Are They Really Paying Attention?

How closely do people create, approve and implement curriculum pay attention to what the job and career force need from future employees?

Do those who have say over curriculum strategically think about students’ career prospects?

I’m curious to know how they react to the World Economic Forum‘s top list of skills needed to be successful in both today’s and the year 2020’s workforce.

I’d also would love to know what skills they thought were important five years ago and how they, at least tried to bring those skills to the classrom, and if any of those skills prove to be useful.


Local Control and Property Taxes and Re-Allocating Funds

I was talking to a friend last night about property tax and the role it plays in widening the education gap between poor, middle class and wealthy communities. I started toying around with the idea of reallocating funds from relatively well funded schools/districts to nearby poor performing, low funded districts. My friend took the stance that funds,whether provided by the State or the district, should not be taken out of a particular district. I agreed that local funds, steming directly from a communities property taxes, should stay in the community but distribution of State taxes should be determined based on need. In other words, I’m not in favor for providing all districts with at least a minimum amount of funding, regardless of need.

My friend said the solution shouldn’t be to take away from any school and that it should be some other way to help students out of poverty. I tried to reason what this but couldn’t see how badly well funded schools can be affected. I gave her the following hypothetical:

With the use of both state and local funding from property taxes, a school on Long Island offers its students eight AP classes. There’s another school, twenty minutes away and in New York City, that can’t afford to offer their most talented students any AP classes, making them unable to effectively compete with the nearby Long Island school to get into the colleges that will provide them with the most opporunity to not only succeed in life but help them become independent adults. The State, noting these disparities, decides to take away, say, $2,000 from the Long Island School and give it to the New York City school. This action would, say, bring the Lon Island schools selection of AP clased down to six from right, as well as take away one extracurricular activity out of many. The New York City school would then have two AP classes, rather than zero and a well funded extracurricualr activity that really challeneges the participants. Is this the most effective move? Is this a fair move?

Even with this more detailed example, my friend said that regardless of how many programs a school has, if all students are equal, the State should provide them with equal funding. She believes that the eight-AP-class school should not be penalized, in anyway, so that the New York City school can have a fighting chance. She also said that suburban families should not have to take any amount from their children to proivde for city children, after all, they’re living in the suburbans to get away from the high expenses of city life and to give their kids a better education.

I disagree and , simply put, she essentially thinks I’m crazy. 

While I understand what she is saying to a certain extent, how are the children with no little opporunities, ever supposed to get opportunities? I love capitalism but in this respect, as a nation, we must say that we don’t really care that all children are properly educated because to do so would be too socialst and it would require us to take from people who already have and that wouldn’t be right…
We should just tell our kids that someone has to be shit and while there are riches all around you, that’s just not meant for you. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know we can’t save every child and there are parents living in poverty who don’t care about their children’s education. But there are also kids who start off with ambition but end up working at McDonald’s because they were never given a real opporutunites. To those people, we must acknowledge that they’re not the only people who have “failed” themselves. Our society plays a role in that failure. With that said, we shouldn’t complain when our taxes goes towards sysems like welfare and Medicaid. While there are some people who leech on welfare systems, there are plenty of people who are career, welfare depending Wendy’s employees who could have been fully independent individuals had they been given a chance to be more…

But that’s not our problem because, apparently, in order for anyone to be successful they need eight AP classes, rather than six. And those anyones are usually ones who can afford it.

From “Savage Inequalities”

Here’s a quote from the education policy classic Savage Inequalities:

We are preparing a generation of robots. Kids are learning exclusively though rote. We have children who are given no conceptual framework. They do not learn to think, becuase their teachers are straightjacketd by tests that measure only isolated skills. As a result, they can be given no electives nothing wonderful or beautiful, nothing that touches the spirit or the soul. [emphasis mine]

This is a quote from a Camden, New Jersey public high school principal. The sad part is that, if you read the quote today, and had no context, you wouldn’t be able to tell it was said in 1990. There are far too many public schools operating the same way today. Jesus. When will it get better?

S.A.’s Got-to-Go List’s Lawsuits

Success Academy refused to provide a five year old with adequate services to address his learning disabilities. Instead, they sent him home for early dismissal and called his parents nearly every day because he ciolated the Academy’s Code of Coduct. What’s more is that even after he the school formalized a plan that could remedy his disabilities (at least to a certain extent), they refused to actually put those simple remedies, such as deep breathing tactics and taking short walks, in place. They did not want to bend their strict Code of Conduct, which entails sitting upright at all times. Eventually, I.L.’s (he’s called I.L. for privacy) parents were told that I.L. was “not a good fit” for the school. I.L.’s parents removed him from the school.

I.L. was one of the students on the Sucess Academy-Fort Greene’s-should-be-infamous “Got to Go” list, which targeted students with learning and behavioral disabilities for permanant removal. His parents are suing the school, which is fantastic because now we can get a closer look at the gross injustices that students with learning disabilities face at militaristic charter schools. But it’s sad that Success Academy, with all its resources, doesn’t truly take the time  to help them. The initial idea behind charter schools was for them to work more closely with kids who have learning and behavioral problems. It’s clear by this list that Success Academy only cares about the students who are “willing to learn.” It also adds to the idea that charters push out the “bad” kids and use the public school system as a “dumpsite. Read more here.

Still The Same: Social Services Support

I’m currently reading Alex Kotlowitz’s nationally acclaimed book, There Are No Children Here, a book that displays the harsh affects that poverty has on children who live through it, day in and day out. Kotlowitz starts off by focusing on the violent and burdensome social lives of Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers but then dovetails into very important aspects of the poverty story that has often been said to not be affected by poverty: the school and education of the impoverished child.

Kotlowitz, before describing and connecting the affect that poverty has on Lafayette and Pharoah’s education, gives a general summary of what little resources the principal and teachers have to work with.

“Also, Suder [one of the local schools serving the few thousand kids growing up in the crime infested Horner projects] must share a nurse and psychologist with three other schools and a social worker with four other schools.”

Not only do the children live in poverty, but the schools themselves operate and function in poverty.

But this sentence resonated with me for another reason. My high school severed students from three large project developments. Even though these projects were similar, though less dangerous than Horner, it was obvious that a large number of my fellow classmates were behaviorally troubled because of their environment. What’s more is that my high school in 2010 shared a social worker with three other high schools, like Horner in 1987. Nearly a quarter of a century later and we still can’t admit that not acknowledging poverty as a real detriment to students academic and social success has much to do with why children who live through it can’t break the cycle.

I admire this book, because like How Children Succeed, it acknowledges that education needs more than “better” teachers. The problem is far more complicated than that.

Mini-Documentaries More Beneficial in Schools Than Lengthy Films

Short, precise and well thought out documentaries can be more useful and efficient alternatives to time sucking films, according to the NYT‘s “Film Club”, which produces 8-12 minute long mini-documentaries that are aimed at adding onto how students take in and reflect on various subjects.  I love the article’s emphasis on critical thinking skills. Each mini-documentary comes with supplement materials that help facilitate a conversation about topics such as the documentary’s purpose and individual student’s personal reflection and reaction to a documentary. But, what I think is more important is the encouragement for students to write down quotes or note parts that stood out to them. I think this is a great opportunity to allow students to pay attention and find what appeals to them (or what doesn’t) and then try to articulate (either orally or writing) why they feel the way they do. Rather than watching an hour long film, students can spend the class period watching a ten minue mini-documentary, five minutes on individual reflection, then break out into mini groups discussing their thoughts and answering questions tailored to provoking critical thinking skills. The teacher would pop-in on each group’s session, taking note of each students oral articulation skills and provide feedback to the student on a one-on-one basis at some point before week’s end.

Infographic: Outline of ESSA Goals

Here’s an EdTrust infographic about the seven key goals of ESSA.  Thoughts on two of my favorite points are below the infographic.


Point five and six are probably the most important. Five acknowledges that while parents play a huge role in their children’s academic development, ineffective teachers, consecutive ineffective teaching in particular teaching, is a huge problem in low income, minority school communities. Now, this isn’t to say I agree that three consecutive years of “good” teaching is sufficient to close the achievement gap. Nor does it mean that I’m in favor of punishing teachers who aren’t continuosly meeting academic goals. I entirely understand that there are many factors that play into how “effective” a teacher is. A lot of that lack of effectiveness has to do with a lack of effective professional development for teachers. What point five really highlights, to me, is the importance of mending this cycle that keeps the most disadvange students with the most ineffective teachers. A good start would be to track and follow how that cycle works, where it’s most pronounced and note any identifiable causes.

This sort of leads into the importance of point six, which is continued funding to low income communties. Im not too clear on what this funding includes specifically, but hopefully there’s an emphasis on Title II funding, which supports teachers’ professional development.

Success Academy Teacher Degrades First Grader, Maskowitz Defends

The New York Times published a video of Charlotte Dial, a Success Academy teacher, rip up a six year old’s work, while yelling at the girl in front of her whole class. The video shows a softspoken girl answering a question incorrectly, which caused Dial to explode. Dial sends the girl to a time-out chair, isolating the student from everyone else. The student calmly and respectfully listens to her teacher.

You’d think from Dial’s  disgusting tone of voice that the girl used profane language or coughed in her face. What’s more is that the girl wrote the right answer on her sheet but did not express that to her classmates when Dial requested. Dial could have easily said to the girl, “Sweetie, I know you know the right answer. I saw your work and I am proud of it. Can you please explain to the class how you did it? We’d all love to hear your explaination.” Even if the student contitnued to not give Dial the right answer, Dial could have said, “That’s okay. We’ll come back to you next time.”  Dial could have proceeded to have a side conversation with the student and her parent about her public speaking abilities.

In repsonse to the video, Eva Maskowitz, President of the 30+ Success Academy Charter network, held a press conference and went as far as saying that she was not going to throw Dial under the bus. Some may not find that disturbing, but the Times‘ video was secretly recorded by Dial’s former teacher assistant, who said that Dial behaved in a belittling and condescedning manner quite often. Maskowitz, at the conference, in her typical manner, disregarded the assitant’s direct experience with working with Dial, and insisted that this was a one time mistake for Dial. Maskowitz even went as far as calling out the NYT,  using a sign on the speaker’s podium that read: The New York Times: #StopBashingTeachers

 I think that it is shocking that when a newspaper distributes clear proof of what is said to be happening in some successful charter schools, one should not blame the publisher or its source for doing their job. Regardless of whether it was a one time incidient or not, she should pay the consequences for her ill-behavior and take responsibility for her wrongdoing. Besides, is it teacher bashing when the teacher clearly degraded a smart child in front of her entire class? Sounds to me like it is the other way around.

While Maskowitz talked about all of the pain Dial is going through as a result of her getting caught treating a child with such low regard, no one talked about the trauma the smart girl must have felt when her teacher publicly bashed her  for her shy ways…it pains me how Maskowitz completely misses the point of the NYT article.

Charlotte Dial (soft pink blazer), who teared at the conference but did not speak, was merely suspended for a week.

Elizabeth Warren on Lack of Enforcement of Major Breaches

You gotta love Elizabeth Warren! Her January NYT article reviews some of the biggest breaches of law that our government actively fails to enforce, even when millions of dollars have been knowingly tossed away for the sake of profit. She gives examples where companies out right commit fraud and are only given fees that the companies have no issue with paying–often times, the profits they reaped from breaking the law these companies far more money than the fine they had to pay.

While her examples are aimed a financial institutions, she makes sure to point out how mismanagement, distribution of inaccurate information and the loss of millions of dollars were occurring in both the pharmaceutical and educational industries.

She gave used EMC as an example:

When the Education Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest for-profit college, signed up tens of thousands of students by lying about its programs, it saddled them with fraudulent degrees and huge debts. Those debts wrecked lives. Under the law, the government can bar such institutions from receiving more federal student loans. But EDMC just paid a fine and kept right on raking in federal loan money.

As I always say, I’m deeply troubled why anyone would think for-profit schools can effectively work in favor of their students when they make financial promises to shareholders.

CT Governor Cuts $52 Million From Pub School Funding

Hey, I have a great idea: lets substantially decrease funding where it’s needed most and increase it where more funding can be provided by ready and willing philanthropists! Or, we can take the Governor of Connecticut’s lead:

Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million [emphasis mine] cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

Read the full article here.