Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skip the serious face, Arne

How do we as a teaching profession create a climate in which everyone is clamoring to come into schools like this ... where this is a badge of honor?" -- Arne Duncan
Serious face...

Arne Duncan looks so intense, like he's seriously listening and looking for answers. Don't be fooled. He's not. He's done these "listening tours" before. They make for great photo ops.

How do we get more Tamara Raifords “clamoring” to teach in low-performing schools? he asks some New Haven Teachers. Tamara Raiford who teaches pre-K at Brennan/Rogers, introduced herself as the only teacher in the district to leave a top-performing Tier I school to join a low-performing “turnaround.” She says she chose Brennan "because of the challenge."  -- New Haven Independent
But Duncan already knows full well why there aren't thousands of teachers "clamoring" to leave high-scoring, predominantly middle class or wealthy suburban schools to come teach in resource-starved, inner-city schools. He has been one of the architects of the modern, two-tier school system -- one tier for elite and one for the rest. It's been his Race To The Top policies that have reinforced the system by punishing schools with high concentrations of poor, black and Latino students, closing them down and arbitrarily firing their teachers in mass.

Duncan has also been a leading proponent of so-called "merit pay" for teachers, a system based on rewarding a handful of teachers and docking others' salaries based on their students' standardized test scores. As research has shown, these scores are indicators of poverty much more than anything going on in the classroom. So if you leave a high-scoring school for a lower one, prepare to take a serious pay cut.

Duncan has joined with Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney in calling for larger class sizes thereby making certain that teachers in overcrowded urban schools will face much tougher challenges. Duncan claims that "class size has been a sacred cow and we need to take it on." Another disincentive for teachers thinking about making the switch.

It's also Duncan who has forced states and districts in need of federal funds, to close neighborhood schools and fired entire school faculties, along with their principals while they turn those schools over to private management companies. The remaining charter school teachers are dis-empowered in many ways, including the loss of their collective bargaining rights, job security and protection from discrimination.

To top it off, Duncan has voiced support for newspapers like the L.A. Times, publishing the names of teachers alongside their student test scores as a way to debase and insult teachers working with low-scoring students.

So, Sec. Duncan, please spare us the serious listening face. No need to ask why their aren't more Tamara Raidfords. You already know the answer. So do we.

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