Join The Discussion: Common Core

Background: The Washington Post (see link below) recently described how the new Common Core Standards for K-12 schools came to be adopted in 43 states.  Financed largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core is a set of uniform academic standards in English and math replacing the  uneven patchwork quilt that left the standards up to each state. Proponents say Common Core will better prepare students for success in college and career and opponents says education policy should be left to state and local governments. Read more here:

Do you support the Common Core Initiative?

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Do you think teachers have had adequate preparation to teach the new standards?

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Seven things teachers are sick of hearing from school reformers

Teachers have long been accustomed to “going along to get along” but increasingly are raising their voices to protest standardized test-based education reforms of the last decade that they see as harmful to students. In this post, Georgia teacher Ian Altman explains what he and his colleagues are really sick of hearing from reformers. Altman is an award-winning high school English teacher in Athens, where he has lived since 1993, as well as an advocate for teachers and students.  He has presented at several national conferences and published in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education. He won the 2014 University of Georgia College of Education Distinguished Alumni Crystal Apple Award as well as the 2012 University of Chicago Outstanding Educator award.

Altman’s list of seven things that reformers should stop saying to teachers comes from conversations he has had with educators across the country and speaks to the fury felt by many teachers who see their expertise being devalued and their profession denigrated.

By Ian Altman

A recent psychological study concludes that polite people are far more likely than ornery and contrarian people to harm others because they are more likely to follow orders — bad ones as well as good. Teachers, acting from their socialization into the profession but also as a result of fear and intimidation, are far too likely to stay quiet about harmful practices school reformers are imposing on classrooms. It’s past time for teachers to stand up for themselves and their profession. In that spirit, here’s a list of things reformers should quit saying to teachers because they are wrong-headed. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

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Arne Duncan’s new ‘top advisers’

Throughout the first Obama administration and well into the second, many teachers and principals said they could not get a word in edgewise to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his advisers, who plowed ahead with education reforms that many educators said blamed teachers for things that weren’t their fault and set up standardized test-based “accountability” systems that were unfair. If Duncan was listening to anyone, it appeared to many educators that it was Bill Gates, who was pumping many millions into the reforms Duncan was promoting. Tensions between Duncan and many teachers were so high that in May 2011, he wrote an open letter during Teacher Appreciation Week in which he felt compelled to declare his respect for teachers:

In the next decade, half of America’s teachers are likely to retire. What we do to recruit, train, and retain our new teachers will shape public education in this country for a generation. At the same time, how we recognize, honor, and show respect for our experienced educators will reaffirm teaching as a profession of nation builders and social leaders dedicated to our highest ideals. As that work proceeds, I want you to know that I hear you, I value you, and I respect you.

Teachers weren’t buying it. A few months later, in July 2011, delegates at the annual convention of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country, passed a resolution ordering the NEA president to “communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately” to President Obama that the NEA was “appalled” by Duncan’s school reform policies. One of the articles in the resolution said the “NEA is appalled”  with “Duncan’s practice” of

Failing to respect and honor the professionalism of educators across this country, including but not limited to holding public education roundtables and meetings without inviting state and local representatives of the teachers, education support professionals, and faculty and staff; promoting programs that lower the standards for entry into the profession; focusing so singularly on teachers in the schools that the other critical staff members and higher education faculty and staff have been overlooked in the plans for improving student learning throughout their educational careers.

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Does Head Start Still Work?

Education Week recently recognized the fiftieth anniversary of the Head Start Program.

When the nation’s first federally funded preschool program was begun, President Lyndon Johnson said “Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators.  Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark.”

The question today is whether the program succeeds in giving poor children the boost they need to be successful in school and later in life. Congressionally mandated studies of Head Start children have found that by early elementary school, they are academically indistinguishable from their peers who did not attend the program—a reason to drastically revamp or even discontinue the program, experts say.

For more information, see Ed Week article here.


School districts share ways they are transforming classrooms

By Jeffrey Weiss

Can a high-concept “visioning document” actually transform what happens in public school classrooms? About 1,500 educators from nine North Texas school districts offered their best demonstrations at a first-ever conference Wednesday.

“It’s not held up as a finished product,” Highland Park ISD Superintendent Dawson Orr told the attendees at Allen High School. “It’s a work in progress.”

Dozens of topics were addressed over two days: What’s the best use of Google apps for an entire school? How can kids be encouraged to ask good questions? What’s the most effective way to create a “flipped classroom” where students prepare at home and save what used to be homework for classroom discussions?

Each workshop turned away from the literally old-school model of desks in rows and a lecturing instructor. The event was unusual enough to draw the participation of two nationally renowned education experts who, not coincidentally, are famously critical of high-stakes testing as the key tool for school accountability.

“Texas has had more pushback against standardized testing then any other state in the country,” said Diane Ravitch, a historian who once helped design and defend test-based accountability as a federal official and in several academic think tanks.

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