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Hi Theresa, thanks for the post. You are experiencing more than just a stressful job. The teaching profession is under attack and what you describe are the very real, physical effects of those attacks. As teacher job protections weakens and budgets shrink, the stress and sickness you describe will only get worse. Our class sizes and case loads will increase, our work days become longer (thank you Rahm...), and our resources will dwindle. Also, as poverty and income inequality grow, our students will have more barriers to learning especially among our children with special needs. Who will be willing or even able to work these demanding jobs as our work environments deteriorate? And ultimately, it is the children who lose out. I believe it is time for teachers everywhere to start fighting back! We need to be the voice for our profession and more importantly for our kids who need strong teachers. Instead of complaining or blaming themselves or even focusing on self-help/relaxation techniques, we need to change the system to lessen the stress and pressure. We need to fight AGAINST NCLB and RttT, bad education policy being pushed by politicians and think tanks, and privatization efforts, charter schools, and school closures/turnarounds. Simultaneously, we must fight FOR equitable funding, teacher autonomy and respect, and schools that meet kids where they are and support the people who do the work of education. Teachers, don't just be stressed and frazzled behind closed doors, get out there fight for the kind of workplace which fosters collaboration, respect, and long-term teaching careers. Kids deserve healthy, happy teachers.
Wait, I'm confused. NCLB says specifically that (excuse my use of Wikipedia here "If a school misses its AYP target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labelled as requiring 'corrective action,' which might involve wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class." and then goes on to say "A fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the entire school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly." Sounds like NCLB is DIRECTLY causing "widespread closings, conversions, and layoffs". It's what the law is all about. Mr. Russo, what do you mean when you say Diane Ravitch's claim is inaccurate?
Mr. Russo, Perhaps you don't fully understand "NCLB's impact and destructiveness" because you do not interact directly with the children, their families, and the teachers whose lives it is destroying. In my job working with youth with significant emotional/behavioral disabilities in Chicago, I hear the stories daily. Children think they are "stupid" because they did not pass that ridiculous ISAT. And after being retained for a year, their chances of dropping out rise substantially. They think they are worthless because their charter school, which they had been told would be their "miracle", kicked them out. They are exposed to violence because of school closings and having to cross gang boundaries just to go to school. They lose their favorite teachers as they are fired or so unhappy that they leave. They are forced to sit through mindless, boring, pointless test prep all day and then punished when they revolt. Teachers are demoralized, schools have become factories of fear and intimidation, and there no joy in school anymore. And to add insult to injury, all the focus on NCLB accountability and other education deforms prevent real reform like equitable funding, rich progressive education for ALL, and a focus on addressing the underlying issue of child poverty to be swept under the rug. How can you sit there and minimize this crisis?? It is unprecedented. Diane Ravitch is spot on. I, as a teacher, am grateful for her lone voice of sanity.
Thanks Leonie for posting the stats related to special education and increases in the teaching force. It's a point too often lost in the debate. One more thing in regards to class size. Many advocates of larger class sizes point to Asia as an example of how larger class sizes don't matter. As someone who taught English for three years in a Japanese high school, I can speak to that false assumption directly. My freshman classes had on average about 42 kids in a class. BUT many of the students literally slept through the class. Why? Because most of the kids had to attend cram schools for hours and hours each night where they got that individualized, 1:1 or at most 1:4 adult attention. The cram schools are private institutions almost every family saved heavily to afford. Add to that, there were NO SPECIAL EDUCATION students at the school (any kids with disabilities are placed into completely separate schools, and those with minor disabilities just don't test into the "academic" high schools.) Lastly, the community I worked in, like most of Japan, was nearly all middle class. Poverty and its effects were not an issue. Class size matters. All the research show it. I am proud that our country has valued educating children with disabilities. I hope these silly reforms don't take that away.
How much of the increase in the number of teachers is due to an increase in special education services? Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act originally passed in 1975, schools are required by law to provide "a free and appropriate education" for ALL students. This has led to a dramatic increase in teachers due to the required small self-contained classes or inclusion classrooms (classes staffed by TWO teachers, a Gen Ed and Special Ed teacher.) Every time I hear people complain about the dramatic increase in costs in schools over the past four decades (i.e. Bill Gates), I cringe. Are people forgetting that before that law, we didn't bother to educate children with disabilities at all? Aren't most of the costs and the flat test scores a result of taking on giving kids who are more difficult to educate a fair chance?
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Sep 17, 2011