School in distant, difficult classrooms: Afghanistan

June 10, 2014

From @HistoricalPics: This is what a school in Afghanistan looks like. Be thankful for what you have. pic.twitter.com/Dsfva1yNb4

From @HistoricalPics: This is what a school in Afghanistan looks like. Be thankful for what you have. pic.twitter.com/Dsfva1yNb4

A school in Afghanistan — probably the entire school.

Learning can occur almost anywhere.  Some children go to great lengths to get an education, to improve their lives where they are, or to improve their chances of finding a better place to live.

I’ll wager this school has no wi-fi, no in-school suspension, few homework problems, and no difficulty with Common Core State Standards.

Afghanistan’s schools all seem to offer amazing hurdles to education, by U.S. standards.  Look at these photos.

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project.  Caption here:  Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project. Caption here: Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth. (These photos from 2009; photos by Ramon Mohamed, a teacher from Broomhill, Sheffield, England.)

 

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom.  Photo from BBC

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom. Photo from BBC

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan:

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan: “Eight years since the repressive Taliban regime was overthrown, 42 per cent children still do not attend or have access to schools. (Photo: RFE/RL)”

Those of us who advocate for outdoor classrooms generally have something else in mind than these photographs from Afghanistan show.

More:


April is National Poetry Month 2014 — are you ready?

March 27, 2014

If you ask me, we don’t have enough poetry in our lives.

In bygone times, newspapers carried poems almost daily.  Magazines carried poems in every issue, but today you find fewer poems published in fewer magazines — can you name the periodical publication in which you last saw a poem that caught your eye, or heart?

National Poetry Month poster for 2006

National Poetry Month poster for 2006. Click image for a larger, more inspirational view.

Rhyme and meter power their way into our minds.  Teachers who use poetry find lessons stick longer with students.

Shouldn’t we use a lot more?

Since 1996, several groups including the Academy of American Poets have celebrated National Poetry Month in April.  There are posters,and of course April is a month with several poems to its creditPaul Revere’s Ride, The Concord Hymn, To a Lady with a Guitar, An April Day, The Waste Land, and several poems just about April as a month.

It’s a good time to beef up our poetry tool boxes, if we are managers of organizations, or teachers, or parents, or human.

Poetry lovers gave thought to how to do that, and there are many good recommendations out there.  For example, from Poetry.org, 30 activities for National Poetry Month 2014:

30 Ways to Celebrate

Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day
The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with co-workers, family, and friends.
Read a book of poetry
“Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”
Memorize a poem
“Getting a poem or prose passage truly ‘by heart’ implies getting it by mind and memory and understanding and delight.”
Revisit a poem
“America is a country of second acts, so today, why not brush the dust off these classics and give them a fresh read?”
Put poetry in an unexpected place
“Books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities.”
Bring a poem to your place of worship
“We define poetry as the unofficial view of being, and bringing the art of language in contact with your spiritual practices can deepen both.”
Attend a poetry reading
“Readings have been occurring for decades around the world in universities, bookstores, cafes, corner pubs, and coffeehouses.”
Play Exquisite Corpse
“Each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem.”
Read a poem at an open mic
“It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local writing community.”
Support literary organizations
“Many national and local literary organizations offer programs that reach out to the general public to broaden the recognition of poets and their work.”
Listen on your commute
“Often, hearing an author read their own work can clarify questions surrounding their work’s tone.”
Subscribe to a literary magazine
“Full of surprising and challenging poetry, short fiction, interviews, and reviews, literary journals are at the forefront of contemporary poetry.”
Start a notebook on Poets.org
“Poets.org lets users build their own personal portable online commonplace book out of the materials on our site.”
Put a poem in a letter
“It’s always a treat to get a letter, but finding a poem in the envelope makes the experience extra special.”
Watch a poetry movie
“What better time than National Poetry Month to gather some friends, watch a poetry-related movie, and perhaps discuss some of the poet’s work after the film?”

.

Take a poem out to lunch
Adding a poem to lunch puts some poetry in your day and gives you something great to read while you eat.”
Put a poem on the pavement
“Go one step beyond hopscotch squares and write a poem in chalk on your sidewalk.”
Recite a poem to family and friends
“You can use holidays or birthdays as an opportunity to celebrate with a poem that is dear to you, or one that reminds you of the season.”
Organize a poetry reading
“When looking for a venue, consider your local library, coffee shop, bookstore, art gallery, bar or performance space.”
Promote public support for poetry
“Every year, Congress decides how much money will be given to the National Endowment for the Arts to be distributed all across America.”
Start a poetry reading group
“Select books that would engage discussion and not intimidate the reader new to poetry.”
Read interviews and literary criticism
“Reading reviews can also be a helpful exercise and lend direction to your future reading.”
Buy a book of poems for your library
“Many libraries have undergone or are facing severe cuts in funding. These cuts are often made manifest on library shelves.”
Start a commonplace book
“Since the Renaissance, devoted readers have been copying their favorite poems and quotations into notebooks to form their own personal anthologies called commonplace books.”
Integrate poetry with technology
“Many email programs allow you to create personalized signatures that are automatically added to the end of every email you send.”
Ask the Post Office for more poet stamps
“To be eligible, suggested poets must have been deceased for at least ten years and must be American or of American descent.”
Sign up for a poetry class or workshop
“Colleges and arts centers often make individual courses in literature and writing available to the general public.”
Subscribe to our free newsletter
“Short and to the point, the Poets.org Update, our electronic newsletter, will keep you informed on Academy news and events.”
Write a letter to a poet
“Let the poets who you are reading know that you appreciate their work by sending them a letter.”
Visit a poetry landmark
“Visiting physical spaces associated with a favorite writer is a memorable way to pay homage to their life and work.”

How will you use National Poetry Month in your classroom, teachers?  And by “teachers, ” I mean you, math teachers, social studies teachers, phys ed teachers, biology and chemistry teachers.  You don’t use poetry?  No wonder America lags in those subjects . . .

What’s do you remember about your teachers’ use of poetry in learning?

What’s your favorite poem?

More:


Nathan Bigelow on Woodrow Wilson, TODAY (March 5), at Austin College

March 5, 2014

Too late for most of us, but history teachers near Sherman, Texas, ought to zip out as soon as school is out this afternoon, and head over to Austin College.

From North Texas e-News:

Nathan Bigelow, Professor of Political Science at Austin College in Sherman, Texas; Bigelow will present

Nathan Bigelow, Professor of Political Science at Austin College in Sherman, Texas; Bigelow will present “The Evolving Political Thought of Professor [Woodrow] Wilson,” March 5, 2014.

Bigelow to share insight on political evolution of Woodrow Wilson

SHERMAN, TEXAS — Nathan Bigelow, Austin College associate professor of political science and chair of the Department of Political Science, will present “The Evolving Political Thought of Professor Wilson” on March 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Wright Campus Center, Room 231. A 4 p.m. reception in nearby Johnson Gallery precedes his presentation, which highlights his recent sabbatical study. The event, free and open to the public, is hosted by the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching.

Bigelow said his talk will focus on the bookends of Woodrow Wilson’s academic career: Congressional Government (1880), in which he made a broad critique of the American constitutional system, and Constitutional Government (1908), written just before he left academia for a career in politics, in which he reassessed many of his original positions. “I contend that his evolving thought can be traced to changes in the political environment during this time – specifically, increased party discipline and invigorated presidential leadership,” Bigelow said.” I will use newly available quantitative measures of this time period to help support my argument.”

The Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, is directed by Bernice Melvin, Margaret Root Brown Chair of Foreign Languages and Literatures and professor of French. Within the mission of the center is the encouragement of ‘bold exploration of intellectual frontiers” and “fostering lively intellectual dialogue within and across academic disciplines.”

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.

Texas history and social studies teachers have been working to bolster teaching of the Progressive Era, Imperialism, and important figures of those times including Woodrow Wilson, after testing indicated Texas students are too often unfamiliar with the times and events.  Sherman area history teachers are lucky to have this close by.

I’ve been unable to discover whether professional education credit will be offered.


John Wooden’s favorite poems: They ask me why I teach

February 14, 2014

I played high school football.  Untalented in virtually every other sport, I kept my place in 6th Period Athletics working with the basketball team, keeping statistics and keeping the official score book when we traveled. That was in the era when UCLA’s basketball team dominated the NCAA championships (save for 1966, when Texas Western managed to sneak out of the west and take the title from Kentucky . . . a story for another occasion).  I cannot count the times coaches discussed the wizardry of the coach at UCLA, who seemed to be able to weave a winning team from any talent.

Our basketball team had some great talents — Stan Crump, Clark Hansen, Jim Brock, Steve Whitehead, Craig Davis and Parke Hansen come to mind.  But we played up a level in our league play, and rarely won.  Injuries kept the five I named from playing together in any one game through their last season.  Our football coach used to say you win games, or you build character.  We built a lot of character.

In our junior year, we got a new wrestling coach who followed many of the tenets of John Wooden — and the wrestling team won the state championship in our senior year.  Mark Sanderson led the team; his younger brother Steve Sanderson followed him, adopted winning ways, and went on to father the great Sanderson wrestlers out of Heber, Utah.  Winning can be contagious when solid teaching meets young talent.

John Wooden

John Wooden

Years later, when I consulted with corporations, especially on quality and excellence in performance. I often came across framed quotations from John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach.  His words on getting great performance rang true with crew bosses, executives and everybody in between.

In a meeting on the importance of elders in a church congregation, national church officials referred back to the dramatic testimony from people in a California church, who swore an elder in their church had turned their lives around.  John Wooden was that elder.

How does a guy get so good, and say stuff that is so applicable to peak performance coaching in several different areas?

There’s a new book out on the coach, John Wooden: A Coach’s Life,  by Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis.   Charlie Rose interviewed the author tonight.  At the close, Rose showed a clip of Wooden being interviewed with Bill Walton and Bill Russell; Walton talked about how he’d been inspired by a visit to the Vietnam Memorial with Wooden, and the poetry Wooden recited from memory on that occasion.  Past the age of 90, Wooden recited the poems again.

This one is about teachers:

THEY ASK ME WHY I TEACH

They ask me why I teach,
And I reply,
Where could I find more splendid company?
There sits a statesman,
Strong, unbiased, wise,
Another later Webster,
Silver-tongued,
And there a doctor
Whose quick, steady hand
Can mend a bone,
Or stem the lifeblood’s flow.
A builder sits beside him-
Upward rise
The arches of a church he builds, wherein
That minister will speak the word of God,
And lead a stumbling soul to toach the Christ.
And all about
A lesser gathering
Of farmer, merchants, teachers,
Laborers, men
Who work and vote and build
And plan and pray
Into a great tomorrow
And I say,
“I may not see the church,
Or hear the word,
Or eat the food their hands will grow.”
And yet- I may.
And later I may say,
“I knew the lad,
And he was strong,
Or weak, or kind, or proud,
Or bold, or gay.
I knew him once,
But then he was a boy.”

Author of the poem, Glennice L. Harmon

Glennice L. Harmon, author of the poem, “They Ask Me Why I Teach”

They ask me why I teach, and I reply,
“Where could I find more splendid company?”

*  They Ask Me Why I Teach,” by Glennice L. Harmon, in NEA Journal 37, no. 1 (September 1948): 375

Why do you teach?

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Russ on Reading’s catalog on Common Core State Standards — important reading

January 20, 2014

Russ Walsh gives strong voice to support from public education in a variety of ways — his old blog, Russ on Reading, carried a good deal of serious thought about the Common Core curricula recently, especially as it relates to reading.

Education professor and consultant Russ Walsh

Education professor and consultant Russ Walsh

Bookmark his site, and pay attention to what he says. This is a key issue in your state, in your schools, and in your legislature, today. If it’s not in your newspaper, you’re being steamrolled.

A Compilation of Common Core Concerns

The Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts has come under increasing scrutiny. Here is a collection of my posts from the past year on the Common Core and some of the concerns I have about the new standards and literacy instruction.

A note only because it’s necessary to keep reminding people in Texas:  CSCOPE is/was not Common Core.  Texas chose not to join in the Common Core Coalition years ago.


Insta-Millard Pundit, education edition: The very real war on experienced teachers

December 21, 2013

Veteran teachers take heavy hits from

Veteran teachers take heavy hits from “education reformers” who cut their pay, and reduce benefits, in misguided efforts to “drive poor teachers from the system.” In Photo: Karen Scharrer-Erickson reviews a new teaching tool Thursday with Lisa Schuk, a second-grade teacher at the Academy of Accelerated Learning in Milwaukee. Scharrer-Erickson, 64, said she reluctantly filed for early retirement from Milwaukee Public Schools recently. Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/business/headlines/119892934.html#ixzz2o955nbXI Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter

You should read this article, get angry, and fight education “reformers” who go after teachers.

Indeed, the level of respect afforded to those who have devoted their adult lives to the education of children has diminished to the point that the prevailing zeitgeist suggests that comparably junior members of the profession are somehow inherently superior to their more experienced colleagues.

If it seems like I have travelled down this road before, it because I have. Eighteen months ago, I wrote about how “tenure reform” was an attack on veteran teachers and their employment rights, wrapped in the cloak of “improving education” for kids.

But this new trend is far more sinister. Now, the “reform” crowd (including an alarming number that sell themselves as progressives) don’t merely want the ability to fire veteran teachers. They want to strip them of something that has greater intangible value: their status as mentors and role models for the profession.

File under “daily floggings of teachers will continue until morale improves.”


Oops. Future of education already here; reformers missed it (and so did most teachers)

October 17, 2013

You need to see these slides, from Will Richardson.

First, teachers should send a copy of this to their evaluators, principals, and all other admins up to the superintendent.  Sure, it’s possible they’ll fire you for telling the truth.  But if every teacher in your district did it, they might look at the slides and ponder:  What in the hell do our evaluations and test scores have to do with this new future that is already upon us, and around us, and washing away the foundations of what the state legislature claims we must be doing?

Will Richardson

Will Richardson

Second, this is a model presentation.  Notice how few of the slides are cluttered with words.  Notice those slides with words are easy to read, easy to grasp, and complement and are complemented by a lot of great images.  (One of my students got a less-than-A grade on a PowerPoint presentation in another class, and brought me the evaluation:  “Not enough text,” was one of the criticisms he’d gotten.  That teacher is considered a model by too many administrators.)  It’s not a perfect presentation.  Garr Reynolds would have a lot to say about it.  I’ll wager Richardson’s is better than any other presentation you’ve seen this week, in the content, the depth of information, and the way it’s packaged.  (Would have loved to have seen the presentation . . .)  That is particularly true if you’ve been the victim of teacher professional development sessions in the past week.

There are a lot of slides, partly because so few of them are cluttered by text.  (Don’t know how long the presentation went.)  This presentation would win a case against almost every other slide presentation I’ve ever seen from any law firm, who pay tens of thousands to lawyers to make slide presentations that defy understanding.  The world would be ever so much better were lawyers required to watch this, and compare it with their last presentation.

Third (related to and justifying the first), you need to realize how things have changed in the past year, past five years, past decade, and how we as a society and nation failed to account for those changes, or keep up with them, especially in our public AND private elementary and secondary schools.  Richardson understands the changes, and has some great leads on answers.

This presentation appears to have been a hit.  It seems a few people asked Will Richardson for copies (@WillRich45, www.willrichardson.com), which is why it’s on Slideshare.

Richardson highlights the importance of these thoughts at his blog:

If the recent iPad debacle in Los Angeles teaches us anything it’s that no amount of money and technology will change anything without a modern vision of what teaching and learning looks like when every student and every teacher has access to the Internet. As many of us have been saying for far too long, our strategy to deal with the continuing explosion of technology and connections can’t be to simply layer devices on top of the traditional curriculum and engage in digital delivery. Unfortunately, far too few develop a vision that sees that differently.

*     *     *     *     *

Please note: Technology is integrated throughout these initiatives in ways that serve the vision, not the other way around. This isn’t “let’s give everyone an iPad filled with a lot of textbook and personalized learning apps aimed at improving test scores and then figure out how to manage it.” This is about having important conversations around complex, difficult questions:

  • What will schools look like in the future?
  • What kinds of spaces do we need to support instruction and collaborative work in 5-10 years?
  • How will technology transform curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

And how does it work at your school, teachers?  Students?

We missed the revolution.  The kids are ahead of us.

Can  we catch up?

More:


Uh-oh. Common Core curriculum and “absolute values” in small town Idaho

September 21, 2013

This story caught my eye, partly because it’s from the town where I was born in southern Idaho, partly because it deals with education issues, specifically the Common Core State Standards on the ground — er, in the classroom — and partly because of the way it could be spun into silly and inaccurate controversy by radical right-wing people, who have spun similar stories worse.

In Burley, Idaho, junior high schools are teaching values.  Not just any values, but “absolute values.”  Just wait until the “values coalition” wackoes hear!  (Somebody should alert Eric Bolling at Fox News!)

What?  Well, yeah, it’s in math class. Still, absolute  values?  Do the parents know?

(Wish I could embed the video from KMVT television.)

Burley Teacher talks about Common Core
By Brittany Cooper

Story Created: Sep 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM MDT

Story Updated: Sep 8, 2013 at 11:57 PM MDT

Burley, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) Classes are underway in the Cassia Joint School District. So what do teachers think about the Common Core Standards?

Math teacher Cindy Tolman enjoys Common Core because teachers can focus on specific areas. She tells us she can use more real life examples and show illustrations of how to do the problems.

In her seventh grade class, she is teaching about absolute values.

“And instead of just saying the absolute value of any number is positive, now we’re teaching them it’s the distance from zero and we actually got a string out and put it on a number line and we compared that the absolute value of a –3 is the same as the absolute of 3 because that’s the distance from zero on a number line,” adds Tolman who teaches at Burley Junior High School.

Tolman says sometimes what parents don’t understand is the Common Core builds a stronger foundation and as early as the kindergarten level, youngsters are receiving a more hands–on education than perhaps before.

Will anyone notice the teaching of absolute values in Burley, Idaho?  If they notice, will they avoid embarrassing themselves with a demonstration of their ignorance of mathematics?

More, and related information:

Junior High School in Burley, Idaho

Junior High School in Burley, Idaho; the building I presume the class in the story is taught. This is not the great gray, gothic building that existed when I lived there. Photo linked from Google Maps


Education blogs: The second hundred most influential

August 30, 2013

Classroom blogs from David Reese Elementary in California -- how many classroom blogs made the lists of 200 most influential education blogs?  I'll guess it was zero.  Am I wrong?

Classroom blogs from David Reese Elementary in California — how many classroom blogs made the lists of 200 most influential education blogs? I’ll guess it was zero. Am I wrong? [Yes, I'm wrong. See Mr. Salsich's classroom blog, for example.]

Round 2 of influential education blogs, from Onalytical.  Between this list, and the list of the top 100, which of your favorite and influential education blogs are NOT listed?  Numbers 101 to 200:

Further to our ranking of education blogs published last week, here is the list of the top 101 to 200 most influential education blogs, ordered by their Onalytica Influence Index.

Rank Name Influence Popularity Over-Influence
101 Research in Practice 14.2 10.3 1.0
102 Education Intelligence Agency 14.0 6.4 1.2
103 Stump The Teacher 13.8 20.5 0.6
104 Science teacher 13.8 10.3 1.0
105 LEADING IS LEARNING. 13.7 2.6 1.5
106 Educational Technology Guy 13.6 12.8 0.8
107 All Things Education 13.6 7.7 1.1
108 Doug Belshaw 13.4 15.4 0.8
109 English Raven 13.3 14.1 0.8
110 Hooked on Innovation 13.2 7.7 1.0
111 The Edge of Tomorrow 13.2 5.1 1.2
112 happy hooligans 13.1 3.8 1.3
113 Teach Preschool 12.8 5.1 1.2
114 Teach Children Well 12.8 10.3 0.9
115 The 21st Century Principal 12.6 7.7 1.0
116 Ed & Workforce Dems 12.6 5.1 1.2
117 21st Century Fluency Project 12.5 10.3 0.9
118 Fair Languages 12.5 3.8 1.3
119 educationrealist 12.4 6.4 1.1
120 Steve Sailer: iSteve 12.4 5.1 1.2
121 Kirsten Winkler 12.4 6.4 1.1
122 100 Scope Notes 12.4 9.0 0.9
123 leavingcertenglish.net 12.3 1.3 1.5
124 Teach them English 12.3 12.8 0.8
125 The Tech Savvy Educator 12.3 9.0 0.9
126 Bulldog Readers Blog 12.2 11.5 0.8
127 Primary Tech 12.2 14.1 0.7
128 Beyond School 12.2 5.1 1.1
129 edtech digest 12.1 11.5 0.8
130 Sherman Dorn 12.1 9.0 0.9
131 teachbytes 12.1 10.3 0.8
132 eFace Today 12.0 7.7 1.0
133 Anseo! 12.0 2.6 1.3
134 Watch. Connect. Read. 12.0 12.8 0.7
135 My Web 2.0 Journey 12.0 7.7 1.0
136 Successful Teaching 11.9 7.7 1.0
137 The Jose Vilson 11.9 6.4 1.0
138 Bill Boyd – The Literacy Adviser 11.9 1.3 1.5
139 Moturoa  11.9 3.8 1.2
140 PHSdirectorBLOG 11.9 3.8 1.2
141 21st Century Collaborative 11.8 7.7 0.9
142 Donald Clark Plan B 11.8 10.3 0.8
143 Creating Lifelong Learners 11.8 3.8 1.2
144 21k12 11.8 15.4 0.7
145 Education for Everyone 11.7 2.6 1.3
146 Love Learning…. 11.7 7.7 0.9
147 Principals Page 11.7 7.7 0.9
148 The Daily Riff 11.7 5.1 1.1
149 Reflections on Teaching 11.6 6.4 1.0
150 SCC English 11.6 2.6 1.3
151 TechChef 11.5 7.7 0.9
152 The Busy Librarian 11.5 9.0 0.9
153 Learning in Technicolor 11.5 12.8 0.7
154 teach from the heart 11.4 5.1 1.1
155 The Unquiet Librarian 11.3 7.7 0.9
156 Life is not a race to be first finished 11.3 3.8 1.1
157 Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog 11.2 15.4 0.6
158 New Tech Network 11.2 3.8 1.1
159 CristinaSkyBox 11.2 6.4 1.0
160 C-O Connections 11.2 3.8 1.1
161 Dr. Cook’s Blog 11.1 6.4 1.0
162 Blogging through the Fourth Dimension 11.1 15.4 0.6
163 Fearghal’s blog 11.1 3.8 1.1
164 Catlin Tucker 11.1 12.8 0.7
165 The Avery Bunch 11.1 12.8 0.7
166 Mr. Salsich’s Class 11.1 10.3 0.8
167 Venspired 11.1 12.8 0.7
168 The Number Warrior 11.1 10.3 0.8
169 Edukwest 11.0 7.7 0.9
170 kitchen table math, the sequel 11.0 7.7 0.9
171 Shifting Phases 11.0 7.7 0.9
172 An A-Z of ELT 11.0 21.8 0.5
173 Oliver Quinlan 11.0 9.0 0.8
174 Teaching Chemistry 10.9 2.6 1.2
175 #batttuk 10.8 2.6 1.2
176 Burcu Akyol’s BLOG 10.8 9.0 0.8
177 Educator, Learner 10.8 3.8 1.1
178 4C in ELT 10.8 14.1 0.6
179 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning 10.8 12.8 0.7
180 Labour Teachers 10.7 9.0 0.8
181 Teacher Tom 10.7 9.0 0.8
182 Reading By Example 10.7 7.7 0.9
183 Geeky Mom 10.7 3.8 1.1
184 4KM And 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School 10.7 16.7 0.6
185 Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog 10.7 7.7 0.8
186 transformED 10.6 9.0 0.8
187 molehills out of mountains 10.6 5.1 1.0
188 West Hunter 10.6 2.6 1.2
189 Local Schools Network 10.6 7.7 0.8
190 Ecology of Education 10.5 3.8 1.1
191 Vicky Loras’s Blog 10.5 21.8 0.5
192 opencontent.org 10.5 7.7 0.8
193 Blogging about the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom 10.4 14.1 0.6
194 Penelope Trunk 10.4 3.8 1.1
195 Drape’s Takes 10.4 6.4 0.9
196 Clouducation 10.4 5.1 1.0
197 Lexical Linguist 10.4 5.1 1.0
198 The Speech Guy 10.4 2.6 1.2
199 speechie apps 10.4 5.1 1.0
200 Teachers At Risk 10.4 2.6 1.2

Posted: 24 June 2013 12:39 • By: Andreea Moldovan

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Her last day of teaching first grade

August 25, 2013

Diane Ravitch gets much better e-mail than I do; Ravitch said (images added here):

This came in my private email:

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

Woman teaching geometry from Euclid’s Elements. Wikipedia image

As many of you know, I just retired from teaching, having spent most of my career in first grade. Over the last few years, my teaching had become gradually more restricted. Instead of running a center-based day, I was required to run scheduled periods of Fundations, Writing Workshop, Reading Workshop, and (this year) of Envision math. To encourage me to retire, my district had made a financial offer that was difficult to refuse. Almost simultaneously, my daughter had announced that she was pregnant with twins. The decision became easier and easier. As the pressures in New York State increased,  I decided what I wanted to do after retire: support families, fight the tests, tutor children to learn DESPITE the tests. That would mean running workshops for parents about curriculum. But that’s not what I want to write about tonight. I want to tell you about my last few weeks of teaching, and about my last good lesson.  

The district isn’t replacing me next year due to shrinking numbers. Once I announced my retirement, the vultures began to circle – teachers  seeking furniture, leveled books, left over supplies. (All of a sudden, my hoarding had value!) Gradually, my room became emptier and emptier. You’d have thought that my teaching would have suffered, but — I LOVED IT, AND SO DID THE KIDS!!! Painting, gluing, research, math projects; WE ALL RELISHED THE CHANGE! It was a very special time – though teary, for some. I’m not sure why my retiring should result in so many sad children (since I wouldn’t have been their teacher the following year), but there you have it. 

Pamela teaching her children (1743–45)

Joseph Highmore’s illustration of Pamela teaching her children (1743–45); in volume four of Samuel Richardson’s novel, Pamela, Pamela endorses much of Locke’s educational program, while at the same time claiming a valuable new role for mothers: educator.

Driving to school on my last full day, I thought about what I could teach that day in my empty classroom. All I had was art paper, scotch tape, and crayons. The kids had already taken home their markers. I thought about how I could say good-bye. I wanted to help them gain some perspective. I wanted them to know they had each other. (I’d already told them they could email.)  I thought about how our paths had crossed and come together so arbitrarily, but how being together in this class had changed all our lives. And then I knew what I’d do! 

I gave each child one piece of 12″ x18″ paper. I told them that each child was to draw a path across the paper. It could be straight across or curved or jagged – whatever. We agreed that the paths would be about a fist wide, and had to be drawn in purple. The rest of the paper was to be decorated with whatever else they thought might have been on their paths this year. 

Everyone did as I requested after a few false starts. Some of the drawings were quite thoughtful and charming.  I then told the kids that we were now going to connect our paths together. I was having a small get together that night, and I told the children we needed something on the wall. Immediately, some of the kids became excited, and tried to put their papers together. I suggested that the kids get on the floor and connect their paths like a puzzle, assemble their work on the floor, and that we’d move it to the wall later. I’d never done this activity before, and had no idea how it would turn out. Over the course of the next half hour, I kept telling myself: Remember, it’s process over product.  

As the kids worked, I gradually stepped back. The children were making decisions about which paths connected, which looked best together, which should be moved to a different spot. There were no arguments, even though there were differences of opinion. I handed the kids scotch tape dispensers as needed. I mentioned to one little boy that it was great that there were no fights. He said to me, “Well, remember when I invented a game for the playground and then we all had a fight because I wanted to make all the rules? Remember how you explained to me how a true leader doesn’t make all the rules, but helps others to join in? Well – maybe that’s what we’ve all been doing.” 

I was absolutely floored. 

That’s when I knew how much I’d miss teaching. That feeling of molding a group and helping them become better together than singly – that’s amazing.

Empty first grade classroom.  From A Day in First Grade blog.

Empty first grade classroom. From A Day in First Grade blog.


Campout Bingo cards, from the National Wildlife Federation

August 16, 2013

Found this via a stream of Pinterest and other blog posts:  National Wildlife Federation (NWF) put together four great camping bingo cards to use with your kids – depending on how wild your backyard is, you may not even need to go far to play.

Here in South Dallas County, you can see much of this stuff with a stroll through a local nature preserve.

Teachers, you can use this idea, with pictures and words, yes?

Camping Bingo card from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Camping Bingo card from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF); it comes in a set of four, in .pdf format

Here’s the link to get the four cards NWF created in .pdf. If you want to create your own (history, geography, mathematics, language arts) teachers, here’s a blank form in .pdf.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Duncanville ISD’s Judy Henry.

More:


Old teacher returns to the classroom, April 1970

August 16, 2013

In 1970, Lyndon Johnson met with students (at the University of Texas)

In 1970, Lyndon Johnson met with students (at the University of Texas), in a science lecture hall. Did the TV class have to relocate?

Johnson’s first job out of college was teaching Hispanic students, an experience that brought him to see the wisdom of civil rights laws and great education.  Who was in TV 2301.01 — and did they realize they’d have met with a president if they’d stayed in their classroom?

The photo was taken on April 27, 1970.  It comes from the collection of the LBJ Presidential Library, in Austin, Texas, via Wikimedia.  The Lyndon Johnson School for Public Affairs was established in 1970, but this photo may have been too early in the year for a class there.

Anyone have more details?

Update: This photo may have been taken at LBJ’s alma mater, now the Texas State University at San Marcos, judging by this other photo I found at Humanties Texas.

Lyndon Johnson in the classroom during an April 1970 visit to his alma mater. Photo courtesy Texas State University-San Marcos.

Caption from Humanities Texas: Lyndon Johnson in the classroom during an April 1970 visit to his alma mater. Photo courtesy Texas State University-San Marcos.


If class size doesn’t matter, why do the charter schools list it as a key selling point?

July 18, 2013

Classroom in Edgewood ISD, San Antonio, Texas, in 2010. Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Classroom in Edgewood ISD, San Antonio, Texas, in 2010. Republican legislators want more classrooms like this one, crowded, to save money paying teachers and heating the rooms. Or maybe they have a real reason — it can’t be a good one. What’s the ratio, three kids to one desk? Did one kid fail to shower this morning.  Texas Tribune photo, by Bob Daemmrich

Steven Zimmer, a member of the board of the under-assault Los Angeles Unified School District, lays it on the line:  Class size is important, and legislative efforts to expand class size in public schools are intended to sabotage public schooling — and that action harms students.

Description of the video at YouTube from the OTL Campaign:

Small class size isn’t about protecting teachers’ jobs or making their work easier — it’s about providing every student with quality attention in the classroom. Steve Zimmer, Board Member of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former teacher, asks why we tolerate or dismiss crowded public school classrooms when charters and private schools use small class sizes as a selling point?

More:

 J. D. Crowe cartoon from the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register.

“OK, Class . . . How many of you are students adn how many are teacher consultants?” J. D. Crowe cartoon from the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register, August 18, 2009.

“It could be worse — this could be a public school classroom during budget cuts.” Cartoon by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, March 18, 2011

 


Hold teachers accountable? I don’t think that word means what you think it means

June 18, 2013

Diane Ravitch gets all the good discussion — of course, she’s much the expert and she’s done several thousand posts in the last year.

View of a two-story wood-frame school house wi...

View of a two-story wood-frame school house with students and teachers out front, by H. N. Gale & Co. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ravitch engaged in a brief back-and-forth with Ben Austin, a guy who contributed to the invention of virtual IEDs to blow up California schools, called parent trigger laws.  Under California law, if 50% +1 of the parents of the students at a school sign a petition, the district must take apart the faculty or give up control of the school to a non-public school entity.  See my posts repeating the early parts of the exchange under “More” at the bottom of the post.

For reasons I can’t figure, parent trigger advocates claim these moves bring “accountability” to education, though the only effect is usually to fire public school teachers.  Oddly, most of the time replacements then are not accountable to the local school district nor the state for similar levels of student educational achievement.  But a public school is dead and a private entity has taken its place.

Discussion on the threads at Ravitch’s blog get long.

Phila. Teachers on Capitol Steps, Wash., D.C.,...

Philadelphia teachers on Capitol Steps, Washington, D.C., May 13, 1011. Library of Congress colleciton

I responded to a guy named Steve who rather asserted that teachers are just trying to avoid accountability, and so should probably be fired (there’s more nuance to his position, but not enough).  A few links are added here, for convenience of readers.

Steve said:

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were absolutely no standardized measures for educational success, and teachers could simply focus on educating children in whatever way they believe is best, and that all schools were funded to their greatest need and without oversight? And students learned to their capacity and everyone would sing kum-ba-yah at the end of the day?

No. The premise of no standardized measures is a bad idea. In that case, as now, we would have no real way to determine whether the system is working.

You mistake testing for reform, and you mistake test results for quality; you assume that test results are the result of what a teacher does in the previous few months, without any assistance (or interference) from parents, the front office, state agencies, and smart phones.

It would be good if we had research to guide teachers in the best ways to educate kids. We have way too little now, and what does exist rarely can break through the complex regulatory web created by NCLB proponents who ironically, and probably sardonically, require any new process to be “research tested and proven,” probably knowing that gives raters more opportunities to fire teachers.

That’s where our dispute lies.

Yes, sometimes it’s best to hold hands and sing “Kum Ba Yah.” Especially in school. Singing is good, music education is important to the development of sterling minds. Group activities to celebrate milestones produces greater achievement.

I gather you’re opposed to that. That’s a key part of the problem. “Reformers” are too often working against what we know works (though often we’re not sure why it works), against what many regard as “frills” like music and poetry (well, Aristotle argued against it, didn’t he?), and against achievement that can’t be used to fire somebody.

It’s a problem of models. A group singing a song together shows some developmental progress, and may show other progress. The Donald Trump “You’re Fired” model is much more titillating to bullies. Bullies tend to rule too many places.

We need a model that works, a model grounded in good theory (“theory” does not mean “guess”), a model that produces some sort of scoreboard teachers can use, day-in and day-out, to determine what to do next.

“Accountability” is a light on that scoreboard, but it’s not the score, and it’s not the game.

And yes, it certainly would be a better world if poverty, racism, abuse and more simply didn’t exist.

Don’t patronize with stuff you don’t believe and you know policy makers won’t work towards.

Poverty is the big one here. We’ve known for 40 years that poor parents as a group cannot produce students who will achieve well academically as well as rich parents, not because they’re not the great parents they are, but because middle class wealth brings learning opportunities for preschool kids and pre-adolescents and teens that mold minds and make them work well; kids in poverty miss that. Until you’ve tried to get your students up to speed on the Constitution with students who do not know how many states there are, what oceans border our nation, who George Washington was, what a Constitution is, how laws are made, or where food comes from, you really don’t appreciate the difficulty.

Yeah, they used to get that stuff in the newspaper. But their families can’t afford newspapers.

And when I get those kids to “commended” levels on the state test, how dare you tell me I’ve failed. Shame on you, and may you be nervous every time you hear thunder, or go under the knife with a surgeon who passed my class.

But this isn’t the world we live in. This is an organized society. When public funds are spent, there needs to be accountability.

There can be no accountability where there is no authority. If I do not have the authority to obtain the tools to educate the students in my tutelage to the standard, why not hold accountable those who are the problem? I produced four years of achievement in the bottom 20% — you’re bellyaching because the top 3% only got one year of achievement? They were already scoring at the 14 year level — sophomores in college. “Adequate Yearly Progress” can’t be had for those students, if you define adequate as “more than one year,” and if they’re already far beyond the material we are required to teach.

Accountability is a tool to get toward quality. You want to use it as a club. I think it should be a crime to misuse tools in that fashion.

You really don’t have a clue what’s going on in my classroom, do you.

I am *so* tired of the educators on this blog berating anyone who suggests that a teacher be accountable for *anything*.

Show me where anyone has said that. I weary of anti-education shouters complaining about teachers not being accountable, when we’re swimming in “accountability,” we’re beating the system most of the time, and still berated for it; our achievements are denigrated, our needs are ignored. If we win the Superbowl, we’re told we failed to win an Oscar. If we win the Superbowl AND an Oscar, we’re told someone else did better at the Pulitzers. If we win the Nobel Prize for Peace, we’re asked to beef up our STEM chops.

I was asked to boost my state passing scores by 5%. Part of the reason Dallas dismissed me was my abject refusal to sign to that (“insubordination”). That it’s mathematically impossible to boost a 100% passing rate to 105% didn’t change anyone’s mind, nor give anyone pause in passing along the paper. College acceptances didn’t count, SAT scores didn’t count, student evaluations didn’t count.

I wish idiots who can’t do math would be held accountable, but you want my gray scalp instead (and larger paycheck; but of course, that’s not really in the system, is it?). Is there no reason you can find to cling to?

There’s a difference between “accountability,” and “pointless blame.” See if you can discern it. Your children’s future depends on it. Our nation’s future depends on it. We’re not playing school here.

People are accountable for the work that they do.

That’s absolutely untrue in about 85% of the jobs in America. W. Edwards Deming died, and people forgot all about the 14 points and how to make winning teams. Are you familiar with the Red Bead experiment?

Most people calling for accountability can’t define it (Hint: in the top management schools, you don’t see this equation: “accountability=fire somebody”).

Can you do better? What is “accountability?” Will you please rate me on the advancements of my students? No? How about on their achievements? No? Can you tell me even what you want to hold teachers accountable for?

Don’t wave that sword when you don’t know how to use it, or if you can’t recognize the difference between a scalpel and a scimitar, please.

You give me white beads, I turn 80% of them red, and you complain about the few that remain white? [If you're paying attention and you know Deming's experiment, you know I reversed the color in my example -- no one ever catches me on that.  Why?]  You’re playing the guy who, having witnessed Jesus walking on water, wrote the headline, “Jesus can’t swim!” That’s a joke — it’s not how to make a better school, or a better education system, and it’s not accountability.

NOBODY wants a teacher to be accountable for things that are beyond their control. You have had FIFTY YEARS to develop a means to show that you are accountable in your use of public funds. You have not done it to the public’s satisfaction.

As Deming noted occasionally, we’ve had 5,000 years to develop standards of quality for carpentry and metalwork, and haven’t done it.

The Excellence in Education Commission in 1983 recommended changes to stop the “rising tide of mediocrity” in education. Among the top recommendations, raise teacher pay dramatically, and get out of the way of teachers so they can do their job.

Instead, teacher pay has stagnated and declined, and we have a bureaucracy the sort of which George Orwell never had a nightmare about standing in their way.

But you want to “hold the teachers accountable.”

I suppose it’s impossible to be part of the rising tide of mediocrity and also recognize you’re part of the problem.

Your failure to understand accountability should not cost me my job. I not only want accountability, I want justice, especially for my students. 97% of my students will face invidious racial discrimination when they go out to get a job; many of them (about 50%) come from families who don’t use banks. No checking accounts, no home loans, no car loans from a bank. More than half of the males have never worn a tie. 75% of them come from homes where no novel is on any bookshelf; 30% of them claim to come from homes where there are no books at all, not even a phone book.

They passed the test with flying colors despite that.

That kid who came in not knowing how to write a paragraph went out of my classroom with a commended on his state test, and writing well enough to score 80th percentile on the SAT including the writing part. You have a lot of damnable gall to claim that my work to get him to write his brilliant ideas, well, was wasted effort.

Why won’t you hold me accountable for that? Why do you refuse to look at real accountability?

Don’t claim I’m shucking accountability, when you haven’t looked, and you don’t know what it is.

So – others are now coming in to try and develop what you failed to do. Yup, some of them are shysters. Some of them are ego-maniacs. And some of them are doing so because they have experience and success and they can apply those to helping to improve education and measurement of same.

Good luck to them. Why not let me compete with them. I mean compete fairly — either they don’t get to take money from me merely by existing, or I get to take money from them when I beat them in achievement, and when we take students away from them because they aren’t getting the job done?

You seem to think that these other alternatives for sucking taxpayer money work better. My schools beat charter schools and most private schools in our same population in achievement, in yearly progress, and in a dozen other categories. (Our art students took the top prizes at the state show, beating students from one of the nation’s “top ten high schools” four miles away; the art teachers who got them there? Rated inadequate, given growth plans, funding cut . . . I though you were campaigning for accountability?)

Don’t change the subject. I thought you were for accountability. All of a sudden, you’re against it when we’re talking brass tacks. When we miss a standard, we public school teachers get fired. When we beat the hell out of a standard, we still get fired. When we beat the private schools, the charter schools, and the home schooled kids in achievement, we get zip, or a pink slip.

Accountability? I’d love to see it. You can’t show it, though, so you’re wasting my time and taxpayer money hollering about it.

Some of you even have the temerity to say that the system isn’t broken. Well, maybe it’s not broken for *you*. But it IS broken for the rest of us. And it’s public money here – so – if you are so certain that everything is hunky-dory in what you are adding to the process, well then, prove it. That’s what using public funds requires.

Your kids are in jail? Sorry the system failed you so badly. I had a 90% graduation rate out of my students, in a state where 75% is the state norm and suspected by everyone to be inflated. If your kids are not in jail, and didn’t drop out, that’s good.

Public education isn’t a right (in most states); it’s a civic duty, the thing that keeps our republic alive and democratic. School worries about your kids, sure — but we must also worry about every other kid, too.

What about the 200 other families in your neighborhood? The levels of vandalism and other crimes in your neighborhood depends on the children of those families getting an education. I was able to turn around a dozen of them. The local cops actually did a good job with another dozen.

The local charter school wouldn’t take any of those 24 kids. The private schools took one on an athletic scholarship, but he flunked out his junior year, after football season ended. He was out of school for full six months before we got him back. Three of those girls got commended on the state test despite their having infants; two others got commended and one more passed for the first time in her life despite their delivering children within three weeks of the test. We covered the history of children’s literature one week, convincing more than a few that they should read to their babies, as they were never read to. I got the local bookstore to donate children’s books for each parent in my class, so that their children won’t grow up without at least one book in the house.

We’re teachers, and we worry about the future. Why won’t you allow accountability for that?

Accountability? The word does not mean what you think it means.

Firing teachers is not accountability. It’s an evasion of accountability. It’s destructive of schooling and education. Firing teachers damages children. Even if you could tell who the bad teachers are — and you can’t, no one can do it well — firing teachers cannot offer hope of getting better teachers to replace them.

Why not improve education instead? Who is accountable for that?

Again at Diane Ravitch’s blog, Steve responded that he wants everyone held accountable, including parents and administrators.  Good, so far as it goes.  I think that’s just lip service.  He’s still firing teachers with no way to tell the good from the bad.

More:


War on Teachers and Education, Part 3: Prof. Ravitch’s response

June 10, 2013

At her blog again, Diane Ravitch responded to Ben Austin’s open letter to her at the Huffington Post.

Earlier today, Ben Austin wrote an open letter to me on Huffington Post. He expressed dismay about my characterization of him and his group Parent Revolution. Read his letter here. Here is my reply.

My Reply to Ben Austin’s Open Letter to Me

Dear Ben Austin,

Thank you for your invitation to engage in dialogue in your letter posted on Huffington Post.

You probably know that I have been writing a daily blog for the past fourteen months and during that time, I have written over 4,000 posts. I can’t remember any time when I have lost my temper other than when I wrote about your successful effort to oust an elementary school principal in Los Angeles named Irma Cobian.

I apologize for calling you “loathsome,” though I do think your campaign against a hardworking, dedicated principal working in an inner-city school was indeed loathsome. And it was wrong of me to say that there was a special place in hell reserved for anyone “who administers and funds this revolting organization that destroys schools and fine educators like Irma Cobian.”

As I said, I lost my temper, and I have to explain why.

I don’t like bullies. When I saw this woman targeted by your powerful organization, it looked like bullying. Your organization is funded by many millions of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. You have a politically powerful organization, and you used your power to single out this one woman and get her fired.

Your organization sent in paid staff to collect signatures from parents. The teachers in the school were not permitted to express their opinion to parents about your efforts to fire their principal. When you succeeded in getting her fired, 21 of the 22 teachers on staff requested a transfer. That suggests that Cobian has the loyalty of her staff and is a good leader.

Who is this woman that you ousted?

All I know about her is what I read in this article in the Los Angeles Times.

It said: “More than two decades ago, Cobian walked away from a high-powered law firm to teach. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she said she was inspired by a newspaper article about the low high school graduation rates of Latinos and wanted to make a difference.

“Her passion for social justice led her to Watts in 2009.”

Irma Cobain is now in her fourth year as principal of the school, and you decided that her time was up.

What did her teachers say about her?

“Third-grade teacher Kate Lewis said Irma Cobian is the best principal she’s had in nine years at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts.

“Joseph Shamel called Cobian a “godsend” who has used her mastery of special education to show him how to craft effective learning plans for his students.”

“Fourth-grade teacher Hector Hernandez said Cobian is the first principal he’s had who frequently pops into classrooms to model good teaching herself. Recently, he said, she demonstrated how to teach about different literary genres by engaging students in lively exercises using characters from the “Avengers” comic book and film.”

When Cobian arrived at the Weigand Avenue Elementary school four years ago, she found a school with low test scores, low parent involvement, and divisiveness over a dual-language program. “All the students come from low-income families, more than half are not fluent in English and a quarter turn over every year,” the Los Angeles Times story said.

Cobian decided to focus on improving literacy and raising morale. She certainly won over the faculty.

The day after Cobian learned about the vote removing her, she went to a second-grade classroom to give prizes to children who had read 25 books this year. She cheered those who met the goal and encouraged those who were trying. But she could not hide her sadness.

“I need happiness today,” Cobian told the bright-eyed students. “What do I do when I’m sad?”

“Come here!” the students sang out.

For a moment, her sadness gave way to smiles. But later, she said: “I am crushed.”

Ben, how did you feel when you read that? I felt sad. I felt this was a caring and dedicated person who had been singled out unfairly.

Ben, I hope you noticed in the article that Dr. John Deasy, the superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, praised the plan that Cobian and her staff developed for improving the school. He called it a “well-organized program for accelerated student achievement.” He thanked Cobian for her commitment and hard work.” But you decided she should be fired.

Ironically, the parent who worked with you to fire Cobian said she preferred Weigand to her own neighborhood school where she had concerns about bullying. Even stranger, the parents at Cobian’s school voted to endorse her plan. Your parent spokesperson said she did not like the plan because it focused on reading and writing, but she told the reporter from the Los Angeles Times that she actually never read the plan.

I understand from your letter, Ben, that you somehow feel you are a victim because of what I wrote about you. But, Ben, you are not a victim. Irma Cobian is the victim here. She lost her job because of your campaign to get rid of her. She is the one who was humiliated and suffered loss of income and loss of reputation. You didn’t. You still have your organization, your staff, and the millions that the big foundations have given you.

I am sorry you had a tough childhood. We all have our stories about growing up. I am one of eight children. My father was a high-school dropout. My mother immigrated from Bessarabia and was very proud of her high school diploma from the Houston public schools. She was proud that she learned to speak English “like a real American.” My parents were grateful for the free public schools of Houston, where I too graduated from high school. We had our share of problems and setbacks but I won’t go on about myself or my siblings because my story and yours are really beside the point. What troubles me is what you are doing with the millions you raise. You use it to sow dissension, to set parents against parents, parents against teachers, parents against principals. I don’t see this as productive or helpful. Schools function best when there is collaboration among teachers, parents, administrators, and students. Schools have a better chance of success for the children when they have a strong community and culture of respect.

Your “parent trigger” destroys school communities. True to its name, the “trigger” blasts them apart. It causes deep wounds. It decimates the spirit of respect and comity that is necessary to build a strong community. Frankly, after the school shootings of recent years, your use of the metaphor of a “parent trigger” is itself offensive. We need fewer triggers pointed at schools and educators. Please find a different metaphor, one that does not suggest violence and bloodshed.

It must be very frustrating to you and your funders that–three years after passage of the “parent trigger” law– you can’t point to a single success story. I am aware that you persuaded the parents at the Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California, to turn their public school over to a privately operated charter. I recall that when parents at the school tried to remove their signatures from your petition, your organization went to court and won a ruling that they were not allowed to rescind their signatures. Ultimately only 53 parents in a school of more than 600 children chose the charter operator. Since the charter has not yet opened, it is too soon to call that battle a success for Parent Revolution. Only the year before, the Adelanto Charter Academy lost its charter because the operators were accused of financial self-dealing.

But, Ben, let me assure you that I bear you no personal ill will. I just don’t approve of what you are doing. I think it is wrong to organize parents to seize control of their public school so they can fire the staff or privatize it. If the principal is doing a bad job, it is Dr. Deasy’s job to remove her or him. I assume that veteran principals and teachers get some kind of due process, where charges are filed and there is a hearing. If Cobain was as incompetent as you say, why didn’t Dr. Deasy bring her up on charges and replace her?

I also have a problem with the idea that parents can sign a petition and hand their public school off to a private charter corporation. The school doesn’t belong to the parents whose children are enrolled this year. It belongs to the public whose taxes built it and maintains it. As the L.A. Times story pointed out, one-quarter of the children at Weigand Avenue Elementary School are gone every year. The parents who sign a petition this year may not even be parents in the school next year. Why should they have the power to privatize the school? Should the patrons of a public library have the power to sign a petition and privatize the management? Should the people using a public park have the right to take a vote and turn the park over to private management?

We both care about children. I care passionately about improving education for all children. I assume you do as well. You think that your organized raids on public schools and professionals will lead to improvement. I disagree. Schools need adequate resources to succeed. They also need experienced professionals, a climate of caring, and stability. I don’t see anything in the “trigger” concept that creates the conditions necessary for improvement. Our teachers and principals are already working under too much stress, given that schools have become targets for federal mandates and endless reforms.

I suggest that educators need respect and thanks for their daily work on behalf of children. If they do a bad job, the leadership of the school system is responsible to take action. What educators don’t need is to have a super-rich, super-powerful organization threatening to pull the trigger on their career and their good name.

Ben, thanks for the open letter and the chance to engage in dialogue. If you don’t mind, I want to apologize to Irma Cobain on your behalf. She was doing her best. She built a strong staff that believes in her. She wrote a turnaround plan that Dr. Deasy liked and the parents approved. Ms. Cobain, if you read this, I hope you can forgive Ben. Maybe next time, he will think twice, get better information, and consider the consequences before he decides to take down another principal.

Diane Ravitch

If Dr. Ravitch is correct in her claims, and her fears for future results, the biggest problem with this parent-trigger farce is that it costs a lot of money, and does only damage to schools, and to students, therefore.

Please continue to Part 4.

This series, on the dustup between Prof. Diane Ravitch and Ben Austin in California:

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