Is This Happening at your School?

This story is worth passing on! Because it is happening all around the world. I can attest to this as it is flagrant in Thailand, just as it is at the origin of this Story. The majority if not all Thai Schools apply this method of grading. It is not what you learn, it is a matter of the amount of money you are willing to Pay to the Head-Masters, The School Administrators, and the School Board. Today, it’s about Money and being profitable, not about the quality of Education that the students receive. The student is the real looser, because they get passed without earning the Grades to pass legitimately.  The Government and the Board of Education is responsible for this situation. Because they write the laws, but do not pursue the law. They allow this corruption to exist, because that’s the way it is done.

In the story that follows I have intentionally removed the names of the people and places involved; The Facts as reported!

The day after I submit grades for the first marking period of the year, I get a visit from the assistant principal. She walks into my classroom carrying a huge stack of forms.

“You’re going to have to change all of the failing grades to passing,” she says, slapping the papers on my desk.

The Independent School District, Grade Correction Form, the heading reads.

“What?” I ask.

“You’re going to have to change the grades. Too many failed.”

I had heard that kids were promoted without proper skills, but I hadn’t expected to see the sham up close, and so soon. I hadn’t expected to be ordered to participate in it. I had been a middle school English teacher for three weeks, the second half of the first grading period. The children had a string of substitutes for the first half. No viable grades or evaluations were left for me, probably because none could be taken with so many people floating in and out of the classroom.

Soon after I arrived on campus, I was instructed to give a test worth 15 percent of the grade and a project worth 20. I could not give a test after just two and a half weeks. It would take the students, seventh-graders, about six to settle down. I suggest some other means of evaluation, or even no evaluation. It was not the kids’ fault that six people taught the class during those first six weeks. They could have figured a rabbit would show up next. No, I am told firmly, I will have to give the test and project.

I teach what I can. I write a test. It’s pretty easy, and I prepare the kids for it for days. Three-quarters of them fail.

The project is something the department head creates, and the rest of us have to duplicate it. Write about someone who is important in your life and draw pictures, paste photographs, show and tell. I pare the assignment down to one paragraph, and one photo, if at all possible. I notice that there are packages of colored construction paper and markers in a cabinet, so I hand them out. I devote two days of class to the very important project. Of my 64 students, 14 turn in the assignment. I give the students three extra days to complete it, right up to the minute that grades are due in the computer. I get 14, that’s it.

“Ms. Smith,” I say, outraged. “I gave the required assignments, and they failed.”

“It doesn’t matter. When in doubt, just give them the 70. It’s so much easier,” she says, smiling. “Here are the forms. Get them to me by Friday.”

I write an email to the principal, and Ms. Smith, stating that I will not put my name on a legal document that is fraudulent, let alone supportive of a policy that pretends students are successful when they are not. The students earned the grades, as did the ones who did not fail. I know to save the forms.

Later, I look up “when teachers are asked to change grades in zzzzz,” and hit upon the zzzzz Education Agency Code, which clearly states that administrators may not request that a teacher alter grades when they have been given according to district standards.

The next day, I am ordered to attend a meeting in the principal’s office. I bring a union representative with me. The principal tries to throw the union rep out of the office, but caves in when she suggests he call the NEA attorney, instead. It is possible that the two fine educators have plans to fire me right then, until the union person makes herself comfortable at the principal’s oval table. They give me a “new assignment.” They take away my 64 students, sending their schedules into disarray, without warning. The kids find me in my classroom, asking questions. They are confused, rebellious. They write statements of protest on the board. They send petitions to the administration. They had just begun to feel secure in the class.

The principals divvy up the students and add them to the other English classes, raising their rosters by nearly 12. I am assigned 25 ESL students with limited English. I am not an ESL teacher. The other teachers raid my room for desks, acting funny. I tell them to send anyone to my class, whenever they need to. I am ejected from the English department, prevented from attending meetings or receiving information and materials from the other teachers, and am no longer part of a seventh-grade team. I am de-teamed. A planning period is taken away. I am directed to sit with the band teacher at a faculty meeting. I wear the scarlet F, for Failer. I am energized.

I guess my supervisors at the middle school were used to intimidating teachers into doing things that are unconscionable. There is a very clear administration-teacher schism at this place, with aggressive tactics for keeping track of and punishing infractions — “Omissions of Opportunity,” they are called. There are 800 of them. If they spot you doing something wrong, they put an “Omission of Opportunity” form in your mailbox and make you sign it. They didn’t realize that stumbling on illegalities such as altering grades for purposes of inflating passing records, i.e. passing records that reap federal funds, is the kind of thing that gets me going. A chance to expose outright dishonesty and abuse, where children are sacrificed for the jobs of adults? Manna from heaven.

I file a grievance.

I collect 25 pieces of evidence, including incriminating emails, dated photographs of my desolate classroom (it was four days before the ESL kids arrived), and the actual grade-changing forms, which are accessible, by the way, only to administrators. I report to the appointed district office and am given 30 minutes to tell my story to the district’s attorney, employee relations witness and Ms.Smith, who is required to sit quietly.

“Since when is it ever a good thing to increase class size?” I ask them.

“How would I have gotten these forms if a principal hadn’t given them to me? I don’t even have loose leaf paper in my classroom. Or a pencil sharpener.”

The employee relations person shakes her head.

“How would I know that I had the most failures, 49, of any teacher in the school, if an administrator hadn’t told me? Who loses here? Is it me, or is it the kids?”

It was an open and shut case, I knew, as a practicing non-attorney. Easy peasy.

Ms. Smith smacked gum like a kid in, well, the principal’s office. She swiveled in the swivel chair. Guilty. Caught red-handed.

A month later, I receive the decision in the mail. The district has found that “the ZZZZZ Independent School District did not act in an arbitrary, capricious or unlawful matter… the claim is without merit.” I can drop the case or pursue the next step. I pursue the next step, realizing that the steps could be as phony as the grades, and the denial of any grade-changing. A chain of lies. And the process looks so democratic. So, here I go, again. I’m sure that by the time I get the next set of findings, I’ll be one of 4,000 teachers fired due to budget cuts. Or more likely, for something more exciting. Stay tuned.

Jobs, Education and the Future 4

The Labour Supply curve

Image via Wikipedia

The root causes for the situation in the Middle East and spreading around the world, is the lack of Jobs, dwindling trust in the governments to provide the bare necessities of life, and the uncertainty that goes with it, and that of the Future. ” In a recent survey of Middle Eastern youth, the No. 1 wish of the young in nine countries was to live in a free country, although, to be sure, jobs and the desire to live in well-run, modern societies ranked very high as well.”* I am making a very broad statement, that needs to be analyzed more. Freedom and the right to choose ones destiny is  a pre-requisite and Jobs are required for people to survive in this world, without them we can not chase our dreams or earn a living as a result.

 Yet, many jobs, render very little in terms of monetary gain for the individual in these countries being less than 2$ a day. The labour market world-wide is over saturated with applicants applying for the limited number of job opportunities available to them. Therefore, we must find new ways in which to employee the hundreds of thousands of new college/university graduates that our Education system is turning out each year.

In the not far distant past, a college education got you in the door at most Companies. It was your guarantee to a better life, and it provided you with the expectation of owning your own home, having a family and sending your children to school. Otherwise, follow in the foot-steps of the parents. That is no-longer the situation. Yes, there are the wealthy families that have made it. And yes, they can send their children to the best schools. What about the others, that can not afford the same schools, yet they work and struggle to make ends meet so they can say “my child has a college/university degree.” The point I am making is; No matter who you are the Job Market is getting smaller. This affects everyone, and this is our dilemma. What do we do with the over abundance of Graduates.

Our governments speak about job creation. How can this be achieved, when our world economic situation is in a state of chaos. So we are confronted on multiple fronts, the same as being in a war.  Only this is a war, of human survival and not about Presidents, Dictators, Kings, corrupt politicians and power mongers. The people need to know that there is a future, sometimes change can make the future look a little brighter, for the moment. But that can be, short lived, as time passes and the changes the people expected do not come. People naturally become anxious and depressed when they are seeking a way to assure their future.  Change is the right word, if it is used to address the plight of the people and something comes of it. 

The future doesn’t look so bright, look around you and see, your neighbors, your friends and the general population have problems. Lack of food due to Drought and over population, lack of jobs due to struggling Economies and too many Applicants, Border tensions, Protesters crying in the streets for change, to make it better. Innocent people being shot-down, because they are trying to make a difference in their respective counties. Then we have the change in the environment which, is also adding to the plight of the people. Where is all  of this taking us!

Jobs, Education and The Future 3

Have you found that Job, the President speaks about? Has he told you where it is, and how to get it. Wake up people, we all know that politicians world-wide tell a great story with silver tongues, and smooth talk. They tell us what we want to hear, not about reality and the cost of making real jobs available. It like on the internet, sign-up it’s free and then reality comes into play, just send $49.99 and we will send you this free stuff. Wow! That is absolutely “No Cost.” Yeah, sure! Jobs will arrive when the economy improves. My question is? How-long as a people, can we survive in this state of flux?

We speak about Education being the root to success and the changing future. But, is that true? Think about it! Many well-known entrepreneurs never finished their education. What they had and have is a wish and a desire to make something from an idea, maybe that idea at the time seemed far-fetched. But they pursued it with every ounce of strength they could muster. Ideas come from the mind and the dreams of people of all ages and nationalities around the world. Help, the world, help yourselves if you have an idea and a dream, follow it where-ever it may take you.Get smart, use your intelligence. If you can go to University do so, and if you can’t don’t let that stop you from pursuing your dream. It is never too late to learn and make something out of yourselves. It is all in the mind and what you do with it.   Do not depend on the Governments of the world to provide for you.

Governments will take your tax dollars and spend it on other-things, outside of your reach, outside of your home, outside of your Country. They will support other countries that are failing, other societies that are outside of the scope of what your personal needs are. So how does this lead to your future getting better, your family conditions improving, and you relaxing in your old-age. We are depending on this generation and future generations to support our way of living, our standards of well-being, and our Freedoms.

We must find the solutions to assure us the populace, of survival. That may come by changes in our way of living. People have survived for thousands of years by making changes in their daily lives. Accepting to venture forward, to experiment and discover things that are unknown and Space isn’t so far away.  We the people are strong, and we are the bosses of our Governments, not them. Governments come and go, and rightly so. We must stay united, and believe in our selves, that we are in charge of our destiny. Make us proud, To call my country “My Home”