Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meet the Common Corps

We have been for a very long time now to bring meaningful reform to education with sadly mixed results.  We've tried to set requirements for our schools' teachers to teach to standardized tests so that they all teach the same thing and we've created common core standards to even further bring the type of standardization to education that we've been craving since efficiency efforts first set their sights on education back at the beginning of the twentieth century.

However, it's never worked.  Why?  Simply put, you can give two McDonalds similar recipes and condiments, but if one is serving all beef patties and the other is serving burgers full of filler, they're just not going to turn out the same.   The same is true of students who have radically different student bodies.

The Common Corps is our initiative to finally standardized the student bodies across all schools.  Over the next 20 years, we propose to replace our public school student population with Common Corps members.

  • While not all Common Corps members are rich, they are all comfortably middle class, which means they exhibit none of the food insecurity or post traumatic stress the seem so prevalent among lower income students.
  • While not all Common Corps members are white, they are very familiar with majority culture and will not miss any reference found on state standardized tests.
  • All Common Corps members are from loving two parent households.
  • All Common Corps members are fluent in English
  • All Common Corps members are of above average intelligence and none will require special education services.
  • All Common Corps members have excellent conflict resolution skills and can solve all problems by simply discussing things like rational human beings.
By replacing the student body of all schools with Common Core members, we will finally be able to compare schools on an even playing field because they will have exactly the same type of students.  This is an idea whose time has come and  the final step in our efforts to improve education for all students by replacing those students.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alternatively Certified Teachers Profile...Bonnie Kohler

Alternative certification routes are vital to attracting the best, brightest, and cheapest teachers to enter the classroom.  Just because you are willing to devote your whole life to educating our country's children, it does not mean you are willing to spend 2 years taking methods classes to learn to teach. Please read this great essay by Last Stand for Children First Fellow Bonnie Kohler as she explains what being alternatively certified means to her.

In 2008, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Baraboo with a double major in social work and sociology. After graduating, I soon realized that the market for sociologists was roughly the same size as the job market for interpretive dance majors.  I was hired by Starbucks corporation in the role of barista. I served in that position for 2 years before I broke up with my boyfriend and returned to UWB to attain my Masters Degree in Dairy Sciences.

I began work at a small dairy in Menomonie, but I longed to do something more with my life. Then it occurred to me, while watching Law and Order, that I could be a lawyer.  Unfortunately, I needed something to make my application really stand out for law school recruiters.  My college GPA was roughly as high as my blood alcohol level if you know what I mean.

That's when I heard about Last Stand for Children First.  After just 3 weeks of training, I could be working as a real classroom teacher in a genuine inner city environment.  I also learned, law school recruiters love to get applications form Last Stand for Children First Fellows.

Let me just say, it wasn't easy.   The kids didn't care what my lesson plans said they were doing.  If this was the day they decided to throw the waste basket out of the classroom window, there was nothing I could do to stop them.  However, imagine my surprise when we got back our test scores that first year and I learned that my students improved their test scores by 150 percent.  In fact, our whole school's test scores went through the roof.  The assistant principal and my mentor assured me that they went through all my student's tests after school one Friday and that they could tell the kids did great and that my increases were legitimate.  They also said, I shouldn't ask any questions abut it for some reason.

All my work teaching students how to fill in the bubbles on the test and how to make an educated guess and pace themselves pay off.  I was a real teacher and to think without the alternative certification program, I never would have been able to impact these students’ and their families’ lives – but equally as important, they never would have had the chance to impact my life as well.

Next Fall, I will be attending law school and then hopefully, I will never have to see another 5th grader again, unless maybe I'm making education policy.  I think I'd like that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Arne Duncan Loves Many Things

This list comes from the great Matt Farmer and an article that he posted in January of 2011 on the Huffington Post.  Arne Duncan sure loves a lot of stuff 

"I'm not a fan of charter schools -- I'm a fan of good charter schools."
"I am a fan of good traditional schools."
"I'm a big fan of choice and competition...."
"I'm a big fan of growth models."
"I'm a big fan of recess. We can bring back recess. Please quote me on that. I'm serious."
"I'm not a fan of hitting children. Absolutely not."
"I'm a big fan of [Randi Weingarten]."
"I'm a big fan of [Michelle Rhee], and I think Michelle's made a fantastic contribution."
"I'm a big fan of [Arlene Ackerman]."
"I'm a huge fan of Joel Klein."
"I am a huge fan of Paul Pastorek."
"I'm a big fan of what Tony Smith is doing."
"I am a big fan of (CMS) Superintendent Peter Gorman and his leadership team...."
"I'm a huge fan of Geoffrey Canada."
"Harlem Children's Zone; I'm a huge fan of what's going on there."
"Like the president, I'm a huge fan of Posse."
"I am such a big fan of what the 100 Black Men are doing around the country."
"I'm such a big fan of GEAR UP."
"I'm a huge fan of Miami Dade College."
"I'm just a huge fan of Reality Changers...."
"I am a huge fan of out-of-school anti-poverty programs."
"I'm a big fan of National Board Certification."
"I am a big fan of service learning...."
"I'm a big fan of performance contracts."
"I'm a big fan on [sic] programs like robotics programs, science fair competitions, career day when students get a chance to explore their passions and interests."
"I'm a big fan of Urban Prep."
"I'm a big fan of Teach for America."
"It is no secret that I am a huge fan of AP."
"I'm a big fan and supporter of TRIO and GEAR UP."
"I'm a big fan of supporting not just individuals but entire teams where you have high performing schools."
"I'm a big fan of alternative high schools. I'm a big fan of engaged learning. I'm a big fan of having every single young person have a mentor or role model, be able to discover their passions, discover their interests."
"I'm a big fan of technical and vocational training...."
"I'm a huge fan of alternative certification and getting folks like you coming out of industry and into teaching."
"Not a fan [of Xbox]. No, absolutely not."
"But -- am I fan of hitting kids? Absolutely not."

Where is Students First?

Like everybody who believes in putting students first, I have come to look forward to and count on updates from Michelle Rhee and her advocacy organization Students First.   Ms. Rhee provides a valuable service to the education community by holding teachers responsible for the success of their students.   We want to be nice and supportive, but test scores have consequences and if a teacher isn't advancing her students, it's time to put someone else in the classroom.

However, since Friday, Students First has been like a ghost town on social media.  Michelle Rhee hasn't tweeted, Students First hasn't tweeted or updated their facebook page and Students First cheerleader Tom Greene has made only one post all weekend.  I've never seen it like this.  If Students First takes the weekend off, who is there to champion accountability?  

I like to think that the Students First staff is probably off at a retreat somewhere getting ready to expand.   Maybe they've gotten a nice infusion of cash from Jeb Bush or something, but I am getting worried.  If you've seen Michelle Rhee please let me know.  I do worry.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Accidental Racist: School Closing Edition

Yesterday, I heard a great new song from Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool Jay.  Now, I don't listen to a lot of the rap music and like many education reformers I am quite tone deaf, but this song represents a coming together from a white guy who wants to wear his Confederate Flag shirt and an African-American guy who wants to dress fashionably.  One thing I picked up from the song is that while white people have done many hurtful things to black people over the years like apartheid and slavery, but most of the offenses that black people have hurt whites with are fashion crimes like wearing doo rags and gold chains.  It would be nice if we could get past it.

Now, in Chicago the school debate has made a lot of people uncomfortable with talk of racism.  The Tribune today warned that discussing racism is a very dangerous thing that could lead who knows where. I suppose there might be some racism involved in closing schools where black students attend, but if there is  I'm sure it's the accidental kind.  Wouldn't it be great if we could have a song for that?

Accidental Racist (School Closing Edition)

When I closed your school down, I didn't do cause you're black.
I tried to make it up to you with a an IPad and a new backpack.
But, when you call me a racist, I don't know what to do.
You see I don't think that way, I even bought a ticket to see 42.

Is it really all that bad walking down drug and gang infested streets?
It seems to me in Wilmette, it's worth it for quality seats.
There's no racism intended, I'm sure God only knows
Why white schools get new computers while black schools get closed.

I'm just your mayor, and I'm kind a new here.
I've spent the last few years in DC,
I've got an Ohioan advising me.
Putting this behind us is my only wish,
If you don't like the Ipad,
I know where I can get you a dead fish.

Hello Mr. Rahm, I appreciate your time.
It's nice to know you're looking out for me and mine.
I got a few questions you may be able to answer.
Why is it in my neighborhood it's harder to get a job than to get cancer?
You can't close down any of the crack houses all around here,
so why can you close 60 schools in one year.
Anyway, Mr. Rahm, thank you for the thought.
Being a politician must be great if you don't get caught.