Monday, August 9, 2010

Is It That Obvious?

This (Failing Schools) continues to be one of the best written, incisive teacher blogs out there.
--- Leonie Haimson

Isn’t It Obvious?

August 8, 2010
by mariasallee
August 8, 2010
by mariasallee
I recently finished reading Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. I am pleased and grateful that she shares so many of the opinions I have long held about how we’re going down the wrong path in “reforming” our educational system.  Moreover, she provides research to support her views and, of course, she has years of experience working as a policy-maker, things that make her voice carry a bit more weight than mine.  To a teacher, much of what she is saying is obvious. Those of working us in the country’s urban schools have seen a great deal of truly needy families, squandered opportunities, punitive action against teachers, and woeful mismanagement.  While I was reading Ravitch’s book, I realized that it is probably not obvious to people on the outside looking in.  Like any insider, educators get so accustomed to the way things are that we take the truths we live with for granted.

Read this great piece in full at:

Ed Notes commentary:

When I started reading Diane's book I also thought: Isn't it obvious? And why wasn't it obvious to as an astute observer as Diane? And maybe it is mariasallee's point -

 I might liken it to working in the trenches: you can’t know what it’s really like unless you’ve been there and those of us who have been there will never have the same perspective on the world again.

But by being in the trenches she means for a significant amount of time. I think that is one of the ideas behind Teach for America - be able to make the claim you were in the trenches but not long enough to "never have the same perspective on the world again." In other words, get them out of the trenches and into policy making ASAP before they are contaminated. One of the very best people working in GEM is a TFA alum and those that stay in the trenches will become anti ed deform.

One of the issues not being touched in the blog post is the insane attempt to make everyone accountable and the fear that to challenge this concept is a blasphemy.

I was a the Yankee game last week (more important than seeing Alex' 600th was getting $5 senior citizen seats and getting seated in the lower grandstand between third and home - seats that go for $250 - but I almost spend that much on food.)

I went with a teacher who I met a few years ago when he saw a copy of ed notes. He is a 10 year teacher on his 4th career - a senior citizen. He is an a school that is closing and has been an ATR for a few years. He also went off on the accountability kick- maybe it was his other careers.

I told him how in my early career when it came time to make a decision on a child - leave back or not , etc. the teacher had a role to play - our judgement counted. The supervisors - all of whom had to do a stint of teaching  and had experienced the trenches - and the teachers - were often on the same page. He got all excited and insisted I should have to show empirical data to make my case. I kept saying, "What about the judgement of a pro? Why isn't that good enough? Are people in every job being held to the same type of measured accountability as being asked of teachers? I don't believe it."

Things began to change way before BloomKlein - actually with the advent of the local districts where a political system of choosing principals - akin to today - replaced the old civil service system. I won't try to make a case for that system - but old timers will say that schools have not been as effectively run since then. But then again you have that accountability thing - there were many problems with students in certain populations.

The BloomKlein and ed deform business models squarely place the blame on the educators for  failures. We need to hold people accountable - except for the ed deformers of course. So we are in the third iteration of management and this is proving to be the worst.

What will be the next step after a generation? Bob Herbert - who has supported ed deform while lamenting attacks on workers (teachers don't count) talks about the drop in college grad rates (when are the colleges going to be held to that metric - close them down and open charter colleges?)

Rather than real solutions with money going to support students and teachers instead of accountability, very unlikely in an increasing economic downturn (see Krugman today and check out Gary Shteyngart's novel "Super Sad True Love Story") we will end up with a privatized school system where no one except teachers are accountable.

How to stop this? Join the resistance.

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