More finger-pointing

Recently, a reader alerted me to a new plan for racially-based measurements by a state school board (Florida); just this morning, I saw Virginia doing the same thing.

 

If we strip away the emotion for a brief moment, it is an interesting idea – acknowledging where certain kids are at and using that as a basis for your measuring stick, instead of measuring every single child starting at the same place. In science this kind of makes sense; you have several different groups with known variables (including a control group with no variables) and you measure to see how much each group changes according to where it started. You probably do the same thing if you watch stocks; if a large-cap option only improves by 1%, how does that compare to a small-cap that grows by 6%?

 

Now going back to the story as reported. Looking through both articles, the little gem of “good intention” (emphasis on little) I can find comes from the Virginia folks; the state superintendent of public instruction makes a statement about wanting to reduce the achievement gap, and a state board member is emphasizing the need to take stock of where kids are at.

 

But man, the way these ideas are pitched… I can see why folks are angry and frustrated! These two states, as reported, have cast their good intentions in a really bad light, exacerbated by grouping kids by the color of their skin. Having said that, I am disheartened that these two media outlets have failed to acknowledge or even shed light on any kind of alternative. It’s one thing to critique, but flat-out griping isn’t that productive all by itself. If the proposed direction is so bad, what is a better direction?

 

I believe (and I could be wrong) that the missing crucial and fundamental piece is the end-goal. The states are giving lip service to wanting all kids to excel, but how is that being implemented? The ideal is probably to take a “starting” measurement for each child and using that as a basis for growth, regardless of any other variable. Some children are going to “underperform” by some standard metric – I can guarantee you they are not all in the same bucket. I can imagine that if common variables are found to influence growth and progress, one can use that information to change the approach used to spur said growth and progress. But to say all kids of one group (or three) are expected to perform at a certain arbitrary level is just wrong.

 

At the end of the day, we all want to pat ourselves on the back with the reassurance that we are not failing to educate our children. Let us instead focus on what the learners need, instead of making ourselves feel good.

 

I still love the quote I heard while reading Badash’s effort with “No Child Held Back

A child is not a vase to be filled,
but a fire to be lit.
– François Rabelais

More thoughts on "reform"

I want to be careful about this word “reform”. I am starting to realize it has a lot of baggage. So let me say right out that when I use this word, I mean “acknowledging the good that already exists and needs to remain, that which is not so good will be either replaced with something better or otherwise improved”. Note there is a lot of subjectivity in that. But I also want to strike for balance.

 

So while looking at nochildheldback, which led me to look at waitingforsuperman, I now find myself on the Waiting For Superman Facebook wall, which seems MUCH more current. A recent post points me to a TIMES article which I found refreshing in the sense that it takes to heart the need to focus on the lower ends of the SES spectrum. Or at least, that was my take-away. My trouble now is trying to thread the needle between things like socialism, the vaporous “American Dream” and our own inherent greed.

 

More later.

No Child Held Back: The White Paper

The first part (called a “module”) of the NCHB free online course involves reading the NCHB white paper. I mentioned this briefly, but after trading a few emails with the author (Yovel Badash), I decided to take the time to read and comment on it. Plus, he is trying to get a “conversation” started on this topic, so to avoid sounding really stupid I wanted to gather background information and my own thoughts before I foray out into someone else’s world.

Here goes. I will emphasize that, point-by-point, I find myself in an amazing amount of agreement with Mr. Badash. My comments below reflect mostly where I have questions and/or concerns.
The quote on the cover is  Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Niles "Why I send my children to public schools"

The following article was forwarded to me this morning (your name will remain anonymous for now *grin*):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-niles/public-schools_b_1002466.html

 

 

Mr. Niles raises a lot of good points. I have not yet had time to even take a look at the numerous comments he has collected, nor his responses to those comments. I intend to. Eventually.

 

As I told the person who sent this to me, my main concern is that all these issues have a common root, IMO. From my point of view, it seems like we can boil down the issues to a lack of social justice, a lack of caring for our neighbors. The old cliche “love others as you love yourself” comes to mind. We have got the “love yourself” part down pat. 🙂

 

And here is what I mean by this. We have a ton of “haves” in our community. And we have a lot of “have nots”. And borrowing from the Occupy jargon, we even have a few “have-a-whole-heck-of-lot-mores”. As Mr. Niles points out, the children at the bottom end of that spectrum seem to be the most endangered, I would say the most crucial aspect to measuring community health, and even they seem to be doing better than 20 years ago. It would make sense that even these kids are getting something out of education. That’s the whole point of public education, right? And yet I feel quite strongly that if we were to get over our pride and allow ourselves to take a holistic, 10,000 foot view of Unit 4 or public education in general, we would be compelled to “throw in our lot” and collaborate, to cooperate, to come together as a community and reinforce the idea that everyone is valued for who they are, not necessarily what they do.

 

Trust me, I know that is not easy. It is so natural, so ingrained, to think about all the hard work one has done to reach a certain place in life. And then to look at someone else, someone who might have gone to jail, someone who might have made some really bad choices in life, someone who might be “lazy” and cannot or does not work, to look at these folks and start making comparisons or judgments. I confess, I have been there, I know what it is like. Yet, does that really help? Who gains when that happens?

 

Yesterday I mentioned No Child Held Back (http://nochildheldback.com/). Yovel wants to start conversations. I am all for conversations. But I also yearn for action. So let’s get the conversation started. And be ready to put one foot in front of the other.

No Child Held Back

Victor Rivero recently wrote an EdTech article about moving away from NCLB. Interesting timing, eh?

 

So this is just a little strange for me. I feel like http://www.nochildheldback.com reflects a lot of the conversations that I have already been having. Except these guys take it to the next level and bring in people who know what they are talking about. The major downside is that I don’t see any conversations on the website. I see “Join the conversation”, but no conversation. It’s very much like walking into the Grand Opening of a store and all the shelves are bare. I see “Take action” but no actionable steps to be taken.

 

Here is another strange thing. Read the rest of this entry »