This Year’s Holiday Homework

PARENT

INITIAL

YOUR TO DO LIST
 

 

Stay in pajamas later than you usually would. What time was it when you finally put on your REAL clothes?

_______  _______ : _______ ______

 

 

Go outside and pick something SAFE to throw snowballs at. Take 20 paces away from it, make and throw ten snowballs at it. Complete short-write #1 on the back.
 

 

Help either do the dishes, or fold laundry.

 

 

 

Straighten up your bedroom.  Make your bed and pick things up off the floor.
 

 

Play a game with a family member.  Tell what game it was and how it went on back. #2
 

 

Sing a song for someone. For bonus holiday points, sing with a family member. For SUPER bonus holiday points, sing in the canned goods aisle of a grocery store. Write about where it was, the song and how it went. #3

 

 

 

Do something outside for 30 minutes or more.  Dress for the weather and have fun.  Write about what you did. #4
 

 

Do something nice for someone else. Write about what you did and who you did it for on the back. #5
 

 

Go one whole day without video games. What did you do instead?

Write it here:

 

1) Write a sentence about what you threw snowballs at and how well you did at hitting your target. Happy-math bonus points for giving your stats as a fraction. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2) Write about the game you played, who you played with, and who won. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3) Write about where you sang, what you sang, and how it went. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4) What did you go outside and do for fun? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5) What did you do for someone else? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Enjoy your break from school by connecting with others, practicing how to help out at home, and having some fun!

Might the NAACP doubt the psuedo-BS of selective choice and accountability?

At first I thought the October 15th NAACP moratorium on charter schools was just an official gesture.

You know-a symbolic response from the civil rights organization to the feverishly funded and promoted “say yes” drive to wedge private 1% interests and out-of-state investor millions into Massachusetts’s obligation to its own public. In other words: a “moratorium” (obnoxious finger air quotes) that was the strategic equivalent to the “choice” (same finger waggles with an eye-roll) described in untold amounts of advertising, promotion, self-righteous warrior for the iddy-biddy babies BS that came along with The Massachusetts Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion Initiative

Not that flaming bags of pseudo-reform BS landing on the teaching-porch was something new. The campaign to disrespect and undermine public (truly public) schools has been going on for some time. But if there’s anything to be learned about how things play out-it’s this: When you see the pointing fingers and hear about “shared sacrifice”, “rigorous standards”, “robust accountability systems”, “stealing possible”and such- you know that the real thieves are likely paying for that deflection from their own responsibility/accountability. Some of them don’t even seem all that interested in the plight of poor people and children beyond busting up their schools and are just plowing forward on a path of self-interest and self-promotion. In this way, the “failing schools” narrative serves them well, shifts the obligation to one primarily limited to good test scores, and promotes a model of privately managed selective schools for some-operating under the “public” and “choice” banners-while sometimes being neither.

But now I’ve heard that the opposition to privatization isn’t just about traditional schools and the NAACP…

… it’s also that misguided and under-informed middle class that just doesn’t understand how much more important testing children is than feeding them, housing them, preparing them with the foundations that lead to the development that then prepares them to succeed… Sorry-just a touch of snark there for the ever-changing winds of reform that swiftly turn to target the truth when it pops up to challenge them. I think most of the folks crafting the mainstream reform narrative would say they care about children in a Hallmark, summers in the Hamptons kind of way-they just seem unfamiliar in a day-to-day, closeup, hands-on, real children in real schools, actually living the struggle-to-survive kind of way. I know that many parents can describe their own need for school choice for their children because of neglected and violent neighborhoods where schools are struggling to meet the needs of a challenging student populations while being under-supported by policymakers, unable to provide a controlled setting and opportunities for those who come ready to achieve. They get it. But to what extent are the traveling consultant “choicers” willing to put their morality and word-craft to fighting the more systemic neglect getting in the way of better communities, better schools, and better outcomes? When will they step back from the worship of testing, and call for a more collaborative, whole-child/whole community approach to children and their education?

“If we know for a fact that the first three years of a child’s life are incredibly important for a child’s later learning, let’s give up the idea that education starts in kindergarten and train new parents and work with 0-3 children as early as possible. If you really want to be branded as a radical, suggest that we provide better health care and other services for children.” (Geoffrey Canada)

I think most people understand that there are more important things than tests, and that understanding is likely the source of much of that “opt out” effort that has resisted boiling down our obligation to and value of poor children to test scores.

So with this moratorium, has the NAACP made somebody’s poor children’s greatest enemies list? 

Must be, because the responses to the NAACP came swiftly and were a little over-the-top: accusations of taking parents’ rights away; slamming “the door on that chance for children of color to boost their academic achievement“; opposing “choices”, and so on. The organization had apparently joined the ranks of unions, Diane Ravitch, suburban mothers and their pretend genius children, Jesse Hagopian, Julian Vasquez, teachers with pensions…

The contrast seems clear: the NAACP and others on that hit-list battle systemic inequity continually while the mantra of the edu-marketeer/reformers  is “poverty is just an excuse”. That’s certainly a nice thing to get tattooed on your ass if you’re rich. And if you are rich the tattoo will probably be quality-inking, not like becoming tagged property bent over a jailhouse bunk with a paper clip and ink made from urine mixed with cigarette ash. Those poverty-mottoes sure are great when’re not poor, are well-connected or well-married, and if you are ignoring, maintaining or even creating poverty. Yes, of course you cannot use poverty as an excuse not to teach and try to reach students, and real teachers in all sorts of schools know that. They also know you can’t use emotional outburst, inattentiveness, non-participation, chronic hunger and fatigue, violence, broken or unstable homes, non-supportive parents..as excuses. They know because their schools have open doors and classrooms for all children, and teach them all in a group together.

If reformers believe that should change for traditional schools-they should say so.

For children who grew up poor and became successful-they did not settle for poverty as an excuse either. Everybody gets it-but this type of “poverty is not an excuse” gas-lighting while creating filtered-enrollment schooling choice-for-some mostly serves to blame/shame front line educators and keep non-teachers on their paid-speech tours. It also avoids addressing the greater issues.

Why do those claiming to care so much about children deny the negative impacts of such a system while blaming those actually serving children?

Maybe it’s because systemic evil is either too great and scary an enemy for them to “strap up” for, or maybe systemic evil is exactly where their bread-n-butter is found. Don’t bite the hand…right?  But before I became too irritated at the whole reform apparatus response to the NAACP, I had to gather the facts. I needed to find out what the NAACP moratorium had to say, because it must be bad.  So a few weeks ago I went to find the actual words the NAACP used, found the conditions they wanted for charter schools, and wrote up a quick post. I also put those conditions below and am revisiting them because I have yet to see a real, intelligent explanation for the resistance.  Yes, there has been an attempt that amounts to this (my paraphrasing):

Well, we just don’t know if any of that bad stuff in charters is happening, really, because we lack enough real proof- data…and you know data isn’t something we really profess much interest in usually. It’s a hard thing to collect- other than test scores, so asking for rules that make the playing field level and honest would just steal possible from poor children; it just makes innovative schooling impossible when you put transparency, conditions and expectations on it-just ask Eva Moskowitz. Those are things for traditional schools, their teachers and the kids we won’t take from them. So more or less the NAACP has intentionally made it impossible for great schools to serve poor children (My paraphrasing of pro-choice response to the NAACP)

In separate conventions, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, (assembled by Black Lives Matter) passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have made segregation worse-especially in the way they select and discipline students. Remember that the NAACP, as described here , is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization.  Yet a Washington Post article describing the moratorium announcement said that one of the responses included a letter from African Americans involved in education that accused the NAACP of making a false anti-charter argument and said that a “blanket moratorium on charter schools would limit black students’ access to some of the best schools in America and deny black parents the opportunity to make decisions about what’s best for their children.

I have to wonder, though, if “Question 2” was about additional charters and charter expansions, how do we know ahead of time that they are some of the best schools in America? If we don’t have some common sense requirements of them-how can we know? Are we really going to go just by test scores after allowing charters to manufacture their enrollments specifically for that purpose?

But that’s just food for thought. Here is what the NAACP wants:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools

Okay…fair to compare-right? As a parent, how do I know what to choose if some schools are allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy, and especially if the owner/operators of those schools are heaped with undeserved praise and promotion? How can I trust school leaders that only want blind trust? Some of the reform blow-back I’ve seen on this concern is (My paraphrasing again):

Maybe parents don’t want to be bothered by all those details, they just want “results”. Maybe not having a Board of Education and administration that feels it needs to answer to them is a moot point once they’ve signed the contract and agreed to the charter schools conditions. If they become unhappy, if they are called daily because their child doesn’t sit up straight, or their child gets their paper ripped and spends too much time in the calm down chair…well maybe that school simply isn’t the right fit for their child. (My paraphrasing of the “parents definitely deserve choice but may want no say” point of view)

(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system

Charter schools have been shown to impact traditional schools negatively, by diverting resources, and participating actively in the “what other choice do we have” choice-game. When traditional public schools are over-mandated and under-funded, and/or educating a challenging student population-of course involved and supportive parents who place a high value on education seek escape to a more stable cohort and controlled environment. What choice do they feel they have?

 (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate

Schools exist to serve the community by schooling the child that will grow to someday serve the community he/she serves. They shouldn’t prevent access or refuse to serve students that don’t fit an efficiency model that serves the school’s reputation first and then children-if it works for the school. To pretend you don’t know this happens is a little silly. To cast out the false equivalence that traditional schools “push out” students too rings of strategy and PR.

 
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

We should be empowering the public school system to provide the educational options all students deserve. Why is it, instead, that these options are just for parents who win lotteries; who are involved enough to choose; who can themselves and who have kids who can conform to sometimes rigid guidelines?

Maybe parent voice does not drive the creation and promotion of this product being called choice.

It was a market opportunity from the beginning, planned for and driven by wealthy interests. From Bill Gates, to Rupert Murdoch (“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed”), to stars bringing in school branding efforts from rappers and music moguls… That an effort by the NAACP, Movement for Black Lives, and others close to education to level opportunity and resources for all children in black and brown communities has been described as creating division should tell you where that “choice” loyalty lies: with a business model, it’s investors, and a select consumer group.

The NAACP critics are clearly not looking for a better conversation or an honest debate.

The NAACP kinda threw a wrench into the popular,wealthy white reformers’ PR shtick. Up to then, it was standard fare to see nay-sayers of privately managed “choice” schools, critics of much touted non-educator edu-reform celebrities, and resistors of test-centrism to all be painted as elitist, union-shill enemies of poor children and deniers of civil rights. And now here’s the oldest civil rights organization in the country also expressing concerns.

So I have to wonder what is the real deal with resistance to transparency and accountability. To demand so much from traditional schools, and then to come out so fast and hard to cry “foul” when it’s asked of charters-before green-lighting their creation/expansion…it just makes me wonder what it’s all about.

I wrote this a little while ago as an example of something a well-known charter school leader could say to really just lay it out there and stop the pretending.

“I am really nothing special, and certainly no teacher. My school is not one that dares take on the more serious behaviors and challenges that traditional schools and experienced professionals take on every day, and I know that. What I do have is access to a market and some promotional mechanisms that will provide some of the more capable and willing parents and students an escape hatch to greater achievement and opportunity than they might have otherwise realized in schools and classrooms failed by our economy, society, and policymakers. True, we don’t want them all. True, we can’t really just come in and work the same type of magic in a regular classroom, because not all students are so easily trained to comply. But by me simplifying the job for us, we can help some kids get great test scores. Not all, I know, so I promise not to keep comparing my school’s results with traditional schools and I ask the press to cooperate in helping keep me humble. What my schools choose to do and how we do it is far different than what other schools are obligated to do. I just want to help those with potential that could otherwise risk getting lost. Thank you.” (A fictional speech that could potentially be given by a non-fiction charter leader character)

Would this kind of honesty be wrong, or is it only wrong business-wise? How would the NAACP respond if the charter and choice promoters were this honest? Is this easier/better than the NAACP’s conditions-or is unfettered access to just certain children and no oversight other than supply-and-demand the reformers’ wish?

I think I can understand the NAACP’s desire to have some common sense equity and understanding injected into the opportunity charter schools could and should provide.

NAACP’s Moratorium

Here is the part of the NAACP statement regarding what conditions they hope can be met in order to move past the moratorium on charter school expansion. The entire piece regarding the moratorium (from mid-October) can be found by clicking on this text:

We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

I had been wondering for some time why reformer pundits and edu-propaganda outlets had slung so much mud at the NAACP, suggested that they were trying to steal choice from poor parents, or preventing them from having choice to begin with…Seems that some may see conditions as only being for underfunded and disrespected traditional public schools (and not the innovative and privately managed choice schools), or maybe it was a touch of shame resulting from having their.

Buyer beware: This is what “choice” can mean.

I have been made aware of another “choice” story. I understand they are not all the same, but c’mon. Maybe this is why thinking people understand we need to be loyal to people and address the needs of society, not create a market that commands loyalty to it over them. Instead of “choice”, maybe we need other words to describe schools like this. “Privately managed semi-selective option” schools?

Anyways, I came across this story from a parent whose child struggles with the same condition my youngest has (P.A.N.D.A.S.). I wrote about it in January in a letter put on educationpost after a call for uplifting, positive stories. It really is sudden, alarming, and so far my wife and I appear to have been fortunate. Click on the link to go to the archived original, or just read the story below (more about the teacher, but describes my daughter).

 

A colleague recently suffered a series of tragedies, starting with the loss of a son who was grown—but still a young man. Despite this, she kept her composure, her warmth, and her professionalism in front of the children she teaches.

One girl, in particular, had come down with a rather serious condition resulting from a strep infection that had not been effectively treated. The student, formerly bright, capable, active, and always well-behaved, had disappeared and been replaced by a withdrawn, nervous, malnourished ghost…but was slowly coming back.

This colleague found ways to be there for her class and involve and encourage this young girl on the heels of and in the middle of the series of her own personal tragedies (that would have had other teachers taking as many days/weeks off as their contract would allow). I watched and listened as she prepared to send kids off for the holiday break with a few small gifts and the advice to hug, love and thank their parents because their parents love them very much.

How she didn’t lose it—I don’t know. But I do know that her whole class, especially that little girl who is sitting three feet away from me right now and doing well, is blessed by the presence of this teacher in her school.

Now this other parent, with a story of her own that I just read this morning, describes a “choice” school she got her children into-that is now sending her child back to the “home school” because medical treatment is needed that would temporarily impact attendance-maybe for a month or so. “Forced out” and transferred. Is this the kind of thing that “choicers” promote and defend? Again, I like parents having choices-but I want those choices to be honest, held to the same expectations and standards, and to not boast and/or be promoted for results attained through manufactured enrollment. Prove yourself with the same populations, by overcoming the same struggles, and by providing the security and stability of a group of adults that serve children-not numbers.

Here is what I wrote to this parent:

Tell me about “forced out”. How does a conversation like that happen in a school that wants a great reputation, but is unwilling to welcome a sick child and work with parents to make good things happen? I only ask because I am an elem teacher of 15+ years, have a 10 yr old w/PANDAS (thankfully in the school I teach in), and have been exposed to the rhetoric of failing public schools and how much greater “choice” schools are [or how every parent deserves choice, is better served by choice…].My suspicion is that they are sometimes great because they do the selecting and are unwilling to be a welcoming “home” school for kids if that relationship requires any effort on their part. I know this sucks, I can’t imagine a school sending a kid away, and I wonder if you are free to respond to them

“No, this is my child and your student. I will meet my responsibility and you will meet yours-that is serve the children, not your bottom line. On the other hand, I’m sure the local radio station/ news-paper would like to help me share out my dilemma while I try to figure out what to do.”

Good luck with this and with treatment.

Children who are ill, children that require understanding and low-level accommodation…if any school “forces out” a child like that…that is definitely not a “choice” school.

Be cautious, not bold, for our children

November 16th, 2016

Dear President Elect Trump,

First, let me say congratulations. I am not surprised by the outcome the way many are-especially those whiners in the so-called mainstream media. Clearly they are out of touch with Main Street America, but that was pretty obvious the moment they started getting their knickers in a twist over the immense popularity of Bernie Sanders and going out of their way to put a forensics team onto anything you’ve ever said or done-all while ignoring the entrenched establishment connecting lobbyists, policymakers and media outlets. Don’t get me wrong, I think you come off like a jackass when you promise to cover the legal fees of a violent Trump fan willing to assault a protester. The Tic-Tac and “move on her like a bitch” stuff deserves to be hammered hard (don’t get excited, that’s not sexual euphemism) because it’s crass, misogynist, and adolescent in all the worst ways-especially coming from a guy old enough to be my dad and more so considering my perspective: an actual adult man with three beautiful daughters. Don’t get excited-it’ll never happen. In the end, the campaign behind us was a perfect storm: a combination of the ineptitude of the DNC and your ability to play the crowd and the media. You are a true showman, bold-and-beyond, so again-congratulations.

Next, I want to address the issue of education. There is a lot of curiosity regarding how things will go moving forward. I think you should focus less on abolishing the common core standards, and more on:

  1. Reducing federal pressures on and intrusions into the minutiae of how schools prepare their students for the world that is.
  2. Moving away from the exclusionary test-driven rigged system that sheltered, elite and arrogant Democrats say readies students for “college and career”-with zero honesty about what that really does in terms of protecting them in their establishment bubble over addressing student needs.
  3. Ensuring more equity in opportunity for students between less affluent and more affluent districts. The opportunities to be exposed to a wider variety of enriching experiences from an early age is what prepares young learners and then motivates them to excel as they grow and seek out more opportunities on their own.

Your comments on bringing control back to the local level are encouraging-breaking free of the Chicago edu-mob and promoting some honest educators with understanding of what children need and how they learn would be a great step forward. But don’t get too loosey-goosey with it (again, don’t get excited, go for the tic-tacs and start grabbing at anything down-low and within reach, I just mean don’t go too “slash-and-burn”). Some fed oversight into overall common expectations isn’t bad, but those expectations should be based on developmentally appropriate standards and respecting the fact that while teachers should be evaluated-children also need to come to school prepared to learn and freed of much of the physical, psychological and emotional baggage more of them are bringing to school these days. Standardized tests won’t hug or feed these kids, or read to them or help with homework, but stable homes and present parents will. This country is failing these folks at the community and family level by not having jobs and incomes that keep communities and families stable. Stability in these areas is a more powerful booster than any temporary teacher whose claim to fame is firing a real educator on T.V... oops. Please don’t take that wrong, firing people on T.V. might work as a vicarious thrill-I’m just saying I hope that the Michelle Rhee thing is just a rumor when it comes to how we raise and educate children. It’s one thing to inspire tall buildings labeled with giant gold letters-another to rise inexplicably from not good at a job to judging how others do it-could be part of that self-important, image-over-substance “education reform” establishment, I guess.

Let me wrap this up by telling you I did not vote for you, but I felt no remorse at Clinton’s loss (I didn’t vote for her either). The nation has suffered under pretend progressives and while the party I almost never vote with has won-I am keeping an open mind and a hopeful heart. I hope you will do the same.

Sincerely,

Dan McConnell

P.S. I hope you got the letter my daughter wrote you last year and took some of it’s advice to heart. Be a little more cautious and a little less “bold” when it comes to how you model true leadership. I have my own children as well as those I teach to think about.

I endorse my children

In the upcoming election, I endorse my children. They are who I support, along with the rest of their generation. My concern is: What do I say to them? What is already being said to them when top billing belongs to two of the most undesirable candidates ever? On one hand is a suspicious, difficult to like, habitually evasive, entitled and dishonest candidate that has been accused of horrible things.

On the other hand is Donald Trump.

I have three daughters. While my 17 year old wanted a fake I.D. for voting purposes (I trust that was the reason and if you know her you’d believe it), I figured that wasn’t the responsible path forward. She is likely to be an active participant, my 15 year old will be of legal voting age by the next election, and my youngest, 10 years old now, wrote a letter of gentle reprimand to Mr. Trump last year-regarding the way he talks about others and his language in general-so I predict she will end up being a lot like her sisters and have a very reasoned and thoughtful approach when it comes to her right to vote-assuming we still have that right by then.

So what do I say? I say to my children, and anyone willing:  stay informed, stay involved and do not be deterred by two deplorable options, a media complicit in political theater and distraction while failing in really informing the public. So with them in mind and with their generation in mind I will be voting.  Everyone who can vote should, regardless of who it is for. Record turnouts will get attention and make accountability and responsiveness more likely out of respect for the number of willing and active voters.

Remembering Malatras

After reading last week of Jim Malatras’s pending departure from the Cuomo administration, I remembered a long ago long-winded missive from him to education officials in N.Y., and a response I had written. Almost two years ago now, but a reminder of how the politics and privilege employment carousel spins round and round, the faces and names change, but the B.S. and the fallout victims remain the same. Originally it appeared here, on my old blogspot blog where I occasionally reach back in time for some of my old stuff.

This is my response to the letter written by Jim Malatras, Director of State Operations for Governor Cuomo. His letter to the NYSED chancellor and commissioner goes to great length to focus blame on teachers for supposed failings of public education, and highlights popular teacher-bashing statistics, while also asking that in response to his loaded questions: politicizing is avoided. My tone is a tad snarky because I mirror his tone and structure, but I hope to provide a counterpoint and provoke some thought.

Dear Mr. Jim Malatras, Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Tisch, and Commissioner King,

As you know, citizens of the state of New York have an obligation to hold their elected officials responsible for the policies they promote, the people they appoint, and the words they either write or speak-whether it’s campaign season or not. It is one of the most important things we can do: model for our children and young learners (future citizens) the civic duties to promote honest, productive leadership for the good of all, and eliminate the destructive policy-making that promotes narrow interests and inequities in opportunity. Although those in education policy and in other leadership positions have spoken strongly about the need for improvement in educational outcomes for public school students, they have chosen to pursue this goal with an attack on public education while largely ignoring the greater burdens facing students, families, and schools. Despite the ongoing damage of market-based policies and data-driven, investment style formulas- this is the precise type of approach to education that is currently being called “reform”.

We all can agree that this is simply unacceptable.

The citizens of New York believe in leadership with a foundation in good character, informed and guided by the people of the state over the narrow interests that have already divided wealth with growing disparity and reduced opportunity for the majority of people. Character-based leadership would be evident when citizens do not have their value, or the value of their children, defined by a market-driven approach where people are turned into data and that data gets churned in a so-called “value-added” system. A market based approach such as this prioritizes the goals of the market and squanders the public-the true value in public education. While citizens understand that it is difficult for politicians to free themselves from their intimate relationships with big-money donors, advisors driving policy while avoiding accountability, and the desire to remain politically positioned for future campaigns and opportunities, it is more important to promote the needs of the many over the greed of the few. So let’s reframe the narrative regarding education reform. Instead of blatant attack on those coming to schools burdened by the failures in our leadership, and those serving the public in order to address those failures, let’s focus on systemic reform. It is time for leaders to own up to their responsibilities and submit themselves to evaluation and accountability with the same fervor with which they demand those from the public.

As you know, the public has had little influence over the roll-out and roll-ahead of destructive forces behind misguided reforms in our state.  The most that concerned citizens have been able to get is a short-lived “listening tour” from Commissioner King, a campaign-season admission from the governor that common core standards were rolled out ineffectively and a television ad regarding the importance of kitchen tables and parents. For the most part, though, officials at the state level have essentially gave up listening long ago and continue repeating talking points and party lines. But parents, students and educators have had, from the beginning, many questions about how leadership in our state and in education policy could have degraded to this extent. What can be done to answer these questions?

In essence, how can we address what is really wrong with how education is currently funded, organized, and evaluated in New York, where the root causes of student-struggles are ignored and the one group continually burdened with undoing the damage done by lack of character in leadership and failed economic and social policies gets blamed?

Please give your opinion on these questions without the typical parsing of words that is the hallmark of those wishing to sound willing and interested while at the same time avoiding responsibility. Truly enlightened policy comes when citizens know what policy makers think.

  1. How is the current lack of equity in funding and opportunity for students in public schools a defensible condition if the future of public school systems and teaching  careers hang in the balance based  on results impacted by funding inequities? Data shows that the best funded schools spend in the neighborhood of 80% more per-pupil and enjoy about double the proficiency rates on state tests. State test results being the governor’s go-to criticism of public education should ride tandem with his admission that funding inequities need to be addressed. How does the governor plan on addressing funding inequities?
  1. Should students, families, schools and educators be reaped for private and personal data to serve commercial interests? In addition, should testing companies enjoy privacy and protection in the process of test design and scoring when the tests themselves are intended to be used on public school students with results to be shared publicly? The governor’s own reform commission cited the importance of collaboration in moving forward with reform and this approach to assessment is in opposition to that goal. How will the governor increase collaboration with the professionals who understand teaching, learning and the best use for assessments?
  1. Along with number 2, should testing companies and third-party vendors enjoy profitable state contracts for creating high stakes tests when actual educators could design and use tests as intended-not as high stakes end-product but to inform instruction and intervention going into the future?
  1. Should educators be elevated to enemy number one in the battle for student outcomes when it is the investment/banking/finance industry that has done the most damage to parents and kitchen tables (the most important tools a student can have)and has still enjoyed the greatest protection from policy makers?
  1. Should charter schools enjoy  promotion and praise without operating under the same level of scrutiny and mandates? Often, charter schools  are run by those with few (if any) credentials, have enrollment that can be shaped and filtered, and students that prove difficult or may threaten high proficiency rates are counseled out. How will the practice of creating charters ensure that it is about all students, not just a few, and prevents public dollars from going into the pockets of undeserving private charter-school operators?
  1. While promotion to the national level seems to be the reward for an education commissioner that appeared disconnected from the citizens and students of New York, the opportunity for new leadership and a new direction holds promise. What new approach is planned for the next commissioner?
  1. Can the many hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York, being paid quite poorly compared to other professionals with graduate degrees, serving in some cases difficult and dangerous student populations in under-funded and over-mandated schools really be called a “special interest”? Can the small group of very wealthy individuals and the corporations looking to cash in on the standards-curriculum-testing-“school choice” agendas be less of a “special interest”? Teachers’ special interest is being allowed and empowered to do what is best for students and to not be made to suffer for doing it. How will education policy moving forward make this possible?
  1. While the state regulations describe pathways and opportunities available to all students, the reality is that funding does not support availability of these opportunities to all students in all schools. Can teachers be blamed for this? How will the governor address this?
  1. Can the governor, the commissioner, or most of the regents look into the eyes of a student who comes from a violent and broken home and know instinctively how to approach that student first thing in the morning to make the rest of the day go as well as possible? Who among you is willing to admit that the ability to teach, to an extent, is a gift that often can’t be reduced to data on a spreadsheet and the positive gains realized with this type of student are outside of what any standardized test can show. How does the governor plan to honor that gift and reverse the tide of turning education into sterilized training?

It is clear that powerful people are driving the agenda to turn public education into a game of numbers that absolves leaders from the moral obligation to target the true areas of need for reform.  The bureaucracy of the wealthy minority (silent advisors, campaign donors and private interests) that enjoys influence over policy that restricts opportunity for the majority of citizens presents a challenge we must face cooperatively. As the commissioner prepares to take his reform agenda to the national level, it will be good to hear his thoughts on how to break free of the status quo of wealth-driven inequity for public school students.

Sincerely,

Dan McConnell