Equity, Public Education
and Revolution. . .
We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and God grant that America will be true to her dream.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
America's public schools have been a topic of intense debate for years. Many of the key issues have always been centered around defining student success and determining how effective our public education systems are in providing access to opportunities for our students. Public education has been advertised as the pathway to success and a way to escape poverty. At the same time it has been chastised as another example of how our society is failing a significant number of students, especially our children of color and students of poverty.
The attacks against public education have come from a variety of sources, but supporters of public education are pushing back and the debate has been intense. Unfortunately, we have found that defining success or failure for our public schools is more difficult to do than one would imagine.
A historian of education argues that despite the widely held notion that American schools are failing, things have actually never been better.
We find ourselves engaged in a societal debate about issues that are very personal and individualized in nature. Attempting to create a perfect system for a collection of diverse individuals is difficult at best, and the results we are achieving demonstrate just how tough it is to try and institutionalize something like education. The terms we use, the policies we implement and the ways we instruct and assess all lose their meaning as we travel further away from the central focus of education, the individual student. Things like Achievement Gaps are examples of issues that are immense in scope, but made up of single components that need to be addressed as such. There is no perfect system in place that can effectively meet the needs and fulfill the wishes of every student, family and community in our diverse nation. Yet, we also need to have a public education system in place that can provide opportunities for all students. Quite a challenging prospect. No wonder issues around public education are so controversial and spark such intense debate. Yet, these discussions and the solutions we arrive at are vital to the survival of our nation and the ideals that we have based our national identity on.
While the debate about defining education and providing equity in such a difficult endeavor are enough of a challenge, we also find that there are other issues that impact our public education discussions. Money is one of the biggest of these. We can't forget that there are those who view education not as a tool to improve society, but as a vehicle to pad their bottom line.
A specter is haunting America - the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists and others are making common cause to hasten the destruction...
Economics also impacts education by creating an unequal playing field for the students in the system. There is ample evidence that poverty has a significant impact on student success in our education systems, public or private, and the gaps between social classes exist inside and outside of our schools. It is very troubling that these gaps are widening in modern America.
Students from high-poverty public schools are less likely to attend college than those from wealthier ones, regardless of whether they're from urban, suburban...
With the discussion about poverty comes a needed conversation about race in America and its impact on outcomes whether educational, economic or any other. Race and poverty are closely linked in our nation, and this is compounded by the history of injustice and inequity that mar our nation's history. This combination of present problems, and historical struggles puts our nation's young people in a difficult position. They are growing up in a more diverse America than ever before, but they are doing it in a society that is still controlled by archaic and inequitable systems. Breaking through these barriers is difficult and must be supported by all of us. This means changing the current ways of doing things and looking towards the future, not being controlled by the past.
Telling young black males they are “endangered” is no favor.
Our current systems are driven and supported by "data." Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of public education. We assess our students non-stop, and then use the results as weapons against progress. Instead of using assessment to promote better instruction, it often is used to sort, classify and suppress learning. Students who don't test well are relegated to remediation or to "interventions" that simply continue to further separate them from their peers. Assessment becomes, not a vital part of instructional practice, but rather a way of justifying institutional segregation and tracking systems. While masked by righteous rhetoric, the end result too often is that we use the results to put students into categories that will impact their entire life.
When defenders of the Common Core say these standards are tools that belong to teachers, they are ignoring the historical roots of such standards.
Behavior and the public's perception of what is happening in our schools is also an important aspect of the debate. There are many competing ideas about how to make our schools safe and orderly. Yet, the policies that are created are often imposed from outside of school buildings. Each student is an individual and needs individual attention. Nowhere is this more true than in their emotional engagement in learning and the relationships that are built as they move along their educational journey. While we may want to return to the "good old days" of supposedly quiet and obedient students, we need to recognize that those days were filled with challenging students and "pranks" that today appear on police reports. Go to any high school reunion and listen to the stories that make the case that kids of the past were far from angelic.
In no way is this an effort to ignore the reality that we face significant behavioral challenges in our schools. Discipline is an issue and the difficulties are compounded by societal pressures, mental health issues and the stresses that our families and student live under. What makes these problems even more challenging is the fact that there are many who don't recognize the importance of relationships, time and the resources needed to make any school building a safe and positive one for all who work and learn in it.
Joanne Lipman writes that today's educators are too soft. It is time to go back to the discipline of the past.
m.wsj.com|By Joanne Lipman
The Madison School District will receive about $6.1 million less in state aid for 2014-15 than expected, according to final state aid numbers released...
host.madison.com|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal
Non-partisan research and policy institute working on federal and state fiscal policies and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income Americans
Instead we turn to "fixes" that actually harm our students and our educational systems. We operate under the illusion that an educational marketplace will improve outcomes when in reality it simply stratifies and segregates our students.
MADISON — Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state's voucher system for failing
We've always had gaps and groups that have failed in our schools. We know that a utopian ideal where all are equal is a dream, but never has been a reality. Yet, we also know that we can do better for our students, especially those of color, with disabilities and who come from diverse cultures. As the diversity of our nation increases the exposure to those different from us also increases. This can be a frightening experience for many of us. Suddenly the view of what is "normal" and "expected" needs to change and adapt in order to incorporate others who have different experiences and opinions. This causes a number of responses, unfortunately many of which are centered around fear and anger. It is time that we leave these negative emotions behind and build a better future for all of our citizens.
This change can begin in our public schools. However, positive change for all students doesn't just magically happen. It involves a lot of work, some very difficult discussion and even conflict at times. It doesn't happen unilaterally, nor does it occur in a vacuum. It involves entire communities coming together to talk about what they need and want for all children. It must begin by breaking down barriers that have been built over the years, and moving forward under the premise that we all want a successful society where all of us are valued and respected.
Why the current wave of reforms, with its heavy emphasis on standardized tests, may actually be harming students
theatlantic.com|By John Tierney
Overcoming years of tensions and divisions, parents and teachers are linking arms to save public schools.
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . As the debate continues about voter ID, a great argument against the law, written by a Conservative judge.
Conservative icon/federal judge changes mind on photo ID laws, issues blistering dissent against them. Read it here
The Bad . . . Teaching is a tough enough job without all of the legal and political struggles, not to mention the disrespect that we are too frequently shown by our employers. No wonder the attrition rate for new teachers is so high.
A panel of education experts says that the nation's understaffing problem is about retention, not recruitment. The solutions? Better leadership and more freedom for teachers, they say.
The average teacher salary in Wisconsin dropped last year and trails the national average.
Representing the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators IEA Retired, we walked the line with striking Waukegan teachers this week. "There they are," Harriet pointed. A couple dozen striking Wauke...
Union president Mike Lipp calls the standard needed to prevail “punitive.”
host.madison.com|By Pat Schneider
The Ugly . . . So sorry to hear about Karen Lewis' illness. Hoping for a speedy recovery.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who just pulled out of mayoral contention, is suffering from a cancerous brain tumor that was diagnosed shortly after she experienced a severe headache on Oct. 5. As a result, Lewis...