Tag: Teachers College


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Time to Move Beyond the School District Model of Public Education


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A problem among the non-research and non-practice “educators” at university schools of education (and also found among some teachers) is this mistaken conceit that public education is somehow highly correlated…

Think this family cares what the ed school crowd thinks? Me neither. (Courtesy of COGIC)

A problem among the non-research and non-practice “educators” at university schools of education (and also found among some teachers) is this mistaken conceit that public education is somehow highly correlated (and even equals) Democracy, despite the fact that there are numerous dictatorships which also successfully educate their populations. Cuba and the old Soviet Union are two that come to mind.

This faulty thinking extends even into their concept of how public education should be designed. In their minds, the concept of public education cannot abide any rethinking of the status quo. If it doesn’t involve the direct operational control of a school by an elected official or body, it cannot be public. The fact that so much of public education outside of K-12 — for example, public universities (which derive most of their budgets from tuition, federal financial aid dollars and restricted public and private grants) — doesn’t fit such a definition never factors into their thinking. Nor do they ever consider whether the status quo is any more accountable in realistic terms than a model that involves privately-managed institutions that serve the public good.

One such observer still stuck in old school thinking is Alexander Hoffman, a doctoral student at Columbia’s famed Teachers College, who managed to get Gotham Schools to let him take some 1,300 words to explain what he could have said in less than half. Public charter schools may be “quasi-public” schools, but they are not to him public schools. Why? You can wade through this piece if you so choose. I”ll do the Mickey Kaus method and save you the time: The sum of the argument is that charters aren’t public schools because their boards aren’t elected — and therefore, unaccountable to the public — while they supposedly don’t have to accept all children and therefore, unaccountable for the public good.

Hoffman doesn’t accept the fact that charters are highly-regulated by the school districts and authorizing agencies that oversee them, must provide a full open accounting of their finances and accept all students via a lottery system that unlike magnet schools and selective schools such as Stuyvesant, must accept all students via lottery for all the seats they have. He manages to compare charters to restaurants even though the latter (along with most businesses and many nonprofits) don’t have to disclose their finances in writing to any public body (the IRS filing, which isn’t public information, doesn’t count). Declares Hoffman: “The fact of regulation does not make these entities public.”

There are more than a few flaws in Hoffman’s argument. I’ll hit on the most-important flaw: A willing ignorance of something called the law, which in some 42 states deigns charters as public schools on nearly equal fiscal and operational footing as traditional public schools (in most states, they are considered districts and corporations). Sure the ed school crowd chooses to ignore this fact and indulges in philosophical blathering (by the way, this explains why they are failing to adequately train aspiring teachers). But ignorance of the law, to paraphrase that old saw, is no excuse to evading reality. Essentially the argument over whether charters are public schools truly ended twenty years ago when Minnesota authorized the first batch of them.

The bigger problem with Hoffman’s thesis lies in the mindset of the writer and those who share his philosophy: They are far more concerned with philosophy than with practice. Essentially, they would rather indulge in thesis than in figuring out the more-important question of how to assure that every child receives the highest-quality education possible.

See, when a third of America’s children drop out annually into lives of crime and poverty, the question of what is “public education” can no longer be academic. The focus must be on turning around — or shutting down — dropout factories; improving the quality of academic instruction; staffing classrooms with teachers ready to teach every child no matter their socioeconomic background; offering rigorous, challenging curricula; engaging parents and the community in improving school quality; and providing as many educational options as possible in order for every child to get the education they need. The current system was never really equipped for that purpose and it isn’t achieving these goals now.

From where school reformers sit, this is ultimately achievable by abandoning the traditional definition of public education — a school district that runs school buildings — but by a more-expansive system of funding the best choices for each child. It doesn’t matter whether the child wants to attend a traditional public school, a public charter, a Catholic school or one run by Marva Collins. One could even see a situation in which students are served by teachers who are paid by families through a voucher (credit for this idea goes to Iowa principal Deron Durflinger). The matter is whether they get the best education possible and that we make sure that the money is there to make it happen.

Hoffman and company are encouraged to join this conversation in a more meaningful way than they do now. It would be nice if they accepted the offer and pitched in to do the work.

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Voices of the Dropout Nation: Walter Dozier On Education and Violence


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One man’s call for using education to end violence.

Killing our seeds before they grow: Black America must stop this.

Killing our seeds before they grow: Black America must stop this.

As an applied anthropologist in the D.C. suburb of Prince George’s County, Walter Dozier has spent much of his time addressing the high levels of underachievement and crime that have plagued that community’s neighborhoods. But after watching the spate of teen-on-teeen murders that have bloodied Chicago’s streets, Dozier wonders whether black communities in that city — and elsewhere — are ready to embrace education as the solution to ending such carnage. Here are his thoughts (thanks to Phillip Jackson of the Black Star Project):

It has been two months since the murder and funeral of Chicago teenager Derrion Albert. His violent death sparked a national outrage and generated intense international media attention. Albert is one of thousands of young black males whose loss of life has gone largely unchecked within the black community. Yet black youth violence alarm bells have been sounding for decades.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the leading cause of death for the majority of black Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. Further, research by Northeastern University shows that the number of homicides involving black male youth as perpetrators increased 43 percent between 2002 and 2007. Just as important, the number of black male youth involved as homicide victims increased 31 percent.For gun killings, the increase was even greater with a 54 percent increase for young black male victims and 47 percent increase for young black male perpetrators.

In Chicago, almost 70 students have been murdered in black communities, since the beginning of the 2007 school year. But this is not just a Chicago problem Two weeks after Albert’s death, in the Washington D.C. area, where I live, seventeen year-old Kenyetta D. Nicholson-Stanley was killed during an exchange of gunfire at the Edgewood Terrace housing complex while she sat on a bench. A week later, 15-year-old Davonta Artis and 18-year-old Daquan Tibbs, were gunned down not far away from where Nicholson-Stanley was killed. Artis was on his way home from a local middle school where he was reportedly an A-student. Three other teens were also wounded in what community members called a war-like shootout between rival neighborhood gangs.

In all three incidents, law enforcement officials and family members publicly pleaded for community assistance in identifying the attackers so they apprehended and brought to justice. In all three incidents police struggled to get witness support as community members refused to take a stand against the epidemic violence – in their own communities. Had it not been for the technological advances in visual media – cell phone cameras — Albert’s killers might still be unidentified.

So, with a generation of black youths attending candlelight vigils as a cultural way of life and make shift memorials unexceptional landmarks throughout many black communities, there is a disquieting absence of community call-to-action, a disquieting lack of effort to address the killing of young black males – unless the assailant is white. Then the call to unify against racism is unyielding.

Some community watchers say the complacency is a problematical mix of family breakdown and an engrained sense of hopelessness fueling violent episodes of self hatred. Still others cite a concentrated and misdirected focus on materialism and consumerism rather than on educational excellence. Education advocates say the failure to provide black children with a 21st Century education will only increase the rate of terror within black communities. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 90 percent of new high-growth, high-wage jobs will require some level of postsecondary education.

Children without a quality high school education are hopelessly destined to the lowest possible quality of life imaginable in the United States. According to a recent report by Columbia University’s Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, reducing the high school dropout rate in half would yield $45 billion annually in new federal tax revenues or cost savings.

So we have now reached the “what now?” stage of the Derrion Albert tragedy. The media attention is fading, the family will be left to grieve alone and young black males continue to terrorize our communities while self-annihilating each other. The status quo approach to solving problems is not, and has not worked for years. Since the arrested development of thousands of young black males can no longer be singularly attributed to racism, new community survival strategies are critical to our survival. Blaming and complaining are not strategies; they are excuses. It is now time for a moratorium on excuses and a fundamental shift in thinking and action.

The problems of under-and unemployment are clearly related to educational deficits and too many black youths are turning to the criminal enterprise. In majority black communities across the nations the governance of school systems has rested in the hands of black leadership for years. Yet, the quality and direction of education remains in question as political, faith-based, business and community leaders are for the most part hopelessly uninvolved, uninformed and uncommitted to saving our children.

Our communities have gotten too comfortable with violence and underachievement.Without a committed and sustained effort to educate our children and rebuild our families, the permanent destruction of the black community is simply a matter of time.

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Read: Tuesday Morning Teacher Edition


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What’s happening in the dropout nation: – The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board sniffs at the Ford Foundation’s school initiative. Given the foundation’s history of getting itself — and the…

Rarely seen: Black male teacher such as Brandon George. Also under that list: Teachers with strong subject-matter competency. More of both needed.

Rarely seen: Black male teacher such as Brandon George. Also under that list: Teachers with strong subject-matter competency. More of both needed.

What’s happening in the dropout nation:

– The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board sniffs at the Ford Foundation’s school initiative. Given the foundation’s history of getting itself — and the entire philanthropic sector — in trouble in the school philanthropy arena, it may be best for Ford to stick to something more traditional.

Gotham Schools reports that New York State’s Education Commissioner and Board of Regents Chancellor wants to allow for the use of student test data in measuring teacher performance during the first two years of their careers before they attain tenure. This is essentially a revival of a law passed two years ago during the first year of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s tenure that was kibboshed a year later by the legislature and Gov. David Paterson last year at the behest of the state’s AFT affiliate. Nice idea. At least one study suggests that the teacher performance remains constant before and after tenure. But until tenure is eliminated and school districts actually take time to assess teachers, the proposal is rather meaningless. After all, some of the research so far also shows that teacher performance declines after they reach tenure.

– So far, this week, neither Kevin Carey nor Checker Finn have taken potshots at each other over whether stimulus funds should be used for saving teacher jobs. Unfortunately, neither side is focusing on the real problem: How to improve the quality of teaching in America’s schools. The stimulus debate, like the money, will eventually go away. The  impediments to improving teacher quality —  including woeful training at the ed school level, state policymaking that blocks effective performance management, poor selection of aspiring teachers who are both competent in their subjects and care about the children they teach, human capital policies that encourage teacher absenteeism, and lack of diversity in the teacher ranks — will still remain. It’s time for both of them to go back to their laudable work.

– Maureen Downey takes a look at the Florida ACLU suit and former Sunshine State governor Jeb Bush’s response. Hint: Another example of what happens when education statistics(accurate, maybe) and education statistics (unreliable, definitely) collide in public policy debates.

– The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Brooke Dollens Terry takes a look at teacher quality in the Lone Star State. She isn’t impressed.

– EdSector’s Erin Dillon peruses Teachers College’s report touting desegregation. She not only finds that it lacks rigor, but it uses a “strawman” of free-market school reforms that doesn’t define which form (in the form of charter schools and other school choice measures) at the heart of their discussion. Ultimately, argues Dillon, the need is to ultimately improve the quality of education in every neighborhood in order to achieve true equity between majority-black , majority-Latino and majority white schools.

– The Boston Globe wants Massachusetts legislators to raise the dropout age to 18. Fine. Hopefully, the Globe editorial board will hold state officials accountable for improving curricula, teacher quality and opportunities for engaging students and parents as equal partners with teachers and principals. Increasing the dropout age alone won’t solve much of anything.

Jay Mathews joins Andy Smarick in advocating for shutting down dropout factories and other poor-performing schools.

– Sara Carr’s fascinating series about school choice in New Orleans offers a point I have been making for some time: School reformers must now focus on developing systems for giving parents the information and guidance they need to make decisions. This means improving the quality and delivery of school data — or simply put, let a thousand SchoolMatches bloom — and fostering grassroots organizations that can help parents make decisions.

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Teachers and H-1B visas: More reasons for both immigration — and education — reform.


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You would expect high tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and the U.S. division of India’s tech support powerhouse, Infosys, to be among the biggest users of H-1B skilled-labor…

Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal

Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal

You would expect high tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and the U.S. division of India’s tech support powerhouse, Infosys, to be among the biggest users of H-1B skilled-labor visas. The same holds true for universities such as Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan and Purdue — the world’s training ground for skilled workers and research-and-development.

But some of the largest users of H-1B visas aren’t tech firms or major research universities. Rather, these unlikely users are the nation’s public school systems. Thirteen hundred seventy-four H-1B visas were issued to public schools during the 2006-07 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security…

— Read more at The American Spectator. And yes, it’s shameless self-promotion.

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