Will The Common Core Work In Honduras?

Today, in lieu of our class on charter schools, we’re going on a field trip to Honduras.  I had an opportunity to join a mission group from Hillside Church in Ft. Worth, TX for a week in the town of Danli, which is about 2 hours east of Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras).  If you are interested in learning more about the workHillside is supporting in schools there, go to The Honduras Education Project.

A section of Danli was wiped out by a flood four years ago so the government relocated the residents of that area to Urrutia.  Below is a look at the community:

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The people living here are the lucky ones.  Many in the area live in houses like this:

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With help from the Rotary Club, the school now has two classrooms for mixed grade-level instruction.IMG_5534

The classrooms don’t have electricity but do have a bathroom (without a sewage system).

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Kids have to walk to school on dirt roads.  None of the homes have sewage systems either so you don’t want to walk in the “water” on the road.

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Another area we visited had a multi-classroom school.  Most places in Honduras have barbed-wire on top of high walls.

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Inside the compound of this school there are about 10 classrooms and an auditorium.

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The “cafeteria” is quite different from those in the U.S.

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You can get a good tortilla there.

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Schools welcomed us in to give testimony of our faith and to pray with the students.

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Kids enjoyed the skits we put on about Jonah and the whale.

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The Gates Foundation and other supporters of the Common Core, large-scale testing, and tying test results to teacher evaluations think that those systems will help U.S. kids in poverty escape from their environment.  These “reformers” believe the existing conditions in poverty-ridden urban areas are irrelevant to improving education – just give them a better curriculum.  Do you think these “reformers” would also believe that implementing those same systems in Honduras would help these kids out of poverty?

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Teachers: Tell Me How You Feel About the Upcoming PARCC or SBAC

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Dear Friends,
I began this blog because I am concerned about all the issues that are negatively affecting public education.  Recently I have been reading about the issue of parent (and as a result, legislator) concerns about the upcoming PARCC and SBAC assessments.  I think it’s important to find out what teachers feel about these assessments so I designed an online survey just for teachers.  The survey is only 13 questions long and should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.  All responses are anonymous – there is no way to track a response back to the person who completed it.
I am asking your help in one of two ways:
1) If you are a classroom teacher, please take the survey and forward this message to your fellow teachers.
2) If you are not a classroom teacher but know some, please forward this to them and ask them to take it.  Before forwarding you can check out the survey by clicking the link below – just don’t hit “Submit” at the end of the form.  It’s just for current teachers.

Click below to take the survey:

If you are interested in the results, please check my blog in late March.
Thanks

Vision 20/20 – A Step in the Right Direction

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Many people (me included) have spent a lot of time wringing their hands over what Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, the Walton clan, and the Koch brothers are doing to public education.  As previously posted, I believe a big reason they have gained such a foothold in the conversation is because we the public educators have been too silent.   That’s why I am so optimistic about an effort called Vision 20/20. Their policy brief can be found here and the Executive Summary here.

Vision 20/20 is an effort by six professional associations to take back control of the conversation and influence the political decisions shaping public education here in Illinois.  The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO), Illinois Principals Association (IPA), Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS), Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD) came together in November, 2012 to create Vision 20/20 and finalized their recommendations two years later.

They recognized that control of public education was slipping away from the professionals into the hands of non-educators.   They promote public education, saying, “As public educators, we believe public education works. We reject the premise that education in Illinois has failed but recognize its impact has not been equitably delivered to all student populations and that there are opportunities for continuous improvement.”

Vision 20/20’s stated outcomes are clear:

Conscious that no single legislative attempt at school improvement can be developed, implemented, or find success without the support, devotion, and hard work of all stakeholders, Vision 20/20 asks not just for state action, but also for local action and the support of educators across the state to fulfill the promise of public education. On behalf of the over two million schoolchildren in Illinois, we challenge the State Legislature, the Governor, and all stakeholders to take action.

Their report includes 24 state policy recommendations in four major areas, as described in their Policy Brief:

Highly Effective Educators – The quality of teachers and school leaders is the greatest predictor of student achievement schools can influence. By attracting, developing, and retaining our state’s best educators, we can have a profound impact on student learning.

21st Century Learning – For success in life, students need more than knowledge of math and reading. It is time to expand the definition of student learning, commit to the development of the “whole child,” and invest in policies proven to link all schools to 21st century learning tools.

Shared Accountability – A quality education for all Illinois students cannot be ensured without the collaboration, compromise, and hard work of both educators and legislators. With that in mind, it is necessary to expand educator responsibility in the legislative process, create a shared accountability model, and restructure mandates to allow more local district flexibility.

Equitable and Adequate Funding – All students in Illinois are entitled to a quality education. It is our duty to ensure our students have access to all necessary resources by improving equity in the funding model, appropriating adequate dollars for education, and allowing local school districts the autonomy needed to increase efficiency.

They are taking Vision 20/20 to local schools boards and asking them to endorse the plan – over 180 districts have done so already.  Their next step is to take the policy recommendations to the state legislature and try to get them enacted.  These are good steps forward, an attempt to make the needs of public schools be heard over the din of Common Core, budget woes, and high-stakes testing.  Their voice would be much louder with the addition of the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.  Together, perhaps they can reclaim the right to shape education in Illinois.

Gates Foundation. Good Charity or Bad Charity? Final Thoughts

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David Tyack and  Larry Cuban’s book Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform is one of my favorite books.  They chronicle how Americans have viewed public education as a means to building a better society.  From one-room schoolhouses in the 1800s to the influx of immigrants in the early 1900s to the response to Sputnik in the 1950s, Americans have shaped the purpose of public education.  Americans – not just one person. Not a foundation.

When did we, as a society, give up our responsibility to determine the purpose of public education?  I can remember back in 1985 when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) went hat-in-hand to the Illinois legislature (again) for a bigger budget and the response was, “If you want more money, you’re going to have to show us that you’re worth it.”  State-wide student testing began shortly thereafter.  The purpose of education then became, “Earn your keep by showing me how good your schools and teachers are” which was not a societal need but an economic one.  Building a better society using public education doesn’t exist in the American consciousness today – and as we know, nature abhors a vacuum.

So if we are unwilling to fill the vacuum of societal purpose for public education, who will?  Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffett.  They said “College Ready” is American’s societal need and they have defined for public education how to meet that need:

  • Create a standardized “American” curriculum
  • Provide professional development to teachers to ensure they teach to that standard curriculum correctly
  • Evaluate teachers to see if they are teaching the standard curriculum correctly, and if they don’t, remove them from the classroom
  • Use technology to implement the standard curriculum

America didn’t set this agenda.  Recognizing this, the Gates Foundation hedged their bet that American public schools might not want to accomplish their agenda so they support charter schools and alternative schools to demonstrate how it should be done.  They pour money into national professional organizations and to the Council of Chief State Officers to get the Foundation’s agenda done.

“College Ready” is America’s need?  Those kids in Naperville and Winnetka were born “College Ready”.  What a frickin’ joke to the kids in Chicago who are just hoping to survive long enough to make it to the safety of their school tomorrow.

Why did we allow them to control the conversation about the educational needs of America?  How did it come about that the Gates Foundation is telling us, the education professionals, how to do our business?  The sad part is, we let them do this to us because we wouldn’t do it ourselves.  We, as a profession, have been reluctant to get involved in politics, to write the newspapers about what schools need, to stand up and tell someone outside of the teacher’s lounge what our kids need.  Until we, as a profession, are willing to tell everybody what America’s kids need, the billionaires and their foundations will fill the void.

Next time: Vision 2020 tries to fill the void