Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tom Dooher must be shot!

According to Don Samuels.

Why? Well, Samuels says it is because Education Minnesota opposes the “ninety-day wonder” bills that have been introduced in the Legislature again this year by Minnesota House members Carlos Mariani and Linda Slocum, and Senate member Terri Bonoff.

In his poisonous op-ed in the StarTribune yesterday, Samuels says:

[  ] Dooher opposes another proven innovation touted by the president -- the alternative teacher certification bill under consideration in the Minnesota Legislature, which would widen the pool of qualified candidates entering the field from different paths and attract more minorities into the teacher ranks.

Minnesota has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, and we believe alternative teacher certification is one of the missing links as to why Minnesota's urban core schools have not yet realized the success of many of their counterparts in other cities. Students trapped in consistently low-performing schools have been robbed of their right to a high-quality education and effective teachers. If the Legislature passes alternative teacher certification, it would open the pipeline to programs like Teach For America, which recruits top-notch teachers into high-needs classrooms.

The key words in the entire passage are “we believe.”

But really, segregation is still the principal cause of the achievement gap. This is from an interview with Jonathan Kozol about his book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America:

In earlier books, like "Amazing Grace," I certainly made it evident that the schools of the South Bronx were stunningly segregated. But it wasn't until the last five years that I realized how sweeping this change has been throughout the nation, and how reluctant the media is to speak of it. Newspapers in general, including those that are seen as vaguely liberal, by a convenient defect of vision refuse to see what is in their own front yard -- or if they do see it, they refuse to state it. So, in a description of a 98 percent black and Latino school, the newspaper won't say what would seem to be the most obvious starting point: This is a deeply segregated school. They won't use the word "segregated." They do the most amazing semantic somersaults to avoid calling reality by its real name. "Gritty" is the New York Times' euphemism for segregated; "serving a diverse population with many minorities" -- as though they might be Albanians! Then I go to this "diverse" school and there are 1,000 black and Latino kids, 10 whites and 12 Asians. So "diverse" has actually come to be a synonym for "not diverse."

This school segregation is the direct outgrowth of patterns of de facto residential segregation. Anyone who has lived in the Twin Cities for any time at all knows that it is quite segregated. But as Kozol says, the media don’t seem to want to talk about it. Even Don Samuels doesn’t seem to want to talk about it!

It is much easier to blame the teachers.

But in fact, the inner-city kids who attend the suburban schools that Samuels acknowledges are top notch, under open enrollment or the It’s Your Choice program, mostly still perform more like their inner-city peers than they do the resident students of the suburban districts. It’s the economic and social milieu they come out of, not the school or the teachers.

Samuels has a legitimate beef, but it’s not the one he’s complaining about. Rather than venting his anger by trying to destroy the teaching profession and its professional standards and entrance requirements, he ought to spend his time trying to fight the re-segregation of the schools.

Public employees are always convenient footballs for venal and self-aggrandizing politicians. Fraudenwaste in government is one of the time tested platforms on which to run for office. Joe McCarthy went after federal employees first; Liz Cheney is doing the same thing with some Justice Department lawyers now. Who could forget Tim Pawlenty’s teacher bashing? Don Samuels is cut from the same cloth.

His demagogic screed in the paper yesterday is a perfect illustration of why civil servants, and teachers in particular, need the protection of a union.

School boards are made up of politicians, too. It would be much easier to filet a teacher like a trout once in a while when some control freak parent complained that little Johnnie or Janie wasn’t doing his or her homework, and that it was all the teacher’s fault. It’s the grievance system – borne of the union – that makes it hard for that to happen. Teachers still do get fired, but not so arbitrarily.

Bilious windbags like Don Samuels shouldn’t be at all surprised when teachers give him the cold shoulder.

Update: there are follow-up posts here and here.

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