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Tag Archives: Standardized test

What makes Education Toxic?

A comment left for a postNC Teacher: “I quit”—on Diane Ravitche’s blog made a good point, and I posted a reply:

I think you have made a great point or at least inadvertently focused a spotlight on an important issue and why it is there.  Turnover in a school or school district may be a red flag—a strong warning sign— that the school board/administration/students are not the easiest to work with or work for [another word would be dysfunctional ].

This could be extended to an entire state since each state has its own department of education that decides policy in that state as directed by the elected politicians from the governor of a state on down. Due to a need to gain votes, religious and/or political agendas tend to rule in such organizations and the winds may shift at any time.

For example, I friend sent me this about the current situation in the high school in Southern California where he now teaches.

I was a public school teacher from 1975 – 2005 and we worked together before dysfunctional administration at our high school and in our school district drove him to quit and find a job in another district that at the time was a better place to work.

But beware of the grass is greener over there syndrome because a drought will kill the green grass leaving behind sweltering heat and dust.

During my thirty years in the classroom, I worked under nine-different principals. Some were great, some good and some horrible.

The horrible ones drove teachers, counselors and VPs out of the schools where they ruled Nazi style and turnover could reach as high as fifty percent in a few years.

Good principals, who are usually a sign of good administration and a sensible school board, tend to hold on to staff.

I mean, how many people quit jobs—any job—with a boss that knows what he or she is doing; a boss that supports his workers in the best possible ways to make the work environment a place where we want to spend twenty to forty years of our lives?

My friend said of this school year (2012 – 2013):

“112 scheduling changes in the first three weeks (the classes he teaches)

“75% of the administrative team is new; a lot of chaos

“50% of the counselors are new; a lot of chaos

“We lost our department chairs, so there is no communication between the teachers and administration

[This high school, he says] “once had a top-notch academic program; however, we are falling apart at the seams; our test scores have flat-lined and they will continue to flat-line because there are just too many new faces at our school; two of our Vice Principals have never been a VP before; they’re nice people, but we have to wade through their learning curve.”

For another example: at the high school where I taught for the last sixteen of the thirty years I was in the classroom as a teacher, we had one new teacher quit at lunch on his first day on the job with two more classes to teach after lunch. During the lunch break, he walked in the principal’s office, tossed his room keys on the desk and said, “If they won’t show some respect for me and attempt to learn, then I refuse to teach them.”

I know from experience, that district did not do a good job creating a positive, supportive educational environment for its teachers because I worked in that district for thirty years. Instead, it was more of a combative environment that did not offer the support teachers wanted or needed to teach.

It is a fact that teachers teach and students learn. However, that is not always the case. Instead, teachers in a toxic educational environment often struggle to teach while too many students make no effort to learn.

Elected School Boards and the administrators they hire should support an environment where teachers may teach and students will learn, and we can learn from two of the best public educations system in the world: Finland and Singapore.

In Finland, the teachers have a strong union and the teachers make the decisions in a supportive educational environment and it works. Parents start teaching children how to read at age three but the first year of school is at age seven.

In Singapore, merit rules. Students must compete academically to earn where they are tracked and the system is heavily tracked based on performance. There is no self-esteem driven educational environment; there is corporal punishment and students may be publicly beat with a bamboo cane if caught breaking strict-rules built to support a merit based education system.

Why can’t we in the United States learn from Finland and Singapore?

Discover What is the Matter with [American] Parents these Days?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Due Process – Part 3/4

Science Blogs.com attempted to answer how many incompetent teachers there are in the US, and reported, “You don’t see many citations of useful data about how many of these school-killing teachers there really are.”

In addition, in the UK, the Guardian says that most of the 18 teachers that lost their jobs due to incompetence were struck off the last decade by the General Teaching Council (in England), which has been operating for a decade with powers to remove failing teachers from the profession.

However, if we accept the percent quoted by the flawed and biased documentary “Waiting for Superman”, the number of public school teachers that are incompetent may be 7 percent, which means 93 percent of the more than 5 million teachers in the United States are competent.

What this means is that the critics of public education want to punish more than 4.6 million innocent teachers for the few that may be incompetent by removing due process and job protection, which may explain why in recent years the number of college students planning to teach dropped more than 25%.


Teachers have been blamed for problems outside of their control.

As is, new teachers are on probation may be fired without cause during the probation period. In California and Texas, the probationary period is two years, but the normal probationary period is three years in most states.

If school district administrators are doing their jobs, then the incompetent teachers are removed before earning job protection and due process.

New Action.com says, “Although teachers are not “guaranteed a job for life,” as critics often say, it is true that, after completing a probationary period, teachers in New York State may generally not be fired except in two instances: The first is for serious cause, defined in state law, that must be substantiated by the DOE (Department of Education) in a due process hearing before an independent arbitration panel. The second has been a “reduction in force” — layoffs because positions have been eliminated, usually due to funding cuts.”

Continued on September 21, 2011 in Due Process – Part 4 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).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 7/7

This post is the conclusion to a topic motivated by the August 2011, Costco Connection‘s debate between two education experts about teacher seniority.

The hours spent in the classroom with students are only the tip of the iceberg. Most teachers are in the classroom with students five or six hours each school day but the total hours worked may average much more.

For me, I averaged between 60 to 100 hours a week (with no overtime pay) for most of the thirty years I taught, which did not leave much time for other activities.

In addition, “Waiting for Superman” insinuated that most public school teachers are not highly educated. This is a ridiculous claim.

For example, when I became a teacher I already had six years of college with a BA in journalism, which included another year of training and classes to earn my teaching credential. Then, over the years, I was required to earn more than 20 quarter units thanks to state legislation increasing teacher requirements in addition to earning a MFA in writing.  Then there were endless workshops—some after school for a few hours and some lasting an entire workday.

By the time I retired, I had more than nine years of college and this does not count the seven years I attended writing workshops out of UCLA’s writing extension program. It is easy to claim that most teachers are lifelong learners.  Too bad we can’t say that of most students.

When I was teaching journalism in addition to several sections of English [for seven years of the thirty], I often arrived at 6 AM and left at 11:00 PM (that is a seventeen-hour day at school/work) when the night custodians turned on the alarms and locked the gates to the parking lot.  The student editors of the high school paper would have stayed longer (along with me) if the alarm had been left off.

In fact, the US was never a pioneer in public education as “Waiting for Superman” claims (find the truth in the March/April 2011 Foreign Policy magazine), and most factors that cause a child/teen to drop out of school has little if nothing to do with teachers. What influences children to drop out of school has more to do with street gangs, poverty, hunger, child abuse, parents [or lack of parenting, which is an epidemic in America today], being a latch key kid, the environment a child grows up in, and the lifestyle his or her parents provide

Sydney Morris, instead of stabbing dedicated teachers in the back by getting rid of the seniority system, why not use that youthful energy to fight for something worthy, such as demanding a public education system more like the one in Finland where teachers are supported and trusted to make the decisions.

Return to Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 6 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 6/7

I have a few more things to say to the Sydney Morrises of the world and those that blame teachers for the so-called failure of public education in America. [The real Sydney Morris spoke against seniority as a base for teacher layoffs in the August 2011 Costco Connection.]

It is a proven fact that teachers have PTSD because of the stress that comes with the job. In addition, there is a situation known as teacher burnout, which is probably caused by the same stress that causes PTSD.

This Australian Website on Teacher Burnout goes into detail and is a resource for teachers with any of the following nine symptoms.

1. insomnia

2. extreme tiredness

3. distancing yourself from colleagues and/or students

4. no longer caring what happens as a result of your efforts

5. an attitude shift to the cynical

6. hostility

7. taking more time to get less done

8. depression

9. drug/alcohol abuse

What’s interesting is the ratio of teachers found to have PTSD and/or Burnout is about the same. A study into stress in Western Australian schools in 1987 found that 10–20% of teachers suffered from psychological distress, with a further 9% suffering severe psychological distress (Howard and Johnson).

For more information on teacher burnout, see this report on several studies on the topic.

It is a fact that half of new teachers in America quit within the first few years and never return to education due the stress and the dysfunctional nature of an education system run mostly by elected officials and not teachers.

In addition, if you read the piece in the March/April 2011 Foreign Policy magazine, you discovered the quality of American students has always been poor and it it wasn’t because of the teachers.  Most of America’s public school teachers are highly educated, very dedicated and work extremely hard.

Continued on September 10, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 7 or return to Part 5

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 5/7

A recent study by an expert in combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), studied teachers in a Texas public school district and discovered that one out of three teachers had PTSD.

If seniority is removed as the sole factor for deciding which teachers lose their jobs, then every teacher in America must be evaluated for PTSD (possibly every five years) and when a teacher is discovered to have PTSD (a job related disability), he or she should receive a disability and free counseling from the Veterans Administration, which is organized to deal with this mental disorder brought on by combat and/or repeated stress related experiences.

The question in the August 2011 Costco Connection was “Should Teacher layoffs be based on seniority?”

The results arrived in the September 2011 Costco Connection and the result reveals that more Americans have abandoned its teachers after special interests have turned them into scapegoats for the failure of students that do not study and parents that do not parent and a system that does not allow teachers to make the decisions as Finland does.

The result was 31% yes and 69% no.

I’m not surprised by the results. My wife and I saw the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, which is an indictment of the public schools and teachers in America and it was pure propaganda and extremely misleading. As usual, nowhere did it mention that students must be held responsible by parents to do homework and study when a teacher assigns work to be done at home.

“Waiting for Superman” claimed the US was once a pioneer in public education, which is a lie. Ben Wildavsky writing for the March/April 2011 Foreign Policy magazine blows that myth/lie apart, when he said “Even at the height of U.S. geopolitical dominance and economic strength, American students were never anywhere near the head of the class … the results from the first major international math test came out in 1967 … Japan took first place out of 12 countries, while the United States finished near the bottom.”

In addition, what “Waiting for Superman” doesn’t want you to discover is that in the 2009 PISA international test, America placed in the top 26% for Math, top 11% for Reading Literacy, and the top 20% for Science Literacy, which is a huge improvement from near the bottom in 1967.

In 1967, twelve countries were compared in Math, but in 2009, that number was 64 countries in three subjects.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 9, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 6 or return to Part 4

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 4/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Sydney Morris, the young teacher expert against seniority as a base for layoffs, said, “While we agree that teachers need much stronger evaluations, there are other objective factors that districts can use in layoff decisions.”

However, in Finland, teachers make the decisions while the government stays out of the process, but in the United States, Washington D.C., state legislatures, elected school boards and district administrators decide what is taught and how to teach it, and when those fads or methods do not work, teachers are blamed.

I was told by Mr. D, the teacher/administrator that handled school discipline at the high school where I taught, that 5% of the students earned 90% of the 20,000 referrals written each year at our high school of about 3,000 students.

Most students that belonged to that 5 percent were failing and stole an average of fifteen to twenty minutes a day in each class they attended due to unacceptable behavior.

The worst that would happen to a five percent student would be a detention after school and possibly two days of suspension, which was always a blessing because on the days one of the five per-centers was absent, I taught for the full period instead of writing referrals, and calling campus police officers to pick up the student (and others that supported or copied him or her).  All it takes is one student to cause others to misbehave.

One example of the type of behavior I’m talking about may be found in Having Sex With Elephants, another post.

The National Center for Educational Statistics reported that in 2008, students ages 12 to 18 were victims of about 1.2 million nonfatal crimes (theft plus violent crimes) at school… During the 2007–08 school year, a greater percentage of teachers in city schools (10 percent) reported being threatened with injury than teachers in town schools (7 percent) and suburban or rural schools (6 percent each)… However, a greater percentage of elementary school teachers (6 percent) reported being physically attacked than secondary school teachers (2 percent).  Two percent of 5 million is still 100,000.

Moreover, these statistics do not deal with kids disrupting the classroom due to unacceptable behavior.

There are more than 5 million public school teachers in the United States. Ten percent equals 500,000 and 350,000 equals seven percent.

When one student failed, her parents accused me of losing their child’s work. During the administrator, parent, teacher, student conference, I asked the student to open the binder for my class and all the unfinished work I was accused of losing was there. She had not turned anything in. The parent did not apologize for accusing me of losing the student’s work but asked me to accept first semester work during the second semester and change her daughter’s grade. I refused since the rule was that late work was not accepted. It had to be turned in on time. That mother had her daughter transferred to another teacher.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 8, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 5 or return to Part 3

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “The fact that I was able to develop long-term relationships with parents, siblings and even children of former students, who were in my class, created a stable and secure environment for many of these students.”

I found this to be true.  Several years before I retired from teaching in 2005, I started to receive the children of former students that were now parents. Some of those former students had been a challenge to control and teach but maturity comes with age and by the time they were parents, they understood the value of an education and dedicated teachers.

My experience with the children of former students was always rewarding.

As a teacher that taught for thirty years and more than 150 classes (between 5,000 to 6,000 students), I had only one class where every student passed because so many studied and did the homework—one of more than 150.

Often, in most of the classes, when I walked around the room to collect homework, which reinforces the lesson I taught, of thirty-four students maybe three to five would turn the work in.

In addition, I made phone calls to parents as my friend does. Each day after school, I’d spend an hour or more calling parents asking them to make sure their children did the work assigned and studied or talk about a behavior problem.

Even with the phone calls to parents, few of the challenging students did the work and the bad behavior often continued.

I am at a loss why this fact never seems to come up in media discussions of public education. It is as if the entire burden of education rests with the teacher while the role of students and parents in the educational process is ignored or doesn’t exist.

One other factor is the stress that teachers often face daily.  When I was a U.S. Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966, we did not see action daily.  In fact, days might go by before we would go into the field on patrol, on a recon, an ambush, a field operation, or our camp would be hit.

In fact, thousands of public school teachers are phyiscally assaulted by students each school year and some end up in the hospital.

During the thirty years I taught, not a day went by that there wasn’t a behavior problem with a student. I witnessed drive by shootings from one of my classroom doorways once as school was letting out. On another evening when I was working late with the editors of the school newspaper, the member of one teen gang was gunned down outside my class by a rival gang, and not a year went by that I wasn’t threatened by a member of a street gang that was also a student in my class.

He would say, “What would you do if we jumped you, Mr. Lofthouse?”  This was one of those times when it paid to stand at six foot four and weigh 180 pounds without much fat while being a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.  I also had this cold-eyed “killer” stare.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 7, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 4 or return to Part 2

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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