Friday, July 15, 2011

Union leader Admits in Email: Teachers Union "Stands Up For Adults"

One Michigan teacher has discovered that being a Michigan Education Association member is like staying at the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Andrew Buikema, a music teacher with Grant Public Schools for the past nine years, is tired of being forced to belong to a union that he says doesn’t “stand up for kids” and “always seem(s) to put adults first.” Buikema expressed his displeasure in a recent email to MEA Secretary-Treasurer Peggy McLellan.

In her response, McLellan wrote, “You’re right that MEA stands up for adults; that’s because it’s the adults who are under attack, not the kids.” McLellan goes on to argue “that MEA does stand up for our members, but it’s because our members’ working conditions are the kids’ learning conditions.”

The email exchange began when Buikema asked union leaders how to resign from the MEA. He was told by both McLellan and another MEA representative that quitting the union was only possible for religious objectors.

Why is Buikema eager to dissolve ties with the MEA? He believes the union takes a needlessly adversarial approach when asked to make concessions to help districts balance their budgets.

Specifically, Buikema believes the union should stop pressuring districts into purchasing pricey, union-owned MESSA health insurance. That would allow districts to purchase less expensive coverage, and use the savings to prevent teacher layoffs.

“The MEA could have an opportunity to make themselves look really good in the state and in all the communities if they would actually look at school finances, along with many other issues, without the blinders on,” Buikema wrote. “The label that is put on us teachers makes us look greedy, self centered and arrogant. All because of the perception that is being put out there from the MEA and local unions,” wrote Buikema. “I just want to teach without having the union label on me,” he concluded.

Buikema represents a growing number of teachers who feel disaffected by the MEA’s agenda that protects the sacred cows of seniority and MESSA at the expense of students and less-senior teachers.

But Buikema isn’t alone. Other teachers around the country are taking a similar stand. Buikema recently shared his views during an appearance on the Fox News Channel.


Public school systems cheating America's youth

Benjamin Franklin said, “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, it is forbidden because it is hurtful.”

Someone ought to hang that quote in every doorway of every school and office of the Atlanta Public Schools system.

Last week’s release by GeorgiaGov. Nathan Deal of an investigative report on widespread cheating within APS on the state’s standardized curriculum tests raises more questions than it answers.

How did a school system the size of Atlanta’s establish such pervasive unethical habits? Apparently some 178 educators, including 38 principals, are named as perpetrators of this educational fraud, and more than 80 have confessed to their roles in the scoring scam. Cheating took place in 44 of the 56 schools examined in the investigation.

If cheating by teachers, administrators and even the superintendent of schools is occurring with impunity in a major metropolitan school district, where else is it happening? Officials within APS denied for years that cheating was taking place, even as the students’ scores improved in suspiciously dramatic fashion.

Can parents trust their local school districts’ claims of improvement in educational results? APS Superintendent Beverly Hall became known as a “miracle worker” in supposedly turning around a beleaguered school district. She even became part of the “Atlanta brand.”

Business and civic leaders touted her leadership and the quality of the schools as reasons to bring commerce to the city, yet it appears she may not have actually improved the district at all. There is now little reliable data to make that claim.

Of all the public scandals of the past several years, the APS cheating fiasco is the most egregious in recent memory because it proves that corruption is now standard operating procedure in our civic institutions. Who cares if children are left holding the bag, as long as the powers-that-be get the accolades they seek.

The finger pointing in the wake of this story merely demonstrates how broken our system of public education really is. Teachers blame the reforms instituted in Atlanta several years ago that put the focus on financial incentives for performance rather than teacher tenure.

Administrators blame state and federal governments for tying funding to school performance, which in turn “forces” schools to “teach to the test.” (Proving if there’s a way to blame former President George W. Bush for anything, folks will do so.)

If Atlanta teachers had been “teaching to the test,” however, their rampant cheating would have been unnecessary.

Meanwhile, parents don’t know who to blame, but they’re not likely to hold their children accountable because, well … they hardly ever do, so why start now?

Oddly enough, there’s one party no one ever mentions, but who, in my view, is probably the root cause of the decline (and inevitable demise) of our public schools: Weather Underground founder and former University of Illinois at Chicago professor Bill Ayers.

Not just Mr. Ayers, mind you, but he and his cohort of teacher educators who, in the past 40 years, literally hijacked our nation’s schools for their own progressive purposes.

These days, rather than ensure that rising teachers are masters of their fields (Mr. Ayers has written that subject-matter mastery isn’t necessary for teaching), our schools of education train teachers to engage in “social justice” - and even to teach substantive subjects such as math and science in the context of social consciousness.

When teachers don’t view their role as imparting information, knowledge and skills, but rather as preparing students to be “agents of social change” through “critical thinking,” it’s no wonder the kids aren’t capable of passing standardized tests.

It must be said: We aren’t training our teachers to do the job we say we want done in our classrooms.

Why, then, are we surprised that they stoop to sin and avarice to achieve success in a job for which they are fundamentally unprepared in the first place?


British teachers must 'uphold British values' to work in schools

Teachers face being barred from the classroom for failing to uphold “British values” and proper discipline under rigorous new professional standards for schools. For the first time, staff are told they could be struck off for showing intolerance towards pupils with other faiths and beliefs.

Teachers in England are warned against staging lessons that undermine “fundamental” values such as the rule of law, democracy and individual liberty.

The move is designed to make it easier for heads to sack teachers who are members of the British National Party or those with extremist Islamic beliefs. It follows comments from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that membership of far-right groups was incompatible with the duty to “shape young minds”.

Under new guidelines, staff will also be told to take responsibility for promoting “good and courteous behaviour” among children in lessons and around the school.

In a further move, the standards – being introduced in 2012 – place a renewed emphasis on teachers’ subject knowledge, suggesting staff should uphold high standards of “literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English” at all times.

It represents an attempt to establish clear boundaries for staff in all state schools and weed out poor teachers failing to achieve basic skill-levels.

The slimmed-down rules focus on just eight key areas of teaching – and one section focusing on personal and professional conduct – as opposed to more than 100 separate standards introduced by Labour.

Mr Gove insisted the previous system placed a premium on “bland statements and platitudes”, covering areas such as communicating with colleagues, promoting wellbeing and establishing a safe learning environment.

The new standards will have “real teeth”, he said, adding: “They set clear expectations about the skills that every teacher in our schools should demonstrate. They will make a significant improvement to teaching by ensuring teachers can focus on the skills that matter most.”

Just 1.5 per cent of student teachers fail to satisfy the current standards during training and fewer than 20 teachers have been struck off in the last decade for incompetence.

New standards – covering just four pages – set out the key skills that each trainee must satisfy to win qualified teacher status and then remain in the classroom.

As part of the new guidelines, staff must set high expectations of pupils, demonstrate good subject knowledge, plan and teach well-structured lessons, promote good progress among pupils, adapt their teaching to children’s different needs, make good use of assessment, manage behaviour and fulfil their wider responsibilities to school life.

Under behaviour, teachers are told to establish “clear rules and routines” and promote “good and courteous” manners among pupils. The section on subject knowledge says staff must have decent standards of written English – whatever the teacher’s subject specialism.

Beyond teaching, the guidance says staff "must not undermine fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs".

It comes after a teacher and BNP member was cleared of religious intolerance last year by the General Teaching Council - the profession's regulatory body - despite using a school laptop to describe some immigrants as "filth" on a website.

The National Association of Head Teachers welcomed the document, saying the standards were “clear, concise and relevant”. But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said the rules underline “the punitive mind set this Coalition has towards teachers”. “The new standards are vague, poorly drafted, lack clarity, are open to wide interpretation, will breed confusion and uncertainty and will simply serve as a stick with which to beat teachers,” she said.


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