Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Resources Relevant to the Education Sessions at Yearlykos 2007

This was originally posted at dailykos earlier today

The material beneath the fold is a list of resources that are relevant to the two educational sessions I will be leading at Yearlykos, the panel Education Uprising: Educating for Democracy and the roundtable discussion Rethinking Educational Accountability

There will be handouts of this material available as long as they last. It is included in the handouts for the panel, which include copies for the "plan" and statements from Marion Brady and Peter Henry (the latter is included in hyperlinked form at the end of this diary). If those run out, I will also have copies of the the list of resources, which unfortunately due to space left out one important resource in which a number of people at dailykos participated, and thus will only be available in this online version.

Resources Relevant to the Education Sessions at Yearlykos 2007

This is being produced both as a handout and as an online posting, thus the urls will appear unmasked for the handout. It is intended to provide an annotated set of resources that may be relevant for the two educational sessions which have been organize by teacherken, Education Uprising: Educating for Democracy, and Rethinking Educational Accountability. The printed version will NOT include material already printed for distribution at the sessions, but the online version will include access to those materials, hyperlinked where appropriate.

For the most complete history and explanation of the sessions and the participant, the dakilykos diary entitled YEARLYKOS: Education Uprising / Educating for Democracy - the "plan"
is the best place to go.

For participant Sherman Dorn, his website http://www.shermandorn.com provides links to materials about his writing and about his books.

For participant Marion Brady, much of his work over the years can be found at his website, http://home.cfl.rr.com/marion/mbrady.html

For participant Peter Henry (Mi Corazon), he would like to direct you to the New Teacher Network at http://www.newteachernetwork.net/

Participant Kenneth Bernstein (teacherken) suggests the best single place for his thoughts on education is his user page at dailykos, http://teacherken.dailykos.com which does included writings on subjects other than education, although you can scroll down through the diaries to get past those.

Participant Doug Christensen is Commissioner of Education of the state of Nebraska. His official webpage, http://www.nde.state.ne.us/COMMISH/com.html has links to much of his writings about education.


Some different models of schooling:

Coalition of Essential Schools, based on the thinking of Ted Sizer: http://www.essentialschools.org/

Forum for Education and Democracy, founded by a group of prominent thinkers in education, including Deborah Meier, Angela Valenzuela, Pedro Noguera, Linda Darling-Hammond, Ted and Nancy Sizer, and others: http://www.forumforeducation.org/

Waldorf Schools, based on the work of Rudolf Steiner: http://www.awsna.org/

On Montessori education, the American Montessori Society, http://www.amshq.org/
Also, the International Montessori Index: http://www.montessori.edu/

On issues of child development and early childhood education, it is worth exploring the material at the Erickson Institute in Chicago, http://www.erikson.edu/home.asp

On issues of assessment and accountability:

National Center for Fair and Open Testing (Fairtest): http://www.fairtest.org/

Forum on Educational Accountability: http://www.edaccountability.org/

Four books that are relevant, two of which are by authors appearing at Yearlykos 2007

Nichols, Sharon & David Berliner, Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools

Dorn, Sherman, Accountability Frankenstein: Understanding and Taming the Monster

Perlstein, Linda, Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade The author will be signing copies at 3 PM on Saturday, August 4, and then again around 5:15.

Meier, Deborah & George Wood, editors, Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools

Both National Teachers’ Unions are good sources of information. For the National Education Association, go to http://www.nea.org/index.html You will see links for the blogs on the homepage. The American Federation of Teachers has a home page at http://www.aft.org Their blog, NCLB: Let’s Get It Right http://www.letsgetitright.org/blog/ has a fairly complete list of important educational blog sites along the left-hand side, as well as a detailed list of categories of posts on the right-hand side. DISCLOSURE: I (teacherken) have worked with them (although I am an NEA member) and they do feature links to my work on occasion. There is also a link for Sherman Dorn.

The Education Policy Blog http://educationpolicyblog.blogspot.com/ is group blog in which both Sherman Dorn and Ken Bernstein participate. It has the purpose of examining education from a social foundations perspective, and many of the participants teach social foundations of education in teacher training programs.

One important resource not included in the printed version, which ends with the Education Policy Blog, is the Educators Roundtable http://www.educatorroundtable.org this is the product a group of educators who came together to attempt to stop reauthorization of NCLB in anything like its current format. There are many terrific resources there, and many who participated in planning for the Yearlykos sessions also participated there.

Finally, here is the hyperlinked version of Peter Henry's handout for the education panel on Friday:

Teachers and Teaching: Prospects for High Leverage Reform
Peter Henry (aka Mi Corazon) http://www.newteachernetwork.net

Wedged between two Byzantine bureaucracies—unions and school districts, constrained by unreasonable public expectations, hammered by ideologues, criticized by the media, saddled with policies shaped by non-educators, America's teachers have almost no room to maneuver. Their training, workplace, schedule, and assignment are mostly determined by others, and their curriculum arrives “canned” in the form of textbooks from large, well-connected corporations. In some schools, extreme instructional strategies tell them what words to say, when, and how, as if teaching can be reduced to a standard script.

Is it any wonder then that as many as half of teachers quit in five years?

The vast potential of America's teaching corps is not only under-utilized and poorly managed, it is structurally imprisoned to the point that it's inaccurate to even call it a profession. Where there is mastery and commendable performance, it is usually due to an individual who succeeds despite the system rather than because of it.

There is, however, reason for hope: If teachers are liberated from these structural limitations, they have tremendous potential as "high leverage" reform agents. As Peter Senge maintains in his thoughtful classic, The Fifth Discipline, small, subtle modifications of a key organizational element can have a major systemic impact.

Most teachers enter the profession for reasons other than material reward---love of a subject, the drive to "make a difference," a need for personally meaningful work. Throwing money at them without first dealing with the structural limitations imposed by the current system will have little or no effect on their performance or attrition. Merit pay, vouchers, test-score competition, grading schools and other market-based initiatives make assumptions about human nature which apply to few teachers. Indeed, current efforts to bring market forces to bear will actually end up being counterproductive.

Two fundamental changes to teaching are essential. First, it must be realized that increased responsibility enhances accountability. Teachers must be given autonomy, power, control and authority over tasks they perform, taking on some roles and responsibilities now performed by administrators and district personnel. They should be evaluating programs, creating curricula, interfacing with the public and generally taking responsibility for school "climate." Their experienced, practical voices are essential to the shaping of wise policy and effective management of our public schools.

Second, teacher isolation must end. The traditional routine---teachers alone in their classrooms most of the day, five days a week---must be replaced by arrangements which allow them to collaborate, to coach and be coached, to learn and draw strength from others, to demonstrate to students the merits of teamwork. Only by routinely working together and collaborating to identify and address the particular, constantly changing challenges their individual school faces, can their strengths and human potential emerge.

Every school is different. Each has its own assets, problems, demographics, and community setting. Teachers, because they deliver direct service, are in a unique position to understand, define and resolve their particular and unique challenges. By building a collaborative ethos where consensus is sought and every voice valued, schools can become dynamic laboratories for innovation, democratic process and local decision-making. They can, in short, become true "learning organizations", where relationship, trust and meaningful work make the job desirable and fulfilling, with teacher satisfaction and increased retention being significant long-term benefits.

Making these changes---vastly increased responsibility and accountability, and structural alterations which support cooperation and collegiality---is more relevant and possible than ever. Over the next decade, America will need approximately 2.5 million new teachers, roughly half the current force. A new generation, technologically savvy, oriented to teamwork, bringing idealism which often accompanies youth, is well-positioned to make these changes work. And teacher induction, the term for moving novices through three years of training to tenure, is an ideal vehicle for achieving what will amount to the “re-culturing” of public schools. Remarkably, such changes would require no new legislation and few changes to labor contracts, while resulting in rapid increases in teacher performance and tax savings through decreased rates of attrition.

Sadly, the current thrust of education "reforms" threatens not only to weaken teacher professionalism and satisfaction but to erase from collective memory the connection most Americans feel for a great educator in their past. "Teaching," said Parker Palmer, "stands where the personal and the public meet." In our schools we should be promoting the best of American individuality and ingenuity in teachers and using that to renew and revitalize the civic body in the form of America’s youth. Of all places, schools should be in the lead, inspiring hope and idealism, supporting individual initiative and mastery, enhancing creativity and collaborative people skills. They are essential to our survival, and only by allowing teachers more autonomy, creativity, and collegiality are we likely to get them.

Teaching will always be, as Palmer notes, an intensely personal job. Government decrees, institutional demands, threats, sanctions, and penalties don't create great teachers. The current emphasis on "measurable accountability," focusing as it does on minimum standards, is weakening the profession and repelling the most promising candidates. Instead of imposing new limits and burdens, instead of heaping ever more approbation on teachers, policymakers need to re-think, re-imagine and recast what teaching looks like in the 21st century.
A great and resilient society, capable of successful adaptation and change, cannot thrive with an educational system built in the 19th century—managed by top-down hierarchies, one-size-fits-all models and ruled by the cudgel of fear. Excellence is achieved through individual mastery, a collegial network awash with inquiry and creativity, undergirded by trust and tangible support from the larger community. If we want teaching excellence and the resultant development of full student potential, teachers must be lifted up, given the responsibility, authority and training which enhance their natural human abilities, and then respected for taking on this most crucial and challenging work.

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