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January 30, 2013

Gerald Coles: Education in Obama's Second Term: What Lies Ahead?

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, Jr. would have worked to achieve.

January 27, 2013

School Choice Week: Are We Leaving Children Behind by Design?

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.

January 24, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown Decries Testing: "Distant Authorities Crack the Whip"

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:

December 18, 2012

NEA and AFT: Let's Apply the Lessons of NCLB to the Common Core

Our two major unions are one of the best vehicles teachers have for communicating with the public. Teachers have gotten on board with efforts to raise standards in the past, but we have to have our eyes wide open this time. There is going to be a major publicity campaign associated with the results we will get from the Common Core assessments. This will be yet another iteration of the wails we heard with the release of the Nation at Risk report in 1983. We have got to be prepared to mount a robust defense of the very institution of public education. Tests associated with the Common Core are going to be used to discredit our schools. We must be ready to respond.

December 17, 2012

John Thompson: Diane Ravitch and the Long View of School Reform

Guest post by John Thompson. Near the end of David Denby's New Yorker profile of Diane Ravitch (Public Defender), Denby quotes Ravitch saying, "If the testing vampire is slain, the whole facade of faux reform collapses. No test scores, no merit pay, no closing of schools by test scores." Should...

December 02, 2012

Algebra For All Yields Failure for Many

If we follow the pattern of NCLB, we will declare these unsuccessful students, their schools and teachers to be failures once again. But if we can LEARN from failure, we will back up and look at how we can restructure math instruction in middle school and earlier so that these students can truly achieve at high levels. We will look at smaller class sizes, earlier interventions, and programs that address the health, safety and security of our children. We will look at how to retain well-prepared teachers of math, and strengthen professional development so that we are all learning together. We will not expect new standards, even the Common Core, to do this heavy lifting for us. It won't be easy or cheap, but that is what REAL reform looks like.

November 25, 2012

John Thompson: Are Conservative "Reformers" Bailing Out?

Guest post by John Thompson. Perhaps because they demonstrably lost the 2012 election, conservative school "reformers" are being much more candid about why bubble-in accountability has failed. A month ago, conservatives were united in their support of Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett, Idaho's "...

November 21, 2012

Teachers and Parents: Natural Allies in Defending Our Schools

Wherever the "reformers" are working to divide us, we need counter campaigns aimed at strengthening our unity. We need to make sure less experienced teachers understand the value of due process, and the reasons we object to "data-driven" evaluations and pay systems. We need to develop social and educational activities that bring generations of teachers together, so they recognize how much they have to learn from one another, and how much better they can be when they support one another and work together. We need serious outreach efforts to communicate with parents, both urban and suburban. Our public schools are community treasures, and they must be guarded by all of us working together.

November 20, 2012

How do You Defeat an Army of Determined Educators? You Don't!

These schools are struggling - they are hamstrung by the relentless pressure to raise test scores, and the budget cuts that close libraries and cut essential student services. But we need a campaign to highlight the efforts being made every day by our determined army of educators. We are on the real front lines, in schools like Highland Academy in Oakland and the democratically controlled schools in Chicago, and a thousand other schools in communities across the country. The "reformers" have decided that we are the obstacles to their grand vision - the transformation of our schools using the miracle of the marketplace and the heavy club of high stakes tests. And we are, because we have an entirely different vision. We envision schools that are well-supported and connected to their communities. We envision schools where student learning is displayed and celebrated in all sorts of ways, not just through high stakes tests.

November 15, 2012

John Thompson: Baseball Analogies Prone to Errors

Guest post by John Thompson. Chad Alderman's "If the Yankees Used 'First-In, Last-Out'..." is much too typical of the contemporary school "reform" movement. Like so many accountability hawks, Alderman loves to expound on topics that he knows well, but he reveals very little understanding of real l...

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