What it Means to be a Teacher

This article is reprinted from Larry Cuban’s blog on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Larry is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. It is an abridged version of a speech to graduates and their families in June 2001. It is just as pertinent today as in 2001.

I have thought a lot about the past 46 years I have spent in education. I have taught in urban high schools and Stanford for many years [in addition to being an administrator]. It is teaching – not administration or scholarship [however] – that has defined me as an adult….

Teaching has permitted me to be a lover of ideas, a performer, a lifelong learner, a historian, a writer, and a friend to former students and colleagues. For these reasons and because at this moment in our nation’s history teachers have moved to the top of the nation’s school reform agenda, I want to comment today on both the exhilarating and troubling aspects of teaching….

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Super-school Chaos

There needs to be a serious conversation about the direction being taken by state governments in Australia to close schools and merge into large single super schools. Parents need to band together and say enough is enough!

Every bad outcome you have imagined for your school merger of up to four schools will come true. You will see an increase and more violent bullying assaults occurring; you will see more wagging, you will have a lowering of expected and academic standards; your children will become numbers and get lost in poor administration; they will be offered more choices that can’t be delivered; many will not form lasting relationships with their teachers and peers; you will be ignored if you try and advocate for your child; students with special needs will be worse off; low-socioeconomic and disadvantaged students will fall through the cracks along with previously above average students; they will be treated like robots encouraged to perform to a level playing field and the ‘so-called’ new well-being programs will fail with teachers unable to cope with the problems the new systems create.

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Sweden: A Failure in Market-Based Education

Sweden is often seen as part of a homogeneous Nordic sphere; small cold countries with midnight sun, fair-skinned population, small social democratic idylls with equal free healthcare, good schools and a high standard of living. The reality is never as simple as our prejudices and one of the things that now characterizes Sweden is that we in important areas of society have left the common Nordic tradition of a cohesive school.

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Funding, Enrolments and Staffing in NSW Public Schools

The following is a summary of a submission to the Independent Inquiry on the Teaching Profession in NSW Public Schools. The full submission can be downloaded below.

The NSW public education system has undergone a huge expansion in bureaucracy since 2003. There was a massive increase in administrative staff in schools and in central and regional offices that is many times greater than the increase in students. Yet, there was only a very small increase in inflation-adjusted funding per student despite a large increase in disadvantaged students. Expanding the bureaucracy was prioritised over funding classroom learning and support. As one former principal told Save Our Schools, it reflects an “increase in roles orchestrating compliance not teaching, learning and curriculum”.

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Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement

The US public school advocacy organisation Public Funds, Public Schools has published a review of recent studies of vouchers in the US. The studies show that private school vouchers have not improved student achievement and have multiple negative effects including exacerbating social segregation in schools. The findings on student achievement are reproduced below. The full review is available here.

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Wealthy private schools don’t deserve bailout money

The following letter was published in the Washington Post yesterday. It has particular relevance because of similar claims from private schools in Australia for a taxpayer bailout.

I was disappointed to learn from the May 6 Metro article “D.C. prep schools keep federal loans” that many of the area’s private schools are being bailed out with taxpayer money. Sidwell Friends School, with only about 1,100 students, received $5 million in bailout money while charging $45,000 in tuition. If elite private schools cannot keep themselves afloat with that kind of revenue coming in, then those institutions deserve to go belly up and their students sent to D.C.-area public schools, where they can get a comparable, if not superior, education.

These private schools should not be allowed to be bailed out when our public schools are scrambling to redo their budgets and our underpaid public school teachers face potential furloughs. Meanwhile, the largest school district in our area, Fairfax County Public Schools, educates more than 188,000 students and employs more than 24,000 people. FCPS and other D.C.-area public schools graduate some of the best talent in the world, while charging not a cent in tuition.

Districts such as FCPS are mainstays of the local economy that provide priceless value to local communities through education and support. Small, endowment-rich private schools have no business receiving our taxpayer dollars while public school systems around the nation get left behind.

Statement on the “Science of Reading” from US Think Tank

The US National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity have jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”. It is reprinted here in the interests of promoting rational debate.

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

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Lessons Learned From Technology in the Classroom

Larry Cuban, Emeritus Professor of Education at Stanford University, recently drew on his extensive study of technology in education over many years to draw some key lessons about the use of technology in the classroom. The following are extracts from his article which is available on his blog.

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Is The Shepparton Super-School Merger Valid?

The following is a press release issued by the Save Our Schools – No Transition Group in Shepparton, Victoria. It shows that the Shepparton schools merger plan was not formally agreed by all four school councils as required by the School Merger Guidelines.

We have evidence that the Shepparton Education Plan was not formally agreed to by all four school councils as required by School  Merger Guidelines,  prior to the announcement on 19 April, 2018, by Education Minister, James Merlino, that it would proceed.

Despite a requirement that the motion to accept the model proposed by the Strategic Advisory Committee be passed at a properly constituted meeting with a quorum, it appears that the motion was not passed in accordance with School Merger Guidelines and School Council Governance.

An FOI request written in September, 2019 requesting written advice to the Minister as required by School Merger Guidelines that all four councils had voted on the plan at a meet­ ing with a quorum has been completed and together with existing evidence appears to confirm that two of the four schools did not pass the motion  to accept the recommendation  of the Strategic Advisory Committee of one school  on one site, based  on the schools within a school model, before the announcement in April 2018. It was not voted on until months later when it was finally carried.

Community information is that three of the four schools did not pass the motion prior to the announcement and it was never voted on by one and later ratified by two.

In fairness to all concerned parties, this plan needs to be halted until this issue has been investigated and satisfactorily addressed with adequate consultation with the families of Greater Shepparton as requested at a public meeting in August, 2019.