Tuesday, June 21, 2011

StudentsFirst.org--Yet Another Corporate Funded Lobbyist Attack on Teachers

Are you a monumentally successful public institution that doesn't fill the pockets of wealthy investors? Are you unionized, supporting a healthier and more balanced economy--and better pay and benefits for the people doing the actual work, making the sacrifices, and producing the actual wealth? Do you want to teach science in science classes instead of creationism and Exxon ScienceTM?

Well guess what, you will have generated well-funded enemies, the latest of which is "studentsfirst.org," the latest corporate-funded teacher and union-bashing lobbyist organization, formed by Michelle Rhee (who is currently under investigation for fudging test scores to make her former schools appear to have performed better). As "Chancellor" of the DC public school system she fired many teachers due to their students' performance; student performance is for obvious reasons based on many factors beyond teachers' control.

Now StudentsFirst.org recommends teacher evaluations based on student performance on standardized tests, thus re-doubling efforts in pretty much the worst thing going on in public education today: re-enforcing teacher mediocrity through micromanagement and teaching to tests based on low-level thinking skills, then holding teachers accountable for it, despite factors beyond their control, not the least of which is an increasingly free-market third-world style economy, with all the concomitant problems their students arrive with.

Improving education actually involves allowing teachers more freedom to take risks and innovate, and engage students in more interesting and stimulating real-world and cooperative problem solving. Brain science has informed us of this.

But let's see, if I were going to attack teachers, I'd design something that pits them against the well-being of their students. "Students first" means putting students first instead of teachers. (That's the implication, right?) I would portray teachers as selfish people who didn't care about kids.

Sadly, this kind of seemingly transparent tactic (the "Patriot Act," the "Death Tax," "Death Panels," etc.) is very effective on lots of people, which explains why the demonization of unionization has accompanied the decline of the American middle class and the vitality of our superpower economy generally, for example.

The world's finest education institutions with the highest student performance all feature strong and well-respected teacher unions. That's a fact you won't find at "studentsfirst.org."

The more we crack down on teachers for phony reasons, the less our best and brightest will be attracted to the profession. Things will naturally go down hill.

The last thing we need is yet another underhanded non-transparent corporate and wealthy-funded lobbyist organization undermining our indispensible teachers, our education system, and our economy.

Let's hope more and more that people see through these types of tactics.