Friday, May 23, 2014

Immaturity. Arrogance. Profit.

from here


On the plane home from Wales, I was handed The Independent, and read a brief article that summarized findings from an editorial in the British Medical Journal claiming schools in England are neglecting children by their singular focus on academic achievement.  When I arrived home, I read the actual editorial published in the British Medical Journal that states that schools in England and the US are neglecting and may be actively harming, the physical and mental health of children by overemphasizing academics, and underemphasizing health.  

Chris Bonall, Neil Humphrey, Adam Fletcher,  Laurence Moore, Rob Anderson and Rona Campbell authors of the editorial, state:
Education policy in England increasingly encourages schools to maximise students’ academic attainment and ignore their broader wellbeing, personal development, and health.
They report that: school systems that focus on narrow academic metrics, such as those in England and the United States, some schools respond by focusing on the more able students, and not engaging other students or recognising their efforts. This is associated with many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, disengaging from school and instead investing in “anti-school” peer groups and risk behaviours, such as smoking, taking drugs, and violence. Furthermore, research suggests that “teaching to the test,” which commonly occurs in school systems with a narrow focus on attainment, can harm students’ mental health. (citation: Kruger LJ, Wandle C, Struzziero J. Coping with the stress of high stakes testing. J Appl School Psychol2007;23:109-28)
Some fairly straight words from medical doctors about the potential outcomes for educational policy.  But is anyone listening? In The Independent (May 16, 2014) there was a follow up article in which a spokesperson for the Government said:
A DfE spokesperson said the Government refused to apologise for “encourag[ing] schools to maximise students’ academic attainment”.
Cover of Time. Rhee was sweeping out the trash.

Refuse to apologize.

This is the arrogance of the new educational reformers--charlatans with little to no actual education experience. They seem to be unable to listen to anything other than their own rhetoric. This is the same tone that Michelle Rhee's infamous Time cover in which she posed with a broom signaling that the way to fix America's schools was to sweep out the trash.  This is the same woman who asked reporter John Merrow is he wanted to watch her fire a principal when she was Chancellor of Schools in Washington D.C.  

Is this really the type of person we want near children?


Seated next to me on the airplane was a former primary grade teacher from England who had opted for early retirement as she could not condone the immense amount of foolish testing that she was required to do to her 5-year-old pupils.  She explained that teaching assistants who at one time worked alongside her and the children were now charged with making ticks on pieces of paper in order to record everything each child did or said so that data would be plentiful

When I was first teaching, she told me, we would stop class if a butterfly entered  our room. That new moment would become a lesson. We could seize upon the now. 

She lamented the singular focus on a narrow interpretation of school academics and how sand and water tables, paints and singing had been replaced with worksheets and textbooks.  As I listened to her I thought about the outrage from some parents in New York when their children's kindergarten teachers and acting principal cancelled the school show so that the children could become more career and college ready. There is an absence of imagination on the part of the teachers and the principal who cannot connect performance with important learning.

As experienced teachers, like the woman who sat next to me on the plane, leave the profession who remains to mentor beginning educators?  One of the mythologies promulgated by the new ed reformers is that experience doesn't matter--I wonder if this is because so many of them have little actual education experience to claim and it shows in how they fail to work well with others.  


In Chicago the teachers' union unanimously voted last week to not support the Common Core State Standards. Michelle Gunderson in a blog post for CTU explains why. 

The authors of the Common Core view the purpose of education as college and career readiness. We view the purpose of public education as a means for educating a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives.
With our philosophical underpinning so drastically divergent from that of the Common Core we did not see any room for common ground. 
That is why we say no to Common Core. 
Some union locals have asked for a longer roll out of Common Core implementation. Others ask for the standards to be re-written. We say no. We are not asking the Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuels of our world to do a better job controlling the curriculum of our schools. We want them gone from the process. 

Education Reform
from here.

A rallying cry of the new ed reformers is that "Children should not be the victims of the ZIP code they live in when their education is at stake."  It's interesting that the only way to reduce that victim status is through education.  I never hear any of these same pundits arguing for income equality, for universal health care, for universal access to public housing. We won't find them supporting job creation bills. 

It is an unjust society that creates the zip code differences, not the public schools where the children land. 

I have wanted to believe that even these new ed reformers with their little experience in leadership and education still have in mind (if not heart) the very children they wax so eloquently about when provided with a media minute. It's challenging to hold on to that belief in light of the profit making that has and continues to occur. I'm reading Mercedes Schneider's A Chronicle of Echoes . She outlines the profits made and the connections forged among these new ed reformers.  It's hard to hold on to hope in light of the scheming that has happened.  

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