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Interesting Information and Books, Documentaries, Reviews: Education Uprising — YES! Magazine

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Interesting Information AND

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  March 31, 2014

Education Uprising

YES! Magazine

 

The spring 2014 issue of YES! Magazine is all about the current state of education in the United States:  EDUCATION UPRISING.

I hope that all parents and grandparents will go online and read the education articles because our public education system is being systematically destroyed.

The good news is that people all over the country “get” what is happening–and why–and are leading successful protests for change.

I will be highlighting some of the stories in this blog post, but here is the url to this free magazine:

Education Uprising — YES! Magazine.

 

* * *

There are TWO pieces of information that you might want to know that happened in my life:

I wrote my PhD (Cultural Studies) dissertation on the school choice movement–FOR SALE:  SCHOOLS/STUDENTS:  THE SCHOOL-CHOICE MOVEMENT:  AN EFFECT OF NEOLIBERALISM’S PASSIVE REVOLUTION (2002).  I researched this topic deeply for five years and it was crystal clear that “school choice” (vouchers/charters) was not about what’s best for children or offered a way to improve education, but was about the market wanting to colonize schools so they could get at the money pot that funds it.  At the time of my dissertation–ten years or more ago now, this pot of money was bigger than the military budget.  Today this pot is about $600 billion from the federal government alone–as Dean Paton notes in “The Myth Behind Public School Failure,” discussed below.

My sister taught first and second grades in an inner-city Norfolk, Virginia, school that had been deemed a “failing” school until about eighteen months ago.  In the several years before she retired, she was tasked with testing 6 and 7-year olds over FIFTY PERCENT of the entire teaching time of the school year–which she felt was cruel and ineffective.  She was tasked in her final years to teach with a programmed plan that she felt had little success with her children. When experts came to view her classroom, she was touted as a “master teacher” numerous times.

So, it was with real joy that I read the first story in the YES! issue on taking back education:  Dean Paton’s “The Myth Behind Public School Failure.”  BECAUSE Paton “got it.”  Here’s the url:

The Myth Behind Public School Failure by Dean Paton — YES! Magazine.

Paton traces the origins of the myth that American schools have ever been failing–as I did in my dissertation.  Sure, there are schools or districts (usually very poor) that could be said to be “failing,” but IN GENERAL, American schools before NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND were doing a quantifiably (yep, that means via data and math) good job.  The document making claims of failure, “A Nation At Risk,” famously, was, as Paton notes, “remarkably free of facts and solid data.”

The strategy to PRIVATIZE public schools has always already been to pick them off one by one by deeming them FAILING–and along the way a HUGE testing market emerged that created the tests that said a school was failing.  (In 2012, Pearson PLC, “the curriculum and testing juggernaut,” made more than $1 billion, writes Paton.)   Then the teachers got targeted as being responsible for the “failure.”  What got produced was a “manufactured catastrophe,” or what Paton notes Naomi Klein calls “`disaster capitalism.’ ”   

Teachers used to be valued community members, and in order for the market to colonize the schools and get to the pot of money, they had to demonize the teachers.  So, those trying to privatize the schools (or the misguided people who got caught up in this whole business) started proposing that teachers be rated according to their test scores–regardless of the reality of the students in their classrooms.  But, Badass Teachers Association (BAT) co-founder Priscilla Sanstead’s Twitter banner says the following in the article listed below about the Seattle teachers who boycotted the MAP test:

Rating a teacher in a school with high poverty based on their student test data is like rating a dentist who works in Candyland based on their patient tooth decay data.

The turning point for change may have come in 2012 when “then-Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott” said publicly “that high-stakes exams are a `perversion.’ ”  Following Scott, in January 2013, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School “announced they would refuse to give their students the Measures of Academic Progress Test–the MAP test.”  The administration threatened them, but, ultimately, backed down.  And this boycott triggered a nation-wide backlash against high-stakes testing and the current NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND policies that have reduced education to educational bulimia ingested and disgorged on tests.

In “Pencils Down:  How One School Sparked a Nationwide Rebellion Against a Test-Obsessed Education System, Diane Brooks tells the story of how Seattle’s Garfield High School teachers decided to and did boycott the MAP tests.  Here’s the url to this fascinating story:  

These Seattle Teachers Boycotted Standardized Testing—and Sparked a Nationwide Movement by Diane Brooks — YES! Magazine.

So, how are students now being assessed?  

Brooks notes that schools opting out of high-stakes testing are looking to “the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a coalition of 28 high schools across the state…[that] track student progress with performance-based assessments. Rather than take standardized tests, students do in-depth research and papers; learn to think, problem-solve, and critique; and orally present their projects.”  This approach “not only provides more effective student assessment, but also emphasizes critical-thinking skills over rote learning.”  

And, here’s a link to the article about how Diane Ravitch, an architect of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, is saying she was wrong, she made a mistake, it does not work:

Architect of Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Law: “I Was Wrong” by Scott Nine — YES! Magazine.

 In “The Best Way to Learn About a Tree,” David Sobel notes that KINDERGARTEN used to mean “children in the garden.”  Now, though, high-stakes testing has reached all the way down to Kindergarten, which is now “the new first grade.”  As a result, these children are spending more and more time indoors as kindergarten teachers “are required to focus on a narrowing range of literacy and math skills”  Sobel quotes David McKay Wilson, a journalist who writes in the Harvard Education Letter that studies show that `some kindergarteners spend up to six times as much time on those topics and on testing and test prep than they do in free play or `choice time.’ ”  Additionally, “teachers are required to use scripted curricula that give them little opportunity to create lessons in response to students’ interests.”

So, what’s at stake here?  “The efforts to force reading lessons and high-stakes testing on ever younger children could actually hamper them later in life by depriving them of a chance to learn through play.”

The article goes on to list some really exciting kindergarten programs where children actually learn in gardens/forest/nature.

You Can’t Bounce Off the Walls If There Are No Walls: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Happier—and Smarter by David Sobel — YES! Magazine.

There are MANY other wonderful, thought-provoking articles in this issue.  Some deal with the harm done by current zero tolerance policies in schools today–which are often exercised without any real understanding of what a student is juggling.  The Restorative Justice program is described in detail, for instance.  Start with this article:

Discipline With Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment by Fania Davis — YES! Magazine.

There are more stories in this issue.  Of course there are.

But these can get you started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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