Teacher Prep Programs Not Created Equal

I just read Kevin’s post about Jack Markell’s engagement to deliver a keynote speech today in the nation’s capital, at the launching of Teachstrong by the Center for American Progress.  Something doesn’t fit. Given the recent departure of the great Mark Murphy, a growing disatisfaction with DEDoE and the State Board of Education, the veto of the opt out bill, the Priority Schools debacle (Where IS that promised money, anyway?), and the state’s looming budget shortfall, why would Jack Markell be of interest to anyone at a national level?  Where is the logic in that?

The Teacher Compensation Plan that Markell has been pushing is all over this. Or is  it the reverse? Afterall, Jack surely isn’t planning on retirement after 2016, and has mastered the art of pleasing those who can do for him. See for yourself how his plan is aligned to Teachstrong.

The Center for American Progress‘s press release is as follows:(boldface mine)

In order to ensure that all students are taught by excellent teachers, leaders must reimagine the systems and structure of the teacher career continuum. Yet the United States has never made a serious commitment to modernizing, elevating, and professionalizing the teaching pathway. This Tuesday, November 10, will mark the kickoff of the TeachStrong campaign, a diverse and powerful coalition of 40 education organizations that have come together to call on the nation’s leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016 and beyond.

The TeachStrong launch event will feature Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) and Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE), who will deliver keynote addresses on their efforts to elevate teaching in their states. An all-star panel of education leaders will discuss the path forward around this critical issue.

Well, THANK YOU, Center for American Progress for making it your goal to “professionalize” teaching. There is an awful lot packed into that statement. And it isn’t pretty.  Lord knows we haven’t been treated like professionals for quite some time. Now we know why.  We aren’t professionals, fellow teachers, and the Center for American progress is going to help us get there.

On the Teachstrong website I found the following:

Our students are falling behind internationally. In an effort to catch up, we are asking more from our teachers than ever before. Yet we continue to provide our teachers with inadequate preparation, training, and pay.

Teacher preparation programs lack rigor and selectivity. Two-thirds of teacher preparation programs accept more candidates than they reject, and one-quarter accept almost every candidate who applies. Education majors are 50 percent more likely to graduate with honors than undergraduates in other majors.

Only five percent of teacher preparation programs in this country include the basic components of a quality student teaching experience

More of the familiar “if only we could fix the teachers” then all would be well with America’s international standing in education. That’s certainly much easier than fixing families and poverty. I’ll give you that.  But I have a few thoughts on teacher preparedness and the teacher education programs from which they come. A graduate of the University of Delaware, every aspect of my teacherprep program was excellent – but for one. A big one. I graduated knowing that I hadn’t a clue how to teach beginning reading. Not a clue. And I was in the Elementary Ed program. I felt confident and ready to teach every other subject. Even pretty secure with reading in the content areas.  Additionally, my methods and student teaching placements played an integral role in my readiness. They, in particular, were responsible for my abiltiy to manage a classroom.

I included this information in my written evaluation of the program, and hope that someone read it and gave it some consideration. Far more learning has occurred in the years I have spent in the classroom, but UD gave me a clear advantage. I also completed my master’s degree at UD. I needed a GRE score to get in, and I did my own research, then wrote and defended a thesis. The process was brutal, but the benefits tremendous.

. This is what I have observed, and I am sure to step on some toes. Graduates of teacher programs that do not include student teaching are the most disadvantaged in classroom management,  teaching strategies, and understanding how  learning takes place, and so, often the weak link in a team. Yet these are state approved programs. For profit colleges do not appear to be at all selective- except that if  you apply, you are selected. Assignments are low level, even for graduate classes. This, I have seen first hand. A friend who received a masters degree at this for profit university calls it “Crackerjack College”.

I have had the opportunity to be a cooperating teacher (for student teachers and methods students) for two local universites and had one student from a local for profit university in my room for a few weeks placement. I never really figured out why she was there. I observed a significant difference in students’ readiness for their placement, motivation, and professionalism. In two instances I refused to sign off on the placements. In one case, the student teaching supervisor showed up one day – the last – of placement, and in the other, I never  saw or heard from the supervising teacher until the placement had concluded. I have a problem with that. And the root of that problem is the particular state approved teacher prep program.

One factor that has to be considered is the quality and commitment of the pre-service teacher. You can’t get more out of a program than you give. No matter where you are.

There are weak links in the state’s teacher ed programs, but those in power don’t step on each other’s toes. It’s much easier to blame the teachers. Squash them.

By the way, not one of the excellent student teachers I sponsored had any desire to stay in Delaware.

Now, fix that, Jack!


a smoldering wick

I am weary. beaten down. mocked. ridiculed. disparaged. but you can just call me ‘teacher’.  Other than the endearments of ‘wife’, ‘mother’, ‘sister’, ‘friend’,  I’d most like to be remembered as teacher.  it is my calling. My vocation. What i was meant to be. What I was meant to do.

And i love doing it. From the very first day over twenty years ago, when I lost my composure the minute the last student left, to the PLC that had me in tears a few weeks ago, and even today with a challenging student in my last class, I have known that this is it for me. I do it because it changes not only the students with whom I interact, I do it because it changes me. I am a better person for it.

I graduated from the University of Delaware’s education program well prepared.  As confidently as I began, I knew there was much to learn,  and eventually, maybe years later, realized that what I had yet to learn was infiintely greater than all I had mastered. For me, it has been a lifetime of simultaneous teaching and learning.

I am weary of the vitriol poured over the heads of educators in all varieties of arenas, as if we are the enemy. As if we are not to be trusted to relate to the public the true conditions exisiting in many public schools today. As if we are about the task of pursuing any means of escaping our responsibililties. As if we are purposely promoting falsehoods for our own gain.

Teachers have 40 and more students in their classes in my district. Students with IEP’s and behavior plans are included in these numbers. What human being can realisitically meet those kinds of needs on a daily basis without paying an emotional and physical price? How are the needs of these students being addressed? How are they being ignored? Does anyone care to know the truth? Don’t ask a teacher. Teachers can’t be trusted, they just want a paycheck and their summers off.

I Think I Get It

As I have taken a more active role in my association, I have tried to stir others into action as well. I have pondered the reluctance of so many educators to take a more active role in education on both local and national levels. I have listened to the reasons for not attending board meetings, association meetings, for not participating in association activities, and not serving on committees such as Liaison, that are purported to offer an opportunity to have one’s voice heard in the shaping of the environments in which they labor.

I think I get it.

The top down policies and programs that have been instituted in the name of education reform continue to place a burden on teachers that has not positively impacted practice, or learning. While writing, I considered “policies and practices that have not impacted practice”, but that may not be entirely accurate. The data collection and recording, Whole Child meetings and developing of Common Core lesson plans have intruded on the long term team work and collegiality that has nurtured me for years. Once, teachers were trusted to care enough about instruction to do what was necessary to improve upon it, to share information and concerns about instruction, difficult concepts, and students’ needs. We are no longer trusted to be aware of our needs, nor how to spend our time. This era of forced PLC’s has more isolated teachers than ever. What once were collaborative Team Meetings of equals has morphed into department meetings, Common Core Meetings, Whole Child meetings, etc., all conducted by one supposedly superior who has knowledge to dispense- to the inferiors. If we share, we are told what to share and how to share it. If we are to problem solve, we are provided an outline, or method by which it is to be solved. No thinking required.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the problem of teacher passivity. It provides a background, one which must be understood to grasp the significance of the rest of the picture. The rest of the picture is an extension of the disempowered teacher. Teachers have learned to lock their doors, not to keep out administrators, but disruptions. We must be content to police our own classrooms, as if that isn’t challenge enough. We must filter out all that takes place outside our domain, the classroom, and reserve for that all the energy and attention we can muster. I never knew a teacher who looked for trouble, but I have known many who have looked the other way.

I think I get it.

Teachers are very keenly aware of that which they control, and that over which they exert no control at all. They have to pick and choose. Their energy is not limitless, and too broad a concern, or commitment will burn them out faster than a week of Halloweens. Teachers believe, for the most part, that they can be effective only inside that classroom, that they have nothing to offer of interest anyone outside its walls. Burn out is real, and it is always just around the corner.

I think I get it.

One Day in the Life of Testing: Both a Shame and a Sham

My sixth grade students are testing today. It’s not on the schedule, though, because the day we were scheduled to test, the STAR system was down. In the midst of that dilemma, while experiencing student after student claiming they couldn’t sign in, I was able to contact a teacher in another computer lab. She, too, was experiencing the same with her students. We were advised to have students restart the computers and try again. This isn’t all that quick in a computer lab filled with sixth graders. After administration made a few phone calls, we learned that the problem was STAR itself, so testing was cancelled for that day.

Plan B. Put me in a room of sixth graders and I can find something to teach, review or practice. But by that time, half of the block was over, and so too, was 38 minutes of instructional time. Gone.

My students would have to wait until all testing was completed to gain access to computers. So, today, nine days later, we accessed the Think Pads stored in a cart down the hall. Three of them didn’t work, one was missing some keys, and the wifi was really slow. About half way through the test, four of the computers shut down, and once restarted, two would not connect to the internet. Imagine all of this drama as students are taking a standardized test that will determine their placement, and evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher.

This is what education reform wants. They are willing make sacrifices to fill their files with data. Data that will be used neither to guide instruction nor evaluate curriculum, only to reward and punish. That’s where the sacrifices come in. Sacrifices come in the form of children, and what ed reformers refer to as “human capital”. That would be the teachers. Throwing them all, children and teachers, under the bus so they can gain favor with the corporate leader gods who seek to turn education dollars into profit. In this reform culture, gaining such favor is key to the progression of their own careers.

It’s both a shame and a sham.

Two Wheels, Same Bike: Conflict of Interest at the Delaware DOE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @TNJ_malbright @DelawareBats @hanna_hurley #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

so many ties………….not entirely new to education……….

The Exceptional Infinite


Thanks to anonymous for getting this to me!  Our schools and DOE in Delaware have been slowly invaded by pro education reform individuals.  This is all backed by The Rodel Foundation of Delaware and The Vision Network.  Last Spring, the Delaware DOE hired Mrs. Penny Schwinn, a charter school leader from Sacramento, as the Chief Accountability and Performance Officer.  Months later, Mr. Paul Schwinn, her husband, has been hired as the Director of Leadership Development for the Delaware Leadership Project, which is funded by the Delaware DOE, Rodel and Vision.  I know the Delaware DOE wants family involvement, but this is a clear conflict of interest.  The wheels on the Schwinn go round and round…

Paul Schwinn

Paul Schwinn joined the Delaware Leadership Project as the Director of Leadership Development in 2014.   Mr. Schwinn began his teaching career in Baltimore City Public Schools in 2004 as a middle school social…

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The Thanksgiving Top Ten Lists for Exceptional Delaware! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @Roof_O @nannyfat #edchat #netde #eduDE #Delaware

If you have not read this parent/activist blogger, you a missing out!!

The Exceptional Infinite

Happy Thanksgiving to all my awesome readers.  I wanted to thank you for making this blog happen!  I appreciate all the comments, whether on here or through Facebook, Twitter, and email.  It has been my pleasure to inform citizens of Delaware and help out where I am able to.  I’ve learned a lot these past 5 1/2 months, more than I ever bargained for.

I wrote an article a few days ago on Arne Duncan’s new regulations regarding special education.  This has become my most-read article to date.  I never thought anything would topple my son’s common core homework back in September, but when you tick off special needs parents, expect a backlash Mr. Arne Duncan!

Top Ten Most Viewed Articles:
1) US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States Special Education Rights
2) My Special Needs Son’s First Day Of Common Core Division & This…

View original post 306 more words

A “Conversation” with WHYY’s Chris Satullo


Chris Satullo of WHYY spoke this morning on air about Standardized testing. I felt compelled to contact him, and now am compelled to share what I learned with my readers.


This is a link to the broadcast, and a text of it as well.



I have been a listener of WHYY for a number of years, and while I sometimes disagree with a view expressed, or the slant of a story, I have found, at least, that the reporting is more thoughtful, and frankly, less insulting, than both local and national television news broadcasts. What appeals to me most, however, that more than provide information, NPR makes me think.

I have been a member only a few of those years, though, and have withstood the pangs of guilt during each fund raising campaign, especially while listening to Fresh Air. Nobody interviews like Terri Gross. Nobody.

I recently contacted PRI about the favorable presentation of education reform policy that was allowed Melinda Gates when she was interviewed on one of their programs. I don’t mind hearing her views, but how about some balance? Not a token, but real balance. Uninformed listeners would likely come away seeing the Gates’s as heroes of public education. Nothing could be further from the truth. And the Gates’ Foundation contributes generously to NPR as well as PRI.

This got me thinking. (That’s what NPR does, remember.) What if NPR does this same sort of unbalanced presentation on any number of issues? Even unspoken communication, such as tone or enthusiasm, during an interview can lead the listener. Multiply that by the rate at which public radio listeners vote, and you’ve got some serious influence.

Which brings me to this. As I was driving to school on this dark wet morning, Chris Satullo, a vice president of WHYY in Philadelphia presented an editorial of sorts. His position affords him the privilege of reading his blog aloud, on air, to the nearly half million who tune in to WHYY each week. That’s influence. I worked hard to filter out the classical music station that competes with WHYY on most mornings, so that I could hear everything being said about standardized testing in schools.

He doesn’t particularly care for teachers. Definitely doesn’t like unions. I base this on just a few of his references to teachers:

“And cheating scandals, where adults worried about consequences of low scores for them, keep on flaring up, nowhere more so than in Philadelphia.” (emphasis mine)


“I’ve tended to dismiss as hypocritical whining the plaints of teachers unions about the horrors “high-stakes” testing. Weren’t those the same people who were just fine issuing tests to kids as long as the stakes didn’t apply to the adults in the room?”

He’s not finished yet.

“Final problem: The adults running schools – lacking trust in the fairness of the testing system, and lacking the courage of their convictions – make a fetish of “teaching to the test” and infect students with their test anxiety.” (emphasis mine)

He is apparently in favor of national control of schools, too.

“The main reason we don’t have solid national tests is that many of the same people pushing the accountability-through-tests idea are mired in the “local control is best” delusion.”

I wondered about the source for the last statement, as in my own experience, those most pushing for accountability though testing aim to crush local control. Isn’t that what is happening in Wilmington, Delaware right now with the Priority Schools’ threatened state takeover?

In closing, Satullo suggests (surprisingly), “…that teachers teach the way they believe they should.”

That seemed encouraging. But this would require some level of autonomy, wouldn’t it?  All teachers know that autonomy is but a ghost in most systems.

In a personal correspondence with me , Satullo stated he held no disdain for teachers, “I have taught, and some of the people closest to me are teachers. I have disdain for the mindless rhetoric of resistance that teachers unions have often adopted.”

He also asked of me,   “And who says teachers deserve “autonomy”?  That seems to be the heart of the dispute, really.”

At least he admits he is confused.

What do  you think?


Below is the email I sent to Chris Satullo:


I caught your piece on testing this morning while on my way to school.  School is where I work. Where I teach. Where I fight for student and teacher rights. Where I fight to get parents on board with the education of their own children. And School is in Delaware. Delaware, the Blue State (formerly known as the First State), where Democrats have pretty much been in control since 1993. They have needed no Republican help to push public education down the chute of ed reform.

Delaware, one of the first winners of Obama/Duncan’s Race to the Top, (under Democrat Governor Jack Markell), has had three different state tests in five years, with price tags in the millions. None of these test were designed to aid in planning instruction or intervention; i.e., not for the benefit of students. Results are often obtained late in the school year or during the summer, and are never broken down into specific skill sets that can be addressed the following year. All you get is a number. A number. And an arbitrary and often fluctuating set of cut scores.

Your disdain for teachers (and their unions) was clear, but misdirected. Well before test scores determined teachers’ evaluations, or even their jobs, they were used to unfairly sort and reward schools. The common factor then, as it remains now, is demographics, not teaching. Over the last ten years, especially, teachers have lost  autonomy. Provided the illusion of a participatory democracy, teachers serve on district and statewide committees who have all but implemented their plans. All that remains for them is to claim that there was “teacher input”.

Your suggestion to just let teachers teach is refreshing, however, and not often heard outside the teaching community. Instead we spend what was once real planning time on meaningless data collection and recording after every unit (and I mean that it is the  data itself that is meaningless), developing Common Core Unit plans (as if teaching critical thinking was something new), and “learning” how to use the latest data software.

It’s not Republican. It’s not Democrat. It’s Corporatism. And the public loses.




This is the text of his response. (I can’t help wondering if  he was responding to someone else.)

I do not have disdain for teachers at all.  I have taught, and some of the people closest to me are teachers.

I have disdain for the mindless rhetoric of resistance that teachers unions have often adopted.

It is simply not a viable proposition for the teaching profession to say to the taxpayers who put billions into K-12 education (and whom we probably both think should put billions more) that there is absolutely no way to measure the success of what schools do, to sort the better schools from the ones that are failing students, to decide how to target new investments into winning practices.

And my point is: Most teachers don’t believe you can teach well without testing.  It’s simply not going to work to say, “We’re the only ones who get to test.  Everyone else’s job is simply to stand back and applaud the job we’re doing.”


And who says teachers deserve “autonomy”?  That seems to be the heart of the dispute, really.  I don’t have “autonomy” in my workplace, and I’m the boss.  Any person in a workplace is accountable to other people for the success of what they do. The notion that teachers deserve this “autonomy” that they supposedly had in some lost golden age really is what the argument is about, right?  And testing is merely a blunt weapon wielded by both sides in that fight.

It’s my regretful view that if teachers had engaged more productively with the testing question when it arose, instead of just engaging in resistance, we’d have a much more sane testing regimen in place now.


Again, thanks for writing in.


Nice guy, huh?? 


News Journal Shocks Universe with Criticism of DE DoE


                 News Journal Shocks Universe with Criticism of DE DoE



In this editorial, the Wilmington News Journal, as if coming out of a prolonged coma, finds fault with the DoE’s efforts to incentivize teachers to move to high need schools through their Delaware Teacher Cooperative. The writer claims, “(we are) disappointed, but not surprised” by the lack of enthusiasm with which the program has been received by teachers. Jack and Mark wanted to award select teachers with a $20,000 bonus if they would sign on for a two year stint at a low-performing school. But there were strings attached. Teachers choosing to take the offer would also be ‘rewarded’ with ongoing professional development through the summer, and additional ‘leadership’ roles – both, more work. These opportunities have attracted a total of 9 teachers statewide.

First I will comment on the “disappointed, but not surprised” response by the NJ, and secondly, the relevance of the outcomes of this program to the intentions of Governor Markell, via the Delaware Education Alternative Compensation Task Force, to turn teacher compensation as we know it on its head.

The editorial staff of the NJ claim to have not been surprised by the results of the incentive program. Surprise is defined as a consequence of the unexpected. It follows, therefore, that the results were as the NJ expected. In their words, “meager”. To the surprise of no educator, this program, praised by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as recently as April of this year, has failed in its effort to staff high need schools with the “best” teachers. Teachers did not delay in voicing their disfavor, however, and in close circles, the Talent Cooperative was good for a few laughs – from its inception. It was, however, of little to no interest to the NJ until the Christina School Board voted against its implementation within the district. An April, 2013 NJ editorial urged the CSB board to “reconsider its stance”. Was this not a perfect time for the NJ to state its own lack of faith in the Talent Cooperative program? To applaud the professionals in the Christina district who saw this for the wasted effort it turned out to be?

To claim now to be “not surprised” is so like the NJ. So easy. So lazy. So cheap. To take a stand when it matters takes far more knowledge and courage, and that, editors, is what teachers have – in abundance.

Further, since the results were as expected – dismal – why the disappointment? Were you holding hope in a program that you judged to be flawed? Were you so desperate for ideas that you grasped hold of anything? Were you hoping Jack would pull a rabbit out of his hat? The public demands better from its major local news source. The public demands investigation, bold and factual reporting, and thoughtful editorials. Not this mush.

Second, the relationship between this admittedly failed program and the ideas/plans of the Alternative Teacher Compensation Task Force is worth examination. The major thrusts of the two plans parallel each other very closely. They both include:

  • Creation of an elite group of teachers
  • Large cash incentives on a very limited scale
  • Temporary leadership roles

At Town Halls across the state this task force is telling teachers that they are offering what teachers are asking for. I don’t know whether these people are liars or just duped. Hundreds of teachers showed up at the meeting in Bear, DE, and not one voiced a desire for any one of those things. In fact, opposition to the plan was very strong, and emotions ran high. When will the NJ speak on this plan? Will they wait a few years when its lack of merit is obvious to all? When the next governor and the DoE express disappointment with the lack of its impact on teacher recruitment and retention? After teachers have fled the state as is now happening in North Carolina and Tennessee?

Yes, the NJ will have something to say then. Maybe another, “Not surprised”, or “We knew it all along”. But will they speak NOW? Investigate NOW? Report NOW? The DoE claims to have had teacher input in the compensation plan. How do they define input? How do teachers define input? Do teachers across the state agree with their claim? Why, or why not? These schools belong to the public, the citizens of Delaware, and represent an enormous investment. When will the NJ invest themselves in their fate?

Will they?

One ‘Last’ Thing

Grades were due last week. That’s pressure on even the most efficient teacher. Remembering all the years I calculated the weighted averages for each student, though, I am grateful for the programs that have so simplified the process. Nonetheless, we are often scurrying that last week, to get one more test in, and to keep up with the late or overdue work that turns up after parents, finally checking their child’s on line grade access, try to get their kids in gear. For most of us, a moderate amount of sweat is normal those last few days. But last week was different. In addition to report card grades being due, there were STEM projects to be graded, recorded, and passed to the next core subject teacher. The math component of STEM consisted of four separate tasks that had to be evaluated. Also due last week, were Benchmarks. These are district provided assessments for all students after each math unit is completed. There are usually 3-5 items, for which a rubric is provided. Once graded, I access a portal on line where the score for each of the items of each of my students is recorded. Last week was also the deadline to enter our goals and targets for DPAS, (our own evaluation) and just in the nick of time, we received the information needed to do so. Other than report cards, all these tasks are related to the current obsession with data. That the data is meaningful is doubtful. That it actually contributes to student success would be laughable if it didn’t detract from the real tasks of teaching and learning. Which brings me to one last thing. Last week I also taught twenty classes of middle school math. The emphasis on meaningless data which is accessed by no one, is of interest to no one, also serves no one. No one except those who insist upon their completion; those on their way up the nebulous career ladder of education, and who are willing to play any game it takes. Even if there are no winners.