March 6, 2014

BAT Dance

I have had enough with all these so called “progressive” education reform groups who want to change (revamp, renew, restructure, etc…) policy and practice but are barely able to change the toner in their printer.  They act, ironically enough, like the millennial students they lament are entitled and whiny.

I have never seen the level of discourse from “well intentioned” folk be this divisive, and more importantly, this divergent.  It’s well beyond two ships that pass in the night.  One is a ship and the other is a whale.  We are not even relating as the same species. What is even more problematic is that these same folk see their students continuously, even though some think they are not, through their deficits rather than their assets.  For me, this cannot stand.

A few years ago in 2011, I braved the extreme humidity of Washington DC and drove down from Philadelphia for an event entitled “Save OurSchools (SOS) Million Teacher March.”  I am not sure what I was expecting to see, having been witness to many of the largest civil rights marches of the 1990s in Washington (Million Man March, March for Women’s Lives, 30th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March of 1963, just to name a few). What I saw when I arrived was a small stage with an even smaller number of individuals (5000 according to SOS estimates, but even fewer in my opinion). I was encouraged to come down based on the number of key speakers who I have generally philosophically aligned myself with – Deborah Meier, Jonathan Kozol, Pedro Noguera and Diane Ravitch.  I was anticipating that their presence would lend some levity, and most importantly historical perspective, surrounding the cyclical nature of American public education.  Unfortunately their words were drowned out by those yelling for an end to high-stakes testing, to reclaim public education and the incessant complaints that teachers were being “bashed” by policies that were designed to “privatize” the profession.

Fast forward three years and while SOS is still kicking (albeit on life support), another new organization has taken hold across social media – Badass Teachers Association (BATs).  There is a great deal of overlap, but their two biggest gripes are Common Core and high-stakes testing. They too are holding their own “march” in Washington this coming July (doesn’t anyone know how hot is it in DC in July?!?!).  They have even created a 10 point “Contract” in which they are DEMANDING change (see picture to right).  To me they first need to come to grips with a few things concerning what I have dubbed “Politics 101” before even being considered serious challengers to the status quo, and more importantly achieving meaningful reform.

In many of these so called progressive organizations demanding to “reclaim public education, White privilege, which I mentioned begrudgingly in last week’s post, has completely taken hold. In organizations such as BATs, Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), and to some extent Teachers Action Group (TAG) (just to name a few), much of the so called “leadership” claims repeatedly that they are “inclusive of all perspectives.”  What does this mean?  It means that too many within the leadership and rank and file of these organizations clamoring to be the “saviors” of public education know very little if anything about the history of the schools they are trying to save. 

For example, imagine the dialogue if folk had a better understanding of the history of some of their biggest gripes – Teach for America (TFA), high-stakes testing and charter schools (just to name a few). I am far from naïve. While I do not believe that simply understanding the history of TFA, testing or charters (especially local charters) would mean an end to the incessant “bashing” and complaining, I do think we would be better off in regards to having a higher level of sophisticated discourse and respect pertaining to the educational the landscape.

Here’s a quick point by point critical examination of the BATs 10 point plan, err I mean list of demands:

  1. Replace Common Core (CC) with??? What would high expectations and standards look like for BATs and others who critique Common Core?
  2. This is intended to critique Race to the Top (RttT).  What percentage of student’s test scores in a teacher’s evaluation would be acceptable?  If the answer is zero, replace it with what?  Same with high-stakes testing, replace this accountability measure with??
  3. Since the 1983 report A Nation at Risk the Federal government has been arguing that public schools are in decline.  What have large comprehensive public school districts done correct in the last 30 years that warrant their blind trust?
  4. The curriculum in each district and school should be chosen at the local level.  Standards are not curriculum.  There is a difference.
  5. What you’re really saying is replace Arne with Diane.  Tell the truth! Please show me the empirical or peer reviewed evidence that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of Duncan as compared to his predecessors.
  6. Equity, adequate and appropriate are buzz words for give me what I want without qualification.  If there is an increased costs, who pays?
  7. No problem here.  Looks like you’ve got one right…
  8. ALL Public schools are public.  The information you seek exists out there.  Should we make Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and other confidential information public?  I think not. Free speech is not free.
  9. Classic example of blaming the victim.  TFA is a product of an environment that has placed an undue burden on urban underserved schools to staff their buildings.  Too many “veteran” teachers upon reaching tenure run from these schools.  A better “demand” would be a formula that all schools have to have a percentage of a combination of TFA, Vets (3-5yrs, 6-10yrs, etc) and other teachers.
  10. The protections of these important populations already exists.  No school is perfect for every population.  There has to be an honest acknowledgement that there is a need for some specialization and some differentiation between schools in a district.  One size does not fit all. 

No comments:

Post a Comment