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OP-ED | A Future Teacher for Education Reform

by | Mar 30, 2012 2:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion

My whole life, I looked up to my Aunt Marie. For as long as I can remember she has taught second grade in Connecticut. As a child I also envied the way her students looked at her as more than just a teacher. She always came home with cards and gifts, from both parents and students, praising her for being a great influence on her students and a great role model. She is my inspiration to become a teacher, and she is why I am now in Quinnipiac University’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program.

As I prepare myself for a future in teaching, I have been examining the education landscape in Connecticut. The proposals laid out in the original version of S.B. 24 gave me hope as a future teacher. I was particularly excited for the connection that the bill made between fair teacher evaluations and tenure. When I am teaching I want to know that I am doing a good job and that my students are getting a good education when they leave my classroom. How can I do this if I am not being evaluated? The evaluation process should be an incentive for teachers to do the best that they can, and great teachers will be able to use the information from evaluations to constantly improve how they teach. I also believe this kind of feedback and advancement system will help make teaching a more attractive and competitive profession than it currently is, and will encourage more people who love teaching to get into it.

Unfortunately, the Education Committee significantly changed the original version of S.B. 24 and brought us back nearly to where we are today. The version from the Committee does not bring about these changes with urgency, and lets down the children of Connecticut. The education field left in the wake of this bill is one that I do not want to join. This bill puts off real education reform and turns away high quality future teachers.

If the legislature is able to bring the bill back to where it started, teachers will be treated as professionals as they should be. Teachers like my Aunt Marie will be respected and appreciated much more as a result. It is teachers like her that parents should want in their children’s schools. She is also the type of person that future teachers strive to be. With the help of a strong bill that will bring about real reform, teachers will be able to know how successful they are and if they need improvements. With these improvements we can have more successful teachers and more successful students. I hope our leaders will do the right thing and bring back real education reform this year.

Jessica Joline is a junior at Quinnipiac University and a member of Students For Education Reform

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(17) Archived Comments

posted by: brutus2011 | March 30, 2012  3:16pm

brutus2011

to Ms. Joline:

I am a graduate of a university ed program and I hold an academic MA with multiple CT certs. I have received multiple exemplary evaluations from my building supervisors. I have taught both middle and high school in urban districts.

I remember when I was in school and what I though teaching and being a teacher was about. I did 2 internships and a formal student teaching assignment. But none of it really prepared me for what I was to find when I became a contract classroom teacher.

1. Administrators do not have your back. I don’t know where your Aunt taught but I can pretty much guaranteed it was not in New Haven or Bridgeport.

2. Even with good relations with the vast majority of parents, all it takes is one who decides that you have persecuted their child and you are going to end up downtown. Your fate is going to depend upon your personal relationships, your age, and if the particular situation is potentially embarrassing to higher-ups. And forget about union representation—they will do what the superintendent wants them to do.

3. You will work like never before and you will spend your own money and you will agonize over the progress of your students—this is actually the best part of the job, strangely enough.

What am I trying to say to you?
1. Public school teaching is all about not making any mistakes as opposed to making a positive difference in the lives of your students.

2. Your job security depends upon the organizational politics of your building and district—your evaluations do not necessarily translate into what you have indicated in your article.

3. You, as a young inexperienced teacher and human being, are valued by administrators because you are idealistic and malleable and will earn an entry level salary.

My advice to you is to seriously consider another career until politics are vanquished from our schools—or when clove hoofs fly!

posted by: Linda12 | March 30, 2012  5:32pm

Jessica,

I hope you find a job; you may be beat by a TFA candidate. Hold off on your masters degree. You will be more marketable if you are less educated. Try not to apply to any of the lowest performing schools; you will not have any rights. Good luck!

posted by: AMM | March 31, 2012  12:20pm

Jessica,
You are volunteering for an organization (SFER) that will - how can I put this? - screw you once you get a job.  While you volunteer, why don’t you look at the financial statements of SFER and see how much your leaders are paying themselves with the excessive donations they are accepting from lobbyists such as ConnCan and 50Can.  All while disciples like yourself do their bidding.

Perhaps you’ll realize after you graduate that these reform organizations exploit naive parents and college students in order to spread their destructive message and make some good money for themselves.

posted by: APN | April 1, 2012  1:45am

@AMM Is it possible that there are future teachers out there that actually want to change the status quo of our curent public education system? And is it possible that there are good people in America who have been fortunate to become successful, who actually want to help create a better America for future generations? Or just because you’re successful does that mean that anything you do or say must be of a direct benefit to you?

There are people in this world who want to make a difference and they don’t always have a personal stake in the matter.

If you think that ConnCAN and SFER are the only ones that are advocating to change the status quo, than you are extremely mistaken. Not only do organizations such as the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents and Connecticut Association of Boards of Education agree with many of the principals outlined in SB 24, but our democratic governor, and democratic mayors from all over CT, who have been widely supported by the CEA and other teachers unions in the past, are finally stepping up to the plate to support real education reform in CT.

Also, organizations like the Connecticut Parent’s Union support many of the reforms outlined in SB 24. How long can you defend the status quo of public education in Connecticut before you admit that real changes need to be made?

CT has the LARGEST achievement gap in the country by many different measures, and while neighboring states have been active in creating new policies to help close that gap, CT has stood idly by until now.

I applaud Jessica for standing up for changes that she believes will help her become a better teacher, and help her future students get a better education.

posted by: Tom Burns | April 1, 2012  2:31pm

Jessica,
If your Aunt Marie taught under the tenets of SB24 she would have been too afraid to teach as she has over the years and would have most likely been terminated before she became a good teacher—-your naivete is apparent—-the teachers used to be able to make decisions in their classrooms—this is no longer true—-lessons are scripted and ordered for you from someone other than yourself——we can change this and are trying to do so in New Haven—we still have a long way to go—Good luck with your career—Tom

posted by: Linda12 | April 1, 2012  4:37pm

To APN:

Sounds good to the hopelessly naive and optimistic newbies, but what they are really advocating, under the guise of helping poor children, is applying a business model to public schools.

They will diminish the profession (lower wages, less degrees and experience needed, constant flow of TFA candidates, high turnover) while looking to establish a cheaper work force and drive out the higher paid, more experienced teachers. 

ConnCon, a spin off of Achievement first, is salavating at the potential $$$$ coming their way from the public trough.  The millionaires and billionaires who suddenly care about poor children and “reform” are pulling the wool over your eyes, and many others. 

As long as CT has the largest income gap, we will always have the largest achievement gap.

Taking the teachers from Darien and sticking them all in Hartford will not improve test scores.

Just wondering…. do you know why when we list test scores by minority groups, the Asians are never listed?  I always wondered why their scores are never made public. Those scores would be intersting to view; I suspect there would be a gap between this group and all of the rest of the students in the state.

Don’t we need a plan for that achievement gap?

For the true motivation behind this faux reform movement, please read:

Hired Guns on Astroturf:
How to Buy and Sell School Reform

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=4240

posted by: AMM | April 1, 2012  5:06pm

@APN

Of course, it’s possible for the younger generations to want to make things better.  It’s also possible that their idealism clouds the reality how to go about it.  Just about everyone I know went into teaching to make the world a better place just as Jessica wants to.  What makes their opinion less valid than her’s?  Why hasn’t anyone asked the very teachers who are out in the trenches?

As for who else is supporting this bill besides SFER and ConnCAN, well…no duh!!  Of course members of CAPSS would like to fire teachers without any reason possible and CABE is in line with it also because like the superintendents, their benefit is having less work to do.  (Though don’t be surprised if CABE backtracks as many people are showing up at board of ed meetings concerned that a superintendent will have sole power).  Democratic mayors of cities stand to benefit from this also since it will look like they are doing something about education and it means more money coming from suburbs and small towns to pay for brand new (charter) schools in their cities. As for CPU, well they are joke and are being exploited by ConnCan and their like.  Plenty of parents like myself know we can have a place in making our schools better and don’t need to put it in the hands shady lobbyists. 

Yes, CT has a large achievement gap.  We also have a large income gap.  Towns on the Gold Coast choose to pay higher property taxes to offer exceptional educations thus making our achievement extremely high on the opposite end.  As a middle class parent, I can’t afford those schools, but I can make sure my kids and my town take education seriously. 

My question to you is where are the parents at the failing schools?  Why aren’t their children ready for kindergarten? Are they being read to?  Is someone watching over them making sure homework is done and behavior at school is acceptable?  Trying to blame schools because of some of the unimaginable circumstances in a child’s home life is disingenuous. 

Frankly, I think anyone who pushes this bill without holding parents accountable or taking into consideration their adversities is a defender of the status quo.  While I hope Jessica is successful, she does represent a typical college student who has NEVER dealt with parents.

posted by: APN | April 1, 2012  11:43pm

@AMM and @Linda12 , You say that poverty has the biggest influence on the achievement gap and educating our students, but what are we supposed to tell our students then? That just because you live in poverty that we can’t educate you? That because your family might not value education as highly as their wealthier peers that there’s nothing we can do for you? That there’s not point in going to school unless you come from a middle or upper class family?

We have a responsibility as a community to educate ALL of our children, regardless of socio-economic status or race.

There is a false belief out there that poverty is destiny and that no matter what we do we cannot educate our poorest students. Well guess what? That is a very false misconception, because states and schools around the country are proving that with the right policies and systems in place, our poorest students CAN achieve at just as high a level of our wealthy students.

Also, I would love to hear your ideas about how we can fix education in Connecticut. Defending the status quo does not count as a way to close the achievement gap. Something has to be done, and our Governor is proposing a very reasonable reform package compared to other states.

As for ConnCAN, exactly what money do they have coming there way? Do you actually believe that the people who work there are fighting for a bigger paycheck as opposed to fixing the civil rights issue of our time? That they sit around their office plotting ways to bring in more money all day instead of researching, communicating, and advocating for policies that can provide every child in CT with an excellent education?

Can we really say to our children that just because you grow up in a poor neighborhood that you are destined to live in poverty? Is that what America has become? A land where your destiny is not determined by hard-work and effort, but by the public school you go to? And that because you go to a failing school that there’s nothing we can do for you?

posted by: CN1965 | April 2, 2012  9:43am

Great article! So glad that young people are standing up and saying that they want to be held accountable as teachers.
As for some of the hateful comments, please look-up what a non-profit is. It will save us all a lot of time.
It’s sad that you can’t accept that all teachers/future teachers haven’t bought into the same lies that you have. While you mud sling claims of naivete, I would say that it is you with the jaded and warped perception of reality. States with demographics just like CT vastly outperform our low income students. They have taken similar steps to that of SB 24 and done a great deal to fix education. Public education still exists in those states and has gotten stronger since reform. Where’s your boogie man now?

posted by: CONconn | April 2, 2012  10:03am

APN, it is a fact that the people on the ConnCAN advisory boards are the same people who will profit from SB24. ConnCAN is basically the lobbying arm of Achievement First. Steven Adamowski is listed as a financial advisor on certain ConnCAN documents. He stands to get an increased pension by $40,500 a year that he doesn’t qualify for under the current law. 

Nevermind the fact that last year the Walton family gave ConnCAN 1.3 million dollars to push this agenda.

posted by: CONconn | April 2, 2012  10:09am

CN1965, please look up what a “management fee” is. It will save us all a lot of time.

Although Achievement First is listed as a nonprofit (for the time being), they collect about $4 million in management fees from NY, and early projections suggested they’d collect about $10 million in management fees from CT.

Besides, what’s keeping the for-profit charter companies from coming in once the law was passed?

posted by: brutus2011 | April 2, 2012  10:28am

brutus2011

I would like to assert that:

1. Teachers are not defending the status quo. We simply do not see that SB 24 is about the change that is actually needed.

2. The change(s) that are actually needed are:
  a. A CT statute needs to be passed that prohibits frivolous lawsuits against a school district and requires that disruptive students not be allowed to take instructional time from their peers.
  b. School building and district administrators need to be held accountable for not providing proper learning environments for students and adults under their supervision.
  c. There needs to be some kind of strict accounting of where education dollars actually end up. There are too many dollars being siphoned off by political patronage, cronyism, inefficient consultants, private firm contracts, and bloated administrative staffs. This money must find its way into the classroom. Those of you who criticize those of us who say no to what is being hyped as school reform do not truly understand what has happened to our schools.
  c. What has happened is that those who manage our schools have erected a management structure based on private business models. The problem is that private business is about revenue as its bottom line—and this requires a certain ruthlessness. Public schools are public institutions that have the education of our future citizens as its bottom line. This requires a certain egalitarianism. What has happened is that those who run our schools are very well paid with huge pensions (why Adamowski wants in)and they seek to protect their niche. In addition, many mayors control their BOEs and appoint their superintendents to do their bidding—such as hire those, or relatives of those, who contribute to their political campaigns. For proof, examine New Haven.
  d. Teachers are the logical choice to upend the real status quo (corruption in our education system) by reducing management by at least half and giving teacher boards control of individual school curriculum implementation with legal authority to create and maintain a proper learning environment.

To answer someone’s question about what to do?

That is what I would begin to do.

Now tell me, what is more of a defense of the status quo?

Senate Bill 24 or me?

posted by: Linda12 | April 2, 2012  10:45am

Name the states with the exact same demographics as CT - same level of income disparity and name the EXACT sections of SB24 that these states have included in their reform movement. Be specific…don’t just repeat the same soundbites given to you by the “reformers” salavating at the potential $$$$ coming their way. Talk about mudslinging - that is all the teachers of CT hear everyday. Practice what you preach my dear!

posted by: CONconn | April 2, 2012  10:54am

CN1965: Non-profit or not, Achievement First collects over $4 million in management fees from NY, and they stand to collect $10 million in management fees from CT if their expansion plan is successful.

Besides, what’s keeping charters that are actually listed as for-profit from setting up shop in CT once the change in laws make it more profitable and easier to get in? What’s keeping Achievement First from switching over to for-profit status once ConnCAN has cleared the way for a strong foothold through Article 18?

posted by: AMM | April 2, 2012  11:06am

APN, poverty isn’t destiny (no one but the reform movement has said that) but you also can’t expect a child in that situation to be as prepared for education as a child whose parents have tended to him/her.  Different approaches are necessary and the one size fits all approach that we are practicing (against the wishes of teachers) is not helping.  Right now we have kids in well performing schools who are being held back from achieving their potential because we are making them play by the same rules as the schools who are failing. 
You may close the achievement gap doing it this way, but how are we bettering kids is low performing schools by minimizing high performing schools?

Funny thing is the “status quo” you complain about works very well in high performing schools and among kids whose parents care (even in low performing schools).  The answer to those without support at home cannot lie with the school teachers as they can only do so much and can easily be undermined by the parents.  But please tell me why you think it’s okay to continue to allow parents to not take care of their own children.

As for ConnCan, other posters have pointed out their agenda.  Please do some research and not fall for their shtick.

posted by: 27Reasons | April 9, 2012  3:02pm

Ms. Jess Joline,

I admire your passion, but what you believe about this bill couldn’t be further from the truth. This bill is ALL about making teachers the scapegoats for the ills of society. This bill essentially condemns your whole career before you’ve even begun. It does so many radical things, which have NOTHING to do with helping students, and EVERYTHING to do with underpaying us even more, and finding easier ways to get rid of us. This bill is TOXIC to education, and scares me to death. Do we punish and attack firefighters for starting fires? Do we strip them of their rights, certifications, pensions, and ability to challenge right from wrong? Well that’s exactly what this bill does to teachers. I hope that you’ll do some research and write a follow up.

posted by: 27Reasons | April 9, 2012  3:07pm

@brutus2011 You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth. This legislation is pure special interest, and ‘studentsfirst’ ‘concann’ (millionaire backed ‘nonprofits’)etc…... has the NERVE to call teachers special interest! This bill will be the DEATH of good teachers in CT.

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