Education Reform

Diane Ravitch Slams Corporate Reformers and Lauds Public Schools in Sacramento Address

 

(In photo above from r.) Author Diane Ravitch delivered a rousing defense of public education in the state capital on Friday night.  CTA Secretary Treasurer Mikki Cichocki-Semo was among the panelists who introduced. (Photo by Jose Medina)

During a powerful presentation to an estimated hundreds of educators, parents, and community members on Friday night in Sacramento, Prof. and author Diane Ravitch delivered a strident defense of public education and a formidable attack on the “corporate reformers” who seek to profit by convincing elected officials and voters that schools are not doing the job.

Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and a historian of education, illuminated the Memorial Auditorium near the state Capitol with her message about the deceptive attacks on public education and the “so-called” reform proposals that would cripple schools while enriching special interests.

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Noted Education Historian Diane Ravitch Comes to California

Dr. Diane Ravitch, a leading education activist, author and historian, has become the voice of reason in speaking out for educators and against the corporate education reform agenda. CTA is encouraging educators to come and hear Diane Ravitch as she tours California over the next two weeks discussing her newest book, Reign of Error, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.

Using her insight from decades on the inside of the education "reform" movement, she is now the leading voice against No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, and corporate-backed education reforms. She has been called a “whistle-blower extraordinaire” by the Wall Street Journal.

The forums are being are being held in Sacramento, Berkeley, Stanford, Los Angeles and Northridge.

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CTA Members Speak Out Against Editorial Attacks

This weekend, the San Diego Union Tribune ran a hatchet piece against our union in its Opinion-Editorial section. Along with this, it ran an article by Reformer du Jour Michelle Rhee. At no point did the news outlet ask for our stance or offer a spot to rebut the obviously politically-motivated, unsubstantiated claims. We thank our fearless members who speak up against these attacks and help dispel the myths being pushed out to the pubic.

Below is a response from Sweetwater Education Association member Helen Farias:

As a 2013 SUHSD Teacher of the Year and nominee for San Diego County Teacher of the Year, as well as an active member of Sweetwater Education Association and California Teachers Association, I take strong offense to your portrayal of teachers and their unions. You bash unions for protecting bad teachers, but I know that my union allows exceptional teachers to advocate for their students. Because of union protections, there are teachers in Sweetwater who are challenging one of the most corrupt school boards in the nation...

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Lauderbach Elementary in Chula Vista benefits from QEIA

New independent research shows the state’s Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006 is helping high-poverty schools like Lauderbach Elementary in Chula Vista to thrive and excel.

“With QEIA, we are finding new and effective ways to help our vulnerable students and to discover practices that all teachers can learn from,” said Jim Groth, a teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and CTA Boardmember. “New research shows that these proven reforms are leading to positive impacts in achievement, school reputation, school climate and parent engagement at our schools of greatest need.”

Watch Lauderbach parent Ofelia Antuna de Dios share her thoughts on the QEIA turnaround program:


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Rhee's Road Show Offers Nothing New

Last night StudentsFirst founder and self-proclaimed education reformer Michelle Rhee held the first of a series of nationwide “teacher town halls” in Los Angeles, in what Rhee describes as an effort to move beyond “the extreme rhetoric and personal attacks overshadowing what’s important: getting every child into a great school with great teachers.” Ironic given the extreme rhetoric and blaming of “bad” teachers and principals Rhee uses as the cornerstone of her "reform" ideas.

Rhee’s co-panelists last night were Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet school, who uses what Rhee apparently considers un-extreme rhetoric when he refers to teachers unions as “roaches", and George Parker, the former Washington DC teachers union president who is now a paid Rhee staffer. As expected, last night’s event was very controlled. Audience questions were pre-screened on cards and Rhee and her co-panelists chewed up 90% of the speaking time. How is that a "town hall"?

The panel spent most of the evening talking about accountability and the need to get rid of bad teachers, and how unions were an obstacle to "real" reform. There was little if any discussion of supporting teachers or providing our public schools the resources they need.

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New Report Released: A Deeper Look at QEIA Implementation

New independent research shows that the kinds of proven reforms provided by a CTA-backed state school turnaround program is helping hundreds of at-risk California schools improve and innovate, CTA President Dean E. Vogel announced today in a news conference at a successful elementary school in the program.

The Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) targets low-income schools like Harmon Johnson Elementary in the Twin Rivers Unified School District. The high-poverty school is flourishing and recently won a high-profile national award for excellence. The school has been receiving extra resources due to the QEIA law of 2006. Parental involvement and volunteering have soared at the school as well.

“With QEIA, we are finding new and effective ways to help our vulnerable students and to discover practices that all teachers can learn from," said CTA President Dean Vogel. "New research shows that these proven reforms are leading to positive impacts in achievement, school reputation, school climate and parent engagement. This is exciting to see and watch.”

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CTA and NEA Press Lawmakers to Make Reauthorized ESEA Work

Congress could take up its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – HR 5 or the Student Success Act – as early as next week. Our members in California and National Education Association members around the country are urging federal lawmakers to turn the reauthorization bill into one that will work for our students and our schools.

NEA has opposed the bill in committee, and we share concerns about several troubling aspects of the proposed legislation.

HR 5 would undermine the federal government‘s work to ensure equity for all students. The bill would undercut efforts to get targeted resources to schools that educate students width greater needs. HR 5 would also weaken collective bargaining protections involving teacher evaluation. The bill would also continue to force schools to use high stakes testing that is harming teaching and learning.

NEA is also working to stop amendments that would add private school vouchers to the bill. Our members and educators throughout the nation are urging Congress to restore bargaining rights and end the focus on high stakes testing.

Congress could amend the measure over the next several days. In its current form, the bill is not acceptable.

Please urge Congress to refocus the ESEA on its original purpose: ensuring equity for all students.

Call your Congressional Representatives at 1-866-420-3592 and ask them to:

  • Recognize educators’ roles in student success, which means stopping the push for high stakes testing and guaranteeing teachers a voice in their profession through collective bargaining.
  • Oppose any efforts to divert public education funding to private school vouchers.

Or email your Congressional Representatives width the same message.

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Governor Brown Tapped as “America’s Greatest Education Governor"

California Teachers Accept Award on Governor’s Behalf; He Addresses 9,000 Educators via Video

(Photo above) Governor of California Jerry Brown speaks via a live video feed during the presentation of America’s Greatest Education Governor. NEA Today/Rick Runion

The National Education Association at its annual Representative Assembly in early July named California Governor Jerry Brown its “Education Governor of the Year.”

The 325,000-member California Teachers Association nominated Brown for the prestigious annual award for his ongoing commitment to public schools. He led the fight for his Proposition 30 last year to stop billions in education cuts and generate $47 billion over the next seven years for schools, colleges and other essential services. He also last week signed into law his historic overhaul of public school funding that provides more money to help at-risk English learners and low-income students succeed.

Leaders of CTA – Davis Counselor Dean Vogel, Pittsburg Elementary Educator Eric Heins, and San Bernardino Youth Services Teacher Mikki Cichocki-Semo – accepted the award on the governor’s behalf.

Later, the governor addressed the Representative Assembly via video feed, thanking California’s teachers for their courage and support that helped quality and pass Proposition 30, the revenue measure that stopped another $5 billion in cuts and began the turn-around of the state’s finances.

The governor recalled his signing the state’s collective bargaining law more than 38 years ago and the continued need to provide local participation and leadership from teachers who are closest to the students. He advocates giving those in the classrooms and local school districts “maximum authority.”

“Teaching is lighting a fire, and the job of politicians is to enable teachers to light that fire….not to regiment students like they’re on parole,” Brown said. He also downplayed the role of testing in education, noting that “you don’t [get students to] learn by hammering people. You [get them to] learn by inspiring them.”

 

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Capitol News: Alternative Suspension Bill Moves out of Senate Education Committee

CTA continues to monitor the progress of a bill that would change some suspension policies in an effort to keep students in school, but also ensure the safety of students and educators in the classroom. AB 420 (Dickinson) focuses on the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of African American and Latino students as a result of the overuse of “willful defiance” that can be interpreted differently from educator to educator. CTA has a WATCH position on the bill that was approved by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

What the bill does:

  • Prohibits student suspension from school for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring in grades K-5. Students in grades 6-12 can only be suspended from school on or after the third offense in a school year, and only if the pupil’s parent or guardian have been informed that other means of correction were attempted before the recommended suspension.
  • Prohibits student expulsion from school at all grade levels for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring.

One issue of great concern to educators is to ensure that a teacher continues to have the ability to control their classroom. CTA drafted the following amendment now in the bill: “A teacher may suspend a pupil in any grade level from class, including for a first offense and from a one-room schoolhouse, for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”

AB 420 continues to allow (makes no changes to) student suspension and expulsion of students for a variety of other reasons, which include threats, violence, robbery, extortion, damaging school or private property, committing an obscene act, habitual profanity or vulgarity, harassment, threats, bullying, etc. Some alternatives to suspension and expulsion identified in the bill include a conference width parents and student, study teams, restorative justice programs, referrals to the school counselor, psychologist, social worker, etc.

CTA’s lobbyist testified that while educators believe in equity, and that suspension and expulsion should be a last resort, CTA remains concerned width tying the hands of school staff at any grade level. This bill and policy related to this bill was the subject of a lengthy debate on the floor of the June 2013 State Council of Education. Some educators were concerned that administrators have previously disregarded the current law that allows teachers to suspend from the classroom by immediately sending the student back to class, because there were no established alternative programs at the school site. Additionally, there are no funds in the bill for resources to implement training and/or alternative suspension programs, but school districts and local bargaining teams could use the flexibility in the local control funding formula to establish district programs. CTA is working width the sponsors of the bill and the author on these and other areas of concern.

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New Study Shows Mixed Results in Charter Comparison

A new Stanford study comparing the performance of traditional public schools and charters comes to largely the same conclusion reached in a 2009 survey by the same group. While acknowledging some growth in charter achievement over the last four years, the study answers the question “Are charter schools better than traditional schools?” width “Yes,” “No” and “It depends.”

Improving on results from four years ago, about a quarter to a third of charters outperformed local district schools in reading and math, while at the same time 19% performed “significantly worse” in reading and 31% performed “significantly worse” in math.

It’s often difficult to meaningfully compare charter school results to traditional schools because of the vast array of both types of schools, and factors like parental involvement that may give some charter students an edge. On the other hand, a well-run traditional school may have an advantage over a fly-by-night or exploitative charter operation that isn’t bound by the same rules and accountability as its public counterpart.

The latest study confirms that a well-run charter width a committed staff and a sound program is a viable educational opportunity for many students, but also that short-sighted “shut down the school and replace it width a charter” solutions promoted by so-called reform groups are more concerned width labels rather than the actual substance of what makes a successful school.

CTA represents many charter school workers and over the years we have found that the best charters are those that treat their teachers as professionals, and provide pay and benefit packages that keep their schools from becoming revolving doors for teaching staffs. Other charter operators who see public education as a money-making venture and who “stack ‘em deep and teach ‘em cheap,” or who see teachers as cogs in a one-size-fits-all machine, undermine the potential of charter schools as a creative and viable alternative to the traditional public school model.

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