Sunday, October 26, 2014

#185 October 26, 2014- Public Education Held to a Higher Standard

Seeking Educational Perfection. . .
We are constantly hearing from those who would "reform" public education about how they are seeking to make our current public educational systems more equitable in terms of opportunity and outcomes.  They either imply, or explicitly state that the current system is a failure, and that a "new" privatized system of specialized schools is the best way to address the inequities that exist in our current public educational systems.  The arguments make good sound bites, and seem to be logical and even "common sense" in nature, but the reality that the "reform" movement creates is based on faulty logic and too often actually harmful to those students it is supposed to help.

One of the major flaws in the "reform" argument is that we can completely eliminate all gaps in opportunity and achievement.  This is something that few people in educational policy making positions are willing to admit.  By making this statement we open ourselves up to criticism and accusations of having low expectations for our students.  Yet, to my knowledge, there has never been a society where everyone was equal in outcomes, and where every individual was able to achieve proficiency in all skills.  However, that's what we are asking our schools to do when we look at the evaluation and accountability standards that we are holding our public schools and public educators to.  The 100% proficient goal set by NCLB is the most obvious of these goals of perfection, but there are countless other examples of ways that we expect our schools to perform flawlessly for every student in every circumstance.

Once again, this isn't an excuse for not meeting all our student's needs.  Instead, it is an argument that by setting uniform standards and expectations for all students we are creating situations and expectations that don't work for all of our students.  We test, assess and evaluate our students based on a narrow set of standards that frustrate and limit our student's potential.  In the name of "rigor" and "grit" we label students, schools and educators as failing when they don't achieve specific goals that have been established by policy makers who have no idea what any given student's needs really are. 

Many parents (and kids) are pushing back against the Common Core Standards. And they might be right to do so.|By Alice G. Walton

In the name of change, we too often repeat, and even amplify, the mistakes of the past.  The result?  If one test gives us data, then two-three-four-etc. tests can give us even more data.  The time for real reform and change is upon us, before it's too late for our public schools.    

A couple of years ago, early one morning, I received an SMS advising “resadents to stay indoors because of a nearby insadent”. I was shocked by the spelling, as much as the message. Surely, I thought…|By Misty Adoniou

"Why destroy public education so that a handful can boast they have a charter school in addition to their yacht?"

The pressures of daily life and the challenges that our students face in their communities where poverty, racism and inequity is too often the norm, is compounded by the pressures to perform in school.  Our students are not responsible for our nation's current struggles politically, socially or economically, and they certainly shouldn't be players in a global test score competition that quantifies little and destroys educational opportunities.  By pushing our students to "achieve" we are putting stresses on our young people that are causing them emotional harm.  The result is a large number of students who are labeled behavior problems and who develop an identity that is distorted by a sense of failure that is imposed on them by a flawed system.  Instead of punitive and harmful policies, we need to give them the tools to deal with the reality that they experience.     

Punitive Schooling by Owen Davis The education reform movement has brought “broken windows” policing into the classroom. “Women’s School Jail.” Library of Congress When police grappled Eric Garner into a chokehold and left him to die...

With eyes closed and deep breaths, students are learning a new method to reduce anxiety, conflict, and attention disorders. But don’t call it meditation.

While the simple premise that all students will develop academically, emotionally and socially at the same prescribed rate is in and of itself unrealistic, there are other problems with holding our schools responsible for all of the inequities and societal ills that exist in modern America.  One of the most glaring is the fact that most political leaders and policy makers don't really understand education, nor do they pay much attention to public schools except during election season. 

Dear Editor: As a school board member from South Milwaukee, I am insulted and embarrassed — for my constituents and the children in my district — by the refusal of

We are asking our public schools to address issues that go well beyond the school walls.  These issues are deeply entrenched in our society and have been a constant source of struggle and conflict throughout our nation's history.  Issues around poverty and race are not easily resolved, but education "reformers" often dismiss them as either irrelevant, or simply ignore their impact on student learning.  The idea that students can come to school and not be impacted in their learning by external forces is ridiculous and puts educators in a challenging position. 

Can we really expect teachers and schools to overcome so many obstacles by preparing kids for "college and career" without addressing the inequality and poverty their students experience everyday?...

We are also asking our schools to "fix" these issues and provide opportunities for all students while operating on budgets that don't allow for adequate resources to be deployed to our most challenged schools and communities.  Funding to schools is cut, and then our schools are criticized for "failing" our students.  The simple fact is that education is a labor intensive endeavor and the labor that is required must be well trained and well supported in order to be most effective.   

The deadline for states to apply for the $250 million in grants from the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services is Frid…

How does Wisconsin provide the necessary funding to invest in quality education?

While we hold our schools to high standards, the "job creators" and business community escapes this scrutiny. 

Hard to rise, and harder to fall: Poor college grads stay poor about as much as rich high school dropouts stay rich.

A common refrain from tech companies about their woeful staff diversity figures is that there simply aren't enough African American and Hispanic programmers to fill the demand. The numbers don't support them.

In the end we know that perfection isn't attainable.  We will have gaps, miss opportunities and struggle to meet our students' needs.  Knowing that, we must strive to minimize the inequities and close the opportunity gaps that exist.  Failing to achieve perfection is one thing, knowingly perpetuating policies or procedures that are inherently flawed is another.  Public education has the potential to make significant, positive societal change happen.  It is up to educators, families, students and supporters of public education to make sure that the potential is realized.   

Chicago teachers show how to organize an effective boycott of standardized tests, and offer advice to others.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . The fact that collective bargaining rights being used as a threat against an opposing candidate shows just how little the public understands about organized labor.  Unions and collective bargaining have firm roots in our democratic traditions and should be a given in a society that claims to believe in equality and justice for all.   

Burke supports other parts of union rights law

The Bad . . . Whether it's the fact that there is such a thing as a School Reform Commission, or the fact that Philadelphia's educators are seeing their contracts violated this is clearly in the Bad category.  However, taking to the streets and exercising a collective voice, Good. 

Thousands of Philadelphia public school teachers and their supporters protested outside of the Philadelphia School District amid the School Reform Commission's meeting inside Thursday evening.

The Ugly . . . While most people would probably say that they have a right to vote, the reality is quite different.  Making voting a constitutional right would help in so many ways.  Ironically, our most "patriotic" citizens and most vocally "pro-American" leaders would oppose an amendment, but support voter ID. 

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