Sunday, March 04, 2007

February 2007 California Educator Magazine

I haven't been a union member in about a year and a half, yet they still send me their rag. Don't they know I don't have a birdcage to line? Still, it's nice to get some ideas for a blog post, so here you go.

Not feeling well this weekend, I only glanced through this issue--don't know that I am up to a thorough reading in my weakened condition. Even still, I found a couple gems.

On page 25 is a story about the upcoming reauthorization of NCLB. It turns out that "CTA has established an ESEA Reauthorization Campaign Task Force..." "Many CTA members have felt helpless under the weight of this badly crafted law," says the task for chair. Really? Exactly which sections have been such a burden? As I've pointed out too many times to count, California's testing requirements not only predate NCLB but are more stringent than NCLB. So it can't be that. Let's see what CTA says will help:

1. Accountability that rewards success and supports educators in helping students learn. I'll agree that the system can use some tinkering here, and have written about that before (click on the NCLB label below to find other posts on the topic). I like California's system of insisting on continued improvement towards a goal. On the other hand, I understand those who say that giving 12 years to reach a goal should be enough--and NCLB doesn't mandate having to reach its goals until 2014, after it's been in effect for 12 years! However, 100% isn't a reasonable goal to require. It's a good goal towards which we should strive, and we should show continuous improvement towards that goal, but expecting every single child in the country to reach any goal seems a bit unreasonable to me. However, I genuinely believe that CTA wants merely to water down any standards and goals we have to the level of uselessness. They want no accountability at all--which is why they constantly look for every excuse in the book except teachers to explain poor student performance.

2. Smaller class sizes to improve student achievement. Is there any valid evidence at all to show that smaller class sizes improve student achievement? This doesn't at all mean that I myself wouldn't like to have smaller classes--I have several that have about 35 students (readers outside of California will be shocked by that number, those inside California won't even bat an eyelash). But we shouldn't mandate something that expensive without some evidence that we're getting more for our money than a teacher's comfort.

3. Quality educators in every classroom and school. CTA fought against NCLB's requirement for highly qualified teachers, and against California's definition of a highly qualified teacher. So what are they really saying they want here, besides higher pay?

4. Increased parental and family involvement in schools. This is such hypocritical nonsense. Here's what CTA says: "Congress can help provide programs that strengthen the link between families and schools, and develop incentives or requirements for employers to make parental participation in school activities more feasible for workers." Besides offering no specifics on what they're suggesting, the CTA has fought for the biggest law that weakens "the link between families and schools"--the law that requires schools to let children leave school, without parental consent or even notification, to get an abortion.

5. Adequate resources to ensure a quality education for every student. In other words, more money. Not a federal responsibility.

Enough of that. On page 26 is a story about a program that allows for teachers to make home visits. I can't imagine a more invasive, paternalistic, holier-than-thou program. What qualifies teachers to make any assessments about students based on what they see at home? While it might give some insight into the student--based on the teacher's own biases about what he/she sees--what exactly is he/she supposed to do with that insight? The requirements and standards for the student remain the same. This sounds to me like leftie, feel-good pablum that allows the teacher to continue to make excuses for poor student performance.

On page 31 is a story about an event that I'll bet most teachers didn't even know about, and probably still don't know about. Apparently, CTA's state council has elected new leadership. The tour of duty of the old president, Barbara "Cigarettes and whisky voice" Kerr, is up, the vice president has taken his rightful (hereditary) place as president, and the secretary has ridden the escalator to the vice presidency. The key point about this "democratic" organization, the California Teachers Association: "Both were running unopposed." The secretary-treasurer's position will be filled at a meeting later this month.

Can you see why I have no desire to be a part of this organization?


Anonymous said...

CTA will do nothing to insure that 'bad' teachers are removed from the classroom (i.e., teachers who can't teach, and/or have no expertise in the subject they are supposed to teach, i.e., middle school math). The CTA protects bad teachers.

There is absolutely NO evidence that classroom size has any effect on achievement. If there is a 'bad' teacher in the classroom, it would make no difference if there were 35 students or just 1. Bad teachers cannot tutor, either. The CTA protects bad teachers.

More funding has no effect on achievement in the classroom, because even IF the money actually gets to our classrooms, the bad teachers will have no idea how to utilize materials, curriculum, strategies, and technology in their classrooms. They are not even teachers, really. They are merely people, okay, BODIES who filled an immediate need, i.e., a shortage of teachers. NOT a shortage of excellent teachers, but rather just a shortage.

Put anyone in the classroom, just to fill the shortage - that's CTA's goal. Why?
Well it's certainly NOT for the children, but rather simply to fill the position, which ultimately equates into a new Union Member and that equates to a DUES PAYER.

Great and excellent teachers can handle any class size and any lack of funding in their classrooms because they have a heart for the students and they are creatively using strategies and shooting for the goal of proficiency among their students. When their students fail, they take it personally. They make no excuses. They don't blame parents. They blame themselves and give it another try, and they keep on trying because they know they can achieve the goals with the tested and proven strategies of NCLB, patience and perserverance.

Your summary of this bird-cage-ready article is on the money!!!

The CTA needs BODIES, okay, teachers, to pay other teachers who enter the teaching profession with the ultimate goal of becoming high paying Union Professionals, such as Kerr and Weaver, who make 6 figures (Reg makes nearly a half million annually as the NEA Prez)- not sure what Kerr makes, but cigarettes are an expensive habit, so you can be sure it's not a shabby amount.
Unions protect bad teachers, and merely that. Nothing more, nothing less.
NCLB is a burden because bad teachers are held accountable for students not achieving, and that's not good for bad teachers who belong to unions.
If the NEA/CTA were even remotely interested in the children, they would support charter schools which require 100% parental involvement and committment. Or they would make sure that bad teachers are not allowed to stay in the classrooms beyond two school years and/or receive tenure.

All we can reasonably hope for is the prospect of teachers unions becoming obsolete by the year 2014.

- From a CA teacher who is about to opt out of the CTA, because it's long overdue, and who found the recent voting at our school site for CTA State reps to be both laughable AND disgusting.

Darren said...

I'm truly not convinced there are a lot of "bad" teachers out there. There are lots of average ones (I don't claim to be superteacher), and to me, that's satisfactory. Everyone can't be superteacher. Much like my suggestion for NCLB, perfection cannot be the standard to which all are held.

However, I certainly don't see CTA doing anything to make teachers better or more professional (see the video at

If CTA focused solely on my pay, benefits, and working conditions, I'd be satisfied. But they want to be a) a labor union, b) a voice for education, and c) a left-wing political action committee. The latter two I can't abide, especially when b) feeds into c).

Darren said...

BTW, have you considered joining CTEN? Click on the CTEN label at the left for more information.

Unknown said...

I'm a bit puzzled. How, exactly, do they intend to enforce the increased parental involvement part?

Sandy said...

So they want parents to be involved as long as the parents will quietly run the PTA, coordinate the school fair, man the concession stands, conduct fundraisers, make sure their children do their homework and show up for standardized tests. Unfortunately for the unions, parents who are willing to get involved to this degree also have brains, and these parents realize that as citizens, as taxpayers and as parents, they should have a voice in what their children are taught and how their children are taught and who is doing the teaching. When will the unions figure that out that you don't get one without the other?

Darren said...

Now Sandy, don't act like you don't understand. The unions want the parents to be involved as long as the parents make the correct choices with their involvement.