Here’s my response to Sarah Green’s article. We’ll see if it get’s approved, anyway.
“Here’s what I would do:
1) Kill Testing Culture- high-stakes tests inhibit creativity and curricular innovation, and are used as a blunt weapon for judging students, educators, and schools leading to the label “failure.” This was the one and only thing mentioned by Finland’s lead teacher when he came to IL last month to speak on improving US schools. To really hammer home how bad the testing and “data display” problem is, we need a national audit of time and money spent on testing and test prep.
We need rich curricula that includes languages and humanities, applied mathematics and sciences fine arts, civics and logic courses, vocational tech, and health. We need to remember that the best education, is actually ancient! Progressive (Deweyan) Education looked at the world of students and asked them, “Which problems do you want to solve today, and what do you need to learn to do it?” It certainly did not offer them a three passages, with 25 questions each with four possible answers, and say, “this is what you need to know to lead a good life.” Students aren’t buying it, and they should not tolerate it.
2) Allow for more community input and voice. I do not mean “school choice,” I do not mean charter schools in lieu of public schools. Those are false choices. All stakeholders want good schools. Period. What I mean is a respected decision-making process that values all stakeholder input.
3) End the attack on the Unions in and of itself. Unions, while they do have their vested interest in what’s good for teachers, heck, MOST of the time it’s good for students too! “Good working conditions are good teaching conditions are good learning conditions.” If you don’t believe me, consider what kind of person would be standing in front of our children under “bad working conditions.” Historically, Unions have fought for better public schools against a cost-cutting bureaucracies that would gladly place voter concerns over teaching and learning concerns. Absolutely no innovations in teaching and learning have come from charter schools, in fact, “charter schools” were initially a Union idea! Innovation in teaching and learning comes from teachers and students who feel respected, supported, and encouraged by their leadership try new things in the classroom. Why did Congress just authorize $54 Million for states to implement charterization of public school systems when charters have a luke-warm record compared to traditional public schools (Stanford CREDO Study)? Because charter are not unionized, and they can drive wages of the staff down (not a problem, because most staff in charter schools leave after 3-4 yrs.)
4) Reframe the Discussion and replace the “myths of fear,” with “enduring understandings” about Teaching and Learning. Think back to what your favorite teacher was like? what made him/her that good? Did everyone connect to that teacher the way you did? Probably not, but that doesn;t make your experience any less valuable. The vast majority of educators are great for most students. We need to end the Myth of “all these bad teachers,” and replace it with “all the teachers we loved.”
“Merit Pay,” and “Data Display” will neither shame nor incentivize teachers to be better; look at NYC and Washington DC. instead, we need schools that are “less like prison, and more like camp.” Tests are more like prison, fear-tactics are more like prison, top-down management are more like prison.
5) School leadership must have classroom experience, and expertise in teaching and learning. They must be now what they used to be, “Principal Lead Teachers,” instead or what they have become, “building managers.” When i am evaluated as a teacher, I want to know that the person who writes my evaluation actually knows what good teaching looks like!
6) Equitable funding for all schools. “Races” and grants are not equitable, especially if they come with incentives to make drastic changes towards “data culture” and “turnarounds.” These band-aids that take voice away from the school community and ultimately add to problems such as higher dropout/pushout and homelessness rates in surrounding areas. In fact, I would add under this point that we need to “follow the money.” Pearson Education, along with Gates, Stand for Children and other groups have decided that they with throw their money behind specific candidates willing to push their form of education reform, and it has let to absolutely no innovation, but plenty of systemic ethics violations and scandals including mass cheating, data-dumps of invalid rates of teachers, and lobbying that dwarfs tobacco, gun, and liquor interests in comparison.
For You To Do Now:
1) Ask your legislator to sponsor a local, statewide, or national audit on money and time-spent on test-preparation.
2) Follow the Money (Brietbart.com announced that the “top 46 Unions earned $337 million from their members in the past year, compare that to the expenditures of the educational publishing and consulting-including Gates.)
3) Join your local school board and demand a high-quality public education that is “more like camp, and less like prison.”