Friday, October 24, 2014

Why I Enthusiastically Support Ethnic Studies and Community History and Why BATS Should as Well

The reason I became an education activist was because the Community History projects I was doing in Bronx Schools were pushed out by excessive testing and the NYC DOE's decision to begin rating and closing schools on the basis of student test scores. Those projects created immense enthusiasm among teachers, students, school staff and families. Their replacement by drilling for tests based on state mandated curricula was a terrible loss for all concerned.
It is also significant that almost no charter schools emphasize ethnic studies and community history because they promote a critical vantage point on the economic and political elites who are the main funders and supporters of those schools. It would be most unfortunate if BATS did not give its most enthusiastic support to ethnic studies, in Los Angeles and around the nation. Supporting Ethnic Studies is one of the most important way supporters of public education of claiming the moral high ground that Corporate School Reformers have relinquished by pushing a "one size fits all" mode of curriculum and pedagogy.

And in California, Charter maven Marshall Tuck also opposes Ethnic Studies, Shouldn't that tell us something?

Ethnic Studies and Community History, along with the Arts, are two of the most important vehicles we have to revitalize public education and bring teachers, students and families together. They create excitement, build community, and nurture critical thinking.

A Reality Check for Time Magazine- And A Wake Up Call for America's Teachers

Nearly two years ago, a group of 1,500 principals, including many of the most highly respected school  administrators in the the state, signed and circulated a petition to the Governor of New York protesting policies which were undermining public education and making their jobs more difficult. If you would believe Time Magazine, you would think they were protesting teachers tenure. But their petition NEVER MENTIONED tenure. It protested high stakes testing and teacher evaluations based on student test scores.

That petition never made the national news, much less the cover of Time magazine. But now Time chooses to give huge attention to a campaign by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to eliminate teacher tenure in the nation's public schools.

What is going on here? Why is a campaign against High Stakes Testing by respected educators not worthy of coverage while a campaign by a billionaire against tenure from someone who has no experience teaching or administering a public school becomes the lead story of the week?
Time's campaign epitomizes everything wrong with the crusade for "School Reform" that has become a national obsession since the passage of No Child Left Behind.

It is financed and driven by business leaders, not educators. It has no support from teachers and school administrators and systematically ignores their voices. It chooses to totally disregard the best education research when it fails to support the application of a business model to classroom teaching and educational administration.

Demonizing teachers, and anointing CEO's and billionaires as saviors of public education, the way Time Magazine does, is not only a sure path to weakening public education, it creates momentum for a campaign to privatize public education a policy from which those attacking public education, especially those in the tech industry, are likely to profit.

The only way to fight back against this is to punish those leading the charge. It is time for a principal and teacher boycott of Time Magazine, and Time for Kids.

The sleeping giant has woken up. And she will NOT go to sleep until the national assault on teachers has come to an end

Monday, October 20, 2014

Educational and Economic Issues in Rural North Carolina- A Local Educator Worries about a Future with Charters and Common Core

I'm from a small town called Gaston, North Carolina. It sits on the North Carolina/Virginia border in Northeastern North Carolina and at one point in time textile mills were king. Fast forward to 2014 and those jobs are long gone and the only thing left in terms of viable jobs are working minimum wage jobs at your local fast food/retail stores or working at Lowe's Distribution Center and International Paper(local paper mill). In regards to education thankfully I was finished before they(the school board) really started pushing common core and now the county only has one local high school(it was two when I was in school) besides KIPP Pride High. The school was founded in 2001 in what used to be a peanut field and has since been a shining spot in our community with the successful graduation rate of students and the college graduation rate. But after reading up on how TFA and KIPP schools operate I can't help but question why do these organizations put profit over the progress of students and teachers of those schools. 5 weeks is not nearly enough time for a TFA recruit to be trained and then sent to teach at a school where students have bigger issues than just a lack of textbooks and school supplies. I say TFA and KIPP should revise their procedures and put the students first. While I'm glad that the  current generation of kids are getting a somewhat better education than I did through some people that are staffed at KIPP that I either went to school or grew up with I just want the current kids to be able to grow into progressive thinkers who won't just go with status quo and know when to stand up for what they believe to be right. Hopefully a child in my hometown in the future won't have to stand up on a desk in a classroom in protest and scribble on paper equal education just to get the basics and then some.(That was a nod to Sally Field's role in the movie Norma Rae which was based off of an incident in my hometown with one of the local textile mills back in the 70's)

To Those Who Blame Schools For Poverty- A View From the Bronx

I watched the flower of Bronx youth be shipped off to Vietnam,
some returned, some didn't, and some who returned were never the same

The public schools stayed open

I saw the Bronx burn from the 4 train and the 3rd Avenue El
when I first started teaching at Fordham

The public schools stayed open

I watched landlords torch their buildings for
insurance money

The public schools stayed open

I watched the business districts of the Hub, Southern Boulevard
and Fordham Road go up in smoke during the Black out riots of 1977

The public schools stayed open

I watched all the music clubs of the Bronx shut down while hip hop
rose in parks, and school yards and community centers

The public schools stayed open

I watched crack sweep through the Bronx in the late 80's and destroy
countless lives

The public schools stayed open

I watched large sections of New York gentrify and their poorer residents
move into the Bronx because it was the only place they could afford

The public schools stayed open

And you tell me that public schools and public school teachers are to blame for poverty and inequality.

Where were you when War, Disinvestment, Arson and the Crack Epidemic wrought havoc on Bronx communities?
What were you saying then?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Teacher Educator Mitchell Robinson Reports on his meeting with TFA Recruiters:

One of my students was contacted by a TFA recruiting representative, and asked if she was interested in getting involved with the organization. She sent me the note, and I replied that TFA was not welcome in my teacher preparation classes (a la Mark Naison!). I received a reply asking for a meeting, to discuss my "problems with TFA." 

 Well, the 2 TFA recruiters just left, and the discussion went just about as well as I thought it would. They wondered how they could work more effectively with traditional teacher ed programs, and I asked them how they justified sending out recruits with 5 weeks of "training" into some of the more challenging classrooms in our state.

There appears to be a massive disconnect--either real or constructed--between the national organization and the workers on the ground when it comes to the group's goals. When I suggested that TFA was contributing to the displacement of veteran teachers in Chicago, Detroit and other urban centers, there was a look of shock and disbelief on their faces They claimed that was not their goal.
When I asked the one young woman (both recruiters had taught for 3 years, then moved into leadership/management roles with TFA) what TFA's goal was, she said it was to improve education in urban schools. I asked her what were the factors contributing to the "problems" in those schools, and what was TFA doing about those problems--there was nothing but silence.

I suggested that the (manufactured) teacher "shortage" in some urban schools just might be the result of poor teacher working conditions and a destabilizing of teaching as a profession, causing more teachers to leave the classroom--and that TFA played a major role in creating these problems. She denied this was the case, but acknowledged that the "perception is there" that this is the case--to which I replied, "Its not a perception. That's your business plan, and if you aren't doing anything to actively combat that "perception," then you are part of the problem. When traditionally prepared teachers leave the profession, its a bug--when TFA recruits leave, its a feature." She disagreed, and I asked her what the average length of service was in Detroit for TfA recruits--she "wasn't sure."

We finished our discussion with a last question: "What would you say to my student teachers--who decided they wanted to be teachers while they were in middle school or younger, elected a major in education, and then spent 4 or 5 years preparing to enter the profession--if they asked you why someone with no degree in education and 5 weeks of summer training should be competing with them for the same job?"
Her response was that some people decide to become teachers at different times, and that should not preclude their entry to the profession. I agreed with her and suggested that these persons then enter a post-BA program in teaching--which takes 2 years of coursework and includes a full student teaching placement at my institution--and that the students in high-need schools deserve nothing less.

The look of horror on the other woman's face was priceless. (She had majored in journalism and Italian, and then taught English and Social Studies for 3 years.) I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I just wanted to get in to the classroom in the worst way."

"You did," I replied.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Would You Rather" - A Call for Parent/ Teacher Resistance by Stacy Biscorner

Your child's teacher:
Spend 3 hours writing weekly lesson plans
Spend an extra 3 hours teaching your child?

Your child's classroom:
Be filled with projects on display, motivational posters and children excited 
about learning
Be filled with data walls, I Can Statements and children who dread going to 

Your child's technology lab:
A place to learn keyboarding skills and research topics of interest
A place where students go to use computers to take standardized assessments?

Your child's music class:
Where students go to sing, play instruments and dance 
Where students go to take standardized assessments?

Your child's P. E. Teacher:
Someone who instills healthy choices, the love of sports and exercise habits
Someone who gives your child standardized assessments?

Do you see a pattern here?

Now, would you rather:
Sit back, do nothing and hope it goes away
Join in the efforts to stop it?

Your child and his/her teacher need your help! Fight for them! Attend your local 
school board meetings, contact your state legislators. Take back your child's 

Stacy Biscorner, MA, LLPC, NCC

"Root Shock" Why the School Closings of Today Resemble the Urban Renewal of the Past

Several years ago, a Mindy Thompson Fullilove wrote a book called "Root Shock" on how the destruction of neighborhoods through urban renewal had a devastating effect on millions of low and moderate income people in America's cities in the post World War II era Here is the description of her book:"They called it progress. But for the people whose homes and districts were bulldozed, the urban renewal projects that swept America starting in 1949 were nothing short of assault. Vibrant city blocks—places rich in history—were reduced to garbage-strewn vacant lots. When a neighborhood is destroyed its inhabitants suffer “root shock”: a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem. The ripple effects of root shock have an impact on entire communities that can last for decades".
Today, the same process is being repeated through school closings. Thousands of schools which have served neighborhoods for generations have been closed in cities all over the US, leading to mass firings of teachers and staff who grew up in or lived in those communities and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families. In some cities, the result has been exposing young people to greater risk of violence; in others, the process has promoted gentrification. But the disruptive consequences of this policy have been enormous and totally ignored by policy makers who have ironically claimed this strategy is promoting education equity
I will say this. Destroying neighborhood institutions and the historic memory invested in them is a form of psychic violence that should not be underestimated. School closings, and displacement of the people who worked in them are wreaking havoc with the lives of people who need stability, continuity and support more than continuous upheaval,