Category: issues in education

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Recommended Reading: “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. She never disappoints. Her latest article, “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation,” is solid as usual.

Though I don’t think about home schooling too often, it’s still a topic in education that gets me going. There are some cases where home schooling is probably the best move. But it’s not often, in my opinion.

From Ms. Rich’s reporting, I can infer that home schooling, for the most part, is (1) loosely regulated, and becoming less so, (2) becoming more popular with the ascent of the Common Core, (3) a Christian parents’ response to the dangerous anti-religious teachings of public schools, (4) a white parents’ response to sending their children to schools with too many kids of color. (To be fair, Ms. Rich does not discuss race directly in her article.)

Please read the article — particularly the Minecraft anecdote! — and let me know what you think, particularly if you are an advocate of home schooling. It’s important that I’m open to opposing views.

Excerpt
“Unlike so much of education in this country, teaching at home is broadly unregulated. Along with steady growth in home schooling has come a spirited debate and lobbying war over how much oversight such education requires.”

Source: http://j.mp/1DspEzZ (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson”

favicon I’m very impressed by the reporting and writing of Nikole Hannah-Jones. In April, she published in ProPublica a major article about the resegregation of Tuscaloosa schools.

Now, following the killing of Michael Brown, Ms. Hannah-Jones is back with another important piece, “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson.”

The article is well-researched, well-written, and deeply disturbing.

Excerpt
Students who spend their careers in segregated schools can look forward to a life on the margins, according to a 2014 study on the long-term impacts of school desegregation by University of California, Berkeley economist Rucker Johnson. They are more likely to be poor. They are more likely to go to jail. They are less likely to graduate from high school, to go to college, and to finish if they go. They are more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods as adults.

Source: http://j.mp/1w7KPRG (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “The Day I Knew For Sure I Was Burned Out”

favicon Sometimes you read something about teaching and say, “Yep, that’s exactly it.” Ex-teacher Ellie Herman has written such a piece.

In “The Day I Knew For Sure I Was Burned Out,” Ms. Herman perfectly depicts what it feels like to teach in an urban public school.

I really want you to read this article — I wish Ms. Herman were a contributor to TEACHER VOICES — so I’ll share with you a few quotes:

No matter how fast or long I worked, I could not get everything done. I developed a body memory of exactly how much I could accomplish in five minutes, in one minute, in thirty seconds. I was always in a panic because I had limited control over my circumstances. Everything felt like an emergency.

And:

There were literally days when I did not have time to go to the bathroom. What else could I cut out of my day? Breathing?

Excerpt
“The day I definitively and conclusively gave up, it was after six o’clock and I was making 100 copies of 11 different scenes for my Drama class. I’d been at work since before 7 a.m.; it was dark when I arrived at school and dark now. Since our school was mainly windowless, and we were always too busy to leave the building during the day, I had not seen sunlight for three days.”

Source: http://j.mp/1qPPWdt (via Pocket). (Credit to Clare Green at Impact Academy in Hayward for sharing this article with me.) You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Is there any reason to own paper books beside showing off? Not really.”

favicon I like this piece by Andrew Couts, who argues that the only point to maintaining a library of physical books is to demonstrate your academic sophistication and snobbery.

Of course, this isn’t entirely true. Especially in schools, it’s important that students see real, physical books in classrooms. Otherwise, reading becomes even more private, where the reading “have-nots” are marginalized.

But once students are reading, there’s no need to keep buying the same physical books, over and over, and waiting for them to get lost or torn or overly used or stuck on shelves.

kindle bookshelf

Excerpt
“My book collection, I realized this weekend, is one of the few things in my home that makes me seem smart. Visitors step into my living room to see shelves and shelves of tomes – Hemingway, McCarthy, Kafka, Tolstoy, Franzen, Sedaris, Bukowski, Fitzgerald – each creased spine revealing more about my interests and intellect. At least, that’s what my subconscious likes to believe. Just as vacation photographs show off where we’ve been, books show where our minds have traveled. They have, in other words, become little more than an elaborate way to brag.

Source: http://j.mp/120VBSH (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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The easiest way to tell if a school is strong

Untitled-3favicon Want to know if your school is a good one?

It’s not rocket science.

There’s no need to look up test scores or read extensive reports. No rigorous research is necessary. You don’t even need to talk to teachers or observe classrooms.

In my experience, this is all you need to do: Walk into the school and say hello to three random students. If all three say hello back — and do so normally, without shock or a who-are-you look — it’s a good school.

Now that I’m an instructional coach, I get to travel to several schools, including several outside my network, and every day, I say hi (or hi there) to students who don’t know me. I’m just a random white guy to them. It’s fun.

Sometimes, I get a totally neutral non-response — the student is in his own world, oblivious and distracted, with something more important on his mind.

Other times, I get a negative non-response — the student knows I’ve said hi, but doesn’t trust me, or is fearful, or thinks it’s weird that a random adult is trying to make conversation.

But in good schools, students give me the benefit of the doubt. They say hi not just because they’re friendly, respectful young people. They say hi because they feel safe at the school, because they’re happy to be there, and because adults do not threaten them.

They say hi because they trust adults — including white adults — to be on their side, to be helpful, and they’re willing to listen to what adults have to say.

They say hi because adults have high standards and do not let students hide or grumble or skulk.

This say-hi test may seem too simplistic, but I’ve found it works. Within the first 30 seconds of entering a school, I can sense the vibe. How’s the school culture? Is this a place of joy and respect? Are there opportunities for teachers and students to learn together?

If you’re near a school next week, please try out my little test and let me know how it goes! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. In “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works,” Ms. Rich writes about best practices in preparing new teachers for work in urban public schools.

Instead of flinging new teachers out to classrooms and letting them survive through grit and luck, Aspire Public Schools helps newbies gain confidence and skills in classroom management over a one-year residency program, focused on a much longer apprenticeship than what’s usual in teacher preparation programs.

There are some critics, of course — those who say that charter school organizations like Aspire are mechanizing teaching and teacher practices. But classroom management is by far the most important skill to master. As someone who sometimes struggled with promoting a smooth and easy classroom environment, I likely would have benefited from this program.

Please check out this article and let me know what you think!

Excerpt
The idea is that teachers, like doctors in medical residencies, need to practice repeatedly with experienced supervisors before they can be responsible for classes on their own. At Aspire, mentors believe that the most important thing that novice teachers need to master is the seemingly unexciting — but actually quite complex — task of managing a classroom full of children. Once internalized, the thinking goes, such skills make all the difference between calm and bedlam, and can free teachers to focus on student learning.

Source: http://j.mp/ZBzZej (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Why Poor Students Struggle”

favicon I appreciated Vicki Madden’s recent op-ed piece, “Why Poor Students Struggle,” in the New York Times. Her argument is nothing new — that the achievement gap does not explain why poor students have low college graduation rates (see “Who Gets to Graduate,” by Paul Tough). For Ms. Madden, an instructional coach and former teacher, the issue is social and emotional. It’s an issue of belonging.

But the article did get me thinking: What’s the role of a high school, given limited time and resources? Let’s say that a student is poor and enters high school several years below grade level. What’s the best approach?

If you’re a school, what do you do with those four years?

Excerpt
“As the income gap widens and hardens, changing class means a bigger difference between where you came from and where you are going. Teachers like me can help prepare students academically for college work. College counselors can help with the choices, the federal financial aid application and all the bureaucratic details. But how can we help our students prepare for the tug of war in their souls?.”

Source: http://j.mp/1mqecR8 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “The Battle for New York Schools: Eva Moskowitz vs. Mayor Bill de Blasio”

favicon The battle is heating up, especially in New York City, between populism and liberalism, and what’s the best way to reform education. That’s how I characterize (maybe incorrectly: the populists would call the liberals “corporatists”) the debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio (conventional public schools) and Eva Moskowitz (charter schools).

If you read today’s article in the New York Times, “The Battle for New York Schools: Eva Moskowitz vs. Mayor Bill de Blasio,” it looks like charter schools are winning.

But if you read Diane Ravitch’s response, author Daniel Bergner didn’t tell the whole story. Lately I’ve found Ms. Ravitch’s writing strident, but she makes excellent points, emphasizing that Ms. Moskowitz’s schools—and really, all charter schools—aren’t truly “public.”

The problem right now with Ms. Ravitch’s camp—and why the liberal, data-driven, no-excuses school reformers are winning the battle—is that decades of traditional public schooling have not done a good job addressing issues of equity. Unfortunately, right now, populism doesn’t quite “sell.”

Please let me know what you think!

Excerpt
“One afternoon this summer, Eva Moskowitz, who runs Success Academy Charter Schools, showed me her senior yearbook. “I was the editor,” she said. We sat in a half-furnished office at the construction site of her charter network’s first high school. A buzz saw shrieked in the background.”

Source: http://j.mp/1AnJ1XC (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Teach for America has faced criticism for years. Now it’s listening — and changing.”

favicon It’s easy to criticize Teach for America. It’s all about well-off, elitist college graduates who swoop into poor communities to encourage kids of color to become upper-class white people, just like them.

Except that characterization may no longer be true. Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars, which I recommend, explains how TFA is changing. New co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matt Kramer are thinking critically about the organization and its shortcomings.

Among the highlights:
-TFA is piloting a year-long induction course, much longer than its much-ridiculed five-week version;

-TFA is piloting a program where teachers make a five-year commitment, instead of just two years;

-TFA is now much more diverse than the country’s public school teachers. Take a look at this chart:

applestoapples

 

No, I’m not ready to say that I’m a TFA convert. But now that Wendy Kopp is out (running Teach for All, a TFA program for the world), and the new co-CEOs are in, I have a little more faith.

Excerpt
“A sporty-looking blonde guy in his mid-thirties rose, identifying himself as an administrator for a small network of Harlem charter schools. He was proud of Teach for America; it had ‘injected a huge amount of human capital into education,’ he said.”

Source: http://j.mp/WvGD43 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “The Original Charter School Vision”

favicon This morning I read a well-written and mostly-neutral short history of the charter school movement. In “The Original Charter School Vision,” Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter outline how charter schools have developed over the past couple decades.

Charter schools remain confusing and controversial. Critics argue that charter schools worsen racial segregation. Others decry high staff turnover (twice the rate vs. other public schools) and the lack of unions. For others, the lack of unions is a positive. Because they’re fairly new, charter schools are right in the middle of the education debate fusillade. Depending on whom you ask, charter schools are either the best or worst things ever.

It’s weird: I’m usually a reflecting kind of guy, but I don’t spend too much time ruminating on my work in charter schools over the past 15 years. Where I’ve worked, we’ve focused on the students the traditional system, in general, has overlooked. And that’s where I want to be.

Excerpt
“ALTHOUGH the leaders of teachers unions and charter schools are often in warring camps today, the original vision for charter schools came from Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.”

Source: http://j.mp/1vWX45V (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon