Sunday, May 17, 2015

#211 May 17, 2015- Data, Equity, Money and Public Education

The ongoing struggles in our nation around equity, opportunity, freedom and the American Dream are the result of a complex blending of many aspects of our society. We are grappling with the reality that there are great disparities in achievement and opportunity for many people living in America. We also are struggling to come to terms with the historical legacy of injustice, intolerance and authoritarian aggression that creates barriers, anger and frustration as we seek to move forward from our present situation. There seem to be either simple straightforward solutions to our problems (bumper sticker slogans and political rhetoric), or no solutions whatsoever depending on which source or perspective you choose to believe. What is clear is that we must address the many challenges that we face in order to maintain the sustainability of our society, as well as to create systems that serve all members of society as equitably as possible.

It is in trying to address the inequities that exist, and in working with the diversity that is the people of America that we see the complex nature of our challenges emerge. What works for one group may encounter barriers or resistance with another. What heals old wounds for some, opens them for others. Critiquing existing systems supports change and offers hope, yet can also create a sense of crisis and fear. Trying to bridge these many divisions often seems insurmountable and we see some members of our society retreat behind walls both literal and figurative in nature. It becomes easier to ignore the problems of others, or to minimize their importance than to work to address the many concerns that exist in our society. Discussion and debate fall victim to this type of thinking as we see an effort made to silence dissenting voices and to keep the fa├žade created by the vision of American Exceptionalism intact.

Democracy and a society based on individual freedom is an inherently messy way to govern a nation. The sheer variety of opinions and the many different needs that the many individuals and groups in our society voice create a cacophony of dissenting viewpoints and definitions of success. It truly takes significant time and reflection to find ways to unite such a wide range of cultures, ideas and philosophies under a single functional and sustainable umbrella. Yet, through all of the turmoil and conflict, America has endured and on the whole prospered. Unfortunately, this prosperity has too often been on the backs of a significant portion of the population that has struggled for recognition and access to the wealth and power enjoyed by some members of our society.

As we seek to move forward there are a small number of things that virtually all who live and work in America agree are important. One of these is the need for a system that educates the people of America to become positive and productive contributors to our society. Yet, despite the agreement that education is important, we are seeing this commonly valued resource become a part of our battles around social justice. This is especially true when we talk about our nation's public education system. Something that seems on the surface to be so basic and straightforward, educating our students in the basics that they need to thrive in society, becomes a source of conflict, fear and anger. This isn't a new phenomenon in America, our public schools have always been a strange combination of resource, and restriction. A place where opportunity exists, but at the same time existing prejudices and inequities abound. Why does something as positive as a system of public education fall short of achieving the lofty ambitions that we have for it.

One reason is that we really don't have a clear definition of what it means to be educated. As a society we struggle to decide whether being educated means something practical and employment related, or something broader and less easily defined. We want our schools to provide both aspects of education for our students, but at the same time aren't always financially committed to broadening our definition of education.       

Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie planted nearly 1,700 libraries across America. Over the years they grew. Now they are trying to survive.

The President is correct.

How we define success, equity and opportunity are a part of the problems we currently face. We often use data and  to confuse or distract others, and we manipulate "facts" to support our own opinions at the expense of those who oppose our ideas. This is clearly identifiable in the economic aspects of public education where we seek to define our success or failure in economic terms and use dollars to quantify a wide variety of aspects of our educational systems.

The superintendent of public instruction said districts still face cuts if funding is unchanged from the last budget.|By Todd D. Milewski | The Capital Times

Changes to the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program undermine a long-used measurement for child poverty.

Wisconsin is projected to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending this school year. This was the major conclusion of Michael Griffith, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Education Commission of the States, at Monday’s “Forum on
The Wisconsin Public Education Network met Friday and discussed legislative priorities.

This use of data isn't confined to economic aspects. We are seeing a movement to quantify achievement in clearly defined and measurable terms. We are defining student success in terms of test scores and progress towards meeting what often seem to be arbitrary standards that don't always line up with the cognitive development of our students.   

'An appropriate curriculum for young children is one that includes the focus on supporting children’s in-born intellectual dispositions, their natural inclinations.'

With the push for an earlier and earlier start to academics for our kids, we all know the best thing we can do for them is let them play for as long as we can....

We test and assess students in order to measure achievement, but instead of using this information to improve the quality of education for all students we see the scores used as weapons against our schools and students. The penalties are not equally distributed and focus more intensely on schools that serve our historically disadvantaged populations. 

Standardized testing, school accountability measures negatively affect college readiness and...

Students are asked to take tests they, teachers and school administrators know they can't pass.

On Friday state Representative Kooyenga from Brookfield circulated a new version of a “recovery zone” proposal that he and Senator Alberta Darling have...|By joebrusky

If you've taken a high-stakes test in school before, you know how stressful it can be. But did you realize these five ways that they also perpetuate inequality?

This system of high stakes testing and accountability impacts both staff and students in our public schools. It causes wider gaps and impacts student achievement and long term success in many ways.  

CPS corrected a coding glitch that caused errors in more than 4,500 educators' REACH performance task scores. The mistake led to incorrect ratings...

Kids with a fixed mindset believe that you are stuck with however much intelligence you're born with. When they fail, these kids feel trapped. They start thinking they must not be as talented or smart as everyone's been telling them....

Part of the process of reclaiming public education involves respecting the professional knowledge and expertise that our educators have and allowing them to be leaders in education. Too often we follow the leadership of businesspeople or others who are outside of the field of education to lead our efforts to improve our schools.  We need to recognize the knowledge and professionalism that our educators have when shaping important policies. The efforts to change the way students are disciplined and the ways that we enforce our rules in schools here in Madison provide an example of important work that needs to be lead by school based educators. We know that we need to reach our students more effectively and get them more engaged in the process of learning, but we also know that there are many barriers to making this happen. Instead of relying on broad policies that may not address specific needs we should listen to the students, families and staff members who work in each school and support their efforts to engage all students.

As students streamed inside Reiche Community School one Monday morning, I heard a third grader exclaim, “I’m so glad to be here today!” My colleague

We also need to shed some of our existing prejudices and work together to resolve our challenges.

Harsh response to the pair’s meeting speaks to passions around the charter school proposal that divided them.|By Pat Schneider

We know that our schools exist in an unequal society and we know that this reality places some restrictions on our public schools as well as impacts the climate that our students, families and staff members work and learn in. Yet, we should not allow our public schools to be limited by the flaws in our wider society. Instead of mirroring the deficiencies that exist in our society we should strive to have our schools provide the image that society emulates. We can't let our efforts be defined by the inequities, historical legacies and other flaws that we all know are present in American society. We can achieve great things and strive for a socially just society, and our public schools can provide the mechanisms to make this happen.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . First it was Bernie Sanders for President, now Russ Feingold is running to return to the US Senate! The 2016 election just got even more interesting. Hopefully these two leaders can shift the debate in our nation in a more positive and progressive direction. 

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrat Russ Feingold has decided to run for his old Senate seat in Wisconsin against Republican Ron Johnson, who defeated him in 2010.

With the former senator's return, Democrats have a strong chance to beat Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. A loss could doom their chances of retaking the Senate.

Progressively minded citizens need to work to reclaim the Democratic Party, or push to support viable 3rd party candidates who will work for the values that so many of us hold dear. Business as usual isn't working well for too many citizens, or for the future of our nation. 

The latest squabble over the Trans-Pacific Partnership shows just how low America's "Progressive" Party has sunk

The Bad . . . While we can spend a significant amount of time and energy debating the statistics and shifting numbers around to prove/disprove any position, it is clear that Wisconsin's economic situation is murky at best. It is hard to argue that we are better off because of so called reforms like Act 10 and right to work. These types of legislation have done little to improve the economic status of most citizens. We also are seeing a significant number of groups' economic outlook decline or stay negative under this administration. Combine this with the turmoil and divisiveness of the past 4 years and we can see that economic data can only go so far in defining our state's success and achievement.

The news isn’t nearly as good as one University of Wisconsin professor seems to believe.|By Marc Levine

The Ugly . . . Madison is still dealing with the violent death of Tony Robinson and the aftermath of the decision not to charge Officer Kenny.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday that Madison police Officer Matt Kenny would not be charged in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson Jr.

While we attempt to come to grips with what this means for our community we are faced with many reminders of the scope of our challenges. Whether on a national level. . .

US' second review before UN Human Rights Council dominated by criticism over police violence against black men

Or on a historical one. . .

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of a massive police operation in Philadelphia that culminated in the helicopter bombing of the headquarters of a...

It is clear that we have a lot of work to do as we attempt to create a society where safety and justice are balanced in an equitable manner. Every situation is different and based on individual circumstances, yet at the same time the cumulative effect is devastating for our society. It's time for us to have a discussion that moves us forward, recognizing the past injustices (including that done to other groups in our society) while seeking to lift us towards a fair and socially just system.

To argue against the cop in the Tony Robinson shooting - unless you think DA Ismael Ozanne just made everything up - one must argue that cops don't have a...

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