all over the United States. Compare that number to 6 million students in traditional public schools in California alone.

In 2012, looking at current deficits, states can’t bear to rewrite state tests, put new evaluation procedures in place, provide adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools, the main reason education “experts” always claim charter schools are the “silver bullet.” Even so all those revisions must occur to close the achievement gap-the main goal for which charter schools have been contemplated.

The National Education Association (NEA) “believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.”

And there’s the problem as we’ve read in report after report, some mentioned in Sirota’s column. The main criticism is that the charter school close to your home may not improve the child’s academic success (as shown by test scores). Why? For all the same reasons that your traditional neighborhood pubic school may not be up-to-par.

Then, what’s to talk about for your next conversation? Here’s the list. Charter and traditional public schools can insist on a test that follows the Common Core Standards that all but a few states have agreed to. Doesn’t have to be the same test-who wants to be accused of manipulating the free market for developing tests. The question once the tests are developed probably should be can the tests be compared to find out if the achievement gap among students is closing.

Next, young children who enter Kindergarten before 5 years of age might be allowed more than one year to prepare themselves for the rigors of first grade reading and mathematics in a 21st century education. Is your child young and does the local school (charter or traditional) provide this transitional opportunity if he/she is not ready? It’s been put off in California.

Finally,many education go-getters advocate for “choice” by parents. Home-schooling is the choice of one GOP candidate. To top it off, a fee voucher is put forward by so-called authorities to choose a parochial, private, or charter school. Charters are authorized with the promise to improve student achievement as a condition of relief from some of the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools. However, since the public school district already pays for a chartered school, why would a voucher help?

For writers of this blog, as the NEA suggests, employees of such schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools. In addition, charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.

There we are-stuck with a conflict that cannot and will not be compromised. No new state tests, no new evaluation procedures in place, no adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools.