Friday, September 22, 2017

Why Teachers Are Leaving (And New Teachers Aren't Replacing Them)

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 3:31 PM

  • Courtesy of pixabay
Teacher shortages are a national problem. According to a recent survey, the number one reason teachers give for leaving the profession—55 percent of them—is dissatisfaction. By comparison, financial considerations are cited by 18 percent. Between the top and bottom are Financial/personal reasons, Retirement, and Pursuing another job, in that order.

This isn't new news. It's from the 2012 School and Staffing Survey put together by the National Center for Educational Statistics along with a follow-up survey in 2013. It came up again in a recent panel discussion in Washington DC, and sadly, it's more relevant today than it was five years ago. As with any survey, the numbers are approximate. General dissatisfaction covers low salaries as well as a host of other issues, and in a place like Arizona with its bottom-of-the-barrel salaries, money concerns certainly rank higher than elsewhere.

But as a teacher who retired just when our national obsession with high stakes testing was revving up and class sizes were climbing, I'm certain a growing sense of dissatisfaction pervades the teaching profession, driving many a gifted teacher out of the classroom and making potential new teachers think twice about going into the field of education.

When I went into teaching and began my 30-plus year career, it was because I wanted to teach. I wanted to be part of helping young people learn. I wanted to be part of helping young people grow. I wanted the freedom to shape my curriculum in a way that suited my interests and teaching style so I could maximize my enthusiasm and effectiveness.

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McCain: "I Cannot in Good Conscience Vote for Graham-Cassidy"

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Sen. John McCain, who torpedoed the last GOP healthcare bill in a surprise vote in July, says he’ll vote against the Graham-Cassidy healthcare legislation that GOP lawmakers are rushing to a vote by the end of the month.

McCain announced his opposition in a statement on his Twitter feed:

As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdictions should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan concensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority … I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried … I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.

McCain's decision makes the passage of Graham-Cassidy much more difficult for GOP leaders, who are struggling to find 50 votes in their caucus in the face of unified Democratic opposition. They can only afford to lose three votes in order to get the bill across the finish line.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New TV Ad Asks McCain To Stop Latest GOP Healthcare Disaster

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Sen. John McCain provided the critical vote to block the so-called "skinny repeal" legislation that ended the summer chapter of Obamacare repeal, so supporters of the Affordable Care Act hope that he'll do the same with the Graham-Cassidy legislation that senators hope to pass by Sept. 30, when the reconciliation clock runs out for the fiscal year, along with the power to pass the healthcare legislation with just 51 votes.

McCain hasn't yet said that he'll support the legislation, but opponents of it worry that his close friendship with Graham may sway his vote in favor of the bill, which would essentially take the money that the federal government now spend on Obamacare and send it all to the states, allowing the 50 state legislatures to figure out how to best spend it. It would also allows waivers of essential health benefits, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and other federal regulations designed to protect ordinary Americans with help problems.

Meanwhile, Save Our Care is highlighting a new study that shows the proposed legislation would cost Arizona a staggering $133 billion by 2036:

A new study from Avalere Health released today estimates that the Graham-Cassidy health care repeal bill will lead to a reduction in federal funding to states of more than $4 trillion nationwide by 2036.

Arizona alone would lose $133 billion. This is the latest analysis to confirm that the Graham-Cassidy plan is the worst repeal bill yet, stripping health coverage from 32 million Americans and raising premiums by 20 percent next year. According to another study, by the Center for American progress, 511,000 Arizonans would lose health coverage.

The bill would be devastating for Arizonans. According to Avalere Health, Arizona would lose $19 billion over the next decade, and then would continue to lose even more federal funding over the following two decades. By 2036, the repeal bill would cost Arizona $133 billion in federal funding that is needed to support those on Medicaid and to provide tax credits to help Arizonans pay for their health care.

Despite these alarming estimations and overwhelming calls for bipartisan solutions, Senate Republicans are still pushing forward this disastrous health care repeal bill and are expected to vote as soon as next week.

A Little Late To the 'Patriotically Correct' Party

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about the conservative crusade against the  Political Correctness. Then I thought about how conservatives go nuts over ideas and actions they don't think are "American" and jingoistic enough. Same idea, different targets. So I asked myself, "What can I call the conservative version of political correctness? Can I come up with a two word phrase with the initials 'P.C.'? . . . I got it! Patriotic Correctness."

If a football player takes a knee during the National Anthem, conservatives go crazy, because he's not showing the proper respect for the country. "How unpatriotic!" Could it be he thinks it's patriotic to point out problems which should be fixed to make this a better country by making a quiet, peaceful statement? "No way! You show patriotism by standing and waiting for the National Anthem to be over so the damn game can start already." People protesting the Iraq War were labeled traitors. "Why do you hate America?" conservatives screamed. And when the Dixie Chicks made a disparaging comment about President George Bush during a concert in London, their records were burned, their music was banished from country music station playlists and they got death threats. All in the name of Patriotic Correctness.

Before I congratulated myself for my creative genius, I decided to google "patriotic correctness." I found a column in the Washington Post dated Dec. 7, 2016. The writer stole my idea nine months before I thought of it.
But conservatives have their own, nationalist version of PC, their own set of rules regulating speech, behavior and acceptable opinions. I call it “patriotic correctness.” It’s a full-throated, un-nuanced, uncompromising defense of American nationalism, history and cherry-picked ideals. Central to its thesis is the belief that nothing in America can’t be fixed by more patriotism enforced by public shaming, boycotts and policies to cut out foreign and non-American influences.

Conservatives use “patriotic correctness” to regulate speech, behavior and acceptable opinions. Insufficient displays of patriotism among the patriotically correct can result in exclusion from public life and ruined careers. It also restricts honest criticism of failed public policies, diverting blame for things like the war in Iraq to those Americans who didn’t support the war effort enough.

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Grijalva Arrested Protesting Trump's Immigration Policies

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 11:49 AM

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva being arrested in front of Trump Tower for civil disobedience. - RAÚL GRIJALVA/FACEBOOK
  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook
  • U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva being arrested in front of Trump Tower for civil disobedience.

  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook
Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva was arrested during an immigrants' rights protest in front of Trump Tower Tuesday morning, along with U.S. Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)

"I stood in front of Trump Tower today with a whole lot of DREAMers, immigrants and Americans to say enough to Trump and his criminalization of our immigrant communities," he posted on Facebook shortly before being arrested.

Grijalva was sitting in the street below Trump Tower with other demonstrators, holding a banner advocating for DACA recipients when he was taking into custody by the New York Police Department with his hands zip tied behind his back.

A representative from Grijalva's office said the congressman was released several hours after the arrest and now faces charges of disorderly conduct with other charges pending, according to Tucson News Now. They also reported the lawmakers had intended to get arrested at the protest.

  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 10:19 AM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Last week, I took the Star to task for its article about Pima County districts' AzMERIT scores in the post, To Understand Pima County Test Scores, Follow the [Parents'] Money. (The post had more likes, shares and comments than most of my recent pieces, and a number of letters in the Star voiced similar criticisms, meaning the Star article bothered a lot of people.) Comparing Tucson Unified's test scores with districts whose students come from more affluent homes where parents have more formal education makes little sense, I wrote. In Arizona, around the country and around the world, children from higher income families score higher on standardized tests than children from lower income families regardless of the quality of schools they attend.

I've written often that if you want to create a reasonable analysis of Tucson Unified's AzMERIT scores, you have to compare them to scores in districts with similar demographics. Well, I've decided to put my keyboard where my mouth is. I'm beginning a rough study to see how test scores in Tucson Unified schools compare with scores of similar schools in similar districts. Why am I telling you what I'm planning to do even though I've only just finished the thinking process and haven't begun the research? To keep myself honest, for one. If I put my approach in writing, I'll be forced to stick to it and report the results as honestly as possible (which I'd try to do anyway, but it's always tempting to fudge a bit). And to let readers know what my approach is before I write about my findings so you're less likely to think I began with my conclusions and worked back to the data that "proved" what I already decided.

On my computer, I have two databases from the AZ Department of Education. One lists the total number of students in every district school in the state along with the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch. The other breaks down the 2017 AzMERIT scores of every school in detail, by gender, ethnicity, English Language proficiency and grade level. Looking at the two data sets, I can compare how schools with similar student bodies scored on the state tests, and I can compare the scores of subgroups in the schools.

Here's my methodology. Scratch that. "Methodology" is to high fallutin' a term for my crude analysis—I won't be using any sophisticated statistical tools—of a blunt instrument—a high stakes test whose validity as a measure of student achievement is questionable. So, here's what I'm gonna do.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

It's 'Tucson Unified' Now

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 9:18 AM

As I was leaving the studio of the Bill Buckmaster Show Thursday, Bill told me that TUSD's new superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo, was on the show last week, and Trujillo mentioned that the district is rebranding itself as Tucson Unified in place of the longstanding tradition of referring to it as TUSD. It's not a huge deal, obviously. It doesn't change the way the district operates or educates its students. But I like it. Words matter, and the feeling the public has about the district matters.

The words "Tucson Unified" have a nice, positive ring to them. They link our city name with a sense of togetherness, indicating that Tucson is unified in our pursuit of education for our children.

The rebranding process has been going on for awhile. It began before Trujillo was chosen as interim superintendent, then superintendent, but I hadn't noticed it until Bill pointed it out to me. From this point forward, I'll use "Tucson Unified" instead of TUSD in my posts.

If you haven't had a chance to hear Dr. Trujillo, the interview on the Buckmaster Show is a good place to start. You can listen to it on the show's website. He comes across as smart, positive and personable. Early indications are, the board made a good pick.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Business Leaders Say, Raise Taxes to Fund Schools

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 9:58 AM

I've been out of town for three weeks. Did I miss anything?

Let's see. TUSD has a new superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo. Looks like a pretty smart choice. He's getting stamps of approval from people on various sides of district issues, which is promising. And board member Mark Stegeman has voted against him twice so far, which makes Trujillo sound even better to me. Best of luck, Dr. Trujillo. You'll need it.

Then there was the Mexican American Studies decision from Judge Tashima, a clear-the-bases, grand slam home run for MAS supporters. Ex Ed Supe John Huppenthal didn't like the program because it taught students they were victims of a racist system; the judge said Hupp's dismantling of the MAS program was the result of racial animus. Hupp didn't want Mexican American youth to think of themselves as oppressed; Hupp suppressed a program which used historical facts to show ways Mexican American students and their ancestors have been oppressed. Earlier Ex Ed Supe Tom Horne was upset that MAS taught ethnic chauvinism; he went around the state telling white people their privileged status was threatened by the program. One term to describe the Hupp and Horne statements in light of the judge's decision is "irony." MAS supporters are probably more fond of the term "vindication."

And then there's the statement by Jim Swanson, the leader of Ducey's Classrooms First Initiative Council, that our schools need an additional billion dollars in added tax revenue. It's not exactly new news. Other business leaders raised the idea in June. But for Swanson, Ducey's hand-picked head of his council to explore ways to improve education, to say Ducey isn't doing enough to fund schools, and to go into such detail about the reasons why the extra money is needed, that's really something. The public already supports increased education funding. A statement from Swanson and other business leaders helps build a statewide consensus which will make it harder for Republicans to pretend to be pro-education while saying they don't want to "throw money at schools."

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Staff Pick

James G. Davis (1931-2016): Down at the Tower Bar, A Retrospective

Celebrating the career of Tucson artist James G. Davis with a selection of paintings and prints made… More

@ Etherton Gallery Sat., Sept. 9, 7-10 p.m. and Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11 135 S. Sixth Ave.

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