Showing posts with label Education Nation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education Nation. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Embrace The Chaos

As most of the nation (including myself) heads back to school today, here is my assessment of the current state of national education.

People in the United States crave simple solutions to complex problems. Their lives are filled with enough static that when it comes to issues like education, they desire the quick answer. In exploring the question of whose interests schools should serve, the response seems evident and merely one word: students. After all, the students’ education is the ultimate goal of each school. An education means that opportunity will arise and equality in the greater world will be achieved for each student that walks through its doors.

It is at this point, however, that the complexity begins to creep in. Each student is unique and wonderfully individualistic. They have their own personality which develops from their socialization process. Every student comes from a different culture. Their family, their community, their peers and how they interact with the mass media all combine with the school to contribute to how they are socialized. These interactions produce a plethora of diverse people that absolutely require differentiation which leads to a perpetual state of chaos in our country’s education system.

Invariably, this leads to far too many educators trying to “fix” the chaos. Instead what they should do is focus on managing the complexity of the chaos and recognize that it’s always going to be there. At the outset of this process, patience on the part of all parties involved is essential. If we are to serve the interest of the students as a primary function of the school, educators need to be patient with students and understand their socialization process. Who is in their family? What community do they live in? Who are their peers? To what degree is mass media involved in their lives?

The main area of exploration of each student’s unique nature should be their parents. Most parents today are employed and quite busy in their professional lives. So, some of the child rearing part of a student’s socialization has fallen to teachers. In some ways, we are viewed as “the help” and are now responsible for teaching children common courtesy and respect. At times, this is most difficult because the parents of many students don’t understand this concept themselves and are decidedly lacking in maturity. Therefore, it is vitally important that parents receive their own education through programs like ECFE or other forums in which they can learn how to actually parent. The parents of a student must be an integral part of the triangle of learning (student-teacher-parents) or students’ interest will not be served.

The secondary areas of exploration into each student’s unique nature are important as well. What is their socio-economic status? Do they work outside of school to help support their family? Students’ interests can’t be served if they are working late into the night to support their family and are responsible for 2-3 hours of homework every night, for example. The social cliques in which each student belong can be a support or a hindrance, depending upon the people in each group. Getting to know the peers that each student surrounds themselves can offer great insight. Finally, a student’s interaction with mass media, particularly technology driven media like smartphones and social media, can be illuminating in terms of serving their interest. If they spend excessive amounts of time engaged with technology, lesson plans can be altered to connect with them in that fashion.

If educators are going to serve the interests of their students, they must understand how to manage the complexity of the unique nature of each student. This begins with engaging the parents to be part of the education process and extends to understanding the community and the peers of each student. Socialization via the mass media is also important in understanding how to best serve the interests of each student. Certainly, these tasks are not simple and require a great deal of patience on all parties involved in mentoring students. Yet they must be pursued vigorously if educators want opportunity and equality for each of their students.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Back To School Round Up

With a new school year under way, I thought I would clear out my "Education" folder of saved links in one post. The first story comes from my favorite news source, The Christian Science Monitor (daily news feed located on the right side of this site). They have a great piece up about Common Core and why both the left and the right hate it. Why do the Republicans hate it?

Most people agree that for Republicans, the seeds of the backlash were planted when President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan got behind the standards, encouraging states that wanted to apply for federal Race to the Top funds to either adopt the standards or adopt comparable ones deemed “college- and career-ready.” What had been sold as a state-led effort, supported by the National Governors Association, suddenly became associated with Mr. Obama, and rumors circulated quickly of a national curriculum (the standards don’t actually prescribe curriculum) and a federal takeover of education.

So the usual adolescent rebellion. I'd also add in that Common Core critics from the right have religious objections to what is considered basic standards (evolution, climate change, etc) as well as any sort of history being taught that paints the US in a negative light (unless it's criticism of liberals). Of course, this sort of thing goes on all the time.

The letter takes the framework to task for its "negative" approach to U.S. history. As an example, it attacks the framework for portraying U.S. colonists as "oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country." The signatories also say that at 98 pages, the framework essentially replaces the five-page topic outline with a full-blown curriculum, and one that conflicts with many states' social studies standards.

Essentially, they want to be entitled to their own facts:)

What about the left's criticism of Common Core?

There has also been vocal opposition from blue states – some around the standards themselves, particularly for younger grades, but much of it around implementation, as well as the tests and high-stakes consequences tied to the new standards.

Here we see the usual reluctance to be accountable for student learning. Part of this I get because the real problem in education today is the parents. Students also have different learning styles so the assessment mechanism should be altered. But this still doesn't excuse the fact that teachers should be held accountable and high stakes testing should be implemented for ALL subjects including basic civics. There is a reason why states have standards and there needs to be more serious consequences for instructors that don't follow them.

Interestingly, it's a Reagan era report that is driving Common Core.

The report’s five proposed solutions – improving content, raising standards, overhauling the teaching profession, adding time to the school day and year, and improving leadership and fiscal support – are clear in current reform. They can be seen in the spread of the Common Core standards, a set of streamlined but intense new standards introduced in 2009 that, though controversial, are still in use in more than 40 states; in new teacher ratings based partly on standardized test scores; and in the invention and rise of charter schools with longer school days and no union contracts. 

Initially embraced by a coalition of conservatives and liberals, the solutions offered in “A Nation at Risk” stoked a backlash among many on the left who argued that its criticisms of public education were over the top and that its solutions ignored poverty and inequity in the system. But the Republican-driven revolution is being driven home, as never before, by a Democratic president. The Obama administration admits there’s a connection. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said the report was “influential” in the administration’s education reform strategy.

Huh. I thought President Obama was presiding over a mass indoctrination program turning our nation's children into communists. Instead, he's embracing Reagan?

Well, guess what. So am I. I fully support Common Core because there needs to be some sort of umbrella for our nation's 100,000 schools and 13, 000 school districts. Everyone complains about how we seem to be falling behind the world in education but no one does anything about it. Well, Secretary Duncan (Best SecEd ever in my view) and the president have done something and it's about fucking time.

Criticism from the left is beginning to take its toll on the unions as we see in this piece from Politico.

Responding to all these challenges has proved difficult, analysts say, because both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are divided internally. There’s a faction urging conciliation and compromise. Another faction pushes confrontation. There’s even a militant splinter group, the Badass Teachers Association.

In many ways, they are starting to sound more and more like the Republican Party:) Ah well, I've been persona non grata with the union since I questioned tenure. I have the same advice for them that I do for the GOP...change or become irrelevant. 

Speaking of conservatives, one of their big pet peeves has always been zero tolerance laws so they should be happy about this story from NPR.

Saying that "zero tolerance" discipline policies at U.S. schools are unfairly applied "all too often," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is urging officials to rethink that approach. The Obama administration issued voluntary guidelines today that call for more training for teachers and more clarity in defining security problems. The move by the Education and Justice departments comes after years of complaints from civil rights groups and others who say the policies are ineffective and take an unfair toll on minorities. The zero tolerance approach has been blamed for boosting the number of suspensions and expulsions and for equating minor infractions with criminal acts.

Agreed. Although it's not as big of a problem as the right wing bubble will have you think (misleading vividness and all), it is something that needs to change.

Turning to the world of the wacky, we have this...


My favorite?

5. “The woods” is a perfectly normal location for a party. Want to get drunk and shoot guns and make out? So does everyone else! Meet us in the forest half a mile off the highway–take a left at the big rock.

Party, dudes!

Finally, we have this amazing piece from Sarah Blaine called "The Teachers."

We need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students. We don’t know. I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a masters degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. 

Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know shit about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching.


Monday, October 03, 2011

A Teacher's Note

I came across this recently on the FaceBook page of Pastor Jim. Recall that Jim's wife was my first girlfriend and he and I regularly have political debates on his wall, some of which I reprinted here.

Clark's piece sums up exactly what instructors go through on a daily basis. The problem isn't really the schools, the teachers, the administrators or communist infiltration of our education system (I could barely type the last bit without laughing). It's the parents and what's become of them as a result of their own choices and our culture as a whole. So, what do they need to understand?

We are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.


Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.


And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.

His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.


Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.


And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.


We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.


Everything was so well said and exactly how I feel that there was nothing else to add.

Now, the question do we change the behavior of the parents?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Education Nation

I rip the media a lot for focusing on mainly ridiculous stories whose only purpose is ratings and sales of bullshit products. But NBC has really stepped up with their focus on education with their Education Nation project. Even in a time of sleazy election stories, their decision to focus on this extremely important issue shows real courage. I've been waiting to see something like this for a long time and boy oh boy have they delivered! The site is chock full o' action items on where you can start and what you can do to help out. Want to see how your local school is doing? Check out the nation wide, searchable database for detailed information.

The simple fact is this. Our country is having the problems we are having because of our education system. We are at a crossroads and every citizen must make a serious effort to improve the education of future generations. Marches, rallies and yelling are nice but what do they accomplish? Getting involved in the education of your community is far more valuable.

There is no doubt in my mind that Arne Duncan is the best Secretary of Education we have had in decades. He, and the president, understand all too well the stakes. This would be why they are calling for 10,000 new math and science teachers ASAP, a review of the tenure policy, poor teachers to be fired, and an absolute commitment to achieving deep knowledge and enduring understandings in the youth of our nation.

I'm going to be talking quite a bit about Education over the next few weeks. I'll also be sharing my thoughts on the film Waiting for Superman which has become an enormous spark to the movement to change the system. I'll be looking at specific issues that need serious change in order to improve the system.

Bring your pens and pencils, kids. Get ready to take notes and share ideas!