There can be community-building value in fund-raising for educational needs. The backside of all that generosity, however, is the fact that people want to donate their money in targeted ways, and they want to feel good about their own munificence. Here's a short list of things people don't want to spend money on: Special education. Textbooks. Teacher salaries and benefits. Fixing the leaky school roof. New, safer tires for buses.
MI journalist Tim Skubick blasts weak-sister school music teachers who reject competition, suggesting that public ranking of ability is a fine old academic tradition, grumbling like your cranky old neighbor about giving every little Tom, Dick and Harriet an undeserved blue ribbon. You've read hundreds of columns like this, haven't you? Our Soft and Failing Youth, an evergreen theme for curmudgeons.
The level of take-sides aggression over education policy has come to an interesting place. You can't tell the players without a scorecard, in spite of partisan affiliation, union membership or aversion, the spokesperson's genuine level of expertise and experience around the policy in question--or whether someone is paying for their "opinion."
In a startling new development, the Education Achievement Authority (which lost a quarter of its students in the first year of operation) is now trying to entice students using outright deceit. They sent letters to families in surrounding, non-EAA public school districts titled "Confirmation of 2014-15 School Assignment." The letter begins: We are very happy to inform you that your child has been selected to enroll in the following EAA school for the 2014-15 school year...
In my experience, teachers routinely neglect their own health and their families in order to show up at school consistently, because they see, every hour of the day, the value of their own work. I am not referring here to the attendance records of young, healthy, enthusiastic, two-year entrepreneurial teachers in charter schools who have put off child-bearing until their leadership trajectory is established--the folks Teach for America Veep Raegen Miller seems to be ambiguously suggesting form the desirable "professional cultures" that save schools "real money."
We cannot approach teaching as an opportunity for inspiration and imagination until some core building blocks around pedagogy and content expertise are in place. Autonomy and respect, yes. But only when mastery and purpose are also in place.
Why is the second-largest daily newspaper in Michigan buying into what is obviously high-grade baloney? As "big teaching experiments" go, the 100-kid kindergarten is not based on anything resembling quality research on early childhood education. It's 100% propaganda. There were 50+ comments on the Free Press article this morning, and not a single one whole-heartedly endorsed MOOKs (Massive Outrageous One-room Kindergartens).
There's plenty to write about how the Race to the Top is playing out: the Common Core State Standards debacle, millions spent to develop "better" teacher evaluations which show that most teachers are doing a pretty job, policies that have brought us more charter school corruption. But from a teacher perspective, the most striking aspect has been the aggressive federal intrusion into state policy and even the classroom.
There really isn't any substitute for experience or short cut to proficiency. This shouldn't be surprising. All jobs and professions involve craft knowledge. You can't be a good bartender, minister, welder or surgeon without practice and learning from your screw-ups. Why should teaching be any different?
When practitioners aren't allowed to openly share their critical perspectives, they lose the ability to speak their own truths and use first-hand experience as a lever for change.