Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Big education reforms are possible

On April 4th, after months of hard work, FreedomWorks activists celebrated as the Louisiana State Senate finally passed HB976 and HB974, two bills that mark a historic overhaul of the state’s education system.

The HB976 legislation creates a market-based school choice system, creating vouchers for children to escape failing schools and allowing an easier pathway to creation of charter schools with a “parent trigger” program.  The HB974 legislation completely overhauls the teacher tenure system in Louisiana, rewarding only effective educators and provides financial incentives for those performing above expectation.  HB974 also eliminates “automatic” teacher tenure for new teachers entering the school service.    

These reforms eliminate two untouchable sacred cows of union power—voucher control and tenure. 

What the victory in Louisiana shows is that real education reform is supported by an overwhelming number of people who are no longer willing to accept the status quo.  Louisiana has set historic precedent this week, demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to get complete overhaul of a system, something deemed impossible up until now. 

School choice advocates have been advancing small reforms incrementally over time, taking small bites at the apple, rather than one big chunk.  With the passage of HB974 and HB976 and the likely passage of the four other pieces of proposed legislation, Governor Jindal has made history doing what many considered impossible.

Looking ahead to other states and other school choice battles, reform advocates should be inspired to reach for larger, more aggressive reforms. Once considered unbeatable, education union bosses are slowly being broken down.  Each time a new school choice bill becomes law, the union’s stranglehold on the system is loosed just a little.  Other governors should take notice, especially those with bills being fought by legislators who are lost in the fog of special interests. 

Governors like Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.   These governors sit idly by as their legislators work on reform bills. In South Carolina, HB4894 recently passed the House for the first time in the state’s history, and a long fight is expected in the Senate.

Reflecting on the victory in Louisiana, these two governors should follow Governor Jindal’s display of committed leadership and be bold.  Governors: Push your legislators to act, do not allow failure.  If you fail to lead, your constituents will take notice and replace you with someone else who will.

As for us, we must not rest on this one victory. We must continue pushing forward, keeping the momentum from Louisiana and building off of it. There are many lessons to be learned from our grassroots efforts this time around, what worked, what didn’t. This movement is spreading, and cannot be stopped.  The match has been struck, the spark is now a fire, and it’s us who must not let it go out…


Pupils are recruited to spy on us during our lessons and schools are being 'run like totalitarian regimes', say British teachers

"Teachers  must not be assessed" is the holy gospel of teachers everywhere

Pupils are being ‘actively recruited’ by schools to spy on their teachers in the classroom, a union has warned.  They are being used as ‘management tools’ to carry out covert – and even open – surveillance of members of staff, it was claimed.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, condemned the practice as a ‘form of abuse’ of children.  She told the union’s annual conference in Birmingham on Saturday that ‘debilitating’ monitoring ‘erodes teachers’ self-esteem and gnaws away at their professional confidence’.

She said: ‘Children and teachers are diminished and abused by the use of pupils as management tools to carry out surveillance on their teachers.

‘Schools are being run like totalitarian regimes where children are being actively recruited to spy and report on adults.’

Afterwards, Mrs Keates said she had been horrified to discover that secondary schools in some areas have been taking pupils out of lessons to put them through a form of ‘formalised Ofsted training’.

Pupils are trained in the methods used by real inspectors to assess whether teachers are good at their job. Ofsted is not involved in the practice, which has also been adopted by some academy chains.

The NASUWT union said that heads now have ‘breathtaking autonomy’ and are undermining teachers by forcing them to mark work on school premises until as late as 7pm.

General secretary Chris Keates said: ‘Roman Emperors were more accountable than head teachers in our schools.’

Mrs Keates revealed that some pupils are given forms to rate teachers as part of Student Voice – a movement which involves giving pupils a greater say in the running of their schools.  These forms tell students to list the ‘strengths’ of members of staff.

Other schools use questionnaires, which ask pupils to consider whether they are ‘treated fairly and equally’ by teachers.  They can tick boxes including ‘always’, ‘usually’, ‘occasionally’, ‘never’ and ‘not sure’ and complete ‘one star and a wish’.  This involves awarding a teacher ‘one star for something they are doing well’ and ‘one wish for something you would like them to do even better’.

Mrs Keates added: ‘We’ve had practices ranging from children sitting at the back of classrooms, watching teachers with check lists, to unacceptable covert practices where children have been identified before a lesson starts by management.

‘They’ve been given a form to fill in, with no consultation with the teacher at all that the practice is going on, and in fact it’s only being discovered when the teacher asks the child why they’re not concentrating on the work in hand.’


'Make them pay': Pupils who make false claims against their teachers should be dealt with by police, says British union

Pupils who make malicious allegations against teachers should face criminal charges, a union said today.  The NASUWT said false claims remain 'an enduring problem', blighting the lives and careers of accused teachers, and called for urgent action to make sure that those responsible face punishment.

The union published figures showing that 103 of its members faced criminal allegations last year.

Of these, only four resulted in court action, 39 cases are yet to be concluded and the rest (60 in total) were not taken forward.

NASUWT, or the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, passed a resolution at its annual conference in Birmingham which said it believes 'the most effective way to protect teachers from malicious allegations is to make such an allegation a criminal offence'.  It called on the union's executive to 'take action to bring about the necessary legislative change'.

Phil Dunn, a physics teacher from Walsall, told delegates: 'Malicious allegations eat away at the very fabric of our professional standards.  'The NASUWT has successfully highlighted the blight on the accused teachers' lives and their families, with often lengthy suspensions. Many teachers are simply unwilling to return to teaching following such allegations.

'Strong clear legislation would make the consequences of such allegations plain and clear to pupils and families.  'I will not defend any teacher who has betrayed the basic tenets of our profession. Child protection remains one of the basic foundations of our profession.  'But, colleagues, malicious allegations threaten to undermine that very basis.'

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: 'These figures demonstrate that the issue of false, malicious and unsubstantiated allegations against teachers continues to be an enduring problem.

'Teachers' fear of having allegations made against them is very real, yet four out of five did not feel that current protections for teachers are adequate.

'The coalition Government has made bold promises of handing power back to teachers, but the new powers to search and restrain pupils, which teachers did not want, will leave them even more vulnerable to allegations and litigation.

'The fear of having an allegation made against them is compounded by the fact that, even if they are exonerated, their career will be permanently blighted by the fact that the allegation will remain on record.  'Urgent action is needed to bring in statutory provisions to cover the recording and reporting of allegations on a teacher's file.'

According to research commissioned by the Department for Education, nearly half of allegations made against teachers are malicious, unsubstantiated or unfounded.

The survey, which examined the number and nature of allegations of abuse referred to 116 English councils between April 1 2009 and March 31 2010 found that of 12,086 allegations referred, 2,827 (23%) were against school teachers while a further 1,709 allegations of abuse were made against non-teaching staff in schools.

A DfE spokesman said: 'Schools should have absolutely no tolerance of malicious allegations against teachers. We've made crystal clear that heads can suspend or expel pupils who make false claims - and should report them to the police if they believe a criminal offence has been committed.

'All investigations must be quick and thorough, with unfounded allegations stripped out of individual teachers' personnel records.

'We've legislated so teachers have a legal right to anonymity before they are charged with an offence, to prevent their names being dragged through the mud.'


No comments: