California Educator

March 2015

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and realize the best improvements happen when edu- cators get the tools and support we need to do our jobs. Look at the school improvements made under the CTA-backed Quality Education Investment Act. The improved learning was fantastic. The funding for that is ending soon, and as we move beyond QEIA, we're transforming the profession. The Instructional Leadership Corps, for example, is helping our own members develop materials and strategies to imple - ment the new Common Core standards, and our own members are developing and delivering outstanding professional development. Teachers' primary role, then, as we take back our profession, is to tell our truths about what works and what doesn't in whatever forum it's being discussed. And we've got to take charge and drive the agenda. Educator-driven school improvement works because teachers know what we do is an art as much as it is a science, and it is a lot more than a test score. The best teachers understand their students' strengths and weaknesses, and adapt their practices to both. Real education improvement capitalizes on the fantastic pool of talent California has in classrooms today, and the diverse approaches we offer our students. Ask Dean M E A N I N G F U L " R E F O R M " will have to be led and developed by educators, and that is a central component of CTA's long-term strategic plan. In some ways I wish the word "reform" had never entered the educational lexicon, because it implies that our public school system is broken. Some parts of an otherwise outstanding public education system do need change, but not for the reasons some people toss that word around. You don't hear a lot of talk about "reform" when it means lowering class sizes, providing adequate resources, or giving educators the tools we need to do our jobs. Just days before I wrote this column, Assembly Republicans introduced a slew of bills in an effort to codify the same bad ideas expressed in last year's Vergara decision attacking due process. These proposals would elim- inate the weight of experience and seniority during school district layoffs, increase the probationary period from two to three years, and change the evaluation system to a mandatory annual evaluation that puts educators into four categories: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and inef- fective. Parent and student feedback would also be incorporated. Oh, and of course standardized test scores would play a larger role. I won't go through all the arguments against these ideas here (we've rehashed them to death), other than to say that the evidence in the Vergara case — much of it coming from effective principals and superintendents — showed that these types of changes would actually harm the students they purport to be trying to help. That's one of the many reasons we expect to prevail as the case is appealed. These recent legislative proposals and other bad ideas are based on a simplistic view of what it takes for teachers to teach and for students to learn. High test scores translate to good school and good teachers. Lower test scores? Bad school, bad teachers. Due process for teachers? Bad for kids. Layoffs due to budget cuts? An opportunity to bypass a fair dismissal p r o c e s s . T h e s e " r e f o r m e r s " rarely, if ever, tackle any of the real challenges that hold stu- dents back — poverty, f amily a n d s o c i a l dy s f u n c t i o n , a n d language barriers. E v e r y d a y t h o u s a n d s o f California educators help kids o v e r c o m e t h o s e o b s t a c l e s . I m a g i n e h ow m u c h m o re we could do if lawmakers addressed those larger issues and saw teachers as part of the solution, not the problem. To be blunt, some of these proposals we're seeing aren't just mis - guided, they're part of an overt hostility to public education that furthers a privatization agenda. People need to recognize them for what they are, Dean E. Vogel C T A P R E S I D E N T What is the role of teachers as leaders in ongoing school improvement efforts? Inspiring our students about reading and the good company of good books is a big part of what teaching is all about." "The stories of women's lives and choices encourage young women to think larger and bolder, and give young men a fuller understanding of the female experience." Do you have an issue or topic you'd like Dean to address? Let us know. Email 4

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