August 18, 2009
Here comes the train!
The governor likes it; Obama's education chief proposed it; the mayor of Milwaukee loves it; the Bradley Foundation really, really loves it, Alberta Darling thinks it is great. So buckle your seat belts.
Ah, the aroma of reform is in the air. Soon Howard Fuller will join the chorus and all of us will be told, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who questions the take-over of Milwaukee schools is jeopardizing our children's futures and forcing the school district into bankruptcy. We will be back to charity schools unless MPS goes along with plans developed behind closed doors.
The agenda? Reduce teacher pensions, insurance and pay. Eliminate the union if the teachers balk. The mayor could even prohibit collective bargaining. I am not kidding. The mayor would have the power to eliminate the school board and, in effect, the union. The first step was the shocking announcement that MPS might fail unless there is oversight of the budget and reforms that will permit "pay systems for teachers based on student performances," says the doyenne of River Hills, Senator Darling. On the other side? Catch the irony of a legislator, Jason Fields (D-not-d Milwaukee) who agrees with R- Alberta. "In any other job, if you don't produce, you don't continue to get paid and you sure don't get bonuses," says Jason. I have a feeling he won't miss the daily paper.
He is trying to tie teacher pay to student performance. Could we do the same with legislators? For example, could we judge based on the recidivism rate? How about cost of tuition? Unemployment rate tied to legislative pay? Hey! We may be onto something. But back to education.
Yah, sure, Jason, think about it. How would you judge teachers of special needs kids? Would music and drama count, and if so who grades? Is the homeless child moving from school to school likely to do well on tests? Should a teacher be blamed for the impact if poverty on performance? Is it just like River Hills?
Of course we will be told there is only one way to solve the MPS crisis. Only one, so no need for discussion or votes. Their way or no way.
We added a session at Fighting Bob Fest that will focus on this bizarre idea.
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Paying teachers based on students' performance is bogus. Teachers are alresdy required to teach to the test which is anti-education and anti free thinking.
Everyone knows you can not make students learn and perform to a specific level. Instilling motivation should not be a teacher's responsibility.
As a student in the fifties and sixties, my teachers were independent, had high standards and demanded and got our cooperation. Fear of the paddle insured good behavior.
-Tony | Little Italy, WI | August 18, 2009
Of Course your solutions have been working for all of these years. Why not try something new?
-Howard the duck | Milwaukee, WI | August 18, 2009
With the MPS takeover looming, here's a quick test:
Does mayoral takeover really improve student achievement, as proponents claim?
How does local democracy fare?
What was Secretary of Education Arne Duncan doing in Milwaukee, last June 4th?
Answers: No. Poorly. and Playing let's make a deal.
Consider New York City and Bloomberg's mayoral takeover. Legend has it that, since then, test scores have risen, yet critics from left to right argue in politics as in life, looks and statistics can be deceiving. Both Gerald Bracey and Diane Ravitch adamantly oppose mayoral takeovers. Yet Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich celebrate mayoral takeover.
Is anyone keeping score?
I decided to interview a Milwaukee resident to get another opinion. Ursula, an Alverno College, political science major, attended the Creative Arts Elementary School, Roosevelt Middle, the Milwaukee Theatre of the Arts High School, and resides on the South Side:
"My dad is a public school teacher, my mom works at a community based Milwaukee healthcare facility. I've spent my entire life in Milwaukee. . ."
To her, mayoral takeover is less than meets the eye
"I'm spending time working with NYC national youth organizations. Bloomberg's takeover is recognized by the media as a success; yet if you talk with a lot of New Yorkers, most will say 'its not working', parents do not have access. ELL Students have classes in staircases, there's overcrowding. Parents ask . . . 'how do we hold this system accountable'? Due to mayoral takeover, parents have lost control over education. There is no way to make up for an elected school board. . ."
Parents in NYC boroughs must, if they have a concern, travel far outside their neighborhood to engage city officials. Gone are local school councils, newly constituted Educational Management Organizations take their place. And the result?
"Disenfranchisement. Parents are drifting away, not able to be involved in their child's education; there's no accountability. Lack of democracy in an appointed board can only create a parallel system of separation of parents from their children's education."
These families already reside in "areas that are historically disenfranchised."
Concerned citizens, like Ursula, are pushing back.
"There are no organizers in this process, just community members who are highly invested in the community."
Contrary to the reactionary media and pandering of state politicians who, while blaming MPS, fail once again to fix school funding, Ursula sticks up for her community:
"What we in Milwaukee want is better funding for our schools. We have a diverse and excellent group of people on our school board, academically and in life. The problems in MPS are broader, it's due to social conditions, but the major problem is the consistent defunding of our district."
In a letter provided by MPS President Michael Bonds, the Mayor made him an offer, to sit on the newly constituted board.
IF the current board is so incompetent, Ursula wondered,
"Why would the mayor offer a new position to the sitting president?"
-Todd Alan Price | Kenosha, WI | August 21, 2009