"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who Is StudentsFirst Backing in the MO Elections?

This arrived in our mailbox this week from StudentsFirst.

We are pleased to announce our endorsements for the 2012 Missouri Primary Elections for elected offices in the State's General Assembly. The endorsed candidates below have been selected based upon their responses to a questionnaire on education policies and, if incumbents, their record of support for common sense education reform efforts. All those endorsed have clearly demonstrated their commitment to improving education for all children in Missouri.
           [Note: SF's letter did not identify party, but we have added it to show that this is not limited to one party.]

  • Representative Steve Webb (D) - 67th House DistrictRep. Webb's leadership as Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus has been vital to the advancement of education reform discourse, as well as passing of education reform legislation, in Missouri.
  • Representative Jamilah Nasheed (D) – 5th Senate District  Representative Jamilah Nasheed plans to bring her experiences from the State House to the State Senate this coming year. As Chair of the Urban Issues Committee, Rep. Nasheed is highly qualified to tackle the problems facing students in urban school districts.
  • Representative Chrissy Sommer (R) – 106th House District Parents are among the most critical stakeholders in education. As the former President of the Harvest Ridge PTO, Rep. Chrissy Sommer has firsthand experience in working with schools to improve outcomes for students.
  • Sarah Gillooly (D) – 24th House District Sarah Gillooly is a community activist who has spent her career advocating for the most vulnerable members of society. If elected, she will carry that passion with her to the State House.
  • John Sellars (R) – 134th House District Throughout his career, John Sellars has held various management positions that have taught him how to be an effective leader. As a substitute teacher and spouse of a a long time schoolteacher, he brings a practitioner's perspective to the challenges currently facing Missouri's school system.
  • Representative Bill Lant (R) – 159th House District Representative Bill Lant is a former school board member with a deep understanding of the problems currently facing Missouri's schools.
  • Representative Sylvester Taylor (D) – 75th House District Rep. Taylor has been a strong proponent of what is best for kids in his district. If reelected, he will advocate for changes that will improve outcomes for students not only across his district, but also across Missouri.
  • Derrick Good (R) – 111th House District  Derrick Good is a practicing attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of the law. If elected, he will work to prioritize education reform legislation that provides teachers with meaningful feedback on their teaching performance.
  • Eugene Dokes (R) – 70th House District As a former member of the Navy and a businessman, Dr. Dokes understands the meaning of responsibility and public service and will work to ensure that Missouri's children are adequately prepared to compete in the 21st Century.
  • Representative Penny Hubbard (D) – 78th House District  Representative Penny Hubbard has been one of the strongest Democratic voices for education reform that puts the student at the center of every decision in the State House. If reelected, she will continue to be a supporter of improving schools both in St. Louis as well as across Missouri.
  • Representative Kevin Elmer (R) – 139th House District  Representative Kevin Elmer has a great track record of prioritizing what is best for students. In this coming legislative session, he will continue to be an advocate for Missouri's children.
  • Representative Mike Colona (D) – 80th House District As the House Minority Whip, Rep. Mike Colona is one of the most influential proponents of education reform in the Missouri Legislature.
  • Mike Owens (D) – 84th House District  Mike Owens is a 30-year veteran journalist who knows what it means to hold public officials accountable. Owens plans to bring this sense of accountability to the school system if elected to the State House.
  • Representative Mike McGhee (R) – 21st Senate District Making sure every child in Missouri has the option to attend a high quality school is one of the priorities of Rep. Mike McGhee's Senate race. His belief in the need for real change to improve public education that, if elected, will make a difference for all children not only in his district, but also across the state.
  • Martin Casas (D) – 79th House District  Martin Casas is a parent and small business owner who has campaigned on the importance of great teachers and great schools for all children. If elected, he will prioritize education reform as one of his top priorities.
  • Representative Ward Franz (R) – 33rd Senate District, former Chair of the Republican Caucus  Representative Ward Franz is a leader looking to move from the State House to the State Senate. As the former Chair of the Republican Caucus in the House, Rep. Franz will be a powerful proponent of education reform in the Senate.
  • Lt. Governor Peter Kinder (R)  As the current Lt. Governor, Peter Kinder has worked to help the state to prosper. LT. Governor Kinder has been an advocate for some of the most vulnerable groups in Missouri and, if reelected, will continue to be an advocate for students across Missouri.

For those who have forgotten what StudentsFirst is, this is the brainchild of Michelle Rhee who has become the darling of education reform.  You can read more about her and this group here, here, here and here.

StudentsFirst goals for Missouri are:
  • revised teacher evaluations (already done with Common Core Standards and the NCLB waiver we recently received - don't know what else SF can do); 
  • tenure reform (tenure is covered by district contract which is currently negotiated individually by each school district - I guess SF would like to take that decision out of local control as well)
  • school choice (i.e. charter schools which will only provide choice to the parents in which building their child will be taught Common Core Standards).

Martin Casas is the only one who has some prior knowledge of SF, Rhee and education reform.  His wife was in Teach For America. It would behoove the others on this list to do a little more research into StudentsFirst and other Michelle Rhee creations before listing SF's endorsement on their campaign page. That research should make it clear fairly quickly that the education reform movement is more about corporate control and profit than student achievement.

Exempli Gratia - this email was sent to Diane Ravitch and provides a personal account not at all uncommon for TFAers (the author was actually in a Teaching Fellowship program, but it was established by Michelle Rhee and organized in almost exactly the same way as TFA.)

There has been so much debate about educational reform and about Michele Rhee and her Students First organization. I am compelled to describe my experience this past June with the Rhode Island Teaching Fellows Program, a Rhee brainchild. The Teaching Fellows work along the same lines of The New Teacher Project but the Teaching Fellows is an alternative route to teacher certification. The premise is to attract people from the public sector and after 5 weeks of training they will be employed as first year’s teachers in high needs urban schools. The catch phrase is “Let’s close the achievement gap” and get your teaching certification in an alternative route program-well yes I know all about the achievement gap and only starting to realize all the components at work and I decided to re-enter school to become a teacher and this program sounded perfect. I could not have been more wrong

We start week one learning this militant type tactics of behavioral control-such as “Do it again” “Do it now” and “Slant” to name just a few-we practice this over and over again in a highly structured environment where our every move is scheduled and monitored. We are told where to sit, when to stand and when to speak-they occasionally mix up the tables I believe so friendships are not formed and “talk” starts.  We have lunch in groups with our coaches. We are actually scheduled to meet with our coaches for “debriefing” where we are told not to talk and only answer with yes and no. We watch videos of children in which these tactics are employed in other States

Students are drilled on how to line up, hands by side, mouths closed-told which way to turn and what muscle to move next. They are instructed like they are in the military or prison. All the kids in the video are of course black-these behavioral control tactics are of course not utilized in white schools. A strict agenda is posted in the morning requiring us to adhere to it without question. We are at this point working 16 hours a day and not thinking clearly at all. We are then told to start working on lesson plans that we will implement in the field experience component in the evening and e-mail them to our coach for a review. This lesson planning has to be evidently self-taught as I have taken no education courses, which is one of the requirements of the program. 

The second week of the program we begin the field experience component is a 4 week 2.5 hour class consisting of students requiring summer school to recover credits. These are the very students we are supposed be so concerned about with the achievement gap. After 1 week of training we are individually thrown in front of this class of 22, still being monitored by training team members. I will argue that I am NOT an effective teacher after one week of training and these kids WILL suffer because of it. By the third day, 6 of my students were not in class and I believe they will ultimately drop out and as an inexperienced RI Teaching Fellow I am completely responsible; it is reprehensible what we are doing to these kids. 

At the end of this 5 week period we are then placed in an urban school where we are allowed to teach under an emergency teaching certification. At this point we are required to join the TNTP academy where throughout out the year we attend classes and workshops to get our own teaching certification after one year. So the premise is that to qualify for the $5500 educational grant through AmeriCorps you must work in a high need urban school in Rhode Island, what is called the urban4-Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and Central Falls. These are exactly the only districts we are allowed to apply to. We are also enrolled in AmeriCorps and will receive our educational grant of $5500 after one year of service. 

The cost of this TNTP academy is $6ooo-hmmm…so I will argue that the Teaching Fellows Program doesn’t care one bit about closing the achievement gap but in fact victimizes our low income minority students to achieve their own agenda which is enrollment in the TNTP academy and to fill their own pockets with outlandish salaries. . I saw advertisements on employment agencies sites for jobs within the Teaching Fellows organization paying anywhere between $60-and $78,000.00 per year-a lot of income to certify perhaps 20 teachers a year in the State of Rhode Island and my guess is less than half of those will stay in the high needs urban public schools. When I began the program there where 28 fellows; I was the fourth to drop out by the eighth day. I believe this organization is syphoning money from public education grants to serve their own purposes and the students that are being harmed are the low income black and brown students in these high needs urban schools. Michelle Rhee and this organization need to be stopped. I have decided to continue on and obtain my M.A.T. and become an effective teacher the proper way in two years and not destroy the lives of unsuspecting students on my way. I am continually looking for ways to expose this organization for what it is and hope it’s days are numbered before any more harm is done to these students.
–Theresa Laperche

These are the kinds of programs and the thought process endemic to StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee.

Did you know, Representative Nasheed, that St. Louis City schools have a certain number of positions set aside for these people that cannot be filled with more qualified teachers?  Did you know, Representative Sommers, that the national PTO was one of the groups behind the development of common core standards which will take control for what the children are taught in the classroom completely away from the teacher, principal and school district, when you were president of the Harvest Ridge PTO? Probably not because the local PTO is never consulted on curriculum or classroom policy. They have been relegated to being primarily a fundraising operation for the school and allowed only to participate in school functioning on the fringe. Are you aware, Lt Gov. Kinder, that charter schools have an 83% failure rate, are frequently run by hedge fund companies that are outside our state, produce test scores that are at best comparable with the local school (and often are worse) and tend to provide little control to the local board for their operation?

Is this what we want coming to our state? Is this what you were thinking of when you talked about education reform Mr.Ms. Representative?

1 comment:

  1. Why are Missouri legislators backing proposals taking away state control of legislation that taxpayers have to pay for? Did they ever think about that?

    Was this question on that survey?


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