Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wednesday, November 5: H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk

It's that time again...time for H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk. Teachers need a place to share ideas about teaching and learning. The goal of H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk is to provide that place, in close proximity to food and beer. This round's theme: Dignity.

If you've got a story to tell related to teaching, learning, and dignity, let me know! And, whether you got a story to tell or just want to listen, I hope to see you there. Info and contact here.

A couple things to think about from _Catalyst Chicago_

Catalyst Chicago had some food for thought recently--as it often does. 

Waukegan teachers and district are at an impasse in regards to pay and benefits, and have been for almost a month. (Update: They have reached an agreement and the hope is that school will start on Monday.)

Teachers need better pay and resources and to be treated like adults; legislators' policies and local/state funding priorities persist in not acknowledging this. It's maddening that we have not adjusted as a culture to a healthier education ecosystem.

However, kids have been out of school almost a month. The strike has been a big strain on libraries and other already strapped community resources, and on working parents. And think about the consequences for students, not only for learning, but in many cases for nutrition and safety.

Catalyst quoted an area principal that pretty much sums up not only the current consequences of the strike but the whole tragic frustrating mess of a dysfunctional education-policy/funding system. “It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on, it’s really obvious who’s getting hurt.” 

The other story that caught my eye goes in the Who Could Have Expected Anything Different file. Catalyst reports that enrollment in teacher-prep programs has declined. Poor working conditions, policies based on mistrust and micromanagement, unearned blame, low pay, little support, never-ending conflict...well, of course many young people don't wish to enter the profession. 

And also this: one person opted out of teaching because, while still in his teacher-prep program, he felt (quoting Catalyst here) “in the middle of an ideological war that surfaced in everything from state-level education policy on down to his course textbook, which had a distinct anti-standardized-testing bent.”

This really hit me, because...ugh. Because war, even ideological war, claims many unintended innocents.

Let's hope we emerge from this time of ideological conflict with a better, stronger, set of solutions for K-12 education.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Illinois Raise Your Hand and Park the PARCC

Well, since my last blog post, we've had two family weddings--one of them being mine. It wasn't a big to-do or anything, so I thought I could just sort of carry on with everything else in life, but guess what? One actually gets pretty immersed in such things. Everything is settled down, now. Please pardon the absence.

Now then: I recently(ish) had the pleasure of speaking with Wendy Katten of Illinois Raise Your Hand. This organization, headed by Wendy and run by a host of amazing and dedicated parents, does an incredible job of bringing substantial, high-quality, well-researched, real information to parents and the public about issues in education.

That was a lot of gushing, there. But they deserve it. The group is amazing.

IL Raise Your Hand is currently working to delay the new state test, PARCC. There are many reasons to delay this test, including your most basic cart-before-the-horse problem: Illinois and other states have not completed the implementation of the standards the PARCC is correlated to, so, even if the test itself were ready (it's not) it could not possibly capture a valid and reliable picture of students' progress.

If you've been following my blog you know that I think the violent rejection of the Common Core State Standards is largely a misdirected result of immense frustration and grief related to longstanding unresolved inequities in education. I don't hate all things Common Core. But I do hate illogical, meaningless, unnecessary high-stakes testing that could not possibly result in useful information. All this testing can make a person very nervous--and I'm not even the one being tested. I support the movement to park the PARCC. Here is Raise Your Hand's position paper and a petition to sign.

Pass it on.