A PRINCIPAL’S NIGHTMARE

Ever wonder about the kind of things that keep principals up at night, and the source of their “bad dreams” when they finally do fall asleep?

You’re going to force the worst teachers in the system into the schools that are struggling the most.”–NY Times

“The city will place up to 400 unassigned teachers into vacancies at public schools whether principals want them or not…”—NY Daily News

It’s that moment when you are being asked to make the proverbial educationally sound “bricks without straw”. As a principal you are always being ask to raise academic achievement levels (aka: test scores); but then so many obstacles are (politically) placed in your trying-path, as you seek to achieve that objective.

For this latest “staffing decision”, the defeat for some kids are in the details. And that is why this type of decision is a primary nightmare for all principals who are trying to secure a safe and productive learning environment for their students. And trying to accomplish this in a system (school board or mayoral control), that is very often driven by political, and not educational aims.

The all teachers are the same myth…

First, let’s not fool (some in) the public into thinking this is simply a group of “excess” teachers, who are really great, but who had the misfortune of working in a school that closed and/or consolidated with another school. For a few maybe this is true, but not the majority. Principals have had these folks in their buildings, as either short, or long-term subs. Or they had them on staff, and “excessed” them; and then proceeded to “hide” the vacancy; perhaps in order to hire a much better, and truly qualified untenured teacher. (This tricky process would itself take an essay to explain; and I am not going to reveal the techniques principals utilize to save their kids!) And so principals have seen the teachers in this “excess” pool, and in the words of our Co-POTUS Vladimir Putin, they say: Nyet! (Translation: “I don’t think so!”)

Finding, “snatching” at almost any cost, an effective teacher is an unwritten primary job requirement for any principal who hopes to be successful; either because they deeply care about children, or for the more fundamental survival reasons of just wanting to keep their jobs. Every “educationally woke” principal will go to great lengths to sniff out, search out, track down, and hire a good teacher. Trust me, good and effective teachers don’t hang around un-recruited for long.

Principals will go to great lengths to find and hire an effective teacher!

Once as a principal, as I was preparing to attend a district “teacher hiring fair”, I was alerted by one of my ‘undercover supporters’ in HR, who loved my school and knew my standards; that a great qualified teacher, with a wonderful-powerful: resume, recommendations and a strong personal presence, had just arrived for the hiring hall teacher candidate’s orientation. My person in HR knew I had a vacancy in this teacher’s hard to find content area, (I keep telling principals I mentor to show a lot of love and respect to the HR folks, you really need them on your side!) And so in response to the HR call I said: “Pull her (and her paperwork), and if you must, hide her in an empty classroom; but under no condition let her go inside of that hiring fair as an ‘unrestricted free agent’!” (Looking back I can’t believe some of the stuff I did for my children. And I never asked, but that poor teacher must have thought at the time, that public education was a crazy place. I can imagine her thinking: “I came here to get a teaching job, and they are now asking me to hide in a classroom!”) But she kept the faith, and once I got there, interviewed the teacher, filled out the necessary paperwork, and hired what turned out to be a great teacher! A principal-friend, who also had a vacancy in that same subject area. Found out and (Jokingly) never forgave, or let me forget my move on that day. But I ain’t mad at him, because he would have done the same thing!

The other terrible nightmare (for some schools)…

As a former superintendent I am of course sympathetic to the tremendous budgetary pressures these “unassigned teachers”, particularly those who are on the high-end of the salary scale, place on an already strained district’s budget (And to be quite honest, as a principal I did not care about the central district’s budgetary problems, and was singularly focused on my school and kids!). But it is also true that principals have contributed to this present problem by not taking the tremendous time-energy required (most often unsuccessfully), as well as suffer the political backlash from the teachers union, to deny the underserving teachers in this pool, tenure; or when it was appropriate to put in the huge amount of work in order to rate them “unsatisfactory”. There is enough blame to go around; but at some point in public education, we must decide if we are going to stop being a societal effort that is primarily focused on adult employment, and make student access to a quality education the #1 objective.

And as always race, wealth, zip code, political power and entitlement are in play here…

The question is: What will determine to which schools the most questionably qualified teachers in this pool be sent? The answer is (always): The quality of the school principal’s political leadership: savviness, cleverness, courage, creativity, and how much “credibility credit”* the principal has with the central district’s leadership. Also a determiner is the level of a school’s parent and school community’s political awareness-organization; as well as the courage and independence of the school’s city, state and federal elected officials; and how much pressure can the school’s parents and community put on those elected officials. Please forgive me if I am not optimistic about the prospects of schools that serve a majority of children of color in the city coming out of this process well. As is often the case in public education (and the opposite of what happens in most professions), the children who are in the most need of the best qualified, and most experienced instructional practitioners, don’t get them. And at some point this political, and not educational practice must end.

*Highly effective and successful principals can cash in their good practitioner “credibility credit”, to minimize, bypass and/or completely avoid the deleterious effects of a “harmful” district, or labor contractual policy. Which is another piece of information I stress with the principals I am working with: That being a good principal can earn you the “political-power currency” to become a great principal!

“400 unassigned city teachers could move to permanent jobs under Education Department’s new policy”

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/city-plans-place-400-unassigned-teachers-permanent-roles-article-1.3315129

Trump and the Republicans should not play games with the Russian Bear.

There is a reason that wild Bears don’t make good house pets… because they stay true to their feeding agenda…

“Former Russian military intelligence officer attended Trump Tower meeting”– LA Times

Trump and the Republicans should not underestimate, and play games with the Russian Bear! In the world of the FSB (KGB) “Former” and “intelligence officer” is an oxymoron. Death or retirement to a quiet dacha in the country is their standard exit strategy. They can’t have people like him (with all of the important classified information in his head) running around in the US exposed to FBI counter intelligence officers. I truly believe that “Lobbyist” was his cover, and that this guy was definitely: “on the job”!…

Trump and the GOP are playing a dangerous game here; and playing with a man Putin, who plays by a completely different set of rules. They want to win elections, appoint right-wing judges and pass reactionary bills, etc. The Russians are aiming (higher) at restoring themselves to international super power prominence and influence… Trump and the GOP are not going to be able to just walk away from this anti-US, anti-patriotic alliance they have made with Putin… For the Russians this is about “business”, not friendship… Just saying.

NOTES FROM THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT MEETING…

Utilizing the tools of history, a nation’s people must choose its leaders wisely or suffer… And this is one of the many answers to that annual high school student question: “Why are we studying this old stuff!” Teachers of history must be able to clearly, confidently and convincingly be able to answer that student question, on the first day that classes begin.

The truth of history can hurt, but it can also heal. And so the question is: what do real people do when unreality overpowers and supersedes reality?

First, an amazing “prophetic word” from Historian Daniel J. Boorstin’s great must read 1989 book: Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past. ; Chapter: “A flood of Pseudo-Events”; pg. 283.

“Pseudo-events thus lead to emphasis on pseudo-qualifications. Again the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we test Presidential candidates by their talents on TV quiz performances, we will, of course, choose Presidents for precisely these qualifications. In a democracy, reality tends to conform to the pseudo-event. Nature imitates art…”

And,

“Once we have tasted the charm of pseudo-events, we are tempted to believe that they are the only important events. Our progress poisons the sources of our experience. And the poison taste so sweet that it spoils our appetite for plain fact. Our seeming ability to satisfy our exaggerated expectations makes us forget that they are exaggerated.”

The great misconception about the study of history is that it is the single act and purpose of “looking backwards”; studying old events and people who have long been dead. But learning about the “ancestral” and evolutionary aspects of our customs, beliefs, cultural practices, and ideas, is of major present and future importance.
For, how do we deconstruct, for purposes of understanding our present world, without understanding how it was constructed overtime? And how do we plan to go forward, without an understanding of how poor and misinformed planning in the past created bad outcomes in the future. Whenever I visit and frustratingly try to drive in Atlanta, I always think how different it might be if past political leaders planned roads and highways in anticipation of a clearly foreseeable explosion of new “car driving” residents, emigrating from other US cities? (Sorry, voicing a personal vexation here!)

There is however, another important value for studying history, and that is for its predictive value. By now we should have learned (from history study), that certain ideas and behaviors lead to terrible, and perhaps even horrific outcomes; and we know these things because history has taught us through a pained reality. For example:

• That artificially constructed walls (physical or psychological) built for the purposes of exclusion, discrimination and diminishing the humanity of the “other”. Beyond not working, does greater spiritual and intellectual harm to those on the “good side” of the wall. An example can be found in the biblical story of the “compassion wall” placed between the “clean and good religious people”, who passed by, and did not help the injured traveler. The injured man was ultimately assisted by the “unclean and unrighteous” Samaritan. The message for our purposes here is that those who separate themselves, and refuse to help the suffering victims of injustice; have in effect done themselves a great spiritual disservice, by way of the sin of religious hypocrisy. Walling off our neighbors and fellow humans, ultimately walls us off from our own humanity; and stunts our own faith growth. The walls of separation you build between yourself and those who are suffering, are the walls of your own spiritual tomb.

• History teaches us that “scapegoatism” always ends tragically. Once we say that: The reason I don’t prosper financially, I can’t lose weight, my wife and kids don’t love me, I am, or have too much, or too little of something; is because of some identifiable “other” (Black, Jews, Latinos, Armenians, Muslims, the LBGTQ, Women, liberals, people who read books, those who actually believe in the fundamental principles of science, etc.); stands between me and a happy life. The “natural” next step then is to eliminate those human barriers to my happiness; by punitive and exclusionary laws, and ultimately by acts of lawful and unlawful violence.

• A false and invented historical narrative that suggest that there is a “we” who were once great (Now in America, was that before or after the US Naturalization Law of 1790; where the “enlightened powers”, before and after the law excluded large segments of the population from US citizenship!) And that somehow this “greatness” would still be in place, if not for the previously mentioned “problem” groups (Who keep insisting that their humanity and lives matter; which I interpret as my life mattering less!); along with those other ungrateful developing nations; who no longer accept economic exploitation as the normal way of doing business.

• That the simplest, uninformed and most ignorant solution path is the best way to go. If we pretend that climate change is a plot orchestrated by an international “cabal” of scientist; then why take it seriously. The Russian czars and the guillotined French monarchy; would probably present a lesson in how not to follow a: “don’t know, don’t want to know path”. Also known as the Evillene (of ‘The Wiz’ fame) Principle: “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news!” Historically, ignorance creates a dangerous, not neutral state of existence.

• And what happens when: ignorance, fear, cowardly acts, along with the moral deficiency and absence of the most fundamental collective beliefs in decency, shared concern, empathy and (agape) love, don’t become the driving principles of a national psyche. A leader will emerge, in roach-like opportunism, who will both personify and articulate all of the negative attributes known to man. This leader will in every way successfully represent and promote the very worst of all human traits. And the morally weak will do all in their power to define his behavior as both necessary and worse, normal.

Speaking historically, “bad and evil political leaders” traditionally don’t like:

•A free and independent press.

•Civility and Kindness.

•Any type of public accountability. (Their taxes and business dealings are secret)

•Religion (unless it can be twisted to their needs: See US right-wing Christian Evangelicals)

•Literature, books and reading.

•Real History (they replace it with a fake history narrative).

•Laws and an independent Judiciary.

•The least protected and disenfranchised members of the society.

•Voters (citizens) who think (Thinking is bad).

•Science (that does not support their aims).

•Performing and Creative Art (That does not lie about or glorifies them).

•Information or facts.

•Peace (Because war encourages citizens to ‘rally’ around them); thus the need to have,

•Flexibility in determining enemies (The novel “1984”: “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”)

•The enemies of the nation are not necessarily their enemies (See: Russian-Trump 2016 elections)

•Fiction-Poetry (Every expression of the leaders depraved personality is found on their pages).

•Anything that questions their legitimacy (especially if their rise to power is illegitimate).

•Standard Dictionaries (because they prefer to invent and reinvent new twisted word meanings).

•The absence of adoration and unprincipled loyalty, to themselves. (See most of GOP leadership)

•Questions (about their behavior and policies).

•Any good works or projects of a previous regime. (“Kill Obamacare why. because it’s called…”)

•Patriotism that does not equate the leader (and his needs) to the state.

Now what part of the present US political picture did the study of history not prepare us for?

And so, one of the jobs of historiography, is to help us as a society to avoid anointing and elevating these ethically morally flawed people to positions of leadership; and then compassionately get them the psychotherapeutic help they need; but under no condition elect them to some local or national political office.

History teachers, you have a lot of important work to do over the next four years; we failed as a nation this time around; but you truly could help America to earn a better grade in the future, by teaching why the era of Trump should never be repeated; and that’s the important history lesson plan of our present age.

Creating Real Changes In How High Schools Prepare Their Graduates

There is a major qualitative difference between a good and effective press event; and good and effective educational policy.

A response to a question on a previous post concerning the Faux (and possibly illegal) Mayoral/Chicago Public Schools plan to make certain post high school task “requirements” for receiving a diploma:

Stop the games and gimmicks, and just educate people’s children!

Thank you ______________, yes you are right. As public school educators we absolutely have a responsibility in what happens to students after they graduate from our schools. And as a 11 year high school principal I made sure my college-career office empowered every graduate with a post-graduation plan (i.e. we also taught students interviewing techniques, how to dress (and in some cases purchased the clothes) for an interview, helped them to design a standard resume, taught business world “soft skills”, etc.). Finally, whether they were going to college, or not we had all of our seniors apply to a city and state college. The difference between our school plan, and what the Chicago mayor is doing, is that we made sure all students were attitudinally and academically prepared to pursue multiple post-graduation options. The CPS proposal in my view is just one of many “for show” pronouncements I have seen in public education over the last 40 years. High standards and expectations must be on the front, and not back end of the high school (and K-8) process. Students must be authentically equipped, socially & academically in order to have real choices after high school. School districts need to stop (and educators of conscience, and communities of color need to stop them), making our children the dogs, ponies, and worst of all the “jokes” of the education for show game! — MAJ.

Stop the games and gimmicks, and just educate people’s children!

“Emanuel wants to add a CPS graduation requirement”

“The mayor’s office said the new requirement would start with the class of 2020.” … “Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants Chicago public high school students to show they have a plan for what’s next before they can get a diploma.” … “Emanuel’s proposal would add one more big item to the graduation checklist for high school seniors: proof they’ve been accepted into college or the military, or a trade or a “gap-year” program. The requirement would also be satisfied if the student has a job or a job offer.”…

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-high-school-requirement-met-20170405-story.html

Well, at some point we really need to move beyond “gimmickry” and truly educate people’s children. After all, we know enough at this point as to how to make all students academically successful; what is missing is the resource commitment, and the will to implement those policies and procedures that seriously take on and defeat those things that prevent (get in the way of) student learning. How about doing something real, like designing a high school system where all students are prepared to either go to college, enroll in a (Career Technical Education) CTE apprenticeship program, and/or enter the workforce upon high school graduation. Now that’s something worth announcing!

Meanwhile, Chicago education law attorneys should saddle up. Now I know it has been awhile since my supervision and administration school law class; but I’m not sure if you can deny a student a diploma for “post-high school conditions”; that are actually out of the student’s control; particularly if they have met all of the academic and statutory conditions for high school graduation. This is in essence having the government make a decision about your post-graduation life. The surely soon to come lawsuits will further drain a cash strapped school system. And for what, a fun press release that gives the impression that some significant educational change has actually occurred.

AN UNCOMMON CORE CURRICULUM OF UNPREPAREDNESS FOR MANY BLACK STUDENTS IN OUR NATION

“At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me”—- “And my school is considered one of the best in the region.”–Ehime Ohue

Numerical percentages of high school graduation rates unfortunately only tell one part of the story. The other, much more important part is the academic quality of that high school experience; as well as the extent to which that high school diploma reflects a readiness on the part of the diploma recipient, to successfully negotiate a post-high school career or college opportunity.

There are no more joyful and worthy celebratory events in the Black community then a high school graduation. I know because I have attended more of them than I can remember. And also because as a principal, graduation ceremonies were often the first time in 4 years that I actually “laid eyes” on some parents. But like so many things in public education, some parents and communities are unable to separate the substantive facts from the fictional performance.

It’s an effective “sleight of hand” magic trick, where school systems distract parents with a “fake diploma” with one hand; while with the other hand push the young person out of the school door, tragically unprepared to compete with those who have real diplomas. And whoa to the public school educator who tries to infuse high expectations, academic achievement, rigorous learning and behavioral standards into the process. You will be told by both official stakeholders and even some parents, that you are: “doing too much!”

I wish this young lady’s story was a rare event, but unfortunately it is not. Nor is this just a “rural” problem; but rather the reality she reveals covers both urban and rural school districts; where “Black Folks” are, and are not in charge. Fake AP courses and disingenuous honors/advance programs are tragically designed in many of our school districts to fool the public, parents, the news media, elected officials and political educational policy makers (While at the same time the district is systematically restricting Black student access to real advanced and Gifted and Talented programs). But the ultimate victims of this system of charades are the students; who like this very talented lady, find out that their high school education was seriously deficient, while in high school, or worse, when they step into their first college classroom. The only question that remains: “When will it end?”

“At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me”— “And my school is considered one of the best in the region.”—Ehime Ohue; Washington Post; 7/6/2017

“Ehime Ohue, a student from Sumter, S.C., is attending Duke University on a full ROTC scholarship. Here, in a piece she originally wrote for her “Introduction to Human Rights” class, she writes about what she learned about her home state in her first year at college.
“Lake Marion does not prepare you for college!”

I heard this at my high school College Homecoming, an annual event where recent graduates share their college experience.
This failure does not fall solely on my alma mater, Lake Marion High.
The state of South Carolina perpetuates what’s called the “Corridor of Shame,” a string of rural school districts where students receive inferior educational opportunities.

As a rising sophomore at Duke University, I now see what the phrase means. I was educated in one of those districts from Head Start to 12th grade. I know firsthand the issues these students face.

The “Corridor of Shame” consists of 36 school districts along Interstate 95. Overall, South Carolina’s population is 48 percent minority, but students in the corridor are 88 percent minority, mostly African American. There, schools receive resources that fall below state averages.
I noticed deficiencies in many ways. My kindergarten teacher complained that she could not “do this anymore” and quit.

Other teachers lacked training and asked to be moved to non-teaching positions. It’s hard to blame them when most teachers in the corridor are paid $3,000 to $12,000 less than those in nearby districts.
High school was where I really noticed the disparities.

We didn’t have enough math teachers and barely enough working calculators. When the school added the International Baccalaureate program, the first class of students completed the program, but none were awarded the diploma. I enrolled the second year the program was offered, and our math teacher was still undergoing training. When he announced he would not be returning, training had to start again for another teacher.
Two AP classes were announced my senior year, but were scheduled at the same time. We were considered a technology center, but our computers were always down. Many of my peers ended up dropping out or flunking out of college.

And my school is considered one of the best in the region.
As a freshman at Duke University, I feel the effects of the “Corridor of Shame” every day.

Sometimes, it is hard for me to understand material my peers clearly find familiar. Often, I feel inferior. I never agree with other students who say, “Everything we are going over now we basically learned in high school.”

What hurts worse is that most students like me will never attend a school as prestigious as Duke. Some may not get accepted, but others may not even apply, including those who lack confidence because they know they’ve missed out on opportunities and resources.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/07/06/at-duke-i-realized-how-badly-many-south-carolina-schools-are-failing-students-like-me/?utm_term=.e101a86b1102

Study: “Knowledge of Geography Determines Political Views.”

No spoiler alert required:
It’s something that all of us who work in education already suspected. A lot of individual “bad decisions”, are often driven by a lack of access to knowledge and correct information. Also, an inadequate and/or ineffective K-12 educational experience, leads to a lot of bad societal outcomes. The national public and private prison system, essentially owes its very existence to poor educational experiences for selected members of the society.

One could hypothetically extend this study to other academic areas like: English Language Arts (particularly the experience, and exposure to a broad range of fiction and non-fiction reading materials), Mathematics, Science, History, The performing and graphic Arts, Music, Dance, Technology, Foreign Language, etc.

Does this theory of the political effects of academic deficiency, in any of the before mentioned subject areas, lead to the inability to fully function as a knowledge-information-facts based, empathetic and thoughtful citizen?
If voting is a core principle of a democracy; then why is not a good education also a national priority, to insure that voters are adequately prepared to make the best decisions?


“If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy”—NY Times

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/14/upshot/if-americans-can-find-north-korea-on-a-map-theyre-more-likely-to-prefer-diplomacy.html?hpw&rref=upshot&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

“6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students”–Rebecca Alber; Edutopia

Gallery

School Building leader: Thinking about next year’s opening faculty conference and/or the new school year’s professional development (PD) activities topics? “Scaffolding”: A term commonly used in education; but unfortunately, not so commonly practiced. This article is a good/short faculty discussion … Continue reading

A School Board District Tragedy… Educationally Defeating Other People’s Children…

“A Not-So-Simple Majority”

“They are stealing our children’s education… We are losing our kids, and nobody cares…”

“We have all of the power and so why should we negotiate…”

A School Board District Tragedy… Educationally Defeating Other People’s Children…: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/534/a-not-so-simple-majority

Related Articles:

http://majmuse.net/2017/06/26/school-district-governance-is-there-a-thirddifferent-way/

http://majmuse.net/2017/06/20/i-know-that-one-sentence-from-the-nyc-chancellors-opinion-piece-on-mayoral-control-is-absolutely-true-but-a-warning/