Blog Response #4

Ben Hubert 

Title: "The Digital Divide Continues "

URL: <http://weblogg-ed.com/>

Blog Post: The New York Times reports that Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out and that is not good news for the kids most affected. Basically, because of Earthlink's problems, tens of thousands of people who were promised access will most likely be cut out.

But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities.

And of course, it's the kids who get affected the most.

Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online. For Cesar DeLaRosa, 15, however, the concern is more specific. He said he was worried about his science project on "Recent and archival news about global warming."

"If we don't have Internet, that means I've got to take the bus to the public library after dark, and around here, that's not always real safe," Cesar said, seated in front of his family's new computer in a gritty section of Hunting Park in North Philadelphia. His family is among the 1,000 or so low-income households that now have free or discounted Wi-Fi access through the city's project, and many of them worry about losing access that they cannot otherwise afford.

And in general, we continue not to lead.

Mr. Meinrath said that advocates wanted to see American cities catch up with places like Athens, Leipzig and Vienna, where free citywide Wi-Fi is already available...Mr. Meinrath pointed to St. Cloud, Fla., which spent $3 million two years ago to build a free wireless network that is used by more than 70 percent of the households in the city.

But there may be some potential solutions on the horizon:

Meraki, a wireless networking company based in Mountain View, Calif., has jumped into the void in San Francisco with a program it calls "Free the Net." The company sells low-cost equipment that can be placed in a person's home to broadcast a wireless signal. The company also sells inexpensive repeaters that can be placed on rooftops or outside walls to spread the original customer's signal farther. The combination of the two types of equipment creates a mesh of free wireless in neighborhoods. The company says it has almost 70,000 users throughout San Francisco.

Still frustrating to me that this isn't on the radar in this political year.

(PS...This is a test of the blogging function in Diigo. Not sure if I can easily add tags. If you want to see my highlights and notes on the page, log into your Diigo account and click on the story link above.)

 

Blog Response: Since there is a demand for internet service nationwide, there's bound to be more ISPs, such as Meraki, entering into the market and replacing the old, crippled ones with better service and inspiration. Could we copy the European model with the $3 million setup for citywide wi-fi? Sure we could, if local city councils, the state government, or just maybe the federal government paid for the setup without killing the local residents (that is, the lower and middle classes) in the process. If students lost internet access, then that dampens their ability to gather better information from the net. In addition, teachers would be less able to assign more interesting and challenging homework assignments that create more meaning and originality for the students. Cesar DeLaRosa, for example, is a fifteen year old who wants to study new reports on Global Warming for his science project. Without the internet, how can Cesar quickly get the information he needs to present his project with accurate information? Unless he's able to get the paper sources fast enough, he can't. While companies such as Meraki come in to continue internet service is a comforting thought for everybody, but the time it takes for one to collapse and another to get setup can mean a lot, in terms of the quality of education in students' lives.

 

Blog Response #3

Title:  "Letter To A Young Teacher"

URL:  <http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/>

Blog Post: I don't remember where I read it, but I was reading another article that mentioned the oft-quoted stat about how many teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and I was thinking about how many really amazing young men and women I've known in my career who fell into that category, and I was thinking about a conversation I had with an old colleague at Beacon and how she said, "Yeah... that year three or four mark, that's a dangerous time, because that's when you think you know so much more than you actually do." And I was thinking about my own progression as a teacher and how true that was... And I was thinking about some of the things people who stayed with the profession seemed to embody that the ones who left didn't. I was thinking about what I want to say to all those teachers who, right around year three or four, start to leave the profession...

Dear Young Teacher Thinking of Leaving,

You've stuck with this job for a few years now. You have made it past the hardest few years, but it's still a really hard job. And you're at a point where you know a lot about the job, but there's still a lot to learn. And the things you haven't learned yet are the some of the things you need to stay with this job. I don't know for sure that you should stay; after all, people switch professions these days. But here are some of the things it takes longer than three or four years to really, really learn. Some of these are things I've had to learn the hard way, some of these are things I've seen others learn the hard way, and a lot of these ideas are things that I keep having to relearn all the time.

This job is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as we don't like to admit it, we have to acknowledge our need to pace ourselves.

However, you learn something in time that makes that easier. You aren't their only teacher. You aren't the only adult in their life. And even if you were, you can't be everything to every kid.

You learn that perfection is a lousy goal because it is unattainable.

You learn that excellence is a better goal, but even that is a moving target.

In other words, you learn that the perfect really is the enemy of the good.

You learn that it's just not about you. And it's just not about the kids either. It's about the space between where the meaning happens.

You learn that you can't reach every kid. And you never really learn to be o.k. with that.

You learn that you know a lot less than you think you do.

You learn that your colleagues know a lot more than you think they do.

You learn to find the teachers who can prove to you that you can do this job for thirty years, and you learn to go sit in their classroom when you need to.

You learn that you don't have to be young to relate to the kids.

You learn that teaching is both an art and craft, and that it is something you get better at.

You learn that the more you document what you do, the happier you are the next year.

You learn that retooling a unit takes less time than creating one....

You learn that the more you get good at the basics, the more you can experiment with new ideas.

You learn that you can't grade everything.

You learn where you can compromise and where you can't.

You learn that not every kid is going to major in your subject and you accept that that's o.k.

You learn that you aren't perfect... and neither are the kids, and sometimes the best thing you can do is forgive... yourself and the kids.

You learn that taking care of yourself is important... and that the kids know when you do... and want you to.

You learn that you shouldn't idealize other jobs.

You learn that the worst thing you can do is think of yourself as "just a teacher."

You learn that the second worst thing you can do is think that being a teacher is the hardest job in the world.

You learn that the best things that happen in your class weren't wholly because of you.

But you learn that the worst thing things weren't wholly because of you either.

And you learn that, in both cases, your presence did matter.

You learn that every time you are feeling like really know what you are doing, it's important to find the thing about the job that humbles you.

You learn that every time you feel like you have no idea what you are doing, it's important to find the thing that reminds you how much you have learned.

You learn how to ask yourself, "Did I give what I had to give today?"

You learn how to look at that question over time.

You learn that life is hard... that the teaching life is hard... that the movies rarely get it right... and that being a young teacher means being the adult in the room, and that's o.k.

You learn to find that teacher's voice inside you that is real, authentic and effective.

You learn how much good you can do... and how important it is to find ways to do that much good over a whole career, not as a martyr to the job, but as a healthy, clear-eyed teacher.

You learn patience.

You learn how much you have to keep learning.

Most of all, you learn that once you stop trying so hard, you can listen better, and then you can hear what the kids are saying back to you. And then you can learn that they change you as much as you change them.

It's a hard job, it's a frustrating job, and the vast majority of our schools are underfunded, understaffed and swimming upstream to teach the adult values of hard work, sustained effort and sustained focus when there is very little else in teenage life that reinforces those values. And you realize that the kids are hearing your message, even when you think they aren't.

Our schools need so many more of those early-career teachers to stay in the profession so that they can become the master teachers of the next generation. We need you to stay and figure it out. It's never easy, but it does keep getting better as long as you are willing to continue to learn.

And you do learn that, in the end, so many of us love our jobs more than the rest of the world does.

 

My Response:  It is these kinds of messages that remind those who are teaching right now and those that are in the process of becoming a teacher, that all of us have flaws and those flaws are acceptable so long as we continue to not let them stop us from teaching and enriching the lives of our students/future-students. Being a college student and working on becoming a History/Social Science high school teacher, hearing more of the specifics of what the life of being a teacher is like eases my mind of the unknown. The letter that mentions "[y]ou learn that you can't reach every kid. And you never really learn to be o.k. with that." I always had the assumption that a teacher had to find some kind of connection (talk about class content, sports, technology news, art, etc.) with every student, but reading that had me realize that such notion is really more of an idealized notion, and some students just don't want that connection with their teacher. As a student now, I realize now that I wouldn't want one of my teachers who I was unsure on how to talk to him or her and have that teacher suddenly start talking to me so casually. Maybe it's because that I, as a student, had treated that teacher as a "teacher," an authoritative figure that is to be obeyed and somewhat feared, and not as a person. That was what I grew up learning from society, and perhaps that was probably intended to allow teachers to get more students to do their homework and listen in class. Any opinions to that line of logic?

Another thought dawned on me that I wouldn't be by myself in teaching to those students, because there are other teachers besides me whom are different from me and may reach to those students whom prefer to not chat with me as their teacher. I believe I really need to work on the "you never really learn to be o.k. with that" part, because of my notion that it's better to at least acknowledge that student is noticed and welcomed rather than have him/her feel neglected and/or feel like an outsider in the classroom. I do appreciate you posting that letter, as everybody else commenting had agreed as well, and that's just one more inspiration to remember as I become a teacher and make my career last until retirement.

 

 

Blog Response #2

Ben Hubert

Title: "Wow!"

URL: [http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/archives/1364]

 

Blog Post: This little tidbit was shared by Dave LaMorte, on Google Reader. The Center on Education Policy has published a new report (February 2008) about instructional time devoted to English language arts (ELA) and math after NCLB, and instructional time given up (sacrificed) by the other subject areas. The publication's web page describes the report as examining...

...the magnitude of changes in instructional time in elementary schools in the years since NCLB took effect in 2002, and is a follow up report to Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era that was issued by CEP in July 2007.

In the full report (PDF download), Jennifer McMurrer, its author, describes in her key findings the significant shifts in instructional time toward ELA and Math (averaging 43% increase) and away from other subjects (averaging 32% decrease). Eight of ten districts increased ELA time by at least 75 minutes per week and 54% by at least 150. The shift toward math was less, with six of 10 reporting increases of 75 minutes and 19% of more than 150.

OK, kids have got to learn how to read and do arithmetic. But isn't it also important to learn about the world they are reading about, measuring, and living in. According to Table 3 of the report, elementary schools reporting an increase in time for ELA and/or math and a decrease for one or more other subjects reported an average weekly decrease of 76 minutes (32% dcrs) for social studies, 75 minutes (33% dcrs) for science, 57 minutes (35% dcrs) in art and music, 40 minutes for physical education (35% dcrs). They also reported 50 fewer minutes of recess (28% dcrs).

Improve reading and math skills is not the problem. The problem is how we're paying for it.

 

My Response: How we are paying for it is by no means mere money, but with peoples? lives. After viewing the pdf file of the report published this month, I just said "wow" too. English and Math instruction time per week rose while Social studies, Science, etc. dropped, creating a huge gap of limited instruction time between the former and the latter groups. Kids are getting cheated out of time to learn more about how the societies work (Social Studies), more about how the physical world works (Science), more about how to express themselves (Art and Music), more about how to interact and cooperate with their peers (PE), and more about how to relate and interact socially with their peers (recess). Doesn?t that already outweigh the proposed benefits? Adjusting instructional timing in current total hours of school per day to meeting NCLB?s goals per week for a few to several years can possibly make a big difference on children?s lives. Not only can this hinder the children in those cut classes to fall behind, because students may not have enough repetition to remember more basic concepts in order to further build upon those concepts, but can potentially affect secondary school teachers, possibly college professors, and potentially society itself as a whole as well.

Those secondary teachers whom share the same classes as the elementary school teachers that have the cut in instructor time may have to spend more time catching them up to high school level, otherwise, students that go to college and have to take social studies and science classes for their gen. ed. requirements may also cause the same problem for the professors. These changes could potentially obscure, by some degree, what the children would view of themselves and the world around them as they age. Another way to look at it is how bad it is already for some people in the U.S. whom don?t know as much world (and perhaps local) geography to understand why certain places on the news are being mentioned, have certain disasters (for local people needing the right insurance), or are ever dear for governments to take notice and conduct their businesses there, affecting our social and economic lifestyles. For instance, Congo and their crisis of warfare over Coltan deposits that are used in cell phone production. Do we honestly need any more general knowledge deficiencies? Reducing instructional times for non-ELA and Math classes just to raise English and Math scores may run the risk of negatively impacting society in ways that none of us could expect to happen. For doing some deep-thought conjecture, I?m I being unrealistic about these proposed effects can pose some degree of concern for society to watch out for? If not, should schools add an extra hour or two to the school day to compensate for the classes that have been cut in instruction time until NCLB is dismantled?

 

 

Blog Response #1

Ben Hubert 

Title: "A Contrary View of Education and NCLB"

URL: [http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2008/02/01/a-contrary-view-of-education-and-nclb/]

Blog: Education was a major theme of the "State of the Union Address" shared by the current U.S President this past Monday night. Unfortunately, many of the assertions made during the speech are contradicted by the experiences and observations I've made working in our midwest schools during the past 13 years. Although my blog is NOT explicitly a political blog, I will not hide nor make excuses for my personal and professional advocacy agenda which involves working to transform our schools into learning environments which serve the interests of both our students as well as our nation in the 21st century, rather than the narrow interests of politicians and a political party seeking to advance a contrary agenda. (For more about my views on including or not including political and religious issues in this blog, see my comment from January 11th in response to commenter "Vet.")

In starting the section of his speech which addressed education, our current President stated:

On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance, and empower parents to demand results from our schools. In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams - and a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.

NCLB has nothing to do with empowering parents. Instead, it is all about discrediting teachers and schools, and encouraging parents to distrust public schools and the educators which serve children within them. It is, of course, absolutely true our schools are filled with "boys and girls with dreams." Sadly, the fear-dominated environment encouraged by high-stakes accountability achieves the OPPOSITE effect of providing "a decent education" for our students.

Before analyzing in further detail comments made by our President to the nation about the status of public education, it is worthwhile to reflect on how many of the children and grandchildren of our elected representatives are currently enrolled in public schools. What is this statistic? I do not know, but I am inclined to believe the percentage is very small. Even in the state of Texas, where "school accountability" rose to new heights of intellectual destructiveness, how many legislators have their own children and grandchildren in private schools rather than public schools myopically focused on raising test scores? I'm not sure.

Would those parents and grandparents (our elected officials) want to send their own offspring to schools where recess has been cancelled after second grade, because there is no time for recess amidst the constant environment of test preparation? Do our elected representatives send their own precious children and grandchildren into classrooms where students have been normatively valued predominantly by the test scores which they can or cannot produce for the school's aggregate statistical rating, rather than for the ideas and unique contributions which they can and want to make to their communities? We are living in an increasingly immoral educational and political culture, and the assumptions which are presented as "facts" by our political leaders regarding a "quality education" should both offend and enrage our population.

Our President asserted next in his speech:

Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs. (Applause.) Now we must work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools.

This is WRONG. I, personally, deny its results as being positive and constructive. And I am not alone. Rather than look to the results of widely variable state test scores, we should look to NAEP scores. It is ridiculous to claim in the context of NCLB that "no one can deny its results." While the very name of the initiative was crafted to try and prevent opposition (since someone against it seems to be supporting the untenable position of "leaving children behind") it is patently false to claim that the alleged positive results of NCLB are undeniable.

The testing regime of NCLB, like the testing regime of TAAS and the TEKS exams in Texas which our President established while the governor of Texas, were created to achieve two primary goals:

* To discredit schools and educators, to demonize the status quo and establish "an enemy" which could be attacked and allegedly "fixed" through political mandates. * To create standardized assessments which could be instituted and emphasized in such a way that gradual progress could be demonstrated and "success" therefore declared.

To find out what students know and what they are learning, you need to talk to them. NCLB has advanced a destructive agenda which feeds into the same tendencies Neil Postman detailed in his book "Technopoly," where the general public comes to believe an idea because it is visually represented with charts and graphs in the newspaper. Is educational quality adequately indicated and represented by test scores? Absolutely not. More than anything, numerous research reports have validated the contention that test scores represent the socio-economic status of parents more than any other factor. Is this mentioned by our President in his most important speech of the year? Of course not. The purpose of this speech was not to share insights into the truth about the state of public education in our nation, rather, the purpose of this speech was to justify the actions and policies of a misdirected and destructive political regime which has done far more to HURT the causes of authentic assessment, project based learning, differentiated learning, and the encouragement of educational cultures of creativity and experimentation than it has HELPED the educational needs of learners in our nation.

It is wholly disingenuous to claim NCLB and the political direction of the high-stakes accountability movement can "add flexibility for states and districts." NCLB has done exactly the opposite: It has forced the states of our nation to impose high-stakes tests upon learners as well as educators, irrespective of the lessons of their prior professional training or experiences.

I vehemently disagree with the proposition that "we must work together to increase accountability." If you own or have invested in an educational testing company, perhaps I can understand your support of this proposal. Just as times have never been better for our oil and gas industry as well as our military-industrial complex during our current administration, times have never been better for commercial interests dedicated to creating standardized test materials for schools and states. If you happen to be a parent interested in a worthwhile education for your own children, however, or a moral educator committed to the cause of doing what is right for children rather than what is politically expedient for elected leaders principally concerned with the maintenance of their own power, understanding support for this proposal becomes much more difficult. Rather than work together to increase accountability as it has been understood under NCLB, we need to work to dismantle this destructive political movement which has done immeasurable harm (gasp, you mean something could actually DEFY measurement in our era of technopoly?) to our students and our educational culture.

Our President continued to reveal his agenda of discrediting public schools and working to open the coffers of public education to private, commercial interests by stating:

Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities... Now let us apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools.

Our "failing public schools" are not failing because they have not been threatened enough with harsh punishments and closure. They are not failing because they need a stronger emphasis on "accountability." Our educational system DOES need reform and change, but the solution is not to privatize public education and set groups whose focus is profit and the bottom line loose amidst our public education dollars. The path we have followed under NCLB is the WRONG path, and I have not yet heard ANY of our current political leaders or aspiring presidential candidates articulate a vision for U.S. schools which breaks with the failed patterns of the past and charts the visionary course for the future which our learners and communities so desperately need.

Following his statements about education, our current President referenced the global nature of our economy and the environment for which our schools are ostensibly preparing students to enter after graduation by stating:

On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas.

Unfortunately, as he has in the past, our President failed to acknowledge the basic disconnect which exists between the skills and dispositions emphasized in our schools dominated by the mania inspired by high-stakes testing, and the workforce skills required in the 21st century:

Let's not mince words. NCLB has been a destructive failure, and we desperately need leadership in our nation which recognizes this situation and stops pretending that the interests of learners or the interests of the nation are served by creating classrooms filled with fearful teachers, students, and administrators. I am sick of fear-driven politics. Of course we have enemies abroad and must maintain a vigilant military to protect our interests, but the idea that our domestic as well as foreign policy agenda should be dominated by the rhetoric of fear is ridiculous as well as counterproductive.

Let's hope the next State of the Union address we hear will include tidings of great joy, rather than disingenuous, misleading, and unsupported assertions based on fear and the selfish politics of misinformed and misdirected leaders.

Is my attitude OK here?

 

 

My response: Your attitude is passionate out of concern and a calling to incite some form of a movement for which to reform the education system. Having said that, by using emotional appeal to stimulate your audience the unavoidable decline in being objective had occurred. Counter-argumentation with citations from President Bush's speech was the first step in being objective; however, continuing to do so and mentioning why elected officials' children stay in private and not public schools brought appeal for the audience to wonder why that is so, but leads the audience away from your attack on No Child Left Behind itself somewhat. I do agree that high-stakes testing are not right to use, for that puts a lot of pressure on the students to attempt to graduate, making learning pointless and memorization a trademark tool to get through education or simply cheat, and puts a lot of pressure (accountability) on the teacher and their administration to potentially produce falsified information (e.g. the "Texas Miracle" fraud) just to keep their jobs under the harsh NCLB ruling. I also agree that fear tactics are not right to use either. Why would a student learn any concept if the teacher's scaffolding technique is negative (e.g. 1-3 sec. break for a teacher to give students to answer the detailed question, possibly no further guidance to answer the question, and getting upset and possibly yelling for not getting the answer "on time"), since the sensory memory can only retain information for 1-3 seconds, and the working memory can only hold information for 5-20 seconds with a 1-2 +/- 7 item capacity to hold such information, creating a deprivation of those seconds of memory to learn because of the distraction from the teacher's negative attitude? With fear-based tactics trickle down from the government, students won't have much of an intrinsic motivation to learn if they're threatened with a pop quiz or moving the test date sooner, and again, teachers and administrations potentially will produce falsified information if sacrificed curriculum to study for specific tests did little to achieve NCLB?s potentially unrealistic high standards.

My main concern with the presentation was the minimum usage of objective citation to counter-argue NCLB itself as a document. Using the State of the Union Address speech to counter what Bush was saying is fine, but since your saying that "[t]he path we have followed under the NCLB is the WRONG path," being able to find a few sentences or a couple paragraphs from the NCLB document to prove your point could greatly improve your argument for the need to have a more immediate education reform. Maybe perhaps some political candidate will be reasoned with such information and argumentation. Granted I just pulled some information from what's in the back of my mind and notes from my Educational Psychology course last semester and what I'm learning in my Curriculum and Instruction class earlier, but overall though, your presentation is good. Surely many people have rethought about how education is being operated and know what the potential dangers education itself is treading these days. Again, using more citations from the source your mainly attacking can, and probably, will enhance your presentation even more. I hope the extensive feed back was beneficial to your question.

 

Author's Reply: Ben: I certainly agree that the arguments against NCLB need to be much more fully articulated than I attempted to in this post. I am not optimistic that we'll see a Presidential candidate in our current US race emerge with the educational change agenda we need, but I still hold out some hope. Language has become entrenched that now, to suggest the standards movement and the accountability movement are counterproductive to the goal of providing students with a world-class education seems like heresy. I would like to write these ideas out much more fully in a book at some point... not that writing it would change a lot, but at least it would provide a more thorough and less disjointed format to explain ideas as well as cite resources / references than I'm able to here on the blog. Thanks for the feedback.