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Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

I have written about why I feel Tenure is important and how it is used as a scapegoat for inadequate follow through on the part of many administrators in Tenure’s Tenure. I guess it comes as no surprise that I am appalled at the recent decision in California against Tenure.

Of course the statement that upset me the most came from the presiding judge. Judge Treu wrote, “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently in California classrooms,” I do not know what defines a “grossly ineffective teacher”. I know how I might define it, but it would have nothing to do with standardized test scores of children. Even under my personal definition, I would think it would apply to an insignificant number of teachers, many of whom could be brought up to competent levels with properly supported professional development.

Based on articles that I have read since the judgment, the number of “grossly ineffective teachers” in the poorer districts referred to by the judge may have been made up on the spot by a conjecturing witness. Fuzzy Math: guesstimate that struck down California’s teacher tenure laws.

The fact of the matter is that a teacher’s role in a child’s education is very significant. It is not however, the sole influence on that child’s education. This is especially true of children in schools in areas of poverty. The unfortunate truth is that before we can apply Bloom’s taxonomy in many schools, we need to first apply Maslow’s Hierarchy. If kids are coming to school stressed because they are hungry, tired, undernourished, and concerned about their safety, there are no teachers trained well enough to convince those kids to put all that aside for the sake of schoolwork.

The issue with schools in poverty areas both rural and urban is not the teacher quality as much as it is the poverty itself. Poverty brings with it issues in schools that no amount of high-performing teachers can fix.  Teachers are beaten down in their attempts to teach in these schools. Toxic cultures have evolved as a result of fighting the good fight and being defeated by social prejudice, poor infrastructure, and lack of support. These are reasons for high turnover rates of administrators and teachers alike that are commonplace in schools in poverty areas. These are many of the reasons teachers do not actively seek positions in these schools. None of this failure has to do with Tenure. None of this failure has to do with a made up number of 3% of highly incompetent teachers.

Lets make up our own numbers and blame 75% of the do-nothing, ineffective and incompetent politicians who do not address the very issues of poverty that actually are the real reasons for schools in areas of poverty not performing in the same realm as schools in affluent areas.

The idea that teachers are the key to getting all kids thinking and learning at the same level of competence throughout the country is ridiculous. If we can’t even attempt to standardize the environments and conditions in which kids learn, how can we expect the results to be the same nation-wide?

Tenure is only a guarantee of due process. It is not a lifelong commitment. Incompetent teachers can be fired as long as we have competent administrators providing due process. Too often administrators blame the law rather than their inability to follow it.

Without due process teachers will serve at the whim of whatever politicians are in control. Whatever trend school boards, or state legislatures buy into could be thrust upon teachers to teach or else. If the school board is of the opinion the Earth is only 9,000 years old and wants that taught in the schools, who could stand up to that at the risk of loosing a job? If books are banned by a board, who stands against that? If policies are changed in favor of budget over safety who advocates for safety?

Without due process in times of economic considerations, teachers who earn the highest wages are considered the biggest liability. Being an economic cutback is hardly a just reward for years of service. All of these factors do not create a profession that would attract and maintain the brightest and best this country has to offer. Doing away with due process is the best way to weaken an already shaky profession. Half of all teachers entering the profession leave before the fifth year. Some of the most successful and experienced teachers are leaving for consulting positions after years of teaching. The very reason many of the most experienced leave is the current atmosphere of teachers being vilified, and not even involved in discussions of reform. The profession needs to attract more and maintain what it has, and not drive people away.

Rather than talking about easier ways to eliminate teachers, why not find better ways to teach, support, and maintain them. Why not focus efforts on affecting the hard things to fix, the things that have a real effect on education and learning. Poor schools are a symptom of poverty, not the other way around. Let’s deal with poverty, as an issue and education will improve. Fixing education will come at a cost to us all and not just a cost to teachers. We can’t reduce taxes as we improve education. Great education is a long-term goal investment that, unfortunately, exists in a short-term goal-oriented society. Public education is what will keep America safe with informed citizens able to critically think, analyze, process, and create. We can’t afford not to support it.

Maybe, Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court should look at politicians who obstruct any programs to address the issue of poverty as an attack on education and an obstruction to “a basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education”. This might have a more positive effect on education than attacking due process, tenure laws. To paraphrase or rather reuse the words of the judge, there is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective politicians currently in the California legislature rooms.

 

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The World Education Blog in association with Education For All Global Monitoring Report is sponsoring #Teacher Tuesday. Each week for the next ten weeks they will share blog posts from ten different educators from around the world. The intent is to give voice to educators from around the world in an international discussion of education. Feel free to comment and enter the discussion.
SPEECH – 2013/4 EFA GMR
Esnart Chapomba, Teacher Educator in Malawi

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is great honour for me to be here in front of you today. As you have already heard, my name is Esnart Chapomba from Malawi. I would like to share with you some of the teaching and learning experiences from

Malawi. As most of you might have already known, Malawi is one of the countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa.

After adopting a Free Education Policy in 1994, the primary education sector in Malawi has been facing a learning crisis affecting the disadvantaged the most.

Teachers are few and far between. Class sizes are enormous and from the facts that I am going to share with you, I think that you will all agree that this has to change.

In Malawi children are not getting the best education and the quality of education is poor. Let me share with you some examples of what I mean by this.

I have seen children crammed into classrooms with more than 200 students and only one teacher.

I myself, have taught a class of 230 children and I had to teach under a tree because there was no classroom.

With so many students, I was only able to teach three subjects out of 6 on the daily timetable because I had to finish correcting every student’s work before proceeding to the next subject; as a result, I just ran out of time.

Many teachers especially those working in rural primary schools in Malawi will tell you the same story – we are far behind the Government’s target of 60 pupils per classroom.

Even more shocking is the fact that some rural schools have less than four teachers in a school of about 1000 children.

This means that on many occasions, children are left sitting in a classroom on their own, without a teacher, or they are sent home early. These children will learn very little by the time they graduate from the primary cycle.

Sometimes classes are combined and children from different grades sit together to learn from the same teacher . This is a form of multi-grade teaching).

To make this way of teaching more effective, teachers learn about ‘multi-grade teaching’ in training colleges so that they are able to handle students from different grades.

As you can imagine, this is not the best solution, but we are working hard to accommodate children in classes as best as we can.

In my experience, children in rural areas suffer the most. A 30 minute lesson would be taught in less than 20 minutes because they learn under very unfavourable conditions, like sitting under trees, and are frequently interrupted by rains and other external factors.

And I’m sad to say that rural children are taught by teachers who are often demotivated due to poor working conditions, poor accommodation and are living in remote areas where they are unable to access healthcare and other social amenities.

These issues are now being recognised and the Ministry of Education is providing rural teachers with an additional amount of money to cater for their hardships, and by building better houses in these areas to keep teachers motivated so that they can drive the provision of quality education.

The truth of the matter however is that huge classes and learning under unfavorable conditions in Malawi drastically reduce the quality of time that a teacher can spend with a child.

This is having a negative impact on the quality of teaching and children’s ability to learn. This has consistently been demonstrated by the SACMEQ results.

You will be shocked to hear that some children in Malawi reach grades three and four without being able to add up, read or write.

I’ve even seen children as old as 9 and 10 who are unable to read and write their names when clearly they should be able to do this.

These children will miss out on good opportunities and will be without the skills they need to have a decent future.

A lack of resources is also hampering teaching and learning. There are simply not enough books and pencils to go around. In most schools I have worked in, up to 10 children share a textbook. Again the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Malawi has been working to help provide one textbook per child, but this can’t come soon enough for the children who have already been left behind in their studies.

The Ministry of Education is also in the process of strengthening the early grade curriculum, all aimed at simplifying Teacher’s Guides and introducing more relevant and effective teaching methodologies.

The underlying truth is that the knock on effect of children performing poorly is catastrophic.

Children end up being demotivated and repeat and/or drop out of school before completing their primary school years. In Malawi, dropout rates are higher for girls across all grades. On average, 12.3% of girls will dropout compare to only 8.6% of boys according to official statistics(EMIS 2012).

Therefore, there is an urgent need for policies and strategies that can ensure that all children not only complete primary school, but also secondary education.

The situation I have faced is sadly not uncommon, as this year’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights. This is why it is vital that policy-makers take note of the important messages in the Report – to make sure all schools have enough teachers, and these teachers receive the necessary support so that all children have the chance to learn.

As a teacher educator, I am aware of the challenges teachers face in schools; therefore, I try and teach teachers to carry out their work professionally with limited resources.

I show teachers how to motivate children to learn, especially through frequent assessments and then providing children with feedback.

It is imperative, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen that the government of Malawi continues to commit itself to educating its children and reach out to the most disadvantaged.

An education must prepare our children to be productive citizens of our country so that we can lift ourselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty and have a better future.

I believe that a quality education liberates people’s minds making them able to provide for their livelihood and is an essential tool for solving their daily life problems.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you very much for your attention.

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I just finished an #Edchat that I left me with a feeling of not being able to add any authority to the discussion. For those unfamiliar, #Edchat is a weekly Twitter discussion on Education topics. This week’s discussion was based on this statement: There is a strong belief among some educators that poverty is the biggest factor in a failing education system.

It is difficult to have any discussion on this topic without people, including me, entering it with all of the biases built on myths and facts over the years. It is a mixture of biases not just of poverty, but race as well. It is not a comfortable place to be, since we are very aware of how incendiary these discussions can get with just a few poorly chosen words by well-intentioned people not thinking things through.

I am an average white guy who grew up on Long Island, New York in the 50’s in an all-white community that was designed to be just that, segregated. My college experience offered opposition to the Viet Nam War, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment in demonstrations that are now a part of history, and can now be only experienced through video clips on YouTube, or TV newscasts. I was a socially aware, late 60’s college student.

Nevertheless, I entered this Edchat discussion hoping to shed what little light I had on the subject of the huge effect that poverty has on today’s Education. To add to my total lack of credentials, I have never taught in a school that was considered to be in an impoverished community. In all honesty, when I devised this topic for the Edchat discussion, it was my hope that educators from poverty areas would join in to offer a credible voice on the subject.

It has been my experience that poverty comes in two large varieties, urban and suburban and they have both similarities and differences. Each community however, seems to have its own culture. How, and where education fits into that culture varies with every community. All are hindered by poverty and language barriers further hinder some. In a nation populated by immigrants, we are a host to many languages. If educators coming from English-speaking cultures to communities of non-English speaking students, that is a problem for education.

Many impoverished communities must deal with higher crime rates, as well as violence that are expressed with open gunfire. Communities are finding themselves under siege in many instances. How can Kids concerned about getting to school safely, making it through the school day there, and returning home safely, ever concentrate on learning?

The idea that the parents of poor students are sitting home all day without jobs is another myth. That prevents us from addressing poverty as a problem for education, and not as a bad result of some liberal social welfare programs. I was stunned to hear that the average age of fast food workers is 34 years of age. That tells me that people are trying to carry their families with jobs that are minimum wage dependent. How can anyone adequately support a family that way? It is however, the bulk of jobs that are available. Retail jobs, and service positions are also high on the occupation list for the poor. If most poor people are working, but not earning a living wage, that is another problem for education.

The very goal of what most educators strive for is that college education as the pot at the end of the rainbow. Educators see it as a way out for their students and can’t see why the kids drop out. If kids from poor families can hardly support the financial needs of a public school education, why would the goal of an over-priced college education be an incentive to graduate? The financial needs of the family often dictate the direction of the student’s need for education. That is another problem for education.

Research has shown us that nutrition and proper sleep are two components of a child’s home life that will determine his or her success in school. For a number of reasons, tied directly to poverty, this is rarely the case for students in poverty. This is yet another problem for education.

I have always supported the whole child approach to education expressed by ASCD:

Whole Child Tenets

Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

 

Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

 

Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

 

Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

 

Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

 

All of these are necessary for a student to succeed in school. The first three of the five are a struggle for students in impoverished schools. That is a problem for education.

I do not disagree with the belief that the most important element in a student’s education is the teacher. The teacher however is not the only factor in a student’s education. There is no level playing field here. That is a problem for education.

Educators adhere to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, but before schools in poverty can even get there, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is a more-needed consideration. This is a problem for education.

I am the last person who should be talking about poverty, but I do feel confident in talking about education. As an educator it is obvious to me that unless we deal directly with the issue of poverty, we will never address the issue of education in any way to improve it. I have heard it said that if we factor out the schools in poverty, the U.S. education system is very good. A blind eye never works in the real world. If we don’t deal with the real issue we will continue with the real problems. This is the biggest problem faced by education. Nobody is pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in this world of poverty. That is a ridiculous expectation!

 

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