Seattle Education

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Weekly Update: Opting out Texas style, the World Peace Game and who IS going to fix the plumbing?

First up, the parents are taking back their schools in Chicago.

One of the steps in corporate ed reform is mayoral control of the school board through appointments rather than elections. This way, the moneyed few who influence the mayor can then also have influence over how the schools are run. This has worked very well for Eli Broad in Los Angeles where he has been great buddies with  Mayor Villaraigosa for many years. In Chicago where there has been mayoral control for 17 years, parents and concerned citizens are fighting to take back control of their schools by demanding an elected school board.

From Stan Karp at Rethinking Schools, a great article Challenging Corporate Ed Reform, And 10 hopeful signs of resistance. Here are two excerpts:

Teacher Evaluation as a Weapon

Teachers and schools, who in many cases are day to day the strongest advocates and most stable support system struggling youth have, are instead being scapegoated for social policies that are failing both our schools and our children. At the same time, corporate reformers are giving parents “triggers” to blow up the schools they have, but little say and no guarantees about what will replace them.

The only thing corporate reform policies have done successfully is bring the anti-labor politics of class warfare to public schools. By demonizing teachers and unions, and sharply polarizing the education debate, corporate reform has actually undermined serious efforts to improve schools. It’s narrowed the common ground and eroded the broad public support a universal system of public education needs to survive.

For example, take the issue of teacher evaluation, which the corporate reformers have made a top priority in almost every state. On the surface, there is actually a lot of common ground on the need to improve teacher support and evaluation. There’s widespread agreement among educators, parents, and administrators on the need for:

better preparation and evaluation before new teachers get tenure (or leave the profession, as 50 percent do within five years).

reasonable, timely procedures for resolving tenure hearings when they are initiated.

a credible intervention process to remediate and, if necessary, remove ineffective teachers, tenured or nontenured.

Good models for each of these ideas exist, many with strong teachers’ union support. (See, for example, this description of the Montgomery County, Md., professional growth system: rethinkingschoolsblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/taking-teacher-quality-seriously-a-collaborative-approach-to-teacher-evaluation.)

But corporate reformers have detached the issue of improving teacher quality from the conditions that produce it. Instead, they are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into data systems and tests designed to replace collaborative professional culture and experienced instructional leadership with a kind of psychometric astrology. These data-driven formulas lack both statistical credibility and a basic understanding of the human motivations and relationships that make good schooling possible. Instead of “elevating the profession,” corporate reform is deforming it.

Stan Karp continues,

Hopeful Signs of Resistance

It’s important to remember that corporate reform rests on fundamentally false premises. Corporate reformers do not represent the interests of poor communities of color or, for that matter, working- or middle-class communities. Test-based reform, which is now the status quo in public education and has been for some time, has been a colossal failure on its own test score terms.

And because reality still counts—despite the bizarre Wizard of Oz-like character of our media and political systems—corporate reform rests on a very weak foundation of false claims and failed policies. For all its deep pockets and political influence, it’s a movement that has absolutely no way to deliver on its promises of better education for all, and particularly for our poorest and most vulnerable schools and communities.

That’s why, despite the backing of the 1 percent, corporate ed reform is running into increasing opposition from the rest of us. So let me end by offering a quick survey of 10 hopeful, tangible signs of growing resistance to the corporate reform agenda. These are promising efforts to build on as we work to turn the race over the cliff into a fight for a better, more democratic future. In no particular order:

Parents Across America has linked experienced parent activists in Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Florida, and elsewhere into a growing parent voice for better education policies and programs. The landscape is different in every city, but there is no more crucial work than mobilizing parents and building an alliance with teachers to defend and improve public education. Even a small group of activist parents can have a big influence on local reform debates if they join with educators, community leaders, and others. If you haven’t connected to PAA already, do it (www.parentsacrossamerica.org).

To find out what the other nine hopeful signs are, check out the latest issue of Rethinking Schools.

Speaking of teacher evaluations, a subject that I will continue to focus on next week, check out Audit Culture, Teacher Evaluation and the Pillaging of Public Education on Education Radio.

Here is the introduction:

In this program we speak with Sean Feeney, principal from Long Island New York, about the stance he and other principals have taken against the imposition of value added measures in the new Annual Professional Performance Review in New York State. We also speak with Celia Oyler, professor of education at Teachers College Columbia University, and Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, about the impact of value added measures on teacher education and the corporate powers behind these measures.

And this weekend, definitely watch Occupy the DOE in DC on Livestream, maybe even have a Livestream party! I’m watching it right now!

United Opt Out is a major sponsor of this event and they have an excellent website chock-full of information on opting out of standardized testing. Tom Slekar and Shaun Johnson of Opt Out also produce the radio program that I post regularly, @chalk face. In the most recent broadcast they talk about Occupy the DOE, the most recent “red scare”, our nation at risk, and other timely topics.

And speaking of opting out, Texas is doing it the only way Texas seems to do anything, BIG. From School officials: High-stakes tests failing students

The backlash began brewing long before Texas’ top education official called the emphasis on standardized testing “a perversion of its original intent,” long before the approach of new, more rigorous end-of-course exams.

For years, murmurs of discontent have stirred among teachers tired of devoting class time to test preparation, school administrators saddled by legislative mandates, parents anxious about an increasing focus on high-stakes assessments.

Now, a mounting chorus of school administrators, educators and parents is speaking out against a system in which they say testing has eclipsed teaching.

At least 40 school boards across the state, including those in Friendswood, Clear Creek, Alvin and Dickinson, have taken a public stand by passing a resolution decrying the “over reliance on standardized, high-stakes testing” that is “strangling our public schools.” Many others, including Humble and Crosby, plan to consider the resolution at their next school board meeting.

Top read the full article, go to chron.com.

Now for another great read, Joanne Barkan does it again with Hired Guns on Astroturf: How to Buy and Sell School Reform in Dissent:

Ed reformers spend at least a half-billion dollars a year in private money, whereas government expenditures on K-12 schooling are about $525 billion a year. Nevertheless, a half-billion dollars in discretionary money yields great leverage when budgets are consumed by ordinary expenses. But the reformers—even titanic Bill and Melinda Gates—see themselves as competing with too little against existing government policies. Hence, to revolutionize public education, which is largely under state and local jurisdiction, reformers must get state and local governments to adopt their agenda as basic policy; they must counter the teachers’ unions’ political clout. To this end, ed reformers are shifting major resources—staff and money—into state and local campaigns for candidates and legislation.

Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand for Children ($5.2 million from Gates, 2003-2011), sums up the thinking: “We’ve learned the hard way that if you want to have the clout needed to change policies for kids, you have to help politicians get elected. It’s about money, money, money” (Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2010).*

Ms. Barkin continues further in the article:

Chipping Away at Democracy

Yes, the policies of ed reformers are wreaking havoc in public education, but equally destructive is the impact of their strategy on American democracy. From the start, the we-know-best stance, the top-down interventions at every level of schooling, the endless flow of big private money, and the imperviousness to criticism have undermined the “public” in public education. Moreover, the large private foundations that fund the ed reformers are accountable to no one—not to voters, not to parents, not to the children whose lives they affect. The beefed-up political strategy extends the damage: the ed reformers (most of whom take advantage of tax-exempt status) are immersing themselves in the dollars-mean-votes world of lobbying and campaigning.

To read the article in full, go to Dissent.

And finally two different perspectives on educating our children. First is John Hunter speaking at a TED conference about his World Peace Game.

And for another perspective on education.

Discovery Channel’s Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” & “Mike Rowe Works” speaks to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on the need for a change in the mindset of government to promote more skilled trades as the desired professions to save our economy, rather than continuing the current trend of being exclusive to support jobs that require a four-year degree or more.

There is plenty of great reading and watching to do this weekend in the world of education.

Have a good one.

Dora

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2012 by in Weekly Update and tagged , , , .
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