Have We Become Too Cynical About Public Education Reform?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Jackstreet, Feb 10, 2011.

?

Have We Become Too Cynical About Public Education Reform?

  1. Yes

    11 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. No

    11 vote(s)
    50.0%
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Have We Become Too Cynical About Public Education Reform?

    Hello all, I'm wondering whether we've become too cynical about public school education reform. On Tuesday I had an opportunity to interview Secretary Arne Duncan and teacher's union president Randi Weingarten. We talked about an event occurring next week in Denver in which school board leaders, school superintendents and teacher union leaders will converge at a "collaboration" conference. The aim is to replace fighting with working together to help students succeed. It appears to be a pretty unprecedented gathering of traditional adversaries and some are even calling it historic.

    Secretary Ducan said that he is very excited about this event and believes it can be a turning point for public education. Drawing on discussions I've had here with some of you. I posed a series of very tough questions to them both. Specifically, I pointed out that many teachers, administrators and parents have been through decades of failed education reforms and that many feel a deep sense of cynicism about any and all reform efforts including this one. Secretary Duncan pointed to some pretty impressive signs that things are different now, including the unprecedented 40 plus states that have signed on to the notion of common core standards. Randi Weingarten was empathetic as she acknowledged the cynicism, but pointed to the unprecedented teams of traditional education rivals who are coming together next week. She closed suggesting that were are now seeing real meaningful changes in multiple places across the country.

    I must admit I left the discussion lifted and believing that we really are at a turning point in public education reform... really! But as I went back and read some of my exchanges here with MARK94544 , ALICEacc, bandnerdtx, Swansong1 and JonLee and others I thought.....hmmmmm. Is it possible that we might FINALLY be on the verge of real and significant positive reform, with historic events taking place all around us, but because of our past experiences, many of us have become too cynical to see what's happening?

    Unprecedented spending on education over the last two years
    President's state of the union address made education reform the unequivocal center piece
    40 plus states sign on to unprecedented agreement to established common core standards
    Hundreds of teams of education rivals agree to collaborate and put children first.

    Is all of this just window dressing or are we witnessing something really big going on in our field, on our watch?
     
  2.  
  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Feb 10, 2011

    I'll believe it when I see it successfully working.
     
  4. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    That's their point... they are are pointing to scores of examples where reform is working and assert that many of us either don't know about them or are ignoring them. Do you think there is any merit to what they are saying about this?
     
  5. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,414
    Likes Received:
    1,559

    Feb 10, 2011

    Maybe it's because I'm working in a fairly new frontier of education, but I honestly think there is room for reform and improvement as our technology and other aspect improve. It's mostly a matter of putting a dollar sign on it,
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    Feb 10, 2011

    Test scores, the way they are now, are absolutely worthless to me. We have produced a generation of students who cannot think, cannot solve problems and are paralyzed by anything that's not a multiple choice question. Even a topic they know, presented in a slightly different format presents problems. I have personally worked with students who can ace the state tests, but have no clue when those same topics come up in real life (such as reading a newspaper).

    If they can solve those problems, then they can start bragging, but don't wave test scores in my face. They're not worth the paper they're printed on.
     
  7. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Is it your sense that "they" are aware of the problems with standard testing and are trying to fix them? Do you think they are just ignoring what you are seeing?
     
  8. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Do you think that we are now in a unprecedented time of real reform taking root?
     
  9. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Feb 10, 2011

    Unprecedented spending on education over the last two years~ haven't seen it in the past and as for the future, in TX they are cutting $15 billion from education....

    President's state of the union address made education reform the unequivocal center piece~right now those are just words...what evidence shows that it's a center piece right now

    40 plus states sign on to unprecedented agreement to established common core standards~have those common core standards been put into practice yet? If so, I guess TX wasn't one of the 40.

    Hundreds of teams of education rivals agree to collaborate and put children first.~they can collaborate all they want, but again, when I SEE that they are putting children first and not cutting teachers and staff just to save their own tushes, then I'll believe it.
     
  10. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,678
    Likes Received:
    1,615

    Feb 10, 2011

    I am very cynical because I have taught for 38 years and I have not yet seen any "new " reforms (those in the last 20 years) that have improved the education of our children.

    I am cynical because of the "collaboration conferences" that have taken place over the years (some by other names) that have failed to change the education field for the better.

    I am concerned for "core standards" that it is just another strategy that will be replaced in a few years when the test scores don't improve. For example, in my state, the state standards have changed at least four times in the last 10-15 years and now they will change again when the state adopts same Core standards. Every time a set of standards changes, we are required to change teaching methadology, texts, subjects, etc. I don't see the lack of consistency as positive for our children.

    And, I guess I am cynical because I am burnt out on everything, to be brutally honest.

    But, Jackstreet, at least you are trying. That is a positive thing.
     
  11. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    You know that the $100 plus billion earmarked for education under ARRA was unprecedented. Granted many states used the money just to plug budget gaps and keep teachers on the job... But does that mean the effort and the dollars don't count?

    The president's new budget for education funding is probably the proof of the commitment to education.

    And yes Texas is NOT one of the states that has adopted the common core standards. What's that about?

    As for the collaboration to put students first they are actually bringing to this collaboration conference school board members, teachers union leaders and school administrator who have actually already collaborated and are coming to share their wins and best practices. Now please don't confuse my stating of any of this as advocacy. I'm merely stating the facts and observing to what extent those facts are being viewed as meaningful or meaningless by those on the frontlines.

    So again, are you saying that in your mind, none of these facts matter?
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,414
    Likes Received:
    1,559

    Feb 10, 2011

    Unprecedented? No. Education has been in continuous evolution since the beginning of Industrialization. Some of the changes are good, others not so much. There is new potential available with the onset of improved technology. My hope is that it will be utilized for the best hopes of human potential, even if it doesn't necessarily raise standardized test scores.
     
  13. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    What I am hearing from you is exactly what I'm trying to access. I hear your frustration and the word "burnout" strikes me as an apt characterization. Randi Weingarten really spoke to this. She candidly acknowledged that the leadership has changed reform plans "every 3 and a half nanoseconds" and that many of these initiatives failed.

    So what do we do now? Many like you are burned out. Many are still trying to make a change but are struggling to get support from the educators on the front lines and many students are falling further behind in the global context. So what do we do now?
     
  14. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Your point that education is in a continuos process of evolution makes sense, but certainly you agree that even in an evolutionary context there can be unprecedented events -- genuine and authentic "firsts" in history. I think as a matter of objective fact some of the events I mentioned earlier have never happened before. Yet we seem to be discounting either their significance or there very existence.
     
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,414
    Likes Received:
    1,559

    Feb 10, 2011

    The way I teach could be considered unprecedented and revolutionary. Who knew that students could learn from their homes while their teachers provided quality, individualized instruction from a distance? I see the roots of my new frontier going back to correspondence schools as well as message boards I used while I was still a student. It's a little tough to see a huge pedagogical evolutionary BANG out of nowhere.
     
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    Feb 10, 2011

    No. I get the sense it's all about the numbers on those standardized tests. The ironic part is I'm pro-testing, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We've passed that line long ago. We've gone from trying to do right by our kids to damaging them in a way in which they may never be able to recover.
     
  17. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    Feb 10, 2011

    "Firsts" are not necessarily a good thing. We've had a great many of those "firsts" in the last decade that have had disastrous consequences.

    On a side note, I wasn't this negative until I left the world of education and entered the private sector. Every day, I deal with the results of the last generation of education. It's not pretty.
     
  18. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Are you actively following the trends and innovations that are being pursued on the leading edge of education reform? Are you tracking what going on with some of the government funded innovation funds?
     
  19. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    I hear that you think we've gone to far... I get that. What makes you think that the our education leaders *don't* get that?
     
  20. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    Feb 10, 2011

    Because their answer is to do more of the same, and earlier. They don't get the test results they want in middle school? Push it down to elementary school. Still not working? Test kindergarteners. Not working still? Lets have MORE tests, and raise the stakes.

    If they really got it, they would pull back on testing. They would test less often and weight it less heavily. They would invest time and resources into creating a system where developmentally appropriate practices were more important than a score on a piece of paper.

    They would look for the REAL root of the problems, including poor home lives, lack of supportive parents, hunger, gangs, violence, and bad teachers. That last one is going to make me really unpopular, but until we can face that there are thousands of teachers in classrooms who have no business being there, and create a real certification system, then we're always going to be one step behind.
     
  21. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Yes.. agreed that firsts aren't necessarily a good thing, but doesn't that sort of miss the point. I mean, if the status quo is unacceptable and change is required to get from here to there, then any step in a new direction will be a first. Moreover, as none of us has a crystal ball, some of those first steps will necessarily fail. In fact, if science is an appropriate analogy frequent, multiple and consistent failure is an inherent and necessary part of the process. If you accept that, aren't we undermining the process by focusing on the failures? Switching analogies. We have been trying to cure cancer for as long as I have been alive. Millions of dollars are spent on the effort yearly. Don't think I've ever heard anyone disparage scientist because they have spent all of that money, but have not solved the problem yet.. Why is education any different?
     
  22. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Is it possible that you may be generalizing or painting with a brush that's covering too much of the canvas.

    Certainly you would acknowledge that trial and error is part of the problem solving process. Similarly, often it's necessary to play out a course of action to extremes to fully eliminate the possibilities of an approach.

    Certainly, you will also acknowledge that the notion of standardized testing is under review and modified approaches are being considered.

    Further, emphasis on teacher credentials and on-going professional development is part and parcel of Race to The Top.

    To your point of getting teachers out of classrooms who shouldn't be there; removing under performing teachers and administrators is one of the most controversial issues in education today. So it's certainly not something that is being ignored.

    Finally, though it is arguable that not enough is being done to deal with issues of poverty and their impact on educational outcomes, more money than ever is being spent on programs aimed at these problems.

    I believe that you know all of this, so the question is why is all of this being discounted or ignored?
    So are you just frustrated with the pace of change?
     
  23. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,678
    Likes Received:
    1,615

    Feb 10, 2011

    I am reading your posts, but I have to tell you, that it shows that you are not a teacher in the trenches. I don't mean that critically, just that you are presenting idealistic ideas that have no place in the actual world of education. You are raising rational thoughts but until the issues that mmswm discussed, no change will be effective. Until the powers that be recognize that a good education is not built upon a numerical formula, we will continue to raise generations of uneducated children.
     
  24. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,414
    Likes Received:
    1,559

    Feb 10, 2011

    I'm also not sure if you're asking us probing questions or if you're arguing with our viewpoints.
     
  25. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    No worries... Not offended about acknowledging what I am and what I'm not, so no problem there. But here *IS* the problem. I spend my entire day working with and speaking with teachers, educators and administrators etc. The ideas I am representing here are not *my* ideas. They are the ideas of people who are or were in the trenches. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers was a teacher and is now representing you. Dan Domenech, executive direct of the association of school superintendents, was a teacher in the trenches in New York City. Doug Lamov is a teacher at a charter school. I am just a conduit for what they are telling me. So with that clarified, do you believe that the head of one of the teacher's unions is out of touch? Randi Weingarten is one of the most vocal and articulate voices acknowledging the changes discussed at the top of this thread. Dan Domenech is an ardent champion of some of the current reforms and when you speak with him he is unequivocal that these initiatives I mentioned at the top are meaningful, significant and historic. Is Domenech out of touch too?
     
  26. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    All I see right now is the constant villianizing of teachers in the media, by politicians, in person, by those in and out of education. Until everyone stops making teachers the "enemy" no true reform can take place. It is just more of the same rhetoric. They still do not want to pay teachers what they should pay them. In fact, they want more for less. That is not reform.
     
  27. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    I believe our unions are way out of touch, I really do. Yes, I am still a member but I have ZERO confidence in them, local and/or national.
     
  28. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    I am in relentless pursuit of understanding... There is a clear disconnect between what I'm hearing from the "leadership" and what I'm hearing from those on the front lines and in the trenches. The question is why? What are the dynamics shaping these diametrically opposed views of the education world?

    Final point of clarification... I have no interesting in arguing for argument's sake. If we aren't closing in on some valuable insight we're wasting good pixels.
     
  29. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    I get that feeling also.
     
  30. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    Why? Because union leaders are paid VERY well and have lost the sense of what it is like to be a new teacher struggling to stay afloat in the classroom. I recently read a report that our union leader makes over $100,000 a year. For that salary we have not had a raise in almost three years and they have not negotiated with our district since last Fall. Is that an individual in touch with teachers? I think not.
     
  31. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    This is the sort of comment that just puzzles me. Listen to Secretary Duncan and he'll mention the need for great teachers several times in the course of a discussion. His current education reform blueprint includes features to increase pay for teachers. This is not a matter of subjective opinion. These are material, confirmable facts. Where is the disconnect?
     
  32. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    You tell us.
     
  33. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    So when teachers unions are locking up school districts and school boards in pitched battles. What do you believe is their real agenda if it is not fighting for better conditions for teachers?
     
  34. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    That's why I'm asking these questions. I'm attempting to see through your eyes. Through my eyes, I look at school board leaders, school superintendents and teachers union leaders coming together and I think wow! I've seen lots of stories in the press about these groups duking it out. I've never seen a story about a national collaboration gathering between these long time antagonists. I hear about 40 states signing on to the notion of common core standards and I reflect back to what historian Diane Ravitch said. She explained how the notion of common standards fell out of favor and became the third rail in the education community. I think wow! This *is* historic.

    Then we exchange thoughts here and it's like education leaders are from Mars, educators are from Venus.
     
  35. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,678
    Likes Received:
    1,615

    Feb 10, 2011

    Well, you talk about all these "leaders" of education. If I can make an analogy, very often teachers say that when a teacher leaves the classroom to become an administrator, they forget what it was to be a teacher. They become entrenched in the "numbers game" of making their school successful. I see this happening on a large scale with these people you keep mentioning. I am willing to bet that not one of those people actually know what is happening inside school buildings. I know I keep mentioning mm's post, but she has accurately portrayed the problems we face and the problems that need to be addressed nationally. The focus needs to be completely removed from national standards and national tests to getting back to seeing our children as unique individuals with unique learning styles and unique needs.
     
  36. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Messages:
    7,946
    Likes Received:
    3

    Feb 10, 2011

    :yeahthat:
     
  37. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,746
    Likes Received:
    1,156

    Feb 10, 2011

    Jackstreet, there are several intersecting issues.

    The collaboration you've limned here is a grand thing. By the time the grand ideas at the top make it down to the classroom, however, they've been filtered through a godawful weight of... manure, and as a given idea passes through from the national level to state to county to district to school to grade, bits of... manure... end up adhering at each level, and the stench that results at the bottom, on the classroom level, is revolting. I am thinking here of annual testing: like mmswm, I think that testing in and of itself is not a toxic thing. (That's very much a minority opinion on A to Z, as you've doubtless discovered.) But the hysteria-added nature of public education has seen to it that we can't just have an annual test. No, no: in some areas, as nearly as I can tell, more time and energy go to testing kids to see if they're ready for the test to see if they're ready for the test to see if... than are devoted to actual instruction. Meanwhile, the teaching of whole swathes of content that children MUST already have on board if they are to be equipped to read to learn in future grades has been swept aside in favor of teaching almost nothing but reading and math in the primary grades (as though reading - and, for that matter, elementary math - can even exist without content to read and authentic problems to solve).
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,746
    Likes Received:
    1,156

    Feb 10, 2011

    And don't get me started on schools of education.
     
  39. Jackstreet

    Jackstreet Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    You've said so much here... I see splashes of light... have to go out to dinner now, but will respond later... Thanks!
     
  40. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    1

    Feb 10, 2011

    :yeahthat:

    This is what I see everyday in the trenches AND that is ALWAYS looked past when they villianize teachers.
     
  41. greengables

    greengables Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    0

    Feb 10, 2011

    Yes! They started testing my preschoolers this year on things I do not consider developmentally appropriate for their age. So now the "failure" label begins at 4 and 5 years of age. We are just setting them up for failure. :(
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. YoungTeacherGuy,
  2. Ima Teacher
Total: 237 (members: 4, guests: 212, robots: 21)
test