There is a fascinating story in this morning’s New York Times about the struggles of immigrant students who lacked formal education in their countries of origin. The New York public schools are, of course, obligated to accept and educate these students, most of whom cannot read or write in their native language, and must begin at a basic level to build the skills they need. I have seen this first-hand in the Oakland schools as well, where we get students from rural Mexico and Guatemala who may have attended little or no school prior to their arrival. They might ...


In an Oakland elementary school a few weeks back I saw an unusual portrait on the office wall. America’s First Family, it said, and there were Sasha and Malia, Barack and Michelle smiling down at everyone. African American children in this school can look up and see a family that looks like their own honored. But when I think of what the children in these schools face in the coming months, why do I feel a sense of foreboding and dread? It could be because California’s Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed the budget passed by the Democratically controlled legislature ...


When I graduated from high school in the mid 70s, a year early, I had the bare minimum of credits and a GPA just over 3. I went to work in the foundry industry and attended Laney College in Oakland off and on over the next seven years, before being admitted to UC Berkeley in 1982. I wasn’t ready for a UC education at age 17, but I graduated with honors in 1986. This experience is part of the reason I have questioned the wisdom of gearing our high schools to focus on preparing all graduates for admission to ...


Just in time for the new year comes a report from the Children's Defense Fund, detailing the actual conditions of the children of our nation. For many, the conditions are dismal. One in six live in poverty -- that's more than 13 million children across the United States. Almost half that number live in extreme poverty, and nine million lack health insurance. We can be certain these numbers are escalating as the recession intensifies -- stealing away jobs and straining philanthropy. Our nation leads the world in a number of unenviable categories. We are first in the number incarcerated, first ...


This week a friend said I was a bit of a pessimist, and though I didn't like the sound of that, I have to admit he might have a point. Here I am week after week finding things to bemoan; throwing cold water on the idea of college for all, forecasting disaster for school finances, and declaring No Child Left Behind a failure. In my defense, I would say we have hit a pretty rough time, and there is a need for somebody to call out the troubles we are experiencing. But perhaps now that I am over fifty years ...


My late father, Fred Cody, (pictured at right, milking the family cow) was born more than 90 years ago in Scott’s Run, West Virginia, a coal hollow in Monongalia County. His mother, a high school graduate, taught school there in a one room schoolhouse. Following his service in World War II, he was able to complete his PhD at the University of London thanks to the GI Bill. He would never have had that chance were it not for the generosity and foresight of the taxpayers. As a result, I have a great affection for the GI Bill. This ...


Barack Obama was elected with a powerful mandate for change. Teachers are excited because we will soon have an administration that has pledged to reform No Child Left Behind, allowing for a broader range of assessments and less emphasis on standardized test scores. He has promised a high priority for early childhood education, and called for greater investment in high needs schools. But as I have described in earlier posts, he has not clung to any particular brand of ideologically driven thinking. He has spoken in favor of merit pay for teachers, and advocates expanded support for charter schools. Now ...


I have been impressed by President-elect Obama’s pledge to steer clear of ideologically-driven policies, and instead choose to make policy based on the best ideas, regardless of their origin or political correctness. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the hot-button issue of assessment. From former test-scorer Todd Farley comes a confession that the test scores by which our schools are judged are less than reliable. Mr. Farley worked scoring the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which calls itself nothing less than “The Nation’s Report Card.” He writes: There’s not enough column space in this ...


We are seeing a cathartic and disruptive economic realignment occur before our very eyes. Our auto industry has failed to anticipate shifting demands, and is now in a very difficult position. The industry sold 16 million cars last year, and will only sell 12 million this year. The challenge the industry faces is that what they have become accustomed to doing no longer works. The rest of us are also in for an economic storm of monumental proportions. As teachers, we may feel a bit less vulnerable than people in other sectors, but we are not immune. The source of ...


There has been a great deal of speculation about President-elect Obama’s choice for Secretary of Education. Obama has called for a new era of mutual responsibility in education, and it will take an extraordinary leader to rally educators and the nation at large to this task. Many names have been mentioned, but I am going to write about two with whom I am acquainted, and open up the discussion for your ideas as well. One candidate is Dr. Pedro Noguera. I attended UC Berkeley with Dr. Noguera back in the 1980’s, and worked with him on various projects, ...


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