April 2009 Archives

From Sacramento, California, we got news this week of a strange new practice. Several high schools and middle schools have organized race-based “heritage” assemblies not to celebrate Black History Month, or Cesar Chavez day, but to promote improved achievement on state tests. According to this report in the Sacramento Bee, one high school held several separate assemblies at the same time; students had to choose between African American, Pacific Islander, and Latino-themed rallies. “Last year we scored the highest percentage increase of any group,” the African American students were told. The school justifies this segregation by citing the need to ...

/> I must confess I am a bit turned off by all the talk about “tough standards.” I am all for high expectations, but I became a teacher to share joy and creativity with students, not to be a taskmaster. Sometimes a bit of tough love is needed, but how can we get back to the real basics, the joy of learning something new? My colleague (and music teacher) Nancy Flanagan wrote recently about the value of creativity. Even without a randomized trial evaluating the precise measurable impact of strategies designed to expand thinking-- isn't it worth the attempt to create ...

And should teachers encourage them to do so? Do you remember Carl Chew? He is a teacher in the state of Washington who became famous last Spring when he refused to administer the state achievement test (WASL) to his 6th grade students. Chew was suspended for two weeks as a result of his action. This week he turned the spotlight on efforts to get parents to “opt out” of the state test. He writes: There is one powerful group in Washington though with a legal means to end the WASL and suffer no retribution, and that is parents. If even ...

In gang and prison culture, there are no elected leaders. Instead, whoever has the muscle and political savvy to gain power becomes the one in charge. These people are referred to as the "shot-callers," because they make the important decisions. It seems to me that in American education, in spite of all our hopes about the change Obama may bring, we may be continuing to move towards a culture in which powerful figures call the shots. Case in point: the news this week that Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that mayors should take control of big-city school districts where ...


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