It seems that education has become a hot topic and sadly not for the better. Ever since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education has experienced a decline and I’m not just talking about standardized test scores. Now that NCLB is finally over, it has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and we’ll see if that can undo all that NCLB did to education, specially public education.
From what I can gather there are two camps with diametrically opposed views of what education and the future of education should look like. One camp is made up of a majority of politicians, businesses, and billionaires. The other camp is made up of a majority of educators including teachers, principals, and superintendents. The first camp believes in privatizing education by allowing privately owned and run charter schools that use public funds but are not held to the same standards or rules as public schools. They think vouchers will help all kids and not just the wealthy (which makes NO sense to me). And they believe that teaching kids how to pass tests is good education. The second camp conversely believes that public education is a right that all kids deserve. I fall into the part of the second camp that is looking to change traditional education by making a more student-centered education. I am one of those who sees standards-based grading, for example, or going gradeless, using project or problem-based learning, having kids create, and using technology and social media with kids as the best way to prepare our kids for their future. Two very different ways to educating children.
In my experiences it seems that the second camp is made up mostly of educators because I converse most regularly with educators on Twitter and for the most part we have very similar views on education. What is sad that it seems that the first camp doesn’t comprise of that many actual educators. The first camp, politicians and billionaires, are people who have never been in a classroom in the role of educator and yet hold so much power and sway. I don’t know why those in power are those with the least experience working with children in a classroom setting. And what makes me quite depressed is that the first camp not only has all the money and power to make things happen but they are so convinced that they are right. More than money and power I think being convinced that you are right and doing what’s in the best interest for children is dangerous. Dangerous because I don’t see any of them, like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates, changing their minds, admitting that maybe there are better ways, and doing a complete turn around to truly save our schools. So I don’t know what will happen but I will do my part and keep on writing and talking and discussing these issues. I’ve said before that I think we all can do something about educating those in our communities and schools the way they deserve to be educated. To truly prepare them for their futures. School by school we, the educators, can transform education.
See the first camp of politician, businesses and billionaires have set their minds on reforming education by rewarding good schools, good students, and good teachers, and by punishing, firing, or closing down “bad” ones. They also believe that public schools are the problem and that public schools fail students so charter schools need to be created. How do they define “good?” High standardized test scores. They want to give federal funds to schools that will focus on improving test scores and firing teachers who don’t raise test scores and give bonuses to teachers who raise test scores. They believe that large class sizes are okay IF you have a “great” teacher in the front of the room. Yeah, the front of the room. That is so 20th century where schools are run like factories and one size education fits every child. Am I making it sound bad? Yes, because it is.
The second camp believes that we will reform education by making learning student-centered. That means that students get to choose what they learn with their teachers, they get to learn using 21st century tools such as mobile learning devices, blended learning, small class sizes, and social networking (and NOT just to make 20th century, lecture-style teaching, more modern – the focus is on using whatever method fits the individual learner and not the same thing for everyone). Mobile learning devices, blended learning, and social networking are the tools people use today and those are the tools that are defining what tomorrow will look like. The second camp knows that a free, public education is the only way everyone in this country, whether rich or poor, will have a chance at fulfilling the American dream. Without an effective free, public education the poor will always be behind the rich. That being said, a great education is not enough if poverty and its effects are not improved upon in this country. The effects of poverty are real and not an excuse. If your basic needs are not being met then how can you achieve?
These are the blogs I’ve written that give some resources and thoughts about education reform:
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) – my response to an article about a school making progress on improving standardized tests scores.
For standardized testing information visit my Assessment page.
Ed Reform? Okay. (Good links here.)
The Future of Education Webinar (This is my reflection and take aways from a webinar I attend on the future of education.)
We Are the Change We Need (This is what keeps me going. There is so much I want to see happen. I’m not sure it’ll happen in my lifetime but regardless I won’t stop working for it.)
Readings (More links to some good readings.)
Limited by Four Walls (This post is really me ranting but looking back it’s kind of me thinking through blended learning styles.)
Can I Be Excited Now? (My reflections and sharing with my staff after an inspiring staff meeting.)
Awards, Grades and Competition (These are some things the second camp wants to rethink and completely overhaul for the 21st century.)
Shift Does Happen (Example of a start to a school year with assemblies that did NOT include awards!)
I Celebrated Too Soon (Shortly after my post about no awards PBIS talks consider bringing back awards.)
Healthy Discussing (Post where I share an email I sent out to staff to continue the discussion over awards and students of the month).
Craving Acknowledgement (A few years after abolishing awards at our school kids and parents forget why we did it and start to miss and crave awards.)
Project-Based Learning (Here’s an idea of what education should look like for 21st century students.)
Dan Pink on Motivation (This is something that will change minds of those who believe in the first camp. I’m surprised it hasn’t changed their ways of thinking.)
Inquiry for Teachers (Some ideas for teachers to help us improve at our craft.)
PLN’s and PLC’s (This is how teachers should help each other improve. No raises or bonuses for improving test scores. Have teachers work together to become better educators!)
Innovative Schooling (where I ask for examples of non-traditional schools and how they work)
Innovators or Pioneers? (My thoughts on innovation in the 21st century.)
I’m bored. So what? (My thoughts on student boredom. If I don’t grade and give students the freedom to choose what to learn and how to learn it I don’t want to hear anything about being bored.)
Billy Jack and the Freedom School (The Freedom School from the Billy Jack movies was an innovative school!)
Leave with Your Students (One of the problems with budget cuts.)
Why Collaborate? (Asks the question to probe reasons why teachers need to work together as PLC teams.)
What is School For? (Discussion starter!)
Beyond the Textbook (Resources to keep up with the #beyondthetextbook discussion, what is the future of textbooks.)
A Plea for Education (A letter to a state Senator detailing what education in WA State needs.)
My Two Cents on Standards (My concerns over the Common Core and Next Generation standards.)
Response to Intervention (Reflections from a class I took the summer of 2012 on RTI and differentiation.)
Letter to the President (My letter to President Obama as part of a letter writing attempt urging our president to stop the direction his administration is headed with regards to education and education reform.)
Poverty Does Affect Achievement (Looking at results from our state Science test shows some interesting trends.)
Inspiring Our Students (A guest post from one of my 8th graders speaking about inspiration and motivation and how we can squelch that in our students.)
Skills to Focus On (Infographic showing skills most valued by employers. Does testing give kids those skills?)
Awesome Webinar on Feedback (Feedback is different, and better, than grading will ever be.)
Testing is Over (Things that are more important than testing yet testing takes time away from them.)
Is Variety Better? (Thoughts on offering students multiple pathways for learning and demonstrating learning instead of just test-prep.)
Time Out or Intervention? (Different ways to help students succeed in a typical classroom.)
Rules and Consequences (Kids need structure and even in a 21st century classroom sometimes consequences are needed.)
Are Students Learning? (Reflections on an aspect of our state’s teacher evaluation system.)
Teacher Evaluation? No. (Let’s call it Teacher Growth or Teacher Improvement or something.)
One Road or Many Paths (My thoughts on kids whose passions may not include engaging with our subjects.)
Holding Students Accountable (My continuing thoughts and reflections on what to do with students who will not engage no matter what I do.)
Teacher Motivation (A post I wrote responding to a question left as a comment on one of my 1 day strike posts.)
Best Practices Collaborative Document (A Google Doc with lists of best practices to engage our 21st Century students to learn in our classrooms. It’s up to us to bring education into the 21st Century!)
Arena Conferences (One of two ways to conference with parents in a middle school setting.)
Working in Isolation (I went to a great STEM Summit but all I could think of afterward is how isolated educators are and why PLCs and PLNs are so important.)
Here are a series of posts I wrote on the Shifts being asked of teachers in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS):
CCSS Shift 1, Part 1
CCSS Shift 1, Part 2
CCSS Shift 2, Part 1
CCSS Shift 2, Part 2
CCSS Shift 3
The Core Shifts the Way We Teach (all five shift posts in one post)
How to End the School Strong? (I shared a Radio Show where I was one of the guests!)
How Do You Engage Your Students? (A post about engaging as many students as you can. Engaging ALL students doesn’t happen all that often.)
My Favorite Education Podcasts (Great list of podcasts you should be listening to covering all the topics that I blog about!)