Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New Teacher Loan forgiveness....Check this out!

Hello readers! Polski3 hopes your summer is going along nicely. Here is something that may be of interest to you newer teachers who have student loans, ( I found this on AOL, but it is all here for your convenience )

Financial Aid Incentives for Teachers
By Tamar Snyder

Just the thought of paying down more than $15,000 in student loans left Sonia Kunze feeling panicky. Before she was hired full-time, the 36-year-old teacher was a substitute at a local school in Iowa and was having a hard time coming up with the $150 monthly payment. She trolled the Internet looking for a solution and came across sites advertising loan forgiveness programs for teachers.

Unbeknownst to many current and aspiring teachers, Uncle Sam is prepared to foot some -- or all -- of your education bill as long as you're working in a high-priority subject area such as math, science, or special education, or willing to teach in a low-income school district.

"At first I didn't think I qualified because I didn't have a full-time job," Sonia said.

In August 2004, Sonia was hired full-time as an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher. But she still had a hard time coming up with that monthly payment. Desperation led her to call up the Iowa Student Loan hotline. A student loan specialist there determined that she qualified for $17,500 in loan forgiveness, since ELL is a shortage area. The woman talked her through the process and encouraged her to file for deferment on her loans until she finishes her five-year stint and officially qualified to have her student loans forgiven. She hasn't made a single payment since -- and probably never will.

"It was a complicated process, but man was it worth it," said Sonia, who is counting down the two-and-a-half years until she'll be debt free.

Unfortunately, Sonia can't reclaim the hard-earned money she had been mailing to the loan company each month before learning that she qualified for loan forgiveness.

"I wish the financial aid office at my college could have helped more," she said. "Every beginning teacher would know about this."

For her own part, Sonia is spreading the word. She posted flyers in the teachers' lounge highlighting loan forgiveness programs and has spread the word to colleagues. Even if you don't think you qualify, you owe it to yourself to make that call, she tells them. Many fellow teachers come back and thank her, saying they would never have guessed they qualified for loan forgiveness had she not encouraged them to check it out.

"People say teachers don't make any money," she said. "Well, this helps."

Since the program began, more than $106,841,868 -- about 18,742 teacher loans -- have been forgiven, according to United States Department of Education statistics.

"The social benefit is worth the cost of the program," said Sam Wilson, assistant vice president of customer assistance at Texas Guaranteed, the nation's fourth largest loan guarantor, which has eased the burden for 1,039 teachers by forgiving $6,490,000 in loans. "It's a fairly large incentive for teachers."

Low-Income Schools

The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (HERA), signed into law by President Bush in February 2006, removed deadlines for loan forgiveness available to highly qualified teachers in high-poverty districts. Now, full-time teachers working in elementary and secondary schools located in low-income communities may qualify for several federal loan forgiveness benefits indefinitely.

"Recruiting and retaining qualified professionals is key to ensuring the basic right of every child to attend a great public school," says National Education Association President Reg Weaver. "Discounts on gym memberships, housing incentives, bonuses, and loan forgiveness let teachers know that they, as well as their hard work and dedication, are valued." Over a five-year period, Perkins Loan borrowers can have their loans wiped out in full -- 15 percent for the first and second years of teaching, 20 percent for the third and fourth and 30 percent for the fifth.

Teachers in low-income school districts may also qualify for a $5,000 reduction on their Federal Stafford Loans. To qualify, they must have borrowed the money after Oct. 1, 1998, and taught for five consecutive years.

Low-income schools are defined by the Department of Education as schools where children from low-income households make up more than 30 percent of enrollment. To determine whether your school is designated as a "low-income school," contact your state education agency or visit the DOE's online database.

HERA also allows nonprofit private school teachers to qualify for loan forgiveness. Teachers must pass grade-level and subject-matter competency exams.

Teaching in a Shortage Area

If you're teaching full time in a subject area that has a shortage of teachers -- including math, science, and foreign languages -- you may be eligible for full cancellation of your Federal Perkins Loan. Check with your local school system or state education agency to find out if your subject area has a teacher shortage.

The Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act passed in 2004 increased loan forgiveness by $12,500 to help ease shortages of teachers in certain subject areas. Now, elementary and secondary school teachers who first borrowed money after Oct. 1, 1998 (but before Oct. 1, 2005) may be eligible for up to $17,500 in Federal Stafford Loan forgiveness. To qualify, the teacher must be "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind standards, and have worked as a full-time teacher for five consecutive years.

An increasingly high number of states offer state-specific loan forgiveness programs, according to the Lumina Foundation of Education, whose most recent count included 43 states with such programs. Mississippi teachers, for example, are eligible for $3,000 forgiveness on their loans as long as they hold an Alternate Route Teaching License and are teaching in a shortage area. The deadline for the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program (MTLR) is March 31. For additional information, visit www.ihl.state.ms.us or call (601) 432-6997.

Special Education Teachers

Full-time special education teachers who work with children with disabilities may also qualify for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness on their Federal Stafford Loans. And special education teachers who took out loans after July 23, 1992 may be entitled to have 100 percent of their Perkins Loans wiped out.

How to Apply

Loan forgiveness -- and a debt-free future -- may just be a phone call away. Before anything else, call or visit your alma mater?s financial aid office to find out whether you qualify. The DOE also runs an informational hot line called the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC), which can be reached by dialing (800) 433-3243.

"We advise teachers to speak with the financial aid office at the school where the loan was taken out," said Derek Jones, a customer service representative for federal student aid information center. Jones also refers hot-line callers to the government's student financial aid Web site.

Among other helpful suggestions:
• Loans are sold like mortgages today, so be sure to find out who is currently holding your loan. "If your loan was purchased because it went into default or you consolidated, it may not be the original lender," Jones said.
• The Loan Forgiveness Directory is a comprehensive guide to more than 200 federal and state agencies, employers, schools and colleges offering loan forgiveness programs. Eligibility requirements, award amounts, and application procedures are listed as well.
• The American Federation of Teachers maintains a list of loan forgiveness and teacher scholarships programs.
• When filling out the correct loan forgiveness application, be sure to have either your principal or superintendent certify and sign the document. "My biggest tip is that the personnel administrator at the school is not the certifying official; the principal is," said Sam Wilson.
• Don't forget the IRS. If the amount forgiven on your loan exceeds $600, it may be considered taxable income that must be reported to the IRS. Individual states treat loan forgiveness differently, so consult a licensed tax professional. (Pennsylvania, for example, does not treat loan forgiveness as taxable income.

Hope this helps some of you. Thanks for reading my blog!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter about Re-Authorization of NCLB

Here is my letter to many of our Congressional representatives regarding the re-authorization of NCLB.

Dear Representative XYZ,

I am writing to you regarding the re-authorization of the legislature regarding “No Child Left Behind” ( sorry, I could not find a HR number for this legislature). I am writing to you as a parent of two children and as a teacher.

In my opinion, as a parent, my sons are being left behind by the Federal mandates of NCLB. My wife and I have two very bright sons who are entering grades 5 and 7. Both are super readers and have consistently brought home excellent reports on their report cards, are honored repeatedly as “students of the month” at their schools and are among the top readers in their school’s Accelerated Reader Program. However, they are being left behind because they are not being taught much about history, science, art, music or Physical Education at their public elementary school. We have always requested the best teachers for our sons, but their teachers are academically handcuffed by district office mandates to spend the vast bulk of their teaching time teaching only the Language Arts and Mathematics programs that the district office has selected. These fine teachers do not have the flexibility or freedom to teach in the best interest of the students enrolled in their classes. If they do teach any history, science, art, music or PE., they are limited to an occasional bit of left-over time. I have “complained” several times regarding this to school district officials; their reply has always been that “teaching these subjects is part of the curriculum for their schools”. This is true; on paper. The fact is, my sons are not getting the opportunity to learn the state curriculum for their grade levels in history or science or any other non-tested academic discipline. This is all due to NCLB requirements to only judge schools by their test scores in English and mathematics. We live in a high minority, low socio-economic part of California (Imperial County), and do not have viable choices of private school educational opportunities for our sons. Even though my sons are eligible for the GATE program, they do not participate in this program because that would require a change of schools; they would have to attend a school on the other side of town that has much lower test scores. The school district does this in an effort to boost the test scores of their lowest performing schools. And this is grossly unfair to my bright sons and the other bright children of this town who are denied educational opportunities because of their intelligence and because they live in a town with poor test scores.

As a teacher with over 21 years in public school secondary-level classrooms, I have seen a steady erosion of the basic academic knowledge my students possess when they arrive to my Grade 7 World History classes. . They know next to nothing about early US History, which they were supposed to be taught in Grade 5. They have never had the opportunity to learn about the Greeks and Romans in Grade 6 as directed by California State Educational Standards. When I ask them about this, their usual reply is “We only did English and Math.” I believe that this lack of Social Studies/History education will lead to more people with little or no knowledge of our own national history, of the many accomplishments and events that make up the history of our world and perhaps even worse, a generation of Americans who don’t care or who do not have any interest in their country or its government.

I also believe, "fairness" is supposed to be a basic tenet of America. I believe it is so unfair for NCLB to put the entire burden on the schools and teachers, to not including any accountability for students, their families or the edubureaucrats at the State Offices of Education. Schools and teachers can only do so much to alleviate many years of parental neglect and disinterest in the education of their children. It takes the school, teachers, parents, students and community to educate a child. In recent years, I have seen an increase in student apathy toward their education. For some, it is being bored with the constant hammering to pass the test and a curriculum limited to mostly English and Mathematics. For some, it is due to social promotion and increasing frustration that they are academically “behind” many of their peers. Yet, NCLB, like too many Federally mandated programs from Washington, is grossly underfunded in what it asks States/Schools/Teachers to do.

To sum up my letter to you regarding the re-authorization of NCLB, I would encourage you to include a more rounded academic picture of our students by including an emphasis in State Standards for History and Science. I would encourage you to include fair evaluation of test scores by judging students as they individually progress, not judging them by those who came the year prior to them. (FYI: Our 2007 seventh graders are judged by the scores of the 2006 seventh graders; in my opinion, this is like comparing apples to kiwifruits) and it is not fair or a true measure of student progress. I would encourage you to take measures to ensure that the brightest of our students are not left behind because of the constant emphasis on testing and a stifling, limited curriculum of English and Mathematics. Please note that I saw none of these concerns addressed in the January 2007, "Building on Results (of NCLB) document from Secretary of Education Spellings.

I am eager to hear back from you regarding your thoughts pertaining to this letter.
Thank You.



I am sending it to higher ranked Education Committee members in the Senate and House, as well as several representatives from here in California.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Summer school....No Thanks

I have never taught summer school. I do not understand why someone want to teach a class of 40-45 low achieving, poor attitude students for over four hours a day, without a break, for about one-third to one-fourth of your normal teacher pay. This is what teachers who signed up to teach summer school in my district have to look forward to. I just hope whoever is using my classroom keeps their students in line and my classroom is not too trashed out when I get back in August.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The future is Third-World

In a recent column by the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters, he discusses the "triple blow facing California". Walter's commentary discusses the facts regarding the future problems looming for the state of California due to a lack of workers with skills needed to help our state (or any other state), maintain a healthy economy. It talks about the upcoming retirement of our higher skilled "baby boomer" workforce, and that, (to me, THIS is the scary part) "A HUGE PERCENT OF CALIFORNIA'S TEENAGE AND 20-SOMETHING POPULATION, ESPECIALLY NONWHITES AND THOSE FROM IMMIGRANT FAMILIES, ARE NOT RECEIVING THE EDUCATIONS THEY NEED TO FILL THE DEMAND".

IMO, this is scary because it implies that there is a deficit in the educational system that is keeping these young people from receiving the education they need. I don't think so. I believe they do have the opportunity to receive the education they, BUT, tragically, they fail to take advantage of it. IMO, this is in part because far too many of them suffer from a bad/poor attitude regarding education. Look what happens to those students who do take advantage of the educational opportunities offered to them; they go on to live better quality lives because that is part of the wonderful thing about education. People with a good education usually don't end up working two to three minimum wage paying jobs to try to earn enough to have a nice place to live and food to eat.

Secondly, From my experiences teaching in low socio-economic communities, too many parents use the excuse of not knowing or understanding the educational system and opportunities available to their families, they blame their lack of English language skills for their not even bothering to try to learn how the educational system works, how to parent their children. to teach their children how to behave properly or they use the excuse that "that's not the way it worked wherever they came from". A few, over the years, have blamed their children's teachers as being "racist" as the reason their child fails classes. Apparently,to these parents, their child's failure to do their school work and failing their tests is not a factor in school success.

I believe Governor Schwartzenegger was correct in his recent answer to a question about improving education for Spanish-speaking students,when he said Spanish speaking immigrants (who are the vast majority of immigrants in California), need to turn off their Spanish-language TV programs, not read Spanish-language newspapers and books, and LEARN ENGLISH. It has been demonstrated over and over again, that English language skills improve ones ability to get a good education and better paying jobs. (But, this harms the power of the bilingual lobby, but that's not the focus of this post.)

I have never taught summer school. Since I have been teaching, I have never had to find a "summer job". In my earlier teaching days, I often attended summer school to help improve my ability as a teacher and to earn a living. I save a big chunk of each of my ten paychecks so that I can pay my living expenses during the roughly three months until my next paycheck. And, we often are able to get away from home for a short while, not nearly as much as I would like, but supporting a home with four people on a teacher paycheck is the life choice we made. And to the detriment of our country, far too many young people are making the wrong choices in not grabbing the educational opportunities they are offered. California and the USA will be poorer for it.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Its OVER, for now.

Got paid today. Last paycheck until September 28. Got signed out of my classroom. Got a bunch of papers run off that I use to start the school year.....student data forms, class requirements, Daily Homework suggestions and a few other things that I seem to use year after year......

Summer Break is here. And today is about 108 degrees outside. I just hope whoever is inhabiting my classroom for summer school controls their students and doesn't allow them to dig around in my materials, grind chips and god-knows-what into my carpet, spill sodas or whatever on the carpet or like happened last year, steal all my chalkboard erasers.

Summer break is here. Summer break is here. Summer break is here.

Thanks for reading this.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Headbanging Part XXI

The end of this teaching season is almost upon me. There are officially two and three fifths of a day left to deal with my current crop of students. My feelings for this group are as yet undetermined, but right now, I am leaning on the fact that this group did not seem to be as fun to teach as groups of students I have had in prior years......but in the end, they will probably mesh into that goulash of thousands of young people to enter and pass through my classroom on their journey to where ever life and their own initiative takes them.

And again, I bang my head on the brick wall. Again, just like year after year, I question our administrators as to why grades for grade seven students must be turned in two weeks before the end of school. And I hear the same reason/excuse; with the report card system we have, all grade levels must be turned in at the same time, and we have to know which grade eighters might not be eligible for attending the Grade 8 promotion service. Can they split the grades and turn in grades separately with our report card system? I don't know. Nor afaik, has administration even inquired about this. IMO, there is absolutely no harm in asking the people involved in the report card system for two turn in dates. BANG MY HEAD.

And, I am trying to teach until the next to last day of school. Testing was over weeks ago. Grades have been turned in. Some other teachers, I am told by students and some other teachers, are just showing videos. I collected a project on Thursday. Yesterday and today were readings and discussions on the Magna Carta, legal rights of individuals and its links to our great US Constitution. Monday and Tuesday will be reading a "Choosing Your Way Through History" story about the Black Death, a "Spread of the Black Death" Map Activity and a video clip about a girl in Utah who caught the Plague. So many Standards, So little Time to teach them adequately. I attempt to teach even though we have music concerts by our band, orchestra and chorus, students being pulled out of classes unannounced for an unexplained-to-us-teachers session about the College-going program our school adopted, an all-day-away-from-school swim party for a few students, yearbook distribution and everything that slinks into that, short classes for 7th Graders because of 8th Grade Promotion Practice (for the 3/5's of our 8th Graders who qualified to attend this service). BANG MY HEAD.

I also have to be out of my classroom by Friday, because my classroom will be used for summer school. So, if I care about my personal stuff, I have to remove it and haul it home. And hope whoever uses my classroom does not do like someone did in years past and leave me the remains of their classroom partying, stealing my carefully hoarded teaching supplies or letting their students rummage in my stuff.
I can't really bang my head over this because legally, it is the school's property and they can do with it as they see fit. But you teachers know how it is when someone comes in and abuses your teaching space.

Are you a head banger? Let us know.

Thanks for reading my blog.