Monday, January 19, 2009

Testimony of Dr. Marilyn Barnett, NAACP Posted

At the January 12, 2009 public hearing Dr. Marilyn F. Barnett, Chair of the NAACP's education committee, spoke requesting information on teacher absenteeism. Her presentation was prompted by research done by the Allegheny Institute http://rauterkus.blogspot.com/2009/01/pathetic-state-of-pittsburgh-public.html.

Dr. Barnett's testimony has been added to the PURE Reform report on the January 12, 2009 public hearing, available through the PURE Reform announcements tab.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

As is usually the case when Dr.Barnett or someone within the administrative ranks speak, it is difficult to understand exactly what he cause is. Once again, we have an administrator who wishes to preach about the achievement gap and yet fails to shoot straight. Note to Dr.Barnett: make a resolution and tell it like it is. Just when will "student advocates" make it clear: black or white, behind every achieving student is a parent or parents who understand the value of education.
Those who don't achieve, who cause problems or eventually drop out usually have no significant adult in their lives to guide them.
Dr.Barnett would have us looking for myriad reasons that seek to lessen the impact of the cold hard reality of American culture today.
Absentee parents doom their children.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that Dr. Barnett is a member of the administration. She is a chair of an NAACP committee, not a PPS committee.

Questioner said...

Anonymous 3:04 seems to have been referring to administrators in general, not just PPS administrators.

PURE Reform discussed at the November 17, 2008 public hearing (testimony posted) the crucial factor of parent involvement. Still, other factors such as loss of teacher time in the classroom should also be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Barnett is the Principal of the Imani Christian Academy. According to a 2007 newsletter:
"Dr. Barnett spent thirty years of her career with the Pittsburgh Public School District, five years with Woodland Hills School District, one year with Seton Hill University and has consulted with the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently the Vice Chair of the Board for the Urban League Charter School, where she is an active member of the design team."
She is also a proponent of school vouchers, for which she testified at a State Education Committee hearing that took place at the real Schenley, last year.

Annette Werner said...

I visited Imani Chrisitan Academy recently and although this was just one visit, I have to say that the Academy seems to be doing incredible work with some of the most challenging students. These include students who have been expelled from other schools and have faced very difficult life situations. The students I met were most engaging and motivated. Although religious teaching is a major component of Imani's approach, there seems to be much that other schools could learn from Imani- at the very least, that there is hope for students that many have given up on.

Anonymous said...

Annette, I salute your chutzpah for listing your name here. Let's be reasonable about Dr.Barnett's school and any such school, shall we? While I admire the work of any educator who makes inroads with children in this day and age, the best teachers are the ones within your own district and not at some school that has the ultimate trump card of permanent eviction to play at any given time.
I've just about had enough of the Dr.Barnett's of the world. I've just about had it with the bleeding hearts who would rather play the blame game than be frank and forthright. It's not rocket science to see why our culture continues to spiral downward today and it's not genius to note that parents play a huge role in shaping the fortunes--or misfortunes--of their children.
Taking someone's data to task--or blaming it all on teachers--is simply laughable.
Education starts at home. The "village" has mom and dad as its roots.

Annette Werner said...

The thing that struck me about Dr. Barnett's work is that many of these children did have the trump card pulled on them by public school districts (not necessarily PPS- Imani is over near Penn Hills). But I will ask Dr. Barnett about the number of children they have had to evict for behavioral reasons.

fixit said...

I have read Dr. Barnett's testimony several times now and I still am not sure what her point was. In asking for records on teacher absenteeism was she trying to say a teacher's absence is harder on an African American student than a Causasian student? I am always suspicious whe someone bases their comments on the research or work of others, in this case the Allegheny Institute. The first anonymous to post here said "behind every achieving student is a parent or parents who understand the value of education." Go to the PSCC meetings or the EFA meetings or the information fairs the district sponsors throughout the year and you wil meet many African American parents of high achieving students, proving the point anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that more often than not, when the classroom teacher is absent, the students lose a day of instruction. Often the substitute is a glorifed "babysitter" for the day. The teaching contract allows for 12 "sick" days and 2 personal leave days. Some teachers miss all of these randomly and additional ones without pay. The union protects the sick day abusers and they are not held accountable in any way. This is why the abuse of sick days is rampant. And the bottom line is that the students' education suffers. In the high school, on any given day there may be as many as 18 teachers absent. Then there aren't enough substitutes to fill all the spots so other teachers have to cover classes. Is it any wonder that the educational process suffers? Look at the PPS budget and see the monies spent on substitutes. The reality is that when the classroom teacher is consistently present, more learning takes place, and there are fewer discipline problems.

Questioner said...

Dr. Barnett seems to be looking into whether there are more teacher absences in some schools than others, and in particular whether schools with a higher portion of African American students have a higher rate of teacher absences.

Anonymous said...

Dr.Barnett ought to take a closer look at the dynamics of African American families in the inner city if she truly wants to get to the root of the problems surrounding the achievement gap. Again, I am a little tired of hearing apologists like the good doctor play the blame game. She and the like minded can win my unending respect if they will preface their comments with the thought that the past two generations or so of African American students has suffered greatly thanks to little or no adult guidance.
Just so there is no confusion, the same can be said for the white population, as well. What used to be a cultural phenomenon limited to minority children--i.e., growing up in households with absentee parents--now pervades the white culture, as well. Behind the apathetic, uncaring, un-achieving student is a "parent" who either doesn't care about his kid or cares more about him or herself more.
Tell it like it is.
Also have to laugh at the poster who wishes to take teachers to task. Let me say this....in a long career as a teacher, I have never witnessed 18 teachers being out in one day. At the same time, good teachers simply don't miss days at random. Good teachers have a dedication and commitment beyond the classroom.
The kind of "teacher" you are talking about simply won't cut it for long in the new PPS, no matter the efforts of the PFT (and those efforts would not produce much defense, truth be known). Unless you are sick, there is the expectation that you must be in school.
That bastion of reporting, The Trib review, would love to once again castigate teachers as one of the root problems within urban education. Unfortunately, it is simply another apologist ploy. The union died a long time ago, friend. Why not focus on the real cause of lack of achievement?

Anonymous said...

I am not taking teachers to task, but stating the facts. I have seen 18 teachers out in one day MANY times. And the teacher being present consistently does correlate with achievement and discipline. Of course there are many dedicated teachers, but unfortunately there are as many or more teachers NOT dedicated. When you say that these teachers won't cut it long in the new PPS, who are you trying to fool? What new PPS? It is and always will be the same old same old...
Absolutely parent/s, adult mentors are key to student achievement. Unfortunately, these are more often missing which makes it even more important for schools/educators to engage students from pre-school up and to make sure that every child learns to read and write (for starters) before they exit 5th grade. Society today is what it is. We can play the blame game or we can move forward and do the best job we possibly can despite any obstacles. The early years are the key. If we lose them in the beginning, we've lost them forever.

Anonymous said...

Sorry anonymous, but your pretzel logic is emblematic of the politically correct propaganda that is so prevalent today. You'd have us believe that there is no reason for a doctor to ever diagnose the cause of an assorted malady. In your way of thinking, he should just cure the patient and move on.
And that, sir/madam, is a prescription for more problems down the road.
If you are so happy to simply ignore the problems that especially plague urban school districts today, then you are quite likely happy with a lot of grand plans that bring myriad PR meant to justify the millions of dollars being wasted.
You state that you have seen 18 teachers consistently being absent from one school. It must be one heck of a big building. You say there are as many burnt out or uninspired teachers as there are committed and dedicated. I say that is extremely doubtful given what a teacher in PPS must contend with today. In fact, I'd say such a comment is downright insulting.
The students are one thing, the incredibly out of touch curricula is another.
And perhaps you have not stepped into a PPS building lately, because if you had, you would understand that teachers' feet are being held to the fire in terms of keeping to a strict pace with the curricula. They are being held to the expectation that inquiry based instruction that incorporates more student discussion is the way to proceed. They are being 'warned' about alternatives to the plan.
Clearly, consistent absences would bring a great deal of heat.
I will agree with you about the early years. I will agree that they are crucial.
But I can hope for some winds of cultural change to visit those who view relationships between man and woman...and the resulting child...as being disposable and no-strings attached.

fixit said...

Anonymous 3:46 mentions "alternatives to the plan" and I wanted to ask where parents sign up to support alternatives to the plan. About two years ago I had pretty much given up on my son ever learning a certain set of math concepts. His teacher pulled out some worksheets she had used long ago. They carried a copyright of 1975. Getting over that hurdle with those worksheets has helped in the the confidence department since then too. Now really, who am I going to trust to know the best method of reaching my kid, the classroom teacher who looks him in the eye everyday or the faceless, nameless curriculum designer who warns not to deviate from the PLAN!!!!????

Anonymous said...

In my opinion,fixit, the problem is that this superintendent has no trust of teachers and no need for their input. In true corporate fashion, there are those who are administration and those who are drones. The administrators call the shots and the drones do as they're told.
What is most disconcerting about the current curricula--a true train wreck in every regard:
-it is generally written by teachers
-it is edited by a third party that is NOT in the classroom.
Whether we are talking about Roosevelt, his immediate lieutenants, or his Bellefield Avenue administrators, we are talking about people who know absolutely NOTHING about students.
These people have no idea who their target audience is nor do they know what goes on in classrooms. Additionally, these people have imposed deadline windows that MUST be adhered to and have designed curricula which is not to be strayed from---canned instruction.

Lastly, the curricula in question is hypocrisy in motion. In almost all areas, it is written by people who simply don't grasp the differences between mainstream and PSP kids. The "rigor" that the curricula demands simply dooms many if not most average students to failure, 50% grading policies notwithstanding. This is especially so because the curricula entails hard deadlines. The idea seems to be one of style over substance. We can brag that we have a wonderful curricula even if most kids are failing.
I have been around PPS for a long time. I have seen many ideas and policies come and go. I have never seen anything as detrimental as this, however. I have never seen so many third parties with their hands in daily instruction--whether administrators long out of the classroom or ivory tower groups like the Pittsburgh Institute--enacting policy over teachers who simply know better.
Teachers know how to inspire, and they know what works. Unfortunately, their hands are now tied in this process.
And next week...Mark wants to let teachers know how much he appreciates them. Gee.

Teacher said...

I am wandering off topic today and am hopeful that perhaps the Pure Reform Blog Administrators can start a new thread.
With the close of the second nine weeks today, I have been busy calculating grades for my students, as are most PPS teachers.
I am factoring in 50% scores where 0 scores previously stood. Please note, this means that I am giving half credit to students who decided NOT to do classwork, NOT to take part in discussions, NOT to do homework, NOT to do papers, NOT to study for tests, etc.

Please note that while most parents here cannot fathom this scenario because they value education and have instilled such thinking in their children, the very act of substituting 50% for 0 means many kids pass when they have no business passing. Furthermore, it means that in most cases, grades jump not only to 'D' status but to 'C' status. And in line with that, C students jump to B or A levels.

So I will put it to you, as PPS administration has failed to make any sense of this issue to classroom teachers: HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? How can any teacher look at this as fair? How can any teacher look at the true efforts of a kid who works hard and only gets 'C' scores and then at the kid who simply puts forth no effort and say to himself, well, they are equal?

Please explain it to me.

Then let's hear from Dr.Barnett about achievement gaps and disparities.

Anonymous said...

By the way, for your information, the school with 18 teachers out in a day (many times even) is your "flagship" school - Allderdice. Allderdice even manages to keep "building spares" (substitutes who automatically report as opposed to being called by sub service) on site every day because of absent teachers. If by some chance they aren't needed to cover classes, they are still paid for the day. And if this is the PPS "flagship", I'd hate to see what the other high schools are like...