Sunday, April 13, 2014

#160 April 13, 2014- Reclaiming Power in Education

Educational Power. . .
These are troubling times for public education and for supporters of free, equal, and integrated schools.  There is news about budget cuts, increased "accountability" and new initiatives for our public schools on a nearly daily basis.  The fact that so many of these so called "reforms" are questionable in intent and in validity make them even more troubling.  After all, we know that there are Achievement Gaps and other problems that exist in our public school systems.  Educators and public school advocates don't want to stand in the way of reforms that truly work in the best interest of all students.  Yet, the "tools" that are offered to our schools don't measure up to the simple standard of being "good for kids." 

This is a reality in communities all around Wisconsin.  Whether in urban or rural settings, in Conservative or Liberal communities, wealthy or poor districts, the news is the same.  The attacks on public education are taking a toll on educators, schools and are impacting public perception of our schools.          

As the public sees more and more information about the problems in our schools, the solutions offered by "reformers" seem increasingly reasonable.  After all, if our students are failing shouldn't we increase accountability for schools, gather more data about our students and offer alternative programming to meet the needs of different groups of students?  On the surface testing and privatization in our educational systems seem to provide needed "reforms" that will help improve outcomes for students.

Cities nationwide are watching the experiment to see if replicating its model might benefit students

Common Core-aligned tests will soon replace Wisconsin's standardized tests in reading and math.|By Lee Enterprises

Yet, the increased testing, efforts to privatize and initiatives that are imposed on educators are simply a continuation of the policies designed to destroy our public schools that started a few decades ago with legislation like No Child Left Behind.  They are imposed by people who are not invested in the children who are impacted by the "reforms."  People who have limited, if any, classroom experience and who frequently don't have children in the schools they are "reforming."  They limit the ability of educators to use professional expertise and direct knowledge of specific students to provide educational opportunities specifically aimed at individual student needs.  They force educators to spend as much, or more, time filling out paperwork, as working with students.  In short, the "reforms" too often intensify the very problems that they are supposedly designed to eliminate. 

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert eviscerated the always controversial Common Core, remarking that the uniform education standards actually...

Tuesday's annual release of state test scores of students attending private schools using vouchers included scores from students in the statewide...|By Lee Enterprises

If people outside of our schools really knew just how harmful many of these efforts to "reform" our schools really are, they would be amazed and appalled at what is being done to our students, educators and school systems.  Whether it is the extra hours of work and the impractical nature of the new Educator Effectiveness system, the standardization of curriculum at the expense of quality educational opportunities or the stifling of the voices of professional educators, the results are the same for students.  Those who live in affluent, upper class neighborhoods receive a different education than those in other areas.  The "reforms" that are being imposed are re-segregating our schools based on race, and class.  

Why does so much of our talk about race and poverty leave us Americans spinning our wheels? One big reason is etiquette. What is said often matters less than who says it.
Green Bay Press-Gazette

The general public is caught between what they hear "educational experts" say about the "reforms", and what they know about the educators in the schools in their communities.    Remember, most Americans mistrust public schools in general, but respect and like the schools in their immediate community.  Those who have students in school also have strong opinions about what they want their own children to learn and how they want the learning to occur.   

It may surprise you.
Washington Post

The problems that we face are not unsolvable.  The challenge is for those who work, learn and support our public schools to stand up against a political machine that seeks to profit from the educational process.  It takes organization and courage to continue to fight against the powerful forces who are moving education "reform" processes.  The task is daunting, but one that isn't impossible.   
Wisconsin had the worst achievement gap between black and white students among states last year, and officials shouldered the blame Wednesday while putting the onus on teachers to address the issue.

The opt out movement is gaining momentum as more parents are opting their students out of standardized testing. Here are a few actions that are occurring across the country made up of many voices. ...

Now that the opt out season is in full swing and the Testing Resistance has spread across the country, we should take a minute to reflect and remember the purpose of opt out. Despite what the "chan...

Uniting families, students, community members and educators together can help begin the process of reclaiming power in education policy making.  Divided, we will be easy to defeat, but united these forces are extremely powerful.  The difficulty is in finding time and venues to get many groups together to talk.  It is only through conversation and debate that common ground between these diverse groups can be found.  Unless these conversations occur the gaps between different parts of the educational community can seem wide and insurmountable. 

These gaps are exactly what the "reformers" use to give power to their message of public school failures.  Yet, all the different components of our educational community share some common interests and goals, safe schools, high achievement, successful students, these things that every educator, family and community wants.  We are all bound together in an effort to find the best ways to make these broad goals become achievable.  It is time for us to recognize the power we have and the obligation we have to use that strength for our students, our schools and our society. 

Or unless you get organized.
Mother Jones
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Keeping with the theme of organizing in order to increase the power of our message, here's an effort in Milwaukee that is very promising on its own, but also as a model for future action.

Common Ground is demanding at least $150 million for school athletic facilities before it will support public funding to replace the Bradley Center.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Don Walker

Madison educators joined together to raise money for a great cause, and have fun at the same time. 

People bowled for a good cause in Madison Sunday.Dream Lanes hosted the MTI Bowl-a-Thon, along with Madison Teachers, Inc.<br>|By Jennifer Kliese

We also need to get the message out about the reality of the ACA.  There is another narrative circulating among those who oppose more Progressive legislation, or who simply hate our current president. 

For this edition of Curbside Consult, I Skyped with Dr. Jonathan Gruber, who is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the health care program at the National...

According to Rand, 8.2 million new people—7.2 million of them previously uninsured—have gotten employer insurance since mid-2013.
Mother Jones

The Bad . . . Those on the Right will try and tell anyone who will listen that Liberals are the ones who use government to enforce their values and who are on crusades to attack any who oppose them.  However, there is plenty of that type of action coming from both sides of the aisle. 

A Wisconsin state senator is asking the state to investigate the registration of one voter who led a protest against a mine the senator supports.

In 2011, in response to a conservative group’s request, Erpenbach turned over 26,000 emails but blacked out the names of the senders.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Patrick Marley

The Ugly . . . Everyone is entitled to an opinion, however, it would be great if more opinions were rooted in fact, not propaganda.  

The report finds that MSNBC was the most accurate cable network in 2013, and CNN could be a lot more accurate if it would stop hosting "debates"...
Mother Jones

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