Archives for May 2010

An interview with Diane Ravitch

Dr. Diane Ravitch

Dr. Diane Ravitch is a polarizing figure in the education world. From 1991-1993, Ravitch served as Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Originally a strong proponent of school choice, vouchers and high-stakes testing, her views have changed considerably. She argues for her change of heart and in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

It was recently announced that Dr. Ravitch will receive NEA’s 2010 Friend of Education Award. CEA recently interviewed Dr. Ravitch about the role of teaching and learning in the age of accountability.

Let’s say you were to walk into an elementary classroom in any school district ten years from now. If we stay on the present course set by NCLB, how will teaching and learning be different?

I think that there will be a great deal of drilling and teaching to the test. Most of the day will be spent on reading and mathematics. Kids will be encouraged to take lots and lots of test prep. This is happening now and I don’t see any change in the foreseeable future. The secretary has said that 100 percent of all kids should be proficient. There doesn’t seem to be an end date where this regime will conclude in victory. Now that so many states are tying teacher evaluation to test scores, it is predictable that we will have a system in which testing of basic skills is the basic purpose of education.

[Read more…]

Just say "no" to larger class size, teacher load

The school year is waning, and principals seem to think we’re fatigued and willing to accept anything just to get the year over with. For next school year, many principals are asking our teachers to accept more students into their classrooms, or perhaps to teach more classes than the contract will allow. Apparently, administration has forgotten Article 301 of our contract, quoted directly here:

  • All school and grade level regular elementary classes (kindergarten and grades 1-5) will be organized in each school building on the basis of approximately 25 pupils per classroom teacher.
  • All middle school academic classes will be organized in each school building on the basis of approximately 30 pupils per classroom teacher.
  • All high school academic classes will be organized in each school building so as to have an average class size in each departmental area of approximately 28 pupils.

The March 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding the Eight-Period Day states that middle and high school teachers shall not be assigned more than five periods of instruction. Additionally, the MOA limits the student load per teacher to a maximum of 150.

Exceptions to class size and teacher load can be made, but a waiver from the contract must be approved by the Reform Panel.

Increasing class size is a sure way to reduce the overall effectiveness of a teacher. Making a class bigger, even for only a month, does not help us teach children. When teachers decide to take too many students, they are reducing the number of teachers in the bargaining unit and preventing laid-off teachers from being recalled.

Federal legislation could prevent layoffs

"Sen. Tom Harkin" by Flickr user civilrights.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding will expire at the end of fiscal year 2010, leaving many states and school districts scrambling to shore up their finances. Columbus City Schools laid off 113 teachers on Friday, April 23. The National Education Association predicts more than 125,000 educator layoffs will happen in the next three months.

To prevent massive educator layoffs, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010. The proposed legislation would provide $23 billion in one-year aid to save education jobs across the nation.

 “This crucial education funding would save hundreds of thousands of education jobs, and it would be a tremendous help to states in dire financial circumstances,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “But more importantly, it ensures that millions of America’s students will not have to bear the brunt of our nation’s economic woes.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently testified in front of a Senate committee, urging Congress to pass funding that would help prevent massive teacher layoffs across the country. Ohio could receive more than $800 million in additional one-time funding if the Keep Our Educators Working Act becomes law.

Contact Senator George Voinovich and Senator Sherrod Brown to urge passage of the Keep Educators Working Act of 2010; go to http://bit.ly/bQwMH8.