Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education = Federal Disaster Area. Save Our Students!

My thoughts are spinning. I want to share. No, I need to share. Blogging, I've found, is therapeutic! So let's see if I'm capable of tying together these seemingly isolated stories. Somehow, I know they fit. 

1. First I heard a story on NPR's Morning Edition, Obama Policy Shelves Most Bush-Era Stem Cell Lines. (see below) As I listened, I became increasingly frustrated with the absurdity of red tape, and with the consistently poor transitions that take place when newly elected officials take office and the old ones vacate. In this story, the loss of years of experimentation and millions of dollars of resources are the unintended consequence of a new application process implemented by the Obama administration. In essence, volumes of scientific research might be halted and become worthless due to paperwork? What a mess! Research that is ongoing and progressive is being forced to stop and reapply using new guidelines. And there's no guarantee that the application will be accepted; they might have to start all over! As a science teacher, I wonder how to prepare my future professional scientists (students) for situations like this?

2. Then I listened to another NPR story, Spelling: 'No Child Left Behind' Is A 'Toxic Brand.' (see below) Arne Duncan plans to address congress with a "reworked" version of the No Child Left Behind law. He is recommending that the 2014 deadline for math and English proficiency be replaced by a new 2020 deadline for college and career preparedness. (Breath, Joan, breath.) I am infuriated on so many fronts.
a. Reworked? Why use NCLB as a foundation? Start over!
b.  Fire teachers in underperforming schools? Oh my goodness...We should have the president and congress be scrutinized in the same manner. Then they might understand what a bad idea this is. This completely misses the point!
c. "There's nothing pedagically wrong with teaching to a test." Dewey is turning over in his grave right. I'm sure of it. My point? There's nothing pedagogically RIGHT with teaching to a test. In fact, our entire assessment process needs revamping...High stakes testing is a BAD idea. Period.
d. College and Career Preparedness? Our nation is receiving hourly news reports of teachers being cut, programs being slashed, buildings being shuttered, students becoming victims. And Secretary Duncan is testifying about a reworked NCLB?! Wake up! We need true reform, not anything that resembles revamping or reworking anything!

3. Lastly, I watched an old TedTalk of Ken Robinson (see old post of mine). And I'm reading his book, The Element. Phenomenal discussion on where to start with school "reform" (for lack of a better term).

So how are these stories linked? Here's what I came up with:
We need to figure out how to NOT reinvent and cause trouble (story 1),
we need to reform when things have spiraled out of control (story 2),
we need to use our creative intelligence to know the difference (story 3).
These are the exact life challenges our students need to be prepared for. Do we really think we're modeling things well for them?
Let the comments begin. Please. What do you think?

(As an aside, I wish my district would have said "no" when NCLB started to diffuse through our classroom walls, and instead used creativity to do better by our students.
And said "no" to increasing AP offerings and enrollment when schools became ranked using this criterion, and instead used creativity to do better by our students.
And said "no" when programs were cut and/or replaced with "test prep" or "content driven" courses, and instead used creativity to do better by our students.
We have a chance now. We can say "no" to RTI (Response to Intervention), and instead use creativity to do better by our students. RTI is an insult. It is a waste of time and energy. Time and energy that is being expended by lowering the bar on incredibly talented individuals. BUT it CAN be twisted into something meaningful. We just need to let go and let the creativity flow!)

1 comment:

J. Gallagher said...

Just found these quotes by Diane Ravitch, (via @jorech, thanks!) author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education...
1. "It is too late to tweak NCLB. Seven years after it was signed into law, it is clear that the program deserves to be buried."
2. "Schools work best on a collaboration-and-trust model, and not on a market-and-competitiveness model.”
Take a look: