My Yearly, Obligatory Daylight Saving Post

Tonight you must not forget to set your clock ahead 1 hour for Daylight Savings Time!!

Blame this guy:
Benjamin Franklin
Update: Oops, forgot this:

California Commission On Teacher Credentialing Lawyer Blows The California Education Whistle!

Kathleen Carroll, an attorney and fired whistleblower at the California Commission On Teacher Credentials attended the March 5, 2012 rally for public education at the State Capitol and talks about the organized destruction of public education in California and who is responsible for this crisis. Included in her comments is the role of Apple and other online education companies who are draining funds from public schools. She also calls for the investigation and prosecution of illegal actions by lobbyists funded by the Gates Foundation and Broad Foundation who are illegally voting on public money to private schools in which they have an economic interest. She questions why California Attorney General Kamala Harris has refused to investigate and also whey Governor Jerry Brown is continuing to allow criminal activity at the Commission On Teacher Credentials. The California Commission On Teacher Credentials is under the direct authority of Governor Brown and his office.


Thursday Cartoon Fun: Rape Me With A Dildo? Edition

TFT Welcomes Gideon Stein


We Must Not Cave To The Onslaught

What a dilemma we find ourselves in. If it weren't for our love of kids, the other side would have won by now. We are adrift in a sea of professional educators who have spent the past 40 years being the frog in the boiled frog experiment. We find ourselves having survived thousands of fly-by-night Mcfix-its to the point that the majority of our fellow educators have spent the past two years numbed by Pavlovian conditioning and sit passively by watching the current siege as yet another passing fad. We are worn down, we are unsure, we are taken in front of the board of inquiry to face the kangaroo court of judgement. We see our comrades falling like flies under the scrutiny crafted of lies and political expediencies.

My fellow teachers, I feel your pain. Two years go I too was under the lights and flogged in the arena of degradation and humiliation. We are facing a form of mental water-boarding in the hopes we crack under the strain and cave to our human instincts to take flight under duress.

Today we find ourselves at a crossroads. We see the armor of our foes begin to strain under the scrutiny of truth. Simultaneously, we find ourselves mentally and physically exhausted from our courageous and prolonged fight. As we enter into the days ahead we must not waiver from our commitments. But we also must remember that in order to do our best for others, we must first put on our own oxygen mask before helping others to put on theirs. But we must not cave to the onslaught. We are educators, damn it! Our lives have meaning as we work every day to give meaning to the lives of others. Our indignation is righteous, warranted and just! Our anger is born from the injustice and inhumane indifference by which the reformers toss the hearts and minds of children aside like so much rubbish accumulated and in the path of their chase for control of education.

This is indeed the lost generation. We see it grow more and more so year after year. This is why we get up every day! This is why we stand from the rooftops hollering for others to hear! This is why we take quiet solitude, give time to the quiet, and humbly reaffirm that our calling is so much more than any test, or any policy, or any soul lost to the venom of propaganda. And we open our door in the morning, peer into the eyes of the future and start another day of making a difference.


Ed Reform – Reducing Teaching to Sophie’s Choice

This will be a difficult blog for many to read. For some, the overarching subject matter will raise powerful emotions of anger and rage. For others the realization of being intensely manipulated and forced to compromise morals and integrity will also raise powerful emotions of anger and rage. My intention is to expose parallels between two cultures. My intention is to make you think. One event is monumentally abhorrent, intensely immoral, and a crime against humanity of such a magnitude, there are no words to describe it. The other event pales in comparison. So before I go any further, I offer my sincere and humble apologies to anyone who may be offended or may think I am over stepping my bounds, or making inappropriate comparisons.

In World War II, Germany’s Nazi regime owed much of its power and domination to a reign of abject and merciless terror. It was accepted policy to enter into a defeated town or village, round up the entire population to witness a wholesale slaughter of town leaders and “undesirables.” This was done to set the tone and show the survivors the consequences for defying the Reich. The Nazi's understood this: When you can strike terror into the hearts of many, you can get them to do most anything you want.

The remarkable American film, Sophie’s Choice, illustrated some of the heartless and cold blooded terrorist techniques the Nazi’s used to crush the will of people. In the movie, Sophie (Meryl Streep) reveals to her lover the tragic episode of the choice between her children in Auschwitz. Upon arrival, Sophie was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose Jan (Adrian Kaltika), her son, to be sent to the children's camp, and her daughter, Eva (Jennifer Lawn), to be sent to her death in Crematorium Two. This is an unbelievably heartbreaking decision of such a magnitude there are no words to describe it. This is a decision no human being should ever have to face and one that rattles our sensibilities to their very core. This episode reaffirms how the Nazi's understood that when you can strike terror into the hearts of many, you can get them to do most anything you want.

Here is where this conversation will likely get tough and upset many.

The realities of today’s education landscape include excessive testing, NCLB, RttT, public humiliation, VAM rankings, no LIFO, and no tenure. The consequences associated with going against these realities invoke increasing degrees of censure including Federal punishments ranging from schools, districts, and entire states being labeled as failures, school closures, and now public humiliation.

Combined, all of these sanctions and punishments strike terror into the hearts of teachers. Teacher's are scrambling to find ways to not be noticed. We are desperate to both do the right thing by our students AND survive the gauntlet laid down by the Federal Department of Education and its Status Quo reform policies of NCLB, RttT, public humiliation, VAM rankings, no LIFO, and no tenure.

Teacher all across the nation lament the pressure to raise sore, the pressure to forego teaching for test prep, the damage they see year after year as kids are pushed through the assembly line of the classroom experiences. Today's school experience has been institutionally demoted to not much more than a test data mill.

In private, teachers wish to rise up and fight the oppressive regime that imposes such harsh sanctions for failing or being otherwise undesirable to the Status Quo. In private, teachers wish they had options.

Then they remember what happened to the Teachers in Wisconsin, or they consider the 50% impact student test scores have on teachers in states like Florida that has already been conquered and dominated by the reformers. And quickly, teachers retreat hoping to remain under the radar of sanctions. Quickly the thoughts turn to ways to keep their VAM scores up to avoid the public tarring and feathering experienced by Pascale Mauclair after the New York Post declared her “The city’s worst teacher” based on wonky VAM scores. The Federal government has, in essence, championed a system and dynamic that facilitates rounding up undesirables, parading them into the town square and then make a public example out of them.

So here is the modern teacher’s “Sophie’s Choice.” When it comes down to a choice between providing a home for our own kids and keeping food on our own tables by dancing at the end of the reform puppeteers stings, caving to the pressure of foregoing teaching for test prep, and push kids through the test data mill assembly line regardless of real learning, most will choose the dance and sacrifice their students to the requirements of the regime.

In reality, neither the security of career and home nor the well being of the students should be on the sacrificial block. But when the choice given to teachers is between placating the test mill regime and sacrificing kids' learning, or teach the way it is meant to be and excite the hearts and minds of kids at the risk of kids' scores dropping and probable sanctions and/or dismissal, education places teachers squarely in the immoral position of making a modern parallel to Sophie’s Choice.

Education Reform - or "The Kudzu That Is Eating Congress"

Kudzu, noun: a plant with a weak stem that derives support from climbing over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them by heavy shading.

Two years ago StudentsFirst didn't exist. I chose to start my conversation with that event because, in my mind, it is the watershed moment that marks the roll out of the newest phase in a long running plan for the hostile corporate takeover and privatization of public schools. In those two short years, the framers of the "reform movement," like the kudzu infestations, have accomplished much.

For example, reformers have effectively enraged the public sensibilities to the point of a near riot about the need for reform. In the process reformers have shaded and blocked out the voice of opposition from most all venues of public forum. Reformers have been most effective in vilifying their imaginary but enormously huge fantasy cabal of "bad teachers" as being the sole cause for every problem in education (really?). And no sooner did the reformers have their mob chanting "Bad Teachers, Bad Teachers" loud enough and were satisfied that phase one of the takeover was complete (teachers were now accepted in the court of public opinion as being "the problem,") it was time to begin phase two.

In phase two, the "reformers" were quick at the ready to offer their best (and only) solution. Their argument went something like this: "To insure every precious, innocent, defenseless child in America won't be 'left behind,' to wallow under the horrific and daemonic influence of the huge cabal of "bad teachers," we need the power to combat their overseer evil unions and remove the accounting practice of 'Last In - First Out' (LIFO) and, while we are at it, let's also eliminate teachers protections from arbitrary or capricious dismissal by eliminating the due process protections afforded by tenure (really?).

Naturally, a lot of folks looked at these proposals and thought they were a little bit wonky. How would removing LIFO and tenure help any child read better or understand mathematics more proficiently? From the reform camp, the counter to that question was this; “in removing all the legally negotiated and mutually accepted protections of LIFO and tenure, we can fire as much as the bottom 15% of teachers we want to every year and replace them with "great" teachers.” Oh, I see it now (kind of…).

OK. But how do we know who are good teachers and who are bad teachers? Always at the ready, reformers were quick to point out that “because the high stakes standardized test scores measure student learning, the high stakes standardized test scores must also measure teacher effectiveness.” “But,” folks countered, “research repeatedly demonstrates how high stakes standardized test scores vary wildly, are fraught with statistical anomalies and are widely understood to be unreliable metrics of teacher effectiveness.” "OK," said the reformers, "then we will look at individual student growth over time to discern teacher effectiveness." And so was born the reformers’ reliance on the model known as Value Added Measures, or VAM.

It must be pointed out at this point that the algorithm for VAM was developed by a geneticist to predict the percent outcome of a desired trait based on the influence of multiple factors such as environment or genetics. In other words, to reformers, learning is like the desired trait; kind of like plant height, and kids are like Soy Beans.

Hence, the crusade was on. Reformers trumpeted the value of VAM as being sound and, as many proclaimed, “Better than nothing” and the idea was soon attached to the reformers agenda as a rock-solid tool of wisdom. But, it must be said that nobody, especially politicians who LOVE VAM, can explain any of the factors that make up the equation or what it measures. Try it yourself by looking at the equation found in Michael Winerp's article in the New York Times. Personally I wonder which factor accounts for the influence of the ever growing student’s free will point decision of “I don’t give a rat’s ass about you or your flippin’ test.” I personally didn’t see any compensation for that in the equation.

But today’s modern reform movement is proving itself not to be about understanding what works and what doesn't work when educating kids. Modern education reform is not about looking at and championing all the influences that merge to create a successful learning experience for every child in every classroom every day. Modern education reform is about propagating an agenda whose end result is to grow over and dominate the educational landscape; to create an environment shaded from light and creativity where every teacher is at risk of being fired from every school every day; to become the dominant authority thereby choking out the very fertile and positive effective domain needed by teachers to imagine the best and create a safe and encouraging crucible so needed by kids to discover the very real joy of learning. Modern education reform is about legislating this agenda into law.

Don't believe me? Take a moment to follow the link and look at the latest piece of Federal Legislation to emerge from our Washington politicians. Read the following synopsis of the bill very carefully to see how much of the reformers agenda is reflected in the proposed legislation:

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