Archive

Monthly Archives: December 2012

Today is Sunday…. our hearts are heavy as we mourn for the unspeakable loss of young lives full of promise, the loss of the valiant educators who faced the unimaginable to protect their children, and their families who have to find a way to try to carry on.

Tomorrow is Monday… and every educator, every principal, every superintendent, school secretary, cook, custodian, nurse and guidance counselor in every corner of the country will be at school a little bit earlier, to quietly console each other before the morning bell and give each other the strength to greet their children bounding through the school doors, with arms and hearts outstretched…

We know that deep down underneath in their sub consciousness, as it dwells in ours, lurks the thought of a gunman charging into their school and into their classroom.

We will ease their worries, help them feel safe, let them know we love them… and then we will try to teach them.

We will carry on, we are a collective, we are a community and we come to school each and every day knowing that at any given moment, we might be the first responders too.

And we ask ourselves… how has it come to this?

High school students at Columbine, Littleton, Chardon…. and now kindergarteners and first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary… thousands of children taken down by gunfire on the streets of our neighborhoods, in their homes…. decades of senseless death and violence.

And we ask ourselves… what is next?

It is up to us as educators, to join together to make sense out of the senseless.

It is up to us take charge of our children’s futures and tell the real story of the complexities of our students’ lives and our teaching profession.

We are facing a frontline in our schools as a result of a rise in lax gun laws, a growing culture of violence and as a result of decades of growing poverty and alienation our society.

We teach children who are lost and suffering. We teach children who are desperate to be seen, to be heard, to be connected and cared for.

We help 20 – 30 students face their own frontline each day; divorce, parents losing jobs, deaths in the family, loneliness, addictions, depression, anxiety, extreme disabilities, new immigrants unable to speak English, struggling to fit in, we deal with it all… and then we teach, we inspire, we motivate, we challenge… we don’t give up on our children.

We are the voice of our students… they are our “special interest.” We need to take our kids frontlines to the front doors of our Statehouses across the country and demand more restrictive gun laws and an end to legislation that allows our children’s education to be used for profiteering purposes.

We need to demand that every penny of profit garnered by schools be re-invested in our children so that they grow up to be healthy, whole and well educated so that we are able to stop this cycle of violence.

We need to tell the story of CEOs building million dollar corporations off of the backs of our children and our public tax dollars. If there is a profit, how about hiring more guidance counselors, a full time school nurse, a social worker, more teachers when classrooms reach 25 or more students? How about hiring more intervention specialists for our special needs students, and a full-time school psychologist to help support children who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses on the rise?

It is time to galvanize and charge forward into our communities and join the momentum growing from parent groups across the country fighting to preserve public education, superintendents and school board members writing open letters to their communities to fight for quality public schools for their students, teachers fighting for their voices of expertise to be heard, and state supreme courts finally ruling that it is unconstitutional to channel public funds to for-profit schools.

The train is on the track and poised to run across our country, we are lining up and ready to go… educators, parents, principals, superintendents, school board members, supreme courts, legislators…

Let’s get going… let’s demand stricter gun laws to protect our kids.

And let’s demand that we preserve our public schools, the heartbeat of our communities, where we educate, care for and keep our kids connected to one another and their communities.

Let’s do everything in our power to help keep the innocence of childhood as a civil right, not to be stolen away at point blank range in the blink of an eye.

We are the voice of our children, together, let’s take action to protect our kids, before it’s too late.

As a veteran 29-year elementary school teacher, I am giving the name of “Opposite Day” to what occurred last Wednesday morning in Room 313 at the Ohio Statehouse.

Teachers and parents both know that young children look forward to a special school day when they can do the opposite of what they are supposed to do; wear their shirt inside out, pants backwards, chew gum… some grown ups today may remember their Opposite Day tradition in school long ago.

On November 5th, in the name of “Education Reform,” Michelle Rhee’s “dream team” of Students First spent three hours in “Opposite Day” mode, describing their corporate, profit-driven vision for “transforming our public schools” to the Ohio House Finance Committee and its audience members.

 Let’s begin our StudentsFirst “Opposite Day” list:

 1)  “The money must follow the child in order to improve our schools.”

 Opposite Day!

Take a look at the evidence here in Ohio; for two decades the money has been following Ohio’s children OUT of the doors of our public schools and into the doors of charter schools.  Despite losing over six billion dollars over the past fifteen years longitudinal data shows that our public schools continue to vastly outperform their charter school counterparts.

Just in the last year…

•  $ 771,000,000.00 of our hard earned tax dollars were taken from our public schools and given to for profit charters in the name of “the money follows the child.”

The “return” on Ohio’s investment:?

•  77% of Public Schools were rated Excellent with Distinction, Achieving or Effective

•  23% of Charters were rated Effective/Achieving, none were rated Excellent with Distinction

•  And the bottom 111 performing schools in Ohio last year?

All were charter schools.

This is the opposite of proven educational reform, let’s call it for what it is;  “the money follows the child to build corporate enterprises under the guise of school choice.”  Ohio’s top two charter school CEOs, David Brennan of White Hat Charters and William Lager of ECOT charters are earning multi-million dollar salaries while graduating only 30 – 40 % of their students, an “F” average and paying their teachers about $34,000 a year.

Let’s follow the money when it leaves our public schools… it is not coming back to our children in the form of a quality education.

2) “85% of Parents approve of their neighborhood public school and its teachers, giving them an overall “B” rating, yet the public schools overall receive a C or D rating.”

 Opposite Day!

Sacramento, California is a long way off from Ohio so maybe our Students First guests aren’t aware that in Ohio, YES… our parents overwhelmingly approve of their neighborhood public schools and their children’s teachers BECAUSE 77% of our public schools are receiving A, B and C ratings while 77% of Ohio’s charter schools are receiving D and F ratings.

Parents and teachers have seen the negative effects of students “ping ponging” back and forth from their public schools to charters and back to public schools again. As charters are closed, often times at mid-year, hundreds of children are shuffled back to their public schools without adequate records and a significant loss of instructional time.  Just as tragic is students’ loss of community and social connections with classmates which contribute to academic deficits and delays.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/11/16/charter-school-could-close-soon.html

Draining our public schools of vital funds by continuing to invest in underperforming charter schools is the opposite of proven education reform. Now is time to stop experimenting with our children’s academic progress, sense of stability and community and re-invest in our public school system which has proven to be the most effective over time.

 3)  “There is no correlation between class size and student achievement;” StudentsFirst recommends changing Ohio’s law to lift the limit of 25:1 teacher to student ratio so that the “best” teachers can be recruited and paid a “CEO’s salary” to reach possibly hundreds of kids at a time on-line.

Opposite Day!

Every professional, experienced educator knows that reaching each child and building a close relationship is key to designing strategic, effective instructional strategies and interventions for each student in their classroom. Building a close-knit community to motivate and inspire our students to work as hard as they can to become the best students and human beings possible is the foundation to successful teaching and learning.

This is impossible to do when 100 plus children are connected to their teacher on-line in a virtual classroom.  It doesn’t matter if the on-line instructor is making a CEO’s salary and has won the Nobel Prize for Science or not. Educating and caring for our kids is about face-to-face, heart to mind connections between students and their teacher many times over during the course of the school day.

Here is evidenced based research supporting smaller classroom sizes the StudentsFirst team seems to have missed:

The federal government’s non-partisan Institute of Education Sciences examines “rigorous scientifically-based research” to make recommendations for producing major advances in the effectiveness of American education.

One of the top four recommendations from the IES is reducing class size in grades K – 3 where the average student in small classes scores about 60% higher on reading and math achievement tests.

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/evidence_based/evidence_based.asp

 4)  “Teaching is not a profession because there are no rewards for performance:” as stated by Ms. Rebecca Sibilia of StudentsFirst.

Opposite Day!  Opposite Day!

Excuse me?  I have to wonder what criteria Ms. Sibilia is using to judge the career and commitment of educating our children as a “non-profession?”

Ms. Sibilia, in your profession as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Fiscal Strategy for StudentsFirst, have you spent six years earning your bachelors and masters degrees plus decades of post graduate work to keep abreast of current research and best practices in your chosen profession?

Ms. Sabilia, in labeling teaching as a “non-profession,” have you ever spent the days, weeks, months, years and decades of your life with 22 – 30 children each day under your care, guidance and instruction every step of the way?

Like most educators, I have been inspired and changed by the teachers who challenged, encouraged and cared for me.

Like most educators, I have chosen to give my intellect, my energy and a large chunk of my heart over the course of my career to thousands of children in my classroom and school community.

In turn, coming full circle, my students have inspired and changed me.

In closing, here lies the disconnect between the “business model movement” to privatize public education and the true nature of the teaching profession; drawing the definition of a professional as contingent upon “rewards for performance” diminishes the very essence of our teaching profession.

Educating our children is a collaborative endeavor rather than a competitive one.  Teachers spend a good deal of their time before, during and after school supporting, encouraging and advising each other on how to lift up our students.  We are a collective, we pull together as a community.

Who is to say whether a child’s 11th grade calculus teacher is more important in her journey forward or her first grade teacher who taught her to read so that she could decode, decipher and analyze her calculus text?

Who should be valued more with additional monetary compensation, the guidance counselor who helps a family on the brink of homelessness find temporary housing or the school nurse who tests the blood sugar level three times a day for our diabetic students?  Where are the test scores to determine 50% of their merit pay?

We teach our students to research the facts, let’s examine the research regarding merit pay reward systems for the teaching profession.  Extensive studies have been done in New York City, Chicago and Nashville.  There has been no proven link over time to support an increase in student achievement linked to a merit pay system for teachers.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-09-21-merit-pay_N.htm

 5) Here is a novel idea:

Let’s reverse this “Opposite Day” course in these muddled methods of applying a market-driven, competitive business model to educating our children.

How about examining non-partisan, evidenced based scientific research for effective educational reform?

How about examining the best components of Ohio’s Evidence Based Model of school funding which won a national award for being the country’s most “bold, courageous, non-partisan” education reform of 2009?

How about if we open the doors of the House Finance Committee in Room 313 of Ohio’s Statehouse and invite a team of experienced, professional educators, principals, superintendents and educational policy experts to present recommendations for effective and proven educational reform for Ohio’s children?

Let’s make decisions collectively and collaboratively, as a diverse group of professionals based on rigorous, non-partisan scientific research rather than follow unilateral recommendations by profit driven corporate enterprises such as StudentsFirst.

Finally, we are standing up for our children and public education has been the foundation of our democracy and the democracy they will inherit. Let’s commit the process of educational reform to preserving equal educational opportunities for all Ohio’s children so that they can build secure and successful futures in a strong democratic society.

 Let’s do it now, together, before it is too late.

• Maureen Reedy is a 29-year veteran educator who was honored as Upper Arlington’s Teacher of the Year in 2001, Ohio’s Teacher of the Year in 2002 and has advocated for Ohio’s children and public education at the local, state and national levels.  Maureen was one of the state leaders representing educators in the repeal of SB 5.

• Most recently, Maureen ran for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, narrowly losing in a gerrymandered district.  StudentsFirst spent $250,000 in a direct mail campaign endorsing Maureen’s opponent as the pro-education candidate, even though she has never before been a classroom teacher.

• In this era of targeting massive educational funding reform by pushing legislation for the privatization of public schools for profit, the Ohio Republican Party spent well over a million dollars in the last 2 weeks of the campaign in a massive negative tv, radio, direct mail and robo call campaign to make sure that a public school teacher would not be representing Ohio’s children and citizens in our Statehouse.

Hey all you dedicated career educators out there giving your all to your students day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year …. your intellect, your expertise, your empathy, your guidance, your coaching, your humor… your creative energy even when you feel depleted…

We keep coming back to our classrooms and our students because it is who we are and what we do… we are the teachers and the caretakers of children.

I have a new concept to propose for the next lively discussion we are bound to encounter “out on the streets” about the ubiquitous proposals of merit pay systems for teachers.

I am thinking of calling it, “Merit Beyond Measure…”

When I think of why I believe in Teachers, I think of the immeasurable contributions that come from the heart and souls of educators to lift up their students who are vulnerable, fragile and perhaps lonely and in need of something extra.

I could cite many stories of “Merit Beyond Measure” that come to mind;

… a colleague who went on a snow day to meet a parent with limited English at Children’s Hospital to help them navigate and support their child in a comprehensive evaluation…

… a teacher who spent hours after her school day before going home to her own family helping the parent of one of her students fill out forms to receive emergency health insurance after an unexpected job loss…

… a group of friends who teach all day, attend staff meetings, plan for the next day, assess student work, answer emails and THEN leave school to shop at thrift stores once every few weeks for outfits for children who come to school with inadequate clothing.

Teachers don’t do these things to earn merit pay; this is the spirit of our commitment to our students, their families and ultimately bettering humanity through our service.

How do we propose to measure the merit in these actions by educators who silently support their students and their families beyond the scope of the school day?

Forget about merit pay…

Teachers’ merit is indeed beyond measure.

**************

I would love to hear stories of “Merit Beyond Measure” from you too, please share…

~ Maureen