One Teacher’s Response to the Call to Action

custom_billboard_low_angle_14067 (1)Here is one response to Anthony Cody’s call to action to which I referred earlier today in another post. Peter Greene is a high school teacher who maintains a blog entitled “Curmudgeon–A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up with the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”

He has responded (as I have) with thoughts on Anthony’s call to reluctant warriors. You can see his response here.

He recognizes that he has been a reluctant warrior…but he agrees with Anthony that the time has come to speak up.

I agree. It’s not only time, it is past time, but it is always better late than never.

 

Another Teacher Resigns Over Low Pay and Lack of Respect

Another teacher–this time a National Board Certified Teacher with 13 years of experience–resigns because she can’t pay her bills on the low salary she was earning in North Carolina. She is tired of trying to make ends meet, and she is really tired of the disrespect being offered to teachers in NC, not to mention the fact that teaching is no longer fun, given the over-emphasis on testing and reliance on data. See the interview and read her letter of resignation which she addressed to the Governor of North Carolina along with others here.

Another Teacher Quits in Frustration

custom_stack_of_books_11960On March 23, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post offered another article that caught my attention and then ignited my interest and finally touched my heart on a deep level. She offered the perspective of a Massachusetts kindergarten teacher who is, in my opinion, both a “teacher in distress” and a “teacher in transition.” After 25 years of teaching kindergarten, Susan Sluyter has decided she has had enough. She knows in her heart and soul that the obsession with data that is driving our school systems of today, thanks to wrong headed initiatives and generally bad education policy, is not serving children, and she just can’t participate in the farce any longer. Below you can see her letter of resignation. We have clearly lost another dedicated teacher because of these poorly thought through initiatives. When will the administrators and policy makers hear us? When more teachers like Suzi Sluyter make their voices heard. At least, that is what I believe. I don’t want to believe that it is too late…but I do fear that time is running out. More teachers need to find their voices and speak up…not just for themselves and the damage that has been done to our profession but for the children who are not being served by this current data obsessed system.

My favorite line from Ms. Sluyter’s letter is here:

“The overall effect of these federal and state sponsored programs is the corrosion of teacher moral, the demeaning of teacher authority, a move away from collaborating with teachers, and the creation of an overwhelming and developmentally inappropriate burden imposed on our children.”

The entire letter is worth reading, however as is the entire article.

Please feel free to share widely. I know that this letter will resonate with every teacher (especially the ones who remember what it was like to teach before No Child Left Behind).

Here is Ms. Sluyter’s letter in its entirety.

February 12, 2014

I am writing today to let you know that I am resigning my position as PreK and Kindergarten teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools.  It is with deep sadness that I have reached this decision, as I have loved my job, my school community, and the families and amazing and dedicated faculty I have been connected with throughout the district for the past eighteen years.  I have always seen myself as a public school teacher, and fully intended to work until retirement in the public school system.  Further, I am the product of public schools, and my son attended Cambridge Public Schools from PreK through Grade 12.  I am and always have been a firm believer in quality public education.

In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.  I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced.   I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.  Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of Kindergarten and PreK.  I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!”  I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above.  Each year there are more.  Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend.  I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.

I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same:  to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom.  I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity.  I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away.  I felt anger rise inside me.  I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly.  I did not feel I was leaving my job.  I felt then and feel now that my job left me.

It is with deep love and a broken heart that I write this letter.

Sincerely,

Suzi Sluyter

For All My Teacher Friends and Colleagues : There May Be Hope

Every morning, I peruse my email, clicking through the dozens (literally, dozens) of emails that have landed in my inbox overnight. I am always on the look out for things that I can share with me friends and colleagues. This morning, I hit upon a gold mine. If you have already seen this circulating on Anthony Cody’s blog, or through GFBrandenburg’s blog like I did, you will have already read this. For those who may not have seen it yet, I had to share. The words in this paragraph resonate so deeply with me that they bring tears to my eyes:

Our schools are being destroyed by politics, profit, greed and lies. Instead of evidence-based practices, money has become the engine of education policy, and our schools are being hijacked by politicians, non-educators and for-profit operators. Parents, teachers, citizens and community elders must arm ourselves with the best evidence and take back control of our children’s public education before it is too late. We all must work together to improve our public schools, not on the basis of profit or politics, but on the basis of evidence, and on the basis of love for America’s children.

The author of these words is James Meredith, the first black student to graduate from the University of Mississippi and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. To learn more about the American Child’s Education Bill of Rights, click here. I don’t know about you, but I want to read the book that James Meredith has co-written with William Doyle. The book is titled, A Mission from God:  A Memoir and a Challenge for America. I just ordered my copy.

Those who know me know that I love the notion of teachers “taking back their profession.” It is only too true that our schools have been “hijacked by politicians, non-educators and for-profit operators,” and they have been aided and abetted by our President who seems on one hand to truly care about children and teachers but then goes about showing his care and support in all the wrong ways. The policies that are currently in place are crushing our teachers and they are not doing our children any good either.

I sometimes despair that it is too late. but posts like this one and messages like Mr. Meredith’s give me hope. I hope it does the same for you. Additionally, Mr. Meredith has invited folks to comment on his bill of rights for children. To comment, you may follow Mr. Meredith on Facebook here.

There may be hope. Maybe it isn’t too late. That is my own hope. That is my prayer.

Possible Remedies for Teacher Burn Out

For the last couple of days, I have been following a thread of discussion on LinkedIn. The topic is teacher burn out and what might be done about it. Some solutions that were offered in one article were pretty superficial, I thought. The suggestions included offering a social time for teachers, for example, so they could get together and relax every once in a while. The other suggestions  were okay as far as they went, but they didn’t go nearly far enough in my opinion.

Teacher burnout is a serious issue and it is one that needs to be treated seriously although I don’t think enough people are truly paying attention to it. The fact is, however, that a growing number of teachers are feeling disillusioned about their chosen profession. What I hear on a regular basis from the teachers I work with is that they still love their kids, but they don’t feel like they are teaching anymore. They are, instead, delivering a canned curriculum and then administering test after test after blasted test. The fun has been sucked out of teaching and it is a sure bet the children they are teaching aren’t having much fun either.

I felt compelled to offer some thoughts on the thread and this is what I said:

“While it is certainly important that teachers be offered times to socialize and de-stress, feeding teachers’ souls is a lot more complicated. The teachers I know who are stressed and might be in danger of ‘eating their children’ are overburdened by paperwork, impossible demands at every level, lack of support from administrators and parents, debt because of low and stagnant salaries, feeling berated by people in power like the Secretary of Education who misses no opportunity to criticize teachers, and strangled by policies that have sucked absolutely all the fun out of teaching. I am also a life coach and a stress management coach whose niche are teacher leaders, teachers in distress and teachers in transition. When I conduct my workshops I always run into the same overall theme. Teachers feel overwhelmed, under appreciated and generally maligned. A social hour with colleagues will help to bond the colleagues together, but they need a lot more than TLC to help them feel better about themselves and their profession. They need to feel respected, and they need to be paid a professional salary while they are treated like professionals instead of widgets in the larger system that is doing no one any good…least of all the students they teach.”

I really believe that we are in the middle of a serious crisis with regard to public education in our country, and I fear for its future. Just today, I heard a snippet of an interview with Arne Duncan that pertained to what the President might say tonight in his State of the Union speech. One of the things I heard Secretary Duncan say was that we have been making progress…graduation rates are up and drop out rates are down…but he went on to say that the progress we have made isn’t enough and we “need to be changing faster.”

The trouble with Mr. Duncan’s premise is that he assumes that the changes we are currently making will get us where we need to go…that his policies and those coming out of his Department are actually doing anything other than creating more and more demoralization among teachers and students alike. Mr. Duncan loves to talk about our “failing schools” and how we are lying to our students when we tell them they are doing well. He also loves competition, so all of his major initiatives are based on the false notion that in order to promote public education and equity for all we need to make it about racing to the top and innovating around more and better tests instead of focusing on authentic teaching and learning.

If anyone were really serious about addressing teacher burn out…and I don’t think anyone really is serious about it or they would be doing something about it…they would stop telling teachers to “do more with less.” They would lighten up on the testing regimen because there are only so many tests that a child can take that they even have any meaning. They would forget the crazy notion that a child’s test score is a measure for whether or not to keep an otherwise effective teacher on the payroll. And they would stop fighting about Common Core and let a few states pilot it without drastic negative consequences for everyone involved in the meantime.

Public education is a value that I grew up believing in. I grew up poor, but because of educational opportunities and my belief that an education would provide me with an opportunity to thrive economically, I have thrived. As public school funding shrinks in favor of ideological arguments for choice, vouchers, and charters, I fear that the poorest children will get left behind and dropped through the cracks. We are at a real crossroads in this country, it seems to me. While the haves continue to thrive, the have nots are struggling. In the past, getting a solid education was the ticket to a better life. That seems to be growing less and less the case these days.

I know that teacher burn out is a real thing. I just don’t think that offering a social hour is the answer to it.

Steve Nelson Has it Right

Today, instead of writing anything new myself, I have decided to share with readers the newest blog post and Huff Post contribution of  Steve Nelson, the Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, a private school, led by an obviously progressive thinker. Thanks to Diane Ravitch for sharing part of his message this morning. Otherwise, I might not have seen it. I am glad I did. The title of his post from December 16th is “Education Isn’t Broken, Our Country Is.” I couldn’t agree with him more. At at time when food stamps for poor people, including thousands of children are being cut; when the safety net for thousands of unemployed folks is being eliminated because we are ruled by a privileged class of mostly white men who apparently have little empathy for anyone not directly related to them; at a time when, in education circles, test scores have become more important than the teachers who teach or the learning itself…something is terribly wrong. Mr. Nelson asserts what I have believed to be true for a long time. We are not coming up with the right answers to the education dilemma because we are making the wrong assumptions. We are asking the wrong questions. No wonder we are in such a fix.

Please read this and share widely. I hope it goes viral. It deserves to.

Arne Duncan Sticks His Foot In His Mouth–Again

I am no fan of Arne Duncan’s, and I never have been. I want to state that up front so that my bias is known to the reader from the get go. If you like Arne Duncan…if you think he has been a good spokesperson for teachers and students and if you think he is doing a fine job as the Secretary of Education for the United States, you may want to skip this post. I won’t mind, I promise. But if you are as offended by some of the things Mr. Duncan says about teachers in general and about public education in particular as I am, you may want to continue reading.

Mr. Duncan’s most recent egregious remark was made at a meeting of the state schools superintendents on Friday. He said that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who–all of a sudden–their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Yes, he really said that.

Of course, Arne Duncan’s disdain for public education in America is well known and documented. He has said many things along this line ever since he was appointed to the post of Secretary of Education by President Obama. His frame of reference is Chicago’s public schools, and he has yet to broaden his perspective to include the many successful schools that are operating all over the country every single day. He has measured his assessment of the nation’s schools based on that Chicago experience, and he is apparently sincerely convinced that most of the schools in this country are under par. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that a large percentage of America’s teachers are so bad that they should be fired immediately.

Duncan has an arrogant tendency to dismiss those who disagree with him, much the way we might swat at a fly or wave off a gnat that is bothersome but generally inconsequential. Indeed, Duncan’s tendency to dismiss detractors and critics was the subject of an article written by Dr. Patricia McGuire, President of Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. in yesterday’s Huff Post. She commented that he “uses the word ‘silly’ a lot these days to describe people who have points of view that differ from his on the topic of education reform, both K-12 as well as higher education.”

I honestly haven’t decided yet how I feel about Common Core Standards. I know that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have offered support for them, and I think I understand why. And I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the standards are necessarily bad. I understand from some concerned critics of the standards that they are developmentally inappropriate, and if that is true, that is certainly worrisome and a legitimate source of concern. Having said that, I can appreciate the argument that having standards that have been adopted by every state might help students who move from place to place in this ever increasingly transient society. Students who move from California to Maine might benefit from having a more or less standardized curriculum so that a move doesn’t set them back because the curriculum in California is so markedly different from Maine’s curriculum, and vice versa. But I question the rush with which the standards are being implemented and the high stakes nature of the tests that continue to be tied not only to the standards but to teachers’ ability to get the students up to benchmarks which may or may not be realistic. Certainly the ultimate goal set for No Child Left Behind was not attainable. I wonder if it is possible that new goals being set by non-educators are similarly unrealistic and unattainable.

I don’t have an opinion about Common Core Standards, but I do have an opinion about Arne Duncan, and that is that he would do everyone involved a favor if he would step down and go to work for some for profit charter or testing corporation instead of abusing his current position the way he seems to be doing. A Secretary of Education should be a champion of public education. A Secretary of Education should be an exemplary educator. A Secretary of Education should have a deep understanding of the challenges that teachers face whether they are in our urban schools or our poorest rural schools. A Secretary of Education should believe that poverty is no excuse but not take away the resources that teachers need in order to work with the 16% of our students who live in poverty every day (20% of students under the age of 6 live in poverty). Mr. Duncan doesn’t get it, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like he is ever going to. He just continues to stick his foot in his mouth again and again. He continues to do more harm that good in the long run. I wish we had a champion as our Secretary of Education…but I guess I will just keep wishing for now.

Have We Become a Market-Based Society?

I subscribe to daily TED Talks, and I am so glad I do that because each day, a new and often provocative talk provided by a contemporary  thought leader lands in my e-mail box, and as I listen, I learn new things or I am challenged to think about commonplace things in a new way. This is how I learned about Brene Brown, for example. I had heard her talk on vulnerability before she was ever a guest on Oprah or started on her journey as a teacher and leader in Oprah’s  Super Soul Sunday series. Just as an aside, Dr. Brown’s talk has been so popular that if you visit the TED Talks website, hers is listed as one of the top 11 classic talks

Yesterday’s talk was by Michael Sandel, a political philosopher who teaches at Harvard. I was unaware of Dr. Sandel until yesterday, but I am certain that I am going to be learning more about him and his philosophy in the coming days and weeks. I just ordered his latest book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Money.

What I appreciated about Dr. Sandel’s talk was that it validated my own thinking about the misguided notion that the free market is the answer to all questions, particularly questions that impact the social good. Public safety and transportation, for example, are offered as part of our general infrastructure for the good of everyone. So is public education, but I have long been concerned about the fact that a growing number of people seem to think that the free market is the end all and be all of everything and that government has no place in providing for the general good of the public. I don’t happen to buy that, and for over a decade, I have been deeply worried about the fact that more and more business leaders are looking to take over public education and make it a profitable private enterprise, diminishing the role of the public at large or dismissing completely the idea that public education is a basic civil right that should be accorded to every single child regardless of race, gender, or economic status as it does so.

I would urge you to take the 15 minutes or so and listen to Dr. Sandel’s talk about his concern with regard to our moving from a market economy toward a market society. He says that the problem of becoming a predominantly market society is that it will only exacerbate the sense of inequality. My own commentary on that thought is that the sense of inequality is already emerging as the gap between the rich and the poor becomes ever more unbreachable. The middle class is shrinking, and more and more people are becoming members of the class of the working poor.

Dr. Sandel also talked about how some groups are using market based principles to impact social goods and practices, and a specific example was how market-based practices were being used in education right now. He mentioned that some school divisions have experimented with paying students for making good grades, and in one experiment, 8-year-olds were paid $2.00 a book for every book he/she read. The results of these social experiments were mixed. The 8-year-olds read more books, but they read shorter books, and the larger looming question is whether or not they will become lifelong readers and learners if they have been sent the message that reading is “piece work” instead of something that needs to be appreciated as an intrinsic value. The same concern arises out of paying students for good grades. Does it teach children that everything can be monetized? Do we do anything anymore for the sheer love and enjoyment of doing it, or do we need to be paid? Where does it stop?

Dr. Sandel has no clear cut answers to offer in his talk, but he does raise some very important questions, I think, and he offers that we need to have a public debate about this new direction that we seem to have taken without any such conversation.

I found his talk to be thoughtful, insightful, and his ideas compelling. I urge you to take a few minutes to listen and then to reflect on his comments. He has articulated my own deep and abiding concerns, and he has stated them more clearly than I can.

My Thoughts on Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

Once again, just as she did in her last book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch has written clearly, plainly, and astutely about the problems facing public school education and public school educators today. She has not only researched her subject exhaustively, she demonstrates her knowledge of education history, her awareness of the many various public education detractors, and her understanding of the issues that lie at the heart of the current debate about which is better—public education or privatization of public schools giving free market full, unbridled reign.

Not only does she offer a clear and cogent outline of the various issues, problems, and dilemmas facing public educators today, she offers ideas for how to remedy those issues, problems, and dilemmas. And she has clearly struck a cord with some of the more notable “reformers” because they have been quick to criticize her work and to dismiss it out of hand. Indeed, just recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan referred to her and others who have the temerity to criticize Race to the Top and other initiatives with his thumbprints on them as “armchair pundits.” The irony, of course, of that criticism is that most of the “armchair pundits” are educators like myself—either still practicing or retired—who know more about the needs of children and what works and doesn’t work for public schools than Mr. Duncan could ever possibly know. But I digress.

 In Reign of Error, in Chapters 1-20 Dr. Ravitch lays out the problems facing public education today. She offers clear and indisputable research to support each and every one of her assertions. She has not “cooked” the research the way many reformers do these days. She is a researcher and she doesn’t have to distort the data to find the disturbing trends that she identifies here. Chapter 5, for example, is entitled, “The Facts about Test Scores;” Chapter 6’s title is “The Facts about the Achievement Gap;” and so on. She writes brilliantly about “The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores” in Chapter 11; and she even includes a chapter about the disturbing new trend toward virtual schools in Chapter 17, which is entitled, “Trouble in E-land.”

After methodically laying out all of the various issues, she then outlines her proposed solutions in Chapters 21-33, starting with “Solutions: Start Here” in Chapter 21. Unlike many education “experts,” she doesn’t just harp on the problems…she offers possible solutions based on research and her own understanding of what public education represents to our country as a democracy.

In Chapter 24, for example, she writes “The Essentials of a Good Education.” In Chapter 25, she writes about why “Class Size Matters for Teaching and Learning.” Each chapter offers a specific recommendation for how we might go about fixing the problems that face us. But never does she suggest that fixing those problems will be easy or cheap. Instead, she points out the fallacy in the thinking of those who seem to believe that education reform is easy OR can be delivered cheaply.

 Starting in the “Introduction,” Dr. Ravitch outlines what her book is intended to do which is to answer four questions:

             First, is American education in crisis? (Answer: Yes).

            Second, is American education failing and declining? (Answer:  No).

            Third, what is the evidence for reforms now being promoted by the federal government and adopted in many states? (Answer: None).

            Fourth, what should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children? (Answer:  Things that are complex and expensive starting with suspending the war on teachers and their unions; providing smaller class sizes; offering wraparound services; eliminating excessive testing; forgetting about merit pay as a panacea; etc., etc., etc.)

Dr. Ravitch then goes on to answer each and every of those questions using research and data from a variety of sources including NAEP, the U. S. Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau, the U. S. Department of Education, OECD, and numerous citations from individuals on both sides of the education debate, both the so-called “reformers” and the proponents of those who argue that we need to keep our public schools public.

I could go on and on, but you must be getting the drift by now. This is a must-read for any public school educator, for any parent who still cares about public schools and their role in the community, for the administrators who haven’t been so brainwashed that they have forgotten why they went into education in the first place, and many, many more. I cannot recommend this book more highly. If I were writing a review for Amazon (which I may do come to think of it) it would definitely get a five-star rating. For teacher leaders and parents who are concerned about what is happening to their communities because of the demise of the neighborhood school, I urge you to read it as soon as possible and start using the information inside its covers. More importantly, I urge you to get involved in the grassroots movement that has already started in some parts of the country. There are a number of groups around the nation where the push back has begun. Some of these groups have been founded by parents, some by students, and of course, teachers have started some. It isn’t too late, but time is ticking away. We need to start speaking out and organizing now.

I will offer the disclaimer that I am writing this review on the third day of the government shut down, and I have to admit that the idea that anything can be done legislatively to fix the problems we currently face, not just on the education front but in every aspect of our government, seems pretty dim at the moment. The prospect of getting legislators, Governors, and even the President to change their minds about these important issues seems to be pretty daunting, frankly. But I am reminded of the well-known quote by Margaret Mead:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If we as educators, parents, administrators, and caring adults don’t take up this fight individually and collectively, the result will be a dual system of education that will serve no one, least of all our children and certainly not our country. I urge you start reading this important book today. You won’t be sorry you did.

Back to School–Same Old Stuff or Is There Change in the Air?

First, I feel that I owe some sort of explanation for the length of time since my last posting. I have been out of town for part of the lapsed time, but I have also been dealing with a physical condition that has been distracting to say the least. I won’t bore readers with the details. There is no life threatening issue at hand, thank goodness…it has been mostly an aggravation and inconvenience, but it has definitely been a distraction keeping me from my regular routine and obviously keeping me from staying up to date with my blog or minding my website.

The good news is that I am back now, and I wanted to take a few moments today to write about the fact that I know many of my teacher colleagues are already back at work or they are preparing to return soon depending upon where in the state of Virginia or in the country at large they may live. My friends in far Southwest Virginia, for example, have already been back long enough that the days must feel like they have settled into a routine. For those in central Virginia who are held to a post-Labor Day opening, the work days are beginning, and the students will be coming back in another couple of weeks.

There is something special about the first days of school when everything feels new and fresh again. I know it doesn’t seem to last long and the feeling of routine settles in fairly quickly, but I always enjoyed the first days of school in the fall. As the librarian, I was usually appointed the task of greeting the buses and escorting the little ones to their classrooms. Sometimes tears were involved but only rarely, thank goodness. I won’t ever forget the returning kindergartener who assured me as we marched down the hall to the Kindergarten wing that he was returning to kindergarten for “Part 2.” His parents had done a wonderful job of shielding him from any sense of stigma over having to repeat the kindergarten experience, and he was quite happy about getting into the routine again.

The first days of school always hold a certain unspoken promise. Everything is fresh…and students and teachers are getting a chance to start a new year with a clean slate. Everybody has an opportunity to hit the re-set button which is nice especially if the year before was a rough one. That is one of the things that sets being a teacher or being in school apart from other jobs and other endeavors…you don’t get the same sense of having the privilege of a “do-over” with every job, so I think that makes teaching a special proposition.

I wonder if this year will be different from previous years, though, with regard to some of the policies that we have seen cropping up over the past few years. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I have a sense that things are about to take a serious turn. There are many parents as well as teachers and policy makers who are questioning some of the basic tenets behind the Common Core Standards that were rather blindly adopted by a majority of states just a couple of years ago, and then there are the pockets of resistance that are cropping up with regard to the abuse of testing data. In addition, new, complex, and mostly punitive teacher evaluation systems are going into place all over the country, and I wonder how long it will be before they are exposed for what they cannot do as well as what they can do.

Couple those movements with the grassroots creation of the Bad Ass Teachers group that sprang up organically and rather spontaneously this summer, and it just feels to me like there is a lot going on. I also believe that a lot of conversation is about to be stirred up with the release of Diane Ravitch’s new book, The Reign of Error:  The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Schools. The book isn’t even out yet, but Dr. Ravitch is already receiving reviews both positive and not so positive by those who are lining up according to their particular point of view and individual educational agenda. It should be an interesting fall as people buy her book and start discussing its more salient points with one another. I look forward to her appearance in Virginia in the fall when she serves as the keynote speaker at the VEA‘s fall instructional conference.

It should be an interesting time no matter what evolves, so for those who are back to work already, I hope things are going well. For those who are still enjoying the last few days of summer, good luck. I hope this is the best school year you have had yet. Yours is a wonderful profession and I for one know just how hard it is but how rewarding it can be.