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Sunday, February 10, 2013

There is no moral equivalence in Education Reform

Frank Denton, editor of the Florida Times Union, when suing for teachers VAM scores, half their evaluations, swears they will present both sides of the education reform argument. He says so like there is a moral equivalency between the two camps, like it is two cordial gentleman just having a disagreement and therein lies the problem because nothing could be farther from the truth.

One side doesn’t rely on facts or data preferring to go with their gut or what will profit them and theirs regardless if it is what’s best for our children. They spread misinformation about the quality of teachers and run around like Chicken Little screaming the sky is falling except they say teachers are failing our children instead. They rely on low information members of the public who have been programmed to think anything the government does is bad and can’t be bothered with doing the research themselves not that they think there is any education research. Ashley Smith Juarez a school board member and Gary Chartrand the chair of the state board of education for example are both on record saying that there is no evidence that smaller classes work, when there is tons of evidence that says it does. I am sure it is no coincidence that they don’t think teachers are professionals either.

There is no moral equivalence between a side that exaggerates cherry picked stats, Jeb Bush and his Florida Miracle have been thoroughly debunked, ignores evidence, seeks to inflame peoples passions by saying our public schools are failing, uses catch slogans like “school choice” when what they are actually selling is privatization and marginalizes teachers, a dedicated and hard working group that sacrifice so much and a side that doesn’t do those things. And to imply there is some moral equivalency between corporate reformers and those fighting for true, evidence based reform, where teachers are treated like professionals, is insulting.

Is it too much to ask that education reforms be based on evidence and facts and that we slow down and get things right?

Is it too much to ask that schools get the proper resources to do their jobs before we label them failures and seek to close them?

Is it too much to ask that we don’t ignore poverty, which is the number one factor in determining success in our schools, in short kids that live in it don’t do as well as those that don’t.

Is it too much to ask we don’t destroy the teaching profession? Low pay, getting rid of pensions, saying their experience and ability don’t matter as well as ratcheting up the demands is going to drive people from the profession. Already nearly half of all teachers don’t last 5 years and people forget that just a few years ago we were recruiting in Canada, India and the corporate world because we couldn’t find enough teachers to staff our classrooms.

Is any of that unreasonable? I will do you one better.

You want charter schools? Fine lets make sure teachers have credentials, aren’t worked to death and receive a proper wage as well as making sure the programs are good and the publics money isn’t used to line the pockets of charter school managers and management boards.

You want vouchers to send kids to private schools? Sure lets just make sure those private schools have accountability measurements in place and ESOL and disabled students can use them too.

You want merit pay? Okay, let’s first make sure all teachers have a decent wage and then if the powers-that-be want to develop a “fair” system to pay some teachers a little more, I don’t think anybody will complain.

But do you know what charter schools; vouchers and merit pay have in common? They are the crown jewels of the corporate reform movement and evidence that says they either don’t work or they don’t work any better.

There is no moral equivalency between the two sides and to imply there is, is disingenuous at best but most likely it makes one complicit with the side that wants to outsource, not improve, our kids education and fundamentally change the teaching profession, changing teachers from professionals to the equivalent of Burger King workers.

There is a saying making traction, “those that can teach, those that can’t make laws about teaching” and this is what’s happening in Florida to the detriment of our children schools and teachers.

What side do you fall on?

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

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