Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Shelby County TN’s Teacher Shortage No Mystery: Underfunded Schools + Test-Driven Reform + Poverty

September 14, 2021 Comments off

Chalkbeat writer Samantha West did an admirable job of writing about the shortage of 227 teachers in Shelby County TN without mentioning the huge elephant in the room: TN is ranked 43 in the nation in per pupil spending on public schools and Shelby County is suing the State because it’s funding formula shortchanges them, because the test-driven reform has taken the joy out of teaching, or the schools face not only the challenge of Covid but the unrelenting challenges associated with poverty. Ms. West reported on a recent school board meeting where Yolanda Martin, the Personnel Administrator for the district, offered an explanation for the departures and the steps the district was taking to address the problem:

The most frequent reason teachers gave in exit surveys, Martin said, was pursuing a new job opportunity, though many former employees gave no reason for leaving, according to district data.

“What we do know is this is a laborer’s market,”Martin said, noting the district is continuing to prioritize offering incentives to help retain staff and keep them from seeking employment elsewhere.

“[The data] pretty much mirrors what we’ve seen in the past, but obviously not to this magnitude right now,” Martin said. “So we can suspect what that could be, but based on the data we have, these are the main indicators as of now.”

To retain remaining educators, the district offers ongoing professional development, annual 2% raises, and new teacher induction programs, among many other tactics. Using data, Martin said the district also tracks which schools have the hardest time keeping teachers so they can find ways to offer more support to school staff and leaders.

I understand why Ms. Martin does not provide what everyone knows is the real reason: there are few teachers who can resist moving to a fully resourced school that pays them a much higher salary to teach the content they love to teach in a way they want to teach it without having to worry about how the students will do on a standardized test.

Well heeled districts that enroll children of affluent well educated parents pay teachers well, offer good benefits, and offer world-class opportunities for professional growth.

Well heeled districts that enroll children of affluent well educated parents do not teach-to-the test. They don’t have to because the children enter school ready to learn and do not experience the life-altering stress that children raised in poverty encounter on a daily basis. 

Well heeled districts that enroll children of affluent well educated parents are always seeking good teachers and, from all reports, are experiencing burnout and turnover now— albeit on a smaller scale than districts like Shelby County that serve children raised in poverty. The difference is that well heeled districts that enroll children of affluent well educated parents can recruit with relative ease. 

And here’s what is especially sad: because this is “a laborer’s market” in ALL career areas, and because teaching is less and less perceived as a viable career choice, fewer and fewer college students are pursuing education as a career. As long as test scores are seen as the focal point of teaching and rabid conservative parents monitor each and every lesson taught in social studies the situation will not improve…. especially for those underfunded districts serving children raised in poverty. 

DeBlasio Poised to Jettison Gifted and Talented Status Quo. How Far Will He Go?

September 10, 2021 Comments off

Readers of this blog know that I am strongly opposed to identification and separation of “gifted and talented” students from their age peers for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that school districts inevitably conflate the results of easy to administer standardized tests with “giftedness”. I have witnessed NYS’s preposterous, complicated, and byzantine system for identifying “gifted” students as a grandparent as well as a (presumably) expert perspective as one who served as a public school superintendent for 29 years. Today’s NYTimes article highlights several elements of the NYC’s flawed system, emphasizing the particularly egregious practice of testing 4-year olds for “gifted programs” which, according to a quote in the article, “…allow children to get on a conveyor belt that moves a small slice of New York’s students through a parallel educational track, apart from their peers, starting in kindergarten.” This practice effectively requires parents to begin coaching their 2-year olds on the alphabet and number skills when they should be exploring the world around them independently. Of all of the options available to outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio the most appealing is likely the abandonment of pre-school tests, postponing the identification of “giftedness” until a child is entering, say, 4th grade. 

Whatever NYC decides, it will result in pushback from vocal, moneyed, and influential parents all of whom suppose that their infants and toddlers would qualify for this program. My experience is that changing a system of tracking is far more difficult than launching a program for enrichment where tracking is non-existent… and when the racial composition of the “gifted” classes comes into play the tracking and identification of “gifted students” is a political nightmare for school boards and school districts. 

The next few weeks should be interesting. I hope they are not explosive. 

This Just In: Children Addicted to Free Lunch Become Spoiled Tools of Socialism

August 31, 2021 Comments off

New York Magazine writer Sarah Jones offers a good overview of the reasoning behind the Waukesha WI School Board’s recent and widely reported decision to deny free school lunch to it’s children… and it offers an good insight to the thinking behind anti-government elected to boards and legislatures across the country. So why did the school board decide to withhold its application for universal free lunch?

According to one school-board member, children could “become spoiled.” The school district’s assistant superintendent for business services worried that there would be a “slow addiction” to the free meals. This is a fascinating way to talk about children and their families, who do possess a biological need for food. Whether that need amounts to a “slow addiction” is a matter of opinion. And opinion in this country has become badly skewed.

Conflating a biological need with spoiling children or a “slow addiction” is crazy-making. But my guess is the board member and the assistant superintendent for business are REALLY concerned about creeping dependence on the government for assistance, creeping socialism. Where is the line between “dependence on the government” and cold-blooded Social Darwinism? Providing food to needy children hardly seems like a slippery slope to socialism. Indeed, withholding funds for a critical need seems more like a slippery slope to libertarianism. The next thing you know the school board will cut busing to school because bringing kids to school “spoils them” and bringing them for free is a “slow addiction to free public transportation”… and we wouldn’t want to stifle their independence by making them ride together with other children on a bus!