Friday, January 3, 2014

Arne Duncan, Bruce Rauner, Rahm and Common Core…from the trenches.

Common Core for an Uncommon People?

Despite Diane Ravitch’s recent expose in Reign of Error that American students are doing quite well in accurately measured international skill tests (National Assessment of Educational Progress - NAEP), it would seem that the politically vogue topic of Common Core is still front and center stage for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Beyond his recent gaffe that white suburban “soccer moms’” concerns about educational emphases be dismissed, he has ordered full speed ahead for all those that would promote the “failure” of public education.  Those are good friends, like Bruce Rauner or Rahm Emanuel. 

Often we retired educators carefully argue from our past experiences, our great bank of past experiences and knowledge, or our appreciation for the individual’s educational experience within a context of meaningful moments.  It might be poverty, for example, Arne…   Arne is not about to listen…or think about that.

Please find below an intelligent and lucid look at what Common Core does not have to do with teaching from an active and brilliant youngster in the classroom now.   Stay with her blog as cited at end of her comments.

Poverty is the real reason why students (and schools) don’t do well

Try this out- skip dinner, then breakfast the following day. Then try to learn a new skill, or take a test. It isn’t easy, even for adults. Yet that’s what a growing number of kids in America face daily.  Add to that the fact that some stayed up until 2 am with a sick sibling, or listening to fighting. Add to that the kids who have no one at home to help with homework, or read to them. The kids that experience violence at home, drug use, homelessness. This is not a small percentage. In 17 states, students below the poverty line are the majority of public school students. Take a second to let that sink in. More kids are poor than aren’t in many places. That’s insane.

Unemployment is rampant, minimum wage barely feeds and houses an individual let alone a family, food and heating oil prices are rising. I don’t blame parents, in most cases. For every individual who is addicted to drugs and hitting their kids, there are many more who are trying as hard as they can, working multiple jobs just to feed and clothe their kids. How do we expect them to find time to read books to their kids when they work 18+ hours a day? Furthermore, how do we expect teachers to stay in districts where poverty is rampant when test scores are tied to pay?

In a recent article by Elaine Weiss, she asks “What if we have actually been teaching the right skills in US schools all along – math and reading, science and civics, along with creativity, perseverance and team-building? What if these were as important a hundred years ago for nurturing innovative farmers and developers of new automobiles as they are now for creating the next generation of tech innovators? What if these are the very characteristics of US schools that have made us such a strong public education nation, and the current shift toward a narrower agenda just dilutes that strength? What if, rather than raising standards, and testing students more, the biggest change we need to address is that of our student body?” 
We are pouring money into systems to assess our nations teachers and students. Those of us within education (and arguably those with any common sense) know why there are deficits. Imagine if we spent that money on universal pre-K, reduced cost breakfast, counselors, special educators? We wouldn’t need a test to let us know which schools were performing poorly if we spent our resources fighting against poverty.

I know that many will read this and write me off. As lazy, bitter, union-driven, out of touch. I will point out these facts- I am inherently optimistic because I hold the future in my hands every day. I question every decision my union makes by asking if it is in the best interest of my kids. It would be so much easier to give in and go into lock step with these standards and initiatives. It’s much easier to use a curriculum someone else wrote (and profited off of) than write one yourself. Standardized tests take no time out of my personal life to make. They are easier than performance assessments, rubrics, student designed projects. This is the harder route. The route of being ostracized, condemned, criticized.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t give a damn. I don’t care what anyone other than my students and their parents think. I know these practices are bad for kids. I know they won’t help my students become real learners, or the successful adults I know they will be. So I will fight them, yell about them, push back against them. My kids are the ones who really matter. I’m doing this for them.
Read more of this wonderful and promising educator at the following:

1 comment:

  1. I was one of those children who went without multiple meals as a child. I also spent most of my childhood, non-school waking hours caring for my profoundly "mentally retarded" younger brother who was unexpectedly born breech. His convulsions were incredibly violent. My alcoholic father and a childhood of non-specific sleeping-waking patterns while still attending school yet missing many days of classes created their own sets of problems. We moved often because of being evicted for non-payment of rent. Yes, our furniture was put out on the streets.
    I was fortunate; for some reason I survived. Other people had worse situations and their lives did not take the same twists and turns that fortunately led to my education and choice to teach for over 30 years.
    I strongly agree with everything that tattooteacher said, even though I personally have no tattoos and have no intentions of ever having any. Tattoos are superficial, what tattoteacher says is not. She has insights that need to be shared.
    - Ken Previti