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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 2/7

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 biggest danger to education is turnover. Fifty percent of teachers leave within the first six years… Removing seniority rights would create an even higher turnover rate, those cost of which would be devastating—not only financially, but for students.”

In fact, I suspect if it weren’t for seniority, I would have lost my teaching job long before I finished my 30th year, and I would have been fired not because of the quality of my teaching but because I taught by ignoring some of the popular fads that teachers are forced to follow such as boosting self-esteem by inflating grades and dummying down the curriculum, which has caused more students to learn less than any incompetent teacher.

What happens when an excellent veteran teacher ends up with a class full of students that do not study or do homework? During the thirty years I taught, I had many students like this and was often told by administration that I made more phone calls to parents than any teacher at the high school where I taught.

A teacher’s lessons may be excellent but if students do not pay attention, study or do the homework and there is little or no parental support, the chances are those students will not learn much.

A former colleague and friend still teaching in a public high school said in a recent e-mail that he is demoralized because the students and parents do not care or support what he does in his classroom.

For an idea of how bad it can be, the administration at the high school where he teaches requires that teachers spend so much time contacting parents in an attempt to gain support that my friend had to hire a retired teacher at $25 an hour (out of his pocket) to correct work his students turned in so he could free up time at home weeknights and on weekends to call about 200 different parents to tell them about the assignments and to virtually beg them to make sure their children study and do the work that was assigned.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, does not 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?

Are there incompetent teachers?

Yes.

However, even “Waiting for Superman”, as propagandized and flawed as it is, admitted that studies show 7% of the teachers fit in this category (other studies say that number is only one percent). In the US, the average student probably has about 50 teachers from kindergarten to the end of high school.  Seven percent of fifty is less than 3.5, which leaves 46.5 teachers that were adequate or incredible.

Do we change the public education system and remove job security due to seven percent of the teachers?

Continued on September 6, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3 or return to 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 1/7

If you believe every negative message you hear or read about public education in America, there is a strong chance you have been brainwashed by corporate and political propaganda. An example of this propaganda is the documentary “Waiting for Superman”.

In August, Costco Connection published a debate about teacher seniority between two education experts. Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “An experienced, seniority-based teaching force is essential for building a top-rated educational system,” and he was right.

The other expert, Sydney Morris, who was against seniority and looks like one of my former high school students, said, “We must send a strong message to both current and prospective teachers that performance matters. It’s only fair that we be judged on the quality of our teaching and the growth of our students, not just on our years in the system.”

However, the quality of teaching and the growth of students do not always go hand in hand. In fact, a highly qualified teacher could still have a significant number of students that do not learn. Many of the posts published in this Blog deal with a different reality than the one we often hear on the news, from special interest groups or from politicians stumping for reelection.

The reasons why many students do not learn has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching.

What I often find missing in most if not all of these debates such as this one is the responsibility of students and parents.  In Finland, one of the best unionized, public school systems in the world, the best teachers are placed with the students that need the most help and weak teachers with the best students. The philosophy is that highly motivated students that are at the top of his or her class will learn no matter how good the teacher is.

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 5, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – 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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The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 2/3

From Smithsonian Magazine’s A+ for Finland, we learned Finland’s teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around.

However, in America, few trust or want to hear advice from school teachers. Instead, each state has a curriculum for teachers to follow and standardized tests to make sure teachers are doing as they are told.

The unspoken message to most of America’s teachers is to say nothing, do what we say and if you do not like it, quit. In addition, if you stay and do not succeed, it is your fault.

Well, half do quit in the first five years of teaching and few come back.

Rote learning, which is still practiced successfully—regardless of what American critics say—in other countries such as China or Singapore, was rejected in the U.S. because it was decided during the rise of the self-esteem parenting movement that rote learning was tedious and no fun, which explains why this method of teaching was tarred, feathered, tortured and burned at the stake in the U.S.

However, there are elements of education that require boring and tedious rote learning such as memorizing the names of the states and their capitals,  the names of America’s presidents, rules of grammar, the multiplication tables, which I had to memorize when I was young, and how to spell, etc.

Then in the early 1980s, the Whole Language Approach (WLA) arrived in America. At the school where I taught, I was one of many English teachers that protested this method would not work.

We were ignored and forced to do as we were told or else.

Without an ounce of trust for the judgment of those English teachers, which included me, we were forced to throw out the grammar books, which were tedious and boring to learn from.

Whole Language versus Phonics says of the Whole Language approach to teaching, “experimenting with new concepts upon an entire nation of children without any verifiable proof of a concept’s effectiveness has proven a grave mistake for millions of children in several generations. Illiteracy has been growing for at least four decades, and yet Whole Language continues to be used.”

Continued on August 30, 2011 in The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

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).

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

 

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The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 1/3

I retired from teaching August 2005, and every year near autumn, I started losing sleep, which was a direct result of years of abuse/stress dished out by parents, students, administrators, politicians and ignorant idiots that believe everything they hear or read in the media about how horrible public school teachers and their unions are, which is wrong.

Usually, when I complain about the years I taught, one of those ignorant idiots leaves a comment saying I am just another disgruntled teacher that could not teach or I’ve been brainwashed by the liberals.

However, if you are one of those ignorant idiots, I suggest you discover what kind of teacher I was from from the media—a piece published in the Rowland Heights Highlander December 3, 1998, which gives a brief glimpse into the success I experienced as teacher for thirty years.

Starting in autumn and for the entire school year I often lost sleep due to difficult students, mean spirited parents, and administrators pressuring me to inflate grades to pass more students.

Then this week, an e-mail arrived from a younger friend that is still teaching (more than 20 years). I could sense the same suffering in this teacher’s words.  He/she asked me not to write about some of the stuff in the e-mail so I will avoid those topics and keep this teacher’s identity private.

However, I am going to share some of what this teacher wrote.

“I am highly motivated,” the teacher-friend said. “I still want to teach, but I have lost a lot of my passion for it due to the lack of support from parents, administrators, non-motivated students, etc.  Also, American society does not really value education.”

In addition, “The way education is headed, makes our (other teachers at the same school) stomachs turn sour.  There is growing talk among localities, states, etc. about terminating seniority.  Some states have already done it under the umbrella of Right to Work‘.  Some states have a clause that states they are ‘A Right to Work’ state, which sounds semantically awesome, but this was a dream child of big business.”

Basically, the ‘Right to Work’ clause allows businesses and school districts to circumvent unions.

My teacher-friend said Idaho is a perfect example and mentioned another teacher that had a teaching friend in Idaho that said a district in Idaho wanted to equip all of its students with laptops except it didn’t have funding to do that.

To come up with this funding, that one school district in Idaho invoked the ‘Right to Work’ clause and fired the teachers with the most seniority.

Teachers with 20, 25, and 30 years of experience lost their teaching jobs before they were ready to retire on their own.  This saved the district much money; hence, that district had the money to buy the laptops for all of its students.

Note from Blog host, “I’d like to know the name of this district in Idaho.”

In conclusion, my teacher-friend said, “The point here is even if I wanted to teach for 30 years, I might not make it.  I could see my district getting rid of me to save money.”

Continued on August 22, 2011 in The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 2

_______________________

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

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 Impact of Aging Public Schools on Teachers and Students

My last sixteen years of teaching took place at Nogales High School in La Puente, California.

Nogales was built in 1961. By the time I left teaching, Nogales was forty-four years old.

During the last few years when I entered my classroom in the mornings, I started to wheeze and sinus infections were an annual school year occurrence.

Years earlier, in the 1990s, the flat roof above my classroom had sagged resulting in a pool of water when it rained, which leaked into the room.

The year the roof first leaked, I taught four sections of ninth grade English and my fifth and last section of the day was journalism. There were tables along the back wall that held journalism’s Mac computers, a printer and scanner.  Because the worse leaks occurred above the computers, I bought a sheet of plastic to cover them and placed trashcans around the room to catch water from the worst leaks.

By then, the brown, industrial grade carpeting was worn and spotted with dark blotches where gum had been ground into the fabric by unruly students. After the rain, a large portion of the carpet at the back of the room became a spongy mass as it absorbed water from the leaks.

One summer early in the 21st century, the school district removed the old leaky roofs, rafters and all, until the classrooms were open to the sky.  Then new roofs that were not flat were built on the old walls.  However, that brown carpet remained.

According to BEST (Building Educational Success Together), school districts in the US have an estimated $271 billion of deferred (which means they don’t have the money and have to put it off) building maintenance in their schools, excluding administrative facilities…

Many of America’s public schools are aging and causing health problems adding another challenge to teaching.

Near the end of my teaching career (1975 – 2005), I often came down with sinus and respiratory infections but not during the summers when I was not teaching.

The last few years, the indoor air quality in my classroom was so bad that minutes after entering the class, I started to wheeze and then get a low-grade headache that stayed with me all day.  Nogales had more than a 100 people working there.  When I asked if anyone from the staff was having health problems similar to mine, about 20 to 25% said yes and the symptoms were similar.

BEST says, “A national survey of school nurses found over 40% knew children and staff adversely impacted by avoidable indoor pollutants.”

I didn’t plan to retire at sixty.  My goals were to teach until I was sixty-five and leave teaching in 2010.  However, I left five years early due to the wheezing, sinus infections and headaches that all happened or started in my classroom.

I left teaching in 2005, I haven’t wheezed or had a sinus infection since.

One study found that unsatisfactory buildings in need of improvements/repairs influenced test scores, attendance and suspension rates. Another study revealed a 4 to 9% difference in achievement between students in schools in worst/best condition and a 5-9% difference between students in oldest/newest schools in addition to a 4% difference in graduation rates between students in schools in worst/best condition. Source: 21st Century School Fund

The quality of school buildings affects the ability of teachers to teach, teacher morale, and the very health and safety of teachers.

Despite the importance of the condition of school buildings, serious deficiencies have been well documented, particularly in large, urban school districts (see for example, GAO 1995). Moreover, since school buildings in the United States are, on average, over forty years old—just the time when rapid deterioration often begins—we should expect problems with school facilities to worsen.

For example, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is widespread and many schools suffer from “sick building syndrome” (see, for example, EPA 2000), which in turn increases student absenteeism and reduces student performance (see EPA 2000; Kennedy 2001; Leach 1997; Smedje and Norback 1999; Rosen and Richardson 1999).

Since current student-focused asthma studies show that students lose considerable school time because of the poor conditions of schools, it is not surprising to find that poor IAQ also affects teachers’ health. In one study, fully two-thirds of Washington teachers surveyed reported poor indoor air quality in their school. Source: ncef.org

In my school district, teachers were given 10 sick days a year.  By the time I had taught 25 years, I had about 180 sick days saved.  I used up about half  the last three years I taught.

Discover how Sewer Teaching is a Smelly Art or learn from HEPA Filters Do Not Work Miracles

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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.

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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Blind Obedience – Part 4/4

After a volley of e-mails with the “e-mail critic”, he wrote, “What you’re attempting to say is that these teachers were put in an untenable position. Well, you are right. The public school system cannot educate America’s children and the NCLB act’s failure simply points that out. But don’t you realize these cheating teachers were hiding the fact that the NCLB act is a colossal failure? Instead of defending them, you should be castigating them.”

My response to, “The public school system cannot educate America’s children” is to point out at that more than 80% (more than 34 million) of those American children succeeded in the public schools. However, the NCLB Act demands 100% success (an A+) from America’s teachers.

The “e-mail critic” and the NCLB Act measures the failure of the American public schools by the portion of the glass that is empty and ignores the part that is full, which is close to the top.

How would you like to be measured against perfection every day or face being declared a failure?

Have we forgotten that humans, including teachers, students and parents, are not perfect?

According to studies, bad teachers represent between 1 to 7 percent of all teachers. If the average public school student has about 50 teachers from K to 12, that means .5 to 3.5 teachers were bad and the other 46.5 to 49.5 taught well.

Eighty percent of students succeeded because public school teachers were doing their jobs, which was teaching, and those students were doing what was required of them to learn.

In addition, I am going to go one step further and suggest that all American public school teachers during the 2011 – 2012 school year reject “blind obedience” and instruct their students to mark “C” for every answer on the annual standardized tests.

Let this protest show the nation that teachers are tired of being the scapegoat for poor parenting and the unrealistic demands of the NCLB Act, which was designed for teachers and public education to fail.

What would happen to our students if teachers demanded “A’s” on every assignment or be considered a FAILURE?

If most of the teachers can be successful with more than 80% of the students, then they have proven they are capable of teaching and the public schools are capable of success when students and parents do  their job.

There is something wrong when critics condemn public school teachers due to the twenty percent of students that fail to meet the NCIBA Act’s mandate and those students are mostly found among African-American and Hispanic/Latino students.

It is time to hold poor parenting and “other inequalities” responsible for failing students, and then find ways to deal with those challenges without blaming the teachers.

Maybe the parents of those failing students should wear dunce caps and signs whenever they are in public that say, “I am a poor parent. I do not support my child’s teachers and my child’s education.”

Return to  Blind Obedience – Part 3 or start with Part 1

_______________________

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).

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

 

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Eager to Learn or Not – Part 9/10

During the 30 years that I taught English, reading and journalism in the public schools, I worked with thousands of students from every ethnic and socioeconomic group.

My family, although of White/Caucasian heritage with roots to England, Ireland and Europe would have been placed in three of the categories that the Academic Performance Index (API) identifies.

My brother and I would have been labeled as White (Caucasian), Socioeconomically Disadvantaged and Students with (learning) Disabilities.

A student that is labeled “Socioeconomically Disadvantaged” is defined as “a student neither of whose parents have received a high school diploma or a student eligible for free or reduced-price lunch program”.

A “Student with Disabilities” is defined as student who receives special education services and has a valid disability code on the student answer document (or) a student who was previously identified as special education but who is no longer receiving special education services for two years after exiting special education. This student is not counted in determining numerical significance for the SWDs subgroup.

The API monitors and measures the schools to see if the NCLB Act’s goal of reaching an average and/or norm for all Ethnic/Racial subgroups that is 800 or better on the API is being met.  Failure for schools and teachers to reach this goal for all subgroups may lead to being fired and/or having schools shut down while students will be bussed long distances to schools that have been successful.

For 2010, in California, the norm/average for Students with Disabilities was 544; for Socioeconomically Disadvantaged that norm/average was 701 while the norm for White/Caucasian was 842.

During the thirty years I taught in a public classroom, the subgroups that (on average) resembled my brother Richard and I are found mostly in Black or African American (API 676) and Hispanic or Latino (API 706) subgroups.  Source: 2010-11 APR Glossary-Base API

Continued on July 21, 2011 in Eager to Learn or Not – Part 10 or return to Part 8

______________

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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