Saturday, September 12, 2015

Changing the Narrative……Teachers ARE Public Schools

Apparently, teachers aren’t supposed to take it personally when someone says public schools are broken and failing.

And when we call someone out on that nonsense publicly... someone who has a big microphone... well, something’s going to hit the fan.

Let me back up.  I was listening to a talk show host who, as much as I would LOVE to name names, I won’t.  Because this host has called me enough names and I don’t need any more hateful name-calling.  The host’s guest was someone who has started some charter schools that have made several amazing claims.  Unfortunately, as with all charter schools that make these miraculous claims, the claims turn out to be “not so amazing.”  (I am not going to name the chain of charter schools here, but here is a great site with links to many of these charters who make such claims – “Miracle Schools.”

As I listened to the broadcast, I asked a question on Twitter.  The second I posted it, the guest addressed it - weird coincidence.  The response from the host was swift and snarky, tweeting that I should go back and listen again.  Ummm..... OK.  Thanks for the assumption I wasn't listening.  I continued to listen to the entire broadcast and really wondered about this “Miracle School.”

When I got home I started researching on the internet, and found just what I had suspected.  No miracle here.  I tweeted my findings out to the host, and as I did, I noticed that during the broadcast the host had tweeted "public schools are broken," and later tweeted "public schools have failed."

So, I decided to ask the question: “Where is your data to back up the claim public schools have failed?”  The response was basically, “I never said that.”  I love Twitter.  As I retweeted the host's tweets, I started tweeting research showing that public schools are in fact NOT failing; the problem is actually poverty.

Then it started.  I was called a troll, sensitive, wrong, scary, part of the problem, irrational, and ignorant.  (To be fair, I said the host looked ignorant by claiming failure without data.  I suppose I can’t be too mad about being called ignorant.)  I was told I had misdirected anger, and the host wondered how well I convey information to my students.  I was accused of coming into the middle of a conversation, popping off half-cocked, and was then accused of not even listening to the show.  That was followed by the accusation that I didn’t do my homework and my comprehension is sketchy; this was stated because the host claimed no one was blaming teachers.  Finally, I was accused of not being part of solutions, just there to defend myself.

During all of this I was tweeting data, articles, and research findings, none of which the host read.  The host claimed to have data, although none of this data was shared.  Then after repeatedly insulting me, the host blocked me on Twitter, ending any hope of the research being read.

Once again, as happens so often in education, we have someone who has never taught a day claiming to know all there is to know about public education.  A “hero” is brought in who has started some charter schools with yes, great results, but when you dig deeper, you find a lot of dirt.  A lot.  But who cares, right?  The end justifies the means?  The hell it does.

How do we as teachers change the narrative with these folks with big mics?  I’ll admit Twitter is probably not the best place to have such a dialogue, but for this particular host, it’s the ONLY place to engage.  (I’ll just let you come to your own conclusions on that one.)  It is so easy for people to spout off “Public schools are broken” and “Public schools are failing.”  Society blindly accepts it as truth, and everyone shakes their collective heads in sorrow.  When those of us with actual data and research show what is really going on, we are silenced.  Humiliated.  Dismissed.

I suppose that’s where we start.  We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced.  We have to stand up and be heard.  We must tweet, blog, post on social media, and write.  We cannot afford to close our classroom doors and simply teach.  (Hell, we haven’t been allowed to do that for years anyway.)  We cannot naïvely state, “I don’t get involved in the politics of education.”  Education IS politics.  Most important, we cannot live in fear anymore.

When you blame public education, you are blaming teachers.  When you make sweeping statements about the failures of public education, you are making sweeping statements about teachers.  And when you refuse to listen to a teacher who is giving you data and research, you are embracing continued ignorance.  Teachers ARE public education.  We need to change the narrative.  No one else is going to do it for us.

A Note About the References:
I am not going to post the references I tweeted that were specific to the charter school chain that was the topic of the talk show.  But the site “Miracle Schools” has a great deal of this information about many of these schools.  The rest of the references were ones I tweeted about public education, achievement, international comparisons, and poverty.  All of them are below.

Fiske, Edward B., and Helen F. Ladd. "Addressing the Impact of Poverty on Student Achievement - EducationNC." EducationNC. Education North Carolina, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. <>.
McNeff, Mike. "Beyond the Classroom: Poverty Impacts Achievement." Pierce County Tribune, ND, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. <>.
Miracleschools -. N.p., n.d. Web. .
Phillips, Mark. "8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness." Edutopia. N.p., 10 June 2014. Web. <>.
Rabinovitz, Jonathan. "Poor Ranking on International Test Misleading about U.S. Student Performance, Stanford Researcher Finds." Stanford News. Stanford University, 15 Jan. 2013. Web. <>.
Riddile, Mel. "PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’ |." Web log post. The Principal Difference. National Association of Secondary School Principals, 12 Feb. 2014. Web. <>.
Walker, Tim. "Shameful Milestone: Majority of Public School Students Live in Poverty - NEA

              Today." NEA Today. National Education Association, 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 

              now- live-poverty/>.

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