Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Ten Commandments of Public Education


I. Public schools are open to everyone. Thou shalt not call charter schools public because they aren't.


  • Charter schools do not have elected boards that answer to the public 
  • Charter schools are not subject to the same laws and regulations as public schools
  • Charter schools can and do cherry pick the best students
  • Through convoluted business deals many charter school operators make enormous sums of money but the schools perform on average, no better than public schools 
  • Education is a right of every citizen in the US. Closing schools, and denying students access to a thorough and efficient education (New Orleans and Newark are 2 recent examples) takes away that right.
  • 'Choice' does not equal 'Access'. A lottery does not guarantee every child who wants to attend a charter will be able to attend—and graduate.


II. Thou shalt not take the name of teachers in vain.


  • No bashing, trashing, demoralizing or name calling
  • We're not greedy, lazy or selfish
  • We're not all inept or incompetent. As in any profession, there are some who are not doing a good job. It's the administrator's job to take all legal steps necessary to help the educator, or file tenure charges.
  • We are not sitting around waiting to collect a pension
  • We are not responsible for the physical, emotional and psychological baggage our students carry with them to school every day
  • We are not responsible for poor parenting
  • We are highly educated taxpayers, neighbors, citizens, voters and productive members of society who deserve to be treated with the same respect as any other profession


III. Keep holy the instructional time, the professional development time and yes, the down time.


  • Our professional development time should be spent developing our craft, collaborating with peers and strategizing for our students—not doing meaningless busy work like data collection
  • Many educators put in 60+ hours a week, so burn out is a real issue. If educators are burned out, they are less effective. With the increased emphasis on testing and test prep, the amount of work educators are now expected to do is simply unrealistic
  • We want to teach to students—not to tests


IV. Honor thy educators

  • We are the solution—not the problem
  • We want a seat at the table
  • Education 'reform' that is done to educators instead of with educators will fail. Just ask Michelle Rhee.
  • Tenure is not a recipe for 'bad teaching'. There is no correlation between tenure and 'failing students'. Tenure means due process—'innocent until proven guilty'. The court of public opinion is not the place to decide the fate of an educator. It should not take years and enormous amounts of money to remove an ineffective educator from the classroom. States have already revised tenure laws to shorten the length of the process. NY and NJ are perfect examples. 

  • Don't sugar coat us with compliments, praise and syrupy-sweet pronouncements, and don't tell the world that educators should be paid more while simultaneously trying to destroy basic job protections and slashing funding which will deter highly qualified and capable graduates from making a career in education. With all those dogs who ate all that homework, our b.s. radar is pretty high.


V. Thou shalt not kill public education

  • Fund public education! Every dollar that is cut is another nail in the coffin. 


VI. Thou shalt not lie cheat on test scores

  • Cheating is cheating. When you do it, everyone suffers—especially students. This goes for public as well as charter schools. 


VII. Thou shalt not steal mine student data 

  • No selling to/sharing with for-profit education companies
  • No selling to/sharing with people and businesses that have no educational experience
  • No selling to/sharing with public media that will use it to attack educators


VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against public education

  • The effects of poverty have been proven to impede brain function and a child's ability to learn
  • The US has the second highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world
  • When poverty is factored out, US students rank among the best in the world
  • We do not have 'failing' schools. We have segregated schools in high poverty neighborhoods.
  • We do not have an epidemic of 'bad teachers'. We have many educators who face enormous challenges working in high poverty schools that are underfunded and understaffed.
  • Good prenatal care has been proven to help students perform better in school, yet the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world
  • We do not have a high school dropout 'crisis'. The US high school graduation rate for students who earn a diploma in four years is almost 80%; it's about 90% for those who earn it in four to six years.
  • Some reasons students take more than four years to earn a diploma: military service, prolonged illness, moving either out of the country or for migratory work, going to work to help support the family
  • Testing does not improve teaching or student learning
  • Testing does not fix chronic poverty 


IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighborhood public school's best and brightest students

  • Charter schools skim the best students from the top and counsel out or simply do not provide services for the most challenging and therefore most expensive students, who are then sent back to the underfunded public schools


X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighborhood public school's resources

  • Every child who leaves a public school to attend a charter school takes up to 90% of their per-pupil funding with them, but the public school's fixed costs don't decrease. This combined with unprecedented funding cuts to public education depletes valuable resources and renders public schools less able to do their job.