I try to stay on top of education developments by subscribing to a wide range of publications. I’m up to reading about 20 blogs and newsfeeds to try to stay on top of things. While many of these publications seem to tow a similar line, I also subscribe to a few that are just out there sometimes. The one that stands out the most is Schools Matter. Often, I think a more apt name might be “Teachers Matter (more than students).” I can often understand the concern for teachers’ rights in the current political climate. A lot of people are worried about their jobs.
If you can’t tell by now, I generally disagree with the way that many put status-quo-teachers’ opinions over the needs of students. Please note that I specifically said status-quo teachers and not all teachers. Many teachers are progressive. I do not believe that teachers’ unions reflect the progressive attitudes that many teachers have. At a national convention of the National Educators’ Education Association this past Saturday, there were calls of defiance against Barack Obama and Arne Duncan. Notably, no White House representatives were invited for the first time in two years. NEA president, Dennis Van Roekel, said on Saturday, “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced” and when referencing the Obama administration’s actions to date said, “This is not the change I hoped for.” I am willing to be that many if not most teachers do not feel the same way. The current administration has dumped over $100 million into education, most of that not even reform-based. Perhaps he forgets that last year over $90 million was given to states to keep teachers on payrolls. The problem is that those like Van Roekel equate pro-change with anti-educator. Believe me, I think that teachers are the single most important part of a classroom today. That is precisely why I believe that current policies of last-hired, first-fired in so many places are themselves anti-educator. Educators will not regain the trust of Americans until they are an elite profession. Until a district can get rid of a bad teacher without having to spend close to $300,000 and two years, there will be way too many bad teachers.
And while there are some obvious reasons that many support the NEA and the AFT, I am more mystified by other things that come out of Schools Matter, often from Jim Horn. His post today exemplifies the backwards thinking that can come from trying to be against everything. Aside from the fact that, like most of his posts, this one just copied and pasted from other sources and no actual reasoning is supplied (he often just writes a few sentences of angry preface), it is supremely clear that Horn makes very little sense. Horn copied from a Press of Atlantic City article entitled, “Almost 3,000 New Jersey seniors have yet to graduate after failing tests” and renamed it “NJ Proficiency Test Blocks 3,000 from Diplomas.” I would look at the original article and lament the horrendous educations these students must have been given to have been allowed to pass enough classes to graduate, but not be able to pass a test, which is given in 10th grade and in all reality tests at about an 8th or 9th grade level. If a student can’t understand algebra, it’s not because of a test; it’s because they weren’t taught well enough. Horn of course thinks that the teaching must have been OK, so it’s got to be the test that was a failure. The real title of the article should be “NJ Proficiency Test Shows 13 Years of Poor Instruction Blocks 3,000 from Diplomas.” Until people like Horn stop claiming that the tests are civil rights problems and realize that the real problem is inadequate instruction that English Language Learners and students from urban schools receive, they just won’t get it.