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.

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

What is wrong with this world

So what is wrong with this world?

My answer is “Nothing that the right people can’t fix”, and I believe it. But boy, it’s starting to approach a crisis situation. To begin with, I have been watching the DNC chair debates, and am now watching the nominations and votes for the next DNC chair-have it running on my phone as I type this. The saddest thing of it all is the unwillingness, both in the debates, in the media, and right now as I watch some of these pretenders talk about a fresh start; talk about reaching out and knocking on doors; talk  about unity… the unwillingness to change and bring a powerfully new and progressive message to the people is glaring. People are desperately waiting for something to vote for (as opposed to being told they have to vote against something), and the tone-deaf and entrenched establishment that had aligned itself stubbornly behind Hillary Clinton still refuses to own up to the error of it’s ways. It isn’t that they’re full of %$#@, god no…They just didn’t organize and unite enough to effectively spread that %$#@ far and wide enough. They didn’t reach out those crap covered hands wide enough to give a fake “I care about your plight” hug and spread the smelly promise of more neoliberalism and Wall Street funded perpetual poverty politics.

Are our leaders working for us? I mean really. Have they been? If you could say that there was something wrong with the world it would be that they are not. Trump is getting the blame for a lot of stuff because he’s an almost cartoonishly deplorable character, but it was Obama who spent his administration demeaning public education, growing income inequality, allowing war crimes to go unprosecuted, and in November, on his way out, microwaving Syrian women and children.

Whoa…what was that, you ask?

Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals. The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.

Yeah, that was President smooth. “Microwaving” is a little specious, but the article that link takes you to describes our government’s willingness to blast some depleted uranium on the collateral damage of our foreign petroleum control conquests. I don’t think radiation hurts the oil, but wow is it bad for babies. But it’s only our leaders doing it to babies in other places. Is showering foreign innocents and babies with depleted uranium how we want our leaders to represent us? Who cares about the in-your-face evils of a Trump administration when our corporate shill Democrats in name only are covertly as evil, and still feel entitled the votes of the millions they have helped to ignore and suppress only because they’ll half-heartedly fight for some health coverage and  some labor rights and some minimum wage standards. If the DNC continues to support policies that fuel economic savagery and war-hawkishness-they will be spreading those %$#@-covered huggy-hands wide, but coming back with far less than they’d hoped for.

Questions for Sam Ronan

In the aftermath of the Hillary Clinton loss and transformation of our representative democracy to authoritarian rule under Donald Trump, I’ve been reflecting on the failures of the Democrats. Specifically, the missteps of establishment Democrat politicians and pundits, the machinations within the DNC, and the obvious bias in mainstream media-all of which combined their forces to bring us to where we are. I’m no Obama-zombie or Clinton fan, but neither did I want the keys to this great nation passed on to Donald Trump-who continually displays lack of grace, humility and common sense and also shows a lack of respect for others and for his own responsibility to the office. But a Trump presidency, if you view it negatively, is something that could easily have been avoided. I won’t say that a DNC nomination for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton was the only way, but I am  saying that a major shift in the Democrat’s platform was needed but stubbornly resisted. As a registered Independent voter who has leaned to the “D” over 90% of the time I have had moments of regret, spread throughout my almost 32 years of voting, for how I chose to register. In New York, Independents cannot participate in voting in the primaries. The state saw a challenge to this closed primary approach  in this past season, and I hope to see something done about it in the near future-but for me it might be too late, spiritually speaking. Over the last decade my votes have been wandering into third party territory more and more. I will never vote strategically for any evil, even if it’s “the lesser” one. My vote will be earned by candidates who speak to my values and priorities.

And that’s how Trump won. I didn’t vote for him, but he certainly spoke for those who did. So I have to ask, who speaks for and represents my desires for the future of America? Looking for more, hoping to hear something…anything that might convince me there was some hope in this happening, I came across some video of recent DNC chair debates.

One of the most disappointing things was seeing that the Democrats looking to lead the party want to play their future strategy as a more careful and crafty version of what just lost them the 2016 race. But Sam Ronan, a virtual unknown (I mean, I had never heard of him before) shows up on stage, looking casual and comfortable…I have to admit when I saw the thumbnail image attached to the link I thought a practical joker had crashed the event and somehow taken a seat right next to Keith Ellison. My hope in clicking “play” was that I was going to see a clever smart-ass grab a seat, take a selfie, and then get bum-rushed and dragged off by event-security.

(Sorry Sam, but if it helps- I’m way happier with what I did see.)

Sam inspired me to believe that younger energy, a fresh perspective, and some honesty is making the stage in the debates and conversations regarding the priorities for our next DNC chairperson. It becomes tiresome listening to the cautious tap-dancing some of the “hopefuls” do in addressing the issue of a clearly rigged system meant to deflect needed reforms . This is what has kept the Democrats and Republicans on a steady course taking them further and further away from the will of the majority. Sam’s willingness to be honest about why Democrats lost, and about what needs to be done to bring that party back to its people (as opposed to how to trick people into voting Democrat without changing the party) demonstrates the kind of character lacking in our representatives and our leaders.

So I shot a few questions at Sam to help me figure out what he’s all about. As a teacher, my priority is education-but understand that to me, education encompasses a whole lot more than just what happens within the walls of our schools and our elected leaders bear a significant responsibility for it.

ME: Tell me your thoughts on “education reform”, public schools, and accountability in education.

SAM: What do we really need to do to improve outcomes for today’s students? It’s a necessity to reform our education, and not just University or College. Our education used to be the envy of the world from K – Doctorate school and now we are tailing nation’s that we would call under developed in some areas! This cannot be allowed to continue! We need to focus on improving the pedagogy of our nation’s teacher’s, funding our school’s adequately, paying our teachers much, much more, and in general making school not a grind that brow beats students with information to be regurgitated.

I go into a lot of detail in terms of mixing: Finnish, Japanese, and German educational programs into our own American version that emphasizes growth of the individual, and guides them on their path to adulthood!

ME: Do you see some value in “choice” schools or charter schools that operate under the conditions described in the NAACP moratorium statement? Do you think those conditions are too restrictive?

SAM: On principle I have nothing against Charter Schools, that being said they do not deserve a single cent of Taxpayer’s dollars, nor should they be able to crumble and fail and receive an insurance payout once again at the taxpayers’ expense. This exact scenario happened in Ohio and was called #CharterGate and for good reason! So with that being said Charter Schools that are held to a strict standard equal to or greater than Public Schools is fine in my book, but if they accept public dollars at all, then they will be beholden to the public, completely.

ME:  What message(s) and or platform items should the DNC be committing to? Not so much how the DNC should commit to self-managing, but what should the DNC be more committed to policy-wise? How do you feel about these?

Clean water and air

SAM:Number 1 priority

A higher minimum wage, more stable gainful employment available at sustainable wages for workers

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Sound public education, funded and supported effectively as if it is the priority that it should be.

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Corporate money out of politics, or at least full disclosure

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Notice how all of these things are a number 1 priority? They have to be if we are to ever regain the trust and respect of the American People!

This was just a brief contact and I hope to have more time to follow up with Sam myself. I will be sharing as much as I can here and on twitter (@dmaxmj)