Education Reform Classified

Cast-Iron-Stomach

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Savior 2.0

Screen Shot 05-22-16 at 04.35 PMIt started with that small firestorm about the Duluth cartoon… canonized at the74 by Derrell Bradford, executive director of NYCAN…  when it became clear that acknowledging the burdens that children come in with is labeling them. And it built up as the #thisteachersees army was mobilized over twitter, and as Derrell Bradford reframed the awareness of the burdens that children come in with, and when he framed acknowledgement of struggle as union teachers seeing children as deficits and using these deficits as excuses not to teach. So, suddenly another line was drawn for what you can do and you can’t, what you may notice and you may not. Who is the good teacher and who is the bad one. Until every burdened child, and every teacher who notes it, became hay in the education wars.  Screen Shot 05-22-16 at 04.34 PM

 

 

Of course, the argument is a strawman.  Acknowledging the burdens that a child comes to school with is not defining them in terms of that burden or making an excuse not to teach them.  It’s an acknowledgement that in front of you sitting in a chair is a whole child with a set of experiences some of which are very hard and those difficult experiences impact learning and a host of things that actually matter if you want to help that child: self confidence, willingness to take risks, experience with healthy choices, amount of sleep the child got the night before, sense of security, trust for adults.Screen Shot 05-22-16 at 04.33 PM

Yet, someone out there seems to think we should ignore such things.. that depicting or thinking about them is not positive.  It’s labeling children as deficits rather than seeing what actually happens to them.

It’s an argument that needs to be unpacked… and with greater care than they unpacked the cartoon which addresses the merest and most obvious fraction of the issues that children may come in with. (No one noted the little sidebar at the bottom that reminds  us that many of our public classrooms are overcrowded with more children in them than seats.)

Screen Shot 05-22-16 at 05.10 PM

“Yo hey”, but they make hay out of it in Reformland.  So, I read Bradford’s article indicting Randi Weingarten for including the cartoon. And, I read as many as I could of the counter narrative #thisteachersees tweets (courtesy of the MinnCAN app).  It was great to read what teachers were seeing about their kids.  But, as they tweeted away in diligent outrage at labels or in resolute cheerfulness about their young engineers, artists, comedians, and poets… I admit I also felt a strong desire to slap someone.  It wasn’t because of what they were saying: #thisteachersees.  That was not what was unwonderful.  It’s just that in context, the real hashtag is what #thisteacherchoosestosee. Maybe a real evolution is not curating at all.

I want to see what is there.  There’s a beating life behind the eyes of every child in front of every teacher and knowing a little about that life in it’s full complexity is not an excuse not to teach them or inability to see their beauty; neither is it a label.  Rather, it is a meaningful understanding about what hinders and helps children. It’s explicitly choosing to consider what my students are facing when they aren’t in my presence.  And knowing isn’t just a side gesture that I can dispense with.  It’s important because what I  know informs my ability to see why today might not be a good day, or why that book resonates with that child, or why this topic shouldn’t be explored in the larger class setting.  The real life of the child matters, and it matters for very tangible reasons.

Teachers who get their ideas about what teaching is from CANs seem to be implicitly counseled to view acknowledging a child’s burdens as making excuses not to teach that child.  The  good teacher focuses on student strengths and does not consider the child’s circumstances when teaching them.  That’s the province of weak teachers who make excuses.  Surely, focusing on a child’s strengths is a good thing. Being cheery and positive is a good and healing thing. But, it might also be a feature of the social darwinism of reform.. the grit argument writ large: don’t make excuses, and anything other than bucking up and hunkering down is an excuse. If you are successful, later on you can put your burdens on your resume.  In the meantime, show some grit.

That agreement not to see, to turn resolutely away from the full context of a child’s life, to arm them with grit but no background works perfectly with the no context Common Core and with the reform movement generally.  Everything is reducible in Reformland.  Toughen up for the New Normal. We’ll remove context.. context about what worked before, context about what we read when we read,  context about our children when we teach them. Context about what we said last week. We will be optimists and amnesiacs. We can test anything that matters, and we can improve anything we test. We will listen to that which we have decided to hear. We will understand that which we have  agreed upon. We will nod in understanding, and our students will be what we see in them.  Our ignorance will be the new Black.

And that brings me full circle to thoughts about my own contexts.  On the outside, I have always assumed that in some ways I am similar to many of these rich, do gooder kids…. older… (like in as-old-as-their-mothers old)… less rich than many,  less private schooled, definitely not groomed for greatness or position…  but otherwise very near like. Also smart and committed. Also outraged at the way in which low income schools I’ve taught in weren’t meeting the needs of my students.  I focused on bad pedagogy, poor funding formulas, large class sizes, absent support structures and lack of books. They focused on bad teachers.  But otherwise identical: we both saw the schools as lacking. I also preached to my elders about their neglect of the important work that needed to be done.  In some respects… I was just an earlier edition of the savior teacher. Call me Savior 1.0.

But, I think perhaps I have been wrong. I’m not actually a lot like Savior 2.0, at all.  For one thing, I don’t believe in saviors anymore. I  just believe in teaching, staying fresh and in hopefully getting the chance to be the right one at the right time for someone.  I also don’t have the Savior 2.0 context. No one told me that all the teachers who came before me sucked.  I was never told that there was leadership, personal reward and position waiting for me following a short stint in the classroom.  And, I don’t have the Savior 2.0 resume. Unlike a 2.0, I don’t burst forth from a well cared for, optimistic, future forward, affluent family where parents are emotionally available.. I didn’t go from my Montessori preschool to my great private school, to my selective college. I wasn’t one to whom every opportunity was offered and exploited. I was not one of the rich kids of reform with their cultivated lives, dance classes, horseback riding lessons, sororities, and summer camp. I was not blessed with a wealthy kid’s self assurance or massive sense of entitlement as they pursue (without a trace of irony) social justice entrepreneurship.  But, I’m also not a poster child for making it against all odds. I was not at all like the Derrell Bradfords and John Kings of reform. No one would ever think to tell me that I was the hero of my own story.  Or write up my resume with a list of my deficits and how I overcame them.  I didn’t even know that there was a race on for who was going to get to be somebody. I was just a smart, quiet, troubled kid in the back of the room at school.  Not a figurehead for reform. I merely came from a home in which terrible and violent things happened.

I don’t share the cheerful removal of unpleasant context as if acknowledging these is a crime against grit and hope. I don’t share the ability to negate and erase my students’ experiences  because when you come from a home in which terrible things have happened, you don’t get that ability.  And this understanding informs what I know about trauma and contexts.  It informs how I feel things. (I am somewhat of a calloused raw nerve. Hypervigilant and detached), but it also helps me to understand that people are full universes with all the contexts that they carry. I understand that suffering is not a badge of honor or a resume item, but it is part of us; it is not separate from who we are. I also understand that in our humanness is the best of what we bring to our work.  I am okay with what I experienced in my life; my contexts inform what kind of teacher I am because they inform what kind of human being I am.  For today… it also informs what I think about the  #ThisTeacherSees movement, and what I think about what a teacher doesn’t necessarily see.

 

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@JusCohen asks Questions Part I: Whose High Bar?

Dear @juscohen,

juscohenSo what’s a teachers job then? Unconnected to whether the kids can meet a high bar?

I’m going to answer your questions although you may not have meant them to be answered. Nonetheless,  like Charlie Brown and his football… I’ll take a run at it, Lucy.

First, Your second question is loaded.  I didn’t argue against a high bar. I argued against a false bar. I think you’ll see elements of my answer to your first question  in how I address your second question.  When we discuss my point, we have to ask what do I think a high bar looks like and why am I arguing that the current bar is a false one?

Let’s take on that high bar.

I teach to a very high bar.  I would argue that my standards for teaching are higher than the Common Core in several respects… particularly in the area of critical reasoning. The tested CC standards for the 7th grade are primarily focused upon students learning to use text based evidence to analyze claims made or implied by an author. They do not test using text based evidence to make original claims. While standards formally exist, the State does not consider them important enough to evaluate.  This is a great flaw because it reduces the learner to the consumer of information rather than the creator of information.  I would argue that in my classroom, neither teaching nor learning has been improved by the Common Core, and certainly it has not been improved at all by their assessment. At best, the CCSS has provided a new labeling system and the test has articulated what to value in them. Here are some artifacts that illustrate my bar as well as give some evidence for what I think my job is.

  •  Debate Project:  This is a piece of a 7th grade unit on argumentation that I have conducted for the last 15 years in my cluster.  I am still in the process of moving it to the cloud. In this project, students’ critical reasoning skills are honed along with their research, writing, reading, public speaking skills, as well as their use of evidence and justification. This year, I am adding the Harvard video so students can get a whiff of utilitarianism (consequentialism)  and the categorical imperative in a watered down way.  When I have had the time (which I don’t because of the outside intervention and impact of testing on school culture) they read Kennedy, Locke, Chisolm, Paine and Churchill and model writing and thinking upon these and others.  I also do a lot with rhetorical devices and logical fallacies that are not moved to this page yet.  NOTE: The content here will not be reliably measured by the State test, as has been evidenced by schizophrenic scores which shift from year to year for no discernible reason despite clear evidence of my skill as a teacher and my continuing high standards. (I’ll address this in another post about a false bar)
  • Magazine Project: Here’s a project I can no longer do because of the time it takes to accomplish.  This was an extensive writing project in which 13 editorial teams created 13 16-24 page full color magazines. They were required to research, write and rewrite, include smaller fun pieces, write ads and design and print their pages. Through this project, students learned the craft of writing in all its aspects and went through multiple substantive revisions of their writing as well as learned about demographics, marketing, information graphics, graphic design and typography.  Parents were so thrilled to have this project that I received $1000 for publishing the magazines every year that I ran it. Extensive writing and revision was useful for the state tests although adapting to short term, no revision writing required some practice. Even so, the practice with multiple revisions helped students learn to revise on the fly. This project was enormously intrinsically motivating. I realize that intrinsic motivation is not necessarily an important point for Education Reform which elevates the value of grit and perseverance over self direction and flow.  Nonetheless, I had a full house of after school extra help because students wanted me to work with them every day after hours to refine a product they cared about.  Nothing proved why they were there better than the fact that they never even asked for their grades; the work itself was the driver.  They forgot that scores are why we’re all here.  NOTE: This project was ended because 75% of the state test is multiple choice and as such, the project did not address structural change in priorities.  Nothing argued better for dropping this engaging and demanding, time intensive, skill rich project than that it would not produce the scores which prove my value. It had to be let go. Rule of thumb: Intact schools with great programs must remove those programs if those programs don’t produce for the state tests. The first order of business is feed the test. Goodbye, win-win. 
  • Classics Outside Reading Book Trailer Project: This is a project I no longer do. I started with book trailers, but I tweaked it several years into the unit to link it to classic fiction.  Students read classics and created book trailers that displayed all the necessary elements. In some cases, the classics requirement was bent a little. Book trailers allowed students to use multimedia in order to present information about an outside book they read.  Here’s the rubric for it. They were required to include plot, theme, characterization, conflict, relevant quotes, and reviews about the book. Then they identified the multimedia elements that related to their book.  It was the last unit of the school year. (Yes, I know.. it didn’t reduce to word and sentence based inferences… We do plenty of that elsewhere.) NOTE: obvious candidate for removal.  There might be a question on theme or author’s purpose on the state test, but that can be more efficiently imparted by requiring their ability to identify these by reading short form fiction.  Also, although use of multimedia is listed in the standards, it is not evaluated in terms of students producing anything themselves.
  • A full production of Romeo and Juliet: in the original with a beautiful student composed rap musical number in the middle.  This happened only once with a 9th grade class.  Students read the play in class and learned their lines independently. We went into the auditorium every day for several weeks during class. They did most of the staging themselves. Sometimes, I would send certain students by themselves to rehearse and work in the classroom with others.  On those occasions, we would meet at lunch to rehearse what they had worked on that day. It was the first time I discovered that when students care about what they are doing, they don’t need the control features that we usually put in place to get kids to learn. NOTE: These were gifted and talented inner city kids. 

Summation

My response to the question about the high bar addressed several points that I wanted to make sure you don’t miss. It should also have left you with some new questions. First, the several things:

1) I put my work on the table. Being transparent about my work is because I believe that it stands as evidence for me as one teacher (among many) who has a high bar now and who had a high bar for performance before the Common Core.

2) I argue that not only is the higher quality of my accountability to my students not measured by state tests but that the tests have actively interfered with my ability to be accountable to that higher bar.

3) I argue that the English Language Arts Common Core Standards are deficient in the arena of building the capacity of  students to create information. The standards provide for it, but the tests do not measure it.  This would not be a horrible thing if the standards were advisory and flexibly open to improvement, and if they weren’t linked to accountability.  But because neither of those things are true, the reduction of what students need to be able to understand and do in the Education Reform Era is an important reason why students taught in this period are unprepared for the tasks of college and career.  They are encouraged both by a rigid idolatry of the Common Core and by high stakes tests of two thirds of those standards, to consume, analyze and regurgitate. The creation of more complex tasks of regurgitation (asking students to look at how the turn of a word or sentence changes meaning) does not mediate against the fact that students need to both consume and create, analyze and renew.

Here are two new questions:

1) Why are teachers of strong capacity and commitment not getting on board Education Reform’s notions of standards and accountability?

2) If Education Reform needs reform, what is going to be the mechanism for its course correction?

Next time:  A False Bar or Why Education Reform Needs Reform

 

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Reform Soft Porn

Dear Teachers,

We’d like to have better conversation.  We want to work cooperatively with you to bring better education to America.  #marketbased

Let’s start with what we’ve got. We’ve got… Change You Can Believe In. Here are a few facts:

1) All children are products… your products.

2) All products are tested.   No product has ever been injured in the testing of their performance.

3) Products of color and products of poverty fail faster because you have low standards for them. #beliefgap.

4) Parents need #choice. Did we mention choice means charters where there is the least suckage?

5) While we stand behind our premise that all products can learn (#believe), we understand that not all products are a good fit for schools of choice. Products who do not meet our performance standards may be encouraged to find a better fit. Meeting the needs of every child is a public school thing. We’re not public schools except when we get your dollars and your buildings. (thanks)

6)  All teachers are human capital. Great human capital prepares their products for performance by any means necessary. (We like that reference. It’s got a Civil Rights Issue of our Time flavor. )

7) High stakes testing does not encourage teaching to the test. So, just stop saying that. 

8)  No excuses, human capital. Don’t even complain about defunded or unfunded federal mandates; if you really cared about children, you’d sacrifice.  We call them children when we’re pitting their needs against your middle class salary,  health care and pension. (more about that in number 10)

9)  We’re for higher salaries.  Great human capital should be paid more. Don’t think this means a pay raise. It’s a bell curve world, widget.

10) Did we mention how much we respect you? In fact, we’d like to help you remove the blue collar stain of unionism. Job security, pay scale and pensions are the sources of your low status.  

11) We are going to save the future by bringing your profession into the 21st century.  In the brave new world order (designed and voted on by us), there will be fewer of you, more online learning and larger class sizes. We’re going to teach and test those cute little products every few minutes.  The annual review (much like the annual test) is so last century. We need minute by minute data and no required seat time. We’re thinking the word personalization sounds sticky; it brings out our sentimental side.  (…Something something global warming,  progress, problem solving, tear of happiness, commitment to future generations… etc. etc. Mommy and Daddy) 

12) Don’t worry if what we need for your kids and what we need for ours is separate; it’s still equal. Don’t be fooled by the #politicsofenvy

13) It‘s about America. When you connect the dots,  we love America. (Queue the National Anthem here) If we don’t test every product every year in every subject, the human capital in public schools will not do the job of making products college and career ready. And then, the products will fail to become good workers, and we’ll lose in the global competition, companies will send more jobs overseas to the cheaper but more college and career ready third world. It is your fault if America collapses as a super power. 

13) In order to achieve as a nation, we need to get rid of elected school boards because teachers vote.

Thank you for this better conversation.  We’ll let you know what you need next.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of some small children who are smiling because we’re fixing America.

3856033_hipsters-for-charter-schools-the-big-lie_77333264_m

 

 

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Proxy Love

Bailey Reimer, a teacher in Chicago, has been teaching her kindergartners to love testing.  She considers their well trained, enthusiastic love of it to be the key to her students’ futures.  Her theory is that the more they welcome being evaluated, the better they will do throughout their years in school.  Her views highlight the ongoing divide over the purposes of and best practices for teaching a nation’s children.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with helping children to feel secure about being assessed; it’s necessary for getting good diagnostic information.  In that sense, building confidence around testing is not a bad goal, but as a large and lauded part of instruction, it is definitely not a great one.  Education is intended to provide every child with the tools and opportunity for full expression of themselves in their work and personal lives.  Love for testing is a low bar in that attainment.  A test has its use.  But, it is meant to be a tool for educators, not a destination for learners.

High quality classrooms do not build their cultures around test taking. They have a high standards for learning and skill acquisition, but they are built around other values such as inquiry, independence, risk taking, self regulation, curiosity, confidence,  collaboration, empathy. They seek to nurture full development through multiple experiences and pay attention to all the hard and soft skills of intellectual, physical, and social/emotional growth. A well informed parent or thoughtful administrator would be far more interested in what else Reimer cares about and what students experience under her care when they are not being tested.

If I were her administrator, I’d have some hard questions about Reimer’s reward system in the back of the room.  It’s true that kids like to see their growth, but explicit publishing of private performance, even under the cover of daisies, is more questionable.  It shifts the emphasis from individual growth to that of comparison and competition.  Not that comparison or competition are bad things; they can be very motivating in a debate or on the field, and both are part of life.  But, it is not a good practice in the intimate area of skill acquisition.  At the very least, it sends an inaccurate message to very young children.

It bears repeating that, even under the best circumstances, children do not learn at the same pace or with equal ease. They do not come into school with the same foundation. This simple reality is indisputable. Whether the difference stems from the impact of genetic anomaly, prenatal care or environment upon brain development or if it’s in the way that different access to resources and enrichment improves or impedes a child’s preparation upon entry into school, how these differences are addressed in the classroom is important, especially for children experiencing school for the first time in their lives.  Is there some reason to reward the child who learned to read at home and who, through no special skill of their own, achieves at a higher and faster pace than her peers? What about the kid who is dyslexic or developmentally delayed or younger or who has less support at home or isn’t a native speaker? Is there a good reason for a child who is chronically behind others to get a daily dose of shaming through visual comparison with the home grown skill star? Implicit shaming is not an appropriate tool for improving the performance of children or adults for that matter.  There are better ways to inspire effort and celebrate attainment.

Even if all her students’ stars and daisies align, there’s also the problem of promoting a culture of extrinsic reward. It is not the best way to develop the best in people. It does not build agency; it turns learning and doing into merely the means to an unrelated end.   It’s a seemingly small error in kindergarten.  How much agency does a 5 year old need? And 5 year olds are brimming with intrinsic desire to learn. But follow that track as it diverges down the road, and it will matter.  By the time children educated on a steady diet of extrinsic reward get to middle school, many of them will be entirely disinterested in learning, doing and creating for its own sake.   Learning is something that is done to them for purposes other than learning. They’ll be fully ready to trade in their opportunity to invest in themselves for the lesser daisy of being weighed, measured and rewarded (or at least not found wanting).   They will divide themselves into winners and losers in the school game. Those who have had real and lamentable delays already will have had years of being demoralized by comparison, and many of those who experienced success will be reduced to grade grubbing as they root after more reward.  There will a wonderful few who have thriving, curious minds, but for many, their natural curiosity will have been tested and rewarded or punished right out of them.

I do not fault Ms. Reimer for this error.  It’s common to confuse test scores with what they represent.  Certainly, she wouldn’t be the first to believe that banging out scores is proof positive that she’s a good (maybe even great) teacher.  And in the current Race To The Top accountability culture, what teacher wouldn’t love a clean and quantified data stream that seems to say, “Good job! Your daisy, too, is moving up the wall.”  At any rate, she’ll have done one good thing; by the time her students leave her, they will have checked off a whole list of small competencies.  They will be aimed at and ready to chase after next year’s daisies.  What more could there possibly be to teaching?

After all, what difference does it make that the kindergartner who came to school full of desire to learn and discover has ended up a happy little test taker who values nothing so much as the moving daisy.  There are rewards for daisies and data points.  As a teacher, I think these are the accomplishments of average teaching…  she has done the job of preparing her students for the next phase… every flower has moved.  And, when they get to me in middle school, I will be grateful for their skill base.  Nonetheless, I will spend the better part of each year trying to get them to unlearn her best lesson.

 

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Building a Better Teacher

Taken from 99%.com,  an annotated list of the top 10 traits of project managers, paraphrased and repurposed for the classroom.  A good teacher will:
1. Command respect naturally. In other words, they don’t need borrowed power from administration in order to get the behavior they need from their students —  They are optimistic people  who are viewed in a favorable light by their students and are valued by administration
2. Possess quick sifting abilities, knowing what to note and what to ignore. This can be repurposed both in terms of classroom management skills and ability to differentiate for individual students.  In both cases, being aware and on top of what’s important and what can be put aside is key.
3. Set, observe, and re-evaluate instructional priorities frequently. They review their content and their objectives regularly.  They self assess naturally.
4. Ask good questions and listen to stakeholders. Great teachers don’t just go through the motions. They care about communication and the opinions of the students and parents. They are also sufficiently self-aware to know how their communication is received by those stakeholders.
5. Do not use information as a weapon or a means of control. They communicate clearly, completely, and concisely. All the while giving others real information about performance.  They do not dangle grades as a means of maintaining control.
6. Adhere to predictable communication schedules, recognizing that it’s the only deliverable early in a project cycle. All this takes place after very thorough pre-execution planning to eliminate as many variables as possible.
7. Possess expertise in classroom management and child development.  They have a broad range of additional skills that they can apply to particular circumstances. It’s not just that they have generic classroom management skills, they have an understanding of what is needed for different class dynamics and age groups with which they are familiar.  They have a deep familiarity with  multiple fields that gives them a natural authority and solid  insight that they can bring to bear informally as the occasion arises.
8. Exercise independent and fair consensus-building skills when conflict arises. But they embrace only as much conflict as is absolutely necessary, neither avoiding nor seeking grounds for control. It is important for students to understand that the teacher is the final authority where needed, but also trust that they will be allowed to establish and exercise their own expertise within the structure of the classroom.
9. Cultivate and rely on extensive informal networks inside and outside the the school to solve problems that arise. They identify any critical issues that threaten the school culture or the viability of the classroom (vs. ignoring them).  They expose themselves to new ideas and build new competencies. They seek out people who can support them in their goals for their students and their careers.
10. Look forward to going to work! They believe that working in the classroom is an end in itself.  The truly great ones view teaching as a career and not a necessary step to take toward some other career. They treat it like a profession by seeking additional training and education, by establishing contacts with other teachers, and by sharing information with colleagues.
***

 

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Sorry. Not Sorry.

The Obama administration believes in balancing how sorry they are with how little sorry  the public will go for… always short of the  real course correction that would make friends of adversaries.   Clearly, they need a scripted curriculum.  Here’s what making amends should look like:
Dear America,
We realize that there’s something wrong with a government that seeks to change society by attacking its own people,  and we want to apologize. We know that the real #beliefgap is the one that has developed in you.  You want to know where’s the change you can believe in.  Well, we’d like some better conversation and we have decided to start that better conversation with making amends.  Here goes:
Dear America, we’re sorry for…
  •  weaponized testing;
  • experimenting on the public without their consent;
  • blackmailing whole states through their coffers;
  • evaluating the college and career readiness of five year olds.
  • expecting every tween  to move from concrete to formal operations based solely on exposure;
  • hypothetical right out of the box standards followed by tests of their acquisition… nationwide.
  • refusing to work with the experts, ignoring criticism… like that provided by the Math and ELA experts who worked on the Common Core and refused sign off on the end product
  • ignoring The American Statistical Association who argued against the use of VAM as a measure of teacher quality.
  • not taking counsel outside of an echo chamber of self appointed saviors;

Dear America, We’re also sorry for…

  • calling Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,”
  • unacknowledged cherrypicking;
  • crony appointments;
  • defunding and underfunding community schools;
  • supporting increased class size,  decreased course options, and passive decay of infrastructure brought on by defunding and charter preferencing;
  • resolutely defending charter and reform celebrities in the face of brazen misdeeds and criminal acts;
  • building an elite social justice career lane for the privileged;
  • paying the big bucks to propagandists whose job it is to sell daily messages of teacher and public education hate.
  • treating reform like a team sport;
  • promoting team loyalty over mission;
  • scapegoating teachers instead of explicitly attacking years of state sanctioned policies that consolidated the poor in underfunded schools and abandoned communities;

We’re not even sure that sorry is enough for

  • #beliefgap

What great vision of education reform rests on the failure of citizens young and old as its inspiration?

 


 
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Wading for Dmitri

This is a response to Dmitri Melhorn’s post via Jersey Jazzman

1) Using evidence collected by organizations that have potential conflict of interest is problematic. This entire argument hinges on data collected by sources that are not considered impartial.

2) Ability to sift for better children is a fundamental argument against charters. Parental support (required by KIPP and implicit in the charter application process) is the primary ingredient for student success. We can only recognize the quality of schools that can not sort for children and must backfill to maintain similar class size to the schools they “compete” with.

3) Schools that have received additional financial support from advocacy groups in an economy that is defunding and underfunding schools does not speak to the ability of charters to do better. It speaks to the ability of money to do better.

4) Public schools impacted by charters will see increased enrollment of students who are counseled out, fewer of the better cared for children whose parents will choose schools w fewer behavior problems, lower class size and more resources. This trend undermines public education as a social good and does not support equity.

5) Right to choose your school because you have the income to optout of public education is something that comes with more wealth. Charters do not address this issue for the entire public. They allow for some parents to remove their children from public education which further undermines it as a social good. It results in increased segregation by race and class. It results in inappropriate policies in schools that are funded by public dollars because a school can open just to benefit a particular racial, cultural, political or religious group. That is contrary to the vision of universal free public education.

6)  The notion that any change is better than the status quo dismisses the very negative impacts that are being reported by multiple charter related scandals around the country. If charters are here to stay, they need regulation and oversight. The idea that dumping “bureaucracy” allows for innovation has resulted in a sloppy free for all that is a burden on tax dollars and has a negative impact for children.

7) When we sift through the information about charters, we uncover the advantages in play: funding matters, resources matter, class size matters, parental support matters. These are the ingredients for a good school. It does not require charters to exist. It requires political will, financial investment, and support for parents. We need every child to have the same resources, low class size and support. We need buy in to our public system not optout of public education for desperate recipients of elitist largesse. – See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2015/10/charter-schools-exchange-part-i.html?spref=tw#sthash.10febgmu.dpuf

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Social Justice Slacking

Yesterday, I read a tweet from someone who had just signed and invited others to sign to pledge to believe that all students can learn.  It got me thinking about social media activism: what it is… what it isn’t.

Tweeting, liking, clicking, hashtagging have become common ways to stand for something and publicize your values..to show your support for whatever you support…candidates or kittens.   You can hashtag protect Planned Parenthood.  Tweet for justice. Click to feed a family.  Post this pic or like it to love your neighbor.  Make a meme.  We’ve all done it.  Tweeting and liking and sharing … the lazy man’s showing up. It feels like virtue. It’s as close to call centers for your candidate as you can get without having to actually get there.  In this new world we are led to believe that pledging to believe that children can learn is virtually same as working with them in a classroom or volunteering in an after school center year after year.

With out a doubt, social media presence has value.   A tweet can bring a crowd.  A viral video or a hashtag on a timely phrase can increase awareness, publicize a cause, start a movement.   On the other hand, sometimes social media activism is the weak gesture.  It doesn’t require much effort to sign in and tweet your values.  At times, celebrating them even has a mild odor of online preening.  (Notice my values… such a great thing about me.)  And there is what is implied.  In the case of pledging to believe that students can learn… one can infer the slur underneath… a pledge to believe is an implicit accusation of disbelief.   We who pledge to believe do so because there is a #beliefgap©.  It’s social justice branding, and there’ s a website for that.

So,  in case you want to engage in some low impact showing up or showing off, some self or team branding… you can sign up to pledge to believe that all children can learn…  I could link you to the site, but in the interests of showing your commitment through your actions, I invite whoever wants to sign up to google their own way to the site. It may not be that easy, but sometimes you just have to work for what you believe in while in your pajamas and eating a snack.

 

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Arne

Even though his policies were thumbs up to privatization. Even though he supported the use of hypothetical standards as if they were actual.  Even though his practice of blackmailing states through their coffers is a continuing hazard to democracy. Even though his idea of accountability was  engineered failure. Even though he was grateful to a murderous hurricane and  dismissive of white suburban moms and their not as smart as they think children. Even though he authored a brazen attack by government on its citizens and even though this attack has eroded faith in government.  Even though I suspect him of not even being the architect of his own policies.  Yet, as I watched Arne resign from office this week… I thought I saw a man who wanted to do good work, who wanted to be a hero being blindsided by the desire to move the needle no matter what the cost to others .  On a purely human scale, it was a sad moment…

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