January 2013 Archives

I have become increasingly concerned that public education in the United States is seen as a private commodity rather than a public good. Too often, value is defined as something that I have and you don't, if we both have it, it can't possibly be valuable, regardless of what the "product" actually is. The current achievement disparity between different groups of students is not only a moral imperative, it's an economic one. If we don't better serve children that are poor, African-American, differently-abled, Latino, immigrant or English Language Learners, our economy will greatly suffer because the tax base will decline ...


In the president's inaugural speech, the few signs of his thinking about education and poverty offer no hope that policy in the next four years will differ from the last four. Bleak poverty will continue, education will be constrained within the boundaries of educating to "compete in the global economy," the curriculum will be narrowly crafted toward that goal, corporate attacks on the public schools will be promoted through more support of privatized alternatives, and the president will continue to regard charter schools as "incubators of innovation". It will be in stark contrast to the schooling that Martin Luther King, ...


But the marketplace and the drive for profits are proving to be very poor at delivering equitable outcomes for many of our students. Why is this? Perhaps the very design of these school choice systems allows - even promotes - the systematic abandonment of students with lower levels of motivation and parental support.


In today's State of the State speech, California Governor Jerry Brown continued to blaze a path in a new direction on education reform. He explicitly rejected the dominant reform paradigm which closely manages schools through test scores, and embraced local control, which he argued for using a concept called "subsidiarity." He also called for funding that recognizes the burdens poverty imposes on schools. Here is what he said:


What would have happened if the Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) research had been conducted before the "Billionaires Boys Club's" preferences were codified into law in Race to the Top and the Department of Education's NCLB waiver requirements? How would their final report, "Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching," read if its findings were reported before value-added evaluations were imposed on the nation's schools? Even if the same researchers had used the same methodology and made identical findings, how would that evidence have been presented?


You may have heard recently about a 19 year old activist who has been shaking things up in Louisiana. Zack Kopplin cares about science, and when creationists attempted to sway the science textbook process in 2010, he got involved. More recently he has been fighting the diversion of public funds to schools that teach creationism. I asked him to share a bit about his work.


Last week there were two important studies released. One tells us that the international test data used to declare our schools broken and uncompetitive is bogus. The other tells us we have a very different crisis we should be concerned about: the percent of students who are engaged and excited about school drops dramatically between elementary and high school. The policies being pursued to fight the first, phony crisis are likely to be making our real crisis in student engagement worse.


Local school board races used to be small town affairs. But recently, as money has flowed into education reform across the country, we have seen local races take on national significance. And StudentsFirst clearly cares about the outcome of this local election, right in Michelle Rhee's back yard. The only real antidote to well-funded astroturf operations like StudentsFirst is real grassroots activism. And fortunately, in West Sacramento, voters will have a real educator to vote for. A National Board certified teacher, Sarah Kirby-Gonzales, has stepped forward to run. I worked with Ms. Kirby-Gonzales on a writing project several years ago, ...


The Detroit Free Press's Chastity Pratt Dawson reports that the decline in Detroit's overall school population has increased the percentages of its special education students, making it harder to meet high-stakes accountability goals. The percentage of students on IEPs has increased from 14% to over 18% since 2005. In Michigan, 12% of all students and 10% of charter school students are on IEPs.


Let us hope this new year will allow us to exorcize the ghosts of worthless reforms like VAM-based teacher evaluations. Let us hope we have an honest debate over the need for schools that serve all our students well, rather than lifeboats for the lucky or virtuous. Let us hope for journalists willing to dig and risk censure by the powerful. And let us act to support our fellow teachers taking a stand in Washington, and let us get ourselves organized to push back, from the grassroots, against all the top-down, billionaire-backed reform that threatens our schools.


I would like to see reporting from the ground about how state or federal policies are changing the student experience for the better or for the worse. I would also like to see students write "how to do" pieces about studying for college entrance exams, writing admissions essays, etc. I want the site to be fully inclusive of the entire student experience. I would love to see students writing reviews about books/documentaries, etc. There are a lot of materials aimed at students but most of the reviews seem to be coming from adults, not students who are the users. ...


many undocumented youth only first learn of their status in high school, when they have to fill out applications for internships, summer jobs, or college admission. Unable to provide a Social Security number for the applications, their parents are forced to explain the situation to them, often for the first time. By the time they learn they are undocumented, many have been socialized in the United States where, having had legal access to schools, they develop a strong sense of belonging. This finding parallels a study of undocumented youth in Los Angeles, where the realization of their undocumented status affected ...


This vision of schooling is what the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike to create. It is indeed possible to achieve this seemingly utopian model of education. The CTU has discovered numerous ways to create the schools all children deserve. We can increase funding. We can fight to ensure the funding we currently have is directed towards the neediest children, NOT wasted on testing, data systems, complicated, flawed, and unnecessary new evaluation systems, and the agendas of the politically connected. We can fight poverty. We can call attention to the very real effects of poverty on our students' lives. But ...


is it possible to fight for a system that leaves no children behind, which promotes equity and equal opportunity to ALL? Can we commit to spending the MOST resources on the neediest children to address safety and learning issues? Can we commit to addressing the underlying poverty which creates so many of the behavior, learning, and safety issues in schools? Can we commit to ensuring that no matter where you live, you will have a well-kept, EQUITABLY resourced (more resources for needier schools), properly staffed school, complete with access to libraries, up-to-date technology, social workers, counselors, and foreign language, arts, ...


Guest post by John Thompson. Most teachers who I know would heartily endorse Rick Hess's top two blog hits of 2012. Common Core is likely to join the DeLorean automobile on the ash heap of history. And rather than viewing technology as a "miraculous balm," it should be seen more like Hamburger Helper." Education loves those sorts of quick fixes but, as the year's third top post observes, successes that produce great schools (like those in Finland) grow out of cultural values, including those that "lead to big differences in youth behavior" or that are enhanced by two-parent families. Teachers ...


We have a very real debate on our hands. There are big differences in the solutions being proposed. We do not need to be uncivil or rude, but we need to be crystal clear about what is happening to our public schools, before they are completely destroyed by the policies now being pursued. And we need to be equally clear about the positive alternatives to these policies, so we can push for them in every community in the nation. Let us make 2013 the year these issues are fully discussed and debated, and let us make this the year we ...


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