NEA Whiffs Again


Back in the day, NEA leadership should have picked up a clue that they’d backed the wrong horse when they published this article in 2013. “10 Things You Should Know About the Common Core” included such notable observations as “Most NEA Members Support the Common Core,” and while you might get a chuckle out of the rest of the list, the real harbinger is in the long, blistering comments section. The average NEA Today article does not exactly draw large or lively response, but this piece drew 325 rather angry comments asking what, exactly, that author was smoking. NEA was either ignorant of or deliberately trying to rope in the large number of anti-Core members.

The author was Tim Walker, and last week he offered a look at personalized learning, and once again NEA either doesn’t get it or is trying to stick it to members.

As with NEA support for the Core, Walker starts the article by implicitly accepting that current schools (you know– the ones where NEA members work) pretty much suck.

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Just another Tuesday for 37 first-graders with no music or art or gym

Reblogged from Bridge

Detroit schools have been buzzing these last two weeks with what feels like a fresh start.

A new superintendent —  Nikolai Vitti — has landed in the city and started his job as the first new leader of what is officially a new district.

He uses words like “transformation” and “vision” and “hope” to describe a future when Detroit schools will begin to address the intensive challenges that have contributed to some of the lowest test scores in the nation. He sees Detroit becoming “a mecca of improvement” that will draw young teachers from around the country who will want to be part of a city’s metamorphosis.

But spend a morning in a Detroit classroom and it quickly becomes clear exactly how much will have to change in this city before it looks anything like the “mecca” that Vitti imagines.

Spend a morning in Room 106 at the Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on the city’s west side.

That’s the room where first-grade teacher Rynell Sturkey arrived on the morning of May 23rd — Vitti’s first full day on the job — to discover that another teacher was out on jury duty. Since substitute teachers are rarely available, Sturkey would — again — have to double up. That morning, she’d have 37 kids.

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Labor Voices: Michigan teachers feel they are devalued

Reblogged from The Detroit News by Steven Cook

Last week, Republican leaders in Lansing rammed through legislation that will weaken retirement security for newly hired school employees and increase future costs to taxpayers. These reckless changes come at a time when teachers and education-support professionals are already facing declining salaries and benefits.

For instance, would it shock you to learn that in virtually every school district in the state you can find a teacher who qualifies for a Bridge card, the modern version of the food stamp program?

Or that a teacher in southeast Michigan qualified for a Habitat for Humanity home — the second public school employee in the past three years to be selected for this low-income program?

Those facts reflect recently released data from the Michigan Department of Education showing teacher salaries have declined across the state for the fifth straight year. They fly in the face of claims by Lansing politicians that school employees — specifically teachers — enjoy overly generous salaries and benefits.

The public isn’t buying those obviously false claims from politicians.

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House Passes Education Budget

Reblogged from

Before adjourning for much of the summer – except for one scheduled session day in July – the state House passed an education budget that now goes to the Senate this Thursday. The education spending plan is expected to be signed by the governor shortly after that. 

A review of the budget’s highlights is below. For more specific information, you can read the House Fiscal Analysis.

Per Pupil Increase:
The final budget has the 2x formula and increased the foundation allowance between $60 and $120 per pupil.

In addition, $11 million has been appropriated to add $25 per pupil for all high schools students in grades 9-12.

Third Grade Reading:
This budget appropriates $26.4 million for literacy coaches, professional development, diagnostic tools, etc.  The money will be distributed to districts in an amount equal to $210 per 1st grade FTE.

At Risk:
At Risk funding increased by $120 million to a total of $499 million.  It caps newly eligible Hold Harmless and Out-of-Formula districts at 30% funding.  Currently eligible districts would receive an estimated $777 per eligible pupil and newly eligible districts would receive an estimated $233 per pupil.

MPSERS Cost Offset:
A little over $23 million to offset increased MPSERS costs due to new MPSERS legislation.

$100 million to maintain the current district contribution rate for MPSERS.

An additional $200 million will be paid toward the MPSERS unfunded liability.

State School Reform/Redesign (SRO)
State School Reform/Redesign funding for CEOs has been eliminated.

Declining Enrollment:
No money has been provided for declining enrollment districts.

Educator Evaluations:
No additional money has been appropriated.

There are several changes to Boilerplate language.  Three that are particularly important to us include:

  • Sec. 160. Labor Day Waiver Hearing includes a new requirement that if a district requests a waiver to begin school before Labor Day, the district must hold a joint hearing with the MDE to be held in the district before said waiver can be granted.
  • Sec. 164g. establishes a penalty in an amount spent if a district or ISD uses funds appropriated under this act to pay for an expense relating to any legal action initiated by the district or ISD against the state.
  • Sec. 164h establishes a penalty equal to 5% of total state aid if a district or ISD enters into a collective bargaining agreement that does any of the following: establishes racial and religious preferences for employees; automatically deducts union dues from employee compensation; is in conflict with any state or federal laws regarding district transparency; includes a method of compensation that does not comply with the requirements of section 1250 of the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1250 (Merit Pay).

Community Colleges:
.9% increase

Higher Ed Budget:
2.9% increase

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Teachers Don’t Want All This Useless Data


One of the most frustrating things I’ve ever been forced to do as a teacher is to ignore my students and concentrate instead on the data.

I teach 8th grade Language Arts at a high poverty, mostly minority school in Western Pennsylvania. During my double period classes, I’m with these children for at least 80 minutes a day, five days a week.

During that time, we read together. We write together. We discuss important issues together. They take tests. They compose poems, stories and essays. They put on short skits, give presentations, draw pictures and even create iMovies.

I don’t need a spreadsheet to tell me whether these children can read, write or think. I know.

Anyone who had been in the room and had been paying attention would know.

But a week doesn’t go by without an administrator ambushing me at a staff meeting with a computer print out and a smile.

Look at this data set. See how your students are doing on this module. Look at the projected growth for this student during the first semester.

It’s enough to make you heave.

I always thought the purpose behind student data was to help the teacher teach. But it has become an end to itself.

It is the educational equivalent of navel gazing, of turning all your students into prospective students and trying to teach them from that remove – not as living, breathing beings, but as computer models.

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