Education: Attack on Teacher Rights

by Brenda Angel

To the Idaho State Board of Education, Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From the very beginning of Mr. Luna’s tenure, he has tried to force, what he calls, “teacher incentives” upon the K through twelve education system in Idaho.

But his so-called incentives, have proven over and over again to be unwelcome to most teachers, and most citizens in Idaho and mostly because they have been laced with the requirements that teachers trade in their due process rights, and trade in their continuing contract rights, in exchange for a few dollars. (Remember, Idaho does not have tenure for K-12 teachers.)

When the teachers did not respond as he felt they should, he then introduced his widely criticized ideas into the “Students Come First” legislative package after being voted into office for his second term. All the while campaigning under the guise that everything was wonderful under his leadership during his first term, but once in his second term, his so called “Luna Laws” were introduced which were not conservative, practical, nor educationally sound or research based.

The voters of the state of Idaho historically and overwhelmingly rejected the Luna Laws at the polls. Yet, now the Governor and Mr. Luna, citing the decision of the Governor’s Education Task Force, continues to repackage what the citizens of Idaho, and education practitioners, have said “no” to on every occasion when introduced. Merit Pay is now called “Leadership Pay” and now this?

As Mr Luna walks out the door, he seems to have convinced the State Board of Education to mandate these unpopular and unwanted programs once again; this time, offering teachers the possibility of the “promise of” a few more dollars, as though to appease and entice teachers for the included loss of their professional rights and due process. The proposal you are considering, links teacher certification with the subjective evaluation of a local school administrator, punitive to teachers, and not at all good for students or tax payers.

In addition, this time around, Mr. Luna and Governor Otter are requiring you to ignore the will of the Idaho Voters who Voted NO! NO! NO! on Propositions 1, 2, 3.

Teachers in Idaho desperately need a raise. Nobody, including the Task-Force members and the Board of Education, would dispute this. However, by tying compensation to certification, and by tying certification to high stakes testing, teachers can not be required to, and must not be forced to, hand over their due process rights, legal and contractual protections, and job security that was previously guaranteed, and that are necessary to allow teachers the freedom and confidence to do what they do best: to teach and to advocate for Idaho’s children.

And if my testimony is unclear to you, I am totally against this proposal, because it is punitive, not well thought out, unsustainable, unfair, and against the will of the people.

Submitted by,
Mrs. Brenda Angel

Education: Tweaks and Tests Don’t Make Kids Smarter

by Judy Ferro       [ Published in the Idaho-Press Tribune on August 25, 2014}     

A parent recently asked me what I thought of the Common Core Standards. I didn’t get a chance to reply, and it is perhaps as well. I don’t have a good answer.

I’ve seen too many educational programs promoted with great optimism that ended up being merely distractions or, worse, disasters. Remember the open schools without walls?

Common-Core-Practice-Test-300x291

“New Math” was about as bad. The theory was that kids taught in the way that great mathematicians learned would become great mathematicians. Texts offered verbose explanations and little practice.   Teachers who dared say kids weren’t learning were regarded as dinosaurs who didn’t belong in the profession. Yet, no one is selling new math texts today; kids weren’t learning.

Westinghouse’s experiment with computerized classes during the 1970s failed badly enough the corporation paid to prevent publication of the results.

Some years teachers have been told to allow kids to direct their learning experience and other years they were expected to keep to a strict schedule. Sometimes I’ve been required to spend class time on parts of speech, word roots, poetry and free reading; yet, at some time, teaching of these topics in English has been forbidden.

During the last decade our nation spent millions to discover that No Child Left Behind made no significant difference in student achievement. Now Common Core claims kids will be brighter if teachers use “close reading” and analyze the structure of non-fiction rather than focusing on context and personal relevance. Anyone willing to bet that it will make our kids’ brighter?

Here’s some of the things teachers know and outsiders making education policy don’t know or don’t care about.

  • Maturation is key to skill learning. When a twin who receives daily training can finally climb stairs, her unpracticed sister can do so the same day. Teaching a concept at earlier and earlier ages guarantees more kids won’t get it no matter how skillful or motivated the teacher is.
  • Some concepts cannot be learned out of order. Most kids will start school knowing one-to-one correspondence; those who don’t cannot learn to count. With Common Core is introduced in all grades at once, sixth grade students are expected to know fifth grade concepts that were never taught to them. (When we start in grade one and add a grade a year, the new program is usually abandoned before the students involved reach middle school.)
  • A range of experiences enhances learning. Kids who have milked cows, visited the ocean, been to the zoo, flown in a plane, and seen a ball game relate to printed accounts better.
  • Motivation is key. Kids who will work for praise or self-approval are the best students. For others activities have to fun or challenging. Competition motivates some; cooperation, others. Things that motivate one week will not work the next. Nothing works the week before Christmas.
  • Stress-conflict, illness, fear—hinder learning. Kids face disappointment, rejection, divorce, cancer, etc., and their stress is real.   Poverty is a major deterrent to learning, perhaps because it means a higher stress level in the home and neighborhood.
  • Time-on-task enhances learning. Time spent in testing, not so much. Time with half the class in testing is seldom productive. Time spent in the test room waiting for computer problems to be fixed is a total loss.

Curriculum tweaks don’t even make the list.

For a fact, teachers have little control over the factors listed above. And the larger the class load, the less a teacher can do to individualize learning and develop relationships that might motivate.

So the current plans for Idaho to pay teachers according to test scores may end up rewarding teachers who have fewer or wealthier students.