Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Just Some Rich White Dudes Talking

Eduardo Porter's column in the New York Times today was about education and the push globally to encourage and develop a comprehensive global educational program.

There was of course a discussion on tests that the subsequent inability of many countries to pass even the most rudimentary skill set assessment. The sample question was converting one country's dollars into another, aka the "exchange rate." Okay then! Even I used a calculator. No wonder I love simple round numbers for exchange.. but again this question is out there when many of the kids will never need to do this let alone ever give a flying...

So once again I do question the test but the part where there were no Teachers that I didn't. But if we had the way of our global giants who for some reason never set foot in a public school as students or parents, are of a certain age and income that has been a family component for decades, opine on how to solve public education at home clearly brings the guff to the aw. I can't wait to see the ever present global Gates Foundation step into Nigeria to inoculate and educate the populace. Good times ahead.

The article below links to a recent convo between Gates, Buffett and the #2 at Berkshire about what defines education and what it needs. God help us. Ms. Strauss says disturbing, I think that says it. I love the odd reference to McDonald's as a place that provides education. They do? Then they should also pay more.

I sit in a classroom right now. Its lunch time, the Asian kids collect in this teacher's classroom and the food is amazing. Yesterday I was a school that has struggled for decades to make it work. They added the prestigious International Baccalaureate program to further graduation rates and it has. But in the meantime overall "test scores" the true metric of measure are low and little is really done when it comes to the average kid. I had to cancel the week long assignment as the vitriol and hate transcended the usual level I get when kids figure out that learning will still go on as planned. I did feel that the class downsized due to their classmates who were on a field trip week long overnight were angry and perhaps should have had an amended lesson that could have included a movie and other extra credit type lessons that would have made this easier for all involved as much of the schools staff was chaperoning (this due also to another school who 2 years ago did this and ended up the target of a Justice department Title IX investigation for rape) so having more is better and this school has a myriad of problems.

These are our public schools. I have subbed in endless ones where rape has been an issue, this same school two years ago also had a rape in their restroom of a special needs student. But they have long issues with gangs and other true problems that have divided the community on how to save, restore or simply close the school. I am of the latter. I think closing the school for 4 years then reopening it with a new name, a clear focus and diverse curriculum that focuses on more realistic expectations for kids whose families are struggling. Nothing wrong with voc-tech emphasis on the voc as in reality most vocational careers will need the tech. Own a car lately?

I will never go back to that school and not because of the kids but because of the lack of administrative support and the ability to simply handle what was a minor, very minor, disciplinary issue. The kids did not want to learn, from me. My style, my demeanor and the sheer inability to connect to even one kid put me at a distinct disadvantage that even I could not overcome. I am fine being called a bitch but when an administrator says we need to "investigate" why they called you that, I am out. Investigate in Seattle means days to months to year long process. It means lost wages, hiring attorneys and ending up pledging to never go to the school again. Here I will speed that up - thanks but I am out. Win-win for everyone. You learn early as a sub even when the kid has a history of problems a mile long, you are the one ultimately responsible for that failure to behave normally. It is all sad, tragic and grim. And frankly the excusing, the patronizing justification that accompanies this is a type of odd reverse racism. When you hold kids to lesser standards by excusing their poverty and their history and their family you are saying "hey we know you won't amount to anything so here is a free pass to vent your rage and anger and then we release you into society no better than when you came in."

I thought it was interesting that during the Baltimore riots when school got out they escalated and the Mayor, who is black referred to them as "thugs." I have seen many many people of color speak to students in manners that were unreal and yet if I spoke to them in the same, I would be called an elite racist who suffers from white privilege. And I actually have when I tried to teach meditation. Then a few months later the district embraced this and has included it in the daily curriculum for some schools. Our district is a hot mess of white privilege with enough faces of color to avoid any discriminatory lawsuits. I cannot comment to say if they are better or less effective at their jobs regardless of color as I have simply found few in the administrative or executive "suites" that are.

And I was lucky someone picked up my cast off and I see still more jobs from two schools where I will never return. The one is where I was called a racist (that by the way is a standard) and the other I was ridiculed and tormented by the students and again repeatedly called an Administrator who says I need to review you next time you come here I didn't like the way you talked during the movie. The one I resorted to calm them down and thought maybe we can have a "teachable" moment from this fiasco. I have heard similar stories from associates who have shared their tales about those schools. The racist one is still my favorite as two student teachers, one Indian, one Asian were so brow beaten and tormented there they hated it to the point I said - take a day off say you have a meeting. They could not believe the cruelty of the students often race bating. And at the other school another sub who also showed a movie, the students physically threw money and spit balls at her the entire time and she two was "evaluated" for causing that problem.

There are no rules when it comes to taking a gig, you have to accept it and if you cancel do so with notice, and we subs have an informal one, anything that sits on the subfinder for more than an hour is a dud. These two schools have been on close to 24 hours. The excuse will be a sub shortage but there are more than ample substitutes but many end up in long term gigs as schools did not hire someone and its cheaper to do this, other retired subs take same long term gigs until the time clock that requires only 50 days a year or a waiver must be filed to not lose pension, or many find jobs doing other jobs or they run between districts in search of a job that oddly is hard to find yet we need Teachers? Or there are those that simply wait it out and hope something better comes along at the last minute. Jobs of last resort so to speak. And many subs simply do not have the same problems and experiences as that is the reality of the job. You can be in the same school, different grade/teacher and it be an entirely diffferent experience.

I invite any of these wealthy assholes who have more money than sense to do my job with me for 30 days. To ride the buses, to walk, to car share. To get up a 5:45 am and wait for a call or check the computer. To go to schools were there are no seating charts, no actual lesson plans but obvious busy work, to do the myriad of other jobs required by the full time staff that make no sense. I subbed for a male teacher whose gig was to monitor the bathroom so they told me to stand outside it.. I stood outside in the outside in the rain. I did not need nor want any accusations that I was 'peeking' in the restroom. And yes children do falsely accuse and again investigations ensue.. your children are not perfect and the children in our district that rape and assault and rob don't lie at all. Right? I have many tales to tell about this district, the children to me are the ones who frankly are at the bottom of those tales much like they are to reformers. The adults are way more interesting.

In a wealthy suburb adjacent, to the private city enclave where Bill Gates lived, they have started teaching a social skill set curriculum called RULER. They have the money to pay for it, train teachers and implement it in grade schools. Got love it of course it is Ivy League and the cost applicable no doubt. I laughed as another hot mess of a middle school here has it on the walls and I doubt anyone was officially trained but by that point it is too late and you see it all over that school. It like many are two schools in one - the advanced and privileged and the poor and largely of color. And it used to be called self management and restraint. Also delayed gratification and well behaving well in public settings. This used to be somehthing you learned at home and through other interactions in the public settings, such as church, community groups, public places as restaurants and libraries. Today it is a mine field when encountering the public and that is a part of the problem as we have no standard and any standard is seen as "white" and "privleged" so lets just have nothing.

Funding of schools are contentious. We have the McCleary ruling, there are many states that across the country are ordered by their own Supreme Courts to properly fund education. So we have the sudden charter movement that actually de-funds it further. But don't tell the rich that they are sure that they are the panacea to save our kids.. and by our they mean poor. Their own children rarely are engaged in the curriculum and testing stand offs that define public education today.

Show me a fucked up kid, I will show the fucked up adult they are around. Its a big tree and the apples don't fall far. And the more you spray on a tree the more toxic the tree.

What are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet talking about?The Washington Post
Valerie Strauss
May 8 2015

Here’s one depressing conversation.

Three of the most successful men in the history of men — Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger — were on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this week to talk about public education. (The link is above)

Why does it matter what they say about public education? Gates in recent years has had an outsized role in public education policy as the world’s largest philanthropist, having put billions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation into controversial and questionable school reform efforts. He funded the development of the Common Core State Standards and has poured millions of dollars into efforts to promote them across the country. Buffett has given billions of dollars from his fortune to the Gates foundation.

So what exactly did they say, and why is it so depressing?

Here’s what Gates said in part:

“One piece of good news is that the charter schools are doing a very good job of educating kids in the inner city where typically the dropout rates are very very high and very few kids go to college. The good charters have overcome that, so by using long school days, a long school year, a different way of working with the teachers, amazing results have taken place. … We haven’t moved the needle for most students. Charters are only a few percent, so we have to spread those best practices in order to get real change….

“It’s not easy [ to change the public education system]. School boards have a lot of power, so they have to be convinced. Unions have a lot of power…. We need more pilot programs, more dialogue to get all the entities — government, school boards, unions — moving towards more intensive educational process..

“Of all the foundation areas we work in, I’d say this has proven to be the most difficult… There are some entrenched practices. It’s a very big system. Its over $600 billion a year being spent and it’s a system very resistance to change. The best results have come in cities where the mayor is in charge of school systems. So you have one executive and the school board isn’t as powerful. So New York city made real progress. In Chicago, they are making real progress. But those area really the only cities where the mayor has a strong role.”

Good schools of any kind have had success in helping students achieve — not just good charters. Gates seems to be perpetuating the myth that only charter schools have had success in cities. Charters didn’t pioneer the use of long school days, or a longer school year. Meanwhile, his reference to “amazing results” suggests stories about charter “miracle” schools that have been debunked over and over. As for mayoral control, it is hardly a panacea. New York and Chicago are not the “only cities where the mayor has [had] a strong role.” Former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who won total control over the school system and hired Michelle Rhee to run it in 2007, would probably take issue would that, as would other mayors who had control of their systems (Seattle, Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc).

As for “real progress” in Chicago and New York City under mayoral control, it’s hard to understand what he is talking about. Perhaps Gates doesn’t know that when Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City and hired Joel Klein as chancellor, the improvements that Bloomberg/Klein touted were illusory; the achievement gap was not narrowed and standardized test score improvements that the two men touted for years were found to be inflated.

In the CNBC conversation, Buffett complained that public schools would be better if the “wealthy in many many cities” had not “opted out” of the system and sent their own kids to private schools. He recalled how his own father had served the “thankless” job of being a member of a local school board, and he said that city schools would improve if the rich cared more about them.

“We are spending the money. It isn’t like there is any lack of resources going into it…. If the only choice available were public schools, we’d have better public schools, but the wealthy in many many cities have opted out of the public schools system. They might vote for the bond issues out of conscience, and some of them may engage philanthropically, but with their own kids they send them to private schools, and by having this division essentially between the rich and poor…. In the end the people who don’t have their kids in public schools and know their kids are not going to go to public schools or their grandkids… .. are not going to have the intensity of interest across the board.”
We do spend a mountain of money on public education, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lack of resources in many districts and schools. Just ask teachers, many of whom spend hundreds of dollars from their own wallets for basic school supplies. Philadelphia public schools are operating under a budget that has no money for things like copy paper. The federal government spends billions a year on “Title 1″ money that goes to schools with high percentages of students from low-income families because these schools have far less to spend than wealthy schools, but it doesn’t make up the gap in part because local school funding is largely based on property taxes.

Yes, there is a split between the wealthy and the poor when it comes to public schools, but it’s not only because the wealthy send their kids to private schools. His comments also suggest that city schools have two groups — the wealthy and the poor — when in fact there are plenty of middle-class families who send their kids to public schools in cities.

And then there were comments from Munger, in which he says that McDonald’s, the fast-food chain, does a fantastic job of educating “troubled” young people to be “good citizens” — even better than charter schools do (a statement at which Gates sort of nods his head and smiles).

“It’s fun by the elite academic types in America to say McDonald’s is the wrong kind of food and its the wrong kind of this, and the jobs don’t pay very much and so forth. I have quite a very different view. I think McDonald’s is one of the most successful educational institutions in the United States. They take people and give them a first job which enables them to get a second job. They do a very, very good job of educating troubled young people to be good citizens. And they are probably more successful than charter schools. So I am a big fan of McDonald’s.”
At this point Buffett seems to support the analysis of McDonald’s as a great educational institution, saying that he stops by a particular McDonald’s restaurant for breakfast on many mornings and he has gotten to know some of the workers. He noted that they “have to be there at a certain time, they have to learn how to count money, price items, and they have to learn how to smile at people.” Maybe he doesn’t know that not all cash registers tell the employee exactly how much money to return to the customer, and that not everyone who works in McDonald’s actually smiles at customers.

Munger, who donates to higher education, then makes it a point to say that he doesn’t spend his time trying to improve troubled K-12 schools because he “tires easily” and he isn’t “any good at constant failure.” He adds: “You have to be a saint or a Gates to do that.”

I suppose you could also be someone who simply cares about the future of public education, the most important civic institution in the United States, such as the millions of parents, teachers and others who work to make public schools better.

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