In mid September my blackberry will buzz, a DNC operative will message, “Need teachers to ring doorbells in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, crucial races, teachers will be crucial, the control of Congress is on the line.”
Two years ago busloads of teachers spent weekend after weekend ringing union doorbells for Obama. The enthusiasm was contagious, it reminded me of the civil rights movement forty years earlier. Young and old, white and black and Hispanic and Asian, male and female, hordes of volunteers all committed to the election of Barrack Obama.
How the world of politics has changed.
Teachers ask: why does Obama dislike unionized teachers? does he really think we don’t work hard enough? am I going to work harder for a bonus? does he think closing my school will help my kids? why is he so committed to charter schools who don’t accept the most challenging kids?
When I start calling around seeking out volunteers the cupboard will be bare …
The national education agenda has been kidnapped by policy wonks with little or no “on the ground experience.” For six years Arne Duncan ran the Chicago public school system, it was a laboratory in which he spun out his experiments. Rather than peer reviewed studies it increasingly looks like Gene Wilder, as Professor Frankenstein ,
“Ladies and gentlemen. A few short weeks ago, coming from a background, believe me, as conservative and traditionally grounded in scientific fact as any of you, I began an experiment … We are not children here, we are scientists! I assure you there is nothing to fear!”
For months Obama/Duncan have been dangling billions of dollars with starved states groveling and scrambling to match up their state policies with Obama principles.
National core standards (see NY Time editorial here and criticisms here), unfettered growth of charter schools, “rich” (aka expensive) data systems, pay for performance, principal and teacher assessment driven by pupil achievement, closing and/or re-staffing “persistently low achieving” schools, easing teacher dismissal rules, alternative principal and teacher certification, “virtual” schools, diploma/credits by mastery rather than seat time: the Obama core principles.
The Obama/Duncan reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, “A Blueprint for Reform,” embeds the principles supra and changes the methodology for the distribution of Title 1 dollars. The “Blueprint …” is a slick document, that softens language but not principles, and does, on page 32, support “21st Century Community Learning Centers,” seemingly a sop to the Broader, Bolder Approach coalition.
Both national teacher union leaders voice serious concerns,
And while leading Congressional Democrats praised the plan, the nation’s two major teachers unions did not. “We are disappointed,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said of the proposal, “From everything that we’ve seen, this blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent of the authority.”
Diane Ravitch addresses a basic issue: “The question that neither President Obama nor Secretary Duncan has answered is this: Where will they find 5,000 expert principals to take over the schools that are closed? Where will they find hundreds of thousands of superb teachers to fill the newly vacant positions? Or will everyone play musical chairs to give the illusion of reform?”
In a scathing Huffington Post article, First, Let’s Fire the Teachers, Ravitch muses,
A blogger called “Mrs. Mimi” wrote the other day that we fire teachers because “we can’t fire poverty.” Since we can’t fire poverty, we can’t fire students, and we can’t fire families, all that is left is to fire teachers.
This strategy of closing schools and firing the teachers is mean and punitive. And it is ultimately pointless. It solves no problem. It opens up a host of new problems. It satisfies the urge to purge. But it does nothing at all for the students.
Experimenting on a generation of children, disgraceful … at least Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman were funny (see Youtube clip here).