Archives for category: Creativity

The Washington Post published a story about a teacher-librarian who launched a community tradition of feeding children and families during the Christmas holidays.

Elementary schoolteacher Turquoise LeJeune Parker was a few days away from the start of her holiday vacation when she received a text message from the mother of one of her second-grade students.

The parent wondered if Parker knew where she could find food for her children during the school’s two-week winter break because her refrigerator and pantry were almost empty. Her kids relied on free school breakfasts and lunches to get them through the day.

Parker, now a library teacher for 387 students at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, N.C., said she felt like crying on that phone call six years ago.
“This mom told me she wasn’t worried about herself, but she couldn’t let her kids go without food for those two weeks,” she recalled. “I told my husband about it, and we knew we had to do something.”

Parker and her husband, Donald Parker, a carpenter, immediately went out to shop for groceries for the woman and her family, but then they thought about all the other families.

“If one parent was going into the holiday break with no food in the house, we knew there must be others,” said Turquoise Parker, 34.

Although the Durham Public Schools district regularly worked with a nonprofit to provide food-insecure families with weekend groceries, the program couldn’t serve every child, she said.
On Dec. 14, 2015, Parker decided to text everyone she knew asking for donations to buy enough holiday groceries for all 22 students in her class at the time.

“I’m trying to send each of my 22 students home with a bag of non-perishables to help their families with them being out for Christmas break,” she wrote. “If you know anyone wanting to donate, let me know! I’ll go pick it up!”

Within a couple of days, she had $500.
“It really took off and made such an impact for these families that I knew I had to keep going,” Parker said. “Food is something that no one can do without. It’s not only a basic human need, it’s a human right.”

The second year, she said she raised $1,000 and the program grew from there. Last year, more than $55,000 came in.

This year, from Dec. 8 to 11, Parker and a group of 70 volunteers once again bagged groceries to send home with students at the beginning of their winter break.

This time, $106,000 was raised through fundraisers, a charitable foundation and social media. It was enough to help every child at 12 elementary schools in her school district, said Parker, noting that about half of the district’s students qualify for free or low-cost school lunches.
About 5,200 students took home bags filled with a two-week supply of cereal, bread, peanut butter, pasta, granola bars, oatmeal, beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, canned chicken, fruit and vegetables, she said. The groceries were ordered online this year at Costco and delivered to the gym at Lakewood Elementary.

Parker said she named the project “Mrs. Parker’s Professors’ Foodraiser,” because she considers all of her students to be “little professors.”

“I’m a part of their family now and they’re a part of mine,” she said. “We’re all learning together. They help me as much as I help them…”

Parker is relieved that the program now helps thousands more students, and it runs with the dedication of many volunteers.

During her first year of raising funds to feed about two dozen students, she heard from Durham attorney T. Greg Doucette, who asked how he could help. Doucette now pitches in to help coordinate the project every year, she said.

“This has become a community effort — not mine alone — and that’s how it should be,” Parker said.
Doucette said that when he first signed on to help, he didn’t anticipate that bagging groceries would become a recurring project. But when he learned about food insecurity in his community, he wanted to do something to lessen the need, he said
….

Her mother, Marian Thompson, was a single mom with three children who got a doctoral degree in education and worked for 43 years as a teacher and school counselor, she said.

“Oh, my gosh, did she ever inspire me,” said Parker, noting that she often accompanied her mother to work as a preschooler.

“I saw everything she did for kids at school, and from age 4, I also wanted to become a schoolteacher,” she said. “At home, I’d line up all of my teddy bears and baby dolls and teach them.”
After she graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2010 with a degree in public administration, she took her first teaching job at Estes Hills Elementary School. Since 2019, she’s been the library teacher at Lakewood Elementary, although she prefers to call herself a social justice teacher, she said.

“Food inequality is systemic and that’s not okay,” Parker said. “Giving children food for their Christmas break is not a lavish thing — this is food we’re talking about. The well-being of our community is directly related to the well-being of our children. We have to fight for each other.”
It’s a lesson she has thought about often since giving birth to her first child, Madame, four months ago, she said.

If you don’t know the work of Jitu Brown, this is a good time to inform yourself. Jitu Brown has worked for many years as a grassroots organizer in Chicago. He wants families and communities to be able to advocate for themselves, and he trains them to do it. He ardently opposes school closings and privatization, methods of ”reform” that are imposed on communities of color by the powerful. He led the successful hunger strike that blocked the closing of the Walter S. Dyett High School, forcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rescind the closing and to reopen the refurbished high school. Out of his work in Chicago, Brown led the creation of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has chapters in 36 cities. J4J strongly supports the establishment of community schools that meet the needs of communities and build networks of families and communities.

MEDIA ADVISORY TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7TH 10:00 AM ET


AFT’S RANDI WEINGARTEN, NEA’S BECKY PRINGLE, U.S. SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, CONGRESSMAN BOWMAN (NY-16), JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE’S JITU BROWN TO JOIN EDUCATION EQUITY COALITION AT PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE NEW COALITION


National Leaders Back ‘Equity or Else’ Campaign and
Push for Biden Budget Initiative: $440 Million for Community Schools


(WASHINGTON, D.C) – On Tuesday, December 7, 10 a.m. ET, the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten; National Education Association president, Becky Pringle; U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16; Journey for Justice Alliance national director, Jitu Brown; and Schott Foundation for Public Education president, Dr. John Jackson will join national justice and education union leaders to hold a press conference in support of the “Equity or Else” campaign to announce a brand new commission, and amplify its strong support for President Biden’s education budget which will announce a groundbreaking increase of 41 percent for school funding in his proposed FY2022 budget. This Equity Commission will engage municipalities and the federal government to inform government officials at every level on how to create investments and policies that transform quality of life for all Americans, with a focus on equity.


Journey for Justice sits at the helm of the coalition that has been pivotal in shaping President Biden’s agenda on education, especially around community schools. The Equity or Else campaign is a coalition of leaders and organizers from different quality-of-life areas, including education, housing, health care, environment/climate justice, youth investment and food production and delivery, to promote education on how inequity impacts these areas and the grassroots solutions they have organized.

The coalition includes: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School.


WHAT: News Conference with National Education and Justice Leaders on President Biden’s Budget Proposal and Brand New Equity or Else Commission


WHO:
● U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD
● Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16
● Becky Pringle, president, National Education Association
● Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
● Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation for Public Education
● Jitu Brown, national director, Journey for Justice Alliance
● Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education, state advocacy director
***

PLEASE EMAIL MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM TO RSVP*** WHEN: 10:00 AM ET, Tuesday, December 7, 2021

WHERE: The National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC (Vax card or Negative COVID Test Required)


Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/J4JAlliance

FURTHER BACKGROUND: The Schott Foundation’s national Opportunity to Learn Network, in partnership with the Journey for Justice Alliance’s Equity or Else project, is launching a nationwide campaign to reverse the trend of privatizing public schools and in its place implement its proven plan for reimagining an education system that has long neglected Black and brown children and starved their schools of resources.

Bolstered by a newly created Grassroots Equity Commission, Equity or Else has come to Washington to back the Biden administration’s budget, which would double the Title I funding that targets low-income schools and, for the first time, allocate $440 million for sustainable community schools. The commission, formed by Schott with J4J, will engage local and federal government in exploring how institutions engage Black, brown and working-class families.


Intent upon getting true equity in education for children of color and reversing the runaway school-privatization trend abetted by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, grassroots members of campaign organizations will also meet with key senators and with current Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.


The time is ripe for reimagining public education. The Biden administration is committed to allocating critically needed new resources for the task. Congress has shown itself willing and able to provide those resources. The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has amplified the discussion of what equity actually means. The pandemic has highlighted the stark inequity that afflicts children of color. And those who have been left behind are raising their voices to demand the rooting out of systemic racism in every institution, including: schools, hospitals, healthcare, food production and delivery systems and public safety.


The Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities index assesses how these institutions function in Black, brown and working-class communities. Equity or Else is founded on the proposition that this reimagining of policy must be guided by the voices of those who have been most deeply affected by inequity. We have come together and are finding solutions that meet our needs.

Equity or Else is doing listening projects with people in underserved communities across the country. The Equity Commission will engage officials from municipalities and the federal government to explore how those foundational institutions in those communitIes can be reimagined, with a focus on equity. By using data from all these sources, the commission will be able to inform government officials at every level on how to create equitable investments and policies to transform quality of life for all Americans.


The following national organizations are participating in the overall Equity or Else campaign: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Alliance for Education Justice, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School. For more information go to http://www.standing4equity.org

Founded in 2012, the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 36 U.S. cities. For more information go to www.j4jalliance.com.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: MAYA HIXSON
321.266.2000 MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM
LAURIE GLENN
773.704.7246 LRGLENN@THINKINCSTRATEGY.COM

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Jack Hassard taught science teachers for many years at the Georgia State University. He now blogs frequently at The Art of Teaching Science. This post contains a fascinating perspective on teaching science. Hassard reviews a new book by a fellow science educator.

He writes:

The author of the book is Charles R. “Kip” Ault, Jr. Kip and I have collaborated over the Internet for several decades without actually meeting each other.  Like many of you, the digital world of email and social media is the mode of communication that brings us together in personal and productive ways.  Kip and I know each other from the science education research and writing we’ve done over the last 30 years.  I’ve discovered that our career paths have crossed in several ways.  We both taught high school and university courses in geology and the earth sciences, and designed science teacher education programs.  Kip was professor of science education at Lewis and Clark University for 24 years. There he developed and directed the science teacher education program. 

As Hassard explains, Ault wrote a book in 2015 criticizing the value of the national science standards.

In 2015, Kip published the book, Challenging Science Standards: A Skeptical Critique of the Quest for Unity. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were developed in 1999, were uncritically endorsed and granted outright compliance by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), even though there has been a groundswell of teachers questioning these standards. And, very little criticism has been written from major research publications, until Kip Ault’s book Challenging Science Standards. If you haven’t read this book, you can use the link above to review it or read my review on my blog. 

Kip’s New Book

So, now, in 2021, Dr. Ault has published a new bookgiving us an inside view of science teaching and learning. Instead of being about science teaching, this is a book for science teaching. If you are in a student in a science teacher education program, a practicing science teacher, or professor of science education, I think Kip’s book will augment your deep feelings about how students learn and why science teaching should be in the service of student’s lived experiences. 

If you are science education researcher, this book will provide the theoretical rationale to design studies cutting across the spectrum of learning for all students. Kip’s four themes, Play, Art, Coherence, Community are big ideas from which studies can emerge. 

If you are a classroom science teacher, I encourage you to apply any or all of Kip’s “stories” that form the substance of his book. He’s cast the stories into four themes: Play, Art, Coherence, and Community. You’ll find specific ideas that you can apply to your own classroom that I think you will find enthralling.

Hassard wrote the introduction to Ault’s new book. He wrote:

Kip’s book is a creative path to a new paradigm of science teaching and learning.  His book is an amazing journey of stories and experiences in classrooms that will be familiar to you.  The international science education community has embraced the importance of qualitative research.  Descriptions of people, events and situations are hallmarks of qualitative methods.  Kip has filled his book with playful, aesthetic, meaningful, and compelling stories about learning in which context and the needs of students reigns.   Kip’s book is a qualitative treasure chest of new paradigm learning examples.  His book is also fun to read. He names some of his stories Wavy Elephants, Binary Banjos, Skull Sockets and Crowned Molars, Hells Pig, Vivid Canyons, Flashy Plumage, Wicked Extinctions, and Caring Communities.

Ault connects his science thinking to that of Leonardo da Vinci:

When you read this book you are going to be immersed into the mind of a science education writer who’s thinking is drawn from the science of Leonardo da Vinci. Kip has created a new paradigm that is rooted in Leonardo’s mind. I wrote this in my forward about why I think there is a link between Leonardo and Kip Ault. I wrote:

On Beyond Science Standards describes a world view that is holistic and ecological which is, according to Fritjof Capra[1], not unlike Leonardo’s.  Leonardo had developed a solid body of science.  But his science could not be understood without his art, nor his art without science. Walter Isaacson[2] and Fritjof Capra wrote separate biographies of Leonardo.  In their biographies, they explain that Leonardo’s scientific explorations informed his art.  Capra says that for Leonardo “painting is both an art and a science—a science of natural forms, of qualities, quite different from the mechanistic science that would emerge two hundred years later.” For Kip Ault, paleontology cannot exist without illustration, and he shows how art can be the center of methodology. Art can be the center of learning science. And it doesn’t have to be only paleontology. 

When I took science courses in high school and college, most of our time was spent memorizing facts about science. i didn’t get the point.

But Ault has a different vision of science:

Kip Ault believes that the purpose of education is to:

prepare citizens for lives of social responsibility in a democratically governed polity.  Kip reaches out to the science education community to claim that our present practices of teaching and routines of selecting what to teach will not help our students achieve that end. He concludes that immersing students in “scientific diversity” can be a journey uncovering aspects of ourselves and the universe promising immense pleasure and joy.  Kip Ault has written the book that I’ve been waiting for.


San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten was tapped by the Biden administration to be Deputy Secretary of Education, the #2 job in the Department of Education. The corporate reform lobby was not happy with this choice, and they began making insidious charges that she was uniquely unqualified and didn’t care about equity. All of this was nonsense, of course.

When she was interviewed by the Senate committee, she showed herself to be the well-informed, knowledgeable, thoughtful educator that she is, and it appeared that even some Republican members of the committtee were impressed.

The flimsy claims against her needed to be answered, and it was not her role to do it. Fortunately a San Diego business leader stepped up and dashed all the extremists’ attacks on her record.

Mel Katz wrote in the Voice of San Diego:

After President Joe Biden surprised San Diego with the exciting news that San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten had been chosen to help lead his administration’s Department of Education, some voiced concerns that she had not had success closing San Diego’s achievement gap between students of color and White students or that she had not paid sufficient attention to equity in schools.

I don’t believe the facts back that up.

Marten has devoted her career to eliminating the legacy of systemic racism within public education. She has challenged her colleagues to create an anti-racist school district, and she has put in place concrete policies to improve the academic outcomes for students of color.

Her success has earned praise nationally from the president of the NAACP, at the state and local levels from leaders like Secretary of State Shirley Weber, state Board of Education Chair and Linda Darling-Hammond and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Marten has earned their support from her lifetime commitment to equity. From the time she started a literacy center for low-income families, as a young teacher, to her time as principal at Central Elementary in City Heights, which thrived with improved test scores, high staff morale and increased parental involvement.

The fundamental role of any school system is to educate children, and on that core level, Marten has succeeded where many others have failed. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the gold standard of large-scale assessments, found that San Diego was the only district in 2019 whose tests scores significantly exceeded the average scores of 27 large districts in both math and English language arts on the fourth- and eighth-grade tests. Since 2003, San Diego student scores in fourth-grade math have risen every year except one.

In addition to outperforming the average for urban school districts, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that Black and Hispanic student achievement is increasing faster in San Diego Unified than in just about any other urban district in the country.

A recent study by the Learning Policy Institute found students of color in San Diego Unified schools academically outperform their peers statewide. A companion study by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools found this success is not accidental, rather it is the result of intentional efforts to provide added counselors and other supports to high-need school communities. San Diego Unified has an equity-based funding model that doubles and triples school-site funding above what the district receives in state allocations for disadvantaged students.

As San Diegans, we can be grateful for all that our students have achieved under Marten. As Americans, we can be optimistic about what she and Miguel Cardona, Biden’s education secretary nominee, will be able to accomplish at the national level — for all children.

Mel Katz is executive officer of Manpower. He founded the Business Roundtable for Education at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and e3 Civic High, the charter high school in the Central Library. He co-chaired San Diego Unified’s construction bond campaign, Proposition M, and its Graduation Strategy Committee.

Sir Ken Robinson inspired educators around the world with his vision of child-centered schools that focused on imagination, creativity, the arts, and the joy of learning.

Sadly, he died last August at the age of 70.

His daughter Kate Robinson has organized a virtual celebration of his life and work on March 4, called “Imagine If…”

I hope you will watch it.

The New York Times said this about him:

Ken Robinson, a dynamic, influential proponent of stimulating the creativity of students that has too often been squelched by schools in the service of conformity, died on Aug. 21 at his home in London. He was 70.

His daughter, Kate Robinson, said the cause was cancer.

A British-born teacher, author and lecturer, Mr. Robinson viewed large school systems as sclerotic, squeezing the creative juices out of children by overemphasizing standardized testing and subjects like mathematics and science over the arts and humanities.

“There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics,” he said during a TED Talk in 2006 that has been downloaded 67 million times, the most in the lecture organization’s history. “I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time, if they’re allowed to.”


The Financial Times reports on a new phenomenon: educators around the world see the pandemic as an opportunity to break free of standardized exams.

Tony Stack, a Canadian educator, was developing a new way to assess children even before coronavirus. The decision to scrap end-of-year assessments after the pandemic struck presented the chance to put the “deep learning” approach into practice. “It offered an opportunity for an authentic learning experience, outside some of the constraints of an exam,” said Mr Stack, director of education for Newfoundland and Labrador province. This alternative model, used in 1,300 schools across eight countries, that prioritises skills and independent thinking “set a way forward for a more ethical approach to assessment,” he explained. “Skills that students need to learn through the pandemic cannot be assessed in a single test,” he added.

Most viewed the abrupt cancellation of exams in countries around the world as a regrettable loss that would diminish learning and life chances for a cohort of young people. A vocal group of educators also saw an opportunity to call time on the traditional exams system they say is unjust and outdated. “The pandemic has exacerbated all these problems that were already there with exams,” said Bill Lucas, director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the UK’s Winchester university.

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d64e479-182c-4dbd-96fe-0c26272a5875

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.

Gary Rubinstein may be one of your favorite bloggers. He is certainly one of mine! He is also an administrator of my blog. I literally don’t know how to put PDF files into a post or how to add graphics; I reach out to Gary and he helps me. I first met Gary about a decade ago when I started researching “miracle” schools. I discovered that Gary uses his powerful analytical skills to debunk miracle claims. Since then, we have become good friends, and I admire him about as much as anyone I know. He is a truth-teller, a man of impeccable integrity.

I just learned that Gary has written and published a book of his essays, not his blog posts. They are available on amazon for only 99 cents. I don’t think there is a better bargain anywhere on the Internet. I also learned by reading this post that Gary has done stand-up comedy!

If there were a category on my blog for “Integrity,” that’s where I would place Gary.

He wrote in this post:

About 8 years ago I published a Kindle e-book of essays I had collected over the years. This included essays about my family and about my neuroses and also some older writings from when I wrote a humor column in college. I even included my college application essay. So I put it out there and after a few weeks it had been downloaded a bunch of times. Unfortunately some of those downloads were by my family. And some of those family members are more sensitive than I had anticipated. So I had to un-publish the book. It was sad for me to do this since this was the net result, even though it was only about 150 pages, of a lifetime of the thing that I think I was born to do.

The past four years with Trump in office has been rough for many people. For me, it caused me a lot of stress and I spent hours every day watching MSNBC as a way, I felt, to keep my sanity. So when Biden won I felt a great cloud lifted and decided I was going to enjoy my life and my hobbies more without needing to spend so much time obsessing about Trump. And I took another look at my e-book. And I decided it wasn’t so bad. I changed a few sentences to hopefully make some of my family members less embarrassed and I put it out there again. I’m 51 years old now and I’m really proud of my essays so I’m re-publishing. I’ll deal with the fall out if there is any.

You know the old line, “Failure is not an option.” Well, we have federal education policy built on the idea that failure doesn’t matter. Failure is not only an option, it is the only option. No Child Left Behind failed; the same children who were behind were left behind. Race to the Top was a failure; no one reached “the top” because of its demands. Common Core was a failure: It promised to close achievement gaps and raise up fourth grade test scores; it did not. Every Student Succeeds did not lead to “every students succeeding.” At some point, we have to begin to wonder about the intelligence or sanity of people who love failure and impose it on other people’s children. Testing, charter schools, merit pay, teacher evaluation, grading schools A-F, state takeovers, etc., fail again and again yet still remain popular with the people who control the federal government, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.

Peter Greene sums up the problem with his usual wit and insight: Democrats need a new vision. They need to toss aside everything they have endorsed for at least the past 20-30 years. The problem in education is not just Betsy DeVos. The problem is the bad ideas endorsed by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Will Biden and Cardona have the wisdom and the vision to understand that?

For four years, Democrats have had a fairly simple theory of action when it came to education. Something along the lines of “Good lord, a crazy lady just came into our china shop riding a bull, waving around a flamethrower, and dragging a shark with a head-mounted laser beam; we have to stop her from destroying the place (while pretending that we have a bull and a shark in the back just like hers).” 

Now, of course, that will, thank heavens, no longer fit the circumstances. The Democrats will need a new plan.

Trouble is, the old plan, the one spanning both the Clinton and Obama years, is not a winner. It went, roughly, like this:

The way to fix poverty, racism, injustice, inequity and economic strife is to get a bunch of children to make higher scores on a single narrow standardized test; the best shot at getting this done is to give education amateurs the opportunity to make money doing it.

This was never, ever a good plan. Ever. Let me count the ways.

For one thing, education’s ability to fix social injustice is limited. Having a better education will not raise the minimum wage. It will not eradicate poverty. And as we’ve just spent four years having hammered into us, it will not even be sure to make people better thinkers or cleanse them of racism. It will help some people escape the tar pit, but it will not cleanse the pit itself.

And that, of course, is simply talking about education, and that’s not what the Dems theory was about anyway–it was about a mediocre computer-scorable once-a-year test of math and reading. And that was never going to fix a thing. Nobody was going to get a better job because she got a high score on the PARCC. Nobody was ever going to achieve a happier, healthier life just because they’d raised their Big Standardized Test scores by fifty points. Any such score bump was always going to be the result of test prep and test-taker training, and that sort of preparation was always going to come at the expense of real education. Now, a couple of decades on, all the evidence says that test-centric education didn’t improve society, schools, or the lives of the young humans who passed through the system.

Democrats must also wrestle with the fact that many of the ideas attached to this theory of action were always conservative ideas, always ideas that didn’t belong to traditional Democratic Party stuff at all. Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire talk about a “treaty” between Dems and the GOP, and that’s a way to look at how the ed reform movement brought people into each side who weren’t natural fits. The conservative market reform side teamed up with folks who believed choice was a matter of social justice, and that truce held until about four years ago, actually before Trump was elected. Meanwhile, in Schneider and Berkshire’s telling, Democrats gave up supporting teachers (or at least their unions) while embracing the Thought Leadership of groups like Democrats for Education Reform, a group launched by hedge fund guys who adopted “Democrat” because it seemed like a good wayto get the support they needed. Plus (and this seems like it was a thousand years ago) embracing “heroes” like Michelle Rhee, nominally listed as a Democrat, but certainly not acting like one. 

All of this made a perfect soup for feeding neo-liberals. It had the additional effect of seriously muddying the water about what, exactly, Democrats stand for when it comes to public education. The laundry list of ideas now has two problems. One is that they have all been given a long, hard trial, and they’ve failed. The other, which is perhaps worse from a political gamesmanship standpoint, is that they have Trump/DeVos stink all over them. 

But while Dems and the GOP share the problems with the first half of that statement, it’s the Democrats who have to own the second part. The amateur part.

I often complain that the roots of almost all our education woes for the modern reform period come from the empowerment of clueless amateurs, and while it may appear at first glance that both parties are responsible, on closer examination, I’m not so sure.

The GOP position hasn’t been that we need more amateurs and fewer professionals–their stance is that education is being run by the wrong profession. Eli Broad has built his whole edu-brand on the assertion that education doesn’t have education problems, it has business management problems, and that they will best be solved by management professionals. In some regions, education has been reinterpreted by conservatives as a real estate problem, best solved by real estate professionals. The conservative model calls for education to be properly understood as a business, and as such, run not by elected bozos on a board or by a bunch of teachers, but by visionary CEOs with the power to hire and fire and set the rules and not be tied down by regulations and unions. 

Democrats of the neo-liberal persuasion kind of agree with that last part. And they have taken it a step further by embracing the notion that all it takes to run a school is a vision, with no professional expertise of any sort at all. I blame Democrats for the whole business of putting un-trained Best and Brightest Ivy Leaguers in classrooms, and the letting them turn around and use their brief classroom visit to establish themselves as “experts” capable of running entire district or even state systems. It takes Democrats to decide that a clueless amateur like David Coleman should be given a chance to impose his vision on the entire nation (and it takes right-tilted folks to see that this is a perfect chance to cash in big time). 

Am I over-simplifying? Sure. But you get the idea. Democrats turned their backs on public education and the teaching profession. They decided that virtually every ill in society is caused by teachers with low expectations and lousy standards, and then they jumped on the bandwagon that insisted that somehow all of that could be fixed by making students take a Big Standardized Test and generating a pile of data that could be massaged for any and all purposes (never forget–No Child Left Behind was hailed as a great bi-partisan achievement). 

I would be far more excited about Biden if at any point in the campaign he had said something along the lines of, “Boy, did we get education policy wrong.” And I suppose that’s a lot to ask. But if Democrats are going to launch a new day in education, they have a lot to turn their backs on, along with a pressing need for a new theory of action.

They need to reject the concept of an entire system built on the flawed foundation of a single standardized test. Operating with flawed data is, in fact, worse than no data at all, and for decades ed policy has been driven by folks looking for their car keys under a lamppost hundreds of feet away from where the keys were dropped because “the light’s better over here.”

They need to embrace the notion that teachers are, in fact, the pre-eminent experts in the field of education.

They need to accept that while education can be a powerful engine for pulling against the forces of inequity and injustice, but those forces also shape the environment within which schools must work. 

They need to stop listening to amateurs. Success in other fields does not qualify someone to set education policy. Cruising through a classroom for two years does not make someone an education expert. Everyone who ever went to the doctor is not a medical expert, everyone who ever had their car worked on is not a mechanic, and everyone who ever went to school is not an education expert. Doesn’t mean they can’t add something to the conversation, but they shouldn’t be leading it.

They need to grasp that schools are not businesses. And not only are schools not businesses, but their primary function is not to supply businesses with useful worker bees. 

If they want to run multiple parallel education systems with charters and vouchers and all the rest, they need to face up to properly funding it. If they won’t do that, then they need to shut up about choicey policies. “We can run three or four school systems for the cost of one” was always a lie, and it’s time to stop pretending otherwise. Otherwise school choice is just one more unfunded mandate.

They need to accept that privatized school systems have not come up with anything new, revolutionary, or previously undiscovered about education. But they have come up with some clever new ways to waste and make off with taxpayer money.

Listen to teachers. Listen to parents in the community served by the school. Commit to a search for long term solutions instead of quick fixy silver bullets. And maybe become a force for public education slightly more useful than simply fending off a crazy lady with a flamethrower. 

This is a beautiful https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/swans-for-relief-raises-money-for-dancers-amid-covid-19-47449883?fbclid=IwAR0VmXIqHyeeNP0X7SGh9mR-YShob4sj9yXYToYexWwlzJ1Bg02pGMgEp6Y of 32 talented dancers from around the world performing “Swan Lake.”

They are raising money for dancers whose income has been cut off.

Each dancer is alone, in isolation caused by the pandemic

They give a different meaning to the word “discipline,” which is often associated with punishment. These dancers are models of exquisite self-discipline.

The performances are beautiful and sad, when you consider that these young women practiced and worked for years to reach the peak of their profession and now have no audiences.

Certainly there are more tragic stories today, about lives and livings lost.

But pause for a few moments of beauty.

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.