Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hearing Teacher Voices? NOT!

At the Manhattan Institute luncheon for Diane Ravitch last week, I was raising my hand (in vain) as policy wonks and others were called on. It took Diane's intervention - let Norm Scott, a real teacher, ask a question - to for me to get the floor. I said I know how to fix so-called failing schools. Start with a drastic reduction of class size. You would have thought I dropped a stink bomb on the joint. Diane's antagonist, Rick Hesse, practically dripping venom, went off on how class size reduction has been proven not to work (a lie), studies this, studies that, blah, blah, blah. Almost the entire audience kept nodding in approval, while throwing darts at me. Leonie Haimson was in the audience but this was not a forum where she could get up and tear Hesse's head off with real facts.

The funny thing was that Hesse had previously talked about the 3 and a half million teachers in this country and how to reach them with good technology and lesson plans and more blah, blah, blah. I was tempted to call out, "Why don't you ask these millions of teacher what they think about class size? Then you wouldn't need no phony stinkin' research." But the dessert was pretty good and I wanted to be asked back.

Not so with my buddy and GEM colleague Antoine Bogard, a chapter leader in Harlem, who got up as they tried to end the meeting and insisted on asking a question. "I have the most important question," Antoine said. "Why are the voices of teachers, the MOST important voice, never heard?" Diane offered to take on that one. "They don't want to hear union voices," she said, a response I was very unhappy with and one of the major flaws in her book. Union voices were at the table for NCLB (Sandra Feldman and Randi Weingarten) and that is not what Antoine was asking. Union leaders are not the same as classroom teacher voices. In fact, quite different.

Many of us were not fooled about NCLB and its predecessors as Diane was. If instead of selling NCLB to their members and worse, keeping them in the dark as Sandy and Randi did, they had led a charge against it, we might not be in the position today. But Diane let's them off the hook.

There were two other teachers I knew at the MI Luncheon. Both are 20 plus year ATRs and we chatted as lot. What wonderful people and teachers (I am keeping them anonymous for obvious reasons.) These are the voices that should be heard but are not. By the ed deformers and by our union.

When teachers go to MI luncheons and identify themselves as a "real" teacher who is not a union hack, they are treated as a pet. Wow! Someone who actually spend 30 years teaching in the inner city. What an oddity to show up here!

When I checked out one of my fave bloggers, It's Not All Flowers and Sausages, I was pleased to see this relatively young teacher, the type of teacher the ed deform crowd holds up as the savior of the system, raise this same issue. Here are a few excerpts. Note how she trashes national standards, one of Diane Ravitch's pets.

I saw the following question, "Are educators' opinions factored into reforms?" and my immediate thought was, "NO. Duh." I know, my knee jerk reaction is to utter words of brilliance. It's a gift.

You see, I was reading this piece in EdWeek about how much or how little the opinions of real teachers factor into decisions made by policy makers. The article begins by saying that " no other time in the history of American education has there been more publicly available information about what teachers think about their profession, their students and the conditions under which they work."

Really? I mean, yeah, I guess we have blogs, and books (buy mine!), and surveys and things, but really? Who is looking at those? Other teachers? And who is listening? Because while I heart my readers, don't you feel like sometimes we're all just talking to a wall???? Just because we're saying it doesn't mean that the Powers That Be are listening, taking us seriously or think that we have anything intelligent to offer. I've worked at educational research organizations and more often than not, the concerns of Real Teachers are met by eye rolling. EYE ROLLING! By people who claim to care about education...

Later in the article, a few recently compiled teacher surveys are referenced. You know, like the one done by the Gates Foundation? But everyone who has a brain knows that you need to consider the source when reading reports of that nature..Can we just hear and listen to the voices of teachers? No surveys, no filtering, no compiling, no bubble sheets...just real, honest voices of the people doing the work that EVERYONE ELSE seems to have so many opinions about.

I mean, do we really even need to debrief on this whole situation where teachers get to weigh in and comment on the proposed National Standards? Does anyone else think that this feels a bit like flushing a twenty down the toilet? Like the proverbial tree in the forest? If a teacher posts a well thought out response to the National Standards but nobody listens, did she even make a noise?

How about we say enough with the surveys? How about we actually invite a REAL TEACHER (or better yet a WHOLE BUNCH OF TEACHERS) to the table when these policies and decisions are actually being made?!?!?

(insert jaw dropping on the part of policy makers everywhere)

(Close your mouths boys, you'll let all the flies in.)

I know that the article states that it is difficult to get teachers to donate their time to take a survey but maybe JUST MAYBE if someone offered to REALLY LISTEN and not just count our bubbles on a survey, I think the Powers That Be, who are so superficially concerned with the opinions of teachers, would find themselves with a line out the door.

Make sure to head on over and read her entire post:

Bitter and Cynical, Party of Two? Your Table Is Ready...

I posted one of her wonderful pieces on the Rhode Island Central Falls Massacre where she said "You can't fire poverty." Diane Ravitch loved this line so much she linked to Flowers and Sausages in an article and used the line in her MI presentation.


Anonymous said...

Who is the creator of NCLB?

Anonymous said...

What, no ICE election concession speech?