Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Dear Colleague,

CalMatters asks an important question, “Can California withstand a teacher retirement boom?”

Earlier this year, the California State Teachers Retirement System issued an ominous statement: teacher retirements in California are projected to hit nearly record-breaking heights in 2021.

The statement, which came in the form of a February blog post, said that the numbers will be almost as bad as the year after the Great Recession when more than 16,000 teachers retired.   

While short term effects are being felt in some areas, in many school districts the tsunami of retirements is barely registering as a ripple. While interviews with administrators, teachers, and union leaders do not paint a rosy picture of the situation, neither is it expected to be crippling.   

To continue reading, go here.

Critical Race Theory has made its way into many areas of American life, notably its schools. But just what is it? Christopher Rufo, knowledgeable on all things CRT, has come out with a “briefing book.”

Critical race theory is an academic discipline that holds that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy and oppression, and that these forces are still at the root of our society. Critical race theorists believe that American institutions, such as the Constitution and legal system, preach freedom and equality, but are mere “camouflages” for naked racial domination. They believe that racism is a constant, universal condition: it simply becomes more subtle, sophisticated, and insidious over the course of history. In simple terms, critical race theory reformulates the old Marxist dichotomy of oppressor and oppressed, replacing the class categories of bourgeoisie and proletariat with the identity categories of White and Black. But the basic conclusion is the same: in order to liberate man, society must be fundamentally transformed through moral, economic, and political revolution.

He gives several examples of what happens when CRT makes its way into schools.

·         San Diego Public Schools accused white teachers of being colonizers on stolen Native American land and told them “you are racist” and “you are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies.” They recommended that the teachers undergo “antiracist therapy.” Link.

·         A Cupertino, California, elementary school forced third-graders to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” They separated the eight-year-old children into oppressors and oppressed. Link.

·         Santa Clara County Office of Education denounced the United States as a “parasitic system” based on the “invasion” of “white male settlers” and encouraged teachers to “cash in on kids’ inherent empathy” in order to recruit them into political activism. Link.

To learn more, go here.

The public is fighting back, however. The proposed California math framework recommended eight times that teachers use “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction ” as a resource. This radical toolkit insists that addressing student errors, focusing on getting the right answer, and requiring students to show their work is a form of white supremacy.

However, due to citizen outrage during the “public comments” period, the state walked back some of its new math mandates, notably dropping A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction. The commission agreed to remove references to the toolkit from the draft framework last week, stating it was “inconsistent with teaching to the standards.” But the war is not over. The framework has not been finalized, and the California Department of Education will hold another public review soon.

For more info, go here.

The Covid pandemic has paved the way for many changes in the field of education. With virtual learning, cameras became de rigeur, and many parents got a “Zoom-eye” view of just what teachers are – and are not – teaching. While most educators have performed admirably, there are, regrettably, some exceptions.

Kimberly Newman, a middle school science teacher in California’s Palmdale school district, thought she had disconnected a Zoom call during which she had helped a student, who’d had trouble with his internet connection, catch up on what he had missed in class. The child’s mother heard Newman tell another person in her house that she thought the family was making up its connection problems to get the student out of turning in assignments on time, because they are Black.

In the recording, Newman is heard saying: “Your son has learned to lie to people and make excuses. Because you taught him to make excuses. That nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do. White people do it too, but Black people do it way more.” Later, she called the family “pieces of s--t.”

While acknowledging a downside, Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, makes the case for cameras:

Fundamentally, many teachers see livestreams and video recordings as infringements on their professional autonomy. Indeed, the California Teachers Association asserted as much this past summer, when it pointed to a 1976 state law that is said to forbid classroom recordings not authorized by the individual teacher on camera, as state officials moved to require daily live video instruction during pandemic-related closures. In some ways, this is an understandable concern. How would office workers, for example, like it if anyone could watch them do their work (or not) all day long?

But that misses the point. Teachers are professionals, yes, but teaching is a fundamentally public act, especially in public schools. It’s a bit like the role that judges play in criminal trials. Some states allow such trials to be broadcast live, so that judges’ performances are transparent, for the whole world to see. But of course when the judges go into their chambers, the cameras don’t follow. So too with teachers. When they are providing live instruction in the classroom, there should be no expectation of privacy. Other parts of the job, like lesson planning and grading, should remain sacrosanct.

To learn more, go here and here.

Another change precipitated by the pandemic, has been the rapid expansion of school choice. It’s important to note that, historically, once a choice measure takes hold, it becomes permanent.

School choice advocates across the country have been able to capitalize on the dismay many parents felt when their district schools stayed shuttered for all or most of the year. Legislation passed even in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia where teachers unions have been able to flex their muscles in recent years with “
red for ed” demonstrations that led to salary increases.

“There are some parents that hadn’t considered school choice before that have considered it as a result of the pandemic,” says Jake Logan, president of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “Parents like the opportunity to choose, and the pandemic gave them a reason to think about their children’s school in a way that they hadn’t before.”

It’s clear at this point that school choice has increased support, certainly in red states. States that were long resistant have now opened up. However small their initial programs may be, history shows that once tax-credit scholarships and ESAs and the like are introduced, they tend to expand, not contract.

In more fertile states, legislators recognized that this was the moment to put forward more ambitious proposals, and some of them hit it big.

To read on, go here.

On the union front, the United Educators of San Francisco declared its solidarity with the Palestinian people by supporting the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. The union also called for President Biden to stop aid to Israel, but after receiving some angry pushback from the Jewish community, the union issued a second resolution in which it added a condemnation of some Hamas’ actions. But the new document left its BDS stance intact, and still refers to “the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood” and “Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.” The union makes no mention of the fact that the expulsions were for non-payment of rent, and the airstrikes were in response to an onslaught of rockets being fired from Gaza.

At the same time, members of United Teachers of Los Angeles voted to support a resolution to “stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people because of the 3.8 billion dollars annually that the US government gives to Israel, thus directly using our tax dollars to fund apartheid and war crimes.” It should be noted that the UTLA resolution came from a group of chapter chairs (campus representatives), not the UTLA as a whole. In fact, the union leadership issued a statement after the resolution went public, explaining that it is not an official union document, but that it would be taken up by the UTLA House of Representatives, its highest decision-making body at their next meeting in September. 

However, the parent-led California Students United isn’t buying the union’s disclaimer, and in in a blistering five-page denunciation addressed to UTLA president Cecily Myart-Cruz, the organization demands “an unequivocal apology for the anti-Semitism and intolerance coming from you and the union you lead. Especially in the wake of the recent spike in attacks on Jews, your anti-Semitism is not only offensive, it endangers thousands of teachers, parents, and especially children in the LAUSD and beyond.” 

To learn more, go here and here.

Want to read a good book on education? Try Barry Garelick’s very enjoyable Out on Good Behavior: Teaching math while looking over your shoulder. From my review on Amazon:

Barry Garelick has written a highly entertaining book about a very serious subject. As a former math teacher, I am well aware of the ongoing parade of edu-fads filled with arcane new-speak that are supposed to improve the teaching of math. Garelick wisely points out the shortcomings of these anti-traditionalist methods, and does so with humor. You also get to know the educrats he must deal with on a regular basis. My only gripe is that the book is too short. I can only hope he does a follow up!

To learn more about the book and order a copy, go here.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.


Larry Sand

CTEN President