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Why the IPS School Board election matters to Oregon 0

Posted on November 19, 2014 by dmayer

Most of my school days as a student and as a public school teacher were spent in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). These days Indianapolis seems determined to sell out its public schools. So, when I heard Stand for Children (SfC), a repressive education reform group based in Oregon (where I now live), was pouring large sums into the campaigns of three particular school board candidates, I paid attention. Why would SfC care about a school board election 2,000 miles away? Why should Oregonians think the goals of SfC in Indiana are any different for our state?

Perhaps, foreshadowing the IPS results, glossy brochures and pamphlets barraged voters at the mailbox in the final days leading up to the election. All three elected candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley, and LaNier Echols, were endorsed by Stand for Children as well as other funders with deep pockets. SfC, in turn, receives much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over $100,000 was donated to the candidates who support for-profit charter schools, high stakes testing, and non-licensed school staff  like Teach for America and Teach Plus. Incumbent opponents raised only about $6,000 among the three of them, and while that may sound dismal in comparison to the outside corporate support, it had previously been the norm.

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Photo credit: Matthew Mayer

The ousted incumbents are current IPS board president Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, who all had been endorsed by the local teachers’ union.

Brown was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White, voted against his buyout and has been skeptical of some of the changes the board has embraced since 2012, such as partnerships with charter schools. He said during the campaign that smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents are the keys to improving IPS.

Maybe Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) members, who often consults with SfC on education issues, think Oregonians aren’t aware of its bad behavior in other states. Maybe Governor Kitzhaber and Education CEO Nancy Golden think that parents, students, and community members aren’t aware of SfC’s agenda of privatizing our public schools. They would be wrong. State politicians and the OEIB cannot expect Oregonians to act like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand on the very important issue of public education. We endorse smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents just like the ousted IPS board members.

Is SfC planning a coup to disrupt school board election here in Oregon? We’ll know soon enough in April, 2015, when Portland Public School board elections are scheduled.  Attempts on the part of  SfC and other reform funders to influence the outcome of the election will result in active protest. Oregon school boards are not for sale.

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How do I know what a good test looks like? 0

Posted on November 11, 2014 by dmayer

What does a GOOD test look like? Stand for Children has the answer.

Before reviewing the test, a word about the graphic design. Skimming this web page, it is clear that some designs are more legible than others. That’s true for test, too. Many people  think a computer test is “more standardized,” and therefore more fair than an old-fashioned pencil and paper test. That’s a misconception. Differences in the age of the computer, the brand, speed, monitor size, display, sound, and other tech attributes can make a difference in student performance. Some readers may find this page visually difficult to read and understand, just as some kids will find the test format and instructions difficult to read and understand. And, that doesn’t begin to take into consideration the range of dexterity and computer skills kids bring to the test.

On to the test. From the Stand for Children website:

BETTER TESTS: YOU DECIDE

We are finally moving to higher academic standards for our kids.

With those high standards come better tests that measure critical thinking, replacing bad tests that are just rote memorization.

Pop Quiz: Are the new tests better? Come decide for yourself.

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Questions about the tests.

  • Are the higher academic standards referred to above the Common Core State Standards?
  • What are the names of the old tests and the new tests? Is the old test the OAKS? Is the new test the SBAC?
  • In the first 3rd grade math problem, the new test is measuring area, not perimeter. Drag and drop! Drag and drop! Drag and drop! What is the correct answer to the old test problem? Should the question on the old test have been: What is the area? Was this an actual old test question?
  • In the second 3rd grade math problem as in the first, the student is simply asked to answer more problems at once. Dragging and dropping several answers instead of selecting only one answer. No partial credit?
  • Does the 5th grade Reading/Writing test require kids to do more than drag and drop to answer the question?
  • Does drag and drop now equal critical thinking?

Find out more about opting out of high stakes testing:

United Opt Out

Oregon Save Our Schools

Badass Teachers protest the Gates Foundation — Photo Essay 0

Posted on June 29, 2014 by dmayer

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“The Rally to Educate the Gates Foundation” in Seattle, Washington and is sponsored by Badass Teachers Association (WA-BATS), a grassroots group of career educators defending our public education system from private interest groups, on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at Westlake Park, 401 Pine St, Seattle.

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The first 45 minutes of the rally features speakers including Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and UW Associate Professor Wayne Au.

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Deb Mayer, Catherine Carroll, Kris Alman, Anthony Cody, and Kathleen Jeskey join Washington teachers and activist to bring some badass action to protest the Gates Foundation’s shady involvement in privatizing our public schools. Our schools are not for sale.

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Catherine Carroll wants to teach the whole child. She objects to scripted curriculum, inappropriate standards, fake TFA-type teachers, phony education nonprofits, high-stakes standardized tests, and billionaires scheming to privatize our public schools.

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Parents object to the corporate insistence on RIGOR in the classroom, the emphasis on standardized testing in reading and math at the expense of art, music, P.E. and library.

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The “Corporate Vulture” casts a pall on equitable public schools for all.

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Seattle’s finest escort education advocates from Westlake Park to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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WA-BATS refuse to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality and refuse to accept tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

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WA BATS demand that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divest from their education agenda which includes: Over Testing, Race To The Top, Teach For America, Ignoring Poverty, Class Size Increases, Charter Schools, Big Data-Piracy or Sharing, Union Busting, Narrowing Curriculum, Ignoring Parent Voice, Value Added Measures, Appointed School Boards, Privatizing Public Schools, Replacing Teachers With Screens, For-profit Business Model Policy, Tying Funding to Test Scores, Outsourcing to Private Vendors, Treating Kids Like Widgets, High Stakes Testing & Common Core State Standards.

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Rally Attendees Say YES TO: Parent & Educator Voice! Creativity! Small Class Sizes! Civics! Science! Music! Art! Drama! Physical Education! Parent Involvement! Libraries! Counselors! Experienced Teachers! Learning Through Play! Project Based Learning! Learning Support Staff! Adequate Compensation! Democratic Governance of Schools! Relevant Educator Training! Less Testing and More Learning! Transparent Decision Making! Equitable Funding For Every Child! Recognizing Each Student’s Potential! Culturally & Developmentally Responsive Curriculum! “

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In 2014 political power resides in monetary wealth and public policy is being determined by the mega-rich not the expert practicioner-in many professions. No one is asking teachers what schools need.

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Among the Speakers at the Gates Foundation site were Susan DuFresne, Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates, Anthony Cody, Living in Dialogue, and Peggy Robertson of United Opt Out.

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Teachers are told that they don’t have high enough expectations for kids. This is ludicrous. Our governing system is becoming undemocratic but worse it IS harming children who need a wholistic classroom experience beyond test scores.

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The Gates Foundation must accept that teachers are more than software; that learning is individualized; and that education is a public endeavor.

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Excellent public schools are the cornerstone of a free society: big money is buying the education agenda. People must stand up to this oligarchical shift and reclaim public schools with the whole child at the center.

Business reformers need to spread their expertise in places where they know what they are talking about. Teachers are experts when it comes to student learning. Ask us what kids need to thrive and learn. We are happy to tell you.

We’re not going to take it anymore!

Anthony Cody at the Educating Gates Rally, Seattle from Schoolhouse Live on Vimeo.

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Thanks to Julianna Dauble, Renton teacher and Rally Organizer, for a great job organizing this event and for help with this commentary.

Common Core Resolution to PPS Board 0

Posted on April 18, 2014 by dmayer

Portland Public School board member Steve Buel presented a resolution citing concerns with the implementation of Common Core $tate $tandards at Wednesday night’s meeting. He called for a three-year moratorium much to the chagrin of presiding member Pam Knowles, but to the delight of a sizable contingent of the audience of parent, teachers, and students. After a verbal skirmish over the rules, Steve was permitted to read the resolution.

The resolution is the result of hundreds of hours of research by concerned members of the community who have noticed the effects of Common Core in New York and Kentucky. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools and Portland Association of Teachers met to flesh out the details of the resolution. Steve Buel and Aaron Smirl drafted the final version presented to the board. They welcome any and all concerned about the implementation of Common Core to use our resolution as a model to call for a moratorium. The text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION ON COMMON CORE AND PPS (April 16, 2014)

Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas,  the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need,  underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:

  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education.
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors.
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary.
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing.
  • Computer access throughout the year.

Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:

  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance.
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law.
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons.
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.

Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:

  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed?
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC?
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)

Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.

Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.

 

The schools Portland students demand 0

Posted on January 15, 2014 by dmayer

January 12, 2013 — Hundreds of parents, students, and teachers gathered outside the Portland Public School Board meeting to protest the lack of progress toward a contract with Portland teachers.  PPS has decided to not negotiate class size and teacher work load.  After a rally outside, the rally moved inside where the board was meeting.

When the mic was open for public comment, students began a mic check.  The board immediately adjourned and left ignoring students.  Steve Buel, often a dissenting vote on the board, was the only member who stayed to hear the students’ concerns.  Photos tell the story:

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Students mic check the school board. The board with the exception of Steve Buel, promptly adjourns and leaves, ignoring the student action.

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Tonight at the school board meeting, the Portland Student Union presented “The Schools Portland Students Demand”. This list was compiled by Portland students and outlines what we believe will make our educational experience the most enriching and successful.

1. Class sizes less than 20

2. Proper funding of the arts

3. More time with guidance counselors

4. Student-teacher collaboration in building curriculum

5. Rich, relevant curriculum – not common core

6. Democratic process in the allocation of funds

7. Restorative justice – not suspensions and expulsions

8. Funding for wrap-around programs

9. Support for all teachers

10. No School Closures

 
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What does a self-proclaimed, true S.O.B. look like? 0

Posted on October 26, 2013 by dmayer

There is likely someone similar to him driving education policy in your state or school district. Watch as Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Oregon, as he delivers a message to school administrators encouraging them to threaten teachers who dissent from Common Core.

Saxton:  

Do you know what the description of a great education leader is?  

It’s an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . I’m an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . You gotta be an S.O.B with a kindly manner.

Credit to Patriot Jason/Don’t Tread on Farms for the video.

What does Betsy Hammond, education writer at the Oregonian report about Saxton’s speech?

Some of his speech wasn’t that pretty. Either directly or using initials, he used some off-color words that a teacher would not use with students as he recounted things that have happened to him.

Hammond neglects Saxton’s statement that Oregon will be required to apply for another waiver in January 2014 identifying another round of focus and priority schools. (Starts at 6:15 mark in video below.)

There is no effort that is more important right now or is getting more attention than this one: our focus on priority schools. The Governor often asks, “When are we going to start to see that we’re making a difference in some of these investments? Where is that likely to happen?”

We need to be able to say to the legislature, “This is where we’re moving up — this investment. And the way we’re going about doing this work is changing outcomes for students.”

We have a new waiver that we need to be applying for this winter. . .(hem-hawing) When I look at the waiver that came from No Child Left Behind, I have to chuckle to myself because of what it required of us in the state. What it required of us was to sort of move away from the requirements of No Child Left Behind were to develop the new report card, work on educator evaluation systems that were already required by 290, and support Title I schools through Focus and Priority process.

What’s not to like? Is that just not like some of the greatest requirements you could ever have?

. . .

Now we need to apply for a new waiver. We’re going to try to go in the second part of the program which will be in January. One of the things they’re asking us in the new waiver is, “How would you identify additional focus and priority schools after the this four year cohort is complete?”

The structure of the ranking system insures that no matter how hard students and teachers work, there will always be focus and priority schools.

Sorry kids.

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In the process of delivering this hour long harangue which included two self-indulgent tales having nothing to do with educating our kids, Saxton quotes Theodore Roosevelt saying people often misquote him.  Then he proceeds to misquote him, “It is not the critic who counts,” he says apparently to bolster the resolve of the administrators he has just bullied into bullying their staffs. The quote is much more fitting to describe the work that teachers and parents do than invoking it to deflect criticism of himself, the OEIB, or the administrators he is encouraging to threaten teachers. Here is the actual quote from a speech remembered as The Man in the Arena delivered in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

You can view the entire video here to judge whether the Oregonian staff is keeping the public well informed on education issues. Watching the entire video will bear this out:  This ego-maniacal guy in charge of educating our kids poses a danger to teachers and students who value real education. Any free thinker can see that. He’s not the type of guy you would want in charge of your own child’s education, let alone the education of every single student in the state. 

Full length video of Rob Saxton – I’m an S.O.B. — Oregon Deputy Super Rob Saxton Threatens Teachers Who Dissent on Common Core & P20W a.k.a. Rob Saxton Keynote Oregon’s Continuous Improvement Network Meeting 10 1 13.

Photo Essay: OSOS invites OBA to “The People’s Table” 0

Posted on October 20, 2013 by dmayer

If there was ever any doubt about the cozy ties between the Oregon Business Alliance and Stand for Children, this event should remove any uncertainty. Stand for Children, once considered a real grassroots education advocacy group, has fallen prey to corporate predators that offer big bucks in exchange for legislative support on education policy. On October 17th, while Stand president Sue Levin was being recognized for her work and leadership throughout the session around PERS and revenue reform in a herculean effort to ensure a bright future for Oregon’s children, Oregon Save our Schools was hosting a dinner of its own. The menu at the people’s table included funding for more teachers, lower class sizes, libraries, art, and music. High-stakes tests were not on the menu.

Everyone is welcome at the people’s table.

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Portland parent Susan Barrett recalls her experience as a member of Stand for Children before realizing she was being used by the organization.
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The People’s Table
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Steve Buel & Duncan Decker address a pro public school crowd at the OBA Statesman Dinner (parody and play)

Ahjamu Umi – Get yourself into a social justice organization

Elijah – Cleveland High School Chapter Member of the Portland Student Union

Emily Crum, teacher and event organizer, invites everyone to join us at the people’s table.

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People’s Table Protest Rally

Go Away TFA — Oregon HB 2878 0

Posted on March 19, 2013 by dmayer

Oregon may be opening the door for Teach for America, the recruiting service that places non-licensed college graduates in the classrooms of mostly poor, minority children after only five weeks of “training” to serve in place of professional teachers. Maybe or maybe not. This bill is so ambiguous and poorly written that it’s difficult to figure out its purpose. One thing is certain. It calls for Oregonians to trust non-licensed employees to teach their children.
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Click here for a larger version.

Here’s what the bill means in plain English, section by sub-section:

77th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY–2013 Regular Session
House Bill 2878

Sponsored by Representative PARRISH

Not surprisingly, Julie Parrish, District 37 — Tualitin and West Linn —  is supported by Stand for Children, an astroturf organization that has been successful in passing this type of legislation nationwide. Oregon is the only state where SFC operates that does not allow non-licensed teachers in schools. Parrish also pushed for legislation favoring charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.

Parrish on Twitter:

Thank you Oregonian for calling out the thuggish behavior of the OEA. Love my kids’ teachers, their union, not… http://t.co/guPJWc6o2h 02:10:04 PM March 14, 2013

Parrish is definitely anti-union.

SUMMARY

The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor’s brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced. 

Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed by or registered with Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if certain requirements are met. Specifies restrictions to employment.

Non-licensed people can teach if they meet certain requirements.

A BILL FOR AN ACT

Relating to teacher qualifications.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. (1) Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173, a person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the
Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) if:

Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173 — Notwithstanding means forget about these laws. Not usually a good thing. What laws should we ignore? ORS 338.135 defines among other things employees licensure and registration requirements and collective bargaining rights. ORS 342.173 states the effect of employing unlicensed teacher or administrator by certain districts including penalties and fines for hiring non-licensed teachers. A person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if:

(a) The person is teaching only courses for which the State Board of Education has not adopted academic content standards as required by ORS 329.045;

ORS 329.045 is a revision of common curriculum goals, performance indicators, diploma requirements, essential learning skills and academic content standards. This includes rigorous academic content standards in mathematics, science, English, history, geography, economics, civics, physical education, health, the arts and second languages. This list seems to be fairly inclusive. What courses would the non-licensed teacher be able to teach? Is there a shortage of certified teachers in some courses? What are they? Why not name them in the bill?

I contacted TSPC and asked this question. The response:

I cannot tell you exactly which courses would be allowed to be taught by a non-licensed teacher; but they would be courses for which the Department has not adopted content standards. I can tell you that it will certainly cause confusion unless regulations were clear following passage of the bill.

I highly recommend that you contact the legislative representatives for teachers at the Oregon Education Association regarding this bill.

I’m currently waiting for a response from OEA.

(b) The school district or public charter school follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures adopted by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission; and  

Follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures? Does this mean that the non-certified teacher will be evaluated like every other teacher?  This is vague.

(c) The person meets the other training or experience requirements established by the State Board of Education and by the district school board of the school district or the public charter school governing body.

Other training or experience requirements? What are the training and experience requirement? Why would we pass a law to allow non-certified people to teach with out even know what the requirements are?

(2) A person who is employed to teach as provided by this section:

(a) Is not eligible to become a member of the Public Employees Retirement System as a result of the employment; and

No PERS for non-licensed employees posing as teachers. Will the employee have any type of retirement plan?

(b) May not become a member of a collective bargaining unit that represents licensed or registered teachers.

Non-licensed employees posing as teachers can not join a union.

(3) No more than 40 percent of the total classroom teaching time at a school may be provided by persons who are teaching as provided by this section.

Whoa! Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed is a far cry from 40 percent of classroom teaching time provided by non-licensed employees. Does this mean that nearly half of any school faculty may be non-licensed employees posing as teachers.

There are red flags all over this bill. Even if it isn’t a pretext to welcome TFA into Oregon, it is a frightening precedent in regard to retirement restrictions, collective bargaining rights, and faculty composition. This bill is slated for a hearing March 25th. Let your representatives hear from you.

An Evening with Andy Hargreaves at PSU 0

Posted on February 05, 2013 by dmayer

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Professor Andy Hargreaves was welcomed by Portland State University President, Wim Wiewel, who talked in vague terms of Governor Kitzhaber’s pipeline to streamline Oregon education from cradle to career. He emphasized the ambiguity of the plan saying, “Where are all the boxes?” We don’t know yet. And, “Who or what will live in those boxes? We don’t know.” Hargreaves was introduced as someone to help figure this out.

What had been billed as a lecture turned out to be a 30 minute book talk followed by a short Q & A and book signing. Here are some key points from Hargreaves’ newest book, Professional Capital, co-authored with Michael Fullan, as noted in his presentation.

In his opening remarks, Hargreaves focused our attention on transforming teaching in every school. His formula: PC = f(HC,SC,DC).

“Teachers, along with parents, are the most important people in our lives. It’s the teacher, stupid.” he said.

He elaborated on the system we now have in place that knows only two strategies: to either reward or remove teachers. Then he said something that experienced teachers have known all along. He said in all the mountains of data collected on teacher quality and tying kids’ tests scores to teacher evaluations, reliable numbers correspond to principals’ judgements. Let me say that again with emphasis: He said principals are the best evaluators of teacher performance. Just as research shows that the grades a teacher assigns to a student are the best indicator of how that student will do in college (Krashen), the judgements, or evaluations, principals assign to a teachers are only reinforced by data. (One might ask why we are wasting extraordinary amounts of money on a system that tells us what we already know.)

Although I agree with much of what Hargreaves says, I am not comfortable with the language and presentation of his ideas. For example, his method of defining every idea in terms of “capital.” I have a strong aversion to using the word “capital” to describe human worth since I first came across this website: Strategic Management of Human Capital some years ago. The site elaborates in no uncertain terms the value and manipulation of human life in monetary (capital) terms. Knowing that as a teacher, I am thought of as human capital forces me, on some level, to think of my students in those terms, when for decades that thought had never entered my mind. Maybe this is a compromise educators must accede to these days in order to gain a foothold in today’s profit-driven, business-dominated education environment. I think the price is too dear.

In the words of Hargreaves:

Capital relates to one’s own or group worth –particularly concerning assets that can be leveraged to accomplish desired goals.

Business capital assumes that good teaching:

  • is technically simple
  • a quick study
  • can be mastered readily
  • should be driven by hard performance data
  • is about enthusiasm, effort, talent, and results
  • is replaceable by online instruction.

He then likened  so-called “teachers” produced in droves by organizations like Teach for America, The New Teacher Project/Center, and Teaching Fellows programs as delivering curriculum “karaoke style” — to applause from the educators in the audience.

Professional capital as it pertains to teaching:

  • is technically sophisticated and difficult
  • requires high levels of education and training over a long time
  • is perfected through continuous improvement
  • is a collective accomplishment
  • maximizes,mediates, and moderates online instruction

“Technology and teachers work well together.  One should not replace the other,” he said.

Hargreaves defines three other types of capital as a subset of professional capital: human capital, social capital, and decisional capital.

Human capital involves qualifications, knowledge, preparation, skills, and emotional intelligence.

Social capital involves trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, mutual assistance, professional networks, and a healthy amount of push, pull, and nudge to reach goals.

Decisional capital involves judgement, case experience, practice, challenge and stretching, and reflection.

Notably absent from this discussion is the idea of how cultural capital including race, ethnicity, socio-economic, and other conditions, factors into education.

Hargreaves mentioned Finland as an example of a country that reveres teachers as professionals. In 1992, Finland had an unemployment rate of 19%. Proactively, officials decided to invest in education by investing in teachers. Every teacher in Finland must earn a master’s degree before entering the classroom. Teachers are highly qualified in the true sense of that concept: knowledgeable, prepared, skilled, and emotionally intelligent. They earn the trust of their respective communities, and together with members of the community collaborate, take collective responsibility, mutually assist each other, create professional networks, and help each other to reach goals. Based on case experience, practice, challenges, and reflection they are able to make judgements on how to meet goals. Now fifteen years later, Finland’s education system is hailed as the finest in the world.

Fifteen years ago, the Finns did not articulate their education goals in terms of capital. They did not think of their children or teachers in terms of human capital. Using the definition of humans identified as capital, how difficult will it be for us to give children in our state or country the education they need and deserve? Do the same attributes that worked so well for the Finns take on a new and different meaning when we define ourselves as capital?

He gave a statistic that I find unbelievable. He said that in this country the average time spent in the classroom by new teachers is one year before leaving. (GASP from audience.) I have not been able to confirm that statistic.

Near the end of his talk, Hargreaves announced that he would be working on the governor’s vision of cradle to career. He said that he would be working with Education Northwest, Inc., which had just been awarded a $1.8 million grant for continued support of their work. He is part of the pipeline created by the OEIB that promises to do more with less. From Education Northwest:

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out, NWRCC (Education Northwest) and the nation’s network of comprehensive centers “will help low-performing schools and districts close the achievement gap. They provide valuable support of the Administration’s P–12 initiatives to ensure that every child is able to receive a high-quality education.”

Hargreaves mentioned vaguely these as some of the goals for Oregon:

  • a smaller number of schools in districts to promote social capital
  • tighter faculty groups, and a smaller number of groups to promote decisional capital
  • higher standards for accreditation

On testing:

  • test prudently, not profitably
  • do not test every student in every grade every year
  • do test less people less often and give better tests

“We are not at a stage to give up testing altogether as Finland has done,” he said.

He left us with this quote from Nelson Mandela:

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers.

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Save Our Schools — one school at a time 0

Posted on July 16, 2012 by dmayer

This is the real life story about The Death and Life of One Great American School — to borrow a phrase from Diane Ravitch. Can you help us revive this school?

Tubman girls take the seats of PPS school board members and vote unanimously to keep their school open.

Today a group of parents and teachers who had been diligently trying to keep Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women alive received another “nail in the coffin” from the Superintendent’s office of Portland Public Schools. After closing the school on June 13th, Superintendent Carole Smith encouraged parents to pursue a district supported charter school. In a letter dated June 18th, parents posed questions to her about what the nature of support would be. Today, on the day the charter application is due, Zeke Smith, Chief of Staff at PPS finally responded. Even if by some miracle the group had been able to complete the application in three weeks, the charter would not be expedited he said. The school would not open in September.

The closure of Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women, a successful, inner city, 6-12th grade, all girls public school focused on math, science and leadership is a travesty and an injustice that should not be tolerated. The manner is which the school was closed shows an egregious lack of respect for the school community and quite frankly, the law. Three weeks after the announcement was made that closure was under consideration, the school was closed. POOF! GONE! The decision left students scrambling to find a placement for fall and wondering what they had done wrong to deserve this. Listen below to the girls as they tell the story of how they lost the excellent school they love.

Jada Commodore, 5th grader at Chief Jospeph Elementary School, implores the school board not to close the school she has looked forward to attending, “What did we do wrong to deserve this?” she asks.

Tubman is very diverse with 50% minority, 70% low income, and 54% of students wanting to pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). At this year’s science fair Tubman students won more awards than any other high school in the district. Yet, the school’s small size (a projected 220 students for next year which was partly a result of frequent threats of closure), made it an easy target for the school district.

Timeline for closure:

April 2, 2012 — Robo-calls sent from PPS Superintendent Carole Smith to the parents of Tubman students. “I’m calling you because I want to make you aware of a recommendation I’m making to the school board this evening that would have a direct impact on your child and family. I’m recommending that the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women be closed for the 2012-13 school year. With the large budget cuts that we’re going to have to make this upcoming year, we would not be able to provide your student a quality education in such a small school.

April 9th — Public hearings
April 10th — Enrollment and Transfer Teams arrive at Tubman. They announce that the vote has been moved from May 14th to April 23rd.
April 12th — Listening session
April 13th — Harriet Tubman removed from school choice options
April 23rd — Board votes 5-2 to close Tubman
June 13th — Last day of school

PPS reassigned teachers before the board vote.

It’s education gone wild!

Members of the community beg, beseech, and implore the board to keep Tubman alive. One board member responded this way: “The program that we know is working for kids, you’ve all spoken to it, we know it’s the right thing to do for kids, and we cannot afford to do it anymore. So, I apologize, I’m sorry for that.”

What should have been done to keep Tubman alive?

That is a question that the girls continue to ask. There was a plan to bring the girls together for a summer math program at Tubman beginning August 6th. The district, as of today, has not shown any interest in opening the space for the summer program. Parents are wondering what to do next.

Some parents are considering a legal challenge with the goal of keeping the school open as a neighborhood school. They have 180 days from the date of the decision to respond, but they have no money for a challenge against district attorneys well-versed in Oregon public school law. There is a feeling of hopelessness and disappointment in the Tubman community, “What has taken four years to build was dismantled in three weeks,” said parent and volunteer Jyothi Pulla. “Forty years after the passage of Title 9, girls are still lagging behind boys in math and science. Why would you close a program which is bridging those gaps and filling a need in the economy?” She wants to help form a Tubman girls club and pursue a Saturday or summer program for girls, to keep them connected and continue the pursuit of their interests.

How can you help the girls now? Contact the Superintendent and the school board: csmith1@pps.k12.or.us and SchoolBoard@pps.k12.or.us

Tell them:

Intel provided a grant which will allow for a three week summer program for Tubman girls. Please provide a space at Tubman so that the girls can have their summer program. Also, provide a space for Tubman girls to meet on Saturdays so they can stay connected and continue to pursue their interests in math, science, and leadership.

Contact us at mail@greatschoolsforamerica.org