Teachers Save Children

Imagine a war zone.

The medics put themselves into the battle, willing to sacrifice themselves for their cause and trying to protect the innocents who are in harm’s way; treating the ones harmed. Of course there are casualties, and there are wounded.

Poverty is like war.

What it does to people, families, and children especially, is like they have been wounded and are being wounded. The deeper the poverty, the deeper the wounds and the more desperate the people trapped in that war zone. What happens to people, and what desperate people trapped in poverty find themselves needing to do to survive are things educators are made well aware of if they are serving that population. In the poorest of communities, the wounds tend to be deeper, more pervasive, fall on children the heaviest, and get more concentrated in classrooms filled with these young bodies and minds coming into school from those homes and those hoods. Traditional public schools, and public school teachers have open doors and open classrooms to take in those “wounded” from the community, regardless of the condition they arrive in. Without a doubt, bad outcomes are more concentrated in areas more impacted by poverty.

In the poorest of communities, the wounds tend to be deeper, more pervasive, fall on children the heaviest…

It’s seems as if everyone actually in the battle, serving students, is aware, while the armchair education “experts” preaching reform from the outside have no clue-or worse, pretend to have no clue. What definitely doesn’t help is when these experts deny the impact of the poverty while wasting their clout and energy trying to undermine the public servants actually in the battle.

Now I’m not trying to shame anyone at all, just instigate a better conversation. Airlifting some selected and non-critically wounded to a safe zone removed from the front lines, administering first-aid and distributing water bottles in the cool shade of evacuation tents is also a part of caring for the wounded. And a hearty slap on the back, a big jerky Trump handshake and a merit badge for supporting positive outcomes for those who got to ride your helicopters and get some R&R because you are due. But it would lean into arrogance to scoff at the survival statistics of the medics on that front line who are treating critically wounded as bullets fly and shells explode nearby-the same way it is arrogance to smugly use “poverty is not an excuse” as a bullshit accusation/catchphrase and use graduation rates and test scores when promoting schools that draw out a selective sampling from poverty; shameful to puff your chest and strut, comparing those stats removed from the front line and under the shady tent-the same way it is shameful to stroke one school’s reputation with stats generated from a manufactured enrollment compared to an open-doors, traditional school.

…it would lean into arrogance to scoff at the survival statistics of the medics on that front line who are treating critically wounded as bullets fly and shells explode nearby…

Maybe replacing draft-dodging from the real war(s) with brave, honest and transparent choices is where the NAACP was coming from with their moratorium on charters.

No fear: the helicopters and tents are needed and there are edupreneurs willing to invest. Serving in that capacity is a choice for those seeking the merit badge-just remember that choice doesn’t exist for the front-line medics.

Those real soldiers will battle on.

A Coleman Blank? UPDATE

I am doing some research and am reading David Coleman’s 2011 talk to NYSED regarding the common core standards.
This is the nysed.gov link to the full transcript I am using. When I get to the part where he says
But it also involved quite wonderfully several other teachers of every stripe from every organizational background who are involved in developing these standards and also of course the NEA and other groups. But if there’s one voice that is loud and clear here, it is the voice of teachers. And let me tell you what we learned as we listened to those voices. (p.4-5)
 
It is followed by a large blank area before going on to the next section, with no mention of what David learned as he listened to actual educators. Did he not learn anything, or was it like the “listening tours” that happen from time to time-where people were talking but it didn’t really impact the process?
If he did learn something, I would like to know what it was. If there is a better link, or more information, please share it with me.

Thank you,
Dan McConnell
I contacted NYSED, and heard back pretty quickly Took me some time but it’s been busy. Daughter graduated, parties, family visits and whatnot. Still confusing, though. Read and see what I mean. 
Me (June 18th):
I am doing some research and am reading David Coleman’s 2011 talk regarding the common core standards.
This is the nysed.gov link to the full transcript I am using
When I get to the part where he says
But it also involved quite wonderfully several other teachers of every stripe from every organizational background who are involved in developing these standards and also of 5 course the NEA and other groups. But if there’s one voice that is loud and clear here, it is the voice of teachers. And let me tell you what we learned as we listened to those voices. (p.4-5)
 
It is followed by a large blank area before going on to the next section, with no mention of what David learned as he listened to actual educators. Did he not learn anything, or was it like the “listening tours” that happen from time to time-where people were talking but it didn’t really impact the process?
If he did learn something, I would like to know what it was. If there is a better link, or more information, please share it with me.
NYSED (June 19th):

Hi Dan, this transcript is complete, although the way it is formatted is a little misleading. If you listen to the video (available athttp://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/resources/bringing-the-common-core-to-life.html) , at 13:19 he ends with “…what we learned as we listened to those voices.” The next thing he says starts with the text on page 5. However, whoever created the transcripts added the extra space and added the section headings which makes it seem like there was a break in what was spoken even though there wasn’t. So the text of the transcript is complete and it is not missing anything in this section.

 

If you have any other questions about this, please let me know.

 

Thanks,

Ron

 

I haven’t listened to the video, not this part anyway. I’ve seen the “world doesn’t give a shit” part a dozen times, but not this part. Ron’s word is good enough for now, because why would he lie and then give me the link? My issue, then, is the total disconnect from A) Saying “…let me tell you what we learned from listening to those voices.” to then going on some more about your own ideas and understandings. Very little teacher voice or input seems to come out of what Coleman expresses. In going back to the transcript to see if giving anyone else any credit for informing his thinking comes out…I’m still coming up empty.

From Almost a Year Ago…

I am clearing out some discussion threads I have saved and came across this one. It was the result of me reading an article on Colorado teachers being stripped of tenure  because of poor evaluations. The article is from Chalkbeat.

This particular person definitely came from a business, data, analytics approach towards how to make K-12 education better. Our back and forth was lively and informative and while we both had points of agreement our philosophies in the end were likely unchanged. I’m just posting my favorite excerpt to save the essentials before I dump some files visually cluttering my folders. The poster I.D. was “Newport”. I’m “Dan McConnell”.

NEWPORT: Mr. McConnell, not sure if you’ve ever taken a stats course, but it strikes me that you and I have a fundamental philosophical disagreement about which is worse — Type 1 or Type 2 errors. The former is an error of commission — wrongly forcing an ineffective teacher from the classroom. The latter is an error of omission — failing to remove an ineffective teacher from the classroom. And there is an inescapable tradeoff between the two types of errors — the more you try to avoid one, the higher the rate of the other you must accept.

Like teachers unions leaders, you prefer to focus our attention on the injustice of the Type 1 Error — while ignoring the enormous economic, social, and individual cost of the Type 2 Errors we make every year when we leave ineffective teachers in our children’s classrooms. And if you look at the research about Type 1 and Type 2 errors, you find that in retrospect most people have far more regrets about the errors of omission they have made, because their costs are far higher in the long-run than their errors of commission.

Let me be clear: I believe — based on the evidence — that the cost to our society of Type 2 errors in K12 — in this case, leaving ineffective teachers in our children’s classrooms, is far higher than the social cost of Type 1 errors. And in today’s globalized, knowledge-based economy, that gap is growing wider at a non-linear rate.

As I presume you either a teacher or teachers’ union flack, I don’t expect you to understand what I have just written, because it is so far out of the realm of your experience.

But trust me on this: the stakes on the table are far higher than you appreciate.

 MR. McCONNELL:  “As I presume you either a teacher or teachers’ union flack, I don’t expect you to understand what I have just written, because it is so far out of the realm of your experience.”

 I understand. Don’t feel like you have to dumb it down for me because I have been a political fan-boy since I was 13 and saw some greasy ex movie star demean a president with true character-one who continues to this day to give graciously and selflessly to the world. So type 1/type 2, yeah…I get what your saying. But I think you are getting the flavor of that concept of inescapable trade-offs wrong, and making a leap from public schools to the massive, systemic, endemic social and economic injustice that exists-not because it’s too difficult to fire experienced teachers, but because mythological “investors” and “job creators” have done so only for themselves and the continued deference to them is the looming Death Star of truly high stakes.

Inescapable trade-off:

A) “Yeah, we might arrest/jail/execute an innocent once in a while-but oh well, at least we get some criminals too!” (Make teachers easy to fire)

B) “Yes…a guilty person might go free occasionally, but by guaranteeing the rights due every citizen we minimize injustice” (Protect teacher tenure)

You seem to favor the former, I favor the latter.

Teacher, yes. “Flack”, not so much-although I served as president of my local the last couple years, will be VP this year (might go back to Prez after my kids are all off to college, it’s a busy life right now)…I don’t know.

Honestly, my union has disappointed me. Not because I don’t believe less in unions, but it has been too little baseball bats and flaming bags of poo…too much sucking up to crony capitalist hoping for a seat at the table. My union leaders have bent over and taken it for all of us, from policy makers driven by donors who sit around CEO tables having their “Aint we so much smarter than teachers” stroke fest under the table (political donations, not truth, buy validation).

But I don’t expect you to understand how people who have no understanding regarding a profession buy influence over that profession and/or assume the ability to judge it.

Sometimes a haphazardly crafted word salad, even when the chef is blindfolded, can have hints of some technical culinary skill. Unfortunately your bowl of bullshit doesn’t quite meet that mark.

Let’s be Honest, Trump Supporters

Dear Trump supporters,

So, what’s next?

Let’s be honest: I guess there could be a plan for the greatness to come raining down-but based on what I’ve seen I’m having an awful hard time imagining how and when that rain will come. And on who it will fall.

That stuff trickling down now?

I’m no Russian prostitute but it doesn’t feel like greatness or smell like rain. You must know it too-at least some of you, because Bernie Sanders is still showing up, speaking truth, drawing crowds and making sense. He has been described as the most popular politician in the country. He’s even going to some Trump-voting, Republican strongholds and winning the crowd over by simply telling them the truth. That’s something the Democrats failed to do in the primary season. Win over crowds, tell the truth, and so on.

You know Hillary Clinton was forced on you just like she was forced on all of us, right?

But I don’t blame anyone for picking Trump. I often go right when I’m told I have no choice but to go left (especially if it’s a pretend lesser-of-two-evils left). I didn’t vote for either bad choice but many states went to Trump because he was able to tap into the frustration of a large number of Americans tired of being lied to, tired of waiting, and frustrated with corporate bought Democrats who had no spine. Americans that are either in crisis-poverty, on their way to it, or are one catastrophic event away from it were desperate for someone to speak to them. Trump did that ,managed to distance himself from establishment Republicans, and it honestly has been both Democrats and Republicans that have cooperatively ushered the U.S.down a path to a hell of perpetual war and income inequality, with the only difference being how nicely they lead.

We the People, meanwhile, trudge along wondering why things continue to get worse.

Our news media, in the meantime, has abandoned journalism in exchange for a selective and biased narrative that protects the parasitic two-party, pro Wall Street, pro-war system.

That’s that’s why we get fake news. In a recent letter to the editor I described it this way:

“Fake news” includes news that won’t tell you that today’s Democrats are simply Republican-lite, and the Republicans are like…well, let’s just say the choice is between someone punching you in the face and telling you it will “make us great again”, and someone else who will smile and put on a boxing glove before they punch you in the face-then say you should be grateful for the glove.

So now? We’re getting the fist. A recent insight on Team Trump’s plan to either eliminate or sponge money out of programs for the many to bankroll the dreams of the few came from White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He shared the proposal to take food away from poor school children (this after the meals on wheels scare, which was only partially true). Mulvaney says that research just doesn’t show that feeding children is effective. Kids just ain’t responding to the support they’ve gotten with greatness, I guess.

“They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? That’s what they’re supposed to do, they’re supposed to help kids who can’t — who don’t get fed at home, get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that.” (Mulvaney at a press conference, Thursday, March 16th, 2017)

I haven’t figured out what results he’s expecting. I don’t know what research he’s looking at, or if it’s data sourced through the same think tanks that hit Trump’s twitter feed in the “wee hours” of the morning (that’s when an old guy might have to get up out of bed to go wee, by the way). But from the perspective of a guy that has real human children and has been teaching in actual public schools for nearly a couple decades I can tell you feeding hungry kids at school, if you know they won’t get fed at home, is the right thing to do. To reassure those concerned, though, Mulvaney said that the plan to stop feeding kids is about “being compassionate” .

If I figure out the compassion angle I’ll share, but I am just not getting the compassion vibe from much of anything coming out of this administration.

I know, touchy-feely caring stuff is left and liberal, but if your concerned with how money might gush in one direction, consider how it already gushes. Up and away from the people who work the hardest and need it most. I see it every day in the children coming to school, my family, and people I’ve known nearly my whole life.

One example is my friend June, a woman I have known since we were both practically children. I think I was 14 and she was 13 when we met, but that was so many years ago I can’t remember exactly. It was a summer bible camp, way out in the country with one of those churches, in one of those places and on one of those roads from my past I’ve described before. We stay in touch online, and we get to watch each other’s daughters grow, clown around, achieve…She works hard and does right by her kids and as a teacher I can say this makes all the difference, in the end. Children raised right are children who come to school ready to learn and equipped to achieve.

June wrote this:

Someone recently said I expect everything handed to me. Obviously, they don’t know my life. I start every day by warming a heating pad while my coffee brews. Trying to decide where to put it first. Because, by the end of the day, I will barely be able to walk. I clean houses all day every day. If I ever sit down at night? I promptly pass out.

She has worked her whole life. Even harder now that she has children, which means that not only is she working harder in this economy that tends to reward most those who work the least-she also sacrifices to make sure she continues to do right by her children.

I haven’t had healthcare in more than three years. I simply cannot afford it. Not if I want to keep the lights on and feed my kids…

I have literally had one day off in four weeks. And I will have a grand total of one day off in the next four weeks. Once a month… I finally get to sit down and rest. 

Yes… I believe in universal healthcare. No human being should suffer because they don’t have money to pay. I sit hear thinking what the hell is wrong with anyone who believes differently. I don’t want billions spent on a stupid wall… just so we can “protect” our bigotry and greed.

Livvy recently had a project at school. They asked what she would do with $100. She didn’t answer with clothes, a phone, new gadgets. She said she would start a charity to help people in need because she doesn’t want anyone to live a bad life.

THAT is what I work myself to death for. To raise decent human beings. Who care more about others than they care about a dollar.

I don’t have a damn thing handed to me. And I don’t expect anything either. I work my ass off. I pay my bills. And I’m raising two awesome, kickass girls. I hope they go out into this world with kindness and compassion. I hope they never see someone suffering and think “too damn bad”.

Millions will lose healthcare. Apparently, it’s no longer effective to feed the elderly either. And we don’t give a crap about the environment we all need to survive.

America is categorically NOT looking great again. It’s going to hell. If you think differently and are my friend? Obviously, I love you for many other reasons. But that is not one of them.

In closing, Trumpsters (I know, it rhymes with “dumpsters” but that’s not my fault), I’m just looking for an honest guess from you at what comes next. I’m trying to connect how golf trips, militarism, thin-skinned tweeting, suggestions that the first amendment might be altered to save the president’s feelings, loading all sides of government and his inner circle with billionaires and family… I’m wondering how it connects with his repeated promises to “drain the swamp” and give government back to the people. You know, make us great.

Is this all what you hoped for, or is it what you deserve? It’s definitely not what I was hoping for or what hardworking parents like my friend deserve.

Sincerely,

A guy who will work to get your guy and others like him out of office.

Patriotism Redefined

Is pinning down what it means to be “patriotic” more difficult these days? Is it more patriotic to 1) behave, do as you are told, get in line, put your hand on your heart and play some of that Toby Keith bomb-droppin country-rock… or

2) speak out, demonstrate and resist, take collective action with like-minded others and try to draw attention to inequity and injustice?

We are living in a time when the vast majority of people living in this nation find themselves led by an entitled super-minority and the apoligist policymakers they’ve enlisted. Meanwhile, the truth of this all, is diluted or avoided by press and media owned-not truly free.

It’s true, I support education reform

Public Education Needs to be Reformed

It’s true, I am in favor of school reform. We need school reform because times have changed and are changing-and it isn’t all good. Changing so much, in fact, that public education needs now to be thought of as more than a mere step-up to opportunities in life but also as the bulwark against the offensive forces depriving us of opportunities to truly thrive. A recent New York Times article describes the economic decay eating our nation from the middle out:

Younger households have borne the brunt of the slowdown. Those headed by people aged 30 through 44 are more likely to be lower income — and less likely to be middle income — than in 2000

These are our parents, our families, our neighborhoods. The jobs, the income, the opportunities waiting for high school graduates, college graduates, and young people looking to start families and lives and join these communities…those things that once strengthened and stabilized our nation and its economy…they just aren’t there the way they once were. The problem is that the public sector, used, abused and abandoned by the buyer-owners of policy, have been scapegoated for the conditions created by financial and political shenanigans of those buyer-owners. The scapegoats aren’t so much “public” as in parents and families (needed as a force to win over and then turn upon their own neighbors, schools, those just under-and-over class compared to them…). The culprit pointed to was the public sector worker with any amount of job security, social and financial stability, or likelihood for advancement.

Those apparently became only for the wealthiest and/or those connected to policy. People who began to revolve in and out of corporate advisement, political appointment, and “non-profit” advocacy regardless of their experience, performance or content/clarity of their message.

So education reform was launched and flown by these forces-less experienced in education or interested in educating citizens; more interested in training future citizens for survival in and compliance with the currently destructive system.

A truer reform effort, different than the current one grounded in a campaign of misdirection and misinformation, will be one that doesn’t just toss about words like “school choice” or “teacher quality” when it plays well in snips and snaps. It will be about more than a collection of arrogant and privileged non-educators playing education expert-partnering with policymakers to avoid the real issues and replace those issues with tests and data. True reform will come after a deepening of the debate regarding what those terms (and others used in current reform’s dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge[i]  style talking points) mean for who-and what efforts need to be made to move us forward on a better path.

Regarding a better path:

First off, let’s be honest: if you fail to get adequately educated your outcomes are less likely to be desirable. Surprised? I hope not, but current education reform narratives are built on this understood truth as if it’s some new epiphany limited to those who are behind the school reform campaign. Their evidence that schools are failing include a long semi-legitimate list (remember, I believe reform needs to happen but we need to replace theater with thought): that so many more young people are struggling in school; that so many are failing in school; that so many leave high school and attempt college unprepared; that so many drop out or are expelled; that test scores aren’t what they should be…it goes on and on.

The reform campaign, while likely to produce improved outcomes (“survival”?) for some, was initiated under an umbrella of blame that is not convincing. Sure we can all be better, should want to be better, but the propaganda can get a little outrageous-and it must be kinda fun too. I’m sorry, but there’s a twisted part of me that wants to travel back in time and be a fly on the wall for the conversations that rocketed Rhee from lousy teacher for a few years to nationally renowned teacher humiliat-er  and education expert. For those who can reach back to the classics and make this connection, I am going to give reform-think a shot:

The only reasons Charlie Bucket made it to the final round was that he was a disconnected white child of privilege, and because Willy Wonka ran a shoddy, narrow vision failure factory (and was himself an overprotected failure…probably a pervert too), and all his products were wrapped in shiny packages but contained little real quality. Actually, Charlie didn’t really earn that factory…he was just given it because Willie didn’t want to hold him to a higher standard!

What many reform advocates avoid is a discussion about the undeniably correlated factors that 1) impact a learner’s ability to take advantage of opportunities and in concentration can place hurdles in the path of a school’s academic mission-turning it towards a more social one; and 2) encourage market forces to undermine the goal of having a truly educated citizenry, turning the goal of public education towards feeding the free-market furnace. It didn’t take long for reform narratives to shift to “the most important in school factor…”

But of course. That’s like an arsonist avoiding responsibility by saying the most important in home factor in preventing fires is a fire extinguisher. The market seeks to undermine, blame and maximize economic and social control.

Under Obama, the privatizers—led by Bill Gates and the Walton family—have opened a huge area of government to an industry led more by entrepreneurs than teaching professionals

While this did come from Alternet, I wouldn’t categorize it as just typical Alternet alarmist-speak. The folks involved in test-based accountability and common standards are pretty much on the record salivating over the opportunities available in the edu-product market-especially those available once citizens are compelled to comply with common standards, becoming a large population of standardized consumers.

What do you suppose education reformers and our leaders intend for the world our children are growing up in to? Is it a “civil right”-is it right at all, for us to demand, test and punish a growing number to ensure that a few more will merely survive?

Can we do better with a refocused brand of reform for all of us?

[i] Patches O’Houlihan, dodgeball legend

Get Past Stale Choice Debate

What things do parents most want for their children? What factors are most closely correlated with better student outcomes? Should charter schools be praised for filtering students in, pressuring students out, and then pointing at test scores and graduation rates inflated by these practices? Should investors,edu-pretenders and politicians be allowed to take critical potshots at the traditional schools they have worked hard to over-mandate, under-fund, and test into failure if their charter darlings are allowed to play by different rules?

Same students, same measures, no filter or exit chute. Let methods/magic be revealed. Unless it’s a separate these kids from those kids plan…then that’s a different conversation.