I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What School "Choice" Is Really About

See if you can find the common theme in these news stories about "school choice."

Still, Dayana said she wouldn’t necessarily recommend at transfer to all students at a public school.

“I think it depends on the person,” she said. “I really want to succeed in life. Some people should stay in a public school, though. If they were able to come to a private school, maybe that would change for them, but there are some kids that really just don’t care about their education.
New Jersey:
I’m surrounded by students who want to learn and succeed, who aren’t fighting and cursing and talking back to the teacher,” he said. “Now I have to study. I’m in an environment that can help me succeed. And I want other kids to have this so they can succeed.”
"At my old school, the environment I was in was the same outside the school and inside the school," says Destiny, dressed in Hope's tie-and-jacket uniform, her braids pulled back with a headband. "Here, the school's in a bad neighborhood, but the environment in the school is really loving." 
 Washington, D.C.:
I grew up in the District and attended D.C. public schools. Jerlisa started off the same way. We enrolled her at Gibbs Elementary School for kindergarten, and as the years went by she started to fall behind. There was so much going on around the school and in the classroom. Every morning, I walked with her to school, and every afternoon I waited outside the school gates to walk her home again. She got teased for that, but I was worried about the drug dealers, addicts and bullies in the neighborhood. I didn’t have any other choice. I had to make sure she was safe.
For Robinson’s sons, the decision was based on atmosphere. On the first day, they said they easily could pick out which students were in gangs
They saw a female student curse at the principal in the cafeteria, and they didn’t feel enthusiasm from teachers.
"School choice" may be somewhat about the quality of instruction. But it is also undoubtedly about your child's fellow students.

This is, by the way, a perfectly valid concern. We could have a serious, mature conversation about this, if we're willing to be honest.

Are we?


Anonymous said...

New tone for 2012, Duke? :-)

If so it is welcome and wise.

School choice, as you say, may be part environment, part teacher quality. You mention reality -- it is part expense as well. There simply are no shekels left to feed the growth of the beast in the failing urban districts. The taxpayers have been bled dry. Non-governement-run schools in the Abbott districts operate at half the cost or less with much better results. So either we try something else, save those young lives immediately, or the urban schools will continue to spiral down.

Anonymous said...

PS: another thought. Do bad kids breed bad schools, or is it the other way around? I hear MANY firsthand accounts of tenured teachers in the bad schools who have given up fighting the good fight -- who openly allow the cursing and fighting, who don't stand up to the disrespect and open criminal behavior, who are going along to get along because....why have the stress when your job is guaranteed? Why not look the other way from the kid buying a joint rather than jump into the middle?

Perhaps a very small percentage of senior tenured teachers fall into this category -- but it does exist, wouldn't you agree? And when it happens, the whole school is brought down....teachers that want discipline and respect and orderhave to fight twice as hard.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous says:
" Non-governement-run schools in the Abbott districts operate at half the cost or less with much better results. So either we try something else, save those young lives immediately, or the urban schools will continue to spiral down." Where the hell did you get this biased bloated garbage? I smell an anti-union, anti-public school zealot and partisan. How nice of you to bash public schools and smear the teachers. Non-government schools operate at half the expense because they don't have to educate all the children, they educate (ON AVERAGE) the less expensive pupils. They have lower enrollments than the regular public schools. The teachers tend to be younger and don't hang around that long at those supposedly wonderful, supposedly super terrific non government schools. The non government schools can pick and choose who they want, they can counsel out all the problems and they don't have as many kids with learning and or discipline problems. By the way, isn't a charter school a government school since it gets public tax money?

Anonymous said...

Second Anonymous Comment:

Let's get something straight:

Tenure does NOT equal guaranteed job. Tenured teachers are fired everyday in every state. This has always been the case, only now the firing of tenured teachers is a matter of unwritten policy in most urban districts.

All tenure is, and ever was, is the right to due process before being terminated. At my school alone last year two tenured teachers, both of them award-winning, were terminated. I was their representative and I can tell you they got fired over nothing whatsoever.

They were both cases of the administrators having personal vendettas. This is why the teachers do not "fight the good fight", as you say. They have no rights and work in constant fear of petty administrators and arbitrary policies.

The worst thing is that teachers actually guilty of wrongdoing walk free because administrators use the process as a tool of dictatorship instead of a vehicle to protect children, which it is supposed to be.

I don't get why, if the behavior in public schools is as bad as people say it is, administrators are let off the hook as if they don't set the tone for the entire school. Instead, supposed bad behavior of students gets blamed on the teacher leading to more reforms that further empower principals to misuse the process and put kids in further danger.

It is a twisted cycle enabled by twisted rhetoric that obscures and semblance of reality.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, the assailed teacher, well said. We have to fight tooth and nail against the anti-traditional public school propaganda espoused by anonymous #2.

Duke said...

Well said, indeed.

Anon, I just love concern trolls - especially when they are so worried about "tone." You worry about my tone while you sell a complete falsehood that "there's no more money." There's plenty more money for schools - it's just that the 1% has it.

Anonymous said...

"Tenured teachers are fired everyday in every state."

Oh puh-lease.

When Christie said 17 New Jersey teachers had been fired in ten years for incompetence, Politifact, glowingly cited by the government-run school lobby whenever it suits them, took issue with the statement had researched it. They found that the number should have been four. Four in ten years. Four.


Duke: well it only lasted a day. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am going to say it again:

Teachers get fired everyday in every state. This goes for New Jersey.

You and your article are only dealing with accusations of incompetence. Get it? That is the rarest of all charges and the toughest to substantiate. This is why principals tend to not use these charges.

There is an entire slew of charges like sexual misconduct and verbal abuse. The definitions of these charges are so expansive that pretty much anything can be construed as verbal misconduct by a principal interested in destroying a teacher. In New York City, "verbal abuse" is any speech that embarrasses a student. So a teacher can get fired if they point out that a student had a wrong answer or if they try to discipline an unruly child. That is why these are the go-to charges for principals. In my many years as a teacher and union leader, I have never seen a teacher charged with incompetence. I have seen plenty of frivolous sexual and verbal abuse accusations, however.

Did you see this teacher in New Jersey? http://www.forbes.com/sites/mobiledia/2011/11/14/new-jersey-teacher-may-lose-job-over-facebook-post/

This is one of the teachers not included in the group of 17 you have cited.

Before you use a link, really read it and think critically. Charges of incompetence do not even scratch the surface of all the teachers who are currently being fired for other charges. The process is stacked against teachers. The New York State Supreme Court has overturned MOST rulings brought to them on appeal from the Department of Education. The courts here see time and time again how unfair and ridiculous the process is to teachers.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the MANY teachers who are offered a chance to resign (without references) rather than have tenure charges filed against them. I know three different ones... they all teach at charter schools now.

Anonymous said...

So.....the total of four incompetent tenured teachers in a decade number seems right to you?


If that absolutely ridiculous number is correct -- let's say it was forty for the purposes of staunching Duke's instinct to argue about pennies -- what does it say to the whole tenure process that virtually no one is removed for being a lousy teacher!

I must say, administrators these days, being held to performance standards, sure have a lot of time to pick personal, baseless, infantile grudges against excellent teachers who are helping him keep his/her job with their performance.

Why all this drama alleged by the NJEA? Does it really make sense that supers have enough time on their hands to pick personal grudges?

Could it be that if their is actually a motive, it could be because a teacher is arrogant, a bad example, combative to change, a cancer to a team, poisoning the learning environment....i.e.: all the stuff that gets you fired in the real world in a highly productive environment?

Is the story really here that administrators, in a fog of hate in their caves like the Grinch, dream up assault charges against the award-winning Julie Andrews teacher who he thinks looked sideways at him once? Really? He is going to put his whole life and professional career on the line to press unsubstantiated charges against one of the superstar teachers who is most central to the performance rating of his job?


That system is so screwed up we should just bring in private management as in under the Urban Hope Act, get rid of those lunatic, psychotic administrators and replace them with some corporate types who realize you get sued for false allegations..

Anonymous said...

To anonymous January 5, 2012 8:29 AM: WOW!
Your real agenda is that you are anti-union, especially anti-NJEA. You seem to have the attitude that teachers have no right to form unions and that the NJEA should be banned? The principals and the administrators have all the tools in the world to get rid of a teacher. So the onus, the burden of proof is on their backs. Tenure just guarantees due process; if administrators are wimps, that's not the teacher's fault. Teaching is the REAL WORLD, it doesn't get any realer. If tenure is eliminated, then teachers will be bounced for any silly reason and older more expensive teachers will be eliminated like crazy. Law suits could result from the elimination of tenure but most folks have neither the time, the money nor inclination to pursue law suits.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to understand. A teacher accused of incompetence and only incompetence....why wouldn't they fight the union-funded legal battle which only FOUR teachers in a decade have lost? FOUR? Why would they not choose certain, free vindication?

You say adminstrators are wimps...the poster above, who seems to be involved as a union representative, paints them as the most brash, evil, reckless people I have ever heard of, alleging criminal behavior against innocent award-winning teachers for "political and paersonal" reasons. Seriously?

Duke said...

Thanks, everyone, for making Anon feel so welcome here!

The management appreciates your business.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it never occurred to Anon that incompetence is the more difficult charge to prove, so administrators look for one of the many other, easier charges and used those instead.

And he/she willfully ignores the comment about teachers who are counseled to resign rather than face charges.