FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Classroom Experience Matters

by

Marcos Breton, a veteran columnist for The Sacramento Bee, one of 30 newspapers The McClatchy Co. publishes, did it. In “Sacramento’s teachers have won this battle,” April 13, 2014, he bashes these union members, and inverts logic:

According to him, kids in the Sacramento City Unified School District’s poor neighborhood schools and Jonathan P. Raymond, former superintendent of Sac City and 2006 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, won when the Sacramento City Teachers Association lost.  Breton writes: “It was Raymond who beat the union in court, allowing the district to sidestep teacher seniority rules at low-income campuses as a means of making sure nothing got in the way of putting strong teachers in struggling schools.”

The context to Breton’s column was the SCUSD’s April 9 withdrawal from the California Office to Reform Education waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind. Rick Miller is CORE’s executive director, and Principal in Capitol Impact, LLC (limited liability company), a private consulting firm, with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer.

The SCTA played a role in the SCUSD’s withdrawal from the CORE waiver in part through joining forces with other unions and activist community groups. SCTA allies included the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, the Black Parallel School Board and Hmong Innovating Politics: solidarity works.

I return to Breton. His remark against teacher seniority does not add up.

Breton assumes what he fails to explain: how and why experienced teachers are weak, and what actors and factors weaken them for the poor students in their classrooms.

These are no academic debate points. We know that the seniority of SCUSD teachers, years of learning the craft of classroom instruction with kids from varied backgrounds, in part determines these workers’ pay.

Why is this so? Labor (SCTA) and management (SCUSD) collectively bargain seniority rights in contract talks.

Apparently, Breton views this contractual arrangement as shortchanging low-income students. By his reasoning, readers might expect a brief explanation of what makes teachers with much less experience, say recent university graduates with Teach for America, a group that gets funds from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, so effective.

Readers deserve such information but Breton fails to deliver it. Instead, he uncritically repeats myths that defy reason, blaming experienced teachers for the socioeconomic fates of poor kids.

It is worth noting that education reform groups like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, headquartered in Sacramento, agree with Breton and Raymond’s sour view of teacher seniority. Apparently, the more time they have on the job weakens their skills.

Wait a minute. Who among us seeks out less experienced professionals for their services?

Who chooses to patronize inexperienced barbers, bus drivers, dentists, doctors, electricians, financial advisors, home health aides, nurses, painters, plumbers, roofers, and welders? When does a lack of experience qualify as an asset?

I dare say those who freely choose professionals with less versus more experience are in the minority. Am I wrong?

Why should parents of poor kids desire less experienced teachers as a public policy to strengthen their children’s achievement? All things equal, more time practicing an occupation improves one’s performance.

Broadly speaking, learning involves making mistakes, and learning from them under the tutelage of others. Teaching is a social process.

This process for classroom teachers takes four or five years to master, said Duane Campbell, an emeritus professor of bilingual education at Sacramento State University, who directs the Institute for Democracy and Education, in a C-SPAN 2014 award-winning video, “Protecting Public Education,” that Preeya Patel, Jacklyn Hughes, and Cherrish Hardy, juniors at Franklin High School in Elk Grove, Calif., produced. To watch their video, which in full disclosure features an interview with this journalist, visit: http://www.studentcam.org/winners14.htm

The view that “practice makes perfect” rings true in and out of the classroom. Of course, the ideal of perfection exists only as a dictionary word, and not an actual thing in the world.

By way of disclosure, my late mother was an SCTA member. She taught primary grade students in the SCUSD for decades, and a former first-grade student of hers helms the Sacramento Public Library Foundation now.

Education reform that targets teacher seniority occurs in a socioeconomic context, decades of policies that have redistributed income from labor to capital. Public school teachers with years of experience did not drive this policy trend.

Meanwhile in the pages of The Sacramento Bee, Breton supports the myth that inexperienced teachers are the solution to what ails kids attending low-income schools. His is a bid to weaken the status of teachers with seniority in the court of public opinion.

That court also opens to activist community groups in alliance with unions in opposition to the corporate agenda to reform public schools. All rise?

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail