Friday, October 26, 2012

Saluting Teachers: Great Teachers, Bad System

An Editorial Commentary by
Toni Saunders

Public school teachers are priceless. Teachers educate the next generation of leaders, professionals, workers, and engaged citizens. Educating "all" children must become the highest priority in our society.  Teaching children how to read, write, and acquire problem solving skills is basic common sense. Teaching how to think in today's global economy is strategic because technological and scientific advances come from thought and analysis. To teachers who have influenced our children in positive ways, you deserve our thanks and praise.

People who enter the teaching profession don't do it for the money; there is no glamour and prestige.  People become teachers because they want to make a difference in children's lives by helping develop their minds. With few resources and even fewer administrative supports, teachers persevere, immersed in a system that is broken, spending personal money on supplies that some families are too poor to purchase themselves. We as citizens should be outraged because of economic inequality; shame on a system that cannot provide pencils and paper to all of its children.  Yet because of economic inequality, some districts have resources to supply IPads and laptop computers to their students. It begs the question "Is this equity in education or the epitome of a failed system"? A good education comes with a price tag that some communities cannot afford.

There are great teachers, and yes there are some not so great; just as there are great presidents and those who were not so great. A teacher's greatness is in the minds and perceptions of the students not in their MCAS scores. Their greatness is not measured by the district that they are employed in, but in the hours they put into making learning fun and exciting for children. All children are diverse and therefore diverse learners.  Great teachers do their best to provide a quality education to every child regardless of their abilities. Teachers teach to raise each child's abilities even against a system that fails to provide them with appropriate training and resources.  This failed system unfortunately continues to perpetuate the disparaging statistics and outcomes of minority, limited English proficient, children with special needs, and low income students.  Consequently, these are the children that supply the justice and social service systems of the present and the future with clients. The system fails to analyze strategies from other countries that are looking at these issues head on.  Instead it blames teachers by buying into a Republican corporate agenda where the worker gets blamed for the system's failure.  

Now teachers are under attack by a corporate America that wants to take education tax dollars to privatize public education.  Corporations want to determine what constitutes a great teacher and a great school. They say they want to make public education better, but assaulting teachers as if the system's failure is their fault is akin to having the banking system blame the teller for the corporate failure of Wall Street. The community should be working in tandem with teachers to determine what changes are needed… not corporate America!

Do you want Walmart, Bain Capital and other corporations deciding what a good teacher is? These corporate entities are funding the ever increasing charter school craze in order to increase their wealth via public education funds and using their power to intimidate state governments to move their corporate agenda forward. This is greed at the expense of our most vulnerable commodity, our children.  Corporations are selling their definition of what a great teacher and a great school is, but how many of the wealthy send their children to public or charter schools? None! It is the elite whose children keep private schools in existence. 

Look at existing charter school statistics and see for yourself that they are not willing to educate all children. Children with special needs, for example, are less likely to be educated in a charter school. If they are admitted and the school realizes they don't have the expertise to educate that student, they send the parents an "I'm sorry but your child's need would be best served in your neighborhood public school" letter. What you don’t know, however, is that the charter school keeps the money that was allotted to them. The child goes back to public school without the funds necessary to educate them for the rest of the year. What you need to know is that a charter school is the same as a public school.  They do not have the right to turn away "any" child, but systemically, they do.

Charter schools are targeting minority families on their websites and in the media with the promise of a better education. They are using minority children to increase their wealth yet if you look at the funding sources and educational corporation's leadership, you do not see minorities. 

A new civil rights movement is dawning. The time for the education of all children to matter in Massachusetts, is now. This struggle is not about adding more corporate run charter schools.  It's not about private schools where society's affluent and privileged families send their children.  This civil rights movement is about providing equal resources and equal access to equal educational opportunities in all communities, and providing our teachers with the proper resources to do their jobs.  If the system and the corporations felt that all children should be provided an equal education, then they would honor teachers fighting and advocating for their students. We must stop the assault on teachers and public schools. We must fight to educate all of our children.  We must fight the corporate takeover of public education.  The time to fight is NOW.

(The author, Toni Saunders, is an educational consultant for more than 25 years.  Ms. Saunders is also the Senior Organizer for Black and Brown People for Better Public Schools, a program of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods.


Anonymous said...

Excellents points about the charter school system -- like someone else said in another blog entry: Follow the money.

Where is the money going? Not to the teachers. Where is it coming from? Not often minority sources but instead wealthy contributors looking for a tax shelter. Look very closely at what the Executive Director makes at any given charter school and compare that to what the teachers make. If there is a larger spread then stay away, stay very far away. This indicate a bad system that is NOT aimed at helping children but instead is aimed at taking care of the admins at the top.

Support our great teachers in the NBPS system as best we can. Don't add to the problem by bringing in charter schools where they aren't needed or wanted.

Anonymous said...

Charter school cherry pick the students they want by pushing out the students they can't teach easily. Look at the stats, look at the educational model, and look at what happens when your child "doesn't meet our minimum requirements" after being enrolled.

Look very closely at City on a Hill and choose to leave your children in public school. There is real data behind the flashy news stories, and the real data isn't so pretty. I teach in New Bedford and have a friend who used to teach at City on a Hill...take it from me, bringing them into our district is NOT a solution to anything but instead is a brand new set of problems.