The very people who are supposed to be giving us directions are drawing the map as we are driving. We are all at the center of a debate about the true definition of public education. It is a debate that has been going on for decades but the changes that we are presently seeing are unlike any that have come our way in a very long time and it is having a damaging impact on education. Many politicians and corporate reformers believe a public education is about preparing American students to beat out international students. This competition is solely left ...


"It's people not programs." Todd Whitaker On July 1st all public schools in New York State must have safeguards in place for students who are harassed based on race, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, gender, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Will making it a law to safeguard all of these groups change the status quo? Will educators take it all more seriously now that the legislation is in place in schools? Parents send their kids to school to learn. They expect their children to be safe when they walk into their schools. Parents ...


Bullying on the bus... Teasing and torment on the playground... Wear the "right" clothes... Listen to the "right" music... Try to be popular... At a very young age, children have a sense of belonging, which can be both positive and negative. Many students, and some of their parents, believe it's more important to be popular than smart. Some children are sent to school with a lack of respect for authority and for education. The role of the teacher has always been to teach children how to get along at the same time they teach them academics. We only need to ...


Most parents want to know how their children are doing in school. They send them off to school to be safe, engaged and learn how to act socially with peers. Parents go to Open Houses and parent-teacher conferences. Many communicate through e-mail and phone calls. Parents know through their child's progress, projects they bring home, report cards and overall happiness, whether their child is doing well in school. It's through these methods that parents understand whether their child's teacher is effective or not. What makes a teacher effective? It's a fair question. Parents pay taxes and they entrust their children ...


Parental involvement is something administrators, parents and teachers talk about a great deal. Typically, those conversations are done in isolation. Principals talk with teachers and parents talk to one another and some of those conversations are not always positive. Educators fear that parents will try to be involved so much that they will somehow intrude on their creative license and disrupt the educational practice. However, do schools send mixed messages by holding up one hand inviting them in at the same time they hold up the other one preventing them from entering? We know that research shows that students who ...


The reality is that we need to look at this issue as achievement versus growth. Many highly able learners may achieve high grades without ever growing at all. Teaching highly able learners is a topic that we often ignore in education. We discuss how to teach struggling learners and spend a great deal of time discussing how to meet the needs of special education students. However, when parents state that their children are gifted, some teachers (and a few administrators) politely smile and roll their eyes when the parents leave the room. There are a few sad excuses why this ...


"Class size. Standardized testing. The three R's. When most people talk about how to improve education, they tend to focus only on what happens in the classroom. But the most unexpected opportunity to boost learning lies outside the classroom: on the playground at recess" (The State of Play. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Talking about recess and play is a popular topic. It gives us the opportunity to discuss days of old when we were younger, and how our parents told us to leave the house in the morning and never asked us to come back until dinner time. It's a ...


In New York State we have a little over a week left with our students before the summer break. As sad as it is to say goodbye, we have a summer to reflect and get to help another crop of students grow in the fall. Reflection is good for all of us. We can learn from mistakes and relish in our really good ideas that worked well with our students. It's important to reflect not only on the past year, but when we were students as well. Long before computers inhabited our existence to the extent they do today, I ...


Sometimes it's easier to deal with failure when we are the ones responsible, rather than deal with the failure that others seem to be controlling. Recently I interviewed Gregory Maguire, the bestselling author of Wicked and many other great books. He has such an interesting story about growing up in a family that many would think is strict. He was only allowed to watch television for thirty minutes a week because his parents wanted him to spend his time on other ventures like reading, writing and drawing. We all talk about how society has changed or that kids are different ...


"The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day." Todd Whitaker Lately, there has been a lot of debate about what makes a great teacher. We all spend a great deal of time trying to distinguish between the good ones and bad ones. Through new accountability measures, high stakes testing is being used to show whether the best teachers are in the classroom in front of our most important resource, which is our students. Many of us understand that high stakes testing shows one moment ...


The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt's Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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