Cake Mix for the Easy Bake Oven

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

As a child, my grandmother had me in the kitchen cooking right along side her. My grandmother Rose was a Russian/Polish/Moving Border immigrant just around the outset of the revolution(s) over ‘there’. She grew up into her teens in the middle of no where. She taught me to cook without a cook book – it was by taste and what was at hand. Trust me, NO ONE ever starved at Rose’s table – ever! I ‘inherited’ the recipes as I was the oldest grandchild and had the time to observe, process, replicate everything from tzimmes to matzoh balls to soup, etc.  The time I spent with my grandmother is some of the most memorable moments in my life.

Since growing up I often ‘barter’ for cooking lessons. Not the high-end stuff with every other person who wants ‘cuisine’, rather with the parents and grandparents of students I tutor. Amazingly the best cooking EVER comes from people who do not have some recipe book, know the ‘tricks’ and are recent immigrants who often can not translate into English so I have to pay special attention to what they are doing in the kitchen. Parents laugh when I offer to do one or two hours of tutoring for kitchen time – in their country women would be expected to know how to cook, feed a family, etc.  In America, land of Easy Bake Ovens, this is not the case.

I bring this up as American’s have some notion/misconception of everything being fun, easy, free time enjoyable. Nothing is supposed to take effort, be a challenge, have expectations, well maybe school testing. As a tutor I  work with students who experience great frustration at having to limit TV and computer game time in order to grind the numbers for Algebra.  Often the parents are as bad….not the immigrant parents as they still understand what it means to strive for something.  American culture robs us of the ability to do activities for the right reasons.

When I served in Peace Corps Namibia 1998-1999, I still remember the two, almost three-year old who walked me to the water pump in the dark as cattle were coming home, showed me how to pump water AND was the one stirring porridge the next morning over a fire he banked. I would be horrified to let an American child near matches….We reap returns on the expectations we set for both students and teachers, not the ones we dream about and never enforce. If we ask teachers to teach to a test, we get test scores.

If simple life experiences require an Easy Bake Oven, we are doomed. Not only do we lack the skill set to take on a larger challenge – helping a child navigate through a real kitchen, we lack the ability to develop creativity. How do you help a child develop and learn real world kitchen skills? Certainly not with Easy Bake…..No offense to Hasbro.

In Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, there is a section regarding the cake mix the family packed on their trip to the middle of who knows where on the continent of Africa.  It is a metaphor  for all the things the family did not know and would learn, often through horrific and life changing circumstances. If we can not get past the metaphor of the Easy Bake Oven, we are doomed as common core rolls out. Students will actually need to apply themselves, think, reflect, correct, alter course and re-apply.  The world is NOT a mix it up and one pass through the oven door.

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Conundrum 6,875,248,312 – High test scores AND students not graduating???

http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/1-900-in-SF-class-of-14-may-not-graduate-4051222.php

Poor Jill Tucker at The San Francisco Chronicle.  She has been given the worst tasks – writing anything positive regarding education when the smoke screen and mirrors brought to us in California  via NCLB, The Bush Years, SDAIE requirements, charter schools, Proposition 13 and so forth are mind bendingly awful. These ‘fixes’ appear most awful when seen through the rear view mirror while  people such as Michelle Rhee are driving forward at 100 MPH and throwing  crap out the windows of said vehicle –  at teachers.

Apparently in all the positive accolades regarding test score improvement, some one some where was neglecting to look at the sign ahead regarding a CLIFF.    Admittedly there are problems such as those of Nina Collins which are unique and definitely different.  I can not imagine this is the story for the other 1,899 projected problem students.  How could so many students be missing units?  How could so many students be misdirected? Are the teachers going to be blamed/shamed again – for this?

None of the graduation requirements are new. In fact, these requirements have been around forever. What is new is parents and community members believing with their shallow little hearts and brains it has all been up to teachers. I am amazed the spin has not yet started for the blame game.

I really wonder if we had changed our focus just a bit from the prize of test scores to the reality of successful course completion, parents being held accountable, less drama surrounding how many charter schools can be propped up and reviling teachers if we would have made the ‘difference’ necessary for this article to never have been written.  It is about focus. When we allow charter schools and the slippery slopes of test score calculations to become our focus, we let other, blindingly obvious problems slip into the background.   No one could ever convince me they did not see this phenomenon coming – unless they were so busy following Michelle Rhee they simply lost their mind.

Teachers do not control the variables which bring about these types of conundrums – administrators control these issues. I hope people look up from what ever it is their head was buried in and recognize the problem – it is not test scores, rather, it is what we chose to focus and worship as the prize.

While you were all looking at test scores and Michelle Rhee was blaming teachers……..

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/fitch-downgrades-aspire-public-schools-194000754.html

The above item would have flown right under the radar had some one not pointed it out to me. It would not have even occurred to me that this would be an Aspire Public Schools issue.  Of course, I gave Aspire the benefit of the doubt and looked at http://www.aspirepublicschools.org/?q=financials. and http://www.aspirepublicschools.org/?q=pressroom as I believe all parties should have an opportunity to weigh in on the subject.

From what I can gather, Fitch sees Aspire as being not transparent enough. From what I read about (written by others), Aspire refuses to be honest http://acsa.org/MainMenuCategories/Advocacy/Issues-and-Actions/Success-for-ELSF.aspx, which has nothing to do with tenure or all the other rigamarow Ms. Rhee constantly complains about.  Aspire seems to be anti-competitive, which is anti-Michelle Rhee and anti-Jeffrey Canada. This all makes for some interesting conversation.  I can find no mention of the bond issue nor the lawsuit issue.  No where can I find Michelle Rhee’s commentary………so I will leave the interpretation of all of this to the reader.

This demonstrates to me once again that charter schools have been so busy marketing and touting themselves that reality never had a chance. Aspire is a not for profit CORPORATION. By reasonable standards, people should be flinching about the lack of competitiveness Aspire Public Schools operates under.  The message may well be that test scores really do not tell the whole story, even though Aspire and Michelle Rhee would have us believe otherwise with propaganda.

This is Aspire 15 years out. I have to wonder if this is what Don Shalvey, James Wilcox, Wayne Hilty and Elise Darwish prepared for in advance and escaping to Tennessee is not the entire answer. It would seem that abandoning  part or all they sought to change in CA is definitely not a good answer for students, investors and  public education.  With Wall St. having brought down the economy,  limited and insufficient disclosure to Fitch does not seem to be in line with what the public would like to know.

LIMITED AND INSUFFICIENT DISCLOSURE

Under the bonds’ continuing disclosure agreement, the lawsuit does not       appear to qualify as a ‘significant event.’ However, given Aspire’s significant concerns regarding the lawsuit, Fitch views the lack of       communication until after the proposed statement of decision negatively.       In addition, the March 21, 2012 disclosure statement made no reference   to the serious risks, including possible default, cited by management in       its declarations to the court.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 8. Fitch will   continue to monitor developments in the lawsuit and their potential   ramifications for bondholders.

Of course the real concern is how did these people NOT have an appropriate long term business plan in place knowing CA politics?  What are the board of directors http://www.aspirepublicschools.org/?q=board thinking? I have to wonder if even Superman can make this better considering charter schools have touted that their composition is based on their ability to do it better for less.  Jeffrey Canada, are you paying attention?

Why ‘grading’ the teacher is not only wrong, but ineffective. Part II of II Blogs

Gawande, Atul, Personal Best, The New Yorker 3 October 2011  p. 44, 46-50, 51-52

This is Part II of two blogs begun March 2012 which addressed Dr. Gawande (New Yorker Magazine Article). He has a  quest for ‘coaching’ to continue developing  into his Personal Best.  I felt it necessary to analyze the article written by Dr. Gawande in order to address a professional sense of self-reflection, that of a professional surgeon.  Dr. Gawande so thoroughly addressed his personal role in medicine AND all the other potential factors  of medicine that I was compelled to use this as an example.   Dr. Gawande admitted the fault of being human and demonstrated humility in  not being  God.  He noted that the human condition is imperfect yet there is a way to learn and continually improve ourselves over time,  most often with self-reflection and insight from others as it is difficult to view ourselves while being ourselves.

Only by carefully observing other professionals outside the field  of education can we begin to develop a consciousness of  professionalism, what it means to good, better, best, great and so forth and look for tools to apply to the teaching profession.  Focusing only on education assumes the worst case scenario – teachers are distinctly different in the world of humans, but instead of being viewed as deities, in America, they are viewed as pure evil by many, often including their own administrators and the government at state and federal levels.

When we see what others do, we get past the misanthropic view of one group of people (non- teachers)  regarding teachers and notice more of  the similarities between teachers and other professionals.  Once back from the brink of insanity,  we can address the multitude factors which effect the outcomes of education, which are not strictly the result of teacher quality.  Many outcomes in education have everything to do with poverty, parental involvement and  self motivation/will.

If we were to blame only surgeons and doctors for ALL medical outcomes, no one would have surgery any more. It is both a science and an art.  There is not ‘perfection’, rather there are gradations of success based on a whole slew of issues above and beyond the doctor/surgeon.  We may seek perfection –  this involves coaching and improving professional practice.  It is NOT the golden bullet to prevent all problems.  Doctors can not account for your DNA, what you choose to eat, how you choose to take care of yourself.  Doctors have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations, they obtain a positive outcome as they take an oath to do no harm.  In the case of doctors, we need to look from within regarding outcomes of surgery,  because we came to the doctor damaged.

When we grade a teacher, we wish to push results and outcomes on people whom have the least control over what goes on in a child’s life. Teachers have only 40/168 hours, including sleep. Take out sleep (which is substantially important) and you have 40/118 hours assuming kids sleep a 10 hour night. In both cases, 40 hours is very little and yet so much is expected.   Teachers, like doctors, have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations will produce positive outcomes in nine months of the school year of eight-hour school days.  Let me be clear – most kids do not sleep even eight hours a nigh.t Not all school days are actually eight hours so the numbers I present are skewed by things such as testing, minimum days, staying up late at night for a variety of reasons and a multitude of other issues (lockdowns, snow days, illness, etc.).  Grading a teacher on amount of time of ‘influence’ alone is inadequate.

In order to explore  various ideas within education reform, I also sought out different pieces of writing from others who address the ideation of grading teachers.   It is not enough to say something is a  bad or good idea, rather one needs to support different views and perceptions so the discussion can center on what is best for children, not what is best for our sense of power over things we lack control.

As Dr. Gawande indicates, coaching is costly and rarely something schools can afford. It is awkward – in the hospital and in the classroom.  Obtaining coaching can be (and often is viewed outside sports and singing) seen as an admission of failure instead of the converse – an admission of willing to improve.  When coaching is used as punishment in education, it automatically infers substandard performance.  To change the perception of coaching in education will be no different or easier than the exact experience Dr. Gawande addresses at the end of his written piece.   Demonizing teachers does not improve their quality – it does slowly wear them down and destroy them which could not be good for students.

I am done picking at the bone of grading teachers with  a public which hates  teachers, who think denigrating and demeaning teachers (public humiliation/bullying/ exposing student success or failure on our backs) is reform.   This bone is from a  recently dead animal which was left rotting on the street, run over by a car and bits of it are smashed into the concrete. The piece of bone left has tendons and muscle hanging from it, smells of horrible decay and clearly would be of no use to the mammal it came from so we need to start over and not be so willing to kill.  Bloodsport does not ever portend to good.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/confessions-of-a-bad-teacher.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263603261494594.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/more-wk-value-added-.html#more

http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/06/my-view-when-did-teacher-bashing-become-the-new-national-pastime/?hpt=hp_bn1

So, to use a quote:

New Yorker Magazine cartoon (5 Dec 2011) by Victoria Roberts: “There’s an elephant in the room and no zookeeper.”

Let’s try to find a better course of action because grading teachers is not working the way we assumed it would.  Here is a smattering of examples of alternative perspectives.  What would be awesome is if the people who hired teachers had as much interest in teacher success as their own rise to power.

Almost all men can stand adversity, but if you want to judge a man’s true character, give him power.   (I have been unable to find the source in order to attribute this quote – if you know it, please comment!)

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-8-qualities-of-remarkable-employees.html?

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/thompson-how-is-teaching-different-from-all-other-professions.html

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/thompson-address-behavior-first.html

http://www.kqed.org/a/radiospecials/R201203292000

https://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/zagat-type-ratings-at-schools-all-for-it/

When society begins supporting ways for teachers to improve their personal best, obtaining the caliber of teachers  wished for will be in reach.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in MA and Harvard University are fortunate to have such a self reflective staff member AND some one so willing to share their personal experiences in order to help others.  By supporting Dr. Gawande and his willingness to strive for better, these institutions and patients benefit greatly all the way around.

We would do far more to improve education by creating a positive environment for teachers.   It is our choice – surgically destroy education with reforms that have little to nothing in offering actual  improvement or healing what happens in the classroom by owning our locus of control and assisting teachers in achieving their personal best.

Selling Out and Profit Making in Education

Years ago education was the space for passionate people with a trenchant sense of appreciation for the community and world.  It was the place of Caldecott  Award winning books, old school Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Fisher-Price and hands on.  It was the age of ‘doing’ and included all manner of creative thinking.  Those of us involved in it had studied subjects such as Piaget, neuro, psychology and development.  One might say it was the pre-industrial education revolution.

There was no specific time when pre-industrial education became post-industrial waste as it is still occurring. What is distinctly different is the characterization of the ‘sell out’ and the justification for ‘selling out’ by the very people who supposedly had their hearts and souls in education.  I understand how toy manufacturing companies were able to mass produce more games. I am unclear where they went from thoughtful and creative to mass-produced ‘stuff’ which needed to be marketed.  An example is the slow deterioration of Fisher-Price with amazingly thoughtful pieces related to many aspects of society (farming, cars, etc.) to the mass-produced schlock of knock off plastic kitchens with myriad assorted bits and pieces resembling a child version of Ikea madness.

The change over was gradual. It is somewhere in notes from board meetings and marketing ideas and profitability studies. What is missing from these same records is how the new-new thing fits into the Montessori  or Waldorf concept, has anything to do with observations Piaget made or how it developmentally enhances the environment for children.  The see-saw tipped and $$$ began to be far more virtuous than learning.  Learning, in and of itself, has no value until it is applied, whereas one could ascribe value to learning by attaching an object(s) which was thought to ‘improve’ the learning process.

We went from the very cool toy store and/or bookstore in town with wooden puzzles and wood trains and cloth dolls to Toys R Us.  While it was happening, seemingly few people aside from professional educators noticed the change in product. Not just the quality, but the quantity and type.  Games became things which required batteries and less thinking. The only doing was inserting the battery…..Calculators came into vogue such that if you could ‘do it’ on a calculator, who needed to learn the underlying concept.  In this sense, professional educators assisted TI in overtaking maths and making outstandingly HUGE profits.

Calculators became the standard-bearer for learning math quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, no one who studied education was truly consulted and new math came into vogue. Algorithms? What are those? Where is the button on the calculator?  Flash cards and Cusinaire Rods and all the rest were practically buried en masse in cabinets if not thrown out in the trash by parents who wanted their child to ‘learn’.  Anyone caught with the actual tools of learning were castigated and treated as if they were stone age hominids.

Calculators morphed into computers, the worlds supposed greatest educational opportunity. No one would learn without a computer. The Luddites were scorned.  The backlash created more pre-schools committed to developmental learning (Montessori, etc.) and more private schools which were ‘low tech’ learning academies – they were not quite ready to jump onto an untested, not tried and true concept.

And in the midst of this, learning, most especially at the collegiate level was viewed as penance. The big universities suddenly rebuilt dorms and student centers to entice the brightest and best to their campus. Charter schools popped up like spring bulbs long asleep under cold earth.  In order to avoid the perceived ‘penance’, ITT, University of Phoenix, Boston Reed and other pay to play colleges sprouted and milled tons of underperforming graduates who could use calculators and turn on computers AND had a diploma to prove it.  The founder/CEO of University of Phoenix has a ‘beyond’ mansion he is currently trying to sell off, but that is a whole other story.   Unfortunately, the newly minted grads have had a hell of a time with the job market and can not pay off their substantial loans which bought their diplomas.  It doesn’t matter – the people who work for these organizations made a pretty penny by commercializing on cheap education, mass produced.

In the middle of all of this craziness and change one other phenomenon was being born. The trenchant  Luddites were wondering what to do with all the accumulated stuff from years past learning, businesses sending manufacturing abroad but leaving behind all matter of potential educational junk, recyclables, left overs, mis-appropriations and so forth.  The big not for profits which come to mind are Materials for The Arts in NYC, which saved my life during grad school, East Bay Center for Creative ReUse which saves my life now,  and RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers), which started out as the thinking teachers secret ‘almost’ back room to the Exploratorium, but better!

Materials for The Arts and East Bay Creative Reuse have been able to stay true to their mission. Sadly, RAFT began a slow and painful  descent of casting out its idealism to the wind for profits, as if it were actually a for profit Silicon Valley Corporation of some type.  RAFT is now a mini-version of Michael’s or Jo-Anne Crafts with a bit of Oriental Trading catalog thrown in.

Within all the turbulence of what education was and has become, teachers have been left with less and less in the way of professional development, materials and hands on, developmentally appropriate resources which are affordable.  The teachers were never the sell outs – no one can actually afford to pay a teacher what they are worth in America. What is sad is that teachers and students are punished.

Each time a great idea attempts to go to the ‘profitable’ side of things, beyond a reasonable draw in salary for the executive who founded the organization, it becomes an epic fail  which  takes years to undo.  For profit charter schools have proven to be no better than not-for profit and both have never demonstrated themselves to be any better than regular public schools in general.   For profit colleges have become even more notorious paper mills than what the ivy league has supposedly done over the years (ex: George W. Bush) AND students are not qualified to obtain an adequate job to pay off the extremely high interest rate loan.  The last thing teachers need is another ‘retailer’ in which to buy cheap supplies.

What teachers need is a community of educators. Teachers require the time to learn with and from other professionals.  Teachers need to be able to use meaningful resources with little to no cost (usually called donations) so they can continue to teach,  SO STUDENTS LEARN.

When not for profits and for profit businesses which were once committed to education, sell out, everyone loses.  The profits don’t trickle down, the losses to community do.

And, Aspire Public Education follows http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/after-lawsuit-officials-call-new-statewide-charter-rules-8660

On Monday, February 27, the Aspire Board of Directors approved our expansion to Memphis in school year 2013-2014, contingent on charter approval. We expect to receive approval in June.

Memphis represents a unique opportunity to change the odds for underserved children. There’s deep need. Of the 105,000 students currently served by Memphis City Schools, 85% receive free and reduced lunch. Of the state’s 5% lowest-performing schools, 80% are located in Memphis. Local leaders have already proven themselves strong partners who are willing to do what it takes to ensure we succeed. Local funding – both public and private – supports long-term financial stability. State and local policies are, for the most part, charter friendly; where they aren’t, we’re working with local leaders to change them. Finally, Memphis’s position in the national education reform spotlight will strengthen our voice in the conversation about how to make College for Certain a reality for all children. Today, Memphis is a hot spot for reform. It presents an opportunity for us to partner with many others to create a national example of what is possible when adults across work together on behalf of kids. Together, these factors make Memphis a place where we can contribute to transformative school system change.

To get expansion right, we will grow to only one new city in the short term. This means that other cities that were in consideration – most recently, Nashville and New Orleans – are no longer “in the running” for 2013-2014. Both cities are eager to have Aspire serving their kids, and we’ll continue to explore these exciting partnership opportunities down the road.

As some Home Office teammates begin spending more time on expansion, we will work hard to ensure that Memphis does not distract the organization from continuing to provide high-quality support to our current schools in California.  Our California team is the foundation of our model and  we know strong California schools will be the backbone of any success we achieve at a national level.

We’ve started reaching out to folks who expressed an interest in relocating to Memphis for the 2013-2014 school year.  If you’re interested in potentially relocating, but didn’t take the survey, please reach out to your area superintendent. We know you likely have many questions about relocation, compensation, benefits, and the specific role you’d play. We’re working fast and hard to get you those answers, and we’ll keep the information flowing as it becomes available.

Finally, note that we’re preparing for a public announcement in late March or early April, when we submit our charter applications. In the meantime, we’ve prepared a few talking points (below) for questions that may came up from outside parties.

Growth to Memphis represents an exciting first step in a national expansion that will benefit students who most need high-quality schools. As always, Senior Leadership Team doors remain open. We look forward to hearing from you with any thoughts you have about this next step in our journey towards College for Certain for all low-income children.

Key Messages About Aspire Expansion

Why is Aspire expanding outside of CA? Aspire’s mission calls us to deliver College for Certain to underserved children, while partnering with  local school systems to spark transformative change. These goals have become increasingly difficult in California due to the state budget crisis. Though growth here is not currently possible, our drive to serve the millions of low-income students trapped in failing schools remains as strong as ever.  Therefore, we are looking to new states with high levels of need where the conditions are right for us to extend our impact and drive change.

Why is Aspire expanding to Memphis? Aspire selected Memphis because of its high level of need, its favorable political climate, its existing momentum for reform, its emerging role in the national education dialogue, and the long term stability of all of these elements over time. Memphis also offers strong support from local leaders who are committed to our success there.

Will Aspire expand to other places? Not in the short-term. Though other cities have expressed high levels of demand for Aspire, we will only open in one new city in school year 2013-2014. We will continue to explore partnerships with other cities down the road. We also remain committed to sharing our best practices with other school systems, no matter where they are located.

Is Aspire leaving California? No, Aspire is not leaving California. We remain committed to our 34 California schools and 12,000 California students. We will add 1,500 more students as our current schools grow to scale. We were founded in California, and our roots are deep here. We know that success in any other state depends on the ongoing strength of our current schools, the backbone of our model.

Updated 9 April 2012:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/05/MNQ61NURUC.DTL&type=education

Pertinence in Parenting or Test Scores?

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/11/opinion/bennett-good-teachers/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

http://blogs.kqed.org/americangraduate/2012/01/20/diane-ravitch-on-kqed-forum/

This past week I was able to listen to Dr. Diane Ravitch being interviewed by Michael Krasney. There was nothing startlingly different in this interview and yet it was bereft of the mention the role parents play in education.  It may well be that parents and inadequate parenting are results related to the effects of poverty, which was clearly covered in this discussion.  Engaged parents, one of the cornerstones of child success – around the world, where there is much more poverty than in America needs to be addressed with the same level of anger the public puts upon teachers for educational results.

Dr. Ravitch was clear in the fact of teachers no longer accepting of the assignation they are what is wrong with American Education and no amount of constant testing will prove otherwise.   Her clarity on this point was so sharp it was able to poke the flimsy balloon of NCLB testing and yet it was not strong enough to raise the ire of the very group who need to be involved. Parents seem to be given a constant free pass to not be part of solution.

William Bennett, who is the other side of the spectrum  of education (test students until you get numbers you like) went on to write about the necessity to have great teachers and backed his writing up with a plethora of statistics. Unfortunately   for Mr. Bennett, he managed to include the below paragraph but not bother to  follow-up on the very real fact that teachers are only SECOND to parents in educational outcomes and success of children.  Mr. Bennett wrote it in such a way as to make the comment not real and/or not noticeable or of any poignancy.

This study shows that, second only to parents, teachers are the most important part of a child’s education. Great teachers make a great difference; poor teachers hurt a child’s life chances. Isn’t that all we need to know to embark upon a serious effort to reward good teachers and encourage poor teachers out of the profession.

There is a world of difference from my own reading, listening and interpreting of professional educator ‘speak’ to the interpretations made by the general public who listen to what is, in effect, marketed at them.   The issue at hand is not what testing does or does not prove, rather the issue is the interpretation.  We as the population of the U.S. can spend our time debating test scores (multiple choice, blue book, anecdotal records, NAEP, state testing and so forth) for ever or we can choose to effect change by placing the same level of expectation upon parents that we place upon teachers. We get to choose where we place our focus.

As long as we are focused on test numbers, we neglect the more important VALUE ADDED issues affecting children – appropriate food, sleep, healthy environment (where they physically live and their community safety), literacy in the home (do the parents even attempt to learn the lingua franca of the country they live in) including adequate reading material, parenting behaviors conducive to student success (schedules, quiet time for homework, consistency, etc.) and the list goes on and on.  By focusing on test scores, which  seem to have changed little over 20 years no matter how much money we put into the machine called education, we miss the really HUGE variable – parents.

The public has done everything it can to demonstrate disdain for teachers and the results are not attractive.  It is time for the public to get past the whipping boy/girl and actual take on the problem with education.  When parents are on board, teachers can effect change in the classroom.

Teacher quality is nothing without parental quality.

Being the BEST at Documentation

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/06/12/national/a090056D07.DTL

Colorado has in fact created a GREAT and significant opportunity for teachers:

Any teacher who can reasonably document  consistent parental contact (or lack there of as is usually the case), keep record of homework, report card and agenda book signatures is on the way to putting the administration and school district up to  getting their game on.  In this case, a teacher can only be accountable when the school administrators and disctrict went above and beyond in parent outreach, etc. as any teacher who can substantiate why Johnny or Jane did not suceed, when the teacher went to the wall, will make the school district and parents look like loons.

Although documentation is time consuming and tedious, it gives teachers the upper hand to put the blame exactly where it belongs – with parents and administrators. Teachers need to start in Sept on day one and make sure they have records of parents pulling their weight and those who do not, do quarterly reports for admin every time there is a grade report so NO administrator can say, “You didn’t tell me, warn me, inform me, etc.”  Any school with a back log of student study team meetings, funding issues, lack of adequate RSP and other services is merely asking for teachers to go public with the documentation (no student or parent names mind you, just the documentation). 

 When the reality of how hard teachers work actually comes out, school districts in Colorado will not be able to find anyplace in the Rockies to hide.  Although this year is by far going to be long and difficult, if done right, teachers can actually come out ahead and shine a light on the vast dark hole called lack of parental involvement and administrative excuse making.

“Education is not just you and your class. It’s not an individual activity. If you’re doing your best, it’s a system you’re a part of,” Bobb said.

Teachers in Colorado – I want to wish you every success as I KNOW you are up to the task.  Don’t be scared – carry pen and paper and get it all down.  Enjoy this rare opportunity to put the parents of your students and administrators on notice about what you expect so Johnny and Jane can succeed.