Education Reform

Happy New Year, 2015

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I have decided to break precedent today. This is the only post you will see.

 

I wish you and your family a happy, healthy New Year. I hope that 2015 is a year of dreams fulfilled, mountains climbed, happiness achieved. I hope all of us are able to meet the inevitable challenges and setbacks with heart and fortitude. I hope we learn and practice the virtues of patient struggle, unflagging endurance, the ability to build alliances, and the willingness to seek common ground with others.

 

2014 was a rough year for me, physically, and I am glad to bid it farewell. I spent most of the year thinking I would never walk again without a walker or a cane. I’m happy to report that I am walking without either, thanks to the intervention of a wise rehabilitation specialist in Cincinnati who built a rigid (temporary) cast for my bum leg. I have to exercise every single day to keep the scar tissue in my knee supple, but that’s not so awful. I can walk! I can walk! I can’t walk long distances (as I used to do), I can’t sit for too long, I can’t stand for too long, I kick my leg up and down under the dining table. You may occasionally notice a slight limp, but that’s nothing. I can walk, and for that I am grateful.

 

In terms of the education issues that concern us, we made great headway. Charter studies continue to show that private management has no “secret sauce.” The media in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida woke up and began to expose the hollowness of the charter advocates’ claims of superiority to public schools. Except for the charters that actively seek to help the neediest children, the charter boasting is wearing thin. Even better news: Public and professional confidence in VAM continues to plummet. Common Core testing–with its unrealistic passing marks– is in big trouble. The anti-high-stakes testing movement continues to grow in every state. Parents send their children to school to be educated, not to be sorted, rated, and labeled.

 

As Peter Greene put it, the greatest win of 2014 was the fact that teachers continued to teach, continued to knock them selves out day after day, despite the attacks on them and on their profession. I can’t resist quoting a small part of Peter’s wonderful post:

 

In environments ranging from openly hostile to merely unsupportive, teachers went into their classrooms and did their best to meet the needs of their students. Teachers helped millions of young human become smarter, wiser, more capable, more confident, and better educated. Millions of teachers went to school, met students where they were, and helped those students move forward, helped them grasp what it meant to be fully human, to be the most that they could be. Teachers helped millions of students learn to read and write and figure and draw and make music and play games and know history and understand science and a list of things so varied and rich that I have no room here for them all.

When so many groups were slandering us and our own political leaders were giving us a giant middle finger, we squared our shoulders and said, “Well, dammit, I’ve got a job to do, and if even if I’ve got to go in there and do it with my bare hands in a hailstorm, I’m going to do it.” And we did.

 

Leonie Haimson made her list of the best and worst of 2014. I would add the blow-up of the $1 billion iPad fiasco in Los Angeles as another momentous event, which should make us all warier of throwing money at technology without careful planning.

 

Not all news was good news. The midterm elections were a disaster for supporters of public education, especially at the state level. Several anti-education governors were re-elected. There is always next time. American history tends to move in cycles, and we must work together to hasten the end of the current cycle of greed and indifference to suffering. We must restore a healthy belief in democracy and ward off the forces of autocracy. We must fight to protect our children’s privacy from data miners. We must do a better job of informing parents and citizens about the peril posed by privatization to their community’s public schools. And we must be relentless in informing the media that the movement to demonize the teaching profession is NOT reform. True reformers seek to improve public schools and to honor the teaching profession, not to close schools, fire teachers, and turn their children over to entrepreneurs.

 

The Network for Public Education continues to build alliances and to connect activists within and between states. Here is a link to the Top Ten “Why We Will Win” Stories of 2014. Yes, we will persevere in our fight to protect our public schools from hostile takeovers and our efforts to improve them. Our second national conference will be held in Chicago on April 25-26, 2015. I hope you will plan to join us and meet with your friends and colleagues from across the nation.

 

No question there’s a long road ahead of us. But we must and will persist. This must be our cause and our mission. We are many, they are few. Democracy is on our side, and we are on the side of democracy. Not efficiency; not sorting and labeling children for the workforce; not preparing for global competition; but preparing children to live full and free lives in our society, able to make wise choices for themselves, with every chance to develop their interests, talents, and abilities. We must not rest until every child has equality of educational opportunity.

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