Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bronx Teacher Pamela Lewis Speaks of The Responsibility of Hip Hop Artists and Executives

I am tired of execs who care more about their dollar than their people who allow rap music that completely denigrates not just women, but perpetuates stereotypes of blackness. Being from the hood is different than being "hood," and many of these rappers glorify being hood as if certain behaviors are actually the right way to be than the wrong. It's regression to the fullest, as we attempt to teach our students to move forward. And as much as I have empathy for our struggling parents, who are victims themselves of poverty's vicious cycle, I don't understand how there is zero accountability. Sometimes I feel like it's a conspiracy to keep us down. Like the powers that be don't actually want our parents to become stronger parents. Finally, with all that is up against us teachers trying to fight the good fight, I am SICK of catty bitches that make a mockery of this "woman" profession. I think about how many men view teaching as yet another place populated by women, thereby undermining the work that we do, and to have to listen to some of the crap that so many women teachers are guilty of spewing, makes me cringe because they too perpetuate this idea that teaching isn't a true profession but instead a place to drink coffee and gossip. When I see teachers like this, I think they don't care about the students they teach, and often times, they are not just non TOC but black and Latino, which infuriates me. How can you be bothered with spreading rumors and hating on fellow women when your own people, your own children are struggling to read? I left a school because they were more concerned with trying to make other teachers miserable than actually teaching. I don't think this level of blatant reckless behavior happens in white public schools as frequently as it occurs in the hood.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Need Ethnic Studies and Community History To Push Back the Charter Offensive

Any teacher organization which doesn't give strong support to Ethnic Studies and Community History can't push back effectively against the charter offensive. Charters push a one size fits all pedagogy which emphasizes mastery of a curriculum produced at great distance from the lives and experiences of students most charters teach. Charters promote assimilation and conformity, achieved through relentless test prep and memorization, rather than critical thinking and an ability to use familiar materials and local traditions to promote historical understanding. If public schools are to gain the support of families of color and families living in low and moderate income communities, they must foster a pedagogy which draws upon those communities culture and history as an asset rather than a deficit and brings family and community members into the school. Public schools can't stand still and depend on what they did in the past. They have to show they can be more innovative- and more child and family friendly- than the charters, and Community History and Ethnic Studies are an important way of doing exactly that

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,

Thoughts on a Weekend of Resistance in Ferguson Mo- A Guest Post by Texas Educator Lindy Cavness

As the events in St. Louis have been constantly changing and unfolding, so have my emotions. I, like many people in the nation, have been glued to Twitter, livestreams, and independent news sites to stay informed day and night. Everything seems surreal and chaotic. My emotions are constantly jumbled because nothing makes sense anymore. The world seems to have turned upside down.
The Weekend of Resistance in St. Louis this past weekend calmed my scattered thoughts and raw emotions for a few days because everything seemed under control. The spirit and energy of the youth there was awe-inspiring. The marches, trainings, seminars, and meetings were all very well-planned and organized and went off without a hitch. Everyone was kept updated with current plans via text and fliers. Cellphones were lifelines.
At the marches, I was somewhat comforted because I saw white people there. Before you nod your head knowingly, please understand why I am saying this. The racism and police brutality that we are seeing right now is not a black people problem. It is absolutely a white people problem. I wanted to be there to show solidarity with black people who are being killed for the color of their skin. To show them that I know this is a white people problem. To let them know that I care. And that I’m sorry. And to show other white people that I will not be silent and that they shouldn’t be either. And to show the police that I know what they’re doing and that I despise them for it. And to help bring about change.
So I wanted to see other white people there who also realized that it is a white people problem. The white people there definitely seemed to understand this. I felt like there should have been much more white people-this is not the time to be silent-but I also feel like this event was mostly planned for black people to come together, plan, and get ready for what lies ahead. And black people turned out en masse. To be there for the cause. Though the Friday march occurred in wind, rain, and 40 degree weather, these were the true believers. Inclement weather didn’t faze them. Some wore rain slickers; some didn’t. Some carried umbrellas; some chose to brave it without.
If I had to choose one thing that I was most impressed with, it was the personalities of the young leaders. Make no mistake about it-these are a new breed of leaders. These leaders take pride in the fact that they’re paving their own way. That they’re not necessarily going to take the same path that Martin Luther King, Jr. took. The emerging leaders of the black struggle are vibrant. They’re charismatic. They’re passionate. They’re angry. They’re respectful. And they’re respected. The protestors followed their every lead. The leaders set the tone for the marches and the meet-ups. And the protestors followed it. Their rhetoric was fiery, but their behavior was controlled. Their oratorical style was impressive. Their call and response powerful.

I left St. Louis with a sense of calm. For the first time in a couple of months, I felt like everything would somehow be ok in the hands of these capable youngsters. My thoughts and emotions were finally soothed. Yes, we have a problem in America. A very big problem. But, if anyone is up to the task of confronting this problem and bringing about change, it’s these leaders. They’re organized, energetic, fired-up, intelligent, skilled, and ready. And being ready is undervalued because it is so necessary. In the words of the Dream Defenders, we ready.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Los Angeles Unified School District Stonewalls Researcher Asking for Demographic Data on Its PAR Program

 One of the unacknowledged tragedies in education policy is the United States is the systematic marginalization and forced retirement of  a generation of veteran teachers, many of them teachers of color, who could play a valuable role in helping young teachers adapt to the challenges of their new job. Done in the name of "improving teacher quality," a variety of strategies have been implemented which have directly or indirectly forced the firing of veteran teachers or pushed them into a reserve labor pool.  One such strategy, approved by the major national  teachers unions, has been PAR  the Peer Assisance and Review Program. Originated with the professed goal of identifying low performing teachers and giving them the help they need to improve their skills, the program has, in all too many school districts, been implemented in such a way as to allow school districts to sharply cut costs by removing teachers with the most seniority and highest salaries.

 One of the scholars who has done the most to reveal the discriminatory dimensions of PAR, as it has been implemented in California School Districts, is BAT Research Team member Brian Crowell., Looking at data in the Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco school districts, Brian Crowell has not only documented a sharp decline in the percentage of Black teachers in all three districts in the last ten years, he has gathered data from the PAR program in all three districts which show that teachers with the greatest seniority have been the ones overwhelmingly placed in that program, making a prima facie case for age discrimination, and quite possibly race discrimination, that may well be the subject of future litigatio

 Now Brian Crowell has turned his attention to the Los Angeles Unified School District and has asked for demographic data on teachers in their PAR program. After being stonewalled for several weeks, he received a letter saying he would have to pay $1,200 for the information he requested. Clearly the LAUSD is not anxious to have this data made public.  Which suggests that they are not anxious for people to see the age and race distribution of teachers referred to PAR.  Here is Brian Crowell's memo on his Los Angeles data request:

My name is Brian Crowell. I am a member of the CTA Union. On September 11, 2014 I made a Public Records Request to the Los Angeles Unified School District. I requested the age, race, gender and placement on salary schedule for teachers referred to Peer Assistance and Review. I request the calendar years of 2003-2013 for this data.

Los Angeles Unified School District responded to my query on October 10th, 2014. In their letter to me, LAUSD stated that they would comply with my request if I paid a fee of $1,200.00 for compiling the data into an electronic format. The Public Records Act does allow for the institution to charge for the labor to compile the information, however $1,200.00 is absolutely outrageous!

My theory. The time period of a month to respond to my query tells me the LAUSD legal department was trying to find a way to exempt disclosure. I have no evidence of this. The data itself, I believe will suggest massive age discrimination particularly of teachers over the age of 46. I think the $1,200.00 fee is to also dissuade me from getting the information.

I have been in contact with members of the UTLA Leadership who have shown interest in this issue. I hope they help me in endeavor to obtain this information.

  Brian Crowell's research calls for a very careful analysis, by local and national leaders of teachers unions,ly, whether this highly touted program has been used in a discriminatory fashion. It is not unknown for once promising ideas that teachers unions supported to be corrupted in implementation. Just look at Charter Schools. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Response to Connecticut Mirror Op-Ed Claiming CCSS Promote Equity

My response in the Connecticut Mirror to an article claiming Common Core promotes equity in Connecticut Schools:
The idea that approving standards which require test after test to be imposed in schools from pre-K on will somehow promote equity in our highly unequal society is an illusion that requires careful scrutiny. If these standards promote inquiry and intellectual development, why does no elite private school use them. Why do they instead feature small class sizes, hands on science, arts, music and theater, project based learning, and many school trips. What Common Core promotes is education on the cheap for budget strapped school districts, reducing learning to easily testable components. It is not training for leadership, but preparation for a world of low wage work. We are fast becoming the most tested nation in the world and these tests are making children hate school. Anyone who thinks equity and justice will result from our test obsession is living in Never Never Land. We are hurting poor children more than helping them by reducing instruction to test prep rather than filling their schools with things they love and giving them the support and nurturing they need to become critical thinkers. What is good enough for Sidwell Friends is good enough for Bridgeport

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Student Protests Our Hope for Saving Public Education

The students in Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, Providence, Jefferson County Colorado and many other places who have protested policies that compromise their educations are the hope of the future. Because only student uprisings on the scale of those in the Sixties can hope to save public education from the catastrophe that has befallen it. Their protests, along with teacher strikes and parental test revolts represent the only forces strong enough to push back the test madness and rush to school privatization that is rapidly undermining public education as we know it, One of the great lessons of the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against the Vietnam War was that Democracy must be fought for in the streets as much as it is at the polls. It is a lesson we are finally starting to learn today. Solidarity with Philadelphia Teachers and with Philadelphia students who took to the streets to support them!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What Do We Expect? A Guest Post by No_E_Stacy

We expect students to come to school every day ready to learn. We expect that
they will walk through our doors having had at least 8 hours of sleep and a
healthy breakfast. We assume that they have the good fortune of having loving,
attentive parents who support them and value their education.
But what happens when our expectations aren't met and our assumptions are
wrong?What happens when students get little to no sleep, have no food to eat and
no parental guidance at home?
What do we offer to those students? How do we level the playing field to ensure
these students are successful?
We don't.
Instead, we treat all kids the same. We place unrealistic expectations on our
kids every single day. They come to us without the basic necessities in life.
And we expect them to perform and meet standards that are beyond their
capabilities. Factors beyond their and our control are used in formulas designed
to break down and punish our students.
We expect our kids to achieve yet we don't provide them with an equal playing
field. Our most at risk students are in jeopardy of becoming even more at risk.
We don't need to test them to prove they aren't measuring up academically
compared to their peers. We already know that. What we need to be doing is
everything within our power to build them up socially and emotionally, assisting
them and their families. We have the power and the opportunity to help kids
build their arsenals to fight for a better future for themselves, despite any
and all obstacles in their way.
What are we doing to our kids if all we are concerned with is how well they
perform on a standardized test? Aren't our students worth more than a score?

Why Mass Protest and Test Resistance Must Supplement Election Work In Defending Public Education

The more I speak to high level school administrators and public officials, the more I am convinced that the trend toward greater testing of students, and greater scripting and micromanagement of teachers, including use of tests in teacher evaluation, can only be reversed if there is massive protest in the society on a wide range of issues, as well as a huge escalation of Test Resistance by parents, students and teachers. The momentum of current education policies is enormous, reinforced by a narrative of past failure which suggests that any relaxation of current policies will give aid and comfort to bad teachers and hurt the most vulnerable students. Their management philosophy- one now common in all spheres of public life- is that most employees will not perform unless they fear for their jobs, are given performance goals based on hard data and put under constant surveillance. I have seen this management philosophy in action in police departments, state departments of probation, and large sections of private industry, making jobs that once gave people some autonomy rigid and distasteful and also leading to poor qualities of service.

In education, it has been particularly catastrophic, leading to the beating down and forced retirement of some of our best teachers and the steady squeezing of joy out of our classrooms. Children are being bored and humiliated and deprived of opportunities for self expression by the grim atmosphere in our schools. But because so many people in public life, from boards of education, to legislatures, believe current strategies are the only way to yield high performance, they can't be stopped by incremental protest. Elections are important, but if not accompanied by massive protest and resistance, they will not bring the relief our teachers and students desperately need. The battle has to be in the streets as well as the polls, and use every innovative technique at our disposal to sway public opinion. If our protest does not reach Sixties proportions, and "doesn't bring the machine to a halt" it quite simply won't work.

The breaking of the teachers contract by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is just the latest, and most outrageous example of what Education Policy Makers will do if they don't fear massive disruption

No Justice! No Peace!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

An Education Policy That Presumes Family Failure and Collapse

As teachers and parents look, in amazement, at policies emanating from the US Department of Education that mandate the meticulous scripting of "student learning" beginning as early as age 3, and which require testing of "student outcomes" to evaluate their classroom performance, it is important to highlight the underlying logic behind such a program.
It is not that proponents of such policies are anxious to take the US down the path to Educational Totalitarianism, albeit what they are doing is definitely a step in that direction, it is that they believes that families are in such a state of stress and collapse, especially in the nation's poor and working class communities, that the school must take on the historic responsibility of the the family if the society is to survive.
They are not entirely wrong in such an assessment. Not only has the percentage of single parent families grown enormously, along with the number of families headed by grandparents, but because of declining wages, and a shortage of affordable housing, large numbers of people in all kinds of families are working two or three jobs to pay the rent or the mortgage and have almost no time to spend with their children.
Given family disintegration and stress, more and more education policymakers have concluded that schools must step into the breach and become a family substitute, providing discipline, and socialization as well as the skills needed to create productive citizens. Instead of working through families and soliciting parental input, schools more and more create highly disciplined, meticulously planned and evaluated learning spaces, which teachers are required to operate and police, and parents are required to accept.
The problem is- what kind of society erases family and teacher input this way? Is erasing family influence and silencing teacher voices consistent with Democracy in any way shape or form.
Wouldn't it be better to encourage policies which strengthen families and remove family stress rather than turn schools into places where children are socialized to a rigid, standardized learning environment that promotes conformity and in the process destroys the teaching profession?
There is another path. Imagine if we adopted policies aimed at raising wages and expanding the supply of affordable housing? How many more families would then have more time to spend with their children and get involved with their school experience. There are ways to do this that we haven't even tried, one of which involves beginning to create paths for people to occupy the 13 million homes and apartments which now stand abandoned, in a nation where many families are living doubled and tripled up.
Using schools as a family substitute is a bad solution to what is fundamentally a wage and housing crisis.
We need a REAL anti-poverty program in the United States, not a program of universal testing to avoid dealing with poverty.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why You Can't Reason With School Reformers- You Have to Bring the Machine to a Halt

Yesterday, during some fierce twitter debates I was having with Charter School Advocates one of them replied " the majority of American teachers graduated in the bottom 1/3 of their college class." To them, this provided the justification for erasing teacher voices from education debates. This is a perfect example of the mindset of those shaping current education policy. Because they have convinced themselves that American students have failed relative to their international counterparts- based on similarly misleading statistics- and that most teachers are incompetent, they have prescribed a complete makeover of the US Education system from the top down in which everything that happens in a classroom is scripted and controlled from pre-school on up.

And here is the problem. When you have constructed a Narrative of Failure from broad statistical comparisons, testimony based on personal experience becomes irrelevant. All you have to do is meet with Arne Ducan or NY Education Commissioner John King, either in person, or in a public meeting, to realize that they don't listen to a word you, or anyone else says, no matter how eloquent. Children, parents and teachers can get up and speak their heart outs about how current policies are snuffing out creativity and joy, humiliating students, and driving the best teachers out of the profession. They don't care. They use a closed, circular logic to justify their policies that is immune to complaints of collateral damage that do not take statistical form. The Data Driven Universe they are silences criticism- literally. They will continue doing what they are doing no matter how bad people say it is.

Faced with this way of thinking, we have only one way of changing policy. Bring the machine to a halt. Stop taking their tests. Stop administering them. And vote everyone who supports administering the tests and sharing the Data they generate out of office.

You cannot reason with people who think this way. Your voice doesn't count. Your experience means nothing to them But your votes count. Your campaign contributions count. And your power to stop the Test Machine scares the crap out of them because without Test results, their precious Data -- which is the fuel for their Ship of Fools- disappears.