Sunday, February 15, 2009

From the "urine in the education pool" department...

...and, here in Louisiana, there's more than one way to make the education pool a cesspool...

...I give you G-Bitch's and Coozan Pat's reactions to an article in today's Times-Pic on new teachers vs. experienced teachers.


It’s not the first, last or worst thing Paul Vallas has said about teachers but it’s just as telling:

“I think experience can be overrated,” Vallas said. “You like to have experienced people, but that’s no substitute for energy, innovation and ability.”

So experienced teachers are a homogeneous group of lazy, boring, inept people and good riddance to them all? Or educating children just isn’t that hard and/or important for Vallas to worry himself with? It also reflects part of the charterization/privatization movement which believes that the best way to improve public schools is to privatize them. Or to run them “like businesses”–that should be a dead argument post-credit-meltdown. And to get rid of experienced teachers who are seen as failures, probably rigid, and prone to being in unions and striking and making demands and wanting procedures for dismissal. In the conservative ideology behind much of the charterization movement here in NO, teachers are more delivery systems than anything else, whose success is gauged in test scores that adults look at from afar and congratulate themselves over. Teachers are interchangeable and it’s probably even preferred to have them keep cycling through every 3 or so years. Young, relatively inexperienced teachers do what you tell them. By the time they see a need for collective bargaining or reform, they’re gone, replaced by a new set of fresh, excited faces.

The Tired Old Argument:

At least the "charter schools vs. 'regular' schools" argument had further reaching policy ramifications. The "experienced teachers vs new teachers" debate is simply the most ludicrous red-herring involving student achievement there is. It smacks of politics over effectiveness, and ignores systematic issues that affect all classrooms. That local newsmakers continue to return to this 'issue' suggests either a misunderstanding of who actually runs schools or a decided lack of access (or interest) to investigating more pressing matters.

Riots, brawls, student-on-student and student-on-teacher assaults are terribly underreported. So are the reasons these things happen. But it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out it ain't the teacher's fault when a student commits what would be a felony - and they are back in class the next day. No, that ain't on the teacher. That's on the principal and on the superintendent. And if you have a principal or superintendent that cannot create an atmosphere of safety for students and teachers (experienced or new), student acheivement is going to suffer.

Fires, theft, vandalism fall into the same "school is a safe place" boat. That it took 6 fires in a week to be reported in the Times-Pic regarding one historic, local high school, and nothing was mentioned about the school being opened without adequate fire safety mechanisms (fire alarms, extinguishers, locked exit doors) is flat out unbelievable. Experienced teachers can die from smoke inhalation just as quickly as new teachers. But the decisions to put students in that school, the responsibility for installing adequate safety measures, and the security of school hallways during class-time is again not a teacher issue.

Oh, and we can't forget the creationism-in-the-schools chickens coming home to roost:

The first tangible results of the Louisiana legislature's passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal's signing of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act have materialized, and these results are negative both for the state's economy and national reputation. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a national scientific society with more than 2300 members, has put Gov. Bobby Jindal on notice that the society will not hold its annual meetings in Louisiana as long as the LA Science Education Act is on the books. In a February 5, 2009,letter to the governor that is posted on the SICB website under the headline, "No Thanks, New Orleans," SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie tells Jindal that "The SICB executive committee voted to hold its 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008. It is the firm opinion of SICB's leadership that this law undermines the integrity of science and science education in Louisiana." [NOTE: Although the legislation was introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and passed as SB 733.]

Pointing out that SICB had joined with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) in urging Jindal to veto the legislation last year, Satterlie goes on to say that "The SICB leadership could not support New Orleans as our meeting venue because of the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula." Salt Lake City was chosen as the site of the 2011 meeting in light of the fact that "Utah, in contrast, passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum."

Noting that SICB's recent 2009 meeting in Boston attracted "over 1850 scientists and graduate students to the city for five days," Satterlie pointedly tells Jindal that "As you might imagine, a professional meeting with nearly 2000 participants can contribute to the economic engine of any community." The implication of SICB's decision for both New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and the entire state of Louisiana is clear. With Gov. Jindal threatening draconian budget cuts to the state's universities, the loss of such a significant scientific convention will only add to the state's deepening fiscal crisis.

...Sorry, Louisiana. You are a lovely state, but scientists won't be supporting you as long as you're going to be dedicated to anti-scientific foolishness.

Other states don't have cause for complacency, though — creationism is not exclusively a Southern problem. If this keeps up, we may be having all of our scientific meetings in Canada.

At this rate, the only thing that will smack of science in this state will be the parade tracker on WDSU.

Update, 2-16: In an email my dad sent me last night when I forwarded the links from Al R. on to him: this will probably be the last year that FASEB meets in New Orleans also. and we bring about 13,000 people to a meeting.

Thanks a bundle, Baton Rouge. Nice going, Bobby J!


Anudder update, 2-16, 6:38 PM: Go read Dambala. Just go. Now.


Amy said...

Have I mentioned lately how happy I am that I am homeschooling now? Exactly!

Cold Spaghetti said...

......Sorry, Louisiana. You are a lovely state, but scientists won't be supporting you as long as you're going to be dedicated to anti-scientific foolishness....

Oh my. Well, good for the Society. If common sense doesn't have a place with the Administration, then maybe the Almighty Tourist Dollar will.

saintseester said...

*smacking my head*