These buildings aren't just schools, they're touchstones. They're testaments to our local values. The Friday night lights that have illuminated our skies for decades, the school gyms that have echoed with play since the Greatest Generation was young--these aren't monuments to sports. They're monuments to community. They're beacons of our local control, of the togetherness we cherish in our hometowns and city neighborhoods. We don't want education fads imposed on us by Austin or, even worse, out-of-state billionaires.


One does not need to be a "conspiracy theorist" to connect the dots here. We have a local school board race that has become the focus of a coordinated effort on the part of the wealthy advocates of corporate reform. This is no conspiracy. It is neither secret, nor is it illegal, thanks to rulings like Citizen's United. It is perfectly legal for billionaires to, in effect, buy up local school board races. And it is perfectly legal for them to hire "journalists" to write stories largely sympathetic to their point of view. Fortunately, it is also still legal for ...


The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher is out, and it shows that more than half of all teachers feel under great stress. This relates closely to the number of teachers who describe themselves as "very satisfied," which has fallen to an all-time low, at 39%.


In order for our public schools to thrive they need to have the flexibility to meet the needs of the widest range of students possible. They need adequate funding and the support of their community - and that means we pull together and make sure that our district schools do not become the reservoir of last resort, overburdened with students left behind by charter schools seeking competitive advantages.


we have been told that the only way schools can improve is through "scalable" reforms. What does that mean? It means that whenever we come up with some great initiative, the only way it can make a difference is if it can be packaged and replicated. There is certainly value in sharing great models, and many can be built upon and re-created anew. But I believe there is an underlying bias towards uniform solutions that are packaged and sold as innovations.


But it's not just the every day pressures that are getting to our teachers. Teaching is a highly interpersonal profession and constantly engaging in relationships means that teachers are always at the intersection of two or more histories of positive and negative experiences coloring each individual's thoughts, feelings, and actions. Negotiating these interpersonal dynamics can put a drain on anyone. But for teachers, every moment is all about relationships. Whether interacting with a student, fellow teacher, parent, or administrator - it's inescapable. And when we expect our teachers to be, not only instructional leaders, but sometimes counselors, parents, mentor-figures to ...


Schools today are seeing an unprecedented expansion of federally-driven accountability practices. In addition to annual high stakes standardized tests, more and more students now take interim assessments for use in teacher evaluations, mandated by NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants. Soon we will have beginning of the year as well as spring testing so we can precisely measure growth. Common Core national standards will soon deliver standards-aligned curriculum and tests to thousands of schools across the nation. All of this is driven by the need to "hold teachers and schools accountable" for results. The dictionary defines "accountable" as "subject...


Let's think about the pedagogy proposed by Bronson and Merryman. They admit that standardized testing can produce such anxiety that students must subsequently "acclimate to recurring stressors." Parents must sign off on other vaccines but not their kids' "stress inoculation." In an age of "reform," it is up to schools to decide how much to tax children without overwhelming them. They must "then allow for sufficient recovery."


I will accept that the Gates Foundation may not be able to address all of these problems directly. But according to Bill Gates' annual letter, the sheer act of measuring things and setting goals around them has tremendous power. I believe his school reform project is failing in large part because of the error he identified. It has been measuring the wrong things. If the Gates Foundation is unwilling to tackle the scourge of poverty directly, could it at least begin to actively measure and set goals for some of the things identified here?


We could choose to measure other things, of course. The idea of measurement is not useless. The trouble is that some of the things we truly value are harder to measure, and so we devolve back to the simplest metrics - test scores. This is defined as the "outcome" that we desire. But this is only one of a host of outcomes that we actually want for our students. Nothing makes this clearer than the personal decisions made by people with the MOST control over their own children's education. The schools attended by the very wealthy are not chosen for ...


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