Teachers — another great chance for our voices to be heard nationwide this Monday, 6 April!

On Monday night, April 6th, my friend and colleague M. Shannon Hernandez will be the guest on a national radio talk show to discuss student-centered education reform. Shannon has been asked to appear on Dan Rae’s NightSide Show on WBZ 1030AM Radio (CBS Radio). This is a nationally syndicated talk radio show which reaches 38 states across the USA, and has a huge additional live-streaming audience.

When I was on Dan Rea’s show a couple months ago teachers, students, and parents from across the nation kept the lines lit all night with the unanimous message “Let’s fix the REAL issues with education!”  This is a great chance for classroom teacher voices to be heard.  Shannon is an awesome advocate for educational reform, and is especially respected for her views on, and exposure of, bullying and intimidation of teachers by administrators to prevent teachers from speaking out on the real issues.

Shannon is the author of Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher,  and podcast host of Transforming Public Education: Creating REAL Reform Through Compassion, Love, and Gratitude.  If you have not visited her website, http://myfinal40days.com/, you will want to bookmark it and drop in often!

Want to listen to the show or call in with your opinion?   Here are the show details:

Date and time: Monday, April 6, 9:00 pm
Tune in via radio: 1030 AM
Tune in via internet: www.cbsboston.com/nightside (Click listen live.)
Call-in numbers: 617-254-1030 or 888-929-1030

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The PDP farce – wink, wink, nod, nod

An extended version of my Huffington Post blog

PDPs – Professional Development Plans (usually referred to as Professional Development Points by teachers) – are the primary means of giving teachers needed training during their careers.  All teachers are required to take additional training, and be credited with PDPs in order to be recertified to teach.  All schools conduct internal training programs that award some of the required PDPs periodically, but in addition teachers must find outside sources of training that qualify for most of their PDP credits.

PDPs could be a good thing for teachers and education.  After all, there are a number of topics that would be valuable for all teachers that are too rarely covered, such as:  diversified learning, “explaining” versus “presenting,” class discipline, evolving technology, and engaging students.  But once again the Career DoE bureaucrats have taken a good goal, and twisted it into a costly, ineffective farce via their mismanaged implementation. 

Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking “follow” in the
upper right corner of this page.  Following a blog is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.

The problem is that there is a mandated need for so many PDPs (else they lose their license and jobs) that teachers have to scramble to take whatever credit-offering courses they can find.  But there are a limited number of useful courses available, and only part of them provided by the schools.  There are always topics required by state DOEs that qualify for PDP credits – such as training for standardized test proctoring, or annual review of restraint training.  In addition, most schools carefully choose new topics relevant to their school each year.  But these programs typically cover no more than one-fourth to one-third of the PDPs required to renew a teaching license.  So a cottage industry has now grown into a major industry to churn out new “content” every few months that can be sold to teachers and schools to meet PDP requirements.

The result is exactly what you would expect – the drive in the PDP industry is to create something new and salable – not necessarily anything that helps education.

021---PDP-Development

Teachers are mandated to find PDPs, so the PDP industry gets to work and invents new “content” to sell.  In recent years, much of this new content has either been “check-the-box” training that is nothing more than a rehash of old material and will be ignored by the attendees, or it is a new fad-du-jour that someone cooked up to sell a course regardless of educational merit.  Teachers routinely sit at these PDP conferences with a “…wink, wink, nod, nod, this is really useful…” view of the meeting.  Everyone attending knows it is a costly, time-consuming farce.  The goal is to get through the meeting, get the certificate that awards the mandated PDPs, and then go home and forget all the nonsense you just heard.

Now clearly, not all PDP conferences and classes are bad.  But I can only recall a handful in the past decade that had nuggets a good teacher could use.  One of the best half-day PDP sessions I ever attended was about ways to discipline with humor and engage today’s child centered on an excellent book by Barkley.  Another was a course with practical tips on diversified learning strategies.

Most of the other commercial PDP courses were a complete waste of time.

Example:  The Power of “I”

A now-dead fad called “The Power of I” is the poster child for the ills of the PDP system.  Thousands of schools across the country jumped on this program a few years ago to fill a half-day of PDP training, and yield a few precious PDP credits for their teachers.  The program was a huge financial success for its developers.  On the surface it was a program designed to help get students to do more homework.  In reality, it was a program designed by someone who had absolutely no idea what teachers face in the classroom, and appears to know absolutely nothing about the psychology and expectations of a child.

The basis for “The Power of I” was: never give a child a zero for a missed assignment, instead give them an “I” for “Incomplete.”  By some mysterious process this would incent the child to finish the project at a later date.  Somehow in the rush to create saleable PDP content, the creator believed he could convince experienced teachers that this was an effective way to get students to do more homework.

Many of us watched with trepidation as several of the newer teachers gave “The Power of I” a try.  We watched as the term ended and the homework still had not been made up.  We watched as the teacher asked in bewilderment what grade should be submitted for the end of the term report card if a student still had an “I” for three scores, and refused to make up the assignments.  It was frustrating and sad to witness the hard lesson the new teacher learned about educational PDP fads, when the students did exactly what the experienced teachers expected.  The student preferred the “I” to the zero because it let them safely skip the work, yet kept them out of trouble at home for weeks by hiding the zeroes.  They gladly accepted the zero at the end of the term rather than make up the work – knowing they could use the excuse at home that it was too late, and they would just have one “punishment” all at once rather than having had to face the parent for each zero along the way.

Worst of all, by labeling failure with the relatively nice term of “incomplete,” we enable the child to duck his/her responsibility.  The child knows he/she simply blew off the assignment, but the school tells them it’s okay because it is just “incomplete.”  The school has made it official – skipping assignments is okay.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

There are many more like the “Power of I” that could be cited to make the point about useless PDP content.  If I had to try to put numbers on my years of PDP training history, I would guesstimate the following:

Useful PDP content:   20%
Rehash of old, known material:    50%
Useless fad content:  30%

But PDPs could be good for teachers and education if we just reduced the number required (so that there was no longer the need to purchase useless filler training) and follow training best practices.  For any training program to succeed, any world-class trainer will tell you it must meet three criteria:

  • Focused on the needs of the individual
  • Focused upon the needs of the job
  • Provide added value specific to the individual

The overall PDP program fails these criteria for the bulk of the PDP training that is available.  Much of the training is just a repeat of prior years where 90% of the audience has been through the same presentation a dozen times before.

We need to fix this!

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KIRKUS and CLARION both praise the acclaimed book “…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher”   about our failing education system:   Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education.  The 2nd edition includes dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine new chapters.
Please get a copy HERE or on Amazon.

 

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

DoE mandates now prevent teaching the curricula for an average of 35 minutes of every class period

An extended version of my original blog on the Huffington Post

In 1990, a classroom teacher typically had all but six minutes per class available to teach the lesson plan for the day.  We were able to dive into the lesson content, and use best practices reinforcement techniques to engage and challenge students.  Children did an hour-plus of homework each night, studied before tests, and enjoyed earning their successes.  Children graduated from high school ready for college, and were soon ready for amazing careers.  The USA ranked at or near the top of worldwide educational performance.

Just twenty-five years later the picture could not be more different.  Nearly 20 nations have passed the USA in educational effectiveness.  Both SAT and ACT testing services find only 26% of high school graduates are ready for college.  College freshmen are spending their first year repeating high school courses – resulting in more and more downgrades to associate degrees due to lack of college credits.  Children average just 1.5 hours of homework per week, and just 14% study the night before a test.  Standardized test scores are down and graduation rates continue to decline.  46% of all new teachers quit the profession within the first five years.   Charter schools are failing across the nation.

And we have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education.

Yet we continue to take the easy way out and falsely place all the blame on the “big four” for these problems – bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers.  Few people outside the classrooms – certainly not the state and federal unions focusing on being PACs rather than listening to their local union pleas for help with destructive mandates, and certainly not the legislators who gladly take all donations so they can kick the can down the road for real fixes – ever see the real issues that have destroyed effective education in our schools.

Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking “follow” in the
upper right corner of this page.  Following a blog is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.

One of the most severe factors is the steep reduction in teaching time within a class period because of mandates that prevent teachers from teaching.  Today, mandates by career DoE bureaucrats have usurped an average of 35 minutes per class period for non-instruction duties, actually preventing the teacher from teaching the lesson plan – yet the teacher is held accountable for covering the same lesson plan in the reduced time.  The least disruption (25 minutes) is found in honors-level courses, because they typically have fewer inclusion student mandates.  The most (45 minutes) is in a typical standard-level class with 12-plus inclusion students.  My classes averaged 18 inclusion students.

028-Mandates

A vital caveat: the issue is not whether these additional topics are valuable, important, or necessary.   Assume, for the sake of argument, 100% agreement that all are vital.  Then we must also accept the painful tradeoff that they replace portions of the traditional curricula.  If an assembly for allergies is mandated to be more important than a math class, so be it.  But it is then irrational to hold the math teacher responsible for being unable to teach the complete lesson plan because the children were out of the classroom again.

Here is a summary look at some of the major mandates that take a teacher away from the board for every class period and prevent teaching the complete lesson plan.  For periodic items (like assemblies) the time is prorated across the entire year.  (Mathematically, losing one day per school year is the same loss of teaching time as losing 23 seconds from every class that year.)

Pre-1990 duties (6 minutes)

  • Announcements
  • Fire drills
  • Handout/collect homework

Security Mandates (5 minutes)

  • Evacuation drills
  • Lock-down drills
  • Physically verify student ID use in every class
  • Track and continually monitor all children out-of-classroom

Social Mandates and Student Assemblies (1.5 minutes)

  • Allergies (Peanut, latex, perfume…)
  • Bullying
  • LGBT
  • Career days
  • Non-traditional careers
  • General (Class elections, PEP…)
  • Internet usage

Teacher mandates (4.5 minutes)

  • Half days for teacher training
  • Days developing new curricula
  • Yearly restraint training
  • Bullying training
  • Sign posting every class (core reference)

Standardized testing mandates (3.5 minutes)

  • Days missed proctoring standardized testing
  • Yearly proctoring instruction
  • Days to develop curricula for test preparation classes
  • Assemblies – student orientation

Inclusion, ESL, and SPED Mandates (0 – 30 minutes, 15 typical)

  • Accommodations to individuals/groups in lieu of teaching at the board
  • Repeating lesson via diversified learning techniques to individuals/groups
  • Yearly ESL and SPED instruction

The unintended consequences of these non-education mandates has been devastating.  By replacing traditional lessons, they led to dumbed-down teaching, lower graduation rates, students unready for college, and an increasing loss of good teachers.  Teachers are held accountable for “not teaching” the full curricula, when the real issue is that they are prevented from teaching because of these mandates.  Teachers proficient in math, English, etc. are now held accountable for teaching social issues where they have no training and little expertise.

Our career DoE bureaucrats continue to add to the pile year after year with no understanding of the damage they cause in the classroom, and no comprehension that you cannot fit 115 minutes of mandates into a 70-minute box.   As one simple example, all teachers are now mandated to post a sign in each class referencing the core standard.  Now obviously this sign is a small thing, in and of itself.   But it is not alone.  It is yet another example in an endless set of useless bureaucratic initiatives that burden the system.

core-posting

Ironically, this sign is defended by the bureaucrats as a “good teaching practice.”  But it is simply a very bad teaching practice to anyone with actual classroom experience.  No teacher can think of any possible benefit to education that was in this bureaucrat’s mind when this inane requirement was mandated.  Did they think any child would memorize the core standard reference numbers?  Did they think a teacher needed to be reminded what they were teaching that day?  Did they not understand teachers always frame every topic, and every lesson, with its context?  Was it micromanagement to get teachers to focus on the core standards?  No – it is just yet another senseless mandate that takes yet another two minutes out of teaching the core requirements.

We have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education by inept bureaucratic mandates that prevent teachers from engaging and teaching our children.  We must start looking at every mandate from the state and federal DoEs and start asking a very simple question:

Is this what we want as the primary focus in our classrooms,
and do we accept the tradeoffs in education if we do?

Education is failing our children because mandates by career DoE bureaucrats prevent teachers from teaching, and force a dumbed-down education.  If we continue to hid behind the false mantra that it is simply “…bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers…” then we will never get to the real fixes.  We will simple pour more good money after bad.

KIRKUS and CLARION both praise the acclaimed book about our failing
education system “…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher.”
  

The 2nd edition of  Lifting the Curtain: The disgrace we call
urban high school education
includes dozens of teacher
submissions from across the USA
 and nine new chapters.
Please get a copy HERE or on Amazon.

2nd cover front small - BLOG

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Classroom teachers – your voices just got a LOT louder (about a million times louder!) by an invitation to join the Huffington Post education blog

It doesn’t happen very often for classroom teachers, but sometimes the good guys and gals do actually finish first.  When I started this blog last fall, my goal was simple:  let classroom teacher voices be heard about the real problems with education.  I was tired of the constant false mantra that education has failed our children because of “…bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers.”  I had too many years in the classroom seeing the real issues to accept that simplistic misdirection.

So I began this blog with the sole purpose of writing posts centered on submissions by teachers from across the nation.   But realistically, I also knew that my efforts would be tiny and lost in the noise.  To me 61,000 visitors and followers of this blog is a big deal, but in the real world that is a miniscule number.

Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking “follow” in the
upper right corner of this page.  Following a blog is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.

But then lightning struck, because people had such high respect for all your teacher stories that contributed to these blog articles!  In literally thousands of posts and emails, people all across the country responded to what you allowed me to share.  The most common comment I received was along the lines of “…what Carol L. said made sense to me.  I had never heard that before.”

Today I received final approval and access to become a blogger on education at the Huffington Post.  A recommendation by Shannon Hernandez directly to Arianna Huffington started the process.  Once the blog group had vetted me and looked at the past posts, the process began.  There were a few bumps along the way, and Ms. Huffington had to jump in twice to make it happen, but it is now official.  I will be posting many of my blog pieces on the Huffington Post as well as on my WordPress blog at: https://liftingthecurtainoneducation.wordpress.com/.   My hardest challenge will be to keep the Huffington Post versions below 1000 words – a tough challenge for me!

This is a big step for teacher voices.  As many of you know, whenever possible I center blog articles around a 250-word passage written by a teacher from all across the country.  Now those classroom teacher voices will also be on a Huffington Post site that is visited by literally millions of readers every day.

(If you did not know about the BeHEARD! initiative to let
your voice be heard – please click here.)

What impresses me most is that Ms. Huffington asked to add a blog that does not mirror the traditional views of her organization.  My disdain for career DoE bureaucrats, state and national unions that seem to focus on being PACs and ignore the needs of the local unions, and legislators that trade funding for donations while kicking the can down the road instead of real fixes, is clear.  If an outlet like the Huffington Post is ready to give access to voices like ours, then maybe, just maybe, we can start to get real change to education.

Thank you, classroom teachers.  You made this happen.  Please click the “BEHEARD!” tab at the top of the blog, submit your passage, and help push this forward even more!

KIRKUS and CLARION praise the acclaimed book about our failing education system:
 Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education –
“…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher.”   The 2nd edition
includes dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA
 and nine
new chapters.  Please get a copy
HERE or on Amazon.

 

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Career DoE bureaucrats: Holding classroom teachers accountable for teaching a full-period lesson plan when DoE mandates PREVENT teaching for 35 minutes of every class period.

In 1990, a classroom teacher typically had all but six minutes per class available to teach the lesson plan for the day.  We were able to dive into the lesson content, and use best practices reinforcement techniques to engage and challenge students.  Children did an hour of homework each night, studied before tests, and enjoyed earning their successes.  Children graduated from high school ready for college, and were soon ready for amazing careers.  The USA ranked at or near the top of worldwide educational performance.

Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking “follow” in the
upper right corner of this page.  Following a blog is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.

Just twenty-five years later the picture could not be more different.  Almost 20 nations have passed the USA in educational effectiveness.  Both SAT and ACT testing services find only 26% of high school graduates are ready for college.  College freshmen are spending their first year repeating high school courses – resulting in more and more downgrades to associate degrees due to lack of college credits.  Children in urban high schools average just 1.5 hours per week of homework, and just 14% study the night before a test.  Standardized test scores are down and graduation rates continue to decline.  46% of all new teachers quit the profession within the first five years.   Charter schools are failing across the nation.

And we have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education.

Yet we continue to take the easy way out and blame the “big four” for all these problems – bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers.  Few people outside the classrooms  ever see the real issues that have destroyed effective education in our schools – certainly not the state and federal teacher unions, who ignore local union pleas for help with the real issues, and instead focus on being PACs rather than on education – and certainly not the legislators who gladly take any and all donations so they can kick the can down the road for another generation of failure.

028-Mandates

One of the most severe causes is the steep reduction in available teaching time within a class period because of mandates that prevent teachers from teaching.  Today, mandates by career DoE bureaucrats have usurped an average of 35 minutes per class period for non-instruction duties, actually preventing the teacher from teaching the lesson plan – yet the teacher is expected to cover the same lesson plan in the reduced time.

Here is a summary look at the major mandates that take a teacher away from the board for every class period.  For periodic items (like assemblies) the time is prorated across the entire year.

Pre-1990 duties (6 minutes)

  • Announcements
  • Fire drills
  • Handout/collect homework

Security Mandates (5 minutes)

  • Evacuation drills
  • Lock-down drills
  • Verify student ID use in every class
  • Track and continually monitor all children out-of-classroom

Social Mandates (1.5 minutes)

  • Assemblies – Allergies (Peanut, latex, perfume…)
  • Assemblies – bullying
  • Assemblies – LGBT
  • Assemblies – Career days
  • Assemblies – non-traditional careers
  • Assemblies – General (Class elections, PEP…)

Teacher mandates (4.5 minutes)

  • ½ days for teacher training (PDPs)
  • Days missed developing new common core curricula
  • Yearly restraint training
  • State bullying training
  • Sign posting every class (core reference)

Standardized testing mandates (3.5 minutes)

  • Days missed proctoring standardized testing
  • Yearly test proctoring instruction
  • Days used to develop curricula and materials for standardized test preparation classes
  • Assemblies – standardized test orientation

Inclusion, ESL, and SPED Mandates (0 –- 30 minutes)

  • Accommodations to individuals and groups in lieu of teaching at the board
  • Repeating lesson via diversified learning techniques to individuals and groups within the class
  • Yearly ESL and SPED instruction

A vital caveat: the issue is not whether these additional topics are valuable, important, or necessary.   Assume, for the sake of argument, that we all agree they are all vital to our children.  Then we must also accept that the impact of the decision to replace chunks of the curricula with other topics is a reduction in education, and holding teachers accountable for things completely out of their control.

Consider:

  • There are only 60-70 minutes in a typical class period
  • These non-curricula mandates must come at the expense of the lesson plan – usurping an average of 35 minutes per class from the planned curricula
  • Large portions of the traditional course content is forced to be replaced with these other topics
  • Teachers are still held accountable for “not teaching” the full curricula when the real issue is that they are prevented from teaching because of these mandates
  • Teachers proficient in math, English, etc. are held accountable for teaching social issues where they have had no training and have little expertise.

The unintended consequences of these non-education mandates has been devastating.  They led to dumbed-down teaching, lower graduation rates, being unready for college, and declining performance.

And our career DoE bureaucrats, with lifetime positions and no accountability, continue to add to the pile year after year with no understanding of the damage they cause in the classroom, and no understanding that you cannot fit 115 minutes of mandates into a 70-minute box.   As one simple example, last year all teachers were required (mandated) to post a sign in each class referencing the core standard being taught.  Now obviously this sign is a small thing, in and of itself.  It would not even be worth mentioning if it was an isolated example of useless bureaucracy.  But it is not alone.  It is yet another example in an endless set of micromanaging bureaucratic initiatives that burden the system.  It is just yet another senseless mandate that takes yet another two minutes out of teaching the core requirements.

core-posting

Ironically, this sign is defended by the bureaucrats as a “good teaching practice.”  But it is simply a very bad teaching practice to anyone with actual classroom experience.  None of us can think of any possible positive to education that was in this bureaucrat’s mind when he or she imposed this inane requirement on every class in every school.  Did they think any child would memorize the core standard reference numbers?  Did they think a teacher needed to have something on the board to remind them what they were teaching that day?  Did they think teachers did not always frame every topic, and every lesson, with its context?  Was it a subtle push to get teachers to focus on the core standards?

We have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education by inept bureaucratic mandates that prevent teachers from engaging and teaching our children.  We must start looking at every mandate from the state and federal DoEs and start asking a very simple question:  Is this what we want as the primary focus in our classrooms, and are we ready to accept the educational consequences if we do?  If we continue to hide behind the false mantra that it is “…bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers…” then we will never get to the real fixes.

The 2nd edition of the acclaimed book about today’s failed education system
 Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education

is now available, with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine
new chapters.  Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book

“…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher”
that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education
of our children.  Please get a copy
HERE or on Amazon.

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Guest post from M. Shannon Hernandez announcing a special nationwide podcast for teachers

I am pleased to post this guest piece by M. Shannon Hernandez.  Shannon and I collaborate whenever possible because we share three critical characteristics:  a passion to teach, being driven to engage children in learning, and an absolute conviction that teacher voices must be heard if we are to ever fix the real problems with education.

Shannon has started a weekly podcast about today’s classrooms you will find here:  Transforming Public Education Podcast.  Please bookmark it!  It is someplace you will enjoy visiting, and contributing to the discussion!

Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking “follow” in the
upper right corner of this page.  Following a blog is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.

———————————–

Teachers Have Had Enough!
by M. Shannon Hernandez

Shannon Hernandez, M. Ed.
Author | Education Activist & Speaker | Professor
www.myfinal40days.com

I’ve been watching my social media feeds. Teachers are banding together like never before on Twitter and Facebook and using their voices to speak the truth about what is happening in our public schools. We are organizing ourselves for demonstrations and rallies, and we are forming advocacy groups, at the local, state, and national levels.

We have realized that there is strength in numbers.

We have realized that if an entire nation of teachers speaks, it’s hard to pin-point one or two “trouble-makers”.

We have realized that we share the same concerns and struggles from state-to-state, and that talking about it, publicly, educates the public.

Teachers have had enough. The evidence can be seen across the nation, as teachers stand up to the unrealistic demands that are being handed down to them from education policy makers and corporate reformers.

We’ve had enough of the testing, the scripted, fake curriculum, and the crowded, underfunded classrooms.

We’ve had enough of the lies—being told that our students can’t do the work, aren’t proficient, and don’t have what it takes to succeed in public schools.

We’ve had enough of the bullying—being told, over and over again, that we are “bad” teachers, and that the students are failing because we aren’t doing our jobs.

And now, it’s time for change. Because we know some things…

We know that our nation’s youth deserve the countless hours we invest, outside of our classrooms, to fight for what is theirs—a public school experience that exceeds their needs, and one that is filled with love and compassion, and is built on engaging, meaningful, and passionate instruction.

After all, we are the professionals. We are the people walking into our classrooms, day in and day out, building relationships with students, and inspiring minds to reach higher and think bigger. We are the very individuals who know exactly what our schools need so we can continue doing the work we have been called to do.

And yet, most often, teachers are not asked about the topics being debated across the nation. How is it that the very professionals who have been trained to work with a variety of learners, are never asked, “What do you think will make the greatest impact in our schools?

And now…for the truth

The truth is that our voices do matter in public education reform. We are seeing the results when we use social media to organize ourselves, begin blogging on our own websites, opt-out of the testing madness, or voice our concerns at the faculty meeting. There are numerous ways that we can continue fighting for our public schools.

I invite you to join another platform where your voice matters, big time. The Transforming Public Education Podcast is a weekly show which highlights all the wonderful things happening in public schools. It is a place where educators, parents, and students have a voice in what is working in our schools—and what isn’t. It is a show about public education which is rooted in solutions, inspiration, and above all, compassion and love.

The Transforming Public Education: Creating REAL Reform Through Compassion, Love, and Gratitude podcast was inspired by the many conversations I’ve been having with teachers, since releasing my memoir, Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher.

It was inspired by passionate educators who know that we have the knowledge and skills and passion necessary to create positive learning environments.

It is a podcast show which demonstrates that many of our public schools are working and aren’t broken at all—but also recognizes that there is always room for improvement. It is a show which highlights that educators, parents, and students already have the solutions, and we will use this platform, as yet another way, to voice our concerns, share our expertise, and band together to fight for our public schools.

 Shannon Hernandez is a college professor, former public school teacher of 15 years, education activist, and author of the book, Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher. Shannon’s podcast, Transforming Public Education is a voice for educators and a cry for student-centered education reform. Shannon blogs passionately about public education for her website and The Huffington Post.

Posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Ohio teacher visits Finland schools – and sees why they have a #1 worldwide ranking in education.  The comparisons with #17 USA are stunning.

Here’s a refreshing change of pace – an uplifting view about the state of education!  Thanks to a wonderful submission sent in by Suzanne G., a math and special education teacher from Ohio, we have the chance to visit a classroom in the country ranked at the top of worldwide education performance.  It is an engaging picture of what classrooms can be, and what they once were across the USA.

(Another outstanding teacher story follows this introduction, as part of
our BeHEARD! initiative to let YOUR classroom voice be seen nationwide.
If you did not know about BeHEARD! – please click here.)

Several respected researchers estimate educational performance by country each year.  Depending upon what survey you accept, Finland is usually seen as ranking #1 or #2 (alternating with South Korea) in terms of “cognitive skills and educational attainment.  The lowest ranking I found was #5.  Meanwhile, the USA, by these same researchers is usually #17, with #14 the highest published result.

Suzanne found a very different environment than all of us find in our classrooms.  Several things really stood out to me:

  • Small classes
  • Time for, and encouragement of, collaboration between teachers
  • Senior teachers actively helping new teachers
  • “Gym” not being forced out by test prep
  • Curriculum aimed at all ends of the spectrum – not just a forced, dumbed-down, middle road
  • Electives were equal priority with core subjects.

A few things didn’t surface in this blog, but became evident when I visited her blog and looked at the photos on her site.  There was an atmosphere of friendliness and “brightness” that really jumps out.  Classrooms seemed to be a place you would love to teach in, and would be proud of.

Enjoy a look at the classrooms we all remember from 20 years ago, before all the destructive mandates.

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(Suzanne G. is a high school math and special education teacher from Ohio.  She took a year’s sabbatical to visit other schools, and is blogging her way through the classrooms of Europe.  Please visit her blog at  sgenillier.wordpress.com to enjoy being part of the trip!)

I am currently on sabbatical observing schools in the French-speaking world, with one exception, Finland, for I was curious to discover the secret to their success. What I saw was enlightening! A philosophy of less is more when it comes to teaching.

Kids don’t start school till they are 7 years old.   Each 45 minute class is followed by a 15 minute break during which all students have to go outside no matter what the weather (I observed an IB Middle School), while teachers get a chance to collaborate in the teacher’s lounge.   I saw small classes (around 15 students), often with two or three teachers (the main teacher, a teacher who helps with special need kids and, if the main teacher is new he collaborates with a veteran teacher with whom he co-teaches three or four times a week).

I saw a curriculum that was meant for all students (not just the highly academic ones) including mandatory classes such as home-economics where students cooked and ate their own meal, workshop, during which students were building their own bike, textile where students could experiment with sewing machines, looming machines or do a knitting project.  I saw student-centered classes that looked more like study halls – with students working in collaboration while the teacher(s) walked around to help as needed.

But, I didn’t see students and teachers being overworked, over-tested, or constantly asked to do more with less means and less time to teach. I saw what “no child left behind” meant in a school system that offers choices between technical HS and main stream (the average is 50/50 in the country).

I understand that some of their success can be attributed to different social conditions and a more homogeneous population (though I saw diversity in the classrooms I observed).  But this is no by mere chance – they make sure to provide for each child so no one has to come to school hungry or worry about not being able to afford their transportation fee. No matter what the conditions are, their school system, where the well-being of the child and the teacher is a priority, makes a lot of sense and has proven successful.

If you want to read more about my experience and see a few pictures, I have kept a blog of my experience at sgenillier.wordpress.com

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The 2nd edition of the acclaimed book about today’s failed education system
 Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education –

is now available, with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine
new chapters.  Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book

“…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher”
 
that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education
 
of our children.  Please get a copy
HERE or on Amazon.

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