Self described great teacher thalli1 writes, at The Daily Kos, that after 34 years of selfless service he is ready to pitch the towel in. His reasons (paraphrasing):
Because of budget cuts class sizes began to grow, and as cuts continued he was expected to clean his classroom, and do his own clerical work, as well as plan his curriculum in addition to his daily lesson plans. Wait I thought that teachers having control of the curriculum was a good thing? He was also expected to teach kids with ADD, Autism, and limited English proficiency. Same with mainstreaming – isn’t it a tenet of modern liberal educational thought that mainstreaming is good? Somehow he managed to suffer through those hardships and then No Child Left Behind came along, Ah now we are getting somewhere., and people were upset that their kids weren’t learning, “it became acceptable to bash teachers, schools, and education in the media”, in the authors words, and when schools couldn’t make adequate annual yearly progress the district stepped in.
The district began to look for ways to help these building to succeed. The focus on test scores escalated to a crazy level. The teachers in one of the elementary buildings in my district were told they could no longer teach anything besides reading, math, and science because those were the subjects that were tested. Our building wasn’t ever told that specifically, but it was understood that we were to focus on practices that would improve our students’ test-taking skills.
The district decided to implement required core instructional materials that were mandated to everyone. Suddenly, the creativity of the job was being removed. They wanted everybody to teach the same materials, the same way. I’ve never been one to buck the system, so I began to wrack my brain for how to use these new materials and still keep the lessons interesting for my students.
At the same time, class sizes and special needs were growing. The behavior classroom was closed and its students were mainstreamed into the regular classroom. I tried to become an expert on dealing with anger issues. I tried to learn how to help fifth graders with severe disabilities, limited mobility, and cognitive levels of very young children, all in my regular classroom now filled with 30-35 students. My job became an even greater challenge than it had always been before, but still my attitude was to think “bring it on!” I just couldn’t fathom the idea that my natural teaching ability wasn’t exactly what was needed to solve any and all challenges that came my way.
Didn’t she just complain about having to come up with a curriculum?
Maybe it’s that for the first time, our school didn’t meet AYP because two few English Language Developing students in the entire school didn’t pass their reading benchmarks.
Maybe it was the e-mail I got saying that the department of education in Oregon has raised the cut scores again this year by six or seven points per grade level, even though they just raised them a couple of years ago. I found out that if they would have used these new cut scores last year, over half of the students in grades 3-8 who passed their benchmarks wouldn’t have passed. That led to a realization that as a school we have very little chance of meeting our adequate yearly progress this year, but of course I’m not allowed to say that because there are no excuses. It’s hard not to feel discouraged.
and there we have it, but instead of accepting some responsibility for a broken system. It’s easier to put the blame on everyone else. The author has a litany of excuses, budget cuts, shortened school year, mainstreaming, etc., but what it comes down to is a system that ran without accountability, and essentially let the teachers unions have their way for years and is now systemically damaged. In this article in the Oregonian the point is made that the unions made choices that led to the larger class sizes, furloughs and shortened school year. Now they have to pay the price:
most comparisons put Oregon’s per-student school funding at about the national average. Other studies place the salaries, and especially, the benefits, that Oregon provides its teachers at slightly above average. Yet the state is 49th in class size and very near the bottom in the length of the school year. It’s clearly a matter of priorities, and power.
Teachers have unions. Taxpayers have anti-tax groups, the initiative and the Legislature. Students and parents have nowhere to turn except to school boards. And that’s not a fair fight. The most difficult and least-appreciated jobs in Oregon public life are seats on local school boards. There’s no money in it. No power. There’s nothing but hard choices, and too often, hard feelings with neighbors.
Yet it’s at the school board level that decisions are made in every school district, every year, that have the effect of crowding more kids into classes. In district after district this year, school boards battled teacher unions over pay raises that directly affected class size. Some school boards held the line on teacher pay increases and avoided layoffs that would have driven up class sizes. But others did not.
I think this perfectly makes the point about what Scott Walker is trying to accomplish in WI. If the unions retain collective bargaining rights, any concessions they make today will be rolled back tomorrow.