...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
      ( 12:27 PM )
"Are Now Or Have You Ever Been, a Teacher?"

Will it come to this? Membership in a teacher's union that fights the government's "education" policies may be hazardous to your health and career.

I want to expound a little on the previous post. I don't watch the news during the day, so I'm not sure how much play Paige's comments are getting. I hope a lot. I'm sure it's not enough to get him fired (does ANYONE get fired in this administration for screwing up?). I punctuate this commentary with the disclaimer that I hope to be a teacher one of these days (am accepted to a masters program in teaching, but not sure if I can afford it yet). It took me a while to reach the place where I realized what I truly would like to do and now teaching is what I am really looking forward to. In my previous encounters with kids, tutoring them in regular and alternative school settings, working with them to teach them activist techniques, and basically hanging out with them, I have observed that a desire to go to school and learn is the root of any kid truly succeeding. I had a few teachers that made that possible for me. But teachers nowadays, no matter how wonderful they are, are strapped down by the NCLB and the government's continuing insistence that education means "corporate accountability" and not "teaching children."

I found the following comment on one of Kos's posts really telling. It's from a principal, responding to someone who was asking why teachers are now only teaching to the test:

...as a school principal in a district where six out of
our seven schools failed to make "adequate yearly
progress" as defined by NCLB, I can tell you in one
word why everybody is suddenly "teaching to the
test": fear.

The consequences of having even one subgroup
fail to meet the standards at a sufficiently high
passing rate are enormous. After just the second
year, the district must withhold 20% of its Title I
dollars in reserve to pay for parents who want
their kids to be transported to a "not failing"
school elsewhere in the district. After the third year,
schools must set aside Title I $$ for transportation
and for private tutoring for any parents who want
it for their kids (such tutoring to be provided by
anybody on the state's approved list, including
private and religious groups).

The consequences get progressively worse as
the standards get impossibly higher and higher.
Schools will be told to fire the teachers "responsible"
for the failure (whoever the hell that is). Schools
will be required to let EVERYbody go. Schools will
be required to be taken over by the state, or close
down and re-open as, you guessed it, charter or
private schools.

It's really, REALLY bad.

So lots of folks who got into education for all of
the right reasons are terribly, terribly afraid of the
consequences of failure and will do just about
ANYTHING legal to meet the AYP requirements,
including teaching to the test and drill-and-kill
practice sheets. As a principal, I am horrified.
I refuse to knuckle under and let this happen on
my watch; but my school is 97.8% high poverty
(read: qualifies for free/reduced lunch rates), and
over 70% English language learner, so I fully expect
to go down in flames in a few short years unless
the regulations for implementing NCLB are changed.

But these teachers, trying to fight this incredibly unfair and wrong system (that was passed wholeheartedly with Democrats' help, remember), now find that the administration blithely labels their union as a "terrorist organization." Well, maybe the teachers should organize and take up arms. I'm not kidding. What has our country come to when the government finds more value in stripping schools of their funding and labeling teachers as failures than it does in investing in the future of our children?

Jamie McKenzie, founder of "No Child Left," a protest publication against NCLB, has noted that NCLB doesn't create accountability for schools, it creates poverty for an entire generation of American children:

Given the huge number of students who never
graduated from their Texas high schools during
the past decade (thank you, Rod Paige - mama
), it is likely that NCLB, (which is
based on many of the same mistaken strategies)
will provide a supply of cheap labor for the next
decade as school dropouts and pushouts pour
out of classrooms before their time, taking up their
spots in the fast food restaurants and low paid
service jobs of this nation.

As Wal-Mart and other low-paying retailers battle
it out to lower prices, cheap labor and poor wages
with minimal benefits are prime weapons in the
competition for shoppers.

Combining high stakes testing with punishment
and public humiliation is a sure fire way to fail our
children, leaving millions behind so they can be
"nickel and dimed" - condemned to fill the burgeoning
ranks of the marginally employed.

So what this policy is creating is a society where the only jobs available in this country are low-paying, non-benefit, and nowhere-leading jobs in the McWalMarts that are taking over everywhere. Long term, schools will cease to exist. Teachers will join the ranks of the unemployed. Skilled workers? Educated professionals? They will belong only to the upper class, the elitists who get tax breaks and are able to shop their kids around to universities that will be charging such exorbidant rates that regular citizens will no longer be able to afford college.

You think I'm being a little fatalistic? Being a bit reactionary? Project this policy forward 20 years. Where will our schools be if this policy remains in place? Where will the teachers be? Twenty years from now, when children are being automaticaly sent into burger-flipping training instead of 7th grade, will I be teaching in an underground school, using books that have long been banned, risking my life and the lives of my students and their parents, just so they can have a chance to be truly educated? If I am, then your kids are gladly welcomed to my school, and I'll save a copy of Farenheit 451 just for them.

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