Saturday, June 14, 2014

response to "the toxic culture of education"

Have you seen this video: The Toxic Culture of Education? If not, it's worth 17 minutes spent watching it.

I watched it a few weeks ago and then yesterday someone posted it again on facebook. We got into a little debate about it and then I was writing a response that turned into too much for a facebook comment so I'm putting it here instead.

I believe that assessment is absolutely integral to instruction - you have to know what kids are learning in order to inform your practice. I definitely use some standardized test prep with kids – they have to be ready for The Test, but other assessments like running records that track words per minute, errors, accuracy, and specific miscues inform my instruction, plus conversations about comprehension (Can they retell? Can they think inferentially about the text and talk about the author’s craft and structure?) Looking at writing and grading against a rubric also tells me what kids need and where they excel. All of these measures plus interest inventories are ways for me to look at the data and give kids what they need.

My problem with standardized testing is the now federal testing and labeling schools, teachers, and children with the results. (Note: I don't oppose a standardized test - I oppose the "high-stakeness" of it.) Now that it's on the federal level, Pearson can crank out one textbook that will teach the content and align to all states - everyone will buy it up and then we will buy the tests from Pearson, and we'll never be able to pass them, because the narrative (fueled by the reformers that goes all the way back to “A Nation at Risk” published in 1983) is that public school is failing. This narrative will not change as long as the corporate reformer people (Pearson, Gates, groups like Students First, and generally rich people like Silicon Valley mogul David Welch who financed the Vergara trial in CA that did away with teacher tenure) get on the airwaves and all over the web continuing the talk about how public education is in trouble. (It’s not). 

The media LOVES this stuff because their viewers who don’t follow the other side of the argument are outraged and worried about their children and the education their children are receiving. (What parent wouldn't be?) On the other side of the argument is Diane Ravitch – Educational Historian who wrote Reign of Error and The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  If you haven't read her stuff, I highly suggest it. Anyways, the general public doesn’t know the other side – just what the media covers. Corporate reformers *want* public school to fail so they can privatize, so they can bring in all the public tax dollars that flow into education through charter schools that do not have the same kinds of transparency that public schools do. Charters do not answer to the public (for example, with democratically elected school board) and have more freedom to put those dollars where they want (like pay the CEO hundreds of thousands of dollars). (Of course, I don’t want to generalize, but I’m sure it happens more often than not.)

*This* is my problem with the narrative about public education going on right now. The narrative is that public schools are failing our children. I believe the opposite is true.

Never has there been a time when teachers are more aware of what students are learning (or not learning). Never has there been a time of more differentiation and more decisions being made to best help students achieve at high levels. Want some hard data? Look at the PISA scores - this is a test that compares children in all different countries. It looks as if kids in the states are not doing so hot, but when you factor out poverty, we are right at the top with all the other high-performing nations. The problem here isn't a failing public school system. The problem here is poverty.

Anyways, that is just my two cents for Saturday morning. What do you think? Are you as worried about public education as I am? I believe that our country is *great* because we have free public education for all but I believe we are on course to privatize all of education, and that my friends, really scares me.

Because of this, I speak up :-)

1 comment:

  1. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!! Perfectly said. The biggest challenge we face as educators comes not from within, but from outside the walls of our precious schools...which is why we continue to do the job we've been called to do, pressure and all. I think the biggest travesty in this whole "war" on education has been the *great* teachers who have left the profession because of the 'high-stakes'ness :-( Thank you for speaking out! :-)


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