Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Animation Teacher Faces Termination For Refusing To Sell His Students Unnecessary Books

The standard of being a good teacher tends to be the same at most schools. It involves sharing one’s experiences and knowledge, pushing students to develop their existing talents and inspiring them to discover new ones, and preparing students to succeed in their chosen field. Animation artist Mike Tracy claims that his school, the Art Institute of California—Orange County, judges teachers by another criteria: how many e-textbooks each teacher sells to their students.

Tracy, who has taught drawing and digital painting for eleven years at AIC—Orange County, felt that his class didn’t require the textbooks he was suddenly being asked to sell and told the school that he would prefer to teach without them. Tracy’s reward for working in the best interest of his cash-strapped, loan-burdened students was a termination notice from the school.   Tracy explained the story and posted a preemptive farewell on his Facebook page:
As many of you know, I have been in a dispute with our school, the Art Institutes, for some months now, over their policy of mandatory e-textbooks in classes where their inclusion seems arbitrary, inappropriate and completely motivated by profit. In July I asked the US Department of Education, the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and WASC (our accrediting agency) to look into my concerns. Since that time, the school and its parent company EDMC have escalated the pressure on me to select a book for a class I teach that I don’t think requires one.

Today, the President of the school, Greg Marick, presented me with an ultimatum; either choose a book by Tuesday, Aug 14th or the company will terminate my employment for insubordination. My response, of course, is that I will not change my mind on this issue and that I’m determined to resist the policy however I can. I think this means that, as of this week, I will no longer be teaching at AI.

I want you, my students and colleagues to know that it has been my great honor and privilege to have worked with you over the last 11 years, and that I will miss the opportunity to work for you and with you. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher very much, but it appears as though it is now time to move on. Furthermore, you can count on me to continue the struggle that I have instigated on this issue, if only from the outside. Although it aint over till it’s over, it looks like a 99.5% deal, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the corporation, which would surprise me.

In his letter, Tracy mentions the school’s parent company EDMC—otherwise known as Education Management Corporation, a for-profit corporation that is 41 percent owned by Goldman Sachs and that operates over one hundred individual schools. The college giant gained notoriety last fall when it was sued by the United States Department of Justice and four U. S. states as part of a multi-billion dollar fraud suit. The case is still winding its way through the legal system.

The biggest losers in this story are the students at Art Institute of California—Orange County because Tracy is, by most accounts, regarded as one of the school’s finest teachers. As a show of support, his students—past and present—have launched THIS PETITION urging the school to “not force a teacher’s resignation, over unnecessary e-textbooks.” In just one day, the petition has been signed by over 500 supporters. The dozens of passionate comments in the petition portray Tracy as a solid and caring teacher, but spare few kind words for the school’s overall operation.

Tracy appears to have plenty of teaching experience at other southern California art institutions, and if he’s dismissed from the Art Institute, he’ll land on his feet at another school that will value his teaching over salesmanship skills. The bigger story though is the Art Institute of California’s alleged shakedown of its student body—if there is any truth to Tracy’s allegations, it may only be a matter of time before the school’s unethical behavior is exposed.


Credit Agency Blames Chicago Teachers Union for District Downgrade

Fitch became the second credit rating agency in as many months to downgrade Chicago Public Schools’ outlook from “stable” to “negative.”

Fitch, in its assessment, put the blame squarely on the Chicago Teachers Union.

“The Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) has filed a number of suits against the board and has voted to authorize a strike over what it considers unsatisfactory terms of a proposed new multi-year contract.

“Fitch believes continued litigation and the strike threat indicate an increase in the already high level of discord between the CTU and CPS, which will make the competing goals of managing expenses and improving educational standards difficult to achieve.”

The district’s increasingly bleak pension picture also contributed to the downgrade.

“Pension funded ratios have dropped significantly in the last several years due to a combination of lower-than-expected investment returns and payment deferrals for the CTU plan in fiscal years 2011-2013. As of June 30, 2011 the plan was 59.9% funded, or 51.4% using a 7% return rate, compared to 79.7% and 68.4%, respectively, in fiscal 2008. District non-teachers participate in even more poorly funded city of Chicago plans.”

With this disturbing yet unvarnished analysis, the moment has arrived for the board of education to get serious about completely reforming the school district. It has continued to attempt to operate in the outdated model of collective bargaining, a strategy which is obviously working to the district’s detriment.

Collective bargaining – that is, setting policy and spending in stone for several years at a time, based on unaffordable agreements with the union – is what got the school district into this financial mess. Does the board of education have the backbone to do anything about it?


British universities accused of social engineering after drawing up plans to favour pupils from poorer backgrounds

Universities have been accused of social engineering after drawing up admissions schemes that favour applicants from poorer backgrounds.  Instead of selecting students solely on merit, four institutions – Edinburgh, Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham – have devised systems which boost the grades of children from low-income homes.

In some cases, this can see a disadvantaged child with three Bs at A-level winning a place over a privately-educated child with three A*s.

Critics said the system could discriminate against middle class children whose parents have sacrificed a lot to give them a good education.

Ministers have previously urged universities to consider backgrounds – or ‘the contextual data’ – when deciding whether to offer a place, and most do this on a case-by-case basis.  But the latest plans are different – and more controversial – because they give each applicant a numerical score based partly on social background.

Freedom of Information requests reveal the points awarded by Edinburgh for going to a very low-performing school boost the score of a child with three Bs beyond that of one with three A*s from a better school.

At Leeds, the system allowed medicine applicants to be given so many points for coming from a poor area that three B grades effectively became three A*s. It was suspended earlier this year.

Bristol is implementing a points system where pupils from poor schools ‘will be given an automatic weighting to their total academic score’, while Birmingham has drawn up a similar policy but is not yet using it.

Tim Hands, headmaster of the independent Magdalen College School in Oxford, said admissions which scored contextual data could be ‘bordering on generic discrimination’.  ‘Students deserve transparency and accuracy, not hasty measures which risk appearing subservient demonstrations of political correctness.’

But Rebecca Gaukroger, head of admissions at Edinburgh, said: ‘We don’t accept that the scoring of academic grades or contextual data undermines the holistic assessment of applications.’


No comments: