Monthly Archives: March 2010

Mañana Nunca Viene

What if our curriculum was as rich as it has ever been?  If children learned to think again?  To create and play with ideas and innovate and imagine and stretch their  logic and bring their innate gifts to bear.

What if kids learned science and economics and geography again?  What if they traced the footprints of Monet? Sang like John Legend.  Wondered at the vastness of space.  The mystery of the ocean floor.

What if we switched off the conveyor belt and closed the factory school?  What if we just abandoned the archaic systems altogether?  What if kids had the time they needed to learn the things that you say they need to learn?  The standards.  The important stuff.  What if we quit pushing them forward as if it is some long inexorable march? What if they stayed till they were ready to fly?  Then we gave them wings.  No more grade levels to box them in… no more rigid tracks that consign them to a direction that is pre-determined and pre-ordained.

No more instant promotions to grade levels for which they are not ready.

What if merely staying upright in one’s desk until June was no longer the crietria for promotion, but rather, a clear and thorough demonstration of mastery?  Authentic. Beyond bubbles and the swift utility of a standardized test.

What if we awoke– as if from some long and stubborn nap that is neither refreshing nor productive– awoke in time to remember that children aren’t standardized and neither are their minds?  Nor their hands.  Nor their dreams.  Nor their journeys.

What if we knew it would take a revolution to set our children free of this?  Would we fight?  Would you?

What if we pushed against the stubborn status quo?  I mean… all of us.  All at once. Pillar by pillar piled in mounds of Ephesian dust. Just like this.

We’ll go first.  We’ll go now.  Mañana nunca viene.  El Milagro.

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Filed under El Milagro, gifted children, innovation and change, spiritual intelligence, standardized testing

TWO AMERICAS, ONE STORM

NOTE:  It’s been kind of hard to keep up with my weekly blog entries lately… so thanks for staying with this site for the last few weeks. I am working on final edits for my second book (“Fighting For Ms. Rios”… and managing the blog for my class at University of San Diego (check out some excellent posts from my students there).  We are also making advance preparations to launch a little revolution… which will itself be the subject of the next few posts.  Stay tuned!

There is another “Achievement Gap” in America and it is gathering on the near horizon like a storm cloud. Mark my words. That storm will come and we will see our future as a nation engulfed in another predictable catastrophe that didn’t have to happen.

I want Arne Duncan and our President to hear me. I am not in Washington DC or the halls of the state senate in Sacramento. I am at El Milagro and we are fending off foul weather.

Here’s a gap that’s deep and growing deeper by the day:

It starts in schools that struggle to keep pace. For whatever reason. Maybe it is the leadership, maybe it’s the teachers, maybe it’s the kids or the parents or the books or the pedagogy or the water or the facilities or the lack of light. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Because schools that don’t keep pace with AYP have to circle the wagons and teach harder. More reading. More math. Then more reading still. More math still.

And while reading and math crowd out the rest of the curriculum– as schools eliminate science and social studies and the arts and physical education to make way for more focussed/rigorous/aligned instruction in basic skills (aka “test prep”)– something big goes missing:

Creative thinking, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, application, play, self-discovery. Joy. Learning.

…the skills our kids need to compete for jobs. For economic growth. For America. For global survival.

So in communities where kids struggle against artificial goals enshrined by NCLB… they fall further and further behind in the very skills and attributes that prepare them for the 21st century workplace. Basic skills are critical… but Facebook and Google and Apple and Amazon did not become giants on the strength of the standardized test scores of their employees. They rise or fall on their ingenuity.

High performing schools and districts and communities have the luxury of ignoring the inherent threats of high stakes testing. They don’t have to panic and fire their music teachers. They can sing and dance. They can prolong their analysis of world events and enter the local science fair. The can critique good art and celebrate the natural giftedness of their students. They can provide a comprehensive and enriched curriculum for all.

So the Gap widens. Can you see it? Low achieving schools, with their disproportionately large number of low income students, English language learners and other children of color, pressured to turn their fate around, are forced to abandon the very skills their students need the most– the ability to create a new world. While their counterparts in high performing schools think and invent and find their wings.

That white and asian children consistently outperform Latino and African American children in reading and math on standardized tests is a problem. But that is not the only problem. And it certainly isn’t the most urgent.

There are two Americas. For the past 50 years public education has been a primary force to eliminate the distinctions between rich and poor; between our many ethnic and racial differences. But we are the unwitting force now dividing the chasm anew. Two Americas. One storm. One nation falling like a house of cards.

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Filed under charter schools, children at risk, El Milagro, innovation and change, public education, school reform, standardized testing, Uncategorized

A RABBLE OF INNOVATORS ON THE FAST COMPANY LAWN

This week, the publication Fast Company released its annual survey it calls the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world.

Here is the top 10:

#1 Facebook

#2 Amazon

#3 Apple

#4 Google

#5 Huawei

#6 First Solar

#7 PG&E

#8 Novartis

#9 Walmart

#10 HP

That’s just the Top 10.  Disney is #20.  Cisco (#17) and Twitter (#50) are on the Top 50 too.  So is Grey New York (#24), the advertising genius that makes the commercials with the E-Trade baby.  Nike (#13) , Netflix (#12), and the Indian Premier League that televises international cricket matches(#22)– all on the list.

So how do you get on the list?  Fast Company says:

Even in these tough times, surprising and extraordinary efforts are under way in businesses across the globe. From politics to technology, energy, and transportation; from marketing to retail, health care, and design, each company on the list illustrates the power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution.

There you have it.  Innovative ideas and creative execution.

I noticed that El Milagro was not on the list.  I noticed, in fact, that there are no schools on the list.  Not the KIPP schools or High Tech High or Kaplan University.  In fact, I noticed “education” wasn’t even mentioned in the quote above.  Education is rarely mentioned in the same breath as “innovation”.

Politics… technology… energy… transportation… marketing… retail… health care… design… that is where Fast Company goes for examples of innovative organizations.  And rightly so.

This past week there were protests across the state of California and around the nation to shine the light on inevitable  budget cuts in schools.  I stood on the lawn of the capital building in Sacramento and watched.  There was a rabble of a couple thousand activists with hand made placards and signs and hippies playing percussion instruments trying to resurrect some of the energy of the 60’s.  Good luck.  I assumed that many in the crowd were educators who had called in for a sub in order to be out on the lawn protesting about the loss of funding to public education.  $100 per sub.

In the comments section of the Fast Company blog on their 50 Most Innovative Companies I was struck by this quote:

“In times of economic crisis, chaos, and rising strains on system designs, innovative organizations have the edge.”

And this one:

“Changes create movement. Movement create action. Action creates Innovation.”

And finally… this one:

“Innovation is not the result but the way we act. The result is a consequence of our acts. If you keep doing it the same way, we will get always the same results. The companies that are shaping and will shape the future are the ones that are not afraid to try different things, different actions. Those actions are the ones that will shape our future.”

Instead of innovating, the rabble was chanting on the Capitol lawn while the governor was off speaking to the Charter Schools Conference.  But no worries. Even though he missed their presentation, he can pick it up on Hulu (#11) and enjoy it at his leisure… maybe over a bowl of Fritos (#28).

For our own part, at El Milagro we are going to navigate through the crisis and get on next year’s list of the Top 50 Most Innovative Organizations.

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Filed under California budget, El Milagro, innovation and change, public education