Saturday, November 05, 2005


So few people are willing to stand up in front of the undisciplinable mobs in many California classrooms, that California has been willing to employ almost anyone as a teacher

"A court order Wednesday invalidated credentials held by at least 1,700 California public school teachers, adding to the rolls of teachers who don't meet the criteria for being "highly qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren marks a win for the Californians for Justice Education Fund, which sued the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing in August. The suit alleged that in creating the "individualized internship certificate" without following proper procedures, the state agency falsely inflated the qualifications of teachers with emergency credentials. The credentials allow them to teach even if they haven't completed all their training. "It's a victory because the commission has had to acknowledge that these people are not highly qualified," said John Affeldt, an attorney with Public Advocates, which represents Californians for Justice.

The court order invalidates the internship certificate and replaces it with another, allowing teachers to remain in their classrooms for a set period of time. It also calls on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to correct all published reports that count these teachers as "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind.

The landmark education law President Bush signed in 2002 requires all teachers of core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by the end of this school year. That means teachers must have a bachelor's degree, knowledge of the subject they teach and pedagogical training. Teachers with emergency credentials are not considered highly qualified.

The lawyer for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing downplayed the significance of Wednesday's ruling. Mary Armstrong said the judge simply clarified the procedure necessary to create a new type of teaching certificate. "It was really a process issue," she said.

The exact number of teachers holding the internship certificate deemed invalid remains unclear. In court documents from September, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing put the number at 3,804. On Wednesday, the agency's spokeswoman said the number has since dropped to 1,700. "It's gone down quite a bit because these people were in teacher ed programs and have moved on to full credentials," said Marilyn Errett. Locally, just 12 teachers in Sacramento County hold the individualized internship certificate, Errett said. Many of the teachers affected are in the Los Angeles area, she said.

Many states have had a tough time getting all of their teachers highly qualified. In California last year, 72 percent of classes were taught by a highly qualified teacher, said Penni Hansen, a consultant in the professional development division of the state Department of Education. The federal government last month announced some leeway for states trying to meet the law's goal of having all teachers highly qualified by June 2006. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the government will examine states' efforts toward meeting the goal and extend the deadline a year for those making good faith efforts to comply. Hansen said it was too soon to tell if Wednesday's court order could affect California's ability to get an extension from the federal government"



Another hare-brained experiment using both the teachers and the kids as guinea pigs

Imagine a classroom where the geography teacher wants to teach children the best way to drive from Melbourne to Sydney. Based on a syllabus approach to learning, where teachers have a clear, succinct and easy-to-follow description of what is to be taught, the exercise is straightforward. A syllabus would provide teachers with an outline of possible routes to Sydney, for example, via the Hume Highway or around the coast, and there would be details of what all students should learn and what constitutes a pass or a fail.

During the 1990s, Australia ditched syllabuses in favour of outcomes-based education. With OBE, the focus is no longer on what is to be taught or how teachers teach. Instead, the emphasis shifts to what students have learned by the end of the process. The ACT curriculum describes OBE as: "Curriculum documentation has until recently concentrated on subject matter and teaching methods. This emphasis has highlighted what teachers do in the learning process. The move to an outcomes approach attempts to recognise the importance of what students know and can do." Based on OBE, not only are teachers denied a syllabus detailing the best way to Sydney, but children negotiate their own way in their own time, and as long as they eventually arrive, whether via Perth or Brisbane, all are considered successful.

While much of the criticism of Australia's adoption of OBE focuses on the fact that stronger-performing education systems have a syllabus approach and that OBE has failed to raise standards, equally of concern is the detrimental impact OBE is having on classroom teachers. Given the West Australian Government's intention, beginning next year, to extend OBE upward into years 11 and 12, that state has become a battleground where teachers associated with the website www.platowa .com have mounted a sustained attack against Australia's current approach to curriculum. Indeed, such has been the hostility to OBE that a parliamentary inquiry has been established and state Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich has been forced into a series of embarrassing backdowns, including replacing the head of the Curriculum Council.

Since being established in June, PLATO has attracted some 450 members and the website's forum provides an illuminating and at times startling expose of how educational experiments such as OBE make teachers' work increasingly difficult, frustrating and onerous. One of the common complaints voiced is that by denying teachers a syllabus that outlines essential knowledge, understanding and skills related to particular year levels, teachers and individual schools are forced to spend valuable time reinventing the wheel by writing their own documents. Primary school teachers, as they have to deal with a number of subject areas, are particularly concerned about the additional workload; a workload made worse by the fact that OBE documents are full of hundreds of vague and fluffy learning statements that drown teachers in meaningless detail. One practising teacher states: "Many of us have tried very hard to change our teaching and demonstrate more and more that we were implementing the department's dictates. That it has led to a disaster, gross overwork and teachers leaving (and planning to leave - I know of five in my school alone) is hardly our fault."

As noted in the debate concerning OBE assessment and reporting, where the assumption is that all students, given enough time and resources, are capable of success and the "fail" word is banned, teachers are also concerned that there is little motivation to excel. At years 11 and 12, for example, instead of marking student work out of 100, the proposed OBE approach in Western Australia is to grade all students as being at one of eight achievement levels. The result? One teacher notes: "To my mind, fine-grained assessments serve as excellent feedback mechanisms and lead to greater competition and student motivation to achieve their best. This is what would be denied in the WA implementation of OBE."

Criticism of OBE is not restricted to Western Australia. The Tasmanian president of the Australian Education Union, Jean Walker, has been reported as saying that not all teachers are happy with the adoption of the OBE-inspired essential learnings. While Tasmanian Education Minister Paula Wriedt argues that teacher critics of essential learnings are old-fashioned and pass their use-by date, the head of the AEU suggests that teacher critics span all ages and that more would go public if teachers had not been gagged.

In NSW, the Vinson inquiry into public education, on surveying teachers, found that many opposed the current preoccupation with outcomes as teacher workloads increased, learning was reduced to what could be measured and teachers' professional judgment was belittled.

It's significant that teacher complaints against OBE are supported by teacher academics. A NSW report undertaken by Professor Ken Eltis of Sydney University concluded that current approaches to curriculum lead to an "overpressured school day" and that teachers should be freed "to enable them to find time to pursue creative and innovative approaches to teaching, assessment and reporting". After evaluating Australia's adoption of OBE, Professor Patrick Griffin of Melbourne University also concludes that OBE is flawed: "Perhaps OBE cannot be fully implemented system-wide. The changes needed are too radical and disruptive for whole systems of education to accommodate."

As important, if not somewhat ironic, is that the very education bureaucrats and curriculum designers responsible for imposing OBE on Australian classrooms have finally seen the light and admitted that teachers' misgivings are well founded. An ACT report recently acknowledged: "Teachers had struggled with the volume of content they felt they had to cover." In Western Australia, a report evaluating the impact of OBE on teachers concluded: "Many schools and teachers are experiencing significant difficulty in engaging with the requirements of an outcomes approach." Notwithstanding the millions spent developing curriculum over the past 10 years, those responsible for the Queensland curriculum also admit that teachers are correct in arguing that the excessive amount of material is "hindering in-depth learning" and there is "lack of clarity around what must be taught". Indeed, such is the degree of self-criticism that those responsible for developing curriculum in Queensland are happy to admit that past attempts have failed: "For the first time, in Queensland's P-10 years [preparatory year to year 10] there will be rigorous, comprehensive assessment against defined standards that will be comparable across schools." Finally, in Victoria, there is also a belated admission that not all is well: "It can be argued that the current ways in which many curriculum authorities have conceived the curriculum for schools have resulted in poor definitions of expected and essential learning and provides teachers with insufficient guidance about what to teach".

One might be forgiven for thinking, such are the acknowledged flaws in OBE, that those responsible would heed teachers' complaints and, as the teachers connected to PLATO argue, provide schools with clear, succinct and academically sound syllabuses. This is not the case. Such is the bizarre and unaccountable world of curriculum development that the majority of Australian states and territories are renewing their efforts to develop more extreme forms of outcomes-based education. In Tasmania, subjects such as history, mathematics and English have been replaced with vague and new-age essential learnings such as: "Thinking, communicating, personal futures, social responsibility and world futures". South Australia defines essential learnings as "futures, identity, interdependence, thinking and communication" on the basis that "these understandings, capabilities and dispositions are personal and intellectual qualities, not bodies of knowledge". As might be expected from the territory that hosts the nation's capital, the ACT, not to be outdone by Tasmania or South Australia, lists 36 essential learning achievements, ranging from the banal, "the student understands change", to the trite, "students use problem-solving skills".

As evidenced by the history of Australian education, the harsh reality is that, instead of being listened to, an increasingly frustrated and overworked teaching force is set for yet another tidal wave of jargon-ridden and time-consuming curriculum experimentation.


Non-existent standards

"A few years ago I wrote an open editorial for a local newspaper in which I informed the superintendent of my daughter's public school district that his services were no longer required. As far as my family and I were concerned, it was the day we fired the local bureaucrats and took our child out of a failing education system. I said it then and I say it now, government today is filled with politicians that think it is their job to take care of us. Either we are too lazy to care for ourselves and our children; or, we are too stupid to know what is best for our precious offspring and ourselves. No matter the reason, the majority of politicians in this country today believe in their hearts that they must save us from ourselves. Even to the point of promoting failing children so as not to ruin their self-esteem."

A few weeks after I fired the school system’s leading bureaucrat, the State justified my decision to remove my child from a forever-failing government school system. My hometown paper reported that the state’s promotion standards, which are designed to test third, fifth and eighth grade students, were largely being ignored by principals all across the state, at least at the fifth grade level. I was absolutely appalled to learn that seventy-three percent of fifth grade students (the only students tested for that year) who failed their exams were promoted anyway. In my county alone 298 students failed their tests not once, not twice, but three times and still only 53 of these unfortunate, inadequately-educated children were held back. Why are our children being robbed of a proper education?

You see, there was a “provision.” Ah yes, the all-powerful provision, better known as the exception to the rule. In this case the provision allows for principals to have the final word on who gets promoted to the next grade and who does not. Now I ask you, what the hell good is a standards test if the decision of pass and fail is left up to the principal anyway? Why even bother requiring these unfortunate children to take a test that means absolutely nothing since the final decisions rests in the hands of one individual bureaucrat?....

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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