The Luxury of Learning is Lost



high172b

copyright © 2004, 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

This treatise was written in 2004, only two years after the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The No Child Left Behind Act, requires annual assessment of students in grades 3 through 8. It further requires states and schools to meet “adequate yearly progress” by increasing test scores (NASP, 2002).  Labels, based solely on the results of high-stakes assessments, began a history of hurts.

The words said were, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”  The speaker stated that she loved the bliss. The extravagance that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a style that creates wisdom, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this way is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility?  If this is true, it is sadness.  The greater sorrow is that this Educator’s testimony is not an anomaly.  

To believe that teaching in this fashion is a “luxury” and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. Yet, I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this?  When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in education?  How could this Instructor consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly acquire knowledge as a lavish pursuit?  As much as I wondered; I knew.

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

~  Jacques Barzun

Days have past and the words still haunt me. I can no longer ignore what occurs in many, if not most classrooms.  Regardless of the how I might teach or experience students and their studies, my truth is not universal. I must acknowledge, the painful reality, that exists each and everyday. I read of it in the newspapers, in editorials, in professional journals, and in books. I hear of it from friends, from family, from any, and many that have even the smallest sense of what is going on in our nation’s schools. I speak with instructors, and others who are familiar with the current crush in “education.”  There are reasons for the angst, for apprehension.

Indeed, the policies and practices in our schools, throughout this Nation, cause much trepidation. Teachers are told, “Teach to the tests!”  Even when the words are not articulated aloud, it is well known “achievement is the one and only agenda” that matters. Policymakers, Principals, and even the public-at-large have placed America’s Teachers on trial.  Perform or punishments will follow.  Students too stand before judges and juries. The young, just as their schools, are rewarded for excellence.  Dollars are delivered for good grades. Moms, Dads, and the Federal Government come bearing gifts when children succeed, chastised when they fail. Each presumes that the Teacher is the catalyst.  She or he makes great things happen. If an Instructor does not . . . damn and hell fire will be their just reward.  Please may I share the story that forced me to face a stark veracity . . .

I begin with a bit of background.  Currently, I am employed as a substitute teacher, what some so sweetly call a “Guest Teacher.”  I have a Master of Arts degree in Education, with a focus on Instructional Systems. I am credentialed in Psychology, Social Science, English, Art, Computer Concepts, and Computer Applications. I taught at the University level, instructing in the Teacher Credentialing programs. While I received my degrees, my own formal education continues. Therefore, you might guess that education is important to me. It is!

As an Educator, one who has had her own classroom, created her own curriculums, taught those who were training to become Teachers, and who recently “visits” classrooms that are not hers, I recognize what might be characterized as an “uncommon core standard,” be sensitive to authentic learning,

Young children long to learn.  Tweens and teens crave abiding knowledge.  Those just broaching adulthood are bursting at the seams; “Teach me” is the tune frequently hummed. Wisdom is the want.  We each wish to reach higher intellectual heights and pass on what we have learned.  More so than “scholastic success,” a love of learning is what I wish to facilitate.  True love remains alive through eternity. A fondness for the act of acquiring knowledge becomes habit easily retained.  

Today, and I mean that literally, education is governed by rigid regulations. There are ample frustrations throughout learning and teaching. It seems that for many, it is just as Einstein expressed, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

It is for this reason that I am sharing an account of a day in the life of an Educator. I wish to advance awareness and to open a discussion for what many experience daily. I ask each of us to consider what occurs when we concentrate on the concrete. I believe that when we do, we all lose. The luxury of learning, teaching, and being is lost.  Students no longer have the opportunity to truly understand what teachers are attempting to teach.  Nor do our offspring love their growth. We have also lessened the opportunities for instructors to connect with the students and for students to connect to a subject.

From my own life history, I believe that if we do not love learning, then we do not choose to develop the habits that create a deep desire to investigate, innovate, or imagine, especially on our own. I believe that if we focus on creating a devotion for erudition, a curriculum that demonstrates care for the student, for the subject, and one that is sensitive to the nuances of the process of progression, then and only then will true success will be guaranteed.

If you think this but an unproven theory, please consider the analogy.  You did not exit the warmth of the womb walking and talking.  Indeed, the shock of your entrance into an Earthly existence likely caused you to cry.  Someone might have stroked your head before you felt calm.  Days, weeks, and months went by before what adults would label an intelligible peep was heard from your mouth.  It may have been longer before you stood up and took your first step.  

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson [American Lecturer, Poet, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism]

It is with this thought in mind I say, adults must trust that change in a brain and a being comes from within.  Evolution, edification, is slow and subtle.  Transition arrives without fanfare.   Teachers teach. Students, just as sponges absorb lessons.  The two talk with each other.  All are challenged to learn anew, or at least that is what I thought would occur in schools.  On occasion, it did, does, and will; however, from my experience the likelihood lessens each day.

The other day I was teaching in a Social Science classroom. I was working with students who I have worked with often over the last two years. Frequently, their teacher requests that I assist in her absences. She has shared that she values my desire and ability to facilitate understanding. Jennifer Mellon has had many an occasion to observe me teach. Often, she is involved with Committee work and therefore, is on campus running in and out of the classroom when I am there.  Actually, her daughter was once a student of mine.  Hence, Jenn also knows of my pedagogy from a parent’s perspective.  Our familiarity is vast and all good.

On this day, Mrs Mellon asked that I have the class read and discuss seven to ten pages. I was told not to go farther for she, the contracted teacher, would prefer to save the next lesson for another day.

As we read and discussed, I asked the students to reference a portion and then share, in their own words, the meaning of what they just read. I know for myself and I have verified that this is true for others, many can read aloud and then not know what was read. Therefore, I always invite students to take the time to breathe and begin to internalize the words that they recite aloud.

Many in prosperous and professional communities, such as the one in which I work, can and do this well or so it seems. I realize that appearances can be deceiving. Often, when asked if they comprehend the ideas and the concepts, the meaning behind the words, students repeatedly admit that they do not understand these. They cannot offer similar concepts; they are unable to relate the material to their own life experiences, nor do they truly grasp the greater significance. Many, most, and often all confess that they can recite and regurgitate as expected or as needed to appear knowledgeable, yet they do not truly understand or internalize the information.

Therefore, I discuss the readings further, present parallels, share stories that suggest similarities between the lives of the students and the lives of those that they, or we, are studying. These enliven the essence of the lesson. As I do, and did on this day, as I ask questions that assist them in sensing the similarities between themselves and the text, I discovered a captive audience, one that cares to learn, asks questions, offers comments, and is engaged. I discover students no longer feel lost. Learning looms large when I take the time to stimulate the student’s thinking and reflecting.

Today, as on many others, each of us, the students and I, feel enriched and enlightened. These exchanges are educational; they create a joy in learning. Students often tell me that these discussions, the drawing of parallels, are not only memorable, they help them to truly learn.

Then it happened, and I learned again, what I would rather forget. In reviewing the day, I mentioned to the students’ teacher, Jennifer, that we as a class were energized, the text was meaningful, and the discussion exhilarating. However, we did not finish all of the pages she assigned. She sighed deeply. She expressed her dread for falling behind; the need to complete the curriculum as the calendar dictates, and then she said it, teaching in a manner that stimulates students so that they truly understand, well, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”

Sadly, the lesson learned is that what I do, what I did, what many educators do, and would prefer to do again, evoking authentic learning through deeper discussions, facilitating learning that lasts a lifetime, creating curriculums that are energizing and enjoyable for all, is a luxury, one that is lost. I wonder what have we created.

Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own.

– Confucian text


I do not wonder why this Teacher, or why so many Educators throughout this nation no longer have, or feel that they have, the opportunity to truly teach. I do reflect on why it is that now, capital and careers are more important than learning. I contemplate and I inquire of those who profess, propose, and then impose policies that stress schedules, simplistic, narrow and naive standards.  Please explain this to me.  Why are our loves, learning and inspirational instruction lost?  What of our offspring, their education, and their Teachers? What will the future bring?

businesscard.aspx

The Good School; Principals or Principles



copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

The Good School; Principals or Principles



A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

    businesscard.aspx

  • The Good School; Principals or Principles



    copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   Every  association offers guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

    Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

    There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

    Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

    “It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

    We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

    The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

    However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

    In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

    No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

    Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

    The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

    Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

    businesscard.aspx

  • The Luxury of Learning is Lost

    copyright © 2004 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    The words said were, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”  The speaker stated that she loved the luxury. The luxury that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a manner that creates learning, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this manner is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility?  How sad.  

    Now, to believe that teaching in this fashion is a “luxury” and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this?  When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in teaching?  How could or would she consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly learn, an extravagance?  I wondered why, and yet I knew.

    Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. – Jacques Barzun  

    Days have past and the words still haunt me. The idea saddens me. I no longer wonder, for I knew then and sadly, I must now acknowledge that I do know. I know, for I experience it each and everyday. I read of it in the newspapers, in editorials, in professional journals, and in books. I hear of it from friends, from family, from any, and many that have even the smallest sense of what is going on in our nation’s schools. I speak with instructors, and others that are familiar with “education” as it exists today, and there is much concern. The policies and practices that are present in our schools, throughout this Nation, cause much trepidation.

    Currently, I am employed as a substitute teacher, what some so sweetly call a “guest teacher.”  I have a Master of Arts degree in Education, with a focus on Instructional Systems. I am credentialed in Psychology, Social Science, English, Art, Computer Concepts, and Computer Applications. I taught at the University level, instructing in the Teacher Credentialing programs. After receiving my degrees, my own formal education continues. Therefore, you might guess that education is important to me. It is!

    As an educator, one that has had her own classroom, created her own curriculums, taught those that were training to be come instructors, as one that has recently “visited” classrooms that are not her own, and as one that has been a student, I recognize the need to be sensitive to authentic learning rather than to the appearance of academic achievement. More so than academic achievements, a love of learning is what I would wish to facilitate.  

    I acknowledge that there are achievements today or the appearance of these; some students truly are accelerating academically, though I wonder if they are truly learning. However, on any and many days, I experience, just as other educators do, that students, even in the best of schools, and even the best of students, no longer read the text for meaning; they simply search for answers, short and simplistic answers. I not only experience and observe this; I ask students if this is true. I listen to their admissions. I hear their perplexing sighs when asked of their work and of their learning and their answers concern me.

    Students often share that they can master the art of test taking and yet, they do not fully understand the concepts. They state that they do not know how the information relates to the subject, to their lives, or to the wider world. They express that they can read and recite the words, and yet they do not comprehend the content or the context. Oh, yes, they can answer questions, regurgitate the text; nonetheless, when you ask them to explain these in their own words, even those pupils that seemingly can paraphrase what they read tell me that they do not truly connect to the meaning. When asked to probe more deeply, to present a parallel from their own lives, they express that they are lost!!!

    Teachers also express their own sense of feeling lost. They are lost in imposed schedules and lost in a simplistic stress on standards. They are saturated; they must create a credible trail, one that validates that the subjects are being taught well and that students are learning. The trail, or the trial, is in the test results. Students and teachers are now lost in statistics. Today, in our nation’s schools the focus is on the visible and verifiable. Yet, learning and facilitating growth are neither of these. Nonetheless, in our frenzy to find validation for what we are doing or not, we wok to produce a product, our pupils scores present a pretense of success. Genuine learning and true teaching are also lost. It seems that gaining knowledge and inspiring instruction are now missing from our Nation’s classrooms.



    In teaching, you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.
     – Jacques Barzun

    At times, the fruit of “teaching” is invisible for a lifetime. For those that are forced, or feel a need to feed only formulas, facts, and the foundation necessary for gaining knowledge, never create what bares the fruits of learning. This is true even in the best of schools. I experience this in a community that is elite and highly educated. Just as those in schools that are fighting to survive, learners and instructors are coping with the stress of scoring and testing strategies. The level of angst is felt within all districts, dioceses, and in corporations that deliver educational services. I am aware that, now, education is governed by rigid regulations. There are ample frustrations filtered through the fulfillment of learning and teaching. It seems that for many, it is just as Einstein expressed, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

    It is for this reason that I am sharing an account of a day in the life of an educator; I wish to advance awareness and to open a discussion for what many experience. I would like to ask each of us to consider what occurs when we concentrate on the concrete. I believe that when we do, we all lose much. Students no longer have the opportunity to truly understand what teachers are attempting to teach; nor do they often love their growth. We have also lessened the opportunities for instructors.

    From my own life history, I believe that if we do not love learning, then we do not choose to develop the habits that create a deep desire to investigate, innovate, or imagine, even on our own. I believe that if we focus on creating a love for learning, a curriculum that demonstrates care for the student, for the subject, and one that is sensitive to the nuances of the process of progression, and then success will be guaranteed.

    The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. – Ralph Waldo Emerson [American Lecturer, Poet, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism]

    The other day I was teaching in a Social Science classroom. I was working with students that I have worked with often over the last two years. Frequently, their teacher requests that I assist in her absences. She has shared that she values my desire and ability to facilitate understanding. She has had many an occasion to observe me teach. On this day, she asked that I have the class read and discuss seven to ten pages. I was told not to go farther for she, the contracted teacher, would prefer to save the next lesson for another day.

    As we read and discussed, I asked the students to reference a portion and then share, in their own words, the meaning of what they just read. I know for myself and I have verified that this is true for others, many can read aloud and then not know what they read. Therefore, I always ask students to take the time to breathe and begin to internalize the words that they read aloud.

    Many in prosperous and professional communities, such as the one in which I work, can and do this well or so it seems. I realize that appearances can be deceiving. Often, when asked to provide a parallel, or if they understand what the words mean, when asked if they comprehend the ideas and the concepts, the meaning behind the words, students repeatedly admit that they do not understand these. They cannot offer similar concepts; they are unable to relate the material to their own life experiences, nor do they truly grasp the greater significance. Many, most, and often all confess that they can recite and regurgitate as expected or as needed to appear knowledgeable, yet they do not truly understand or internalize the information.

    Therefore, I discuss the readings further, present parallels, share stories that suggest similarities between the lives of the students and the lives of those that they, or we, are studying. These enliven the essence of the lesson. As I do, and did on this day, as I ask questions that assist them in sensing the similarities between themselves and the text, I discover a captive audience, one that cares to learn, asks questions, offers comments, and is engaged. I discover students no longer feel lost. Learning looms large when I take the time to stimulate student learning.

    On this day, as on many others, each of us, the students and I, feel enriched and enlightened. These exchanges are educational; they create a joy in learning. Students often tell me that these discussions, the drawing of parallels, are not only memorable, they help them to truly learn.

    Then it happened, and I learned again, what I would rather forget. In reviewing the day, I mentioned to the students’ teacher that we as a class were energized, the text was meaningful, and the discussion exhilarating. However, we did not finish all of the pages she assigned. She sighed deeply. She expressed her dread for falling behind; the need to complete the curriculum as the calendar dictates, and then she said it, teaching in a manner that stimulates students so that they truly understand, well, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”

    Sadly, the lesson learned is that what I do, what I did, what many educators do, and would prefer to do again, evoking authentic learning through deeper discussions, facilitating learning that lasts a lifetime, creating curriculums that are energizing and enjoyable for all, is a luxury, one that lost. I wonder what have we created.



    Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own. – Confucian text


    I do not wonder why this teacher, or why do many teachers throughout this nation no longer have, or feel that they have, the luxury to truly teach. I do wonder why it is that now, capital and careers are more than important than learning. I wonder and I ask; I ask those that profess, propose, and then impose policies that stress schedules, simplistic, narrow and naive standards, to please explain this to me.

    I wonder why the rote, routine, rehearsed, and rigid is more reassuring to the masses than real learning is. I wonder why scores, statistics, and strategies have supplanted an interest in our students. I wonder why we settle for “standards” and no longer allow the minds of our students and teachers to soar. I wonder when we will learn and when will our classroom objectives parallel those we have for our future.

    Post Script . . . Not long after my own writing, the Los Angeles Times offered another illustration of how students are shortchanged. I offer this reading for your review. Please review and reflect upon this report from the Sunday, November 28, 2004, Los Angeles Times.“Are Schools Shortchanging Students”