Posts Tagged ‘ teachers ’

California Court Throws Out Teacher Tenure

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

A California judge has made a landmark education ruling, calling that state’s teacher tenure rules unconstitutional because they keep some teachers who don’t perform well–and dismiss some teachers who do–based on standards other than current merit.  CNN has more:

Poor and minority students are especially hurt by the laws because “grossly ineffective teachers” more often work in their schools, Los Angeles County Judge Rolf M. Treu said.

The ruling was hailed by the nation’s top education chief as bringing to California — and possibly the nation — an opportunity to build “a new framework for the teaching profession.” The decision represented “a mandate” to fix a broken teaching system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

The court ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and the teachers union, the plaintiffs said.

Reforming teacher tenure and firing laws is a hotly debated issue in American education, and the California case is being watched nationally, as evidenced by a statement from Duncan immediately after the court ruling.

Reformers say firing a bad teacher is almost impossible because of tenure laws and union protections, but teachers and their unions argue school boards and their firing criteria have unfair, overtly political standards.

Duncan, a former schools chief in Chicago, said he hoped the ruling will spark a national dialogue on a teacher tenure process “that is fair, thoughtful, practical and swift.”

At a minimum, Duncan said the court decision, if upheld, will bring to California “a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.”

“The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems,” Duncan said.

Teachers unions, however, criticized the ruling, with one leader stating the court decision was “anti-public education” and a “scapegoating” of teachers for public education’s problems. They will appeal the ruling.

Image: Classroom, via Shutterstock

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Teacher Quits Due to Frustration with Standardized Testing

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Standardized TestingOne teacher in Massachusetts has taken a bold stand against standardized tests. Susan Sluyter was a teacher for more than 25 years before she quit last month due to the school system’s growing emphasis on standardized testing. Sluyter stated in her resignation letter that teaching for the tests was taking away from developing a healthy learning environment for her students. More from the Today show:

A teacher in Massachusetts who has spent more than a quarter century in the classroom is drawing attention after she quit her job over her growing frustration with the school system’s emphasis on standardized testing.

Because of “so many things that pulled me away from the classroom and fractured my time with the children,” kindergarten teacher Susan Sluyter quit last month.

“It takes the joy out of learning for the children,” she told TODAY. “It takes the joy out of teaching.”

In her resignation letter to Cambridge Public Schools, where she has taught for nearly 20 years, Sluyter said she was leaving “with deep love and a broken heart” but felt her job required her to focus too much on teaching to standardized tests rather than to the needs of her students.

“In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children,” she wrote in the letter, which was published by the Washington Post.

The “No Child Left Behind” set of education reforms signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush brought sweeping changes for schools and teachers, holding them accountable in new ways for the academic performance of students. But complaints quickly followed that too much focus was being placed on test preparation, rather than actual learning.

Sluyter said she has seen that emphasis has resulted in the suffering of students, whose confusion in the classroom often gets mistaken for disruptive conduct.

“I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” she said in her letter.

Sluyter told TODAY her decision to quit was not an easy one to make.

“When I think about all of the children that I know in the school that I have been in for years who I never get to see anymore,” she said tearfully. “And they don’t even all know why I left.”

Jeffrey Young, the schools superintendent in Cambridge, Mass., said educators are working to finding a solution to the problems Sluyter addressed.

“I suspect that in time we will find the right way to achieve that balance between strong academic instruction and high-quality learning,” he said.

Michelle Rhee, president and CEO of StudentsFirst.org, agreed the nation places “an overemphasis on testing” but said that doesn’t discount its usefulness in the education system.

“We can use standardized testing to measure whether or not kids are actually learning what they need to learn,” she said.

She pointed to a recent international survey that ranked the United States 26th in student math scores out of 34 developed countries.

“The bottom line is that the kids who are in school today in America are going to be competing for jobs against the kids in India and China, not against the kids in the state next door, so we really do have to make sure that our kids can compete in the global marketplace,” she said.

TODAY viewers expressed sympathy for Sluyter’s stance. They overwhelmingly voted against the idea in a Facebook survey that asked whether standardized tests were the best way for kids to learn. Only 43 agreed it was, while more than 6,000 voted against it.

“As a parent, I have to say no. Schools are simply “teaching to the test” as so much rides on students scores. There is so much creative, “outside the box” learning that is sacrificed in the process,” said Michelle Swart Neely.

Kerry Murphy tried to compare it testing adults at work: “Can you imagine if we scored employees on how well they performed on their job throughout the year on a test taken in 2 days? Adults would be having nervous breakdowns left and right. But for some reason it’s totally ok to do it to kids?”

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What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

Image: Yellow pencil on multiple choice test computerized answer sheet via Shutterstock.

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California Teachers Claim School Buildings Causing Health Problems

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

A group of Malibu, California teachers are alleging that a number of chronic health issues they’re suffering from, including asthma and migraine headaches, are the result of poor building conditions at their schools.  More from CNN.com:

A group of [high school junior Nicholas] Wiseman’s teachers at Malibu High School sent a letter to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s risk manager on October 4, complaining about a variety of illnesses. They suspect their working environment is at fault, but administrators say they are still investigating, and some experts are skeptical.

“At this point, there is nothing to let people know, other than employees had health concerns,” Sandra Lyon, the district superintendent, told CNN Newsource affiliate KCAL/KCBS. “We don’t have any evidence whatsoever that there is any contaminant, any issue in or around that building.”

The letter says the teachers “are extremely concerned about their health and safety.” Three teachers at the school have been diagnosed with stage 1 thyroid cancer in the past six months. Some seven teachers complained about migraines. The letter says the teachers who are sick work primarily in the main middle school building (the school services grades 6 through 12), the music and drama building, the visual arts building and in the school’s theater.

When one teacher moved to another building, her migraines got better, the letter states.

Another teacher who moved from one of the suspected buildings stopped getting a rash she’d been suffering from for four years.

The letter publicly requests environmental tests be done at the school and asks the district to make those test results public.

Image: Teacher with a headache, via Shutterstock

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Stunning Stories of Heroism Emerge After Oklahoma Tornado

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Amid the tragic stories that emerged following the tornado that devastated the town of Moore, Oklahoma on Monday afternoon were a number of heroic tales of teachers comforting and protecting their students at great personal risk during the terrifying storm.  CNN reports on Plaza Towers Elementary School, which suffered the loss of 7 students:

“It was scary,” student Julio Rodriguez told CNN. Teachers instructed the kids to crouch down, “and you covered your head with your hands,” he demonstrated.

The school quickly became the epicenter of the tragedy in this shattered town, part of the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.

First responders and volunteers rushed to the scene to begin the treacherous work of searching for survivors.

“We had to pull a car off a teacher and she had three little kids underneath her,” one first responder, in tears, told KFOR. “Good job, teach.”

“I was on top of six kids,” one sixth grade teacher said, working her way across the rubble. “I was lying on top. All of mine are OK.”

Teachers helped tear through several feet of rubble to rescue sobbing students, some of them injured.

Rescue teams successfully pulled several kids from the leveled school.

But with each passing hour, the hope began to fade.

Crews continued their search around the clock, rummaging through nearly 40 feet of rubble, CNN affiliate KOKH reported.

Some students were fortunate — they got out of the school before the tornado struck.

Officials had managed to bus some children to a nearby church, which turned out to be clear of the tornado’s direct path, KFOR reported.

 

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NY School System Apologizes for Nazi Assignment

Monday, April 15th, 2013

An upstate New York state school district has apologized after a high school teacher gave his English class an assignment in which students were asked to write from the perspective of Nazis, arguing that Jews are “evil” and the source of the German government’s problems.  More from CNN:

The assignment from the unidentified teacher was designed to flex students’ “persuasive writing” skills.

But Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of the City School District of Albany, called the assignment “completely unacceptable.”

“It displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate in our school community,” Wyngaard said, “I am deeply apologetic to all of our students, all of our families and the entire community.”

She told the Albany Times Union newspaper that one-third of the students refused to complete the work.

The teacher has not been in school since the district learned of the assignment.

The school district is considering disciplinary action, according to Ron Lesko, director of communications. Options include termination, but no decision has been made, Lesko said.

In the assignment, students were to pretend the educator was a member of the Nazi government.

“You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” the teacher’s assignment sheet said.

The assignment reiterated, “You do not have a choice in your position.”

Image: High school students writing, via Shutterstock

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