Holden: Trust Teachers

Former teacher and current education blogger Mary Holden offers her thoughts on how to address the teacher shortage. Of course, even if there wasn’t a teacher shortage, this is the right way to treat teachers. Here’s some of what she has to say:

Trusting teachers to do their job – BECAUSE THEY ARE TRAINED PROFESSIONALS – should be commonplace practice in every school district. But it’s not.

An article from last year in The Atlantic discussed what happened when some Finnish teachers taught here in the U.S. Guess what they noticed? The lack of autonomy. And that’s a very bad thing: “According to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, teacher autonomy is positively associated with teachers’ job satisfaction and retention. And while most U.S. public-school teachers report a moderate amount of control in the classroom, many say they have little autonomy.”

Let me repeat that in a different way: We have a teacher shortage. Want to retain teachers and attract new ones? Then trust them to do their jobs. Ask them what they need, and then give them the support they need. (Oh, and paying them more would help, too!)

Holden also offers this suggestion:

I wish more districts would recognize what teachers have been saying for years – stop focusing on the data and the test scores and all the punitive measures that have been in place since the dawn of the accountability movement, and instead, focus on what matters: People. Relationships. Community. Developing the joy of learning. And trust our teachers to teach the subjects for which they are trained to teach.

This (and the rest of her article) offer sound advice on how to support and nurture teachers. I hear people say all the time that decisions in education should be made based on what’s good for kids instead of what’s good for adults — as if the two are mutually exclusive. Guess what? Supported teachers who are given autonomy are happy teachers. Which means they are better teachers. Which is GREAT for kids.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

The Value of Teachers

Blogger and former educator Mary Holden writes about the value of teachers. More specifically, she notes that we just don’t seem to value teaching very much.

The entire post is worth a read.

Here, she publishes her prepared remarks to the MNPS School Board relative to teacher salaries:

Good evening! My name is Mary Holden, and I am a MNPS parent and a former teacher. Thank you all for coming out to support our teachers. They are our most treasured resource, and we need to treat them accordingly.

But I am not here to argue for to thank you for a 3% raise. 3% is next to nothing. I’m here to argue for a much bigger increase.

One way to determine what a society values is to look at how and what we spend money on.

Our school board believed it was important to attract the best Director of Schools here to Nashville, so they set a salary of $285,000, a 7% increase from the previous Director’s salary. So teachers deserve at least the same: a 7% increase. But wait. The new Director believed it was important to bring in the “best” people to lead the district in our executive positions, and to do so meant they needed to be paid more. So all our executives were given an initial salary that was 25% more than what those previous positions were paid. Were questions raised by the board about this salary increase? No, because this is what was valued by our Director of Schools – that the people in these positions are the “best” and therefore deserve to be paid more money.

Well you know who is the “best,” in my opinion? Our teachers!

So I ask you all, who do we really value? Our executives – who do work hard, I’m sure, OR our teachers? You know, the people who we, as parents, send our precious children to every single day. The people who work their butts off to create engaging lessons, spend extra time with students making sure they learned a new concept, spend hours assessing student work and looking at data, spend money from their own pockets for supplies, and spend countless hours making themselves into better teachers through planning and professional development. THEY are the best. They are the people I value. And I know you all feel the same way. And so, we need to treat them like we value them. They are more than worthy of a sizable increase in their pitiful salaries. I know this from experience.

When I first moved to Nashville, I had been teaching in California for 12 years. I left California making $85,000, and when I got hired in MNPS, I was making $55,000. That’s a decrease of $30,000. Now, I know it costs less to live here than it does in San Diego; however, the price of housing here in Nashville has risen – the cost of living here has increased, and teacher salaries have NOT risen along with it. In fact, one thing I found troubling the year I taught in MNPS was the number of teachers I met who had to work a second job! Here were teachers, working so incredibly hard for their students, who could not live on their teacher salaries and had to seek additional employment in their free time. Free time, ha! We stress out our teachers to the point where they have no time for themselves. And it does not need to be this way. Not if we truly value them and the work they do.

I’m here to say that if we truly value our teachers – which we should – then that needs to show in their pay. They deserve a 25% increase. In fact, I suggest we help pay for that increase by giving our executives a salary cut. The bottom line is this: yes, it’s great that teachers are getting a 3% raise. Any raise is a good thing, generally speaking. But if you are asking me to celebrate that 3%, I say no way. 3% is nowhere near good enough. And if we value teachers, and we want them to be able to live a decent life and be able to buy a home in the city in which they teach, we need to put our money where our mouth is. Otherwise, they’re going to keep on quitting. Our teachers deserve much more than you are giving them.

Teachers, the only reason you are getting this raise is because of you and MNEA’s organizing efforts! iIf you haven’t already done so, join MNEA and fight for what you are worth!

I noted last week that the Tennessee State Board of Education finally did the right thing and adjusted the state minimum pay scale by four percent.

Still, this isn’t enough. With the adjustment, the most a Tennessee district is required to pay a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and more than 10 years of experience is $40,595.

Take a moment and read all Mary has to say about teacher pay. Ask yourself: Do we value our teachers?

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Mary Holden Takes the Hill

Former educator and current blogger Mary Holden tells the tale of her “Day on the Hill” in Nashville. Definitely worth a read. Here’s some of what she had to say about her experience advocating for public education at the Tennessee General Assembly:

There are many things that bother me about voucher legislation. But here are the two biggies:

  1. Vouchers haven’t worked anywhere they’ve been implemented. The evidence is clear. See also herehere, and here.
  2. Look who opposes vouchers: Teachers! You know, those people who actually do the work of educating our children! They know a thing or two about what is needed in public education, and we should be listening to them! (I should know…. I was a teacher, in case you didn’t know!)

But seriously, if the people we trust to educate our children believe vouchers would be harmful to our schools AND if there is plenty of evidence showing that vouchers aren’t successful, then why???? Why do they keep getting proposed?

Read more about Mary’s visit to our legislators and her encounter with state Senator Steve Dickerson.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Diane Ravitch Calls for the Termination of Shawn Joseph’s Contract. Do others agree?

Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education and education historian, believes that the Nashville School Board should terminate the contract of Dr. Shawn Joseph just three months into his tenure.

If you need a refresher, Diane Ravitch is an anti-reformer who teaches at New York University. Although never being a K-12 teacher herself, she is a hero to many teachers around the country because of her anti-testing, anti-accountably, and anti-charter school stances.

She regularly blogs about the happenings in Nashville. In the latest blog post, she uses a post from Nashville blogger T.C. Weber, who has been featured on this blog, as proof to call for the termination of Dr. Joseph’s contract:

If the elected board can’t straighten out this mess and revise Dr. Joseph’s contract to assure that he works for the board–the board does not work for him–then it’s time to cut their losses and terminate his contract. Don’t accept excuses for his wasteful spending, his ill-advised hires, his importing of the same aides involved in the scandal in Prince George’s County. If he won’t comply, say goodbye. It’s imperative to admit it when you have made a mistake. Cut your losses sooner rather than later.

Diane Ravitch is close allies of Nashville school board members and many anti-reformers in Nashville. School Board Members Amy Frogge and Will Pinkston have regularly posted articles from Ravitch and have been featured on Ravitch’s national blog. Frogge has previously said that Ravitch “simply speakscreen-shot-2016-10-08-at-12-29-49-pms the truth.”

Here is Amy Frogge with Ravitch at an event in Nashville in 2014 that was put on by TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence—TC Weber is recording secretary of TREE), an anti-school reform organization. TREE has also put on other events where Pinkston and Frogge have attended.

It’s time we ask Pinkston & Frogge if they agree with Ravitch’s call for Joseph’s contract termination. We need to know.

Another education blogger who has been featured on this blog, Mary Holden, commented that she believes that “the board needs to admit its mistake and make it right. Now. Before it’s too late.”

While Weber doesn’t think Joseph’s contract should be terminated, he does believe other staff members should be fired because their “hirings are morally wrong.”

Do others believe that Joseph should be terminated? Vesia Hawkins, education blogger and former school board administer, believes this is just the start. On Twitter, she says, “The witch hunt to our Nashville’s first African American director of school after only 3 months on the job has gone national.”

Hawkins goes on to remind everyone that Nashville came together to hire Joseph. “The city identified the man they wanted in a director. Remember the committee? What about the community meetings? The many welcome mats?”

Those welcome mats are long gone.

I think it’s time to ask our school board members and education leaders if they think Joseph and his staff should be fired three months in. Are these the opinions of extreme bloggers or are these the represented opinions of the anti-reform crowd in Nashville? We need to know.

Three months in, are people already starting to work against our Director of Schools? This has happened before…I hope it’s not happening again.

I knew this day would come, but I didn’t think it would be so soon into Joseph’s contract when the calls for firing would start up. Nashville came together to hire an amazing new leader, so let’s give him time to show us what he can do.

But there is another person who “liked” the Diane Ravitch blog post calling for the termination of Joseph…Dr. Jay Steele. Maybe he is hoping for a second chance to become Director of Schools.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport.


 

Leaving Teaching After 18 Years

Educator turned blogger Mary Holden talks about why she left teaching after 18 years of service.

Here’s a small excerpt:

I knew being a teacher here would be rough. But we moved here anyway. And we love it here. It’s a great place to raise a family. We love the schools in Nashville. Great things are happening here in spite of all the BS. However, as a teacher, I tried to do my best while biting my tongue. But ultimately, I couldn’t do it.

I saw my colleagues, unlike me, seemingly more able to not worry about these issues so much. Maybe they were used to it? Or maybe they felt like I did but didn’t dare speak up. But I hated it. I hated that 50% of my evaluation was based on my students’ test scores. I hated that we talked about the damn tests almost more than anything else. This was definitely not the reason I became a teacher. I didn’t want to be a part of that culture. It really weighed on me.

READ MORE about Mary’s journey in (and ultimately out of) the classroom.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Mary Holden Talks Common Core

Education blogger and former teacher Mary Holden talks about her experience with Common Core in Part 3 of her teaching story.

Here’s a bit of what she has to say:

Many of the English standards were vague and some of them couldn’t even clearly be assessed at all, and others were so very specific. So I was frustrated by that because I had become well-versed in breaking down a standard and determining the best way to assess mastery of it myself. But now I saw that these standards were part of a bigger plan, and I didn’t like it. I was also dismayed by the influx of informational text and the resulting decrease in literature, as well as CC developer David Coleman’s insistence on how we teach literature. I was becoming increasingly bothered by all of this. This was not why I became an English teacher.

READ MORE>

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

 

Mary Holden Welcomes Dr. Joseph

Former teacher and current education blogger Mary Holden recently posted her remarks welcoming Dr. Shawn Joseph to MNPS. Here they are:

Good evening, members of the school board and Dr. Joseph.

My name is Mary Holden, and I am an MNPS parent and former teacher. Dr. Joseph, I want to welcome you to MNPS. I’m glad you’re here and happy to see the direction you’re taking so far, which seems to be that of someone who listens and learns from those around you.

Recently, I spoke to the school board about what I would like to see in a new director of schools. One thing I mentioned was that we need a champion for our schools. Many great things are happening here. However, the inequity that exists in our neediest schools is unacceptable. They need extra resources, funding, and support in order to make them equitable. I support the community schools model. What we don’t need is more charter schools. I have heard you talk about equity, and I am pleased to hear that this seems to be a priority.

Another thing I mentioned was the need to truly listen and respect the teachers in this district. When I worked in MNPS, I noticed the culture of fear right away. It’s a real thing. Teachers feel intimidated to speak up for fear of retaliation. I hope you are able to dismantle that culture of fear quickly, and I believe your approach so far has been effective.

There is an important issue I want to speak about. Over the last year, the human resources department apparently enacted a policy wherein any teacher who is going to be non-renewed will also automatically be made ineligible for rehire. This means if a principal feels a teacher is not a good fit, instead of simply non-renewing that teacher and letting them go back into the pool of eligible teachers, that teacher is basically fired and not allowed to apply ever again in this district.

I know of an experienced kindergarten EL teacher fired under this policy for low test scores – in kindergarten! A first year middle school English teacher told to teach math instead and then fired under this policy for low test scores. Teachers who speak out and ask questions and suddenly that principal doesn’t like them, so they’re fired under this policy. The careers of these dedicated teachers are now over and done with in MNPS. This policy is harmful to teachers and students. I have three requests for you: 1) that you get rid of this current “policy”; 2) consider a new written policy where more than one person must sign off on teachers who are specifically recommended to be ineligible for rehire, and 3) please consider reviewing the files of those teachers from this year whose careers are, for the moment, effectively ruined. We have lost good teachers because of this, and yet there are tons of open positions. It’s not right, but you can make it better.

Another concern I have is your 47-member transition team. I understand the need for a transition team. But 47 is an awfully high number, especially when I don’t see teachers and parents well represented. There are charter folks, TFA, business people, and complete outsiders, but not a lot of actual MNPS stakeholders. It’s disappointing.

Overall, I am excited for your work to begin here in MNPS, and I sincerely wish you the best. Thank you.”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

 

The Way It Used To Be

Mary Holden is out with her second blog post chronicling her challenges and triumphs in teaching. This post is about the early standards movement and how it impacted the profession. She writes:

From 2001 to 2003, I, along with a team of teachers from my school (Mar Vista High), took part in a program with the California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) and the Western Assessment Collective (WAC) where teams of teachers worked to develop standards-based instructional units. This site describes the program I was a part of, but sadly, the links to the units we designed aren’t working anymore.

What I took away from this process was: 1) real teachers (not faceless corporations) were the creators of these curriculum units, 2) we kept them student-centered and realistic, 3) we had in-depth discussions of what the standards meant (called “unpacking” the standards), how they could best be assessed (and guess what? the answer was almost always NOT by multiple-choice tests! Shocker!), and how they could be taught to a diverse group of students at different levels. We were covering all the important topics – teacher creation of high-quality lessons and assessments, differentiation, standards, planning lessons together (which would later officially be called a professional learning community) – we were far ahead of the game! And it was a fun process as well. We met for several days in the summer and then during the school year for three years doing this work with CAPP/WAC. Part of what made it meaningful was that it did take so long, because again, real change takes time to take hold. We became better teachers as a result of this process, and those skills stayed with us for our careers.

Initially, the movement was positive and as Mary notes, student-centered. She writes much more, and it’s worth a read.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

Mary Holden Takes to the Blogosphere

Veteran educator Mary Holden is leaving teaching, but not education. She’s started a blog and her first post sets the stage for what I expect will be some pretty interesting commentary.

Here’s an excerpt about why Mary chose to become a teacher:

Mrs. Zambruski, my English teacher in 10th and 12th grade, in particular, really made me love reading and learning. I knew in 12th grade that I wanted to be a high school English teacher just like Mama Z (as we affectionately called her). English was my favorite class, and the time we spent in a circle dissecting the themes and symbolism in what we read was what I loved most. Looking for meaning and discussing what things meant to us had a strong effect on me. I came to see that literature held the keys to the secrets of the universe. That may sound a bit dramatic, but I truly loved learning and interpreting and being inspired by what I read. So much so that I knew I wanted to share that feeling with others by being a teacher.

The initial post is certainly promising. Read it all here.


 

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Mary Holden on the Next Director of MNPS

Williamson County teacher and MNPS parent Mary Holden spoke to the School Board last night about her hopes for the next Director of Schools.

My name is Mary Holden, and I am a teacher and MNPS parent of a 2nd grader. I want to talk with you tonight about what is needed in our next director of schools.

First of all, we need someone with solid experience teaching children and leading schools. I believe it is important for our director of schools to have truly walked the walk when it comes to being a leader in public education. In other words, an applicant from the Broad Academy or someone who was a business leader but not an actual teacher, principal, and/or superintendent shouldn’t make it past the first cut.

Second, we need someone who 100% supports our public schools and views them in a positive light. Someone who understands the role that our public schools play in our communities and who will work tirelessly to build up these schools rather than parcel them out to competing charter schools who would instead work to divide communities and destroy our public schools. I want someone who knows the difference and will work to strengthen the public schools we have while trying to stop the expansion of charter schools. We need someone who understands the concept of community schools and will continue the work of building partnerships with local businesses and organizations who can provide resources and services for our neediest families through community schools. Someone who will ensure that our neediest schools receive equitable resources and the support personnel they need.

Third, we need an advocate to lead the fight against harmful state policies. For example, we need someone who understands the need to have fully funded schools and will fight for that at the state level. Also, someone who recognizes that we need to de-emphasize the role that standardized tests currently play. Someone who knows that we shouldn’t be evaluating teachers or students based on their test scores, especially when the test itself is a joke. We need a champion of a parent’s right to refuse these tests for their children, someone who understands the harm being done and the time that is taken away from learning by these tests.

Fourth, we need someone who is a strong supporter of our wonderful MNPS teachers and the hard work they do every day. They need to know that our director of schools has their back and has walked in their shoes. We need someone who seeks out feedback from teachers, parents, and students – and not business owners or others who don’t know anything about actually having children in public schools.

Finally, we need someone who understands and fights for the best interests of our children, especially as it relates to the role of play in learning; the importance of a well-rounded education that includes history and civics, science, art, music, PLAY, and of course, English and math; and the appropriate balance of technology in the classroom where I believe less is better.

Thank you for your time. I have confidence that you will make an excellent choice on behalf of our children and teachers.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport