Weekly Roundup 10/25

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This week in education, we see more bad news for educators and students. Much of the bad news is because politicians and organizations are pushing their own agendas, rather than focusing on the real problems at hand.

Monday, October 27, the Philadelphia School District will give schools access to $15 million. On the surface, this sounds positive. The problem is, the money is part of the $44 million the district expects to save from canceling the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is the same money that is tied up in the court system after the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted the union’s request for an injunction; the injunction should have halted the district’s plans to begin forcing teachers to contribute more toward their health care premiums. The district effectively will hand out money that legally is not theirs, a move that PFT president Jerry Jordan says is a “public relations campaign to try to make it appear that it’s the PFT’s fault that the schools don’t have what they should have.” Read the full article to see how teachers are being victimized and villainized once again.

Arne Duncan reportedly wants to raise the stakes for schools of education, driving “bad” schools out of business with new federal regulations governing those schools. This seems like the same old tune from Duncan, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he will determine which schools of education are “bad.” Diane Ravitch gives a quick response to the Politico.com report and wonders whether Duncan will “grade these colleges by the test scores of students taught by graduates of schools of education,” which “will certainly make the stakes even higher for high-stakes testing.”

Both Arne Duncan and President Obama are supporting efforts to study the use of standardized tests and to weed out the “bad” ones. Their official statements followed announcements by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools stating that too many tests are poorly designed, take too much time, and can be eliminated. Patrick O’Donnell’s article offers both Duncan and Obama’s statements in their entirety, and teachers should read them. Then, teachers should think about what the statements do not say. They never mention the Common Core. How can we have a conversation about testing and not mention the driving force behind the latest round of testing insanity? Our leaders still don’t get it, as evidenced by their own words.

Would you believe, after reading the previous articles, that there is a steep decline in the number of enrollments in teacher prep programs? Teachers have been predicting the decreasing numbers of new teachers for quite some time; it’s difficult to imagine why anyone would want to enter this profession, with all of the bureaucracy, bashing, and blame flying around these days. A report in Education Week details the decline and points to “supply concerns” in California and other large states. The article fails to mention one thing: practicing teachers are leaving the profession in droves, too.

The real issues in education should focus on the students. Poverty and hunger are two critical components in student performance, but politicians, mainstream media, and education reformers don’t talk about it. An article in the New York Daily News reports on the heartbreaking number of homeless students. While the fights rage on over public schools and charter schools in the city, as the governor’s race heats up, and as teachers come under fire for failing schools, the homeless students are being overlooked in the discussion. We cannot fix education until we fix the problems of our students.

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