Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CAPTURING THE SPARK by David Cohen -- A Review

"...the real drivers of education are not technological or programmatic. It's educators who make innovation work, when they are connected, empowered, and inspired to make learning come alive for students."

I have met David Cohen, the author, several times, and I admire him greatly, so reading this book was having a long visit with him...

David took a year off and set out to visit as many schools as he could, observing educators in action...visiting with administrators and learning what works and what doesn't. He counted on his extensive network of educators: people he trained with, NBCTs he worked with, and just friends from his career...It was a joy to 'visit' these classrooms with him.

More than a few are teachers I know, or are online friends...FB friends, network associates, or folks I follow on twitter. I loved the possibility of peeking into Jane Fung's classroom, and Jim Burke, and Larry Ferlazzo, and Leslee Milch, whom I've met at several conferences.

David organized his visits first by level: elementary, middle school, secondary...Then, he reconfigures his visits according to other criteria: Teachers of the Year, NBCTs, teachers in the STEP program, union leaders, authors, tech-networking teachers, teachers at innovative schools, teacher-run schools...he learns from each teacher and each site.

Then, in the epilogue, he puts it all together, all his insights, all him reflections (he IS, after all an NBCT!) and shares his observations, his suggestions. I was reading and cheering the whole way. His recommendations are all for California schools, but they are so transferable to #oklaed too:

1. Equity of funding
2. Local control and accountability (CA programs)
3. Libraries with full-time librarians (YES YES YES)
4. School nurses and counselors at every school...
5. Address teacher salaries and recruiting/retention programs (Teacher Salary Project)
6. Teacher preparation and induction
7. Teacher leadership-career pathways
8. Address teacher evaluations
9. Progressive unionism and collaborations

What if -- what if our policy makers really committed to reforms like this?

Favorite quotes:

"We err by viewing school improvement as a personnel problem rather than a system problem"

"New teachers, like other professionals, should be thoroughly trained and ably supported by experienced mentors."

"Teaching is more multidimensional, involving continual learning, planning, design, assessments, collaborations, and leadership."

"..accomplished teaching depends on the teacher's ability to learn."

He reminds us of the danger of a single story, and he shares so many different stories of accomplished teachers, vital schools, and wonderful students.

I'm sure David didn't hear, but there were several times I was cheering out loud as I read!

If you read one professional book this year....or next....make it this one. Share with policy makers...and let's work toward David's recommendations.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winter is Coming -- Vouchers, Too

Winter is coming...the legislative session is coming. Vouchers are coming.

I have read the first Game of Thrones novel, and was horrified when Martin, the author, killed off my very favorite character with no mercy...since then I check in with others who continued reading to see if my other favorites are still around...

I’m going to begin by telling you how tired I am about talking about vouchers. Tired. But, like the zombies I called them last session, they just keep struggling to their feet, year after year, for us to fight again.

In anticipation of our next ESA bill (have not read through the proposed bills for the 2017 Session, but I know there will be at least one, even though their standard-bearers, Representative Jason Nelson and Senator Clark Jolley, are not there to introduce them.

I’m pretty sure who WILL introduce a bill in the Senate…Kyle Loveless, who had two primary opponents in June, but no opponent in the fall. He only beat teacher and coach Mike Mason by 766 votes, but one would think he won by a landslide by the way he’s been hawking vouchers nonstop since his squeaker of a race.

I find it interesting that American Federation for Children brags about having a hand in Loveless’s 766-vote victory. Wonder how much each of those votes cost AFC in donations. Here’s how they characterize the race: “In addition, Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, was re-elected earlier this year in a primary, defeating an opponent recruited by the teachers’ union who opposed school choice.”

Those of us with long memories will recognize the name Jennifer Carter, who is deeply involved in the AFC Fund…she was Janet Barresi’s campaign manager, and then chief of staff, until an unfortunate incident of name calling forced her to resign. She is married to an editorial writer for the Daily Disappointment Oklahoman. The Lost Ogle did a satirical piece on the Carters here. Aren’t dots fun to connect? Barresi—Jennifer Carter—Ray Carter—DOK--vouchers. And the biggie….

Those of us with short memories may recognize the name at the top of the AFC link: Bet$y Devo$, the president elect’s choice to head the Department of Education. She is Chair of the Board. Voucher proponent in charge of the Department of (public) Education. Ms. Fox – here’s your henhouse.

But I digress…this is about vouchers and the fight here in Oklahoma.

Since his primary win (766 whopping votes – I’ve written nearly half that number of words so far on this post), Senator Loveless has been posting every pro-voucher link and article he can on his FB page. Senator Loveless is not a member of the Senate Education Committee. I’ve observed at least one of his appearances before the Committee, and I found it surrounded with a kind of tension I could not identify. His relationship with the Committee feels very prickly and not very cordial. **

His posts about vouchers are full of the false narrative that #oklaed opposes school choice because we oppose vouchers. He and Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and AFC work overtime to drive their point home. They are NOT the same. Nope. Choice we have in abundance…we can choose our neighborhood school, or another school in the district. We can choose to transfer out of our home district, and provide transportation. We can choose public charters, and again, provide transportation. We can choose to home-school our children. And we can choose (IF we are chosen) to send our children to a private school, providing tuition and transportation and fees and uniforms.

That last choice is the sticking point, and the centerpiece of AFC’s, Carter’s, OCPA’s, and Loveless’s work: they are determined to make public schools pay for families’ choices to attend private schools. They frame it ‘about the kids…for the poor kids who are attending those nasty government-monopoly-public-schools.’ We are painted as those greedy, grasping establishment teachers-union lackeys who are in education for the money and glory.

I’ve written about previous attempts to ram voucher bills (or ESA—education savings account) down our throats here and here. I’ve compared and contrasted our bills to ALEC model legislation, and the similarities were undeniable. ALEC writes our voucher bills, and local politicians carry them, pretending to be the authors. I’ve written about conversations on social media, including some strategies for talking to proponents.

One can assume Senator Loveless will be the new standard-bearer of the ALEC legislation this year. He and the Daily Disappointment Oklahoman are doing all they can to push the false narrative of ‘choice’ as ‘vouchers’.

Who doesn’t want vouchers? Public schools (THAT is word 766 in this post. That’s how many votes the sitting Senator won by, beating a political novice, full-time teacher and beloved coach), religious organizations, homeschooling families. Who wants vouchers? AFC, ALEC, OCPA, Daily Disappointment Oklahoman, Senator Loveless. Other legislators will step forward, I am sure.

So, keep this post  close, browse through the links. Share them on your FB page, in your Twitter feed. Share them with your legislators. Let policy makers know you are informed on this issue, and you are expecting them to stop the hemorrhaging in our public schools, not open another artery.

We know voucher proponents will attack us as union lackeys, supporting failed schools. We will be accused of thinking only of ourselves, of blocking progress. They will use the word ‘choice’ as a synonym for ‘vouchers’. We know vouchers will not be going to poor families in urban or rural schools – they will be going to wealthy families who can well afford the tuition and transportation and uniforms and fees…AFTER the private schools choose them. Vouchers will go to families who already get significant tax credits for donating to their private school…and now they want vouchers too. Wealthy families can benefit twice at our expense if vouchers become the law…ESA should stand for “Entitlement Savings Account.”

We’re ready. I’m collecting every link I can find that will assist us in this zombie battle and shared below. I’ll update and republish this piece when I find helpful resources.

If you find a good source, add it in the comments. Let’s make this a living document, a resource center.

Ending where I began – I’m tired of this fight. But I’m ready with more facts, and with the knowledge of how the proponents will fight, and how they’ll characterize those of us who oppose them.

Help an old lady out…let’s make this session the LAST session we talk about vouchers.

**Correction: Senator Loveless has been named to the Senate Education Committee for this Session...So, we'll be seeing a lot of each other as I visit and watch the Committee hearings. Will be observing for that same awkwardness.