Tag Archives: school reform

ARE YOU ENGAGED?

imagesThis past week I contributed a sort of reprise on my “My I-Phone is Smarter Than Your Kid’s Teacher” post.  Still!

 It went up on Education Week’s “Leadertalk” site  and right away one reader commented that I had articulated the essential problem with teaching (today’s) spoiled rich kids: they need to be entertained.

The funny thing is is I never said anything about the I-Phone as a device for entertaining kids.  I described it as a powerful tool to engage them.  All of them.  Not just “spoiled, rich kids”.  But also kids still climbing out of America’s deep economic chasm, the technology gap, and the great divide.

jugglerjpegSo I wondered whether some educators are unable to distinguish between entertaining kids and engaging them.  Or, put another way, whether they think you have to entertain them to engage them.

By now you know we got our test scores back from last year and we weren’t happy with them.  We got record high gains from several grade levels and that was good.  Our 8th graders improved in every category and that was good.  Our 4th graders and 7th graders had strong results in writing and that was good.  But we also experienced a dramatic decline in critical areas and our English language learners didn’t make the improvement we had worked for.

So we didn’t move the needle.

But sometimes teams learn more when they lose a game than they do when they win.  If you are open to learning as an organization, losing can be transformational.  So El Milagro is twisting through another radical transformation. Precision. Alignment.  Urgency.  

Engagement.

When students are provided with rigorous instruction, transparent goals and objectives, a clear sense of purpose– and the tools to achieve their learning tasks– they become “engaged”.

I don’t know if we are going to be handing out I-Phones to expedite the engagement of our students. It isn’t really the point anyway.  What really matters is that we seize upon children’s imagination and their innate capacity for managing their own journey.  We should be models for that.  We are on that journey too.  

Anyway, you can’t entertain kids if you are not entertaining.  You can’t engage them if YOU aren’t engaged.

Are you engaged?

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, innovation and change, school reform, standardized testing, technology in schools

DANCING FOR FUNHOUSE MIRRORS

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I just looked at the calendar on my IPhone and it says I am supposed to go back to work on Monday.  So be it.  I haven’t really left my work anyway… I have been messing with stuff for the past month:  developing our new program at the Chula Vista Nature Center, researching elements of our plan to eliminate grade levels, writing about how we  raise resilient kids, brainstorming strategies to focus our teaching.  Blogging.

money bagsjpegMeanwhile, I noticed that the state of California still doesn’t have a budget agreement and that there is now a $26.3 billion deficit!  The system is broke and it doesn’t appear that we are even structured to fix it

I noticed that the U.S. Department of Education now has $5 billion in special funding set aside to promote  the development of new innovative practices and I wonder if they are really ready for the innovations we have in mind!

I notice that Arne Duncan and President Obama are tweaking the NEA, the national teacher’s union, about the need for merit pay and opening up more charter schools– and that now they are both on the union “list”.

I notice that the NEA has been adamantly opposed to more charter schools… but they would like to unionize the ones that exist and steal their very best ideas! (By the way… the NEA is more than welcome to replicate our best practices!!!)

I notice that there is still some forward momentum around the effort to create one set of national curriculum standards and simultaneously wonder if that is really what is missing.

I notice that there has been no revision to NCLB and that we are still rolling up all our eggs in a very inadequate assessment basket called the California Standards Test.  And since we are not likely to have hit all of our AYP targets for the first time, and since we chose not to spend valuable learning time teaching our students how to take the test... we will have to be prepared to defend our teaching practices and explain why our kids didn’t score at a level that NCLB demands.   And, of course, we will have to demonstrate — to somebody– that we have a coherent plan for whatever ails us.  And the people we will have to answer to are the ones that can’t seem to do their own job… which is to manage the state’s budget and provide for the needs of children!      

IMG_3762As a matter of fact, I notice that the further away you get from actual classrooms where children and teacher live every day, the more delusional leadership becomes– like dancing in front of funhouse mirrors.  

So… much has changed since we sent our students tumbling into a very brief summer recess back in June.  And yet nothing has changed at all.  Real change and innovation still has to come from within the walls of the school.  And that is why I already set my alarm for Monday morning.

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Filed under California budget, California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, innovation and change, resiliency, school reform, standardized testing, teaching

100 THINGS I AM OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ON THE 101st DAY OF THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY

*Apr 28 - 00:05*

…Education, Iraq, swine flu, press conferences, basketball, being American, economic recovery, green energy, housing, kids, race relations, jurisprudence, Pakistan, college costs, the White House website, Republican demise, GM, Oval Office photos, American voters, health care, health care for kids, Guantanamo, choice, Hispanic caucus, charter schools, Twitter, Michelle, the cabinet, Ted Kennedy, NY Times, NY Yankees, Bo, Peace Corps;

JFK, Teach for America, Hugo Chavez, Washington DC, the Obama kids, on-line media, high speed rail, Isreal, stock market, Arlen Specter, waterboarding,  MSNBC, US troops coming home, Fair Pay Act, a new NCLB, affordable student loans, Air Force 1, families, world travel, stem cell research, change, civil rights, the US Constitution,  gun control, global warming, New Orleans, honest communication, US reputation abroad, GNP, the VP;

Jazz, Rachel Maddow, early childhood education, NASA, environmental protection, fuel economy, Earth Day, veterans, immigration, S-CHIP,  Americans with Disabilities,  G-20 Summit, jobs,  home ownership,  fairness, nutrition, 21st Century skills, work-family balance, performance, Social Security, foreign policy, Nuclear waste disposal, Islam; 

Darfur, fossil fuels, US tax code, executive orders, National Academy of Sciences, clean energy, urban America, fitness, organic gardens, homeland security, the arts, poverty, dynamic speeches;

Two terms.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, environmental studies, health care, President Obama, public education

WHAT’S MISSING IN THE PRESIDENT’S VISION OF SCHOOL REFORM

At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy. The decisions our leaders make about education in the coming years will shape our future for generations to come. Obama and Biden are committed to meeting this challenge with the leadership and judgment that has been sorely lacking for the last eight years. Their vision for a 21st century education begins with demanding more reform and accountability, coupled with the resources needed to carry out that reform; asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s success; and recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers to fill new successful schools that prepare our children for success in college and the workforce. The Obama-Biden plan will restore the promise of America’s public education, and ensure that American children again lead the world in achievement, creativity and success.

President Obama’s education initiatives are broad-sweeping and on the mark.  Yesterday he presented his plan to make college more affordable and student loans more available to students who really need them.

in-schoolsBack on March 10, he described his “5 Pillars of Education Reform”.  His speech on education highlighted his k-12 agenda, where he intends to

  • Reform No Child Left Behind
  • Support High-Quality Schools and Close Low-Performing Charter Schools
  • Make Math and Science Education a National Priority
  • Address the Dropout Crisis:
  • Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunitie
  • Support College Outreach Programs
  • Support College Credit Initiatives
  • Support English Language Learners
  • Recruit Teachers
  • Prepare Teachers
  • Retain Teachers
  • Reward Teachers

If we go there– if we improve educational access and opportunity at the pre-school level as well as the K-12 and post-secondary levels, he can leverage the reform he is looking for.  At least in some small degree.   The problem is, for all the detail and ambition, the Obama education vision still does not reach far enough.  His education plan is still missing one critical component– without which–  the success of all these other reforms will be compromised.  Partly because this list of initiatives has already been implemented. There are examples and best practices of these approaches all over the country, and yet, the academic achievement gap persists.

So what is that one, profoundly  revolutionary change that will finally transform public education in America?

roceli1Universal health care.   

Just as his plan to revive the economy hinges on health care, so too does any significant hopes of educational reform.  

It’s the health care.  And the reason is quite simple: 

American schoolchildren should not have to suffer through illness or medical trauma while our health care system shuts their family out from the treatment they require and deserve.

They should not have to come to school with teeth rotting in their heads for lack of dental care.

They should not fall behind in reading (never to catch up), simply because they have undiagnosed vision problems that are often easily corrected with glasses.

They should not suffer in silence, as a first grade child at El Milagro did two year ago, while we negotiated for hearing aids with Childrens Hospital.

They should not have to endure the physical discomfort nor the  social alienation associated with childhood obesity.

They should not have to manage the debilitating side effects of poor nutrition or childhood hunger.

They should not be denied access to mental health treatment, or counseling, or therapists or specialists available to other students whose parents have complete health coverage.

Learning is hard enough to do for students, especially in a climate of ever-tightening accountability.  But where there are inequities in academic outcomes, we almost inevitably find families in economic distress.  While parents struggle to maintain their homes, keep their jobs, make a living, make a life…  they should at least have the confidence that the health care needs of their children are provided for.

If President Obama can deliver on the promise of universal health care for our children, and if public schools fully harness the power of that reform, we will see a significant reduction in the academic achievement gap that has perpetuated the inequities across socio-economic levels for decades.  

The Obama doctrine on education states:

At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy.

“Preparing our children academically to compete in a global economy”, hinges on their ability to come to a safe school, to focus, to work hard, to believe in their own capacity as citizen-learners.  It hinges on their physical, emotional and mental health.  In fact, if he can provide all of our students with HEALTH CARE, President Obama will prove to be the most influential leader in public education in our lifetimes.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, health care, President Obama, public education, resiliency