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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NCLB 2.0 / RT3 - What I like, What I don't, What I don't know

The New York Times article has outlined some of the discussion that will take place tomorrow as President Obama begins to pivot from health care to education.  I am assuming the NYT is actually correct in their preview.

What I Like

  1. Removing the "Pass-Fail" on schools whose students don't do well on tests.
  2. The 2014 deadline for proficiency by all students without regard to mental capability.
  3. The hope that schools will broaden their curriculum to maintain, reclaim, or include "art, history, science, physical education and other courses."
What I Don't Like
  1. The Direct Vagueness of this statement: “We’ve got to get accountability right this time,” Mr. Duncan told reporters Friday. “For the mass of schools, we want to get rid of prescriptive interventions. We’ll leave it up to them to figure out how to make progress.”  If I may paraphrase, it sounds like "Let's do this right! But we don't know how, so we will leave it to someone else, wait and see what happens, and then we'll decide if their actions can make us look good."
  2. Making this a mid-term election issue with the timing of August to "pass the law." Scaring parents into voting for your cronies by saying your kids will suffer if you don't.  Both parties will use this, and it should be condemned by all of us. Quit using kids as election tools.
  3. "The proposals would require states to use annual tests and other indicators"  statement smells of saying something that sounds right until you can determine what else to say.  What "other indicators" will be acceptable?
  4. Randi Weingarten...said of the proposal, “From everything that we’ve seen, this blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent of the authority.”  Once again, this is simply a major flaw in all education reform. Teachers have little authority beyond the bathroom pass, but we are the dog who gets kicked when those responsible for making the laws fail to delegate a certain level of authority.
What I Don't Know
  1. I don't know why someone won't include the students in the accountability statement. President Obama, in his September 2009 speech to school children, said something like, "Your teachers and parents are doing what they can to help you, but you (students) have to decide to want an education too."  So why not include students who fail these test "and other indicators" in the accountability phase? 
  2. I don't know why parents are not held accountable when they do not fulfill their responsibility as a caring parent.

Tangential Note  -  This is not just a case of semantics.

I also don't like when writers, speakers, politicians, and anyone else equate, RESPONSIBILITY with ACCOUNTABILITY. These words are not interchangeable, nor are they synonyms. One is not "HELD RESPONSIBLE" for a decision.  They are "HELD ACCOUNTABLE" for their responsibility.  "Held responsible" doesn't even make sense. 

For example:
Angry Parent:  Who is responsible for this watered-down, weak, teach-to-the test curriculum!?
Teacher: The President, Secretary of Education, U.S. Congress, Governors, and the State Congress is responsible for setting the rules under which we must function.
Angry Parent:  That's not what I mean! They don't teach my kids! Who can I yell at!?
Teacher: Well, believe it or not, even though I had no say, was not even asked, I am the one who is yelled at for their decisions.  I am held accountable for their decisions.
Less Angry Parent: That don't make no sense!
Teacher: I know, but this is America.  No one is accountable in the government anymore. Could that be why they have down-graded Social Studies, History, Government and other social sciences...they don't want you to really know how the system works?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great Information on Cell Phones from Liz Kolb

Shared with us on Dean Shareski's Elluminate session this evening.

<div style="width:425px" id="__ss_3391688"><strong style="display:block;margin:12px 0 4px">Why Cell Phones</strong></object><div style="padding:5px 0 12px">View more presentations from elizkeren.</div></div>

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Monday, March 08, 2010

#TEDxNYED - What's Up?-Who Cares?-So What?

Let me start by saying TEDxNYED was outstanding and all the other superlatives. The speakers (for the most part) were edutaining. The student-videographers of SLA were great, the people from Collegiate School were gracious and hospitable. The organizers created and carried out a fantastic day.

The audience was focused (though this may also be in thought and for the most part demographically).

NOW...

Following my nearly patented critical thinking format I seek to answer (or raise more questions) from the top three questions.

What's Up?
It is obvious education is on the bubble of change. Speakers alluded to the obvious all day. Technology, like oxygen, needs to be ubiquitous (the new jargonistic term for tech in education), yet only one reference to true ubiquity, mobile tools, that I recall (from Andy Carvin in reference to rescuing earthquake victims).

Education is changing. It will always be changing if it is true that "education is a process and not a product" as was a main tweet still in incubation. :)

In a very compact nutshell, that was the essence I think most everything fell under.

Who Cares?
There are some passionate people when it comes to educational change. Some hate testing so much the F-word received an ovation from a crowd that would normally have to write-up a student or send them to the office for disciplinary action. Not sure yet which will be remembered more: that the F-bomb was dropped or the total context (which was not standardized testing as I recall) in which the statement was made. Go back a view the talk.

Lessig spoke of the power that holds us back. The government. Perhaps lost on many attenders and viewers was the fact that Lessig was the only speaker with experience with policymakers. In attempting to make progress in what should be considered common sense (not just creative commons) Lessig's side lost in Washington. Any other verdict would have meant a loss of control and power for someone else.

Political thinking is a scarce commodity among educators. We are dreamers, and that is good. But we will not change the education system from the inside without political clout, which has systematically been taken away from us. We missed the signs.

Did we hear the message Lessig implied? He was rather clear, but protective. Sharing is part of the new economy, yet for more than a few generations we have been led to believe the democratic party is the one who supports sharing and the republicans are greedy. That is wrong. One can only share what one possesses: otherwise it is merely a Robin Hood syndrome of redistributing wealth.

Have educators been uneducated? Sharing is not about taking from one group to give to another (and I refer not just to tax-and-spend, redistribution of wealth ideas). Those who work hard and earn large sums of money are not greedy; they are successful in a market economy. A person's VALUES, not their political party, determines whether they are willing to give to others. Believing a politician from either party when they talk about education reform is simy not a good idea.

It is beyond time for all of us, not just educators, to vote for people not political parties. Parties represent power not ideas.

So What?
Will Richardson beat me to this, but I still hold a trademark for the short-lived magazine I published in the early 1990s called So What? Magalogue :)

One of the weaknesses of the TEDxNYED (maybe the only weakness) was having the final session called ACTION, with no true guidance toward action. Chris Lehman was a great closer as one who has successfully delivered a truly changed idea and practice of this thing we call school.

Dan Meyers demonstrated how a teacher changes things in the classroom by modifying the present model of delivery methods. We all need to become "less helpful" in order to develop students who think.

The most depressing moment for me actually came in the ACTION session when a college professor used PowerPoint with dozens of bullet points. That was such a counter-approach to change that I was embarrassed for the speaker in the context of TED. I know I risk a backlash since I live in the same state, but GA Tech does not have a teacher prep program, so I issue this as a challenge to grow into a better presenter. This was the moment I believe the other speaker who said Will Richardson should have been speaking.

Many people on Twitter, were critical of the quote-fest instead of backchannel conversation. That's fine. But I submit that during a presentation the quotes are the starting point for the conversation to begin.

Our problem is still that we are enamored by the technology. Yes we could backchannel, but at the risk of actually paying attention to the speakers. I'm weary of the multi-tasking mantra that only leads to partial digestion of the information. It leads to information indigestion, which could be why many of us believe we make such little progress in education reform. We are currently constipated and perhaps this is why those outside of education think teachers are full of excrement.

Now What?
This is my newly introduced 4th question. What should we do with what we now know? This is the where the bubble of educational change is in my mind. I, along with the majority of the TEDxNYEDers have been talking for a decade through blogs and now Twitter. We talk - A LOT. We write - A LOT. I know it is important to develop a baseline philosophy. As we have talked and written, politicians and scanning businesses have acted.

And school sucks for most of our kids and many of our teachers. It has become politically correct to bash educators and public education. It is time we started DOING something. Me included.

I had lunch with Dan Meyer and his wife. Lovely young couple. Dan challenged me, though I'm not sure he knew he did. He asked about my classroom. I told him of my small but significant successes with cell phone and other mobile devise my students are using. He said I needed to write up my work and get it out there. Truth- I don't mind the writing, just need to get someone to publish it. Sure, I can eBook, PDF, or self-publish but that seems to me to be more choir preaching. So it looks like I have some investigating to do. I guess that ACTION thing is really just another word for getting to work.

iPhoned
From R. Murry

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Waiting for the A-Train

Bought our MetroCard. Ready to hit the A-Train to 42nd Street. (Times Square).

iPhoned
From R. Murry

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Untitled

On plane. Takeoff in a few minutes. Several pictures posted at rrmurry.posterous.com

under New York Trip.

iPhoned
From R. Murry

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Trip to New York