Welcome to the blog of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. CTEN is a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the public at large with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
The big national education story continues to be Donald
Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Her Senate hearing
was moved from January 11th to the 17th and it will be a
few more days before a confirmation vote is taken. The extra six days gave
teacher union leaders additional time to vent about DeVos, who scares them to
death. Speaking to the Washington Press Club, AFT president Randi Weingarten
said, “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as
secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably
destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our
children.” Weingarten adds, “She’s devoted millions to elect her friends and
punish her enemies, and, at every critical moment, she has tried to take the
public out of public education.”
Despite the union
animus toward private school education, many teachers don’t agree. In fact, teachers send their own kids to private schools in greater
numbers than the general populace. According to a survey released in
January, 2016, Education Next found “No less than 20 percent
of teachers with school age children, but only 13 percent of non-teachers, have
sent one or more of their children to private school.” And not surprisingly, 42
percent of teachers who don’t send their kids to a traditional public school
back vouchers, as compared to only 23 percent of the teachers who send their
children to traditional public schools.
On the subject of choice, it is
important to note that many naysayers insist that voucher programs cost the
taxpayer money, but studies refute this. Most recently, a study from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty,
decided to look at the cost/benefits of choice schools. They found that:
…students participating in Milwaukee’s voucher program will
provide the city, state and students nearly $500 million in economic benefits
through 2035 thanks to higher graduation and lower crime rates.
Using data from a crime and graduation study by Corey
DeAngelis and Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas, the
Milwaukee study finds that through 2035 Wisconsin will receive a $473 million benefit
from higher graduation rates by choice students. More education translates into
higher incomes, more tax revenue and a lower likelihood of reliance on
government welfare or other payments. Meanwhile, greater economic opportunity
also prevents young adults from turning to crime, which the study estimates
will save Wisconsin $1.7 million from fewer misdemeanors and $24 million from
fewer felonies over the same 20 years.
Speaking of choice, January 22-28 is National School
Choice Week, the aim of which is to “raise public awareness of all types of
education options for children. These options include traditional public
schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private
schools, and homeschooling.” There are 21,392 events planned this year,
rallies, science fairs, school tours, policy forums, and rallies in more than
25 state capitals. These celebrations will be attended by tens of millions of
Americans in all 50 states over just seven days.
Of the 21,392
events, 16,758 are planned by schools, 2,168 by homeschooling groups, 1,358 by
chambers of commerce, and many more by individuals, along with coalitions of
policy, advocacy, and education organizations. Each event reflects the community
and mission of the individual event planners, focusing on themes like parent
information nights, registration fairs, and workforce readiness.
voted to bring back bilingual education in November, few acknowledged that
there are not nearly enough teachers equipped to teach it. And now that it is
the law, there is a search to fill many needed teaching slots.
Greg Forster has written a detailed five-part series on accountability: the
best way to measure it, who should be in charge of it, etc. In Part 5 he
firing and paying of teachers must attract and retain wise professionals with
a commitment to nurturing children’s ability to achieve and appreciate the
true, good and beautiful. It should not place a high priority on more
utilitarian metrics like small fluctuations in test scores.
Holding teachers accountable requires us to
hold schools accountable. Schools need to have strong institutional culture.
School leadership must instill shared moral commitments pointing to the higher
purpose of education, and defining the rules of acceptable behavior for
educators and students implied by that higher purpose.
The big challenge for school accountability
is that these moral commitments cannot be simply imposed by force. The school
must be a free community in which students genuinely internalize the
transcendent goals of education rather than merely conforming reluctantly
to the grown-ups’ demands. This means accountability systems must have strong moral and social connections to
schools. That way educators and students will accept their decisions not
as a hostile outside force but as part of, and supporting, the free moral
community of the school itself.
Also on the subject
of accountability, the Washington Post’s
Esther Cepeda writes “Teacher evaluation system is failing.” She concludes
that, “Until teacher evaluations can be reliable, apolitical and rigorous — and
provide accountability while being objective and fair — fixing systems where
ineffective teachers are almost impossible to fire will continue to be a pipe
In any event, if you enjoy
these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your
colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in
California who are looking for alternative sources of information. Many thanks,
as always, for your interest and support.