CHARTER FOOLED

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Test Teacher- At the White House

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Please Mr. President (Listen To Me)

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Test Teacher Anthem

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A FUTURE LETTER TO THE EDITOR

TO THE EDITOR

 
 
 
Dec. 20, 2015
 
 
 
To the Editor:
 
 
 
I don’t normally like to publically air my political views, but I feel my story and opinion in this particular matter may help others to more accurately assess the issue.
 
 
 
Prior to my current job, I taught history to high school students for twenty-five years. When I started my career, I struggled to create a curriculum from the vast amounts of information available to me. It was a challenge to find a balance between what was in the textbooks, what lay between the lines, and alternative sources that would help round out and bring to life the past beyond the page.
 
 
 
My greatest resource was an older teacher who had gone through the same struggles and was more than willing to help me build my own, unique courses. It was hard work, but eventually I developed a teaching style that I believe served my students well. In fact, these classes were so successful that over the years I’ve shared my lesson plans with countless young teachers who have adapted them and created their own, distinct classes.
 
 
 
Two years ago, when our community was in the throws of debating whether or not to allow WAL-MART EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, INC. to build a high school here, I admit I was opposed. It was hard for me to accept change, or see the wisdom of a business/educational system. I not only voted against the initiative, I picketed and knocked on doors to convince others to do the same.
 
 
 
Well, it passed anyway. I was devastated. What would become of the profession I had dedicated my life to? Would I be thrown into the streets, a victim of a system that no longer valued me?
 
 
 
As it turned out, my concerns were unfounded. Not only did Wal-Mart NOT fire me, they immediately contacted me and offered me a job. Imagine that; I was shocked! Of course my new position paid slightly less, about half of what I was earning, and I would no longer be teaching. That position actually went to one of my former students who had graduated the year before. Teaching degrees are no longer required.
 
 
 
My new job is that of Greeter! When the school opens each morning, mine is the first face the students see when they enter our shiny new building. “Welcome to Wal-Mart High!” I say proudly. “Have a nice day!” My friend Jim, who used to teach anthropology, has the end-of-the day shift. His line is “Thanks for learning at Wal-Mart! Don’t forget to study!”
 
 
 
The new teachers are all high school graduates. They receive further training at The Wal-Mart Teacher Training Institute: seven weeks of it, in fact. And they are provided with all the curriculum they’ll ever need. No struggling to create unique content or begging for advice from older colleagues.
 
 
 
This is a brave new world of education, and I’m proud to be a part of it.  If you are one of the people opposed to this innovative learning paradigm, let me assure you there’s nothing to fear. After your children have graduated, they’ll be more than ready to move on to academic excellence at one of the many new universities across our great nation. My own grandson starts classes in the fall and I couldn’t be prouder! I can’t wait to visit him at AMWAY TECHNICAL INSTITUTE and maybe even take in a treadmill match.
 
 
 
Signed,
 
 
 
An Ex-Teacher
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THE REAL PROBLEM? KIDS!

The debate continues to rage across America on how to solve our educational problems. Most of the proposals seem to be coming from the business community. They’re suggesting that market forces can best determine the preeminent means of educating students. By allowing charter schools to compete for public money, we’ll eventually weed out the least effective and end up with only strong, vital learning institutions, whose methods can be perfected, duplicated and franchised, leaving the taxpaying public with an educational system determined, essentially, by itself.

Most of the obstacles to this solution can easily be overcome. A major opponent, for example, has been the unions and the teachers they represent, who stubbornly see this as a labor issue. They have an unfounded fear that a business model for schools would reduce their place within them to that of low paid production line workers. This elitist outlook is currently being exposed and unions are coming into alignment with more progressive views.

By careful planning and clever business marketing, charter schools will, no doubt, take their place in this great land of ours, as the accepted Best Means for Public Education. However, one group may still cause unforeseen problems to this otherwise rosy new paradigm: children.

Children have, notoriously, been unpredictable.  There’s an old saying that “Children should be seen and not heard” and although the sentiment is ideal, its enforcement, as a rule, is unlikely. The modern concept of entitlement has become so prevalent, that even pre-adolescents feel at liberty to voice opinions. Add to this, mounting scientific evidence that human beings continue to develop until age 20, and what you end up with is an unquantifiable population of rogue nonconformists!

In order for our school system to become a well-oiled, college-ready-student producing machine, we need to eliminate the components that keep it from running smoothly. The Japanese address this problem with the adage, “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down.” If we adopt this strategy, we’ll go a long way towards perfecting our school system, but it won’t be enough. Some nails can’t be hammered down and these will simply have to be removed.

Now, which nails in our system need to be pulled? Let’s start with the easy ones: the developmentally disabled. Wouldn’t they be happier outside the hustle and bustle of the mainstream classroom? Doesn’t it make more sense to group them together in huge holding-pens where they could drool on their favorite toys? Think of how much more self-esteem they would have if they weren’t continuously being compared to other, more whole, children. Everyone would benefit! And think of the test scores! Why, it could be like they were never there at all.

Another hurdle to a precision teaching machine is the presence of non-English speaking students. The current system refers to this population as E.L.L, English Language Learners. Let’s ignore the debate on whether or not we should coddle illegal immigrant families and focus on the most elegant approach to eliminating this problem. Deportation! Come back when you speak the language Jose’. Believe me, they’ll thank us later.

The next group that needs to be dealt with have been, and will continue to be, a burden on whatever educational apparatus we implement. We used to call these individuals “hyperactive”. They are now said to suffer from ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Now, while it’s true we possess an effective hammer to adjust these kids, in the form of medication, not all of them respond predictably to these wonder drugs.

What we need is a way to harness the positive aspects of their boundless energy, while removing these disruptive power sources from the general student population. Perhaps it’s time to take a practical approach to this dilemma. While it may seem old-fashioned to some, the benefits of a school treadmill could be far reaching indeed. And really, what could be a greener solution? Instead of causing problems in the classroom, these children could be proud of their contribution. We could give them uniforms and establish teams. Schools could compete regionally and even statewide. Ladies and gentlemen, “This year’s State champs, the North Central High Fighting Gerbils!!!

Now, I admit these innovative ideas may be difficult for some to embrace. But new ways of doing things are always met with resistance. Let’s do the right thing; hammer down the nails we can and pull out the ones we can’t. Come on, it’s for the kids! Who are, after all, the problem.

 

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LET THE BEST TEACHER WIN

LET THE BEST TEACHER WIN

What’s the deal with teachers? I keep hearing how much they HATE the idea of merit pay. First they complain because they don’t make enough, and then they whine when someone suggests paying them more.
Merit pay just makes sense. Back when my mom was a teacher, good ideas were tossed about willy-nilly. In the staff-room, or even the hallway, one teacher might share with another some abstract methodology for controlling a rambunctious class or a trick for multiplying by nine. Within a week virtually EVERYONE knew the trade secrets of everyone else! What a waste of intellectual property! Are teachers Jabber-monkeys? Don’t they understand even the most basic concepts of supply and demand?
Capitalism works so well for EVERYTHING else; why not apply the same principles to teaching? Instead of a pie-in-the-sky, hippie-love crowd of underachieving beatniks, we could have NumberCrunchingProfitDrivenLadderClimbers! Even the name rolls off the tongue like silk.
The concept is simple: make teachers compete for top salaries! Instead of rewarding them for simply aging, we should force competition between educators. It’s called “survival of the fittest.” Once it’s implemented, young teachers will be able to prove themselves by “teaching-to-the-test” better than older, stubborn schoolmarms, spouting pedagogical platitudes.
Of course, this would put an end to the free exchange of ideas. Teachers right out of college could no longer count on their more experienced colleagues for advice. But with the extra income they receive from merit pay, perhaps they could simply purchase that advice. Surely older, washed up teachers, seeing their salaries slashed, would be glad for any extra cash. The exchange might go something like this:
Miss Brown to Mrs. Jones-“As you know, Mrs. Jones, this is only my second year of teaching. Although my class has consistently scored high on the state tests, they don’t seem to be interested in any of the subjects. Do you have any advice that might help me to get them more involved?”
Mrs. Jones to Miss Brown- “Oh yes, dear, we are all so proud to see how wonderfully you are performing as such a young teacher. It’s nice to know that the new merit pay system is rewarding you for your abilities. In my day, we only got to the top of the pay scale through years and years of toil and struggle. This is so much more efficient, don’t you think?”
Miss Brown-“Why thank you, ma’am. Yes, it only seems right that the most efficient should be rewarded. Now about that advice?”
Mrs. Jones-“Oh yes! The mind wanders, you know. I do have some methods for engaging the little ones. Over the years I’ve developed quite a few tricks to pique the interests of all kinds of children. How much were you looking to spend, dear?”
Miss. Brown-“Well, I was thinking somewhere in the range of, say, fifty dollars?”
Mrs. Jones-“Gracious me! You young people and your outlandish humor! No, since the new salary/merit pay scale was put into effect, my income has dwindled some. You see I have issues with all this new-fangled testing, so my days are numbered. I think a reasonable price would be $200 per lesson plan. If you purchase three at once, I’ll throw in a fourth; just because you’re so sweet!”
Miss Brown-“Um, don’t you think that’s a bit steep?”
Mrs. Jones-“Oh, goodness no, dear! My friend Emma is charging $250 for the same thing, and she teaches in Idaho! I think you’ll find my fees very fair for this market. In fact, you may want to consider taking advantage of these prices while you can. Next year they’re going up! Now what can I put you down for?”
 
What could be more American than an exchange like that? One party has a need for something another party has. What’s more, they possess the capital to purchase that product. Both parties attain what they require, and everyone goes away happy! Let’s take a fresh look at the teaching profession; the old crowd were, let’s face it, starry-eyed dreamers with nowhere else to go. The new crop understands competition and the benefits of the free-market system! Forward we go with our eyes on the prize: a marriage of capitalism and education, where everyone’s a winner.
By Greg Gower
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