Wednesday, January 26, 2005

No Child Left Behind: Again

One of the reasons I began posting my thoughts on education and my experiences in the inner-city classroom was to give the general public the chance to read a first-hand account of what we deal with as teachers in large urban districts.

I've mentioned before the reactions I've received from strangers when I am introduced as a high school teacher in the city of Cleveland. They run the gamut from "You are surely a saint", to "You've gotta be bad-ass" to "You must be nuts"
And to each of these I respond "Yes...kinda", and "Absolutely", and "So I've been told".

There are other comments too.
Teachers usually won't hear these until there is a snow-day, a levy on the ballot, or a teacher's strike. They usually come from the portion of the adult population who have not set foot in a public school in many, many years. If ever.
These folks will dare not disparage us individually, it is much easier to discuss the larger group... "Those lazy, greedy, teacher's unions".

Today I received a comment from a reader who was responding to my post concerning the "No Child Left Behind" legislation. (Link to post here for entire comment)

I think teacher need to get into the real world with their contracts. NO ONE in the private sector has fully funded health care. NO ONE in the private sector gets the multiple other benefits teachers get in the way of time off, pension plans, job security, as well as admiration from their students as well as parents. When is the last time a child (other than their own) admired a computer programmer or a chef ..etc..

NCLB is not the end all, be all for saving the schools. It is a great start though. I think we need to expect more from our inner city schools and hopefully they will respond. If not, they need to be totally reorganized. There is an old saying in sports, you can't fire all the players; so you get rid of the coach

Oh boy. This is precisely the misinformation that I've wanted to address here in this weblog.

The first blaring comment that caught my pop-eyed attention was the reference to fully funded healthcare.
Wait-a-minute..let me look at my last paystub.
Hmmm...Healthcare deductions...$387.75.
So I gave my friend, a nurse in private practice, a quick call.
"Healthcare benefits?" I ask.
Her response, "Fully funded."

As for time off:

How many other professions require continuous coursework in graduate school and the attainment of at least a Masters degree in order to maintain employment?
When does this happen? When the kids aren't in school.

As for job security:

Has anybody talked to the 1,400 Cleveland teachers who were laid-off this year?
Enough said.

As for admiration:

Those of us in teaching must learn to take the sour as well as the sweet.
Granted, Some of us earn the respect of our students, and may even develop close relationships with our kids and their families. I am blessed nearly every day with at least one student who will call out, "Love you Ms Matt!"
Yet, on that very same day I, or any of my colleagues, will also hear, "Bitch" or "Go f_ck yourself" or "I don't have to listen to you a__hole!". These are phrases so common they no longer shock. They are a part of our job.
Another part of our job is dealing with disgruntled parents. They are far more vocal than the appreciative ones. There are very few teachers in an urban district who have not had this conversation with a parent on the phone:
"Listen, I am sick and tired of you goddamn teachers always calling me up. I can't do anything else with that f-ckin' kid. When he's in school he's your problem."

Finally, addressing the sports analogy being applied to education:

Why would one apply a practice that doesn't work in sports (Remember, Cleveland fired Bill Belichik? Where is he today? Where are the Browns?) to educating inner-city children?

As NCLB demands accountability from public schools, the ultimate solution that NCLB offers when a school fails to acheive the mandated goals is to turn the school into a tax-funded charter or tax/voucher funded private for-profit school with NO mandated public accountability. For-profit schools, as private businesses, may keep their records closed to the public.

Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but it looks to me like the fox is guarding the hen-house.


tadvent said...

I too appreciate a good discussion. I must confess that I don't know the particulars about the Cleveland Public Schools Teacher's contracts. If I was way off base with your's I appalogize. In my suburban district teachers get full benefits, have an excellent starting pay and have not had a layoff. Every School they work in is better than most of the buildings I took classes in at College.

Yet, our district continues to put up levy's and our core test scores are not at a level a lot of people think they should be at for the money spent.

I mis-spoke when I said NO ONE gets fully paid medical, but the vast majority on non-union labor, don't. Because of the Nursing shortage, I'm not suprized your friend has it. My Wife is a Nurse Clinician at the Cleveland Clinic and we now have to pay for benefits.

Regarding Layoffs, again I must revert back to the private sector that the majority of people work in. Thousands of Clevelanders have been laid off from their private sector jobs since 9/11. So forgive me for not feeling sorry that 1400 teachers got laid off from an under-achieving organization such as CPS. Hopefully Ms. Bennett didn't use the word my boss used when I got laid off from a highly profitable organization. I was "Rightsized".

As for tax dollars going to places that don't have to disclose where the money is going, I don't really care. If they are getting the results and the enviornment is safe and clean for the children. If another organization can do it better, safer, cleaner and in a more efficient manner. God Bless Them.

I also believe that people who Homeschool should not have to pay any school tax.

Thanks for listening to my points. I don't envy your job, but I do respect it. All things in business/education must evolve. I think NCLB is a great way to make the next steps for our childrens futures.

marybeth said...

What a big difference exists between suburban and urban schools; the haves and the have nots.
The differences are the result, not so much of local mismanagement of funds, as much as the manner in which schools are funded.
There can never be equity in educational opportunities in the state of Ohio as long as the current method of funding by levy continues. Although the supreme court declaired school funding in Ohio unconstitutional several years ago, no alternate funding methods have been suggested, as of yet.

One of the problems I see with NCLB has to do directly with this issue. NCLB is federal legislation, yet each state funds schools differently, and Ohio has the most screwed up system of all.
NCLB is a hastily written one-size-fits-all solution to a complex issue. Instead of assuring equitable education for all children, kids in the large urban districts in this state are getting shafted. I will try to find a few web sites that might help you see the issues from this perspective if you would be interested.

Finally as to eliminating the school tax obligation from those who home school, please keep this in mind. Childless people pay school taxes. People whose children attend private schools pay school taxes. We all pay school taxes because public schools are an investment in everyones future. Unless we have an educated workforce, the entire economy of our regoin and our nation goes down the toilet. Look at what is happening to the economy of NE Ohio. When the heart of a region is ignored and left to die, the rest of the region suffers as well. Greater Cleveland needs to wake up and deal with the problems of the entire region if we want to insure a better future for the next generation. There are 73,000 of that next generation sitting in the classrooms of the Cleveland City schools right now. Where will they work?


John Ettorre said...

This is just brilliant, enlightening stuff. Your blog gives me the best possible window into what teaching in an urban school is really like. If Hollywood had any brains, they'd simply turn your life into a movie.
But thank god for teachers like you. They keep civilization going, and give me reason to hope for the best despite all the problems and challenges. Keep fighting and touching those kids....

marybeth said...

Thanks John. I'm flattered.
I don't know if anyone has any idea how much I appreciate these comments from readers.
Agree, disagree,add your story. You make me think about things in new ways. Feedback inspires me, and I am grateful.


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