Sunday, December 4, 2011

NCUEA Conference Day 3

Yesterday was the final day of the conference.  Diane Ravitch was the keynote speaker. She was part of the Bush administration and supported NCLB. She has seen the effects and changed her position. She wrote a book called "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" which discusses how choice and testing have harmed public schools.  She spoke about the narrative of failing public schools full of bad teachers who don't care about kids, because the union makes sure they have a lifetime job. She does not support this. She said unions are not the reason schools are failing. Finland is 105% union, because all teachers and principals belong to the same union. Teach for America (TFA) is not a teacher training program, it is a leadership training program where young people are not teaching very long then becoming superintendent. The problem is privatization and de-professionalization of teaching.

The union doesn't give tenure. We need to stop using the word. Tenure only means we have due process, not lifetime employment. Last in, first out (LIFO) campaign followed. Problems with firing older teachers. She understands the conservative thinking, because she worked in their think tanks for many years. They want vouchers. Charters are a substitute for vouchers. This is a campaign for choice, which leads to privatization.  Unions are the enemy of all the conservative think tanks want to accomplish. The ideas she thought were bad have now been adopted by Obama. Under first President Bush, she was swayed to support testing and vouchers. She sees the problems now. Testing, accountability, and choice is the single message coming out of Congress. She doesn't think it is right that states must compete for federal funds. The majority of kids with needs will not get the money they need because of the competition. Federal funds should be distributed by formula based on need. NCLB needs to go away.

‎100% proficiency goal is unrealistic. What NCLB has done is set up public education to fail. This is demonizing the profession and demoralizing teachers. Congress is not looking at the big picture. Race to the Top is NCLB 2.0. To be eligible for federal funding, you must increase the number of charter schools. Most charter schools are not out-performing public schools. The general public has been led to believe charters are better. Charters do not have to meet same requirements as public schools.  With all the advantages of charter schools, charters are not doing a better job educating students. A public school is not a "chain store" to close if it doesn't make money.  Conservatives are  not privatizing firefighters and police force. Some places are starting to privatize libraries, which is also wrong. Low-level corporate thinking is the problem. Best corporate thinking is to treat your employees like gold (i.e. Google). Students know they can withhold their efforts on tests to hurt their teachers.

Tea party people like the conservative narrative. The governors are cutting benefits for teachers and taxes for large corporations. New Orleans district is rebuilding from TFA and receiving praise. Diane can't find foundations that support public education, but the big ones support "reform" (Gates, Walton - owners of Walmart). Democrats for Education Reform are gaining support. Billionaires around the nation are spending a lot on politics to push the conservative agenda for privatization. They are recommending for other people's children what they would not allow for their own children. Stand for Children, Teach First, Educators for Excellence, are some of the other organizations that are influencing policy and laws in other states.

NEA needs to persuade Obama administration that if they don't change their education policy, teachers won't come out to vote for him. Jeb Bush is working hard for privatization. Cyber-charters are the cash cow of education. Full per pupil spending but not all the services of a public school (librarians, teacher help, socialization) are provided for that amount. Test scores and graduation rates are very low for cyber-charters. 

No other country uses test scores as part of evaluation. Principals in New York want the new evaluation system piloted somewhere before full implementation. The real problem is poverty. Testing and evaluation is a diversion tactic. The biggest predictor of success on any test is family income.  Why is Finland number one if they don't have standardized tests? New book out "Finnish Lessons". Finland spent 30 years transforming education system. Young people compete to get into teacher preparation programs. Teaching is a well-respected profession. Only 4% poverty. Less diversity than us, but better test scores than other similarly homogeneous countries.  Accountability must include all people who make decisions about education. Tests should be used for diagnostics and not for punishment. Students who are overly tested do not learn to think creatively. Incentives and sanctions, carrots and sticks, reward high tests and punish low tests. 21st-century thinking is that most important motivation is intrinsic, so carrots and sticks don't work. Family is important to school success. Poverty is not an excuse, it is a fact. Anyone who says they can turn around a school in a year is lying. Transformation takes time.

We are in a dark time for education. It will survive because of millions of teachers and parents who support them.  We need to tell President Obama that his policies mirror President Bush's policies, and that the evaluation tied to test scores is wrong. He needs to publicly change his position. San Diego has community based school reform that is making gradual steady progress. 

The final session was about moving from payroll deduction to Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). We need to have conversations with individual members during this process. In Australia after the loss of payroll deduction, they began to gain members. Other forms of payment include EFT, credit card, or cash. District will not be involved and will no longer know how many members we have.  PCI Compliance for credit card information is strict rules about security with paperwork, computer access, and internal processes and requires additional audits. Members only website for self-enroll in EFT or credit card payment, which is through Bank of America, is secure and BOA handles PCI. 2 weeks for EFT and 6-8 weeks foe credit card payments to work.

Update all member information (school, phone, address, email). We need to use home email accounts. Utah has been working with NEA on this conversion. Weekly conference calls to stay updated. NEA is still building the system.  Alabama had 60% of members flip the first time they were asked. AEA had 93% of all members flip by the date necessary. In Arizona, they polled members about issues that helped drive the message for the flip. Database was updated as part of the process.

Historically there is a 1-2% EFT failure rate where member has overdraft fee. Have to contact members about failures of transfers. Failed transactions cost UEA $2. Each transaction costs NEA $0.02-0.05 per transaction. In states already using EFT, the average fail rate was 1.93%, with the most recent month being 0.91%. The charges for credit card transactions are much higher. Per transaction cost is $0.09-0.35. The failure rate is 11%. Credit card is much more expensive.

The system is currently not set up for new members. We need to set up a complex and smart system because of all the variables involved (district, part-time/full-time).

The NCUEA conference has been a good experience. In addition to all the training sessions, I have been able to connect with other local presidents from Utah and around the nation. Knowing we are not alone in our fight to save public education renews my commitment to continue moving forward.

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