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If you’re an Iowan, wear pink tomorrow

Pink slips tweet

Tomorrow is #PinkApril30, so named because of the unfilled teaching positions and educator pink slips that Iowa school districts will have next year because their operational funding won’t be enough to keep up with inflation despite our state’s strong economy and full reserves. It’s been an extremely disappointing year as we’ve watched our House propose to cut funding from both our public schools and our public universities. We’re already underfunded compared to most states and we know that investments in our youth are critical for current and future success, yet we are disinvesting in our children and instead finding new ways to reduce state revenue. It looks like we’re trying to be Kansas (sorry, Kansans).

Will wearing pink do anything to break apart our legislators’ intransigence? Will wearing pink do anything to force our policymakers to compromise? Will wearing pink do anything to give our schools what they need to keep the lights on and the buses running? No, probably not, but it might at least make you feel a little solidarity with the rest of us who are so dang frustrated…

Said No Iowan Ever

Privileging the spreadsheet over the individual

Carl Hendrick wrote:

in many schools it would appear that teachers are working significantly harder than the pupils in their charge, and not so much because the kids are lazy but rather because of an institutionalised miasma that is obsessed with measuring everything (usually poorly) that privileges the spreadsheet over the individual and which has infantilised the process of learning to such a degree that actually knowing stuff is deemed less important than merely appearing to know stuff

via http://staffrm.io/@carlhendrick/dmRoWd4V1D

It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics

Storm cell

It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics. For example…

Our governor wants Iowa schools to return to the top of the NAEP rankings and reclaim their ‘world class’ status but is endorsing a 1.25% budgetary increase that doesn’t even keep up with inflation (while requesting a 9% increase for his own office). As a result, most schools will have to cut people just to keep the lights on and the buses running. We can expect teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and other disinvestments in the needs of students, despite a solid state economy and a healthy reserve. We may fall as low as 40th in per-pupil spending. So much for being a state that allegedly cares about education.

Our outdated school start date legislation clearly fails to meet the needs of schools (336 out of 338 school districts asked for a waiver last year) but suddenly is being tightly enforced. Our state department of education says that it believes in principles of ‘local control’ but then this year notified districts that it no longer would automatically grant school start date waivers and that essentially every reason they might give for an earlier start date will not be considered legitimate. The school start date consternation is apparently being driven by the tourism industry. Educational needs are being given short shrift.

Of course we’re seeing lots of posturing from both sides of the political aisle (e.g., polarizing comments, Twitter wars, and ‘public’ hearings in rooms that are too small for the public to attend). And we’re seeing some really goofy stuff occurring during what should be important discussions and debates.

We’ve got a superintendent who’s decided he must break the law just to meet the needs of his district’s students. He’s being condemned by some legislators, despite the fact that they themselves break the law year after year when it comes to meeting deadlines for setting school spending authority.

Last week we were notified that our state department of education has now chewed up and spit out its second talented director in less than two years. We’ve got a misbegotten student retention law that’s about to go into effect. Our state assessments don’t align with our state standards. Budgets for our regional educational agencies – which provide essential services to our districts – keep getting reduced. And we’re starting to see proposed legislative attacks on teacher unions that are inconsistent with our rhetoric that we honor and develop teachers. I don’t know if we’re one of ‘those states’ yet when it comes to education but it sure seems like we’re getting closer.

After last year’s legislative session I said to several folks that I was glad it was quiet and positive compared to years past. Apparently last year was just the calm before the storm… [sigh]

Image credit: Storm cell, Tom Gill

Nostalgic for factual recall

The memorize cassette

Two quotes from today’s article in The Des Moines Register, Iowa Poll: Common Core not so radioactive for Iowans:

Ah, the good old days

When Iowa Poll respondents opposed to Common Core standards were asked about their objections, some lamented the shift from traditional teaching methods such as rote memorization of facts and formulas to a focus on more critical thinking.

Because we’ve learned nothing about teaching math in 50 years

Civil engineer Jack Burnham Jr., a 40-year-old independent voter, also has a “very negative” view. “I’ve got a math primer from the 1960s,” he said. “That math worked just fine.”

Shifting the public’s conceptions about learning and teaching is an ongoing, uphill battle…

Image credit: the memorize cassette, Robert Oxford

Hiding data from the public

Mercedes Schneider said:

I think that any time you have a situation where information is as tightly controlled as it is by education officials in Louisiana, that should raise a real red flag. If you can’t find data that hasn’t been massaged or indexed or changed to the point where it no longer means much, that’s a red flag that there’s something going on that officials don’t want us to know. And if reporters aren’t going to ask those questions, somebody else is going to have to.

via http://edushyster.com/?p=6350

Corrosive to a teacher’s humanity

Ellie Herman said:

If teaching is an art and a science, I’m scared that in our national conversation about education, we are so intent on demanding accountability for mastering the ‘science’ part that we’re creating conditions that seem designed to crush teachers’ souls. When our system treats teachers with disdain, creating accountability measures whose underlying premise is that teachers are so incompetent and lazy that they need to be monitored rigidly, strictly and incessantly, at what point does that myth become corrosive to a teacher’s humanity? 

How do we nurture and encourage the qualities teachers need in order to use all these techniques in the first place, the faith, the compassion, the patience, the passion for a subject? Can we start by valuing those qualities – by which I do not mean putting a dollar value on them? Can we acknowledge and respect the individual lives and experiences that teachers are bringing to the classroom every day, without which none of what they’re teaching would be of any use to anyone? Can we balance our need for accountability with our equal need for inspiration?

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/02/what-makes-a-great-teacher

It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be

Open door

Javier Guzman said:

For my students and the thousands like them, the options they are given are inadequate. The bar is set low and little is expected of them. Mostly they are taught to regurgitate information at breakneck speeds under the guise of equity and the achievement gap. We need to move away from that and build schools that consider the whole person, that understand that our students have passions and interests, and that give them the tools to transcend their environments.

It’s about being given the tools to truly reach one’s full potential. . . . as one of my students stated, “It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be.”

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH1gxIT4nSE

Image credit: Open door, Martin Müller

What’s good about standardized tests?

Susan Berfield said:

Most standardized tests aren’t objective, don’t measure a student’s ability to think, and don’t reliably predict how well a kid will do in the workplace. So what’s good about them? They’re relatively cheap to create, easy to administer, and they yield data.

via http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-12-11/book-review-parents-can-band-together-to-end-standardized-testing

From data to wisdom

Image credit: From data to wisdom, Nick Webb

Iowa school start dates and Photoshop

Just having some fun… Feel free to use as desired!

Schools start late

Our liberties we prize

Tourists unite

A vote for the state fair

Reclaiming the language of educational reform

Have your say and make your voice heard

Arthur Camins said: 

The words accountability, no-excuses and choice have already been claimed and defined by currently powerful policy makers and associated with their values. Their accountability language evokes the authority of the powerful to direct others to improve education, but not shared responsibility. Their no excuses language evokes blaming teachers, administrators, students and their parents for disappointing outcomes, while deflecting attention from the need to address systemic issues, such as the burden of poverty on children’s lives and inequitable school funding. Their choice language evokes the individualism of “I am my brother’s competitor” rather than the shared responsibility of “I am my brother’s keeper.”

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/19/how-to-reframe-the-educational-reform-debate

Image credit: Speak up, make your voice heard, Howard Lake

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