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.

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.

Teachers Get One-Size-Fits-All Training

Pauline Zdonek, a Illionois teacher and math coach, wrote a blog post on Edutopia about the importance of  effective professional development. I won’t go into too much detail, but I can’t agree with the point of her post anymore: Teachers, like students, benefit from development geared towards their individualized needs more than non-applicable, repetitive information. We should want each teacher to leave a session learning something useful, rather than waste their time, as Pauline recounts in her post. The problem, she says, is that administrators apply a one size fits all technique, which ends up being so vague, no one can benefit it.

While it is hard to provide granular, one-on-one professional development for every teacher, any attempt to “meet the teacher where she is at” is a safe bet on making an actual improvement to her skill set. Pauline recounts the all too often situation is a teacher not being asked what she would like to gain from a training session but given a requirement to attend sessions, regardless if she walks away with meaningful, useful guidance or not.

Why do we expect teachers to be amazing when we don’t understand or care for how they’re being taught? Professional development needs to be a more transparent component of education as a whole. Perhaps professional development organizers could meet with a wide range of teachers and discuss what could be covered over a series of future professional development trainings. Or, if meeting is not possible, have students fill out a detailed survey that leaves plenty of room for open-ended answers, which would be sufficient to engage the teacher about how they can be accommodated. With that said, genuine professional development for teachers that takes their needs into consideration would just let teachers know that, just as students’ individual needs matter, theirs do too…because they are…students, after all.

I know reformers don’t like accommodating teachers, but I think PD accommodation is worth the investment, no?


Green Dot on Community Participation

Great blog post by Green Dot Public Schools. Reformers don’t emphasize familial and community involvement…they seem to hardly mention it! Let’s continue to pretend that teachers are the main, if not only, source of impact in students lives! When we put all the pressure on teachers, we’re saying that the family and school don’t affect student learning, whether it is positive or negative.

LA Charter Teachers Try to Unionize

In an article featured in the Wall Street Journal, Alliance Teachers’ continue their fight to become unionized.


Alliance College-Ready Public schools are trying to start a campaign that will lead the charter network’s teachers to be apart of the Los Angeles’ largest teachers unions. The network says the lack of a union is prominent reason why 95% of the network’s students go off to college. While Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, says that Alliance (and all charter school teachers) should be offered, among other thing, the right to more transparency (charters operate like private institutions).

My Initial Thoughts

The network misses the point. While it’s great that 95% of students go off to college, their teachers, a huge creditor to to this success, are saying that there thoughts, ideas and voices are NOT being heard and the culture is NOT one where they can comfortably express grievances without fearing their job is on the line.

My Biggest Issue with Alliance Teachers Joining the United Teachers Los Angeles

Unions acknowledge the fact that teachers have needs but a 369 page contract is too much and would defeat the purpose of Al Shankners’ vision of charter schools. At the same time, a teacher’s desire to try new content, make insightful curriculum or internal policy suggestions should not be muffled by non-educators who are on the school’s board of directors.

My Opinion

The charter network should work with teachers, UTLA and other independent charter specialists to create a new, independent charter that would find a solution that tries to meet the teachers’ needs and maintain the school’s success rate. It won’t be easy, but, at the very least, it takes the teachers seriously without having to compromise the network’s most effective policies.