Dear Governor Cuomo: We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.

From an open letter signed by seven former NYS Teachers of the Year. *

I argue that teaching-for-learning is a practical art that makes steep demands on a teacher’s “phronetic” or practical knowledge. . . .  [T]o facilitate quality teaching we ought to create new forms of teacher education, and install master teachers to a place of pivotal authority in education. This would allow building a self-governed, professional accountability system on the basis of collegial self governance and peer review. 

Heinz-Dieter Meyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, SUNY Albany, NY **

Increasingly, U.S. Education is being run by remote control. The remote control device is the political state, and button pushers are moneyed interest groups–corporations and their connected-at-the-hip foundations. The objects being controlled are students, parents, teachers, and schools.

While there may be a place for the use of remote or distance learning devices within the education system at appropriate stages of a student’s development, the state-sanctioned remote control of the educational system itself is a perversion of the principles of liberty and justice, and the exploitation of the human mind for the benefit of moneyed interest groups. Needless to say this does great harm to children and undermines the profession of teaching.

Our previous post, “Education Renewal Based on Trust and Experience,” highlighted the fact that U.S education reform is primarily directed by professions with little public trust or direct experience in education, which include politicians and corporate CEOs.

A profession, or perhaps better said,  an avocation that did not appear in the polls is that of philanthropists.

The reason to bring this up in the context of controlling influences is that major philanthropists, including Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton Family (Walmart), and Eli and Edythe Broad are are playing an instrumental role in U.S. education reform. From 2000 to 2011 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone spent $5 billion on education (wsj.com 7/23/11). The Gates Foundation is the single most powerful force worldwide in education reform today. This is not just because of the projects that it directly funds, but also because of the influence it has on the giving priorities of other foundations (sometimes called the “echo effect”) and on the politicians who make government education policy.

The Gates Foundation was instrumental in pulling off “one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history. [It] didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly change.” (washingtonpost.com, 7/7/14)

For this reason, in the right-hand illustration above, we have added philanthropists to CEOs / Corporations and Politicians that form a trinity of players who are the main strategists and driving force behind U.S. education reform, but who are remote from the learning environment (See my previous blog) .

The left hand illustration above consists of the teachers, parents, and students who are immersed in education at school and the home on a daily basis, but who collectively are coerced by state-mandated education policy into being the delivery system for the ideologies of the other trinity.

A recent example in New York State highlighting the contentious debate and power struggle between these two trinities is the ruckus caused by New York Governor Cuomo’s recent State of State address.*** One of his main subject areas had to do with “professionalization of teachers.”  Cuomo’s picture of treating teachers as professionals is to: evaluate and hold them accountable based primarily on how well their students do on state standardized tests linked to Common Core State Standards (CCSS); reward ‘effective’ teachers whose students do well on the tests with $20,000 bonuses; and streamline removing teachers who are ineffective in doing so.

The other quotation above from a talk by Heinz Dieter Myer, provides a contrasting view of the professionalization of education and accountability in education. He proposes that teachers as professionals should play a pivotal role in the creation of  student assessments and that they also set up a self-governing system of accountability. This is the opposite of remote control education, that is, people and professions with the most experience and who have the most public trust should take the lead. This is a matter of common sense and considerable urgency because our children’s future is at stake.

To be sure, moving from remote control to self-governance will be fraught with challenges, including hostile opposition by those who make lots of money from the status quo. But we feel it is at least worth exploring, and will do so on April 25 at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, at an “Authentic Assessments and Accountability in Education” conference. Heinz-Dieter Myer will be one of the featured panelists. We invite you to attend. To learn more click here.

* The article “You made it personal: We are not the enemy” was written by seven New York State Teachers of the Year: Ashli Dreher (2014, Buffalo); Katie Ferguson (2012, Schenectady); Jeff Peneston (2011, Syracuse); Rich Ognibene (2008, Rochester); Marguerite Izzo (2007, Malverne); Steve Bongiovi (2006, Seaford); and Liz Day (2005, Mechanicville). Source: http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/You-made-it-personal-We-are-not-the-enemy-6068440.php

** From “Managerial Accountability and the Misrecognition of Educational Knowledge,” Heinz-Dieter Meyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Education Administration and Policy Studies, SUNY Albany, NY.

*** A video and transcript of the his speech can be found at: http://www.saratogian.com/general-news/20150121/video-wtranscript-state-of-the-state-2015.

 

 

 

 

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