The Mission Hill School is a Boston Public Pilot School in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts serving approximately 220 children,...
I just returned from four days away from the electronic universe and education headlines.
One of the first bits that caught my eye was the obvious fury around Secretary Duncan's initial comments and efforts to defend his thinking about the upset of "white suburban moms" regarding Common Core.
Then I saw that my twitter feed held a more substantive Common Core critique by Ethan Young, a high school senior in Tennessee.
The linking of these two seemed like an easy blog but my continued catching up soon found that Anthony Cody, as often happens, had already connected the dots in these stories AND named the biggest issue I have with the common core - that it was unfolded and rolled out without the engagement of teachers, students, and parents across the country. It's one thing to want a national set of standards and common assessments - another thing altogether to develop them without actually engaging the people who live the results (is citing the Affordable Care Act as an example here too sad or easy?)
So this morning, as I continue catching up, I'm continually struck by one persisting thought:
We don't have a social contract for education in America anymore.
You can argue we've had one, or enough of one, since 1954. But today we don't have any agreement about what the purpose of public education is. Education, its values, how it's delivered, the public investment required, and the learning it should offer is fully contested.
Ethan Young finished his testimony by saying: "You cannot ignore me, my teachers, or the truth. We need change, but not common core, high-stakes evaluations, or more robots."
Which begs the question: what change do we, as a people, want?
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Henry Rollins used to be one of my role models. I aspired to be as radical, outspoken, hostile, and informed as he seemed to be. But that was in high school... when I looked up to him as the frontman of Black Flag. You know, that was a long time ago... I haven't heard much about Henry Rollins or Black Flag since then.
All that said, I'm pretty stoked to see Henry in this video speaking some solid truth to the power of meaningful education. He opens up this interview with this quote:
"The way out is Education. Always has been, always will be. It is the great leveler of the playing field."
He then expands on the idea of the lack of equitable and meaningful education being a root of maginalization in the United States. Such an education will level the playing field, he posits - prison populations would plummet, and minorities would be better able to walk a path in life that supported their well being. I think that's pretty cool, Henry. I think most of what he says in this interview is pretty much awesome and true. Check it out:
But he's missing a critical piece... What Henry doesn't talk about is that with or without a better education, institutional and systemic racism in America is still at large. Now, to be fair, Henry, without explicitly naming it, speaks to this in pointing out that meaningful education isn't nearly as available for minorities in The States. But lack of opportunity doesn't just exist for minorities in schools or learning environments. Systemic racism permeates throughout our white dominant culture. And though I do believe that education must be both meaningful and equitable, I won't assume that reinventing education alone is going to remedy the racism that is still very much at play in and around our society. And you know, I don't think he assumes that either. I just would've liked to hear him speak a little bit more of that cold, hard, punk rock, in-your-face truth about what's going on. Otherwise, we're only talking about part...
I know for many the naming of a child is a deeply personal and spiritual experience that reflects some symbolism of one's cultural, traditional, and familial background. For my children, it was all of the above. And because I put so much thought, research and energy into naming them, I expect people to respect that.
I get a little miffed when people ask me for a nickname or something short. Because of this, I am sensitive to how our names are more than just letters in a random word our parents chose to give us. When I posted a short story about a recent classroom experience on my Facebook page, it did not surprise me that many related to the story, or found themselves moved by my student's story.
This story is a story about dignity, love, acceptance, and compassion. It is about identity and the small things we can do that go along way. It is not a story about how well I aligned my classroom pedagogy to the Common Core Standards, or how well I prepared my students for some standardized test that will be used to evaluate my effectiveness in the classroom. As we explore the purpose of education, this story presents the importance of what it means to develop compassionate individuals who understand the dignity that exists in every human being, what it looks like to respect and honor that.
When I was twenty years old, I found out that my father at once in his life went by a different name from what we knew him by. Around 8pm one evening the phone rang. Always one to answer the phone, I pick it up.
"Yes, hello! May I speak to Thomas?"
"There is no one here by the name of Thomas." My dad overhears my response and comes running down the stairs. "It's for me," he exclaims and smiles at me.
Interesting. In the twenty years I had known my dad, I had no clue. My dad had a secret he'd never shared...
Learning Session A begins in less than 2 weeks. If you're following us on IDEA's Blog and social media, you're bound to hear more about the aftermath of the Learning Breakthrough Series kickoff. But, if you can't wait and simply must know more now, don't hesitate to dig in here.
Looking for a breakthrough in your own day?
Crank up the volume, get outta that chair, and have your own personal dance-off to Lemonade Mouth's Breakthrough. And feel okay to smile about it as your listen and think about standing up. Daily doses of pure fun are part of what it's all about.
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I support school choice - but it's complicated.
I live in Washington, D.C., where almost half of the city's students attend charter schools. I helped launch a charter school here. My son attends another one, and the city is beginning to see some real collaboration between its charter schools and the district. Good things are happening.
At the same time, I worry about what might happen if too many of us simply assume that the invisible hand of the modern school marketplace - or, worse still, the incentivizing hand of the modern school official - is a sufficient strategy for ensuring that all children receive equal access to a high-quality public education.
I hear the horror stories of places like Michigan, where four out of five charter schools are run by for-profit entities (read that again). I see the sizable (albeit shrinking) discrepancy between the expulsion rates of charter and district schools here in D.C. And I take seriously the warnings of scholars like Harvard's Michael Sandel, who urges us to think much more carefully about the role market-based thinking should have - scratch that, does have - in our lives.
"Markets don't just allocate goods," Sandel writes in What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. "They also express and promote certain attitudes towards the goods being exchanged." And what has occurred over the past thirty years is that without quite realizing it, we have shifted from having a market economy to being a market society. "The difference is this: A market economy is a tool - a valuable and effective tool - for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It's a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market."
What's common between recent news of a request from children's book authors to President Obama, and new findings about the rise of ADHD diagnosis? They're both a response to the increasing use of high stakes tests in the United States.
Over 120 children's book authors and illustrator's sent a letter this week to President Obama urging him to reverse the use of high-stakes tests, describing how they have reduced children's enjoyment of reading and pushed out creativity and exploration from the learning process. Coordinated by FairTest, signers of the letter include Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and Jane Yolen. From the letter:
We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.
We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.
Just some advice to President Obama: it's a good idea to listen to what the authors of I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing request! And great that they not only have thrown their support against the tests but also in favor of authentic assessment and national advocacy campaigns to change the way we assess learning.
On the ADHD front, outcry about the over-diagnosis and mis-diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children and youth isn't new and isn't rare. Yet an article out this weekend confirms something we may have already suspected:...