Archives for category: Real Education

John Ogozalek teaches high school in upstate New York.

I was outside a good part of yesterday. There are lots of jobs to do here in the country when winter starts to really end. I also went and uncovered the old spring out in one of our fields. No cell phone works there so I was truly out of touch.

The idea is that if there’s a typical, garden variety power outage due to something like a bad storm, the line crews could be stretched thin the next few months If they’re shorthanded, our corner of the world might have to wait much longer than usual for the lights to come back on. And the pump that draws the water up for our house to kick back into service.

So, I was cleaning up the spring. It’s been there for generations. Nearby there are trees much older than the last major pandemic in the U.S. 100 years ago. I was way beyond the range of anyone hearing me even if I shouted at the top of my lungs, standing there in the cool, mountain breeze. It kind of put this current global disaster in a bit of context -at least for a few moments.

And the thought came to me there on that hillside: it’s incredible how WARPED our priories have been for our schools -and our entire society. Less than two weeks out of the usual school routine and it is so clear how warped and demented so many things have become.

I’m heading back down there later this morning. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

The sun is out today and it’s getting stronger every spring day that goes by.

Take care.

Paul Lockhart wrote a brilliant essay called “A Mathematician’s Lament,” in which he competed the teaching of music to the teaching of mathematics. What if children spent years learning how to identify and describe colors and art forms but were not allowed to draw or paint until they got to college?

I was reminded of a critical description of the teaching of science in the late nineteenth century. Children learned to memorize the parts of a flower but never to study the natural world around them. All they knew of nature was what they memorized in dry textbooks.

Thanks to Steve Nelson for recommending Lockhart’s essay.

Today is “pub day,” as they say in the trade.

I started writing SLAYING GOLIATH in February 2018 as I watched and read news reports about the teachers’ strike in West Virginia.

I watched in awe as every school in the state was closed by every superintendent so that teachers were technically not breaking the law that prevents them from striking.

I watched in amazement as teachers and support staff assembled in the state capitol, decked in red T-shirts, carrying homemade signs, and declaring their allegiance to #55Strong, a reference to the 55 school districts in the state.

I saw them stand together proudly and defiantly, insisting on fair wages and decent working conditions.

I realized as #Red4Ed spread from state to state that something fundamental had changed in the national narrative about education.

The media were no longer talking about “bad teachers” and “failing schools,” but were actually listening to the voices of those who worked in the schools.

In January 2019, I marched in the rain with teachers of the UTLA in Los Angeles.

And I saw the national narrative change.

I read stories about how poorly teachers were paid instead of blaming them for low test scores.

Suddenly the press woke up to the massive neglect and underinvestment in education that was creating a teacher shortage.

Demoralization was replaced by jubilation as teachers realized that they were not merely passive bystanders but could take charge of their destiny.

Many teachers ran for office. Some won and joined their state legislature.

I began to see the world in a different light.

I looked at the latest NAEP scores and read the lamentations about flat scores for a decade (that was before the release of the 2019 scores, which confirmed that the needle had not moved on test scores despite billions spent on testing).

So many changes were happening, and suddenly I realized that the so-called reformers were on the defensive. They knew that none of their promises had come through. They were on a power trip with no expectation anymore of “closing the achievement gap” (which is a built-in feature of standardized tests, which are normed on a bell curve that never closes). No more expectation that charter schools were miraculous. I began checking and realized that the number of new charter schools was almost equaled by the number of charter schools that were closing.

Something new and different was in the air: Hope!

Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “some people claim that reform is failing, don’t believe them.” Then I knew it was all over.

I knew that the “reform” project was nothing more than a Disruption movement. It had succeeded at nothing.

Yet it was the Status Quo.

And this behemoth had the nerve to claim it was opposed to the “status quo.”

The behemoth–Goliath– controls all the levers of power. It controls federal policy, it is steered by billionaires, it has the allegiance of hedge fund managers, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and a long list of foundations. One of my sons, a writer, read an early version of the manuscript, and he said there were too many names in the chapter about the Disruption Movement. I explained the importance and necessity of naming names. Every one of them was documented.

Arrayed against this daunting assemblage of the rich and powerful were parents, educators, students, people who wanted to protect what belongs to the public and keep it out of the hands of corporations and entrepreneurs.

I decided to tell the story of the Resistance and to zoom in on some of the heroes. There was Jitu Brown in Chicago, who led a hunger strike of a dozen people on lawn chairs and forced Rahm Emanuel to capitulate. There were Leonie Haimson Rachael Stickland, who organized other parents and defeated Bill Gates and his $100 million project called inBloom, which was all set to gather personally identifiable student data and store it in a cloud managed by Amazon. There were the valiant and creative members of the Providence Student Union, who employed political theater to stop the state from using a standardized test as a graduation requirement. There was Jesse Hagopian and the brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, who refused to administer a useless test, risking their jobs. There were the parents, students, and activists in Douglass County, Colorado, who fought year after year until they ousted a far-right board that wanted to be first in the nation to offer vouchers for religious schools. There are individuals, like Ed Johnson in Atlanta, who keeps telling the school board how to approach reform as a system rather than as an opportunity to punish people. There were many more, and many that I did not have space to include.

Goliath is not dead yet. But he is propped up solely by the power of money. Goliath has no ideas, no strategies, no plans that have not already been tried and failed.

I loved writing the book. I wrote it to give hope and encouragement to all the Davids still fighting to preserve and improve public schools and the teaching profession.

Goliath will always have more money. But take heart: Goliath may be standing but he will not be there forever. Every act of resistance adds up. Goliath stumbled. He will fall.

Even billionaires and oligarch tire of pouring millions and millions into failure after failure after failure.

Please give a copy of SLAYING GOLIATH to school board members and legislators. Give a copy to your local editorial writer.

On my book tour, I will be in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the historic West Virginia teachers’ strike.

And I will personally thank them for changing the national narrative!

 

 

Let me confess that I have a mad crush on Audrey Watters although I have never met her. I love her fearlessness, her keen intelligence, and her unapologetic humanity.

I wrote a few days ago that her recent post on the 100 Biggest Worst Ed-Tech Debacles was the best post I had read in the last decade.

She got a lot of feedback to that zinger of a post, and some readers asked her if she could name the 100 best things that happened in Ed-tech.

She answers that question boldly in this post.

I paraphrase: Ed-Tech has enough marketing, branding, shills, and paid mouthpieces. Hers is not one of them.

 

How often have you learned something for a test, then promptly forgot it?

One of the goals of education surely is to instill a love of learning and to build a foundation of knowledge that one can draw upon and increase in future learning.

Steven Singer notes that a steady diet of standardized testing may actually undermine learning. 

He begins:

The main goal of schooling is no longer learning.

It is test scores.

Raising them. Measuring growth. Determining what each score means in terms of future instruction, opportunities, class placement, special education services, funding incentives and punishments, and judging the effectiveness of individual teachers, administrators, buildings and districts.

We’ve become so obsessed with these scores – a set of discrete numbers – that we’ve lost sight of what they always were supposed to be about in the first place – learning.

In fact, properly understood, that’s the mission of the public school system – to promote the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Test scores are just supposed to be tools to help us quantify that learning in meaningful ways.

Somewhere along the line we’ve misconstrued the tool for the goal. And when you do that, it should come as no surprise that you achieve the goal less successfully.

A great victory for real education in Milwaukee, where the business community and politicians have been obsessed with “choice” for 30 years. From the FB page of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association.

This is a victory for students!

This is a victory for real education!

A Big Victory for Music in MPS!
 
70 photos5 hours ago
Last night the School Board decided to take the first step in moving towards giving the students of Milwaukee the schools they deserve by unanimously passing an initiative to bring music back to ALL MPS schools. This was a big first step in bringing our schools back to what they once were. Thanks to all who wrote letters, sent emails, made phone calls, and testified at the committee hearing on Tuesday to make this happen. We will win the schools our students deserve! Photos are from Tuesday’s committee hearing. #MPSproud

This is one of the best of Jan Resseger’s many brilliant posts.

In it, she quotes a surprising source, who explains the importance, centrality, and  necessity of public schools as anchors of their communities.

As you may have guessed, I am a huge admirer of this insightful, wise woman.

Please print this out, email it, tweet it, put it on Facebook, share it with your friends.

I never quote a post in full. I want you to go to the source and add page views to the author. This is an exception because I can’t find a word to cut.

She writes:

The 2019-2020 school year is now underway, and in an ironic twist, in a business journal, the academic dean of the college of education at the for-profit University of Phoenix has penned a beautiful reflection on the meaning of public education. Dean Pam Roggeman understands the meaning for families and for communities of their public schools.

Roggeman writes: “This early fall, I’d like to honor the millions of parents who…  send their kids to school for the first time. Critics, possibly a bit removed from their neighborhood public schools, at times try to paint public education as a nameless, faceless bureaucratic institution that is riddled with faults. And like many other institutions, our public schools do have flaws. However, those of us rooted in our communities, with or without school-age kids, do not see our schools as faceless institutions. Rather, we associate our schools with our child’s talented teacher, or the principal greeting kids at the door, or the coach waiting for kids to be picked up after practice, or the mom who became this fall’s crossing guard, or the front office staff who commiserate with us as we deliver the forgotten lunch, and… also with the friendly bus-driver who will not move that bus until every child is safely seated. We rely on and embrace our neighborhood public schools as a community enterprise on which we deeply depend.”

Roggeman defines the reason public schools are one of our society’s best opportunities for establishing systemic justice for children: public schools are required by law to serve the needs and protect the rights of all children: “(T)here is one thing that our American public schools do better than any other schools in the country or even in the world: our public schools commit to addressing the needs of every single child. Our public schools are open to ALL children, without prejudice or pause. Our schools attempt to educate EVERYBODY. American students are students who are gifted, students with disabilities, students who need advanced placement, students who have experienced trauma, students who are learning English, students who are hungry, affluent students, students who live in poverty, students who are anxious, and students who are curious.”

Reading Roggeman’s reflection on public education as an essential civic institution caused me to dig out a Resolution for the Common Good, passed by the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ more than a decade ago, when I was working in the justice ministries of that mainline Protestant denomination. The resolution was passed unanimously in 2005, in the midst of a decade when an ethos of individualism was accelerating.

The values defined in the introduction to the resolution mesh with Roggeman’s consideration of public schools as the essence of community: “The Twenty-fifth General Synod calls upon all settings of the United Church of Christ to uphold the common good as a foundational ideal in the United States, rejects the notion that government is more unwieldy or inefficient than other democratic institutions, and reaffirms the obligation of citizens to share through taxes the financial responsibility for public services that benefit all citizens, especially those who are vulnerable, to work for more equitable public institutions, and to support regulations that protect society and the environment.”

The introduction of the resolution continues: “A just and good society balances individualism with the needs of the community. In the past quarter century our society has lost this ethical balance. Our nation has moved too far in the direction of promoting individual self interest at the expense of community responsibility. The result has been an abandonment of the common good. While some may suggest that the sum total of individual choices will automatically constitute the common good, there is no evidence that choices based on self interest will protect the vulnerable or provide the safeguards and services needed by the whole population. While as a matter of justice and morality we strive always to expand the individual rights guaranteed by our government for those who have lacked rights, we also affirm our commitment to vibrant communities and recognize the importance of government for providing public services on behalf of the community… The church must speak today about the public space where political processes are the way that we organize our common life, allocate our resources, and tackle our shared problems. Politics is about the values we honor, the dollars we allocate, and the process we follow so that we can live together with some measure of justice, order and peace.”

Recognizing “significant on-going efforts to privatize education, health care, and natural resources, and to reduce revenues collected through taxes as a strategy for reducing dependency on government services,” the delegates resolved “that the United Church of Christ in all its settings will work to make our culture reflect the following values:

  • that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens;
  • that government policy and services are central to serving the common good;
  • that the sum total of individual choices in any private marketplace does not necessarily constitute the public good;
  • that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses;
  • that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means; (and)
  • that the integrity of creation and the health and sustainability of ecological systems is the necessary foundation for the well-being of all people and all living things for all time.”

Since that resolution passed in 2005, we have watched an explosion of economic inequality, the defunding and privatization of public institutions including K-12 public education, the defunding of social programs; the growth of privatized and unregulated charter schools, the abuse of power by those who have been amassing the profits, and the abandonment of policies to protect the environment.

A just and good society balances the rights of the individual with the needs of the community. I believe that the majority of Americans embrace these values.  I wonder how we have allowed our society stray so far.

 

 

Here is news you can use! Carol Burris and Leonie Haimson now have a regular one-hour radio show on WBAI In New York. The show is called TALK OUT OF SCHOOL, and it will appear weekly. WBAI is part of the progressive Pacifica Network.

In their first show, they discussed student privacy, a subject on which Leonie is a national advocate and expert, and they analyzed current controversies about diversity, selective admissions, and racial integration, a subject where Carol has extensive experience as principal of a detracked high school on Long Island.

Leonie is executive director of Class Size Matters and co-founder of the national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Carol is executive director of the Network for Public Education.

Next week, Leonie will interview civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker.

Of this you can be certain, this show will be a place to hear talk that is characterized by experience, common sense, and wisdom.

 

 

 

Stephen Singer explains the ways that technology impedes learning. He is not opposed to technology. He is opposed to its overuse and misuse.

Way #1:

1) It Stops Kids from Reading

 

I’m a language arts teacher. I want my students to read.

 

I could simply assign readings and hope students do them, but that’s not practical in today’s fast-paced world. When kids are bombarded by untold promises of instant gratification, a ream of paper bordered by cardboard doesn’t hold much of a claim on their attentions.

 

So like many teachers, I bring reading into the classroom, itself. I usually set aside class time every other day for students to read self-selected books for about 15 minutes. Students have access to the school library and a classroom library filled with books usually popular with kids their age or popular with my previous students. They can pick something from outside these boundaries, but if they haven’t already done so, I have them covered.

 

In the days before every student had an iPad, this worked fairly well. Students often had books with them they wanted to read or would quickly select one from my collection and give it a try.

 

Sometimes when there was down time in class, when they had finished assignments or tests early, they would even pick up their self-selected books and read a little.

 

What a different world it was!

 

Now that every student has an omnipresent technological device, this has become increasingly impossible. I still set aside 15 minutes, but students often waste the time looking for an eBook on-line and end up reading just the first chapter or two since they’re free. Others read nothing but the digital equivalent of magazine articles or look up disparate facts. And still others try to hide that they’re not reading at all but playing video games or watching YouTube videos.

 

Even under the best of circumstances, the act of reading on a device is different than reading a printed page.

 

The act of reading traditional books is slower, closer and more linear. It’s the way teachers really want kids to read and which will most increase comprehension.

 

Reading on a screen is a product of social media. We scroll or scan through, seeking specific information and clicking on hyperlinks.

 

The old style of reading was transformative, absorbing and a much deeper and richer experience. The newer style is more superficial, mechanical and extrinsic. (And, Yes, I’m aware of which style of reading you’re engaged in now!)

 

To be fair, some students actually prefer reading eBooks on devices and may even experience the richness of the original style. But they are few and far between. Usually students use the devices to escape from the deeper kind of reading because they’ve never really done it before and don’t understand what it really is. And when they have this choice, they may never find out.

 

The Connecticut State Board of Education hired a new state commissioner who pledged to raise the graduation rate, close the achievement gap, and “Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.”

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what every new commissioner promises? Has any new commissioner in any state achieved those goals?

Ann Cronin, veteran educator, explains why these are tired cliiches and what a visionary approach would look like. 

First, would be to change the term “graduation rate”  to something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

“Credit retrieval” is a common practice in public schools with low graduation rates. “Credit retrieval” allows students to make use of often dubious computer programs that, in no way, equal courses in academic subjects, yet  the students get credit for the academic courses. In doing so, students increase the graduation rate for their schools but do not have adequate learning experiences.

Charter schools have another way to increase their graduation rates. They “counsel out” students who are likely to not graduate before they get to be seniors which leaves only a pre-selected group as seniors and, unsurprisingly, they all graduate. And lo and behold, the charter school has a high graduation rate. For example, one year at Achievement First’s Amistad Academy in New Haven, 25 students out of 25 in the senior class graduated, but 64 students had been in that class as ninth graders.

A visionary way to increase the number of students who receive a high school education is to not count the number of students who receive high school diplomas but rather count how many of the students who begin a school as ninth graders complete the coursework necessary for graduation. For example, some innovative public high schools hold Saturday classes with actual teachers instead of plugging kids into commuter programs. The applause should be given to high schools who deliver a quality education to all the students who begin their high school education in the school not to the schools who either give credits without the academic content and skills or who dismiss those who won’t make for a good statistic.

Read her essay to see her critique of “closing the achievement gap,” which is impossible when the gap is based on standardized test scores which are designed to have a gap.