Sunday, May 25, 2014

#166 May 25, 2014- Public Education Needs Leaders

Educational Leadership. . .
Public education in modern America is under attack.  There is a very real and persuasive movement to change the very fabric of our educational system and to make education a resource that is socially, economically and politically controlled.  A resource that is available, in any meaningful way, only to a select group.  The potential power of public education to be a force for a socially just, democratically ruled society is muted by the attempts to privatize schools, to control what and how material is taught, and by the efforts to silence the voices of parents, community members and educators in decision making about educational policies and initiatives.  That all of these attacks are carried out under the guise of "reforming" our schools or providing more equitable outcomes makes them difficult to counter, and more damaging in their impacts.

As we "reform" our schools we see a loss of diversity and a re-segregation of our educational system.   History has shown us that a separate and unequal society starkly divided along any demographic lines (racial, gender, religious or class) can not thrive or survive for very long.

On the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board, Congress is set to expand a...
The Huffington Post|By Diane Ravitch

Legally, you can't tell a parent of a kid with a disability that the child can't...|By Amy Silverman

With the standardization of curriculum and the emphasis on test scores for "core" content areas, students lose out on opportunities to learn and experience curriculum that is vital to our survival as a society.  A culture filled with individuals who are only educated to read "closely" or to perform rote algorithms will stagnate and decline.  Students need time and experiences with the arts, with science and the social sciences to become well rounded, community ready, emotionally healthy citizens.   

The arts are not the whole solution for education in the 21st century. We...
The Huffington Post|By Kerry Washington

It was announced today that the Boston Public School department is "reorganizing" by eliminating all Departments of History & Social...

We are raising a generation of chronically sleep-deprived, anxious,...
The Huffington Post|By Vicki Abeles

As we seek ways to "get back to basics" in educating students we see an effort made to turn educators into script reading, robotic automatons.  New evaluation tools, supposedly imposed to hold educators accountable, actually go a long way towards forcing conformity in our classrooms that reduced  the ability of educators to exercise their professional judgment and to individualize instruction for specific student needs.  That, and the fact that they are often based on flawed research, means that educators will find themselves spending as much time justifying their methods as they do practicing their profession.   

Has research slamming "value-added measures" affected the education...
Washington Post

Two companies are banking on helping districts improve their ability to hire high-performing teachers by using predictive analytics.

The Madison School Board is considering spending $273,000 for a...|By Lee Enterprises

Not satisfied with controlling the public and political dialog about education, so called "reformers" are setting their sights on the programs that educate future educators. 

The TPA in edTPA stands for Teacher Performance Assessment. Student...
The Huffington Post|By Alan Singer

I could respect the efforts to "reform" our schools more if the intentions behind privatization efforts were truly focused on improving outcomes for all students.  Yet, a significant majority of these "reform" efforts are designed either for profit, or to benefit a specific clientele.  Both the educational profiteers, and the school choice movement that represents a small number of parents are well represented in lobbying efforts.  The students who truly need the support and advocacy must rely on their families, community groups and educators.  The battles in the political arena are unequal and the outcomes often predetermined in favor of the wealthy and privileged.  

Banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit, which they can combine with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they...
The Huffington Post|By Alan Singer

The second year of Wisconsin’s statewide school choice program expands the number of eligible students to 1,000.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Edgar Mendez

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — More than 3,400 students have applied to receive a taxpayer-funded voucher to attend private and religious schools...|By Lee Enterprises

The financial attacks on public schools have been devastating for districts, administrations and school personnel.  Inequitable school funding and cuts in state aid to our public schools have left districts across the state vulnerable to fiscal ruin.  Then the budget problems are used against the districts in an effort to privatize schools around Wisconsin.    

Proposals to fix the state’s school funding formula target aid for the unique needs of rural schools and now we need a bi-partisan commitment to get the work done for the sake of our communities.|By Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District

Steve Domurat, a 23-year veteran of cleaning and maintaining Wauwatosa Public Schools, will be part of the district's plan to layoff half of the custodial staff and hire contractors to clean the schools. Domurat is cleaning...

Noting that it would be nice to finally have a little spending cash on hand,...
The Onion

The political efforts to control education are gearing up as Conservative leaders look for ways to control local school districts.  These leaders can look south to Chicago and dream of having the power to appoint their own school boards to carry out their attacks on public schools even more effectively.   

Last night, in a discussion devoted to Milwaukee County government “reforms,” conservative gazillionaire Sheldon Lubar casually dropped a bomb: His next target is the Milwaukee Public Schools.,Daily Dose
A year after Chicago’s school board voted to close a historic 50 schools, the...

In order to counter these attacks we need strong leadership at the local level.  That is why this quote from the article about MMSD using a screener in the hiring process is so problematic.  In the article it states that, "Board member Ed Hughes said he believes the board's role is not to debate contracts like this at length, but to trust the administration's recommendations."  Notice how there is no mention of trusting educators or community members.  It is also problematic in that our school board is elected to oversee our school system and make decisions about just these types of decisions and contracts.  If our elected officials don't hold school administrations accountable then they are not doing the job that they were elected to do. 

In some places we are even seeing school boards push the "reform" agenda while ignoring the educators who work in their schools.

I am the son of a black father from the South Side and a white mother from...
The Chicago Sun-Times|By Letters to

Leadership doesn't end with elected officials.  In fact, our strongest leadership should come directly from the staff, community and even students in our schools.  We can work to elect officials to help us and to represent our interests, but if we've learned nothing else from the past 3 years here in Wisconsin, it should be that the people themselves need to be our biggest and most vocal advocates.  This means fighting to make our voices heard and continuing to spread the message about the power of public education.     

The goal of Teacher Powered Schools initiative, led by Education Evolving, is to seed a movement that will inspire other teachers in schools across the country to realize their potential as leaders.

The group of parents, educators and community members at my school (SCAPE) is working to get involved in the process of developing our school's School Improvement Plan (SIP).  We have been working to make our voices heard on many issues and the SIP is a way to have an influence on a wide range of things going on in our school.  Our primary goals in this process are. . .

-Meaningful and direct family/community input in the creation of the SIP.  This
includes having a parent on our SBLT (School Based Leadership Team).  It also means having some mechanisms in place for input so that the representation is truly inclusive and not simply the "squeakiest wheels."
-Diversifying the voices heard in discussion about school policies.  Investigate
and address reasons why we aren't seeing consistent participation in school events and decision making.
-Identifying alternative ways to measure student growth, school climate and other goals (academic, climate and social-emotional).
-Becoming a data informed, not a data driven school
-Sharing the positives about our school/staff/students.  Using these as potential
"data" in a systematic way.
-Identifying what we as a school community value and what we want our students
to experience.  What does it mean to be successful, educated, etc.?
-Investigating potential partnerships that could impact student achievement
(including things like birth-3 reading programs) and build connections with community organizations and other resources.

Every school is different, every district is different, but they all have some venues where those who support and believe in the power of public education can have a voice.  The challenge is to identify the best mechanisms and to find like-minded individuals to join in the fight.  We can't forget that the majority of people support their public school.  We must not allow a tyranny of the minority to destroy something of such great value.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Now on to bargaining in "good faith" as required by law.

MADISON, Wisconsin - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's...

The Bad . . . Education isn't the only target of the current Conservative "reform" movement.

State legislatures have favored employers over their employees.|By COREY ROBIN

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The 20 highest-paid state employees last year worked for the Wisconsin Investment Board, which manages the...|By Lee Enterprises

One way to fight back is to spend your money effectively and wisely.

Stock your summer BBQ with these union-made products

The Ugly . . . The harm that is being done to the people of Wisconsin is terrible, and needs to be stopped. 

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