Teachers Quitting In DC

Valerie Jablow points out that there is an enormous problem with DC public and charter teachers being so harassed that they quit: around 70% of them quit by their 5th year of employment. (She adds that this is probably not a bug, but a feature of the DC teacher evaluation program.) I am reprinting her entire column, but you should subscribe to it yourself.

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Let’s Be Clear: DC Teacher Retention Isn’t Just A Problem. It’s A Crisis.

by Valerie Jablow

This Wednesday evening, October 23, at 5:30 pm, the DC state board of education (SBOE), DC’s only elected body with a direct (if relatively powerless) voice on our schools, will take public testimony on teacher retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. (See more information here.)

While public voice is sorely needed in every conversation about our public schools, in this case it’s a bit akin to choosing wallpaper for a burning building.

But that’s hardly SBOE’s fault.

In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.

An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.

The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.

Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.

Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.

(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)

In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.

Now the real question is why is SBOE apparently the only school leadership body undertaking this work in this manner?

To be fair, DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) recently commissioned a report, which showed even higher rates of attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools.

Yet, despite a situation that resembles a full-blown crisis of longstanding proportions, OSSE’s report was weirdly anodyne.

For instance, only 50 of 68 LEAs participated and then, even after citing horrific retention rates, OSSE’s report noted (boldface mine) that “some evidence suggests that DC teacher retention rates may be slightly lower than other cities across the country.”

The report went on to note that “a study of 16 large urban districts found that 81 percent of teachers remained at their schools after one year, compared to 70 percent in DC. National figures suggest that about 84 percent of public school teachers remained at the same school between 2011-12 and the 2012-13 school year.”

Gotta ask:

Is anyone at OSSE at all given pause by the fact that their own citation shows that DC’s teachers are leaving at annual rates more than 10% higher than in comparable urban areas? Or that DC’s 70% annual retention figure above means that a third of DC’s teachers are leaving every year?

Or how about the fact that OSSE’s collaborator on this study, TNTP (founded by former DCPS chancellor Michelle Rhee), has long been the beneficiary of DCPS contracts on teacher performance and training–as well as one of the cheerleaders for rating schools and teachers with test scores, while a former staffer for TNTP recently co-authored a report on DC teacher retention that happily concluded that high teacher turnover can actually increase test scores?

(Yeah–but only for students with teachers receiving the lowest ratings. Yay for us! Oh, and no worries about those kids with those low-rated teachers! Despite the fact that both recent OSSE and SBOE retention reports show that at risk kids in DC are much more likely to have less effective and less experienced teachers who stay for shorter terms, if churning teachers makes for good test scores, perhaps we shouldn’t worry about the collateral damage of taking away the little stability that these kids might otherwise have in their lives. Outcomes, baby, outcomes!)

In fact, OSSE’s recent report on teacher retention appears to be an outgrowth of its recent collaboration with TNTP, the stated goal of which is to “help LEAs develop effective strategies to attract, develop, and retain great teachers to serve their students through robust analysis of staffing data from across the District.”

Of course, that “robust analysis” is only with “LEAs who opt to participate”–which is a charming way to say that whatever OSSE and TNTP have together done on this subject is all, well, voluntary.

Which is kind of like seeing the burning building that is DC teacher retention and not worrying whether everyone has evacuated because choices!

(Or freedom? Hard sometimes to suss out right-wing talking points.)

Indeed, the charter board’s response to the latest SBOE report echoed this (see response after p. 70), noting that “each school pursues its own approach, including its own human capital strategies. In this context, there is no universal “right” rate of attrition, just as there is no universal rate that is too high or too low. The right attrition rate for each school will depend on that school’s approach, their needs and their situation in any given year.”

Despite such official unconcern with the recurring devastation of human capital in our schools, the SBOE is now undertaking to get the council to legislate standardized reporting for teacher attrition, given that we don’t have any standards.

Think about this for a second:

SBOE is asking the council, another elected body with only indirect oversight of schools, to enact legislation to force OSSE to ensure all schools report teacher attrition and retention in a standardized way because we have an emergency here already and no one is telling OSSE to do this. Come to think of it, given the subject matter and its emergency status, you would THINK all this is already OSSE’s obligation (you know, because of  that whole mayoral control thingy).

And yet, right now, there is literally only one person in DC who is doing any fulsome reporting of this emergency–and she doesn’t work for OSSE, despite being twice hired by SBOE to report an emergency situation that city education leaders outside SBOE seem to regard as, well, the price of doing business.

So, to recap:

–Horrific teacher retention in all publicly funded schools in DC;
–No standardized and/or mandated reporting of teacher retention in all DC publicly funded schools;
–Teacher harassment and blame for student and school success;
–No official connection of that to poor teacher retention in DC;
–At risk kids bearing the brunt of teacher mobility, including less experienced and effective teachers;
–DC education leaders begging to differ with all of that; and
–A dis-empowered SBOE trying to get both the council and OSSE to actually fix all of that while the mayor is . . . .

Uh, where IS the mayor, anyway?

Yeah.

‘Why Are People Towards President Trump?’

I’m copying and pasting this response from Quora. I didn’t write it, but I agree with it. – GFB

A person asked the question, “Why are people so hostile towards President Donald Trump?”

Before you pass my answer off as “Another Liberal Snowflake” consider that
1.) I’m an independent centrist who has voted Republican way more often in my life than Democrat, and
2.) If you want to call someone who spent the entire decade of his 20’s serving in the Marine Corps a snowflake, I’d be ready to answer the question what did you do with your 20’s?

Why Liberals (And not-so liberals) are against President Trump.

A.) He lies. A LOT. Politifact rates 69% of the words he speaks as “Mostly False or worse” Only 17% of the things he says get a “Mostly True” or better rating. That is an absolutely unbelievable number. How he doesn’t speak more truth by mistake is beyond me. To put it in context, Obama’s rating was 26% mostly false or worse, and I had a problem with that. Many of Trump’s former business associates report that he has always been a compulsive liar, but now he’s the President of the United States, and that’s a problem. And this is a man who expects you to believe him when he points at other people and says “They’re lying”

B.) He’s an authoritarian populist, not a conservative. He advances regressive social policy while proposing to expand federal spending and federalist authority over states, both of which conservatives are supposed to hate.

C.) He pretends at Christianity to court the Religious Right but fails to live anything resembling a Christ-Like Life.

D.) His nationalist “America First” message effectively alienates us and removes us from our place as leaders in the international community.

E.) His ideas on “Keeping us safe” are all thinly veiled ideas to remove our freedoms, he is, after all, an authoritarian first. They also are simply bad ideas.

F.) He couldn’t pass a 3rd-grade civics exam. He doesn’t’ know what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand how international relations work, he doesn’t understand how federal state or local governments work, and every time someone tries to “Run it like a business” it’s a spectacular failure. See Colorado Springs’ recent history as an example. The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise And that was a businessman with a MUCH better business track record than Trump. We are talking about a man who lost money owning a freaking gambling casino.

G.) He behaves unethically and always has. As a businessman, he constantly left in his wake unpaid contractors and invoices, litigation, broken promises, whatever he could get away with.

H.) He is damaging our relationships with our best international friends while kissing up to nations that do not have our best interests in mind. To his question “Wouldn’t it be great to have better relations with Russia?” The answer is Yes. But it is RUSSIA who needs to earn that, who must stop doing the things that are damaging to that relationship, or we are simply weaker for it.

I.) He has never seen a shortcut he didn’t like, and you can’t take shortcuts in government. “Nuclear Option, Remove the Filibuster, I’ll change the Constitution by Executive Order…Don…what happens when you remove the filibuster and the other side retakes the majority in the Senate? Suddenly want that filibuster back? What happens if you manage to change the Constitution by Executive Order and an Anti-2A President wins the next election?

J.) He behaves and has always behaved as an unabashed racist. Yes, I’ve seen your favorite meme that claims he was never accused of racism before the Democrats…Absolutely false. Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970’s to 2019: See the Central Park 5, the lawsuits and fines resulting from his refusal to lease to black tenants, the 1992 lost appeal trying to overturn penalties for removing black dealers from tables, his remarks to the house native American affairs subcommittee in 1993. The man sees and treats racial groups of people as monoliths.

K.) He is systematically steamrolling regulations specifically designed to keep a disaster like the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis from happening again.

L.) He speaks and acts like a demagogue. He sees the Legislative and Judicial branches of government as inconveniences, blows up at criticism, no matter how deserved, and actively tries to countermand constitutional processes, not to mention attempts to blackmail and coerce people who are saying negative things about him.

M.) His choices for top positions, with the exception of Gen. Mattis, who is a gem, have been horrendous. A secretary of Education without a resume that would get her hired as a small town grammar school principal, A secretary of Energy who didn’t know the Department of Energy was responsible for nuclear reserves, an EPA head whose biggest accomplishments to date had been suing the EPA on multiple occasions, an FCC head who while working for Verizon actively lobbied to kill net neutrality, and an Attorney General who thinks pot is “nearly as bad as heroin” and asked Congress for permission to go after legal pot businesses in states where it is legal. (There goes that great Republican States rights rally cry again, right? *Crickets*) An Interim AG after Firing his First AG whose appointment is probably unconstitutional.

N.) He denies scientific fact. Ever notice that the only people you hear denying climate change are politicians and lobbyists? 99% of actual scientists studying the issue agree that it’s real, man-made and caused by greenhouse gasses. Ever notice that every big disaster movie starts with a bunch of politicians in a room ignoring a scientist’s warning?

0.) He does not have the temperament to lead this nation. He is Thin Skinned, childish, and a bully, never mind misogynistic, boorish, rude, and incapable of civil discourse.

P.) He still does not understand that the words he speaks, or tweets, are the official position of 1/3 of the US government, and so does not govern his words. He still thinks when he speaks it’s good ol’ Donald Trump. It’s not. It’s the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You have probably spread a meme or two around talking about how no president’s every word has ever been dissected before…YES, THEY ALWAYS HAVE. It’s just that every other president in our lifetime has understood the importance of his words and took great care to govern his speech. Trump blurts out whatever comes to his mind then complains when people talk about what a dumb thing that was to say.

Q.) He’s unqualified. If you owned a small business and were looking for someone to manage it, and an unnamed resume came across your desk and you saw 6 bankruptcies, showing a man who had failed to make money running CASINOS, would you hire him? He is a very poor businessman. This is a man it has been estimated would have been worth $10 BILLION more if he’d just taken what his father had given him, invested it in Index Funds and left it alone.

R.) He is President. But he refuses to take a leadership position and understand that he is everyone’s President. Conservatives complain about liberals chanting “Not my President” while Trump himself behaves as if no one but his supporters matter.

S.) He’s a blatant hypocrite. He spent 8 years bitching Obama out for his family trips, or golfing, or any time he took for himself, and what does he do? He was already on his 20th golf outing in APRIL of his 1st year in office. He constantly rants about respect for the military, yet can’t be bothered to attend the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day because of a little rain. (And that excuse about Marine One not being able to fly in the rain is HILARIOUS.)

T.) He’s a misogynist. It’s not really ok in this day and age to be a misogynist, but it’s not a huge deal if you’re a private citizen. It’s a pretty big deal if you hate half the people you’re elected to lead. The disdain for women seeps out of his …whatever…. and he just can’t hide it.

U.) Face it. In any other election “Grab Em’ By the Pussy” would have been the end of that candidate’s chances. Back in the 90’s I used to marvel about how Teflon Bill Clinton was. I no longer do. The fact that he managed to slip by on that is as much a statement about how much people hate Hillary Clinton as it is about what is wrong with politics in this country right now.

V.) He has one response to a differing opinion. Attack. A good leader listens to criticism, to different points of view, is capable of self-reflection, tries to guide people to his point of view, and when necessary stands his ground and defends his convictions. Any of that sound like Trump? His default is not to Lead, it’s to attack. Scorched Earth. The Jim Acosta reaction is a good example. There was no defense of his convictions when Acosta was asking him repeated questions about his rhetoric on the caravan. His response was to attack Acosta.

W.) He takes credit for everything positive while deflecting blame for everything negative. Look at him with the Stock Market. He’s been bragging about it since day one, and to give credit where credit is due, speculation on coming deregulation early in his presidency did fuel some rapid growth, but to pretend that it’s all him, that we’re not in the 9th year of the longest bull market in history and THEN, when the standard market volatility that deregulation inevitably brings about starts to show up? Yeah. Look at yesterday. Hey! Stock Markets losing because the Democrats won! Do I need to bring out the Stock market chart for the last 10 Years again?

X.) He emboldens the worst among us. Counter-protesters are slammed into by a car while countering actual Nazi rally, and the response is there’s fault on “Both Sides” The media is at fault for a nut job sending them and Donald’s favorite targets pipe bombs. The truth is not all Republicans, not all Trump Supporters are racist, fascist lunatics. Many are just taken in by the bombastic personality and are living in an information bubble made worse by the fact that they unfollow anyone and ignore any source of information that makes them feel uncomfortable. People on the left do that too. The Biggest problem the right has right now is that the worst of the Right is the loudest and the most in your face, and the actual right, especially the Freaking PRESIDENT needs to be standing up and saying No. Those are not our values.

Y.) He seems to think the Constitution of The United States, the document that IS who we are, the document he took an oath to support and defend is some sort of inconvenience. He demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Constitution, from believing he can alter the 14th through executive order, to thinking The free exercise clause in the first amendment somehow supersedes the establishment clause (not that he really understands either) or that the free exercise clause only applies to Christians. Or his attacks on freedom of expression and the press. He repeatedly makes it clear that if he’s read them, he does not understand Articles 1–3, and that’s something he really should have before he took the job, because they’re not going away.

Z.) I’ll use Z for something I do blame him for, but the rest of us have to carry the blame too. Polarization. This country is more politically polarized than I can remember in my lifetime. Some of you who are a few years older than I may remember how it was in the late 60’s when construction workers in New York were being applauded for beating up hippies, I think it’s pretty close to that right now, but that was before my time. And he is the cause of much of the current level polarization, but also the result. It didn’t’ start with Trump. We’ve been going down this road I think since the eruption of the Tea Party in the early years of the Obama Administration.

I do hope the tide turns before it gets much worse because the thing that scares me more than anything is what if that keeps going the way it has been?”

– Chris O’Leary

The Three R’s That Helped Mango Mussolini Succeed

Mark Naison wrote the following on Facebook. I think it sums up a lot of Individual 1’s success, but not all of it. DJT has developed an uncanny ability to lie convincingly.

Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches: Are These the Most Important Keys to Success in the USA?

When I learned from Michael Cohen’s testimony that Donald Trump threatened to sue Fordham to prevent them from releasing his grades and SAT scores, it not only reaffirmed my perception of Donald Trump’s character, it also gave me telling evidence of his chosen path to success.

Here is a person who constantly boasts of his intelligence and athletic ability who goes bat shit crazy at the though of anyone researching whether his college record matches his rhetoric

As someone who is the same age as Donald Trump, attended similar colleges, and likes to think of himself as a scholar athlete, I find Mr Trump’s indignation both amusing and revealing. Anyone who knows how to use Google can find evidence of my athletic career at Columbia, the fellowships I received or the academic awards I earned. You don’t have to ask Columbia for that information, it’s all there on the internet. By contrast, a Google search of Mr Trump’s college years will find no evidence of academic or athletic success. What’s going on?

That someone whose record displays a modest level of athletic and academic success ends up as a professor and the one whose record is shrouded in myth, if not outright fabrication, ends up being President is a telling commentary on where our country is at at this historical moment.

Although I have an unbelievably happy life and not the slightest desire to trade places with Mr Trump, the comparison does lead me to examine what traits he possesses that helped elevate him to his current exalted position- traits that I seem to lack

And I’ve come up with three—Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches. First ruthlessness. In ways that I could never imagine, Mr. Trump was able to betray friends, stiff creditors, and destroy rivals without a moments grief. No conscience, no consequences, no limits. Then there was racism, institutionalized in the way his family companies did business during his formative years, in his private discourse, and his ability to mobilize xenophobia and shite supremacy to advance his ambitions. And finally there were Riches, the hundreds of millions of dollars his father used to bail him out when his businesses failed

Because of the three R’s, Donald Trump could have a mediocre college record, hide it behind lies, deception and threats, and still rise to the highest office in the land,

There is a lesson here for the nation’s young people, but not one many of us would want them to learn

Has Light Pollution Wiped Out the Arthropods?

Is it possible that the vast and consistent decline in the numbers of insects and other arthropods is due to our ever-increasing use of artificial, electric lights at night?

If so, then we are in really big trouble — but we can solve it, by turning out the lights!

Apparently I’m not the only person worried about this idea, which came to me when I thought about the enormous quantities of bugs I used to see 50 or 60 years ago every clear night, flying en masse to their deaths around every electric light bulb they could find. These days, my home’s outdoor lights (when on) seem to catch many, many fewer insects per hour than they did when we moved in 35 years ago… Surely those enormous numbers of dead insects around the outdoor lights must take a toll, and since artificial outdoor lighting is increasing world-wide at a rate of 2 to 6 percent per year, the effect is likely to have gotten more and more severe as time goes on.

Here are a couple of articles on the topic. This one you have to pay to read, unfortunately. This one cites the previous one, but gives a bit more information. Scientists at the University of Virginia are doing a long-term study on the effects of lighting on fireflies (aka lightning bugs): for one species, the females stopped responding to the light signals put out by the males if there was too much light; so if there are fewer female beetles answering, then there will be fewer eggs and smaller future generations. This web page goes into more details. I quote:

“There is an utterly magical time that occurs at tropical dusk. It is when the calls of birds wheeling overhead recede into the distance, and the constant pulse of insect and frog calls fills the air. The inflection point where both sounds are equal in volume coincides with a time when the failing light is ethereal. This heralds the other half of biodiversity, the nocturnal. Within the forest the phosphorescent light of Pyrhophorus beetles leaves green trails in their wake to tempt would be mates to follow. The eerie glow of bioluminescent fungi astonishes, but vanishes instantly in the light of a headlamp. The pale moonlight gives reflected glimpse of bats trolling the surface of oxbow lakes. Overhead one can gaze into black velvet sky to see stars, and comets and the cosmos beyond. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Other forms of light are less benign to the magic of the forest. The first lights that send their electrical call in wild places draw myriads of insects. A riot of color, form and diversity that is impossible to imagine in advance. But the insects attracted to the electrical beacons will dwindle over time. Every week there will be fewer and fewer. This is because a great many die at dawn. Birds, toads and mammals quickly learn that there is a ready meal at the lights every morning, and that there is nowhere for the transfixed nocturnal denizens to hide. Ants too are regulars at the lights. With organized effectiveness they incessantly carry away the disoriented, the wounded and the dead. There are further consequences of artificial light as well.

Even the most urbanized person cannot fail to pause at the sight of butterflies. Butterflies are insects that require light of the sun to fly, to reproduce, and to flourish. Daylight is their realm. Nonetheless, a major part of their life cycle, the caterpillar, is a creature often active only at night. To find many caterpillars one must be armed with a flashlight and use the cover of night. The introduction of artificial lights in natural areas has a generous impact on the diversity, distribution and the abundance of butterflies. With electric lights come the roads. With roads come vehicles, people, habitat destruction and more lights. This is quickly attended by a reduction in the species of both adult butterflies and the food plants their caterpillars depend on for survival. The area becomes the realm of common weeds, and this reduces butterfly diversity even more. Fewer plant species equates with fewer butterfly species. This is not illusion or fancy, but common sense that even a child can grasp and measure its truth.

I never thought that so many places dreamed of in my youth could be marked so deeply by the human hand. Crucial details embodied in the concept of forest held by our predecessors are lost by each passing human generation. I understand that during my grandparent’s lifetime large carnivores, herds of elephants, and vast expanses of tropical wilderness were common. My experience has been less rich. Many times I’ve tried to imagine the tropical forests experienced by naturalists a century ago and concluded that they would be shocked at the current scale of decimation, and the intruding pervasiveness of electrical light. In their eyes, our concept of forest would lack depth and vitality. Where is the tropical wilderness? When its absence is finally recognized will we try to reconstruct it like historians who earnestly, but vainly attempt to recreate the vital spark of a culture that has passed from living memory? How will we account for and connect all the parts?

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