April 2010 Archives

Dear Diane, Where are the tea-partiers when I need them? Debate about revising ESEA is truly irrelevant—key changes have been put into place without anyone voting on anything! No single departmental decision has ever been made that so invades what was once considered wholly local powers than the Race to the Top. (Except, of course, going to war without authorization on occasion.) I was reminded of this by a piece FairTest sent me: "Did Congress Authorize Race to the Top?" by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst in Education Week. It deserves attention, but it's hard to know whether any education...


Dear Deborah, I am just back from travels that started in Boston, moved on to Chicago, then to Los Angeles and San Francisco. This week I will be in Dallas and Denver. Wherever I go, I meet many teachers who say virtually the same thing: They have never been more demoralized in their professional lives. They feel that they are scapegoats for everything that is wrong in American education. Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, even more than Margaret Spellings and George W. Bush, are giving credibility to the idea that 100 percent of students should be proficient, that teachers are ...


Dear Diane, Last Saturday's event—"Remapping Progressive Education"—was great. Someone remarked as I went into the auditorium to start the first session that they felt they had died and gone to heaven—seeing all their old colleagues from so many years ago. But there were far more young colleagues. And that was unexpected. The major speakers were terrific (UFT's Mike Mulgrew, NYU's Pedro Noguera, The Daily News' Juan Gonzalez and City University of New York's Michelle Fine); all 45 a.m. and p.m. workshops seemed to have been a success. And the awards to former alternative ...


Dear Deborah, As I write this, I am concluding a week of book-touring, and what a week it has been! I started in Chicago, where I spoke at DePaul University, the University of Illinois, Catalyst, and the National School Boards Association. At NSBA, I was in a concurrent session, but well over 1,000 people showed up, and security guards closed the doors when there were no more chairs. I flew to California and spoke at UCLA, Stanford, and Berkeley. At UCLA, the audience included a large contingent of young teachers from Fremont High School, which is bring "transformed" or "turned...


Dear Diane, I wish you were going to be with us this Saturday as we celebrate the work we have accomplished over the past half-century and figure out how to counter the latest onslaught. Our friend teacherken quotes Les Leopold's question in his recent blog. "Why Are 25 Hedge Fund Managers Worth 658,000 teachers?" "That money could have hired 658,000 entry level teachers...with benefits." The wealthy will have placed an estimated $2 trillion into hedge funds by the end of this year, while schools experience cutbacks everywhere. "That's about $6,500 for every man, woman and child ...


Dear Deborah, In my book I argue that No Child Left Behind was a failed strategy. We both know the reasons why. It narrowed the curriculum; it introduced a culture of testing and test prepping into the nation's schools; it represented an unprecedented extension of federal control into the nation's schools; it required teaching to what are admittedly inadequate tests; it demanded an unrealistic goal of 100 percent proficiency for all children in all groups; it encouraged states to inflate their scores; it promoted cheating and gaming the system; and it harmed public education because no state was able to ...


Dear Diane, Here's an essential question: When trying to get at the truth of things, what role do data play? Most of the time our "habits" take over before we can exercise any form of reflective judgment (which is why John Dewey focused on "habits of mind" as the goal of good schools). Habits are slow growing so slowing things down could help. It takes a "leisure class" to rule well. Leisure has a democratic purpose because "data" rarely speak for themselves. That's true whether the data are numbers or observations. Sometimes, highly structured and standardized "observations"—standardized tests—work....


Dear Deborah, Today I am going to cheat. Well, not really cheat, but just deal with the fact that I am hard pressed to find time to do much more than breathe and sleep (I do not include "eat" because I have been skipping meals, and I should not include "sleep" because I don't do much of that either.) I have been lecturing, writing, and traveling nonstop. I am getting, on average, about 100 emails daily from readers of my book, mainly teachers who either say "thank you" or "help." My book appears at #16 on The New York Times ...


Dear Diane, If only everyone stopped using the word "achievement" as a synonym for scores on tests. It's a sleight of hand that justifies so much that's gone wrong. We've meanwhile discounted the work of real live children as "soft" data. Having "normal" temperature may be an indicator of health, but when we think it's the definition of health, beware. We wouldn't be so stupid, would we? A high score on a multiple-choice driving test means something different than a road test driving a car. So we prefer the latter if we value safety. Do we value intellectual achievement less? ...


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