Sunday, September 28, 2014

#181 September 28, 2014- Systematic or Enlightening

Education Defined. . .
Public education in the United States has served many functions, better or worse, over the years.  Just as our founding documents and national rhetoric show a disconnect between the vision of a nation founded on the principles of "Liberty and Justice for all" and the reality of what has transpired over time; so too, our systems of public education have too often left the promise of equality and opportunity for all unfilled.  The vision of education as the cornerstone of a democratic society has been co-opted by politicians seeking a tool to access power, and by those who would use education as a weapon of socialization or domination.  These efforts have left students, families, communities and educators to grapple with an inequitable and inefficient system that serves different groups in different ways and produces unequal results.   

There have been efforts made to address the issues around public schooling in America, but they are too often controlled by those outside of the schools that are being reformed.  It is readily apparent that many of these so called "reforms" find their motivations not in sound educational practice, or in an effort to make the system better for all students.  Instead, these "reform" efforts are rooted in a desire to achieve a specific political, social or economic outcome.  Educators on the front lines in our schools are put in the unenviable position of having to choose between risking their jobs or teaching in ways that they feel are inherently flawed and unjust.     

An education system that does not honor the educator as one of the most powerful supports in a child's life fails to realize the value of local leaders.

Despite claims to the contrary, our public education system has never been uniformly supported financially or pedagogically.  Now, with the waves of  economic and social "reform" sweeping our nation the problems are magnified. 

The teachers have been lying to us. For years. They've been covering it up. Papering over underfunding and mismanaged fiscal priorities with brightly coloured posters and sparkly stickers. Concealing an impoverished system by...

Chicago teacher reports on the effects of privatization of custodial services at her school, and it is a dirty business.

Venture capitalists and for-profit firms are salivating over the exploding $788.7 billion market in K-12 education. What does this mean for public school...

There are many ways that the injustices and inequities play out in our current system of public education.  The Achievement Gaps that our students face are well documented.  The buildings that serve different communities are visibly unequal.  We can also see how our students are tracked and moved in directions that result in unequal outcomes. 

None of this is particularly new or even startling to those who have been paying attention to our educational systems in the present, or the past.  The gaps and inequities have been in place for a long time, and they mirror the gaps and inequities that we see in our broader society.  What is especially troubling about the current state of affairs is the concerted effort to make these unfair imbalances as permanent as possible through policy and legislation.  Whether by directly mandating certain policies (NCLB and RttT), by influencing curriculum and assessment (Common Core) or by controlling educators through intimidation and silencing their voices (Act 10) the current crop of education "reformers" are seeking to institutionalize unjust educational practices.  

A generation ago, our nation enacted the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) which measured the quality of our schools by the state standardized reading and math test scores of students. Schools that did not make the required progress were...

That this follows so closely on the heels of a period of hope in American society; a time when our schools were becoming more integrated and Achievement Gaps were closing, is deeply troubling.  It is also problematic that those who are falsely "reforming" our public schools are doing so in the name of improving outcomes for students and supposedly creating a better system.  They are based on a flawed idea that competition and accountability will create a system that improves educational outcomes. 

The efforts to make a system that will address every need of every student in a uniform way ignores the simple reality that all individuals are exactly that, individuals.  No two learners will be exactly alike and any system of education must take that into account.  Our current "reforms" also attempt to take the multiple facets of education and select a few to apply.  Education becomes a thing that we can identify and quantify (as in getting a good education or a poor one) and loses its status as an active process that is difficult to place a number or value on.

Our current system has become so data driven that we have, in the process of defining a quality education, ceased to deliver what we seek to measure.  We test, we assess, we record and collect data, and in the end we fail to provide quality educational opportunities to our students.  Instead of allowing our students to explore their world and playfully interact with their learning environments we post "learning objectives" and measure their progress as though they are patients in an intensive care unit.  We put our students on an educational treadmill and turn them into piece work employees or assembly line workers who are rewarded for parts of a process, but never get to see the whole product they are working towards.        

Many years ago, I first heard the term "semantic infiltration." It was used to refer to the way that...

A key component in the efforts to "reform" education is the use of standardized assessments to measure progress and to hold our educators and schools accountable.  While assessment is a vital part of any classroom it has become a more dominant aspect of the process than it should be.  As a 4th grade educator I will spend close to 30 hours administering standardized assessments to my students this year.  That is about as many hours of art instruction as they will receive, or as many hours of music as they are allotted.  I hear educators from primary grades talking about how they haven't yet gotten into their curriculum because they are still administering assessments.  Our students who are most at risk are not being taught, all so that we can determine that they need to receive instruction in the areas that our assessments identify as needs.  Yet, any educator in my school building can already tell who is in need of more intensive support, even without specific data about a student.

Over-testing has become a central aspect in the struggle around improving educational outcomes for our students.  Even Progressive educators find themselves falling into the assessment trap when we compare our test scores to those of privatized schools.  We also allow assessment to become a dividing force when we push for students in voucher schools to be tested in the same way public school students are.  In reality, all educators should be banding together to inform our communities and unite in an effort to reduce the amount of testing that all students experience.    

I Refuse to Administer the PARCC: A Letter to the Citizens of Colorado by pegwpen · September 21, 2014 Citizens of Colorado, I address this letter to you,...

We also need to support our students and families when they rise up in protest of false "reforms."  Our students should have a voice in how they are educated and what the environment they learn in is like.  We need to allow our students to grow and develop naturally as people and as learners.  Instead we continually prepare them for the next level, or the "real world."  As one of my students said a couple of years ago, "Mr. Waity, why do we always have to get ready for 6th grade?  Why can't we just be 5th graders and do kid stuff?"

Denver area students walk out of school in protest

One dictionary defines education as either. . .

1. the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
or. . .
2. an enlightening experience.

The question remains, to we want students in our schools systematically instructed, or enlightened?  It is up to us to decide.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Despite all the efforts to derail the ACA there is some relatively good news on the health insurance front. 

Rate filings submitted to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) show the cost of health insurance plans to be offered to Wisconsin residents on the Affordable Care Act's...|By Greg Neumann

We all need to make sure that everyone who is eligible has their vote counted in every election.
Got ID, Wisconsin?
An interactive tool to ensure your vote counts. Brought to you by United Wisconsin.

Wisconsin DMV Official Government Site - Obtaining an ID card
Requirements for obtaining a Wisconsin identification card.

While there is always the important caveat that the Madison economy isn't thriving for all groups, we also know that the Madison way of doing things can work, and can be a positive vision for our state.  
Madison economy thriving in spite of the WMC/Walker Way
Discussions from a graduating Master's student on items including life in the Upper Midwest, the dismal science, and brilliant beverages.|By Jake formerly of the LP

National defense is important, and our security needs to be protected.  However, we can't forget that a huge part of national security is having a stable, well fed, engaged population living in a socially just society.  That's something that unions can help create.

Unions: The Real Homeland Security
Americans are obsessed with national security. Over half of the national budget is spent on defense. The Department of Homeland Security has brought us the biggest bureaucracy in the history of human kind. But for most of us real security...

The Bad . . . If this election continues to be portrayed as a choice between the lesser of two evils then we will struggle to get the turnout that we need.  We may have reservations about Mary Burke, and we may want her to take a stronger stance for public education and labor, however, we know that we will be ignored (at best) and attacked by her opponent.  We need to put our support behind a candidate who will do more than cater to a small group of special interests. 

Democratic nominee Mary Burke has stayed mostly quiet on union issues, despite its potency among organizers

The Ugly . . . All the information and all the effort to get out the vote is being made more difficult by the timing of the decision and the logistics of implementing the law.  This is a horrible injustice and it's happening right now, in our state. 

Agencies: No money to implement voter ID
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell: Implementing voter ID this close to the election 'a mess' : Ct
In a television interview, he says some people will struggle to be able to vote in the Nov. 4 election.|By Lee Enterprises

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