Great interview with Linda Darling-Hammond on teacher tenure

I wish I weren’t still reading about education on our spring break trip to Venice, Rome and Pompeii, but I can’t be stopped!

We had a wonderful guided tour today of Pompeii and Herculaneum with a historian named Francesca. Of course I asked her about Italian education, as I do every parent I talk to from another state or country. She bemoaned the lack of history and geography lessons in her elementary school aged children’s schooling. I commiserated with her on the issue- what can I say? This seems to be a common theme for us as well.

Vergara vs. California.

This is the case that will make or break teacher tenure in California, and possibly the rest of the country.

Is it because teachers get tenure that poor kids in poor districts have bad teachers? Or is it bad administrators and bad teacher working conditions that cause underfunded schools that serve poor kids to have more than their fair share of bad teachers? There are so many issues here, and the court’s decision next week may, in fact, get rid of teacher tenure in California. This is hugely important to me, to my son enrolled in an underfunded school district, and to all of our kids throughout CA.

For the record, I support teacher tenure as it stands. A principal may get rid of a teacher for any reason at all during the first two years, and the principal does not need to explain or justify the decision. Tenure protects teachers after the probationary period, which may last much longer than two years, from being fired arbitrarily. This is a good thing, because teachers can use their educational background and expertise to question educational decisions without fear of politically motivated reprisals. Tenure does not protect us from getting fired; it just makes sure that we don’t get fired unjustly. And many of us have to work very hard to get that tenure, both professionally and politically.

Have I seen bad teachers receive tenure? Yes. Have I seen great teachers not get tenure and fired unnecessarily? Yes. Have I seen teachers get support and make improvements over time? Yes. Have I seen administrators not do their job and let a weak teacher continue and cause harm to children? Yes. Have I seen schools in poorer districts serving poor children hire and keep under qualified teachers? Yes. I have seen it all, and I support tenure as the best way to create a supportive environment for teacher professionals to reach their potential (in addition to equitable funding, dammit!). As a parent, I want schools to be able to pay good professional salaries with benefits and supports in place to make teaching a desirable job. I want my kid to have long term experienced educators who reflect and refine their practice over the years.

And here is a great interview on the case for tenure with Linda Darling Hammond, my former professor whose research focuses on how to recruit, train and develop teachers.

Maestra Malinche (in Rome and high on gelato and ancient history)

“Nescire autem quid antequam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum.”
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.”

Governor Brown will not allow students to be double tested this year!

A couple of items of note for our kids!
Our kids won’t waste time on two completely different end of the year assessments that take up hours of class time!  As you probably know, the old assessments took 10-30 hours of classroom time, depending on the year of instruction and whether your child is an English language learner.  The old tests are primarily multiple choice, and teachers and parents have no way of seeing what their kids actually got wrong.  I have lots of issues with multiple choice state tests, but that’s another post for another day.
The Governor is defying the bizarre mandates of No Child Left Behind that dictate that all kids have to be tested every year, with the cost being passed down to states and local districts for testing materials and the companies that score them.  So now our kids will be taking the Common Core assessments as a practice run – something that many of us in the teaching profession are still questioning, and parents should be questioning as well.
The pros and cons continue, and I will write more as I have more answers . . .
As I continue to question the Common Core, I continue to hear that 8 year olds will be asked to write essays on computers.  Are teachers and parents and child experts being asked if this is even appropriate?  Who is deciding this?  Who is holding them accountable?
Here is an article that delineates some of the issues of technological testing in the context of Louisiana:
Although the above article is fairly positive, I remain negative – particularly in light of the questionable spending of districts on technology in lieu of more experienced teachers, higher teacher student ratios, librarians and art teachers. (More on the iPad scandal in LA – kids hacking computers – hooray – they are smart!)
I’m currently reading “The Smartest Kids in the World” by Amanda Ripley, who followed three American teenagers who lived as foreign exchange students in Korea, Finland and Poland, three countries that remarkably improved their public education through focusing on high quality teacher training, creating equity among schools, delaying tracking so as to give all kids high quality educative experiences through age 16, giving more resources to poorer kids and kids with disabilities, etc., etc.  I’m loving the book, as a cultural examination of how schools and students can really demonstrate improvement within the framework of their history and populations, and smart research-based policies (as the Finns say, they got their great educational ideas from the United States – too bad Americans don’t listen to their best educators and their own research).
And finally, Diane Ravitch’s book just came out with all of the answers of what we should be doing to improve our kids’ education, to save the honorable profession of teaching, and to preserve democracy.  It’s called Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.
I missed her speaking with Linda Darling-Hammond the other night at Stanford, but I’ve been getting the reports from my teacher friends who went.  Here is an interview of her with Michael Krasny from Monday morning – this is a very sharp and compelling interview – Andrew and I listened to it last night.  Great questions and great answers on all the topics that are important in the policies affecting our kids today.
Maestra Malinche

¿Qué demuestran los exámenes estatales? / What do the State tests show?

The new test scores from the California State Testing Program (STAR) are now available for teachers, parents, administrators and educational researchers to look at.

I think it is worth putting out there some interesting educational perspectives on the STAR tests:

While students’ test scores continue to increase overall on state achievement tests in the US, our students are not making any gains on international standards of educational achievement.  International standards include more critical thinking skills necessary for professional employment opportunities.  The United States scores are actually dropping on international measures of assessment in spite of more teaching to state standardized tests.  This is disproportionately affecting poor students and Latino and African-American students who often go to poorly funded public schools that spend more time on state test preparation, and less time developing critical thinking skills.

If you are interested in these issues as I am, here are a couple of easy to read articles on the topic by Linda Darling Hammond, a very well-respected teacher educator and researcher on schools and learning.

Mamá Malinche

Los resultados de los exámenes estatales del Estado de California (STAR ) ahora están disponibles para que los profesores, padres, administradores e investigadores educativos los miren y los discutan.

Creo que vale la pena poner por ahí algunas perspectivas interesantes que existen en el campo de la educación sobre los exámenes de STAR:

Aunque los exámenes de los estudiantes continúan aumentando en general en los exámenes estatales en los EE.UU., nuestros estudiantes no están haciendo ningún aumento en las normas internacionales de aprobación escolar. Las normas internacionales demuestran más las habilidades de pensamiento crítico que hoy día son necesarias para las oportunidades de empleo profesional. Las puntuaciones de los exámenes de los Estados Unidos en realidad están cayendo sobre las medidas internacionales de evaluación, a pesar de tantos años de enfoque en los exámenes estatales que nuestros alumnos toman. Esto afecta de manera desproporcionada a los estudiantes pobres y a los estudiantes latinos y afro-americanos que suelen ir a las escuelas públicas con pocos fondos donde dedican más tiempo a la preparación de los exámenes estatales, y menos tiempo en el desarrollo de habilidades de pensamiento crítico.

Si usted está interesado en estos temas como yo, aquí hay un par de artículos fáciles de leer que tratan el tema.  Están escritos por Linda Darling Hammond, una profesora de educación y muy respetada como investigadora en las escuelas y el aprendizaje.

Mamá Malinche