3/13/10

Thirsty for An Educational Revolution

I have been keeping up with Diane Ravitch's change of heart in education and I am very inspired all of the sudden to get involved in the national conversation about education. In one of her interviews with DemocracyNow.org. Below are her words and my comments are below them in black.
"....if you pick up your state standards and you say, “Well, where’s the literature?” Because what they talk about is strategies and processes and previewing and reviewing and predicting. And you think, you know, why aren’t kids getting good literature? Aren’t they reading the great stuff, you know, world literature, American literature, English literature, Spanish literature? No, it’s not there, because if you make a choice about literature, then choosing this means you’re not choosing something else, therefore choose nothing at all."

This change is also parallel to how I feel about the demise of the student/teacher relationship. Inspiring young minds through creativity, compassion and dedication used to be part of the job description. Now, strategies, number, charts and lists take over all professional development training and ways to inspire kids and inspire each other have been thrown out the window. I remember PDs where I would walk out loving my job. These trainings would refresh my spirit and fill me with new ideas of how to reconnect with my children in class. In teaching strategies and leaving out the BIG PICTURE we fragment the process, we theoretically say to the teacher we do not trust them to follow their own instincts and own personalized process.

"the institutionalized fraud is that No Child Left Behind has mandated that every child is going to be proficient by the year 2014. Except they’re not, because no state and no nation has ever had 100 percent of the children proficient. Kids have all kinds of problems. And whether it’s poverty or a million things, there’s no such thing as 100 percent proficiency. "

I live in an area of DC where kids get to join clubs, travel, are exposed to a high level of vocabulary. 4 years ago I worked at a school where a large percentage of children went who went there could not succeed in the public school system. A lot were living in foster homes, some have been abused, some came from broken homes, drugs, you name it. With this knowledge, I can only agree with Ms. Ravitch that there will never be 100 proficiency anywhere, but especially in America.

“The Billionaires Boys Club” is a discussion of how we’re in a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding. "

So these people that are rich, yet have no experience IN the classroom get to make regulations about education. I always fall prey to conversations with non-educators about the state of education and their solutions hardly ever take into consideration factors an every day educator experiences. How can economists, business people possibly run the school systems? Why aren't more educators and parents, who know more about our children, getting involved? It's time educators and parents stepped out of their comfort zone and fight for their rightful place at the table.

"So the whole picture, I think—I just wish that people wouldn’t refer to this as reform, because when we talk about “Race to the Top,” we’re talking about a principle that is antithetical to the fundamental idea of American education. The fundamental idea, which has been enshrined at least since the Brown decision of 1954, was equal educational opportunity. “Race to the Top” is not equal educational opportunity. It is a race in which one or two or three states race to the top to have more privatized schools, more test-based accountability, more basic skills, no emphasis on a broad curriculum for all kids, and no equal educational opportunity. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s also not the role of the federal government to do what’s being done and to call it reform. "

What does success on test-based accountability really guarantee our children? I have spoke to many adults who have succeeded in their lives thanks to inspiration and relationships they've had with adults, especially teachers......we act as if 100% success on tests will somehow improve our children's lives somewhat. By focusing on testing and grades we take the focus off what really matters is inspiring young minds to dream and become the creators of tomorrow. Instead we focus on mind-numbing strategies that lack soul, lack heart, lack everything that has ever really mattered about education......inspiring teachers and relationships.

"Well, unfortunately, the Obama administration has adopted and is building on the foundation of No Child Left Behind. And as I explain in this book, I believe that No Child Left Behind has been a failed policy, that it’s dumbed down the curriculum, narrowed the curriculum. Our kids are being denied a full education, because so much time is being spent on test prep and on tests that are really not very good tests and, in some cases, even fraudulent scoring of the test. The kids are getting a worse education as a result of No Child Left Behind. "

Life does not fit nicely into standards. The fact that a trip or an experience might not be listed in a state standard list does not mean it's not valuable. I worked for a 60-year old lady cleaning her house when I was a teen. I have to say my relationship with her has been one of the most positively influential relationships in my life. Her influence has affected so many parts of my life, from my relationships, to how I cook, to how I am as a parent. If we begins placing the focus on inspiring our kids through creativity, inspiration and relationship we will create a much better future than if we were to focus all out energy on succeeding on tests.

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