Dyett High School Hunger Strike Comes To An End

After 34 days of a hunger strike protesting the closing of Dyett High School by some residents of the school’s community, the strikers claimed what they call a partial victory as they ended their strike due to the physical body’s limitations according to Juan Perez Jr. of Chicago Tribune.

Chicago Public Schools agreed to reopen the former Dyett High School on the city’s Southeast Side next Fall as a neighborhood arts focused school instead of a high school focused on green technology demanded by the strikers.

“Your body starts to deteriorate,”  Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, a member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and one of the leaders of the strike said who helped lead the 34-day hunger strike.

Bill Gates Admits Naivety

Educators at all levels should be cognizant of the admissions and statements made by Bill Gates about the inadequate progress and success of his foundation’s projects as cautionary measures when implementing programs that have not been vetted over time. Education’s products are living and breathing human beings unlike the products of most businesses.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet Blog on January 3rd 2015 analyzes the recent admissions by Bill Gates about the performance of his various projects. Bill Gates indicated that he was naive about his expectations for the “Grand Challenges” project which has not made a significant contribution in saving and improving the lives of residents in the developing countries of the world.

In the field of education, Gates and members of his foundation have admitted short-comings about the success of small schools because “small-school effort “fell short” of expectations.” Gates also admitted during an interview at Harvard University last September that “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” Gates Foundation expressed reservations about Value Added Measurements (VAM) through its K-12 education director, Vicky Phillips. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan last January 2014 indicated that while the funds from wealthy philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad are welcome and useful, the donations do not entitle these philanthropists to make policy decisions about education.

Ms. Strauss concludes eloquently that

“There is indeed a big place for philanthropy in American society, but there are consequences for replacing public policy with the dreams of the super-rich, not the least of which is that public institutions become testing grounds for philanthropic experimentation. Given that there are methods and approaches that have been proven to work already in education areas such as teacher evaluation, class size, etc., the public might want to start to ask why it allows itself to be used as a guinea pig.”

A Second Bid by US Education Department to Regulate Teacher Preparation Programs Receives Mixed Reactions

The federal government, following a failed attempt in 2012 because of a lack of agreement to use test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness, would like states to use a rating system approved its Department of Education to determine how well teacher preparation programs run by the universities, Teach for America and other nonprofits and through school districts are preparing K-12 teachers for the classroom. Obama Administration does not believe that K-12 teachers are ready for the classroom. Some of the criteria the rating system would use to rank the programs as “low-performing,” “at-risk,” “effective” or “exceptional” are whether the graduates from these programs are hired to teach the subject of their specialty, how their students do in standardized and other tests, and how long they remain at their jobs.

A “low-performing” or “at-risk” program for two consecutive years, will lose the $4000 a year federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grants for teacher preparation candidates who agree to work full time in high-need fields and struggling schools for at least four academic years which amounted to $96.7 million for 34, 000 grants.

According to Arne Duncan Education Secretary of Education, “Nothing in school matters as much as the quality of teaching our students receive. We owe it to our children to give them the best-prepared teachers possible.” The regulations will be issued by September 2015 with the first report cards issued by states in April 2019. Take advantage of the 60 day public comment period to share your ideas and opinions.

Here are the mixed reactions reported by Lyndsey Layton, who has been covering national education since 2011:

“Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and a critic of teacher preparation programs, said the country needs urgent action. “Our colleges and universities have waited far too long to transform these programs to meet the needs of both today and tomorrow,” he said.

“Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities, said the move is “a significant expansion in the federal role overseeing state government. But it may well change considerably before it becomes final.”

“States would be required to judge the quality of an education program in large part by tracking the performance of a newly minted teacher’s students on standardized tests. That idea triggered immediate protests from teachers unions, which argue that student test scores are not an accurate measurement of teacher effectiveness.”

“There’s no evidence these regulations will lead to improvement and plenty of reason to believe they will cause harm,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, adding that teacher prep programs might avoid placing graduates in struggling schools where test scores tend to be lower and teacher turnover higher.“Due to the focus on K-12 test scores, the very programs preparing diverse teachers for our increasingly diverse classrooms will be penalized.”

“Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, said her union recognizes the need for better teacher training, but she also slammed the “inappropriate” use of test scores to judge teacher preparation. “Too many teachers are saying they are unprepared for the realities of the classroom and that teacher preparation, licensure, and induction standards must improve,” she said.

“Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, said that improving the education schools’ quality will prevent future problems.“They could save a lot in the long run if they just got the training right from the get go,” he said.

“Too many people are graduating who aren’t prepared to teach. Then you get bad instruction for the kids. And we try to remediate that,” Barone said. “You’d do less of that and disrupt fewer lives if you just got it right from the beginning.”