Friday, August 07, 2009

2009-08-7 Education Round Up

Accurate info v. rhetoric: From Insider Online:

Sixty-one percent of people say funding for public education should be increased, but that figure drops to only 51 percent when people are given accurate information about how much is currently being spent. That’s the finding from a survey conducted by William Howell and Martin West. Howell and West, who describe their survey in the Summer 2009 issue of Education Next, also find that accurate information about teacher salaries causes support for higher teacher salaries to drop from 69 percent to 55 percent.
Mission creep: Something Nashville can look forward to even if they don't work toward providing the education parents want for their children. The system will try to maintain its presence and so they'll expand their mission for survival's sake like St. Louis is doing.
"Long plagued by declining enrollment and academic struggles, the school district wants each new "full-service" school to serve as a community hub. The district is using roughly $1.7 million budgeted for schools already offering community education programs to turn them into full-service schools.
Windom said security measures also are in place to make sure students don't come in contact with members of the public who seek services.
This made me laugh. After expressing that he was 'apoplectic' at the prospect of me being on the school board back in 2006 Councilman Mike Jameson (East Nashville/downtown) doesn't have much sympathy when someone else's ox is gored. He is quoted after this last Council BOE appointment as saying:
“The process is certainly not perfect."
That's for sure.

Not very encouraging: This among new BOE member Kay Simmons' initial comments:
“I think my experience has taught me to look objectively, at everything,” Simmons said. “The truth is that … there’s not an urban school district across the country that’s succeeding. We do need to look at different things. Nobody has the answer. My guess is that we won’t find the silver bullet either, but we need to peck away.” City Paper
The children don't have time to for the adults to just peck away at these problems with the view that no one has the answer. We need wholesale commitment to providing options for students that will work for them instead of offering the excuse that no one else can get it done either.

NEA To Do List: Every 4th of July the National Education Association holds its annual convention. What is voted on there is regularly outside the mainstream of America and often very surprising to parents who are trusting their children with these folks for so many hours of the day. Some items are just head scratchers. Why is this important to the education of children or the well-being of teachers on the job? For a peek check the New Business Items from the last Representative Assembly.
  • to inform and influence President Obama's proposal to turn around 5,000 schools with $5 billion in five years beginning in the fall of 2010
  • Develop success indicators beyond standardized tests while making sure that curricula promote the development of 21st Century Skills
  • the local Association must be involved in any discussions regarding school reorganization, including but not limited to, charter school conversion;
  • Tell the story to America of the importance of unions in assuring great public schools for every student
  • NEA will zealously advocate for national health care reform that is consistent with the policies, resolutions, and legislative programs of the NEA and its state affiliates
  • NEA will take such actions as may be appropriate to support efforts to (a) repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples, and (b) enact federal legislation and/or regulations that treat same-sex couples and similarly-situated heterosexual couples equally with regard to social security, health care, taxation, and other federal rights and benefits.
  • To help state affiliates be more effective in opposing funding for charter schools that do not meet NEA criteria for support,
  • The NEA will publicize and seek members' participation in the campaign for the defense of labor and human rights in Iran and for the release of the recently arrested Iranian trade union leaders, including Ali-Reza Hashami of the Teachers Organization of Iran.
  • NEA will work with the Department of Labor in order to review and modernize the definitions of "teacher" and all other education professionals in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).
  • We oppose any efforts to restructure the U.S. educational system or local educational units on any basis that would allow schools to "cherry pick" students or institute separate and unequal educational models which could lead to further marginalization and segregation of student populations.
  • The NEA go on record in support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) in their organizing drive to represent workers in the new Delta Airlines.
  • That NEA recommend to its State Associations that "Juneteenth," a celebration by many African American communities that acknowledges the end of over 200 years of slavery in the United States, be placed on their written and electronic calendars. This day is June 19.
The Rep suggests: "While we are at it why not allow parents to at least see teacher performance reviews? How did students from one teacher at a school compare to students from another teacher? Currently those records are not available to parents."

I'd like to see some basic information posted outside their classroom doors:

Welcome to Mr. John Smith's Classroom
Masters in Education and a minor in music from Baylor University, 1973
TVAAS rating is 8.9
Supervisor: Dr. Sally Jones

It seems amazing to me that we require parents to place their children in the care of people they've hardly had a chance to vet. It's even more amazing to me that the BOE grants tenure on a wholesale basis. Too much 'just trust us' going on.

Cheryl D. Mayes wants to replace MNPS BOE member Karen Johnson (District 6-Antioch). From Mayes' blog:
"I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your personal stories with my staff and me. Please email your personal stories to us at We would like to know about the great things you and your students have experienced with MNPS. Please also share your concerns and your ideas for making our school system the best nationwide."
She's got a poll at the bottom of her blog asking "Are you satisfied with the type of education your child currently receives with MNPS?" Here's a clue, Ms. Mayes, check the number of folks who have chosen NOT to enroll their children in MNPS if you want to know what improvements to make. Last week I saw corporate suits from a rival grocer at Aldi's. You've got to know your competition.

Next August 5 of the seats on the School Board will be up for election. Once again Nashville has an opportunity to change the majority on the Board. Obviously, it's not too early to begin working on ensuring the board has the best qualified applicants who will provide the system with the oversight and vision it needs to provide a good education for every MNPS student. Get involved early.

We need a few more parents like this fellow in San Diego:
"David Page says the problem is that parents are on their own. Teachers have a union. So do principals. School board members get to vote plans up or down and top administrators make decisions in the salmon-pink offices of San Diego Unified.

But parents are often too intimidated to speak up or too star-struck with school staffers to question them, Page said. Education is a world loaded with its own numbing lingo -- categorical funding, supplement not supplant, program improvement -- and it seems overwhelming to understand it, let alone to fight it." Voice of San Diego

He's right. There really isn't a union for parents and child child advocacy organizations rarely stand behind parental rights.

Local connection: "Under Terry Grier, [Page] has been critical of the way the school district is planning for the stimulus dollars earmarked for disadvantaged kids, especially an early effort to develop plans by "clusters," as haphazard and lacking real input from parents." Yup, Terry Grier Vandy grad and the former Superintendent of Williamson County, TN schools.

Enough for today.


din819go said...

Excellent post!!

N.S. Allen said...

On the "nobody has the answer" point:

What baffles me about the education debate is the force with which we ignore the other countries out there that are doing just fine. The number of news reports about the crisis in American education that open with stastistics about how other nations are outperforming us is enormous, but you never hear someone come out and say to the public, "Hey, Finland does it like this, and their kids are kicking our butts. Why don't we look at that?"

Instead, we end up with a ridiculously narrow policy debate that centers on a handful of ideas that might provide moderate benefit, mixed up with a lot of gimmicks and crazy schemes. When dress codes are thought of as more of an educational issue than child poverty, you know something has gone horribly wrong.

If we'd just pay attention to the people who do seem to have some answers, things would probably be different.

Kay Brooks said...

Well the definition of the right answer depends upon the agenda of the speaker. And the hearer's ability is regularly impeded by that same agenda.

One very public voice was John Stossel (no not usually my go to guy on education issues either). His "Stupid in America" broadcast can be seen at that link. He provides several views of what's working elsewhere. Why didn't anyone pick up on it? Because the people in charge won't let go of the reins. They fully intend to ride this gravy train all the way to Retirement Station--and then they'll become education consultants.

I never head dress code as really an educational issue except as it was asked for to diminish distraction and disciplinary problems so teachers could focus on education and administrative issues.

N.S. Allen said...

It's funny, because I watched Stossel's broadcast, and it seemed like he provided a few minutes on a single aspect of Belgium's education system as part of a talking point about American education, instead of "several views of what's working elsewhere."

I find it kind of interesting, for example, that he didn't talk any about Belgium when he got around to railing against the teachers' unions. Belgium happens to be heavily unionized across basically all sectors of its economy, as are other European countries with impressive education systems.

That being said, we need to look at the methods and practices of other countries to broaden the debate on education. In Belgium, for instance, the child poverty rate is just over 7.5%, and in the Nordic countries that largely outperform Belgium, it's even lower. In the U.S., it's around 22%. The difference presumably has something to do with the other countries' more impressive, social "safety nets." In Belgium, all those kids also have free access to pre-K programs from age 2, and the vast majority avail themselves of it. And a system of school governance like we have in the U.S., with our endless supply of local boards, is virtually unheard of elsewhere.

Stossel's report is selective axe-grinding on an already established talking point. Which, I guess, is better than nothing. But we need a serious conversation that brings in important issues that are going unaddressed, not the random citation of out-of-context facts to back pre-set viewpoints.

din819go said...

Please remember the purpose of forced/government schooling is to produce good citizens..not knowledgeable students. The US system is based on the Prussian (German) system. Implemented in France, Germany and Belgium(?) it was Belguim (?) that realized it was not the system they wanted. Apparently Horace Mann said he "visited" the Prussian schools. In actuality the Prussian schools were closed we he was there so he NEVER saw them!!! He lied about what he saw on that trip and we have the Prussian school system.

I am reading two books on the history of education. I cannot find the first one which is why I am not sure if the country that tried the Prussian system and then stopped was Belgium or not. If I find it I will let you know...

Anyway...just remember the purpose of compulsory/forced education was to produce good citizens, break the dependence on the family, build dependence on the government. Hmmm...I wonder why the US is having the troubles we are now? Can this be blamed on government schools or parents that don't know any better???

Things to think about...

Kay Brooks said...

NS wrote: "But we need a serious conversation that brings in important issues that are going unaddressed, not the random citation of out-of-context facts to back pre-set viewpoints."

No one's stopping you, NS. Where's your blog, think tank, cutting edge school?

N.S. Allen said...

It has been my experience, in most cases, that thinktanks do not hire college students. (Though, I really only have myself to blame for not having anything in the way of an independent blogging effort, it's true.)

That being said, my point is precisely that the everyday citizen needs to pay attention to this sort of thing. Thinktanks interested in education know what's going on in Finland and Sweden and Belgium, and it doesn't seem to have done us a whit of good.

The problem, of course, is how to move such considerations into the realm of things that the average voter thinks about, when he or she thinks about education. Unfortunately, my suspicion is that education blogging isn't the way to do it, just like the veritable horde of economics blogs out there hasn't greatly shaped America's understanding of economics.

Kay Brooks said...

Well, I know several college students working at think tanks. Obviously, it's low pay and mostly for the experience but it's better on a resume than flipping burgers.

NS wrote: " suspicion is that education blogging isn't the way to do it..." Jay Greene, Michael Antanucci, Joanne Jacobs, Ed News and many others would disagree.

It seems to me that my conversations and emails tend to indicate that even my own puny efforts (blogging, school board, PTA, encouraging others to get involved, providing needed information) have opened a lot of eyes and gotten more people to question the system and work toward improving it. AND that was always the plan.