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The Contract that Students And Teachers Need

August 3, 2011

  A few days ago the LA Times published an absurd piece of propaganda penned by our very own “Dr”  Deasy titled The Contract LAUSD Needs. It is full of gifts that any privatizer would love, such as elect to work agreements.   I sent my own OpEd to the Times entitled The Contract That Students and Teachers Need, and surprise, surprise they declined to publish it.    Here it is below:

Dear Dr. Deasy,

Here is the contract that students and teachers need:

1)  Balanced assessment based on multiple measures such as writing, public presentations,  use of technology and an authentic project negotiated between student and teacher. This not only would put us more on equal footing with private schools but also force students to become actively involved in their educations. Two years ago, I had students enter my class from a middle school that supposedly had massively increased test scores.  These students had the lowest skill set of any 11th graders I had taught up to that time.  Multiple choice testing can be manipulated and is not a true measure of students’ proficiency.  I want to know if the students can explain orally and in writing how the New Deal changed government, not just what it was.

2)  Reduced number of state standards taught per class so teachers can teach one subject more deeply and concentrate on specific skills students will need once they graduate such as writing, problem solving, reading informational text and using math in real life situations.

3) A discipline policy that elevates the culture of the school and the classroom.  This means no tolerance for cursing, sexist, homophobic or racist remarks, gang tagging or gang culture in the schools.  This extends to attire, jewelry and tattoos.   Any infraction should result in the parent being called immediately to pick up their child from school and take them home for the day.  “Counseling and warning” doesn’t cut it.  

4) Proper teacher working conditions which include teachers having their own classrooms and this includes during their conference periods.  You have your own office so why are some teachers forced to travel to different classrooms?   Included in this contract stipulation are no more than two preps for new teachers and the assignment of a mentor teacher who is open-minded and genuinely interested in helping new teachers to grow. 

5) Choice in textbook and other teaching materials and authentic reading material in each classroom.  It is unacceptable for only one official text to be available for students.  Each school should have at least three choices per subject matter to meet the needs of each particular student.  This also includes classroom libraries with interesting materials since often students don’t have books at home. 

6) The elimination of district office consultants so that more curricular trips and internships can be funded for students.  Travel and other experiences would equalize education for underserved children and provide them access to the same arenas as upper class public school students. For example, some of my former high school students who had traveled in middle school to Washington DC showed much more curiosity and basic knowledge about the workings of government than students who never traveled. Not coincidentally, those low income students who had traveled extensively ended up at UCLA. 

7) Tangible support for teachers inside their classrooms which includes the placing of para  – educators inside the highest needs classes and the hiring of proven professional development programs such as UCLA Center X.   This also includes the restoration of funds for new teachers to buy their own curriculum. In past years, new teachers in urban schools were provided about 1500 dollars to buy what they felt they needed in their classrooms. I was able to purchase many Interact simulation curriculum units and Rethinking Schools units which included a Constitutional Convention role play and a D-Day role play in which students received the actual materials commanders on D-Day received and they then planned the location, time and strategy of the mission.  Today, many new teachers are on their own, forced to use poorly written textbooks for all levels of reading ability and with little access to other materials.

8) Evaluation of teachers based on improvement of their students on authentic assessments based on where the student is at the beginning of the year, not on grade level CST tests. If a 10th grader enters my class reading at a 4th grade level, he or she probably won’t do well on the 10th grade English or History CST even if I have taught well.  Instead, let’s look at the student’s growth in reading, writing, public speaking and attitude. If that student has moved from a 4th grade level of reading to a 7th grade level, that is good progress.  Evaluating that students growth in the interest they have in reading is also important.  However, teachers cannot be judged on students who are chronically absent or chronically disrespectful.

9) Parents and guardians must demonstrate one thing they have done to promote intellectualism in the home and the inclusion of a mandatory summer reading list.  This could include taking their child to a museum, play, free concert or buying books for the home.  There is no excuse for students who have every electronic device imaginable but lack basic appreciation about culture and society.  Students must read one novel or non-fiction text during the summer or Christmas break and respond to it in writing or through a video-taped presentation.  This ensures that they have some academic practice during one break but that another break is free for their own pursuits.

10) Students lacking basic math skills must be barred from taking Algebra classes until they have met proficiency in basic skills.   This must include the addition of practical classes such as medical math, accounting and “power” math classes to bring students up to speed in a way that helps bridge the gap of those who have difficulty with abstract thinking.  Algebra should include its practical uses such as compiling demographic statistics and not be taught in isolation from its real world uses.

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