Ramona Oliver's place to rant or rave about the issues and work she loves in progressive politics.
My mother was a teacher for 40 years. If she were alive today she might want to offer our President a time out and few choice words for what he is helping to do to her cherished profession.
I watched the the President’s speech to the Urban league touting his brand of education reform. I applauded when he said;
"The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education from the moment they step into the classroom."
The problem is his words don’t come close to matching the education policy his administration is touting. When you look closely at what Race to Top wants to do, anyone with an iota of sense, let alone a child in public schools, will see some huge problems.
Acclaimed education scholar Diane Ravitch explains the problem today on Huffington Post:
"The program contains these key elements: Teachers will be evaluated in relation to their students’ test scores. Schools that continue to get low test scores will be closed or turned into charter schools or handed over to private management. In low-performing schools, principals will be fired, and all or half of the staff will be fired. States are encouraged to create many more privately managed charter schools."
The logic of evaluating teachers based on how students perform on tests seems clear but here is the problem according to Ravitch:
”Evaluating teachers in relation to student test scores will have many adverse consequences. It will make the current standardized tests of basic skills more important than ever, and even more time and resources will be devoted to raising scores on these tests. The curriculum will be narrowed even more than under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, because of the link between wages and scores. There will be even less time available for the arts, science, history, civics, foreign language, even physical education. Teachers will teach to the test. There will be more cheating, more gaming the system.”
And about those charter schools…
"Furthermore, charter schools on average do not get better results than regular public schools, yet Obama and Duncan are pushing them hard. Duncan acknowledges that there are many mediocre or bad charter schools, but chooses to believe that in the future, the new charters will only be high performing ones. Right."
The end result according to Ravitch …
"President Obama and Secretary Duncan need to stop and think. They are heading in the wrong direction. On their present course, they will end up demoralizing teachers, closing schools that are struggling to improve, dismantling the teaching profession, destabilizing communities, and harming public education."
I wish you could ask my mom what these policies mean to teachers but she is teaching little angels in heaven. Instead ask a teacher today if test scores are enough to get a kid into college, or if test scores will ensure they get a good job with a strong career track. Teachers know that kids are more than a number and that pushing to privatize our educational system will only spell disaster for our nation.
This piece is cross-posted at Blogher here - visit and leave a comment.
It is the greatest source of guilt among all my friends who are moms - leaving their babies to return to work. I’ve watched their heartbreak when they leave the house or daycare and spend hours apart from their child to go earn a living. For some its a choice - for others there is no choice at all. Now researchers at Columbia University say its OK (something I’ve known for a while since I was raised by two parents who both worked two jobs when I was growing up).
The study looked at the impact of women working outside the home in a child’s first year. So what did they find?
Infants raised by mothers with full-time jobs scored somewhat lower on cognitive tests, deficits that persisted into first grade. But that negative effect was offset by several positives. Working mothers had higher income. They were more likely to seek high-quality child care. And they displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers. Those positives canceled out the negatives.
I always laugh a little at studies like this and the debate in general about whether to stay home or not. My parents didn’t have a choice - they worked or we starved. For most parents the debate is moot, the economy eliminated any chance of being June Cleaver.
But in my community we grew up with moms who worked hard, cars without booster seats, spankings instead of timeouts and mud pies instead of baby mozart. We probably ended up with more scraped knees and a little better sense of independence.
When I have my own children I will probably suffer that same guilt, but if my experience (and the Columbia study) is any measure the kids of this working mom will be just fine.
At Netroots Nation, last weekend I was again exposed to a positive growing trend in our virtual public discourse - opinionated mamas! Mommy bloggers, often dismissed by the male dominated political blogosphere, have risen from an obscure corner of the internet to a major political force. MotherTalkers, Mom’s Rising, O-Mamas, and The Momocrats among other networks have popped up in the last few years giving voice to mothers’ concern on everything from carpools to foreign policy. Next week more than 2,400 women bloggers (mommies included) will descend on New York for the 2010 Blogher Conference. They are sold out (believe me you can’t beg borrow or steal a ticket right now). I went in 2006 when they were several hundred women who mostly focused on the demands of work and family. Now the political muscle of these opinionated moms is being felt on any number of issues. I strongly encourage my clients to tap this font of political muscle on behalf of their causes! Just at the NEA did here… Mommy bloggers - political or not - number in the thousands across the country and they will speak out and act to protect their family’s future. Check them out and see why I love my opinionated mamas. One day soon I hope to join their ranks!
Amy B. Dean