Getting Down to Business: Tackling the REAL Issues

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As I was getting ready to publish this blog, I came across THIS article.  My disdain for Mrs. DeVos as the Secretary of Education is clear, but despite the degree of sourness I am learning to accept the final decision which was made.
No, Betsy DeVos doesn’t have experience.  And, yes, vouchers are a horrible ill-thought out idea.  But there comes a time when we need to accept that our ideals are not what the majority decided was best and move forward seeking common ground in another way.
Having said that, after watching Mrs. DeVos’ address to the Education Staff, I stand slightly bit more at ease with her approval vote.  It sounds like she has a bit more understanding of the enormity of her position and that she is merely one person in a team of educators responsible for “making education great again.”  Or, maybe  I’m just too hopeful.  Either way, though, perhaps it was not her that our education system needed to improve but, instead, the firestorm of of passion that resulted that needed to be ignited in order to start a constructive dialogue as to what really needs to happen to better our state of education.  If so, then so be it… let’s get to work now.
We need a plan of action.  (I’d suggest that one of the reasons why MANY people didn’t and still don’t like this new woman in charge is that she didn’t have such a plan, and only regurgitated vague lines ‘passion for change.’)  We need an action plan… to tackle the real problems.  And vouchers, as she dreams,  don’t tackle don’t do that.
In order to create such a plan, we need to identify these REAL problems.  So WHAT are the they??  I ran across this article by a one Jody Stallings that summarized the issues quite succinctly:
  1. Student discipline.
  2. Parental support.
  3. Administrative power and teacher discretion.
I might add another one to the list– teacher support.  We start with this one because it’s really one that the others are rooted in.  Both sides of the divide have made it clear that the students are the focus, but as one teacher-author from Kiddom App put it, “Whoever our next Secretary of Education is, they need to advocate for all of our children and our teachers…” Note the “…and our teachers…”  Nobody knows our students better than those who are boots on the ground with them on a daily basis.
It’s important to listen to the teachers and to take into serious account any and all of their concerns.  If you don’t, then you will end with dire situations like that in Florida… teacher’s burning out due to low pay, under-appreciation, and ridiculous standardized-testing protocol.  And that severely affects the students because they are losing their support systems that are the teachers.

So what does Teacher Support look like?  

The answer to that question comes in one word… resources.  Resources, resources, resources.

  1. Technological Resources.  Teaching is most definitely an art, not a science.  And yet the bombardment of teaching pedagogies and ‘best practices’ is overwhelmingly unreal. Teachers hear a lot about the use of technology (by which they mean computers and iPads and the like) to engage students’ learning.  Truly, there are many amazing games and apps (see: Kahoot! and Socrative as only two examples), but the accessibility to resources is unreliable.  Issues lie in uneven funding to secure equipment for schools, unreliable access to wi-fi, and/or maintenance of computer equipment.  Perhaps a solution to this lies in increased community/business partnerships within education, but I digress… that’s a different soapbox.
  2. Parental Resources. As a teacher myself, I would have to argue that the BIGGEST mode of support you can give teachers is to support the parents.  Teachers hardly plan supportive parents anymore. These “personal student support structures” are hardly home anymore, most specifically in lower socioeconomic areas, due to the fact they are working multiple jobs just to put a roof over their child’s head.  Read more here. Teachers understand this which is why they very often find themselves in the role of teacher AND parent.  THAT.  Is a very much overwhelming responsibility.  How can we help the parents so that they can actually have time to spend with their families… and “parent”??  Answer this question and you may just find the answer to other problems such related to student discipline.  Now, lets get to work and DO THIS!

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Carney, J. (2017, February 07). Franken: DeVos ‘fundamentally incompetent’ to lead Education Dept. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/318198-franken-devos-fundamentally-incompetent-to-lead-education-dept
H. (n.d.). DeVos nomination stands at 50-50. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/susan-collins-betsy-devos-confirmation-234497
Hertz, M. B. (2014, April 24). Appreciate Teachers By Understanding What They Do. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/appreciate-teachers-by-understanding-mary-beth-hertz?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow
Mista, Y. (2017, February 03). Let’s Not Lose Focus. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://blog.kiddom.co/lets-not-lose-focus-4b10ad883b86#.7kzck7a33
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Evidence-based Reasoning & Betsy Devos

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Since our new Commander-in-Chief took office, there’s been whirlwind of buzz going around about the sweeping changes he’s already been making.  Perhaps, none as heated as his pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. Mrs. Devos’ advocacy for federally-funded voucher programs is at the center of the maelstrom.  What does this mean for the state of public education?
Many opponents fear that her ideas will divert money away from schools that really need it, and will be detrimental to students.  Consider this viewpoint.  I mean really mull it over before you going on a tirade offering your own thoughts and opinions either way.  Is this woman the best person for the job?
I ask that you make a serious act of discernment.  And if  you consider yourself even remotely learned about the current state of education, then you know the that one of the big themes engaging students and teaching them how to “think critically.”  An art that seems to be lost in this vastly independent and emotionally-charged society.  It’s no wonder students have the hardest time with this concept… they have very few or no examples to model how it looks.  Students need MANY models.
Evidence-based reasoning is a BIG deal right now and is the centerpiece of many, many professional development classes that teachers attend.  So, in line with one of the focii in education today (something DeVos is probably clueless about…), let’s take a look at four hard-to-ignore pieces of evidence to why Betsy Devos is NOT the best person for Secretary of Education.
1. First consider Mrs. Devos’ performance during her confirmation hearing:  Would you actually hire a new employee who performed as poorly in a job interview as she did?
She’s not qualified.  Would YOU hire someone who was ill-qualified, ill-confident, stammering for words, and unable to hold an intelligible conversation regarding the job they were going for.  Her interview clearing demonstrates her inexperience, and is simply not qualified for the job.
2.  Claim:  She has a clear track record of creating schools and improving schools.  
Her track record of school improvement illustrates incompetence.  Evidence in her home state of Michigan would suggest otherwise.  Yes, she has created schools.  However, improvement is not an appropriate adjective to describe those initiatives.  Under the leadership of those schools, student performance has either not gotten better or has fallen.  Read about specific schools under her charge here.  Just because someone is good at securing and allocating funds (or what I refer to as “money shuffling”) does not mean they know how to run a school, let alone increase the desire of us all to increase student performance in an academic setting.
3.  Claim:  Vouchers can save failing schools.
Vouchers are NOT fail-safe.  Tulane University did a study where they found that “High-poverty schools are 22 times less likely to be consistently high-performing as low-poverty schools…”   Well this isn’t exactly new news, but the percentage found here is pretty staggering.  Read the study here.
Keeping that in mind, the notion of providing parents with “free money” and the option of “good schools,” disguised as “school choice, ” to send their children to is a heart-friendly ad populum argument which I caution you to think carefully about.  Please do not fall into the trap that the below Claim #4 offers.
Consider the following.  Money is the silent god that secular society (unwittingly?) worships. It makes the world go ’round.  And having the allotted federal funding that each child possesses and allowing it to follow them to a different school, takes money away from the other school.  Thereby, also punishing the remaining students and without a doubt the biggest issue that teachers have with Devos’ school vouchers.
But money shuffling does nothing to solve the problem of why students are unable to learn.  It only seeks to increase the poverty gap because students naturally gravitate to those “like them.”  The Obama administration invested in a multi-billion dollar school improvement project.  Great.  And yet a study of one of his biggest projects was found to be a massive failure.
Why was this initiative a failure, though?  They don’t really say, but let’s say that the ACCESS to resources wasn’t really a factor in this study.  It’s all about access to resources and the ultimate resource is the teacher.  This Mind/Shift article hits on so many “YASSSSES!” for what really needs to be addressed…give teachers the proper support they need to do their job.  Give them the support they need to provide to each individual student… YOUR student.
The article goes on, “From his work as a teacher and school principal Craig knew that lasting school change comes from teachers, so he focused the regional school improvement work on improving teacher instruction.”  So I urge you to listen.  Please listen.  And support your child’s teacher so that they can support YOUR student!  The teacher is the person who knows your child and their cognitive abilities and what their home-life may/may not be like.  The teacher is the person who knows what needs to be done to reach YOUR student.  And trust me when I say they are have literally gone through or are still going through the #scientificmethod to be able to reach YOUR student.
4.  Claim:  Teachers are against DeVos because the “Union” tells to be.
Ummm… Excu’ me?!!  A claim such as this loaded with fallacy upon fallacy.  By making such a statement, you are assuming that schools (and, by proxy, teachers) don’t care about student achievement.  It can be inferred that you also think that teachers are just chose that profession as one of the “options” to pay their bills.  Now, since I also am not of fan of assumptions, I give people the benefit of the doubt and attribute the lack of knowledge to simply “not being in the know.”  Because, let’s face it, sometimes there are situations where if you are not in the in-crowd, then you just don’t get it.  For a look at what being a teacher really looks like, check out this article on Edutopia.  Teaching has never in its history been one of those fields people choose for the money, but it has changed IMMENSELY in the past 15 or so years, so your experiences with teachers may not (and probably are not) the same as what’s happening currently.  So before you go attacking a teacher, why don’t you try put yourself in their shoes?