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Category Archives: Teaching

What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 3 of 6

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Back to the public sector retirement plans that did not follow the risky 401 (k) path to retirement. The Public Sector stayed with employer-based defined benefit pension plans such as the one I have through CalSTRS.

It helps that the union membership rate for public sector workers is 36.2 percent and that is substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers at 6.9 percent.


Discover how California is fixing its public pensions

To understand the numbers better and why the media focuses its Yellow/Hate Journalism circus act to attract the biggest hating mob, in November 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 20.4 million public sector employees [2 million work for the federal government—the rest work for the states or local county or city governments] and about 128 million private sector employees.

Those numbers help explain why the Associated Press ran the misleading Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson.

If you published a newspaper, a magazine, ran a TV news network, hosted a conservative talk show, or wrote a popular conservative Blog, which audience would you focus on to boost advertising rates? As I said, it’s all in the numbers

A, 20.4 million
B. 128 million

Another example of how misleading Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, was: “With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations.”

Continued in Part 4 on June 9, 2015 or return to Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 2 of 6

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The reason AP distorted the facts about teacher retirement plans as much as they did is because of audience share, which determines how much a media source [TV, newspapers, hate talk shows, magazines, Blogs, etc] may charge to advertisers, and balancing the news and telling the truth often does not achieve this goal, because profits are the foundation of the private sector media.

It’s a simple formula: if you don’t make a profit you go out of business and everyone working for you loses his or her job so almost everyone plays the same Yellow/Hate Journalism game, and then there is the politics of money.

To understand why Thompson wrote such a misleading news piece, it helps to understand the trend away from private-sector pensions that were once similar to current public sector-pensions and the answers are in the numbers.

Due to the politics of money, beginning early in the 1980s, during the Reagan era, there was a rapid shift away from private sector employer-based defined benefit pension plans to employee-controlled personal retirement accounts.


teacher pensions explained

Under President Reagan [1981 – 1989] this trend in the private sector was helped along by the Republican Party that controlled the Senate from 1981 to 1987 giving President Reagan the leverage he needed to shift private sector pension money to the stock market and other risky investments—another part of the Reagan plan besides adding two trillion dollars to the national debt by cutting taxes on the wealthy; raising them on the working class by cutting deductions and spending more.

And since 1982 and Ronald Reagan’s infamous trickle down economic reform, profit expectations of American corporations have skyrocketed, and right behind have been the costs of health care, the cost of housing, the cost of military programs, the cost of banking, and the cost of many other products and services.” – The Agonist

In 1980, approximately 92 percent of private retirement saving contributions went to employer-based plans; 64 percent of these contributions were to defined benefit pension plans [similar to the public pension plans of today].

Then by 1999, [thanks to President Reagan and the Republican majority in the Senate while he was president] about 88 percent of private sector contributions were switched to defined contribution plans, the vast majority of personal retirement accounts being set up as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and that ended in disaster.

I suggest your either Google the failure of 401 (K) or read what PBS.org said, “Most people don’t know that the 401(k) products are toxic and their behavior toward a 401(k) product is toxic because no one has been responsible for providing a safe product.

“The Congress has not put itself [out] as a responsible actor. Employers were told, “It’s up to your employees to choose,” and the banking industry and the mutual fund industry said, “Trust us.”

If you are a regular fan of hate media and trust no other source, you will probably dismiss anything from PBS. But what about CNBC.com, Forbes.com, NBC News.com, USA Today, or even the Los Angeles Times. Will you trust one of those sources over your favorite hate radio show? If not, then I suggest you read this from Mother Jones.com to discover who is behind the lies designed to fool and why.

Continued in Part 3 on June 8, 2015 or start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 1 of 6

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Rolling Stone reported that all across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers. The legal theft of public pensions started in Road Island in 2011 as a test case.  “In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.”

Fortune Magazine in addition to In These Times, and KQED also reported on this legalized fraud being supported by corrupt elected representatives from the state level all the way to the White House.

In fact, during my full-time university days on the GI Bill [1968 – 1973] before I graduated with a BA in journalism, I learned how easy it was for the media to make mistakes—sometimes deliberately—while practicing what is known as Yellow/Hate journalism to boost profits.

And Yellow/Hate Journalism [based upon sensationalism and crude exaggerations] is what the Associated Press [AP] did when it ran Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson on December 14, 2011.

For instance, how would you feel if you read, “Patrick Godwin spends his retirement days running a horse farm east of Sacramento, Calif. with his daughter? His departure from the workaday world [he worked thirty-six years in public education and was the superintendent of one of California’s 1,600 school districts] is likely to be long and relatively free of financial concerns, after he retired last July at age 59 with a pension paying $174,308 a year for the rest of his life.”

That previous quote was in the second paragraph of Thompson’s AP news piece, and it is extremely misleading because of what it doesn’t say.

What the AP piece doesn’t tell us is that in 2010 the average member-only benefit for retired public school educators in California was $4,256 a month before taxes [less than a third of what Godwin earned in retirement] and that is only 16% of educators that retired in 2010 who worked as long as Patrick Godwin did.  The median years of service was 26.6, and if you were one of the educators that retired after 26.6 years of public service [the median] and was only 55 years old [the earliest you may retire], using the CalSTRS retirement calculator, that person earned about $2,130 a month before taxes—much less than the $14,525.66 that Godwin earns each month.

I calculated once that if a public school teacher in California taught for 42 years or more, his annual retirement income would equal what he earned the last year he worked.

But—and this is a very large BUT that we never hear about—in public education, less than 4% retire with full pay. In fact, 9% retired in 2010 with 10-15 years of service in public education, 11% with 14-20 years, 15% with 20-25 years, 12% with 25-30 years, 23% with 30-35 years, and 16% with 35-40 years. — CalSTRS

The reason why AP ran with Patrick Godwin’s retirement income as an example is called sensationalism designed to cause an emotional response (hate) so people who don’t know all the facts will talk about it. Word of mouth attracts readers and an audience and that stirs the hate.

In addition, Godwin was a school district superintendent at the top of the public education pay scale, which represents about 0.2% of the total number of retired educators in California.  That means 99.8% of public educators in California do not earn as much as Godwin did in retirement.

The result is that many readers might be fooled to think that most public educators in California will retire with Patrick Godwin’s annual retirement income.  However, that is far from the truth since most will not come close, but Thompson’s biased and misleading piece didn’t say that

Continued in Part 2 on June 7, 2015

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._______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Proof that any fool can get elected, and that public school teachers should really be running the United States

This post will compare the qualifications it takes to become a public school teacher to what it takes to qualify to run for a political state or national office and end up in the White House as president or a member of the U.S. Congress.

TEACHERS

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.

The 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey: First Look

In 2011-12, on average, both public and private school teachers had about 14 years of experience. On average, teachers in traditional public schools had more teaching experience (14 years) than teachers in public charter schools (9 years).

The percentage of public school teachers with a master’s degree as their highest degree was larger in traditional public schools (48 percent) than in public charter schools (37 percent) and private schools (36 percent).

“As a group, teachers score relatively high in prose, document, and quantitative literacy; there are no significant differences in scores between male and female teachers or between elementary and secondary teachers. About half of teachers score at Levels 4 and 5 (the two highest levels) on the three literacy scales, compared to about 20 percent of other adults nationwide. … The NALS data present teachers as a labor market bargain, comparing favorably with other professionals in their literacy skills, yet earning less. And we need to recognize that we pay teachers considerably less than other professionals with comparable capacities for dealing with prose, document, and quantitative literacy tasks.” – ets.org

ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

As you read this section, you might notice that there are no literacy or education requirements to run for a public office. It’s possible to be a high school dropout and be illiterate and become President, a state governor or a member of the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, a person must be at least 35 to be President or Vice President, 30 to be a Senator, or 25 to be a Representative, as specified in the U.S. Constitution. Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative. Some states have a minimum age requirement to hold any elected office (usually 21 or 18).

How Elected Officials Scored On American Civics Literacy

In each of the following areas, for example, officeholders do more poorly than non-officeholders:

  • 79% of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.
  • 30% do not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • 27% cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • 43% do not know what the Electoral College does. One in five thinks it either “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”
  • 54% do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. 39% think that power belongs to the president, and 10% think it belongs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Only 32% can properly define the free enterprise system, and only 41% can identify business profit as “revenue minus expenses.” – Fellowship of the Minds.com

And in the education wars, who is telling whom how to do their job?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Graphic OCT 2015

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John Oliver Reveals the Absurdity and Insanity of High Stakes Testing in the United States, and what are other countries doing

American students face a ridiculous amount of testing. In the video, John Oliver explains how standardized tests impact school funding, the achievement gap, and how often kids are expected to vomit from the stress caused by these high stakes tests that can destroy a child’s life, get teachers fired and public schools closed.

Ask yourself this, who profits?

In addition, Assessment  Around the World (to read the complete article, click the link. The rest of this post is a summary of a piece published by Educational Leadership) reveals how NCLB and its high stakes testing fit in an international context. Here’s what’s happening in the rest of the world.

“Standardized testing is controversial everywhere, regardless of its purpose. Most countries use testing for tracking and for selecting students for admission into academic secondary schools or universities, but generally not for holding educators accountable. Many countries don’t even administer standardized tests until the later grades. In fact, most Canadian universities don’t require the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or other standardized admissions tests—except for students applying with a U.S. high school diploma!” (Ghosh, 2004)

Testing Practices in Other Countries (from Educational Leadership)

The following examples from England, Turkey, Germany, Singapore, Japan, China, and Finland illustrate how these countries manage these issues.

England

Like the United States, England holds educators accountable for students’ scores on standardized tests, although major differences exist between the two countries’ accountability systems.

Only England—home to the mighty testing giant, Pearson (a profit based, private-sector corporation) that started investing heavily in the U.S. market the year before NCLB mandated the impossible—holds teachers accountable for students’ scores on standardized tests. The test-based accountability policy remains highly controversial and raises issues similar to those currently discussed in the United States. A major question is the validity of using test scores, which are strongly influenced by students’ socioeconomic status, to evaluate the quality of education. This problem is endemic in national and international test score comparisons.

In fact, “Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.” – Economic Policy Institute (Conclusion: Teachers in the US and UK—thanks to lobbyists from Pearson influencing elected representatives—are being punished for children who live in poverty. The more high stakes tests, the more profits Pearson robs from taxpayers who support the public schools in these two English speaking countries.)

Turkey

Turkey’s heavily bureaucratic and centralized education system is modeled after the French system.

Examinations in Turkey are first administered at the end of basic education, although they influence what schools teach long before that. These exams determine admission into the prestigious Anatolian and science high schools, which accept approximately one-quarter of the students who take the exam. Students who wish to enter a university must take another nationwide exam at the end of high school; but because demand outweighs available spaces, acceptance rates are low (around 20 percent). Because of these conditions, Turkish students experience “some of the world’s worst exam anxiety” (Simsek & Yildirim, 2004, p. 165).

Germany

Germany has a highly stratified education system that tracks students, generally beginning in grade 5, into three types of schools: … Teachers and parents—not an examination—determine a child’s placement.

Singapore

In Singapore, educators are only held accountable for their students’ test scores in the sense that secondary schools and junior colleges are ranked in publicly reported “league tables”; the 40 highest-ranked secondary schools receive cash awards. But this “accountability” system bears little resemblance to NCLB in the United States.

The main purpose of testing in Singapore is to determine student placement in the education system and access to elite academic programs—not to evaluate teachers.

Japan

Japan has a highly competitive examination system, but it doesn’t hold educators accountable for students’ scores on standardized tests.

China

For many centuries, the Chinese have viewed their country’s examination system, which dates back to the Shui dynasty in 603 CE, as the main route out of poverty for a child from a low income family. However, like Singapore and Japan, China is attempting to reduce its reliance on rote learning. Realizing that examinations inevitably drive classroom practice, China has revised its highly competitive university entrance exams by requiring students to integrate knowledge from a wide range of fields.

Chinese students face a highly competitive and stressful examination system that doesn’t hold teachers accountable for student test scores.

Finland

In high-ranking Finland, the national ministry of education plays no role in teacher evaluation. Instead, broad policies are defined in the contract with the teachers’ union. Teachers are then typically appraised against the national core curriculum and the school development plan. Finland, of course, is known for having no standardized testing, obviously then making it impossible for it to be used as a tool for teacher evaluation. – NEA Today.org

Note: None of the nations surveyed by OECD use standardized tests to measure teacher effectiveness as bluntly as the United States does. Wariness over the misuse of test scores runs throughout the school systems in most nations – an acknowledgment that they cannot provide a complete picture of teaching quality and that multiple sources of evidence are required (many countries include parent and student surveys as well as classroom observations, and peer and principal assessment).

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Saving Public Education and Democracy—teachers, parents and children, you are not alone

Do not let Corporate Education Reformers like Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Bill Gates, the Walton family and Arne Duncan eat our children for a profit. The resistance to save the transparent, nonprofit, democratic public schools in the United States survives, thrives and grows daily. And regardless of what you might hear in the media, the teachers’ unions did not start this movement or fund it.

1: The movement started in earnest with Diane Ravitch (find her blog here). She was appointed to public office by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She served as Assistant Secretary of Education under Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993 and his successor Richard Riley appointed her to serve as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress; she was a member of NAGB from 1997 to 2004. From 1995 to 2005 she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institute.

2: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.

3: United Opt Out: The Movement to End Corporate Education Reform—The central mission of United Opt Out is to eliminate the threat of high-stakes testing in public K-12 education. We believe that high-stakes testing is destructive to children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the fundamental democratic principles on which this country is based.

4Badass Teachers Association: We are a community of teachers, professors, and educators running from Kindergarten all the way to University. We are also parents, your neighbors, and your friends. We are members of your community, and we care deeply about that community. We have come together to push back against so-called corporate education reform, or the Educational-Industrial Complex and the damage it has done to students, schools, teachers, and communities.

5: The first national conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE) was held at The University of Texas at Austin on March 1 and 2 in 2014, and about 400 people attended. About 600 people attended the second annual conference of the NPE held in Chicago on April 25 and 26, 2015.

6: Momma Bears: Someone jokingly called one of us a “Momma Bear” for having the courage to stand up against politicians to defend our children’s public schools. We realized that’s what we were!  Since then, we’ve met many other people who didn’t realize they were Momma Bears, but they are.

Momma Bears defend and support children and public schools.  Momma Bears realize that quality public education is a right for every child.  There are greedy corporations and politicians eager to destroy and profit from our American public school system and vulnerable children.  Momma Bears are united in defending and protecting our young and their future from these threats.

7. USAS: Public education is under attack.Corporate-backed behemoths like the Walton (Walmart) and Fisher (Gap Inc) foundations are pouring millions into manufacturing a new pro-corporate education reform consensus on our campuses, propping up groups like Teach for AmericaStudents for Education Reform, and countless sponsored academic research programs. Their goal? To privatize our public education system, turning over a major public good into private hands, in the process smashing the only organized force that has dared to stand up to them: teachers’ unions.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization run entirely by youth and students. We develop youth leadership and run strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. We define “sweatshop” broadly and consider all struggles against the daily abuses of the global economic system to be a struggle against sweatshops.

8: EduBloggers: The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 education reporters, advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers, and commentators.  Members of the Education Bloggers Network are dedicated to providing parents, teachers, public education advocates and the public with the truth about public education in the United States and the efforts of the corporate education reform industry.

9: Students Against Testing: Students Against Testing was created to be a strong force against the score-obsessed education machine known as standardized testing. At the same time, SAT also exists as an advocate for bringing positive, creative and real-life learning activities into the schools. SAT believes that for the reasons stated below urgent action from the student body itself is the most direct way to counteract the boredom and petty competition that currently plagues the schools.

10. Parents Across America (PAA): Parents Across America is committed to bringing the voice of public school parents – and common sense – to local, state and national debates.

PAA was founded by a group of parents active in their communities who recognized the need to collaborate for positive change rather than remain isolated in local battles. Since the top-down forces that are imposing their will on our schools have become national in scope, we need to be as well.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The Cannibalization of General Education—Guest Post

Before I address the topic of Integrated Collaborative Teaching (ICT), which is the combining of special education and general education students in the same class, I want to thank Mr. Lofthouse for publishing my anonymous guest post on his Crazy Normal blog.  I have read many of Mr. Lofthouse’s blog posts that covered charter schools, Common Core curriculum and other pertinent educational issues, and I appreciate Mr. Lofthouse creating his Crazynormal blog so that teachers can educate the public.

Before I address Integrated Collaborative Classrooms (ICT), here is a brief bio about me.  I am currently teaching at a comprehensive high school in California, and I have been teaching for 26 years.  The reason why I am publishing this post anonymously has to do with the often hostile and combative environment that our public schools have become as reformers attempt to silence teachers through fear of losing their jobs.

Returning to the issue of ICT classrooms: ICT has become a highly charged educational issue.  With Special Education cannibalizing the budgets of school districts, ICT classes seem like a true knight in shining armor for financially strapped school districts.

Why do school districts across the nation need a financial knight in shining armor? They are being bled dry financially.  Unscrupulous advocates and lawyers, who are lining their own pockets, are helping parents obtain expensive accommodations for their special education children. For example, “One southern California school district pays for a severely brain-damaged boy to attend a specialized school in Massachusetts, and to fly his parents and sister out for regular visits, at an annual cost of roughly $254,000.  The superintendent only balked when the family demanded extra visits for the boy’s sister” (Worth).  In the Gilroy Unified School District, district spokesperson Deborah Toups explained how her district’s unfunded annual special education costs rose from $170,000 in 2002 to $3,200,000 in 2010 (Melendez).


The special education teacher in the video makes valid points about how the old Special Education model was ineffective.  However, full inclusion is not the answer either.

  • Special education students can be successfully included in physical education, art and music classes, but it is more difficult to include them in core academic subjects, such as English, Math, or Science.
  • The special education teacher also talked about how she could “jump in” and assist with a lesson, but most of the time this does not occur at the high school level because most special education teachers are not trained in a core subject.  Hence, they are not able to co-teach a Geometry lesson, a lesson over rhetoric in English, etc.
  • What tends to happen is the special education teacher ends up sitting in the back of the classroom and observes the lesson or assists individual students.
  • A final point made in the video was co-teaching takes a lot of time. In addition, most general education teachers do not share a common prep period with their special education counterpart; hence, planning does not occur.

In 1975, the Federal government promised it would fund 40% of special education costs, but the current reality is the Feds cover only 10% (Worth).  The states do not make up the difference, so school districts have to rob their other programs to pay for special education.  In addition, a recent ABC news report stated that the increase in the number of lawsuits has grown substantially due to the parents of autistic children (Shah).  School districts are not fully addressing the accommodations for autistic children because “… scientists and researchers and families still have a lot to learn about [autism]” (Shah).  Autism is a complex neurological disorder, and there is still yet a lot to be learned about it.  Unfortunately, school districts are unrealistically expected to have complete knowledge about how to meet the needs of their autistic children.  It doesn’t help that the spike in the number of autistic children has been dramatic.  In 1990, nine in 10,000 kids were diagnosed with autism; in 2000, forty-four in 10,000 were diagnosed (Melendez).  School districts know that their spending for special education is going to increase due to the spike in the number of autistic children.

Hence, Integrated Collaborative Teaching.  ICT classrooms utilize two teachers:  a general education teacher and a special education teacher.  ICT classrooms can place up to 12 special education students in an ICT classroom.  Theoretically, special education and general education teachers are supposed to plan their lessons together, examine pre and post testing data of their students, discuss student behavior, plan for IEP meetings, work out differences in teaching style, etc.  On paper, ICT classrooms represent a knight in shining armor for school districts.  Special education students are being mainstreamed and school districts are also saving money, because they do not have to hire as many special education teachers due to general education teachers becoming de facto special education teachers.

Unfortunately, many ICT classrooms are not serving the needs of their general education students.  In fact, most ICT teachers report that they don’t share a common planning period.  Hence, special education teachers and general education teachers are not able to plan lessons together, coordinate disciplinary actions, examine testing data, etc.  The most negative outcome of ICT classrooms is that the course pacing slows dramatically.  General education teachers have to spend more time over discipline issues stemming from the special education students, which hurts the overall learning environment.  Moreover, many general education teachers report that they neglect their general education students because they are hyper- focused on their special education students.  Many times special education teachers are not in the classroom because they are attending IEP meetings for other special education students on their caseload.  Also, many school districts only have their special education teacher in the ICT classroom two to three times a week. That leaves the general education teachers with 30-plus students of which 12 are Special Ed.

What school districts must do is to legally challenge excessive IEP accommodations that they are being forced to implement.  Currently, the legal teams of special education parents represent the A-team.  Most school districts do not have A-team type lawyers, so they cave into the unreasonable requests that some special education parents demand.  Also, school districts need to come together and sue the Federal government.  When the Supreme Court ruled that special education students were to have their academic needs met, the Federal government promised that it would cover 40% of the costs (Worth).  School districts must force the Federal government to cover the 30% that it’s not paying.

The costs for special education can be reeled in; however, school districts across the nation are going to have to work together to challenge excessive IEP accommodations and also force the Federal government to honor its financial obligations.

More information on this latest fad in public education comes from: Canadian Teachers’ Associations and the Inclusive Movement for Students with Special Neds

“This study shows that when inclusive schooling for students with special needs appeared on the education reform horizon in the mid-1980s, Canadian teachers’ associations were wary and unconvinced.

“In general, they viewed the concepts and implementation as replete with unsustainable assumptions and prescriptions – an imposed government initiative that severely compromised the working conditions of their members. They undertook penetrating, comprehensive, and extensive data collection that examined the impact of inclusive schooling and provided feedback on the conditions of learning and teaching.

“Common views criticized governments for not offering systematic support for schools as they attempted to implement inclusive policies and chided that the process was often effected without systematic modification to a school‘s organization, due regard to teachers‘ instructional expertise, or any guarantee of continuing resource provision.”

Works Cited

Melendez, Lyanne. “Special Ed Students Could Bankrupt Districts.” abc7news.com. 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 April 2015.

Shah, Nirvi. “Do Parents of Children With Autism File More Lawsuits?” edweek.org. 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 April 2015.

Worth, Robert. “The Scandal of Special-Ed.” washingtonmonthly.com. June 1999. Web. 11 April 2015.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Is it possible that offering support instead of punishment leads to Better Teachers? – Part 2 of 3

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After eliminating China, Liechtenstein and Estonia, from the 2012 International PISA Test ranking, Singapore became #1, Chinese Taipei #2, South Korea #3, Japan #4, Switzerland #5, the Netherlands #6, Finland #7, and Canada #8

1.  Singapore

There are about 25,000 teachers in its primary and secondary schools.

Edutopia.org reports “Teaching is a highly respected and well-compensated profession in Singapore. All teachers are trained at the country’s National Institute of Education (NIE) (one training program).  All new teachers are paired with experienced teachers for mentoring, and peer feedback is built into the schedule. Teachers are entitled to 100 low or no-cost hours of professional development each year. There are approximately 522,000 students attending about 350 schools in Singapore’s education system.

2. Chinese Taipei

There are more than 300 thousand teachers who teach in preschool, primary school, junior high school, and senior high school (teaching about 4 million students). The teachers are trained in universities of education with teacher training programs or centers. These institutions are also responsible for providing in-service training and guidance for local education practitioners.

3. South Korea

Teaching is a highly respected profession in South Korea, and among the most popular career choices for young South Koreans. This is largely due to competitive pay, job stability, and good working conditions – for example, there is a high degree of collaboration among teachers. Elementary teachers must attend one of 13 institutions to become qualified whereas secondary school teachers have multiple pathways into teaching and often attend comprehensive universities. Teachers are paid well in South Korea. Lower secondary teachers can expect a mid-career salary of $52,699, much higher than the OECD average of $41,701. There are about 7 million K-12 students in South Korea.

4. Japan

In Japan, teaching is a respected profession, and teachers have traditionally been paid better than other civil servants. Japan’s average teacher salary for a lower secondary school teacher after 15 years of service (the number that the OECD typically uses for international comparison) is $49,408, as compared to the OECD average of $41,701. The teaching profession in Japan is also highly selective, at both the program admission and the hiring phase. About 14% of applicants are admitted into schools of education, and of those who graduate, only 30-40% find work in public schools. Eric Digests.org reports, “Many Japanese believe that the examination system is too stressful, that the schools are too rigid and don’t meet the needs of individual students, that contemporary students show little interest in studying, and that the educational system needs to produce more creative and flexible citizens for the twenty-first century.”

Stanford.edu says, “In 2002 the Ministry of Education began to implement educational reforms that officials labeled the most significant since the end of World War II. In an attempt to stimulate students to be independent and self-directed learners, one third of the content of the national curriculum was eliminated. Japanese students in grades 3-9 are now required to take Integrated Studies classes in which they and their teachers jointly plan projects, field trips, and other ‘hands-on’ activities. Students in Integrated Studies learn about their local environment, history, and economy. … and teachers are not allowed to give tests on what students have learned.”

5. Switzerland

The goal is to impart adequate knowledge and competence for educating and teaching pupils and students at the various educational levels, as well as children and adolescents with special needs. Teacher education and training is realized within a two-tier model with Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs.

During the 2008/09 school year there were 1.266 million students in the K-12 Swiss educational system, who were taught by more than 100,000 teachers.

But Susan Ohanian.org reports teachers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are seeing their school ranked by the Bertelsmann Foundation (using achievement tests) comparing the school of all districts with each other—the teachers are protesting and fighting back. Because compulsory achievement tests are planned in all three countries, they are wary of school rankings that lead to a “senseless competition” among schools.

6. Netherlands

About 2.6 million children attend k-12 (European Agency.org).

In 1917, private and public schools were given equivalent financial status under the Constitution. As a result, the Netherlands is in the unique situation, compared with the rest of the world, of having 70 percent of its schools administered and governed by private school boards. The Constitution thus guarantees “freedom of education”, which embrace the freedom to set up schools, freedom to determine the principles on which they are based (freedom of conviction) and freedom of organization of teaching.

State University.com reports, There is an extensive amount of parental involvement in Dutch schools. … In addition, many schools also have a separate parents’ council or committee.

Teacher training in the Netherlands continues to undergo an overhaul. In 2008, the government, following the recommendations of an advisory council, formulated an action plan to tackle the teacher shortage and improve the position and quality of teachers. Given the high performance of its students and its teacher salaries, which, at $60,174 for a mid-career lower secondary school teacher far outpace the OECD average of $41,701, there is still a teacher shortage in the Netherlands due primarily to the aging teacher workforce.

The 2008 TALIS survey of Dutch teachers revealed that the majority of teachers participate in informal, rather than formal, professional development. This generally takes the form of informal mentorships and conversations, courses and workshops and reading professional literature. … Part of the government’s action plan is the creation of a stronger professional organization for teachers that will be able to evaluate teachers and provide teacher training grants.

7. Finland

There are 596,000 children in the k-12 compulsory education system. There are only 24 private comprehensive schools in Finland (0.5%). – ncee.org

Education has always been an integral part of Finnish culture and society, and teachers currently enjoy great respect and trust in Finland. Finns regard teaching as a noble, prestigious profession—akin to medicine, law, or economics— and one driven by moral purpose rather than material interests. Teachers also are the main reason Finland now leads the international pack in literacy, science, and math.

8. Canada

Over 5.11 million students were enrolled in public schools in 2007/08. The full-time teaching force at primary and secondary level is around 310,000. About 5.6% of students are in private schools. Private schools have historically been less common on the Canadian Prairies and were often forbidden under municipal and provincial statutes enacted to provide equality of education to students regardless of family income.

Teacher training programs are housed in Canadian universities, although separate standards for teacher qualification exist across the provinces. There are only about 50 teacher education programs in Canada, so it is easy for provincial governments to regulate quality.

For professional development, all Canadian provincial Ministries of Education support and require ongoing teacher training efforts though, like nearly everything else in the Canadian education system, this is decentralized and subject to different requirements depending on location.

Continued in Part 3 on April 10, 2015 or start with Part 1

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 _______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Is it possible that offering support instead of punishment leads to Better Teachers? – Part 1 of 3

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To discover the answer, I turned to the top eight ranked countries on the 2012 International PISA Test. To come up with the top eight, I dropped China from the list because Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao do not represent all of China’s 15 or 16 year old children. I’ve also dropped Liechtenstein and Estonia, because it’s ridiculous to compare the United States—with more than 316 million people and almost 50 million children in its public schools—to Liechtenstein with a total population that’s less than 37 thousand and Estonia with about 1.3 million.

To repeat, the United States has almost 50 million children attending K–12, 4 million teachers, and 1 in 4 children live in poverty—the United States is much more diverse and has challenges the top ranked countries don’t have to deal with. Liechtenstein, for instance, has one of the highest standards of living in the world with one of Europe’s most affluent communities. Estonia has 589 schools and compulsory education only goes to 9th grade.

Fair Test.org reports “The U.S. is the only economically advanced nation to rely heavily on multiple-choice tests (But Pearson is working hard to change that and add more countries. To learn more, I suggest you read No profit left behind). Other nations use performance-based assessment to evaluate students on the basis of real work such as essays, projects and activities. Ironically, because these nations do not focus on teaching to multiple-choice and short-answer tests, they score higher on international exams.”

Truth Out.org reports, “Among the most prominent members of the testocracy are some of the wealthiest people the world has ever known. Its tsars include billionaires Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and members of the Walton family (the owners of Walmart), who have used their wealth to circumvent democratic processes and impose test-and-punish policies in public education. They fund a myriad of organizations—such as Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Teach for America, and Stand for Children—that serve as shock troops to enforce the implantation of high-stakes testing and corporate education reform in states and cities across the nation.”

I also think it’s important to compare the racial diversity and total population of the United States with the eight top ranked PISA countries. It is also worth noting that children represent more than one-third of the 46.5 million Americans who live in poverty. In addition, blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be poor and to be in poverty and deep poverty (For instance, only 10% of Whites live in poverty compared to 27% of Blacks and 24% of Hispanic/Latino – The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation). The poverty rate (the percentage of all people in the United States who were poor) also remained at high levels: 15.1% for all Americans and 21.8% for children under age 18.

  • 77.7% of Americans are White – 248 million
  • 17.1% Hispanic or Latino – 54.5 million
  • 13.2% or Black – 42 million
  • 5.3% are Asian – 16.8 million
  • 1.2% are American Indian and Alaska Native – 3.8 million

2014 population estimate = 318.8 million
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

Singapore – 5.4 million and 26% or 1.4 million live below poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 861% of the total population of Singapore. BBC.com reports, that in Singapore everyone is provided an education, health care and public housing if they can’t afford their own. What they pay for housing is based on what they earn. If one compares the poor in Singapore to those in countries such as India and China, or even the homeless in the US, it is indeed true that the situation here is not as dire. ”Singapore has an extensive social safety net,” said a ministry spokesman. ”Singaporeans enjoy subsidized housing, healthcare and education.”

  • 77% Chinese
  • 14.8% Malays
  • 7% Indians
  • 1.2% Other

Taiwan – 23.34 million and 1.16% or 27 thousand live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 199.2% of the total population of Taiwan.

  • 84% Taiwanese (including Hakka)
  • 14% mainland Chinese
  • 2% indigenous

South Korea – 50.22 million and 15% or 7.53 million live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 92% of the population of South Korea.

  • Koreans except for 20,000 Chinese

Japan – 127.3 million and 16% or 20.3 million live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United State or 36.5% of the total population of Japan.

  • 95% Japanese
  • 5% foreign citizens

Switzerland – 8 million, but only 1.93 million are permanent residents (23.8% of the total population), and 6.9% (not sure if this is based on permanent or total) live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 581.25% of the total population of Switzerland.

Netherlands – 16.8 million and 10.5% or 1.764 million live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 277.78% of the total population of the Netherlands.

  • 78.5% Dutch
  • 5% EU
  • 2.2% Indonesian
  • 2.3% Turkish
  • 2% Surinamese
  • 2% Moroccan
  • 6% other

Finland – 5.4 million. Finland has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 861% the total population of Finland.

  • 89.33% Finish
  • 5.34% Swedish
  • 5.33% 35 Other Ethnic groups

Canada – 35.1 million and 9.4% or 3.3 million live below the poverty line compared to 46.5 million in the United States or 132.5% the total population of Canada.

  • 86% White (European Canadian)
  • 8% Aboriginal
  • 5% East Asian
  • 4% South Asian
  • 2% Black
  • 4% Southeast Asian
  • 9% Other

Continued in Part 2 on April 9, 2015

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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DE-Day was when the public schools were first targeted for destruction

I can come close to the day the propaganda war was launched to brand teachers 100% responsible for teaching and learning—a war that has left poverty, children and parents out of the equation. The day it started for me and the teachers I worked with was similar to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan. It was a day that should live in infamy.

I was there. I heard it. I saw it along with the staff of an entire middle school.

The Un-Coupling of American Famlies

It was the prestart of the 1987-88 school year a few days before the students arrived. The new principal, a tyrant, stood in front of his new staff—the district had forced him to transfer from the grade school where he wanted to stay to the middle school where I was teaching, and the district administration, that would have made Arne Duncan and Bill Gates proud, moved the previous principal, who was too caring of Children and supportive of us teachers, to another school.

The new tyrant stood there next to a flip chart on a stand, and he turned the pages one at a time. On each large page was an image and a caption. There was no Q & A session afterwards.

I don’t remember exactly what each large page said or what order they were in or how many there were, but the message is branded on my brain and here are the two that stand out the most.

  • If students are failing your classes, it’s your fault. You are not motivating them.
  • If students are misbehaving in your classes, it’s your fault. You can’t control them.

The tyrant made it clear that he wasn’t interested in what we thought. He also made it clear that he had a closed-door policy. If we had problems with students and parents, he wasn’t there to support us, and we had to solve the problems ourselves or quit. At the end of that school year about 50% of the teaching staff quit, retired early or transferred to other schools. I transferred to Nogales High School in the same district along with another English teacher.

Michelle Rhee was stamped from the same mold as that tyrant principal, and the district administrators who ran Rowland Unified back then were from that mold too.

During those years, I saw too many good and dedicated teachers quit, transfer or retire early to escape the constant blame game and stress that came from the top down and was always aimed at teachers. I also witnessed several principals lose their jobs who were too supportive of us teachers.

The planning for the war against the public schools and teachers started about the same time as the flawed and fraud of 1983’s A Nation at Risk, and Ronald Reagan was the president who introduced Milton Friedman’s trickle down economic policy as the financial law of the land that has made the richest 1% wealthier than at any time in U.S. History, increased poverty, and smashed the middle class with a sledge hammer of debt that starts with young adults who dare to dream and go to college.

Average Income Per Family

If you doubt that Reagan’s A Nation at Risk was all a lie, I suggest you read 1990’s Sandia Report. “What we now call school reform isn’t the product of a gradual consensus emerging among educators about how kids learn; it’s a political movement that grew out of one seed planted in 1983.”

After 1987, teachers who failed too many students for not doing the work that led to learning were called in to the office on an annual basis and blamed for those failing grades, and we were asked what we were going to do to fix the problem. The blame for children not doing school work and studying shifted from students to teachers, and the few teachers who didn’t fail students were never called on the carpet to defend themselves.

In fact, two VP’s pulled me aside in the hall on two different occasions and warned me that the district administration was trying to figure out how to fire me. Both of these VP’s asked me if there was any way I could compromise and give the district what they wanted. That meant fewer failing grades for students who didn’t read, work or study.  The district couldn’t attack me for low test scores, because my students had the highest gains in the district by a significant margin for the grade level I was teaching.  In addition, a third VP in a department meeting said that those gains had been documented going back years—as long as the state had been using standardized tests to measure student growth.

In conclusion, the district administration never fired me—but I think they worked hard to make my job more difficult. I retired on my own terms at the end of 30 years in the classroom (1975-2005).

That outcome might have been different in today’s climate where any teacher can be made to look like a failure by the reformers, because they have support from the corporate owned media and have rigged the system with the Common Core standardized tests, and that’s not counting the support of not only the last two Presidents of the United States, but several state governors; Arne Duncan and about a half dozen of the wealthiest oligarchs in the U.S. starting with Bill Gates, the Walton family and their vast propaganda machines.

Poverty Rates for Children and Elderly

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Runner Up in Biography/Autobiogrpahy
2015 Florida Book Festival

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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