TELLING IT LIKE IT SEEMS TO BE

April 25, 2015

TELLING IT LIKE IT SEEMS TO BE

 

Having followed local public education issues for at least 10 years, I am disappointed in the current lack of both good news coverage by the Globe and considered public debate over such issues.  This blog or essay tells the story at least as I see how we got to this divide in how to best govern our schools.

At least since 2000, when I first became familiar as a substitute teacher with Joplin Schools it was apparent who was in charge of running the schools.  It was the administrators, the people that could demand how students and teachers behaved and taught.  At least from the perspective of students, parents and teachers, the school principals were the focus of disagreements when issues arose and that was not very often.  As best I could tell, each teacher pretty much ran his or her own classroom and as long as no one was disciplined there was little or no concern expressed.

I see that as management by not telling anyone they are doing anything wrong.  Some would call it the reverse, positive reinforcement I suppose.  I recall only one public spectacle associated with firing a tenured teacher in a public BOE hearing.  A teacher’s desk caused a drug dog to alert, drugs were found, an investigation ensued and she was ultimately fired by the BOE sometime shortly after the turn of the century.  Other than that no big controversy publicly it seemed and BOE elections were low key events for sure.

Then a new Superintendent arrived on scene in 2008.  Initially there was no major outcry of discontent about public education.  Some publicity related to low standardized test scores was being noted by then, but again, no big outcry about low student performance, teacher moral, etc.  Then the tornado hit.  That certainly caused the public to take notice, very positive notice of how the new Superintendent led efforts to reopen schools and keep them running during the long recovery and rebuilding effort.  Joplin had a short-lived public hero in Dr. Huff, for a while.

Them he and his administrators decided to fire a teacher for exercising poor judgment.  That was not a cut and dried legal issue associated with drugs.  It was a judgment call about compliance with written BOE policies and alleged failure to conform to those policies.  The outcome was another dismissed teacher by the full BOE, a 7-0 vote.  But the fallout was different by a long shot and Joplin began to see politics intersect with public school operations.

That dismissed teacher, Randy Turner, immediately launched a tirade against Dr. Huff and the BOE soon afterwards.  There were some angry teachers and students as well that protested against his dismissal.  That outrage has continued for now three years and BOE elections have become controversial to say the least.  And the “side” or opposition to the old BOE way of doing business, which was to support the administration, has become the loser in public opinion now.

In now two years of BOE elections, the old guard if you will has been defeated and now three new members are on the BOE that call for change.  The public wants that to happen no doubt now, maybe.  But what does the public really want in the details?  That becomes more difficult to determine unless one only listens to the loudest and the anonymous public speakers or writers.

Here is where the Globe has failed to fulfill a public service of keeping the public informed about the real disagreements surrounding public education in Joplin over the last three years.  It has totally ignored the outrage expressed at least on a weekly basis against Dr. Huff and the BOE in the public blog, the Turner Report, written in virulent and persistent form by the dismissed teacher.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Globe has ignored that blog is because Turner is virulently critical of the Globe itself and it focuses that criticism on the editor, Carol Stark.  While she does not receive the same headline treatment such as Dr. Huff in that blog, she is occasionally held in high disdain therein for sure.  The only writer published in the Globe it seems is me in most cases.  According the Turner, one of the big mistakes made over the years by the Globe is to publish my columns under my name from time to time.

Whatever the reasons maybe that the Globe ignores Turner and his ideas, there is no doubt that ideas related to public education coming from one side are Turner ideas however.  His ideas cannot now be ignored.  Instead they should be exposed in the full light of public debate, both in the Globe and in public debate on the part of the BOE in all of its meetings.

If you have read the Turner Report for a year or so at least here are some key issues and how Turner advocates their resolution:

  1. Let teachers teach, whatever and however they choose to teach anything and grade student performance according to the judgment of each teacher only.
  2. Abolish any State or Federal control or mandates related to student performance, or teacher performance as well. No Child Left Behind or now Common Core Standards, and any State tests to measure student performance to those standards are anathema to Turner and his supporters.
  3. Huff should be summarily fired immediately.
  4. Turner has filed his own complaint against Dr. Huff to the Missouri Ethics Commission. He also submitted numerous accusations against Dr. Huff and R-8 administrators to the recently completed State Audit of R-8.
  5. Three now current members of the BOE, Fort, Koch and Martucci have received strong support from Turner during their campaigns. He also has supported the former BOE member, Jim Kimbrough, in the past couple of years.

There is more of course about who and what Turner supports but I won’t write them all down now.  But make no mistake, he disdains Steele and Landis, current and longer term members of the BOE and supports the above three members.  Ms. Banwart remains unsupported and not attacked as well, for now, by Turner.  He is hoping I am sure that she joins his “side” in the current 6 member BOE lineup.  If she does not and a 3-3 tie vote over who becomes the next President of the BOE or who is selected by the BOE to become the replacement for Roberts, well Ms. Banwart will undoubtedly be ridiculed by Turner, virulently if he follows his normal path to show disagreement with his views.

There are now two very clear “sides” on the new BOE.  The side that has demanded changes has three ardent members, Fort, Koch and Martucci.  You can be assured that they will move quickly to change a lot of things in R-8 once they achieve a clear majority with a 4th member.  If or when that happens, by getting Ms. Banwart to vote with them or putting Kimbrough in the currently vacant seat, then you will see at least a 4-3 vote on major issues affecting R-8.

The first “test” will be who becomes the BOE President, Fort or Steele.  That is a big so what to me as the President has no political power other than press coverage.  If minority members want to speak, inject debate into BOE meetings, etc. they can do so without the support of the President of the BOE.  They can also speak publicly for themselves in opposition or even select a spokesman for their “side” to speak on their behalf if they like.  But the crunch time vote will come in about 2-3 weeks when the vacant seat is filled.  The “Turner side” will be a rock solid vote for Kimbrough, come hell or high water and if a 3-3 tie prevents filling that seat with Kimbrough you will hear at least Koch announce again how the other “side” just wants to maintain some form of status quo.  Of course Koch is wrong.  The opposition to Koch’s views is simply because he has promulgated not specific views other than “support academic excellence”.  As if any sane member of any BOE would object to academic excellence I suppose!!!

Once a President is elected and the vacant seat on the BOE is filled THEN we will see how things work out on issues of substance.  Take for example the current issue of funding a contractor to help improve student performance on upcoming Common Core related State testing.  One assumes the “turner side” will vote no to that contract approval.  Saving money for schools will be the public reason for that vote for sure.  Then we will see if any initiatives that required BOE approval to spend money coming from the “Huff Administration side” will gain approval from the new BOE.

You see there may well be two obvious sides on the current BOE.  I will call them, as above, the “turner side” and the “huff administration side” until proven wrong by actual BOE votes.  Of course both sides will disclaim such titles.  Both will claim they are only on the side of the students, to which I reply “Oh Bullshit” to be frank.

So whose side am I on, one should ask.  I am on the side of people that can clearly articulate the best path forward to improve the quality of the product of our schools, the students that graduate therefrom after a full dose, 13 years, of K12 education.  I demand each and every graduate to be a capable of becoming a productive citizen in a modern society the day they graduate from High School, period.

That means they are ready in every way to go the college without remedial training and do well in college.  Or they are ready to attend trade schools or community colleges and do the same.  Or they are ready to assume the responsibility of a full time job and be able to quickly move beyond entry level wages to wages that can support raising a family later on.

I want public schools to only graduate students that are READY to live as productive adults in our society.  If students fail to demonstrate such readiness after 13 years of K12 education, the public schools should provide a certificate showing their shortcomings, why they are not yet ready to enter society as functioning adults.  If they have failed to demonstrate the ability to read and write at the 12th grade level or do math at that level or behave as expected of an 18 year old in society, then they do not graduate with a high school diploma.  They are simply allowed to move on into society once they reach the age of 18 without a “trophy”.

I hope you can see from my description of what I “want” from public schools the real challenge of ever getting such an outcome from every graduating student.  It requires telling a lot of people, students first and foremost, that they are NOT READY to move on and upward.  They are NOT READY for the next grade, next course in high school, etc.  The must first “do ……” satisfactorily to DEMONSTRATE their ability to perform each step of the way thru K12 education.

Once you tell students such information you must also tell parents, who will raise as much hell as the students probably.  And if a teacher says one thing and the “school” says differently then you have a fight on your hands with teachers as well as students and parents.

Hmmm.  According to Turner and his supporters we have just such a fight in Joplin right now.  Some students, parents and teachers are mad as hell against Huff and the R-8 administration.  That is simply because Dr. Huff and some of his associates have started telling some people that they are not performing as required, starting with Turner three years ago, or was it four?

Dr. Huff said it clearly not long ago it seems.  He is quoted in the Turner Report saying in essence that R-8 is not firing too many teachers.  Instead it is not hiring the right ones to teach in our public schools.  Wow, that out to make the NEA happy as a clam, right!  Think the “turner side” will support the NEA?  You bet your bippy they will so get out you checkbooks are you happy campers when you get the changes headed our way from the “turner side”.

Or will it be the “fort side”, etc.??

AGREEING ON PROBLEMS BEFORE ARUGING ABOUT SOLUTIONS

April 14, 2015

AGREEING ON PROBLEMS BEFORE ARGUING ABOUT SOLUTIONS

 

The title can be applied to many issues before Americans, locally and across the country.  For example, local controversy over how public schools are being managed has resulted in at least two, maybe three new faces on the BOE that will call for radical changes.  On a broader national scale the continued deaths of black men at the hands of police is continuing to stir distrust, anger and calls for change.   However in both cases the problems have not been clearly identified and agreed upon by citizens.

No, one might say.  One candidate for the BOE clearly said that student performance needed strong improvement.   He based that assertion on static or even declining “test scores”, grades received by students on standardized State of Missouri tests.  Yet many professional educators will emphatically state that such test scores do not accurately reflect what students learn and many teachers become very angry if bad student test scores are used to evaluate teacher performance.  My point is not to pick on one new member of the BOE, Jeff Koch, who campaigned heavily on the issue of poor student performance.   Hell I agree with him that such performance is terrible.  I just want all involved in local public education to come to agreement on how to best measure student performance and THEN decide what is needed to be done.  State the problem with clarity and then come to agreement on how to fix the problem.

But in this blog I have bigger fish to fry than more on local public education issues.  I turn to the furor over media scrutiny and public outcry over the deaths of black men in instances where law enforcement actions come into play.  Most of such deaths have been at the hands of police officers.  But it all began with public anger over the death of Travon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watchman, a civilian brown on black confrontation, initially.  That incident was ultimately resolved legally but many citizens felt then and now that something was wrong with our laws and demanded more justice for black men.

Then Ferguson, a white cop killing an unarmed black man, landed in our national debate.  Again the matter was resolved legally, with no charges against the white cop.  When that happened it was not just peaceful protests however.  Angry mobs were incited to “burn this bitch down” (the City of Ferguson) and multiple businesses in fact were burned to the ground.  Deep resentment and anger remains throughout America over events in Ferguson some nine months after the shooting.  Then NYC, Cleveland, now South Carolina and Tulsa and I may have missed some other shootings of black citizens at the hands of cops reported of late.  Clearly many in America are outraged now over this particular problem.

But, what specifically is the problem, I ask?  I agree there in fact is a problem.  But I doubt that we could all agree on a definitive statement of the problem.  Without such agreement no solutions can be determined.  Permit me if you will to list some ideas for a statement of the problem.  Feel free to add your own if you believe I missed or attempt to mislead anyone’s thinking on this important matter.

  1. Police kill too many citizens and remain unpunished for such actions.
  2. Police kill too many black men and remain unpunished for such actions.
  3. Racist, white policemen kill too many black citizens and get away with murder in doing so.
  4. Too many criminals attempt to resist arrest and get killed by police officers for doing so.
  5. Too many minority criminals attempt to resist arrest and get killed by police officers for doing so.
  6. Police officers are unable to make reasonable judgments on the use of force, particularly deadly force, when any citizen argues with police or resists arrest attempts.
  7. Police try to arrest far too many citizens for trivial matters.
  8. Police try to arrest too many minority citizens for trivial matters.
  9. Police harass black citizens far too much and violent resistance by black citizens is justified as a matter of self-defense.
  10. Far too many police officers are racist today. Elected officials and courts violate the law to attempt to protect such police officers.
  11. The laws that regulate police activity are fine but elected officials and/or courts interpret the law improperly, resulting in murder by cops that goes unpunished.

Of course I could go on constructing such a list of problem statements related to cops on blacks violence consuming public attention.  I also fully recognize that some items on the above list are not politically correct to even list such possibilities.  Just suggesting, in writing in public that just maybe too many criminals try to resist arrest becomes an insensitive act of blaming a victim, according to some.

But take just the first three items above listed as potential problems.  Do “police” cause the problems against “citizens” or is it just “police” against “black citizens” or is it just “racist, white cops” that cause the problem.  You see in the first case all police in America have to be “fixed”.  But if only the third case is true then the solution becomes more easily bounded.  “All” that has to be done is find a way to identify any “racist, white cops”, fire them immediately and the problem is solved, right?

But the current debate, in part at least, is a complaint that police confront citizens far too much for trivial matters.  A traffic stop for a broken tail light results in a driver fleeing the scene of the traffic stop and ultimately a dead black driver.  No trivial traffic stop, no dead black driver.  OR, of course, don’t resist arrest by fleeing from a police officer, no dead black driver, either.  OR, of course, just let the offender of a trivial matter go ahead and run away.  Or, if the offender runs away the single traffic cop can call for pursuit by half the police force in North Charleston, SC for a fleeing criminal that had only a broken tail light, for starters!!

OK, enough.  If any liberal reads this I am sure you are already angry with me for even hinting that some problems exist within criminal elements of our society that exacerbate the violence employed by police officers in an attempt to control, mitigate, such criminal behavior.  Believe it or not I am not trying to pick another fight with liberals.  What I am trying to do however is to get the liberals to clearly tell me and others what they really think the problem is that causes the deaths of some black men at the hands of police officers.  Just how many police officers have NOT been held accountable under the law for killing black men, or minority men, or any citizens for that matter?

There is no doubt of course that some cops are flat out racist cops, bigoted people that hate blacks for whatever reason(s).  Such cops will lie, cheat or otherwise act dishonorably to hide their behavior, their real biases, from others.  I detest such dishonorable cops as much as anyone else and would like to see administrative or legal action taken against them.  But if we have say 1000 police officers in a given area, how many of them are in fact dishonorable men and/or women?  Just how big is the problem?

On the other hand if there is an area with 1000 criminals, how many of them are dishonorable people?  That percentage is 100%, like it or not, as criminal behavior is by definition dishonorable, is it not?

One final point.  ANYTIME a cop fires a shot while on duty I am rather certain there is a formal investigation.  So there is or should be a paper trail showing who exactly did what to whom, who reviewed the matter and what if any results or conclusions were reached.  I don’t care how racist a police department might be, there must be some sort of paper trail associated with any incidents of shots fired by cops in any community, anytime, anyplace in America.

If a group of people believe grave injustice has been perpetrated by racist police forces, dishonorable, lying, cheating cops and lawyers supervising them, then there must be evidence available to support such grave claims.  So the only challenge would be to find enough honorable man and women to review that evidence and provide unbiased results to we the people.

Well who are those honorable men and women, where can we find them, where can we find the money to pay them to conduct a truly honest, independent third party investigation into such matters that strike at the heart and soul of American character, American honor, American ideals of equality for all before the bar of the law?

Now reread that last paragraph again.  THAT is what concerns me so much about my, our, country today.  I worry a lot about the honor of all Americans today.  Everything that I have read in history shows me that democracy without a critical mass of honest and honorable citizens will fail.  I have also learned that honor comes with both good education and good experiences.  No one is born honorable.  It must be taught and learned by any man or woman.

I began this blog with a short example of confusion in stating the exact nature of the problem associated with public education concerns.  But I then went into some detail about law enforcement, criminal activity and racism, as honestly as I could write about such ideas.

In doing just that, where did I wind up again?  Surprised that I wound right back with education and the lack of it for many of our citizens today being at the root of many problems in our modern society today in America?  If you have read my ideas for any time over the last several years I continue to be very concerned about the honor inherent in American citizens and the lack of sound and comprehensive education for our citizens to advance the ideas of honorable conduct by all Americans in the future.

Our debates only put an exclamation point to my concerns.  We attack any and all people now, their ideas, views of issues, their proposed policies to remedy perceived shortcomings in society and those attacks are deeply and destructively personal and vicious.  Those people, the “attackers” if you will, demonstrate the worst in our society and the utter failure of a good system of education that makes people think carefully before ………..

That is not to say that reasonable disagreement is wrong.  Hell, it is as right as any America idea, to be able to disagree and still live as a good society.  But the irrational, vindictive disagreement I see around us locally and nationally today is as bad as I have ever seen it and it is getting worse.  Incidentally I do NOT include the Erstwhile conservative, Duane Graham, or his blog in such condemnation now.  After some seven years of battles in blogs with Duane we have reached a form of stalemate, even truce perhaps.  We still disagree on most political matters today at the national level but can still “talk to each other” without throwing kitchenware around as well.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FIX PUBLIC EDUCATION IN JOPLIN?

April 13, 2015

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FIX PUBLIC EDUCATION IN JOPLIN?

 

Everyone with any sense of course wants to see public education in Joplin, or America as well, improve and improve dramatically.  As optimistic people we all want to say a resounding Yes to the question posed in the title.  However until we all agree on the meaning of “fix”, it will not be possible to do much improvement in public education.  What exactly must be fixed and how can it be accomplished must be agreed upon, first.

The goal of public education is to graduate students after completing 13 years of K12 education.  Each of those students is expected to have the knowledge and behavior skills to become productive citizens in our modern society that increases in complexity year after year as well.  Do public schools in Joplin achieve that stated goal?  No they do not, at least not for the majority of graduating students.  About 15% do not graduate and about 50% of those receiving diplomas lack the proficiency to read, write or perform mathematical calculations at the 12th grade level.

Such a view is not particularly controversial.  New members of our local BOE have called for change and improving student performance was one of the big changes promoted.  But do they, or anyone else associated professionally with public education know exactly what is needed to fix our government provided system for all K12 students in Joplin, or America for that matter?

I will offer a sound bite solution.  Until we learn to grade people associated with education accurately and professionally, we will never fix the system of public education.   Simply stated, if you cannot show by measurement that something is broken, you will never know what to fix.    As well by measuring, evaluating people,  I mean all of them starting with the lone kindergarten student and his/her teacher, assistant principle, principle, superintendent and, most of all perhaps for youngsters, his/her parents as well.  Just think about that kind of grading system, honestly and consistently used to call a spade a spade and greatness, greatness as well and all else in between.

Over twenty years ago, 1994, an iconic book was published offering a scathing critique of public education in America.  It is The Bell Curve and should be read by anyone trying to understand and untangle all the complex issues associated with the massive bureaucratic nightmare that public education has become, locally and nationally.

The statistical analysis in the book clearly shows a multi-decade process of graduating students with less and less ability to become productive adults in a modern society that increases in complexity year after year.  As well it shows how the “cognitive elite” continue to prosper as a class in society while others fall farther behind.  Such is not new information.  It is at least 20 years old information and yet the same problems continue, year after year in most public schools in America and for sure in Joplin.

For now the politics related to public education in Joplin is over and a new BOE is in place.  Now can we see real and sustainable improvement in student performance in our K12 system in public education?  Or instead will the solution simply be to measure student achievement in a different manner to show their performance has been proficient all along?

Keep in mind that the public debate about poor performance by our public schools is not new in America.  If nothing else the referenced book created a firestorm of debate 20 years ago that is still raging.  Professional educators, those trained in our colleges to educate our kids generally disdain the book.  They should as the book counters many of the fundamental things professional educators are taught.  But the proof is in the pudding so to speak as the book provides graph after graph after graph of historical data showing declining trends in areas that actually count to measure student achievement and their ability to become good citizens in the future.

I used a term above that should be a wake-up call for anyone believing improving student performance in public schools is just a matter of getting the right politicians on a board.  The applicable term is “massive bureaucratic nightmare”.  It is not just something impeding improvement in public education.  When things go wrong and citizens demand that government fixes such matters, well there is the start of the problem.  Another bureaucracy is created and there we go into a messy nightmare of no one being clearly in charge and accountable of things when they go wrong.

If sitting on the perch of a seat on the BOE in Joplin does not scare someone, well they are just too numb (or is that a typo??) to feel scared.  Such people are at the pinnacle of a deeply troubled system yet few have any training or experience improving such a system of education.  When they look beneath such seats and see thousands of students, 600 angry teachers, another few hundred administrators or other staff personnel, they should see a churning mass of discontent today.

That discontent is because anyone can clearly see a dysfunctional system, one that is producing terrible results in the student population that has been graduating for years now from that system.  But as with any bureaucracy going astray the opinions of all within it are as diverse as the streets of America.  Thus there are big fights within the system itself, not just concerns coming from voters outside the system.

Consider the “what if” the Normandy Invasion had initially failed and the bureaucracy of the Army had tried to fix it the second time around?  I don’t know if Europe would be communist or Nazi now but I bet we would still be trying to invade Europe with a bureaucracy in charge of the effort!!.  Sometime in the 1960s public education began its long, slow slide into mediocrity.  Very FEW BOE’s have been able to pull a dysfunctional local system out of such conditions over the last 50 plus years.

I wonder if the “new” BOE even recognizes the challenges it faces.  Frankly I don’t believe some, or most of them, have that recognition within them, yet.  And if they believe that just changing some personnel positions around and finding a way to make teachers “happy”, well good luck with that approach.  And three years from now Joplin schools will still be mired in mediocrity at best.

CAN the system be fixed?  Of course it can.  But until the majority of people within the system can reach agreement on WHAT to fix and HOW to fix it, well we have been arguing for over 50 years about just such matters.  I am not at all confident that we have the ideas and the leadership to make that happen now.  I wish those trying to do so good luck.  But I would add the neither God nor luck has ever fixed a dysfunctional bureaucracy in my experience at least!!

CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW BOE

April 10, 2015

 CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW BOE

 

New members on the BOE called for change.  Now the newly constituted BOE must produce results demanded by voters.  Simply stated, improvement in student performance, better fiscal management, improved transparency on the part of the BOE and more accountability seems to be the path forward.  I don’t disagree with any of those goals.  But I wonder exactly how the new BOE will even measure progress towards, much less achievement of such goals.

Spend less money or spend money provided more wisely was a principle demand from voters.   Any vote by the BOE to spend any money should clearly, transparently be shown to be justified.  The cost/benefit to the students for every dollar thus spent should be transparent as well.  That would suggest no more consent agendas for future BOE votes.  Every dollar approved for spending by the BOE should be justified by a very transparent BOE, all the time.  Any vote, yes or no pertaining to spending by any member of the BOE must be explained by that member, transparently.  Are they all ready to do so?

A more rigorous debate between labor and management in how public schools are administered is headed the way of the new BOE.  In all likelihood the NEA will assume sole responsibility to negotiate on behalf of all teachers in R-8.  Reaching agreement between the NEA and BOEs is never easy.  I wonder how the new BOE will deal with that new player in terms of being financially responsible to taxpayers in Joplin.

Student performance needs strong improvement according to newly elected members of the BOE.  How will such performance be measured and what standards be used to gauge acceptable levels of performance, academically and behaviorally for all students?   When acceptable performance in academics and behavior on the part of students is not achieved, who will the BOE hold accountable for such lack of achievement?

Summed up, far better fiscal management, student performance, transparency and accountability is expected by voters from the new BOE.  For the first two items it seems that voters are saying tighten up fiscal controls and demand higher performance by students.  For the last two it seems voters want to hear from the BOE exactly what and why actions are being taken and for people, individuals to be publicly identified and held publicly accountable.

I hope that everyone recognizes that saying No to future requests to spend money, pet rocks or not and transparently demanding better performance by students will not be popular.  Being transparent also is not easy at least for honest people in office.  Sugar coating shortcomings, always making excuses for mistakes made is not transparency.  It is simply political business as usual.  As for accountability, that is next to impossible in today’s America.  No one wants to accept personal responsibility for mistakes but will always leap to blame others.

Major improvements are desperately needed in public education, nationally and locally.  But the popular path of least resistance to public opinion has not worked for decades now.  Doing the next right things for Joplin education has now been demanded by voters.  Will the new BOE do the next right things even if they are not always popular?  That is the real challenge to the BOE and I wish them well as they try to meet them, even overcome them, the challenges those candidates identified themselves.

WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS THAT ……?

March 30, 2015

WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS THAT …….?

 

As various constituencies endlessly debate what to do about or with public education at the K12 level in America, we all get angry and frustrated with each other.  I wonder what the real and fundamental disagreement might be with all so involved in discussions related to K12 education.

Maybe, just maybe it is trying to answer the question in the title to this blog.  It is an easy answer for families with “means”, a background of achievement and material successes, professional and personal successes, in their lives.  Take the rich doctor with a high IQ, the money to send his kids anywhere to receive an education, etc. that asks himself what to do with his kid(s).  Turn them loose in a good school to study hard, play sports, engage with others constructively, a few don’ts long with way like use drugs, smoke, get someone pregnant, etc. as well.  Such adults don’t worry too much about public education, at least for or with their kids.  They, the adults, have the “means” to do what is right, what is needed with such children, beginning at an early age.  By the way, THE BELL CURVE book calls those families the “cognative elite”.

But what about the child that does not have all “that stuff” in terms of background, money, opportunities laid at their feet so to speak.  What do you or anyone else “do” with such kids?  Is that not where all the arguments wind up in matters of public K12 education?

In my last blog I stated, again and rather firmly what I believe must be the criteria to award a high school diploma certifying completion of 13 years of K12 public education.  At the core of the meaning of that diploma should be the actual completion of all 13 grade levels for such an education and grade level achievement at each step of that process, year by year until graduation, however many years it takes.

I further submit that while the inner workings of individual brains are still not well understood completely, there are some basic things that we do understand.  Educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, people that study and understand state of the art principles of mental health understand how good and bad people perform.  WHY, exactly they act that way, good or bad, is still debated.  But the characteristics of how people act, including how they learn, is not a big mystery today, or at least should not be a big mystery.

For a very long time American society has demanded that students do their best to complete K12 education.  No one in society wants their child to be a “drop out” (unless such adults are just “nuts”).  I don’t either.  No child should just quit, drop out of things that are considered really important.  They should be given the appropriate “carrots” (encouragement, praise, etc.) AND “sticks” (nothing physical for sure but ……) to complete K12 education to a level that they are capable of achieving, period.

All children, usually those with poor backgrounds, lack of resources to take advantage of all the “good things” in American life are not capable of completing a full 13 years of K12 education, one grade at a time through the 12th grade however.  They lack “something” and all the effort in the world by “society” will not lead them to an honest and successful completion of, ultimately, a 12th grade level education as demanding as the one suggested in my last blog.

Such kids should not be punished, however.  They should not be lined up and called failures, drop outs, bad apples, etc.  That should apply only for ADULTS that do not follow the law, legally.  The adult drug addict that rapes his girlfriend, robs a store and kills someone, for whatever reason, well throw the social book at them.  But not their kids for sure.

But do not give out “trophies” to every kid as well.  Trophies, diplomas, certifications for completing anything should be awarded by EARNING the achievements set forth, honestly and really achieving such things.  “Fake” diplomas do no one any good, a document saying they did something “good” that in fact they never achieved.  “Not worth the paper they are written on” becomes the norm for such freely given certifications, diplomas, trophies if you will.

So back to what to do with kids that don’t complete the 12th grade level of education after remaining in public schools until the legal age demanded by law when they can leave schools?  Easy.  Award them what they HAVE achieved.  If a kid reaches the age of 17 and has remained in public schools up to that birthday, then if he decides do leave school, give him a certification for what he HAS achieved.  Maybe he can only read and write at the 8th grade level and only do math at the 6th grade level.  Fine.  Give him a “diploma”, certification for what he has accomplished for DEMONSTRATED ability to read, write and do math.

For sure that gives credit where credit is honestly due, going to school for 13 long years, working to achieve “something”, enduring all the things any child must face in the learning process and maybe even giving it his best effort along the way.  “Honor” him (her) with an “award” for having done so.

No it will NOT be a full High School Diploma.  But it will be an honest evaluation of long effort and achievement of something.  Award any and every child for such achievement, less than achievement than some accomplish, but so what.  Not everyone gets to “start” on a football team, but if a kid sticks it out for four years playing high school football, riding the bench every year, well give the kid a letter, a jacket to wear it on, etc…

I am only really asking why a HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA, itself, is so important.  In my view it is NOT important, in and of itself.  It is the achievement of a full and complete high school level of education that is important.  And face it; many kids just cannot achieve that level of education for a whole host of reasons, most of them not of their own making.

As an employer there are many jobs that I might well offer that in no way require the kind of complete, “whole” or “well rounded” education if you will, a full and complete high school diploma level of K12 education proposed in the preceding blog.  All I really want to know is what can a kid really do at the time I hire him or her.  And I sure don’t want to hire a kid that has paper certifying he can read and write at the 12th grade level if he or she cannot do so by any stretch of the imagination.  If I hire someone under such false understandings of what they can actually do, well I might have to fire them a month later (or get into a labor dispute for no good reason) for poor performance, performance at a level I need as an employer but the kid has never achieved.

Ah, you say, more job training.  Not on my workforce that I must pay for hour by hour, at least not all the time.  Face it some kids may well never be able to go beyond the 8th grade level of reading and writing skills.  We have all seen such people, at least in large work forces.   Much better for the employer and the employee that he or she is placed in a job that matches their current level of skill.  Then let them grow into higher levels of working through experience and future training that they can and will accomplish, meeting newer and higher levels of skills as they continue to grow (up) and learn, all their lives as adults, which we all should try to be doing.

It boils down to something really simple.  Award certificates, diplomas, championship rings, etc. only to people that EARN such things.  But as well, award achievement for those things EARNED that contribute to goals, aspirations and well-being of individuals and societies.

Do it this way and as long as a kid stays in school until he or she reaches the 17th birthday, then no one is a drop out.  And they can leave knowing and certifying that every kid has in fact learned and achieved SOMETHING.

But to continue to do what we routinely do in public education today, award kids for things they have not EARNED perpetuates such expectations in adults later on.  They will want to earn the salary of a master craftsman but will never be able (or willing) to perform, routinely up to the level of such higher earning CAPABILITIES, demonstrated and performed capabilities.

A union can always negotiate higher wages for everyone, or try to do so.  But I have NEVER seen a good union that would try to get the apprentice level worker paid the same wages as a union certified master “whatever”.  Yep, “rank has its privileges” but those privileges are EARNED and rewarded by superb performance before being promoted to a higher “rank”, in good work forces and societies at least.

Why not teach that path to a “good life” beginning with K12 education in all American schools?

WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION TO PURSUE?

March 29, 2015

WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION TO PURSUE?

 

The question in the title is usually considered by kids attending college. But it should begin much earlier in life with the question “What do you (I) want to be when you (I) grow up?”  I submit that only a good education can provide the answer for such questions for any individual.  And of course that education, of the formal sort at least, begins with K12 education for any child.

An interesting program on CNN this Sunday stirred my thoughts on this matter.  A greater emphasis on a college liberal arts education, instead of the current push to maximize efforts in engineering, science, math and computer related skills were being espoused.  The proponents of a liberal arts degree in college emphasized the point that learning to read, write and THINK, clearly and precisely were very important in any society in history, regardless of the technologies in such societies.  I certainly agree with that point and it should apply in deciding what “to teach” in K12 education.

The type of education is important, beginning in the first year of K12 education and proceeding through the remaining 12 years after kindergarten is very important for every child proceeding through that educational process and “system” in America.  As such I believe BOTH elements of education, the “liberal type” consisting of reading, writing and thinking, must be combined rigorously with the more “exacting type” of education in math and science throughout K12 education.

I go to the end, the completion, of K12 education to observe the types of results I suggest are needed by ALL graduates from high school.  In a system of public education that I would support the lowest ranking member of a high school class should be able to say the same thing as the valedictorian of a high school class to this question.

“What classes did you learn the most in the subjects presented”?  A well rounded, well-educated high school graduate, regardless of grades assigned should be able to say English, Literature, Math and Physical Sciences all provided tremendous new awareness of the world in which I live.  I also suggest that familiarity with at least one foreign language, history and government should be added as well.

Sure, if you ask a second grade student their favorite class they will likely say recess.  But the question did not address “liking” particular classes.  It addressed what one learned in various classes.

Have you ever heard a student claim, “I can’t do math”, or, “I hate English”, or any other series of likes and dislikes of various classes or their assessment of their own ability to “do” a particular subject?  My basic point is that to achieve a level of education equivalent to a high school diploma every student must demonstrate the ability to “do” basic things.  Every high school graduate must, at a minimum be able to “do” reading, writing and math at a proficient level to receive a high school diploma, period.  For now I will let “experts” define “proficiency” at least in this essay.  (To me at least being proficient means a kid can “do it”)!!!

Whoa the reader thinks.  What the hell does he mean?  Well it is actually a simple idea.  Obviously a student must be able to read a book, literature or a newspaper if you will, and then write clearly about what he read.  But the same applies in a science class.  If a child is to learn how the solar system “works” that child must be able to read about the solar system and then write clearly about what he learned   about the solar system.  That is just basic reading and writing skills in all subjects pertinent to learning in K12 studies.  A student must also be able to read and write about problems in math.  In that case the “alphabet” is just a little different.  Numbers rather than letters are used in the language of mathematics, in some cases.  In some science courses one must be proficient in both “languages” such as chemistry and physics in high school classes.

An example of the last statement is offered.  Ph is a “word” in chemistry.  In a sentence it means the amount of a particular “ion” (another word) present in a solution of water.  But it also is the “log to the base 10 of the hydronium ion concentration in solution”, for sure a form of math “language” that must be learned as well, in basic high school chemistry.  Learning how to “do Ph problems” in chemistry is a dual language capability.  And by the time one takes a chemistry course if they have not yet learned how to manipulate logarithmic problems, well good-by chemistry grades in a high school level course.  The same lack of skill level before reaching high school that will cause deep trouble is the freshman that cannot “do fractions”, a fourth grade level skill essential to “passing math” in any high school curriculum, in my opinion at least.

I am not trying to suggest that a college degree in say, Engineering, is very similar to a degree in say, Philosophy.  They are quite different in the college level studies.  But think about the basic level of Engineering and Philosophy, the reading, writing and thinking stage of learning the principles, the basic elements of the two subjects is the same.  I suggest that basic level skill, the high school level if you will of such skills is the same and how to achieve that skill level requires the same basic applications of effort and intellect by both students and teachers.

Both reading and math demand that a student, at an early age, learn the “alphabets” involved.  Have you ever found a first grader that can read well but not understand the alphabet, the building block of language?  Same with math.  Learning ones “numbers” is like learning, again at a very early age, the alphabet of language.  Then in both cases the very young student begins to put those alphabets to work to learn words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.  Once that is achieved, write a single sentence according to basic “rules”.   Then one must, again at an early age, be able to put in writing a description of what he or she has read, and follow certain rules, laws, etc. in doing so.  A very young student must be able to understand and “use” sentences like 2+2=4, as well as the more familiar sentence structure of first grade skill levels in English.

At that very basic level I find no difference between reading, writing and math.  And I insist that any mainstream student must demonstrate those skills every step of the way as they progress through K12 education, all the way to graduation from high school at the 12th grade level.

Our entire social structure has failed, repeatedly over the last 5 or so decades to demand that level of achievement of every mainstream student that graduates from high school anywhere in our country.  I also insist that is only the BASIC, the minimum level of achievement that every graduating senior from any high school achieve, a proficient level of demonstrated performance in reading, writing and math skills in a variety of basic subjects, like science, history, government, languages and a few others.

A good plumber needs such skills.  A minimum wage hamburger flipper should work to achieve those skills and for sure anyone even considering moving further in education after high school must achieve those skills levels in high school, bar none, if they are to receive a high school diploma certifying graduation from the 12th grade (level) of K12 education.

So what about the kid that “can’t do math”?  Well first why can’t the kid do math becomes a pertinent question.  As I see the issue the student either failed to work hard enough to learn the material presented to him over 12 years OR, the material was poorly presented to him or her.  Again, I speak only about mainstream students, those without disabilities in learning.  As well corrective action must immediately be taken to improve the math skills of such students as soon as a student DEMONSTRATES they “can’t do math”.  Correcting a fourth grade learning deficiency at the freshman year in high school becomes a lost cause for sure for any student.

In most cases with mainstream kids that fail to achieve a grade level skill in particular subjects it is due to lack of consistent effort on the part of the student.  Simply said, students today and some parents demand that the knowledge simply be “taught to the (their) kid”.  I don’t care how good the teacher might be, a kid that refuses to work hard, consistently and throughout the full K12 journey will not learn the material required, period.  Knowledge is EARNED through study, reading and writing (regardless of the “alphabet” used); it is NOT just “given” to any student.  And the higher a student goes up the ladder of education the work does and should get harder and harder, each year.

Need I also state emphatically that assigned grades throughout K12 education must reflect that which a student has EARNED in terms of levels of knowledge (and behavior)?  Grades must reflect performance, not just be given for “trying” or whatever.

One more important point that society forgets many times.  Any individual, to be able to live a “good life”, one that he or she enjoys and has an opportunity to prosper in such living, MUST continue to learn through their own study for the rest of their lives.  No one can continue their education after high school graduation if they don’t have the ability to read, write and do math to support such continuing education.  A fake diploma certifying skills that simply have not been developed by an individual hurts society for sure.  But it is far more destructive to the student, the fake graduate as they are not at all ready to become productive citizens in a complex modern society, the goal of any system of public education.

SOME GOOD NEWS ABOUT JOPLIN PUBLIC EDUCATION

March 28, 2015

SOME GOOD NEWS ABOUT JOPLIN PUBLIC EDUCATION

 

The recent good news is a student graduating from Joplin High School this year was recently accepted for admission to Stanford, one of the best universities in America.  I doubt many people know that fact, yet.

The reason I blog on that point is to once again reinforce the point I have often made.  I believe, based on observing classes, teaching some of the classes, talking to students in such classes, parents of students in such classes and talking with teachers of such classes that the  local Advanced Program education (AP) classes and curriculum supporting them are GREAT, at least generally speaking.  When I criticize Joplin Public education it does NOT include criticism or calls for improvement on a major scale of the AP program.

Recent acceptance at Stanford is just one recent example of excellence in that AP program at Joplin High School.  Last year one graduate was accepted into Yale and another into Princeton and both are doing well at those stellar universities as best I know.  It is one thing to get into a great school.  But being able to go from a mid-size Midwestern community in fly over country and “survive” in such distant and strange places with really TOUGH schools, well that says volumes about the kids, the parents and the public education system that made that possible.

Stanford, Yale and Princeton are not the only examples of JHS excellence as well.  West Point, the Air Force Academy, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Boston College and the University of Virginia are major universities of real excellence that have offered admission to JHS graduates in the recent past.  They are just the ones that I am familiar with as well and I am sure other schools of excellence have done the same for some kids from Joplin High School.

It is for reasons such as the above that I firmly support the programs producing the “top 25% of the class” in JHS each year.  I also know that many of those kids are not in any way “rich kids” or coming from good families with high socio-economic standing.

What I want to do in all my writings about education is to move the bar up in Joplin schools such that the lowest student in the graduating class has a reasonable shot at excellence.  I can offer no better example than my college alma mater, the Naval Academy.  John McCain, a former Presidential candidate and longer term Senator was almost the anchor man for his class at USNA.  But look what he has achieved.

When the lowest achieving student in academics and behavior that graduates from JHS has a real shot at excellence then I will shut up.  But not until then!!  Today I really worry about the “bottom” 75% part of the graduating class and we need tremendous improve for each and every one of those kids.

ANTICIPATING THE BOE PUBLIC FORUM

March 20, 2015

ANTICIPATING THE BOE PUBLIC FORUM

 

There should be little surprise to any candidate for the BOE what questions I would hope are asked and the answers I would like to hear in the Monday, March 23 public forum sponsored by the Globe for all candidates.  I have written two blogs on the important (to me at least) points and include a couple of more, briefly herein.

First is the ever present issue of money.  Yes, reserves are low and must be restored.  But how to do that and in what time frame, for both general fund reserves and capital reserves is the question.  Actually which of those two funds should be restored first, as a matter of priority or are they both of equal importance?  You as candidates must tell us your views

How to restore both reserves is an open question as well.  What is your suggestion to do so and how long will it take.  Will you rob Peter (current tax income) to Pay Paul (reserve accounts) or do you have new sources of money to refund reserves?    And if you do call for Peter paying Paul, what will you cut out of Peter’s current expenses? You should all be able to speak with authority on such points on Monday evening.

What about performance appraisal systems in R-8.  Are current systems adequate, fair and transparent for employees of R-8?  If not what are your ideas to fix such performance appraisal systems?

How about teacher turnover and morale?  Is it a big issues and what will you do to improve the situation?  Remember just saying there is a problem and demanding change is not good enough for me as a voter.  Such accusations ring hollow to me and I want to hear about good ideas for solutions.

Now for the really big elephant in the room.  Ben and I have freely and aggressively engaged in it but no one else does so in public (expect of course the very one-sided diatribes on the Turner Report) forums.  Do any of you really believe that firing one man, Dr. Huff, will just magically make all much better in R-8 schools.  Dream on if you believe such to be the case.

I in no way claim complete awareness of how to fix Joplin (or any other) schools.  All I know for sure, based on 8 years of inside observation and a lot of reading and study on the matter of public education is that it sorely needs fixing, a lot, period.

The problems are so long standing and deep seated in American public education over decades that there is no pat solution and no one man with all the correct ideas.  At its core R-8 problems are little different from problems all over the country and there are no quick fixes to such problems as well.

If you read this blog you will find many books that I have recommended on matters related to public education.  Every problem you see in R-8 has already been seen in many places in public schools in other places, in my view, as well.  There is nothing unique, at the core level with R-8 problems.

Yes, it will take great leadership to “turn around” or even slowly improve the R-8 system of public education.  Actually only shallow thinkers believe that a sudden turnaround in a defunct system will result by replacing one man.  Recall all the political anxiety in 2008 and immergence of a new President with radically new ideas.  Then look at all that has taken place over the last six and a half years now and all the animosity, total lack of unity, in place, nationally.

If nothing else, I would hope your replies to my last private email would be a resounding NO to each of the two questions.  At a minimum you simply don’t know enough to say Yes to either question unless you have been more involved that is evident in R-8 affairs.  You sure can’t address either question just by reading blogs, this one or any other, for sure.

As for how you will address the very complex issues before the BOE if you are elected, well you better think about it very, very carefully and deeply.  In the end your decisions will not be just union issues, teacher issues, hiring and firing issues for any employee, money issues, morale issues, student knowledge and behavior issues, and others, alone.  YOUR votes will affect ALL of those various and complex points.  As well the unintended consequences will be abundant as well.

Such responsibilities should scare the living hell out of all of you.  In the final analysis it is not a popularity contest either.  It is doing the next right thing for the coming years for every student, teacher, administrator, and taxpayer in Joplin, MO.  Do you believe you yourself are up to the challenge and ready to do the really hard work demanded?

EVER CHANGING STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, OR ????

March 18, 2015

EVER CHANGING STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS,  OR ?????

 

This is another essay related to how to improve student achievement and written as input for candidates and voters to consider for the upcoming Board of Education election.  I will send a link to this blog by email to all BOE candidates in hopes they will at least consider the views herein.

One of the frequent complaints about R-8 is the curriculum(s) changes quite frequently, some 5 times in X years or so.  Sorry I don’t recall the specifics on that point.  The real question of course is should those curriculums change so often and if they do, well so what?

Let’s take a really easy starting point, the question of what a third grader should know, academically, and how to teach that knowledge.  I will make the astounding assertion that at a minimum every kid in such a class (“special” kids not addressed) should know how to read, write and perform arithmetic calculations at the third grade level.

To me at least the only possible dispute that could arise from such a statement is “what does third grade level really mean”.  Hmmm?  Is that a really hard question to answer by someone that majored in college in education?  I also wonder if the definition of “third grade level” is a fluid, ever changing definition.  Are there not some learned PhD’s that can address that issue and gain a consensus answer, once and for all over what it mean to be able to “work third grade level math problems”?

OK, let’s make the question a little, but not a lot, tougher.  What does grade level achievement in Algebra I mean?

I will suggest that the “rules” of algebra have not changed very much since Isaac Newton used them.  Being able to “work algebra problems” (at a basic level of algebra) should not be a tough question to answer by any teacher that studied math and majored in it in college.  Sure some teacher that never took a College Algebra course in college might have little idea but such a teacher should NOT BE TEACHING high school Algebra I, EITHER.

Do you get the simple point underlying the simple question related to what academic skills are needed to be “at grade level” in a given subject at a given point in K12 education should be easily answered by any “professional” educator?

I submit that a trained and educated PROFESSIONAL educator should know such answers and be able to defend them before ever entering a classroom to teach any subject, third grade math up to calculus in high school.  A “degree in education” in no way qualifies a teacher to teach “any subject”, at least in my view, however.

Teachers, any teachers, must “know their subject” backwards and forwards if you will, before trying to teach any subject, period.

Be careful as you consider this issue.  I am NOT taking a “shot” at all teachers.  I AM, however, suggesting that many teachers are assigned to teach courses for which they lack the basic qualifications to teach.  Elementary classes are probably the exception as I don’t believe it requires a math major in college to teach third grade math.  But when math classes reach the Algebra I, Geometry, and higher levels of math, well I firmly believe a math degree in college should be demanded of such teachers.  Ok make exceptions if you like but document and explain why that was done in detail.  And monitor such teachers very carefully BY educators with math degrees as well.  That is to HELP the unqualified teacher, not hurt them, as well.

One last point.  If someone asked all third grade teachers in R-8 today what is acceptable for “reading at a third grade level”, would there be a consensus reply where no one would strongly disagree?

And by “no one” I mean PhDs setting DESE standards, PhD educators locally acting as administrators, and of course all the third grade teachers as well?

I believe the real and underlying cause of all the disagreement over education today is there is a failure to gain consensus to agree on what is meant by EDUCATION, believe it or not!!!!

I am not going to even try to elaborate on that point however.  I will simply pose a simple question for each candidate for election to our local BOE in April.

What does it mean to achieve a level of education to warrant graduation from Joplin High School?

I would REALLY be interested in replies, privately if you so request by email or phone call.

GOING PUBLIC, PERSONALLY NOW

March 16, 2015

GOING PUBLIC, PERSONALLY NOW

 

A recent commenter that rarely agrees with my views on education tried to sling some mud at me.  Ok, Ben Fields, let’s get the story out on the table for Turner and his gang to crow about all they like.

I have shared this information, in pieces, in this blog years ago.  Most current members of the BOE that were around in 2008 know the background as well as do many current administrators.  It is not secret for sure and here it is for any detractors to gloat upon if they like.

I also shared this information in a recent “interview”.  Wonder if that is how Ben found out???  I could care less by the way.

From about 1998 up to sometime in the fall of 2008 I was a substitute teacher, first in Henry County and later in Joplin.  I usually did so, substituted at the high school level with occasional efforts in middle schools.  I refused to ever substitute in elementary schools as I knew my talent and knowledge of how to teach very young children was very limited.  But teaching young men and women, yes.  I had experience doing so, professionally and felt comfortable dealing, interacting with “budding” young adults.  I tried hard to treat them as such, young adults, not just “kids”.  In doing so I held them accountable or tried to do so as well.

Almost from day one as a substitute in high schools, I was just SHOCKED by what I observed going on.  The subject matter being taught was so simplistic I wondered how any graduate could deal with real problems in the real world.  As well the behavior, routinely in many, many classes was atrocious by any reasonable standards.  That initial impression was reconfirmed time and time again, over 8 years in classrooms, not just from reading blogs or attending BOE meetings.

Did I or my classmates in high school long ago study and behave is such a manner?  Well we tried to do so for sure, but it just was not tolerated, long ago by 95% of the teachers.  I attended public schools in a small, tobacco farming community in Central Kentucky in the 40’s and 50’s but I had many superb teachers that always held me accountable in all that I did or tried to do as a kid.  When I graduated I was in fact ready to move on in my life based in large part by what I had learned in school as a kid.  Such was simply not happening in the classes that I routinely observed as a substitute teacher for 8 years.

As a substitute I decided that my job was to teach, not just keep the “lid on a class”.  As a substitute I did not allow disruptive behavior, sleeping in classes and all the other things “normal kids” will TRY to do and will do if so allowed.  I was not a tyrant but I was “strict”, held all students accountable and did my best to actually TEACH a given subject, usually math in high school

In most cases I was able to “control a class” and usually actually was able to TEACH something.  I would not just say “do the problems on page ten”.  I would work sample problems on the board, ask questions of students, particularly the one’s “goofing off” or trying to do so.  When some students really became disruptive I would write a note to the teacher about what happened and leave it in his or her desk.  When a class just “didn’t get it”, an assigned subject, I would also “write a note to the teacher” pointing out a class wide issue on a given subject.  I routinely did that for about 8 years with no complaints from anyone, any time, until…….

Not once in 8 years did ANYONE, teacher, administrator, parent, etc. come into such classrooms to observe my performance as a substitute.  The only “outsiders” ever present were a few, very few teachers aids.  They as well never pointed out problems (or solutions for that matter) with me or the kids.  They just sat there and ……

In the fall of 2008 I stopped getting calls from JHS to substitute.  After several weeks I called the principal’s office to find out why.  It took about two weeks for the principal to return my call.  He told me the math teachers in JHS had collectively asked him to keep me out of their classes as a substitute.  Had I not inquired I would have never known of the request.  And for sure I would have never known of the reasons for the request.  However the principal did tell me some of the accusations against my “style” of teaching, but never the content thereof.  I won’t bore you with the inane details.  Leave it to be said I thought they were wrong, or worse.

I knew full well that I would never be able to “fight the system”.  As well I was “never asked back into math classes” of just trying to teach many of those kids.  They showed time and again they simply did not want to learn but excelled in “goofing off”.  So I did not try to counter the accusations, dispute them formally, etc.  Had that really been my “job”, however, well you could have sold tickets to watch me and the principle and any math teacher brave enough to stand and be counted.

The only thing I did in 2008 was to write an email to an Assistant Superintendent to explain my view of the situation.  I of course never received a reply from him (yes it was a “him” who has long since retired) or anyone else in R-8.  So call me a substitute teacher “drop out”.  If you think about it, my concerns were similar to concerns expressed by anonymous commenters on the Turner Report today, screaming over their views of miscarriage of “justice”, etc.

But I did start doing SOMETHING.  It was at about that time that I began writing publicly, first in the GLOBE and then later my own blog.  Initially I wrote about my own views on education and later expanded into other political subjects.  This blog over those almost seven years now reflect most of my views on such subjects, honestly and publicly, like them or not as you will.

It struck me as inane that when the Globe would publish something, say a column of my own making and under my name that local educators NEVER responded in LTTE, phone calls, any normal means of dialogue on what at least I, and the Globe considered important issues.  From time to time I chose to email the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Huff.  But he as well remained silent and totally unresponsive, for about a year or so.  Later a very good and long term dialogue came into being however.  We can still “talk” about any educational subject under the sun and agree or disagree on proposed solutions.  Just how many public figures are really willing to so engage with just a “citizen”?

So go ahead Turner and accuse me of being “used”, “played” by a man whom you have recently and formally accused of being unethical.  Ha!!  I refuse to call you the “names” that are in my head at the moment however.  That just gets down to your level of “dialogue”!!  But Ben might parrot them on your behalf, maybe!!

But I kept writing, publicly and slowly a very few in R-8 began to comment very carefully and privately.   It might have been a conversation at a social event, talking to a teacher-coach at an athletic event of other casual encounters.  In many cases they supported my views publicly expressed, but some discounted them as well which was fine.  At least some folks that could in fact change things in R-8 began to engage with me, constructively.

Later I decided, on my own to try to engage in dialogue with some members of the BOE.  One member who did not agree with me began a rather engaging dialogue telling me when (he/ she/it) thought I was wrong.  Again it was constructive dialogue.   He/she/it was a very thoughtful person and knew what she/he/it as talking about on education.  I have frankly not observed anyone her/his/its equal on the BOE in thoughtful and constructive views on fundamental issues in education

So there is the story folks.  Some kids and some teachers did not like my “style” of teaching and holding classes accountable.  Fine with me if they felt that way as I thought what I was doing was correct and exactly like I experienced in high school long ago as a student.  What worked for me as a student I thought might work for kids today.  Ha!!  Not some of those kids for sure today who will gladly cuss you out anytime they felt “aggrieved” from being held accountable.

Sound familiar to any of you angry teachers today???

But you see my views to correct such deep seated problems in public schools today are NOT to complain anonymously on a scurrilous blog, or take to the streets in sound bite protests.  I write publicly and privately about my concerns and provide recommended solutions for corrective action.  Only when confronted in writing do I sometimes get down to “calling names”?  I should not do that but I am human as well.

The most recent example is when I publicly, in a comment on this blog, expressed my continuing view that Mark Rohr, CJ Huff, David Wallace and Mark Woolston were good and honorable men, in my view.  That became a public blog calling me all sorts of “stuff” on the Turner Report.  According to Turner my views are just so far out to lunch that everyone should ignore me.  He should just practice what he preaches, ignore me as stupid, inane, unthinking, or whatever terms he wants to use in criticism of my views.  For sure I stopped trying to engage on his blog and face the anonymous comments that are themselves ………, at least in my view.

Sure I read his blog just to know my enemy as Sun Tzu suggested.  I would also debate him from a soap box in Spiva Park on any subject related to education.  Think he might show up for such a confrontation, publicly?

But that’s OK with me.  Ben Field usually returns fire against me herein using mostly Turner thinking when he does so.  You can read’em and weep, form your own opinion as such and engage if you like herein as well.

As for candidates for the upcoming BOE election, read and comment if you like.  But at least consider, but not agree if you like, the points I try to make.  As well if you don’t like MY solutions, like better grading of students in public schools to reflect accurately REAL and demonstrated performance by such students, then consider how you would do it better, hold students accountable in academics and behavior in our local public schools.

But just sit back and let teachers teach and grade students as they alone see fit.  Not on my watch in any school that I can influence in any way.  They must EARN that right by continuing superb performance as a teacher, period.  And while they are doing so they should be carefully observed, in the trenches of real classrooms, by trained and professional educators that themselves have taught, a lot and KNOW how to teach and grade, correctly.

Do that, get what you inspect, not what you just “expect” and we can turn schools around, on a dime, if we have really good teachers in every class, and pay them what they are worth as well.  That by the way for all concerned means RAISING TAXES, a lot, which I would support if I could “trust” professional educators, which I don’t’ trust many of them very much at all.  Not with MY money for sure, not in public schools today.


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