Articles posted by Dean Vogel

California Districts Explore Alternatives to Student Suspension

A recently published article in the San Francisco Chronicle focuses on an issue that CTA members have been discussing for a long time: what kinds of effective steps can educators take to maintain classroom discipline while not subjecting students to the traditional penalty for egregious misbehavior - suspension from school?

At the chapter and state level, CTA members have been exploring and practicing alternatives aimed at addressing the root causes of student actions. They have been working with students so that the youngsters and teens understand and accept responsibility for their choices.

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Presidents Vlog: Back to School

What Local Control Funding actual means now that the school year has begun; using Common Core Standards as a guide; fighting high-stakes standardized testing; engaging communities; and, taking our profession back -- all in the latest President's Vlog...

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Honoring Education Support Professionals

When I was a young boy growing up in California, my home life was unpredictable and, often, very intense. So to escape, I spent as much time at school as I could. I got there early in the morning and stayed late after school as well. During these times I "hung out" width the Education Support Professionals at my school. They looked after me and cared for me. They cared about me. In a way, they became part of the adult support system that kept me grounded, kept me whole. They were part of my extended family, and I counted on them to be there for me. And they always were.

That's what I'm thinking about as we celebrate Education Support Professionals Day. ESPs are so vital and important to our school family as well. Sometimes, like in my case, you are the first and last person a student sees during his school day.

The bus drivers who transport students to school, the paraprofessionals who work directly width students, the clerical service staff who interface width parents and make our schools run, and the custodial and maintenance professionals are all important to the success of our schools. Each of you has relationships you've formed width parents and students that make our school communities even stronger. And you make CTA stronger.

Thank you for the work you do every day in our schools. You play vital roles in making sure our schools and our students succeed.

I also want to congratulate NEA Executive Committee member Paula Monroe, who has been named CTA ESP of the Year for 2013. Paula is a member of the Redlands Education Support Professionals Association, in southern California, and is well-known as a formidable activist for all CTA and NEA members.

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150 Years of the California Teachers Association

This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News

Today, May 9, marks the 150th anniversary of the California Teachers Association. Between the time that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the time he delivered the Gettysburg Address, John Swett founded the California Educational Society, which was to become the California Teachers Association.

It's a long history and it's a proud history. Since its inception in 1863, CTA has been at the forefront of every major victory for California's public schools and colleges. You may be interested to know that:

In 1866, CTA secured funding to establish free public schools for all children in California.

In 1911, CTA led the fight to establish community colleges.

In 1927, CTA won a major legal victory when the state Supreme Court ruled that a school board couldn't fire a female teacher simply because she got married.

In the 1940s, CTA emerged as one of the few "mainstream" organizations in California to protest against the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

In 1988, CTA drafted and won passage of Prop. 98, the minimum funding guarantee for K-14 education.

In 1995, CTA won Class Size Reduction for grades K-3 after a massive media and lobby campaign.

In 2005, CTA won a major Prop. 98 lawsuit against the state and created the Quality Education Investment Act, which used the settlement to fund proven reforms at lower-performing schools.

And in 2012, CTA was instrumental in the passage of Prop. 30, preventing $6 billion in cuts to schools, and for the third time defeated an onerous "paycheck deception" initiative.

For 150 years, width the help of their union, teachers have helped make sure all students have an opportunity at a quality public education. And we continue to do so today. As classroom experts, teachers know firsthand what works. That's why the California Teachers Association has been championing proven reforms for all students, especially those who are struggling.

Through its internationally recognized and innovative Quality Education Investment Act, CTA is leading efforts to make sure at-risk students get the resources they need to succeed. QEIA uses research-based reforms like smaller class sizes, more counselors and better teacher training. The program's success can be seen in communities across the state as it helps close the achievement gap for many lower-income students.

Under the umbrella of the CTA Foundation for Teacher and Learning, the Institute for Teaching is an incubator for educational innovation. Through its successful grants, teachers are able to propose and lead change based on what is working in their classrooms.

After years of effort, CTA members have created and are advancing a framework for fair teacher evaluation that puts the emphasis on constructive reform, not punishment. We believe the goal of any evaluation system is to strengthen the knowledge, skills and practices of teachers to improve student learning.

We are excited to be celebrating 150 years of advocacy on behalf of our profession and our students. We know there are many challenges ahead for California's schools, but working in partnership width the public, we know we can meet them just as we have for the past century and a half.

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Bay Area Labor Festival This Weekend

I want to share this special chance to feel that "We Are One" union spirit once again, and to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. as well. This weekend, the 27th annual Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival commences at the Machinists' Local 1781 union hall, 1511 Rollins Road in Burlingame, near San Francisco International Airport. Spread the word, and these details about the labor workshops, films and concerts on tap. This three-day festival starts Friday night, Jan. 18, and honors Dr. King as a commemoration of the social justice, unity and economic change he stood for. He will be honored on Sunday width civil rights songs and other tributes.

Many of the festival organizers and supporters are from Bay Area unions. Their members stood shoulder to shoulder width CTA as we fought our election battles last year and worked phone banks in their union halls or welcomed them as we walked neighborhood voter precincts.

You may have read the Jan. 9 obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle about famed labor songwriter and folk musician Jon Fromer, one of the founders of this festival, who will also be honored width a benefit concert Sunday night for the inspiration and dignity for working people that his songs contained.

Workshops on Saturday and Sunday reflect the scope of the labor and human rights movements. They cover how communities can stand up against hatred, the power of Motown labor music, how to tell our stories through art and protest songs, and much more. Films are about a historic LAUSD walkout in 1968 by 20,000 Latino students, about the popular resistance movement in El Salvador, and the life and work of dedicated gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. A panel discussion of independent filmmakers will take place Sunday morning.

We all worked together to pass Proposition 30 against huge odds to give our schools and communities hope for a better future. We defeated Proposition 32 and its billionaire backers who tried to silence our political voices. This festival this weekend is about celebrating the powerful solidarity of all labor that led to those hard-fought victories.

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Finnish Teacher Training: Masterful and Commanding

Helsinki, Day #5 - We spent the entire day immersed in the Finnish teacher training system, visiting teacher training centers in the morning and the University of Helsinki in the afternoon. One of my colleagues in the US entourage, Mary Cathryn Ricker from St. Paul Federation of Teachers, captured the experience width this post on her blog. Thank you, Mary Cathryn!

Potential teachers are chosen after two or three years of undergraduate preparation through grade point average, test scores and a make-it-or-break-it interview. Ultimately it is the interview that is used to choose people to study to become teachers. The interview is conducted width content teachers, content-area professors, and an education professor. This group is looking for a virtual single-minded motivation to be width children as the priority.

Olli stressed that the role of teachers and teacher education are important to the now famous Finnish success that we are here to study.

Once chosen, these potential teachers are paired width master teachers at a teacher training school, like the secondary school I visited. To be a master teacher you must have at least two years of experience but Olli said the reality was that these teachers had much more than two years and a tremendous amount of value was placed in finding master teachers who had advanced degrees beyond the initial, mandatory Masters degree required to enter the profession.

Read the full blog post from Mary Cathryn Ricker.

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Finnish students on "path to self-actualization"

Today, I spent the morning at Helsinge Gymnasium in Vantaa, a suburb of Helsinki. Helsinge Gymnasium is a comprehensive high school width 150 students, 15 teachers, a nurse, a social worker, and a psychologist. After leaving middle school at age 15 (end of 9th grade), students can choose either a comprehensive high school or a trade school. Although we were told that class sizes could approach 30, I never saw more than 19 students in a class and observed a lesson in an Algebra class width 13 students. The teachers and students referred to the school as a "small school," unlike the  "large" high schools in the big cities like Helsinki. When asked about the typical size of a large high school, a representative from the Ministry of Education told me that they range in size between 550-600 students.

I find myself wondering, sometimes right out loud, what it would be like to teach and work in a setting such as this where the necessary resources are always readily available and where the focus is as much on the inner growth and development of the whole child as it is on the academic achievement.

As I've already stated before, I continue to be amazed and impressed by the ability of most students here to manage their own behavior, direct their own learning, and gather and utilize the resources necessary to complete work and projects. There is an ambiance about the learning environments here that connotes confidence, collaboration, and community. Students and teachers alike appear relaxed and ready to learn. We were told that students who choose to attend the Gymnasiums are typically university bound. 92% of the graduates from this school last year went on to enroll at the university.

It must be noted that, even though we were visiting during the second week of a new school year, and much of the teacher-student interactions were introductory in nature (class processes, protocols, routines, etc), as well as review, we did have the opportunity to observe teachers in instructional settings. The teaching I observed did not seem to be anything special or out of the ordinary. In fact, it seemed that the teaching methods here are more traditional than what we might see in most classrooms in California, and methods were relatively consistent from classroom to classroom. That being said, the teachers' belief in the students and their capacity to think and work independently is obvious and pervasive.

At this point, I find myself wondering, sometimes right out loud, what it would be like to teach and work in a setting such as this where the necessary resources are always readily available and where the focus is as much on the inner growth and development of the whole child as it is on the academic achievement. I suppose that much can be learned from the premise that students on the path to self-actualization, routinely engaged in developmentally appropriate material, and encouraged to work collaboratively width their peers and teachers can and will exceed expectations. I really do believe that California educators and support staff believe it wholeheartedly. The challenge, of course, for all of us, is to help those actively engaged in education reform to develop the same sensibilities.

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Finnish School Goals: Fairness, Tolerance and Individuality, Sense of Community, Appreciation of Learning and Working, and Responsibility

This is the first thing you see when you enter the school, the cafeteria, sunken a few steps, width the view upward to the 2nd and 3rd floors.

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Taking a look at pre-primary education in Finland

Today I visited Kungsgards Daghem, a pre-school and kindergarten in both Finnish and Swiss languages. All children have the opportunity to receive pre-primary education free of charge during the year before their compulsory education begins. Childcare/pre-school is also available for all children, beginning at one year old, width the state covering up to 85% of the cost.

I was impressed by the manner in which the teachers at the school worked so hard to nurture the creativity of the children and then, after identifying their specific interests, structured the environment to facilitate cooperative work and determined effort. As the lead teacher said, "Our primary responsibility is to learn what the children can do and help them to grow as opposed to finding out what they can't do and remediating." Each child has an individual learning plan developed jointly by the teacher and the parents.

The teachers believe and, indeed, demonstrated that their best efforts serve to build confidence and sustain it as the child develops and grows. The level of independence displayed by the youngest of the students (2-3 years old) was apparent in everything they tried.  Also, it appeared that all students were actively engaged in some sort of meaningful, relevant work, width adult supervision visible but unobtrusive, assisting when necessary but leaving much to the child to discover, intuit, figure out. The adult to student ratio is set statutorily at 1-7. The children do not leave the Kindergarten and move into Grade 1 until seven years of age.

When asked, "What are the expectations of the teachers in the primary school? What do they expect their incoming students to know," the most common response was variations on "to be curious, to think and act independently, to love learning, to be socially adaptable, to be able to listen to each other, etc." And, the primary vehicle for said preparation? Play.

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What is Finland doing that makes it a world leader in educational equity and excellence?

Sponsoredby the Education Funder Strategy Group and the Stuart Foundation, I am part of a group of educators and policymakers visiting Finland to observe their public school system, which is one of the top-performing systems in the world. I will be in Finland from August 19-25. Here is an overview taken from the introduction to our agenda of the work I'll be doing while I'm in Helsinki.

What is Finland doing that makes it a world leader in educational equity and excellence? We will explore that question across the continuum of early learning, comprehensive schooling (grades 1 to 9) and secondary education. We will focus on system drivers for achieving high student outcomes, focusing on how teachers in Finland are trained, how they teach and assess learning, and how Finland’s investment in early childhood education and intervention is closing achievement and opportunity gaps. We will also examine how Finland’s tertiary education system serves both students and the country’s economic aspirations. Throughout the week, expect a full schedule of school and campus visits and meetings width education officials, principals, teachers, and students as well as top leaders in the Ministry of Education, Parliament, the National Board of Education, the Chamber of Commerce, business, and education trade unions, among others. The background materials will provide detailed information about the Finnish education system. Throughout the week, we hope to engage width our hosts on some key questions of relevance to both of our countries, including: What is the theory of learning that guides the design of Finland’s education system? Or, is the system animated by multiple theories at the municipal and school levels? Does the science of learning and research on child/youth development inform classroom practice in Finland? How does the Finland approach to pedagogy and instruction compare and/or contrast width the U.S.? How is the school system dealing width increasing inequality, income disparities, and immigration in the context of Finland’s core commitment to equal opportunity for all students? What is next for Finland? How do policymakers and educators envision the future of learning and process of educational innovation in a rapidly changing world?

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Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association