Sunday, February 6, 2011

Conspiracy Theories: Let Discipline Go to Undermine Public Schools

Note: Check Ed Notes for live blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary celebration in Washington DC next weekend, February 12-13 as a GEM TFA alum goes undercover - lots of ed deform guests of honor, including Randi Weingarten. We look forward to getting reports on how Randi sucks up - if hookups are available for our spy.

Teacher complaints about the deterioration of discipline and the mantra of school leaders who don't support teachers when students are disruptive with the charge that there are no discipline problems, only poor teaching practices is highlighted at An Urban Teacher's Education where Frank Beard, a TFA alum, tells it like it is. I left a comment that this is part of the subtle and not so subtle conspiracy to undermine and privatize the public schools by making conditions so intolerable for parents of the kids who do not disrupt that they will jump at the charter school option as a safe haven since charter schools can counsel out the very students that are disruptive or at least keep their numbers to a minimum. Also note that charter schools can insist on parent involvement - Harlem Success penalizes parents who bring children to school late by making them come in on Saturdays. Here are some excerpts from Frank:
When people ask me what I believe was the number one barrier to student achievement at my school, I always offer the same answer: the failure of the school and district to address chronically disruptive students. It was a problem created by negligent leaders who willingly allowed a free-for-all environment that was conducive to chaos instead of learning.   
I’ll never forget the first day of staff development my second year. During the “welcome back” talk, my principal handed out a sheet which detailed the number of discipline referrals submitted by each teacher the previous year. We were informed that it is wrong to submit a lot of them because discipline is a classroom-management issue and therefore must be addressed within the classroom. Sending students to the office, she said, is simply not acceptable or allowed.

Nearly ever discipline referral sent to the office was returned with a polite reminder to please contact the students’ parents. Clear and consistent consequences simply did not exist—even though they were mandated by the district’s code of conduct.  

Once that realization spread, the school effectively went from quality to chaos overnight.

When students are subjected to a toxic environment that prevents learning, all other education concerns—curriculum, standards, integrating technology, etc—become totally irrelevant. Unfortunately, this is something rarely ever addressed in both local and national media. And education reformers—whether from watching Freedom Writers one too many times or just understanding that blaming teachers is politically expedient right now—repeat until they’re red in the face the idea that a teacher with leadership skills and high expectations can fix everything short of the conflict in the Middle East.

So what did our school leaders focus on, if not the toxic atmosphere in the schools? The superintendent—a product of the Broad Superintendents Academy—was concerned mostly with “right-sizing” the district, preparing to implement standards-based learning at pilot schools, and token efforts towards “community involvement”. the chronically disruptive atmosphere was by far the most significant and destructive. It’s a problem that’s conspicuously absent from successful suburban schools—which don’t tolerate outrageous misbehavior—and is usually never mentioned by education reformers, policy experts, consultants, and the other people who pretend to know what’s best for our schools.

Perhaps my expectations are too high. After all, how can I expect them to understand the seriousness of this problem if they’ve spent little or no time working in the very schools they pretend to be experts about?
Read the entire piece and comments:  TFA Alumnus Describes Barriers to Student Achievement

Labor Notes links:
Julie Cavanagh on billionaire school reform.
Mark Brenner on the big public moneys that the privatizers are going after.
Howard Ryan on the teachers unions' partnership strategy.
Julie Cavanagh New York City's heated-up battle over school closures and charter schools muscling in.

Check out new blogger- NYC parent and community activist Susan Crawford:

Neutral on Superbowl. Would normally root for Pittsburgh as AFT team but hard to root for Ben the rapist.

1 comment:

  1. Can't agree more. This is the policy to have a young, unvested and replaceable teaching staff.


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