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Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Slick Campaign for Privatization

Also wanted to add in this comment on this post that I thought summed up the point even better:

“Yes, the purpose of privatization is to get private hands on public school tax money. Almost all the school “reformers” are hustlers with fake degrees and scant experience. Almost none are teachers because these people wouldn’t even consider public service work for $40,000 a year.

Fortunately, as the fog of the Recession fades, the public is catching on. In the end, the American people will always side with the people in the classrooms.” –Linda Johnson

Diane Ravitch's blog

The forces advocating privatization of public schools are well-funded and relentless. They cloak their goals in high-flown rhetoric about “saving kids from failing schools.” Or they cynically claim the mantle of the civil rights movement as they seek to disrupt communities and replace public control with private ownership. As the public gets wise, resistance grows.

This comment came from a reader:

I have been researching this whole privitatization of public services since Parent Revolution has targeted my school. Ben and his like are interested in taking publuc services like schools and even libraries to privateers. Always promoted as being able to provide better services. With dwindling tax dollars public entities can unburden themselves of unions, costly health care, and underfunded pensions. Under eleaborate PR campaigns boards and councils are sold on the ideas.

Next, is to convince the public needing the services. The gray area of being ethical is where…

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LASD Student Ed-Con 2013: Learning Rocked and Redesigned!

Check out this student voice and collaboration that recently happened in Los Altos (woo Bay Area!)

This is definitely the kind of thing I want to bring to LAUSD through my work as the new chapter leader of Students United for Public Education USC Chapter. I really want SUPE/USC to play a big role in USC’s Ed Month, since last year, so much of the discussion was centered around corporate education reform, and I saw so many USC students fall victim to the propaganda and bullshit spewed by “Education Reform” Leaders.

Hopefully, instead of bringing KIPP/LA students to the USC Campus for a conference on college, we can invite a broader population of LAUSD high school students to USC to host a conference where we listen to their student voice and help elevate it to create real student-driven change.

Amazing work, LASD.

The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do – by Dennis Hong

Dennis Hong, a molecular biologist turned biology teacher, writes in this wonderful post about the profession that is the backbone of this country, but it still so disrespected and underestimated.

Here what Hong says is the reason why people have delusions that anyone can do what a teacher does, but doesn’t have those delusions when it comes to other fields of specialty:

Have you ever watched professional athletes and gawked at how easy they make it look? Kobe Bryant weaves through five opposing players, sinking the ball into the basket without even glancing in its direction. Brett Favre spirals a football 100 feet through the air, landing it in the arms of a teammate running at full speed. Does anyone have any delusions that they can do what Kobe and Brett do?

Yet, people have delusions that anyone can do what the typical teacher does on a typical day.

Maybe the problem is tangibility. Shooting a basketball isn’t easy, but it’s easy to measure how good someone is at shooting a basketball. Throwing a football isn’t easy, but it’s easy to measure how good someone is at throwing a football. Similarly, diagnosing illnesses isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure. Winning court cases isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure. Creating and designing technology isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure.

Inspiring kids can be downright damned near close to impossible sometimes. And… it’s downright damned near close to impossible to measure. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s test scores. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s grades. You measure inspiration 25 years later when that hot-shot doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur thanks her fourth-grade teacher for having faith in her and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

Maybe that’s why teachers get so little respect. It’s hard to respect a skill that is so hard to quantify.

Amazing article, definitely check it out for yourself. He brings up some other really great points.

This is a perfect segway into a piece I’m working on about Teach for America. All I’m going to say now is, people who think they are fantastic teachers after 5 weeks of training are not only embarrassing themselves, but also being incredibly disrespectful to the teaching profession.

U.S. Student Protests Thus Far in 2013

AMAZING! So proud of my peers ❤

Steve Zimmer’s Angry Rant about Class Size – A Must Watch

http://lausd.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=58 

(Skip to 05:38:10 and watch him burn his opponents at 05:40:10) 

“You just get to give more individualized, personalized attention. You get to know the stories, the voices, the history, when there are less students in your classroom. That just is.”

 

He then takes out printouts of charter schools’ websites and says that if the audience still doesn’t trust his experience as a teacher, they should look at the choices parents have made. Each charter school boasts class size on their front page. 22:1. 20:1. even 12:1.

Earlier he also takes brilliantly about the blasphemy of dividing “adults issues” and “kids issues”. Students’ issues are everyone’s issue. Period.

I’ve never seen anyone so eloquent yet still so fiercely passionate during an angry rant. But that’s what the state of education reform has pushed dedicated teachers and advocates like Steve Zimmer to, I suppose. I’m so glad he’s on the Board, so excited to work with him in the future.

I was actually really scared of working in LA; the dominance and blind support of corporate reform is very overwhelming. Monica Garcia is the president of the Board of Education and she is a full-on supporter of corporate reform and charter schools. And John Deasy, the Superintendent is also aggressive with his reforms, and although I believe his intentions are good, he’s falling victim to the pressure of corporate reform.

So, for me, watching this was incredibly comforting. Hope to find more quality people like this in the field!

Corporate Reform can’t even do business right

I may only be a business minor, but I know the difference between good and bad business. If you’re going to turn education into a business with students as products, at least employ good business practices.

Susan Altman, a teacher and current MBA student at Oxford University, writes a wonderful article on corporate reform’s bad business on my favorite education reform satire blog EduShyster.

Here are some notable quotes:

“First, following standard operations practice, we must establish whether education reformers see education as a service or a product.  (As an educator, every bone in my teacher body screams service to all humanity with a damn it thrown in for good measure).”

“If the reform crowd agrees with me, they should, according to my nifty Pearson textbook, endorse “a high degree of customization, a move away from standardization, and focus on “intangible deeds and processes.”

“Even if we say that students are products and that teaching can be broken down into an assembly line of measurable tasks, old-fashioned Fordism isn’t even how good business operations are done anymore.  That ugly, dehumanizing, and elitist way of thinking about factory work went out of fashion with the poodle skirt.”

Here’s a thought: if education reformers are going to use the language of business to justify their policies, how about they at least use business ideas from this century?

Be sure to check it out for yourself!

10 ways to spend $30+ million

LAUSD recently announced that they would be purchasing $30 million worth of Apple iPads for its students.

But wait, there’s more…

Here’s what the LAUSD board of Ed envisions their classrooms to look like by 2014.

The district says it is spending $678 per iPad. That’s more than the regular price of one, but these iPads come equipped with learning and educational software. Sounds great right?

Except that there are over 650,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Excuse my lack of Common Core upbringing, but isn’t that like… almost $500 million?

Oh wait, I see. The $30 million is just phase 1 of their “let’s-spend-money-on-things-to-make-our-district-look-great-without-implementing-real-change-and-solutions.” In the fall, only 30,000 students will get iPads. They’re the test group for whether or not they should spend millions more on giving the rest of the district this cutting edge technology.

Don’t get me wrong. I love iPads just as much as the next person. I prefer Apple to Microsoft any day. I do think technology is a great tool in the classroom. And I do it’s important to prepare students for the digital age and instill technological literacy.

But there are other ways they could go about this, and a lot of other important things that they could fund with this giant amount of money. Classroom collaboration and active discussions and experiential learning are also very important. Technology is great but it limits student interaction when students are in front of a screen most of the time.

We ought to loosen restrictions on schools (ahem high-stakes standardized testing ahem), give teachers training and tools that allows them to creatively teach well-rounded curriculum to students that not only know how to use an iPad, but can also carry a discussion with classmates, communicate an original idea, fight for a cause, and produce valuable, original work in any area of education and life. 

With that said, here’s a list of what else they could use all that money for:

  1. Creating “cutting edge” computer labs at each school
  2. Building art, music, and physical education programs to give students well-rounded educations and more options
  3. Growing social justice and civic learning curricula in schools
  4. Renovating school facilities and creating an exciting environment for students to learn
  5. Funding more field trips, interactive workshops, service learning programs, extracurricular programs
  6. Rehiring teachers who were laid off
  7. Providing meaningful training for teachers (preferably training from a person who has been in front of a classroom before) and implementing meaningful evaluation systems that help improve rather than punish teachers
  8. Reducing class sizes
  9. Increasing teacher salaries
  10. Removing furlough days

Nikhil Goyal Advocates for an Education Revolution in America

Well said, Mr. Goyal. I’m also very excited to begin your book.

This about sums up my stance on standardized testing, while also giving a great solution that I shoot back at anyone who asks me,

“What’s going to happen when we cut down on standardized tests? How are we going to hold students and teachers accountable?”

Portfolios are a GREAT way to start. It not only gives more meaningful, holistic, and accurate “data” on the growth of a student, but it sends a positive message to students, one that says,

“You are more than a number. You are more than a letter. You are capable of accomplishing so much. Your work is valuable and important.”

Take a look! It’s a short but worthwhile watch.

Further suggested readings by Nikhil Goyal, an 18-year old author, speaker recognized by Forbes 30 under 30:

First topic I’ll tackle: The “Other” Education Movement

First off, I want to say that I feel really bad for not posting in a while. Things have been really hectic at home, and I could barely find a sizable chunk of time to just write for myself. When I did sit down to write, I was interrupted or had to put it off… and nothing just ever got done. 

But, now I have re-balanced my time and plan to start right up again, beginning with a topic that I think needs to be addressed before any others. Before I can establish where I stand, I want to be clear on where I DON’T stand. Before I can get to figuring out solutions, I have to fully understand the problem. Here is a huge chunk of the problem:

The Educorporate Reform/Deform/Rheeform/Rephorm Movement

Image

Michelle Rhee, the Dolores Umbridge of Education and the leader of the Education Reform Movement.

Gosh, where do I begin? I’m going to do a string of posts on this, but I guess I’ll start with a bullet point list of what the education reform movement is really about.

[Linked in each bullet point is an article to get you started… of course there are tons of articles and evidence for each one. Also, if you haven’t done so already, I really suggest you check out this handy “Reform-to-English” Dictionary. It’s basically an expanded list of the Ed Reform movement’s bullshit]

My first post on this topic is going to directly address people who are in my position.

A letter to future teachers and present education advocates

All I ask of you is this:

Please, please, please take a second look at the current education reform movement being led by StudentsFirst CEO Michelle Rhee, and championed by big names like Bill Gates, Wendy Kopp (Teach for America CEO), and Arne Duncan (current Secretary of Education appointed by Obama).

Take it from someone who used to be a Students for Education Reform member, used to dream about working for StudentsFirst, joining Teach for America, and running my own charter school.

Usually, I would suggest that two sides of the education debate put aside their differences to put students’ interest first. Usually, I would promote what I support rather than bash what I oppose. But what I oppose is moving education in the wrong direction. What I oppose is making it difficult for me to promote what I support. What I oppose is gaining support from cover-ups and lies, and tricking so many (including myself) into believing their bullshit.

Before, I was under the false impression that this was the change our country needed. I believed that doing all those things I just mentioned would help students and the education system. 

Don’t be fooled by fancy, charge rhetoric and the growing presence of their names in the media. Corporate money is fueling this campaign, and the only beneficiaries are those at the top. When the movement started, I joined it because it had good intentions and set clear goals on how to solve the issue of education. Now, actually seeing the disappointing results of this movement and digging deeper into their motives has led me to become completely disillusioned, if not horrified.

All I ask is that you dig underneath all that fancy looking brochures, websites, and appearances and discover what the education reform movement is really doing to our public schools, our students, our teachers, our communities.

After looking at all sides of the situation, if you still stand by the EdReform movement, then by all means, pick up on the past that I abandoned.

But I just want you to know that there is another side to this debate. Another solution that actually listens to students, shows genuine concern for the future of our education system, stands behind teachers, and believes in bettering public education for all. 

Education reformers are on the wrong side of history. They are doing nothing to improve education, and they are reaping all the benefits. Real solutions require full collaboration from the bottom up, not the top down (in this case, they don’t even reach the bottom). Advocates for education justice are championing real solutions, real change.

All I ask is that you take a second look.

I’ll end with a quote by Diane Ravitch:

“The future belongs to all the students who understand that public education belongs to them as a democratic right to build their future. [Education] must not become a plaything for Wall Street and billionaires, nor a stepping stone for politicians, nor a profit center for entrepreneurs.”

Teacher: How to Stop the Teacher-Bashing

I’d love to see this happen.

Diane Ravitch's blog

A teacher responded to Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, who has proposed a new salary plan for teachers that reduces their pay.

“I propose a national Day without a Teacher.”

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