A Few Things About the Education System (Well, Four Things)

The school year is beginning and the political climate of education in my state is heating up with the battle between State Superintendent John White and Governor Bobby Jindal.  While the school year approaches, it certainly would be wise to remember that the administration, the supposed elite of the elite squad of teachers, have a tendency to make whacky decisions, or respond foolishly to certain events.  Take for example:

4. A Teacher Being Denied a Map of the World Because it Split the United States

This is a personal story from a teacher I met some time ago at a workshop.  I was responding on Facebook to a news article about some crazy education event and he sent me a private message.

I couldn’t post this on your Facebook cause our district seems to have eyes and ears everywhere. You said, “How do these types of people end up running schools?” I have been asking my principal to let me purchase this $300 dry erase map that is so big it takes up an entire wall. I actually found the map on Amazon for $130…. even better! To show her what it looked like, I sent her this small picture of the map:

If by the United States you mean the United States in Socialist Russia (I know), then yeah.
If by the United States you mean the United States in Socialist Russia (I know), then yeah.

She sends me back an E-Mail, “For $130, why is the United States cut in half?”

Now, you may be thinking that this personal experience has no basis in reality.  Well, perhaps my friend could have fibbed, but then, as teachers, nothing surprises us.  Look at that amazing map and it’s USA centric style.  The greatest nation is not cut in half, but is front and center.  Our mortal enemies, the Ruskies, are the ones cut in half.  Now, the map could have been better, and not split any lands, but that’s not important.  What’s important here is that a teacher tried to make the classroom more interactive, and through ignorance of the administration, this is no longer possible.

Yes, he gave me permission to talk about this.  No, I won’t be sharing his name.  He’s a pretty cool guy.

3.  Zero Tolerance Policies

sd35_zerothought_r3_460wIn 1994 the federal government passed a law that said if a student brought a firearm to school, they must be expelled, no questions asked.  This law was good, but it paved the way for some of the most ignorant school policies we could have ever put over on our students, regardless of intention.  Wikipedia defines zero tolerance policies as:

A zero-tolerance policy in schools is a policy of punishing any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. In schools, common zero-tolerance policies concern possession or use of illicit drugs or weapons. Students, and sometimes staff, parents, and other visitors, who possess a banned item for any reason are always (if the policy is followed) to be punished. – Wikpedia

Now, this policy tries to address behavior issues directly, but completely removes reason from the formula when dealing with a situation.  A child may have brought a firearm to school, but perhaps that was his skeet shooting gun that he forgot to take out of his truck.  A child may even bring cough drops, and in  Alexandria, LA, a 2nd grader brought her grandfather’s pocket watch to school and was kicked out because it had a little knife on it.  Zero tolerance policy is like hanging fine art with chainsaws.  It doesn’t work.  Nail clippers and rubber bands are weapons and cough drops and mouthwash are drugs.

According to this paper that has a variety of supportive sources, the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies is zero and it is a little bit racist, because minorities are the most affected.  Hey, I guess schools should accurately reflect our culture, and should punish minorities more than the majority.  The American Psychological Association even believes that these policies are bullshit.

This video sums up a few issues about zero tolerance policies.

2. Choosing to Exclude Special Needs Students from Education

Before 1975, students with disabilities were not accepted into public schools.  If a student was afflicted with any major disabilities, they were often sent to a state school that offered no real academic teachings.  In 1975, we passed the Education for all Handicapped Children Act which was then turned into the Individuals with Disbilities Act.

special_education1-254x300There are criticisms about the IDEA.  It slows down education and is a financial drain.  It labels students and treats them less than equal.  The problem with denying these children access to public education is that parents pay taxes and they should be expectant of public services from the government.  Louisiana, and other states I am sure,  are now working around these laws by passing laws to allow parents to give vouchers to private schools for their children’s education.  IN other words, private schools are not required to accept students with special needs if they receive federal money.

1.  Rubber Rooms (Reassignment Centers)

I’m no expert in union issues or the processes of firing teachers, but I do believe the practice of inserting teachers into rubber rooms to essentially do busy work until they either quit or go crazy is insanity. I understand that with teacher tenure, there is to be due process before termination, but if you cannot prove wrongdoing, then put that teacher back to work and if they keep acting like assholes, toss them on their ass.  Instead, rubber rooming is used as a tool to remove tenure and unions.  Administrative types that have a history of mismanagement would love tenure to be removed so they can fire whoever they want for whatever they want.

The issue with rubber rooms is that they cost districts a ton of money and teachers a ton of time.  Teacher’s don’t just jump into education with a McDonald’s style application – they have to sacrifice years to get the job.

Imagine you are a teacher and you have witnessed something your administration or your school board has been doing illegally.  You blow that whistle and the whole world comes crumbling in on you.  No one likes a snitch and now the big wigs are going to try to oust you.  They will do everything to get rid of you, threats, ostracization, write-ups, and they will not stop.  In comes the rubber room.  This actually happened to Francesco Portelos, a New York City teacher, who has been blogging about his experience with his district.



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