Friday, March 7, 2014

Important Quotes from BAD TEACHER by Kevin Kumashiro

I have been blowing up my FB groups with quotes from Bad Teacher by Kevin Kumashiro. I read the book on Kindle -- a friend and I tried to see how I could lend it to her; but, alas, it can't be lent. It is very much worth the price, and I would love to help boost sales. I reviewed the book here. This is important for anyone who cares about public schools and public education.

My Kindle allowed me to collect my highlights, and I've been sharing them. Here are the ones that spoke to me:

I read this on my Kindle, and I learned how to collect my highlighted passages…soo much to share:

  • Today’s controlling metaphor is schools-as-businesses, with students as the raw material bumping along the assembly line while test-prep information is stuffed into their little up-turned heads by low-paid clerks disguised as teachers. Within this model it’s rather easy to think that privatizing a space that was once public is a natural event; that standardized state-administered (but privately developed and quite profitable) tests is a rational proxy for learning; and that a range of sanctions on students, teachers, and schools —but never on lawmakers, foundations, corporations, or high officials—is logical and level-headed.
  • band of dilettante billionaires who work relentlessly to take up all the available space, preaching, persuading, and promoting, always spreading around massive amounts of cash to underline their fundamental points: dismantle public schools in favor of some sort of privately-controlled administration; destroy the ability of teachers to speak with any sustained or unified voice and crush the unions; sort the winners from the losers through a relentless      William Ayres – Intro
  • School reform is making the failures of vast numbers of America’s children inevitable . What is going on?
  • Guinier suggests that there are at least three types of questions that we should be asking, reflecting three ways of understanding power and powerlessness.
  • Who is winning and who is losing? Who made the rules? What is the story that we tell the losers to get them to want to continue playing?
  • Less commonly asked is who made the rules to this system of testing? And more specifically, are tests constructed in ways that advantage those groups that are already scoring well?
  • One common argument about the value of such tests is that they are more objective, compared to grades that can be inflated or rankings within a less competitive subset of students. But such tests are not objective.
  • Choices have to be made about what types of questions to include on such tests, and one criterion for making those decisions is how those who previously took such tests scored on those questions. What this looks like in practice is the existence of several questions on the test that do not count toward a student’s score and, instead, are potential questions for future tests that are evaluated in terms of how the group of test takers as a whole…thereby ensuring that the test produces a distribution of scores that mirrors the current distribution .
  • The practice of standardized testing has been framed in such as a way as to make it seem fair, effective, objective, and as a way as to make it seem fair, effective, objective, and incontrovertible. Changing how we assess learning requires not merely changing the tests; it requires changing how we think about tests and testing.
  • As long as educational improvement means higher test scores, three assumptions remain unchallenged: Standardized tests effectively measure all students’ learning, learning means doing well on those tests, and teaching means raising those scores.
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings has argued that our nation’s preoccupation with test scores masks more structural and systemic problems with public education.
  • …gaps in test scores are being used to justify initiatives that exacerbate inequities. When schools do not meet AYP, they must divert a significant amount of time and resources away from teaching in order to meet new
  • Under current reforms, the more students struggle, the less their schools are allowed to teach, and the less they are made to look like flourishing school systems in this country and to other nations.
  • In this characterization, all of education rests on the shoulders of teachers, hence the frequency of blaming teachers for all that is wrong with some public schools,
  • The parallel, here, with the colonizing, assimilating mission of public schooling in the United States is uncanny.
  • The metaphor of teacher-as-savior has a long history in American schools, and Teach for America capitalizes on this image.
  • When we narrowly define the good teacher merely in terms of the ability to raise test scores, we inevitably are categorizing all others as bad, even those who, in so many other ways, are successful, admirable, valuable, impactful, effective, ethical, and good. There are many possible ways to define the good teacher , but today, we seem to be stuck in a pretty narrow framing.
  • Important, here, is how standards-based reform has become operationalized in public schools across the nation. Whereas the ideal of standards can embody the highest level of performance, the practice of standardizing curriculum and assessments with scripted curriculums and norm-referenced tests reduces learning to a much-narrowed endeavor.
  • Such is the ideology of neoliberalism, which is guiding educational reform. Whereas classic liberalism places value on the agency of individuals and on freedoms from social and structural restrictions in the pursuit of self-expression and self-actualization, neoliberalism situates such concepts in a market-like economy, asserting that individuals reach their highest potential when put into competition with one another, like businesses in a “free-market” economy, unrestricted by top-down regulations, or at least unrestricted by regulations that aim to level the playing field.
  • Two aspects of neoliberalism help to advance a probusiness agenda: privatization and personal responsibility…commonly expressed values of freedom and meritocracy ,
  • Neoliberalism, in other words, promotes an understanding of equality and freedom that presumes a level playing field, and that expects some to win and many others to lose.
  • The freedom of charter schools from many of the regulations placed on regular neighborhood schools raises questions over whether such regulations were intended to improve public schools or were really intended to encourage the creation of alternatives to public education.
  • recognition that the frames of fear, values, standards, and competition overlap in ways that reinforce one another: a state of crisis ( fear) makes us seek out reassuring stories of who we are as Americans, increasing the desire to defend commonsensical stories of traditional American values (family values), as we seek out ways to reform schools that build on related values of meritocracy, self-sufficiency, and equity (standards and accountability), and in a context that encourages each of us to do our best (competition).
  • The commonsensical frames of fear, values, standards, and competition make it easy to overlook the deeper problems and to place all blame on teachers. In turn, the attack on teachers implicate those who are responsible for preparing teachers, which is why many parallel initiatives are underway to undermine teacher preparation.
  • Research has not shown that alternative, fast-track programs are successful in producing more effective teachers. If anything, research shows the opposite: when teachers are not learning new ideas, they fall back on their own experiences and observations, and turn to common sense, which are often the very ideas and practices that need to be questioned and improved upon. 2
  • Current reforms are reducing what teachers need to learn about students, learning, curriculum, assessment, and educational contexts, thereby reducing their ability to understand, create, tailor, and problem-solve. Current reforms are reducing the role of teacher to one of a mere “technician” who can implement the already scripted and authorized curriculum.
  • If schools should merely be following the official script, then preparing independent-minded teachers is the problem, not the solution.
  • One such alternative to public schooling is homeschooling, which is also advocated by the Tea Party, and which is supported in large part by for-profit curriculum and service providers, accounting for millions of school-aged children.
  • Simply put, the new common sense tells us that improving education means raising test scores, and that raising test scores is possible when teachers know the content.
  • Teachers receiving traditional preparation are more likely to be teaching in prosperous suburban and elite-urban public schools, whereas teachers from fast-track alternative preparation programs are far more likely to teach in struggling schools serving students who are predominantly working-class and/ or people of color.
  • Perhaps the creation of fast-track alternative teacher preparation programs was never meant to improve teacher quality overall. After all, the most elite schools are not recruiting from the fast -track programs. Fast-track alternative teacher preparation programs exist primarily for schools with large percentages of students of color and students living in poverty, suggesting that such reforms target only certain groups of students, with only certain outcomes expected.
  • Research has shown that incentivizing teacher salaries by tying teacher evaluation to student test scores does not raise the quality of instruction or student achievement. 12 So, too, with other reforms, like turnaround school policies, high-stakes testing for promotion and graduation, school-choice and voucher programs— none are supported by research. At a time when the rhetoric of educational reform calls for evidence -based, data-driven decision making, the lack of research to support the reforms described here certainly raises the question of “Why?” Why are Americans so compelled to buy into these proposals?
  • Current reforms are allowing certain individuals with neither scholarly nor practical expertise in education to exert significant influence over educational policy for communities and children other than their own.
  • There is also much profit to be earned from public education. The American educational system today is a $ 500 to $ 600 billion enterprise, funded overwhelmingly by public dollars, with billions of dollars in services and products being outsourced, and with political lobbying groups like the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), financed by hedge-fund millionaires who are leading the push to further outsource.
  • …in recent years a handful of millionaires and billionaires have come to exert influence over educational policy and practice like no other time in American history, despite the fact that philanthropic giving has always constituted less than 1% of total educational funding.
  • At the top of the chopping block was public education, considered by some to be a drain on the government and a crutch for society, not only because it was the most expensive of domestic enterprises but also because it exemplified a socialist enterprise.
  • Conservatives called for the entire school system to be privatized, made into a free enterprise, and the conservatives’ strategy of choice was school vouchers. Early on, Milton Friedman, one of the leading proponents of free-market reform, argued that, “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”
  • The conservative foundations especially target funding to organizations that aggressively lobby in state legislatures and Congress, and that engage effectively in media campaigns, thus ensuring that their ideas are enacted into law with public support. Consequently, the conservative movement has emerged as an interconnected web of organizations with aligned missions and coordinated strategies, often facilitated by shared board members. 4
  • Unlike traditional philanthropy, which sought to—at least in principal—“ give back” to society, venture philanthropy parallels venture capitalism with the goal of investing capital in ways that earn more. In contrast to venture capitalism, one benefit of venture philanthropy is that it operates under different incorporation laws, providing tax shelter for what are really financial investments .
  • Whereas traditional philanthropists view their giving as donations that support what others were doing, venture philanthropists view their giving as entryways into that work.
  • Such cuts, of course, disproportionately impact students of color and working-class students, who are the ones who disproportionately populate the public schools and public universities , which brings us full circle to the time of the early philanthropies when wealthy White businessmen were using their wealth to change the education of primarily poorer students of color, often with even greater disparities resulting. The change is not only in educational policy, but also in public-policy decision making more broadly, signaling the transition from public deliberation by an elected government to decisions of self-appointed individuals with no accountability to the public.
  • The two leading venture philanthropies, the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, do include among their grantees historically liberal organizations like teacher unions. However , their funding priorities and strategic initiatives are so framed by neoliberalism, and their partnerships with conservative organizations and leaders so extensive, that their impact is indistinguishable from the conservative foundations.
  • Overwhelmingly, by number of initiatives and amount of funding, the leading venture philanthropies are prioritizing the privatization and marketization of public education, with such initiatives as outsourcing of school management, which can best be seen in school districts that are targeted for charter-school growth, where the majority of charter schools are managed by for-profit companies; incentive pay for teachers; alternative routes to certification for teachers and school leaders; and school choice and charter school initiatives.
  • A 2011 study by Newsweek and the Center for Public Integrity revealed that , despite the billions of dollars invested by the top four philanthropies over the past decade, the ten top-receiving urban districts showed little gains. Yet these investors continue to be driving education reform. 9
  • The blaming of teachers goes hand-in-hand with the current national obsession with high-stakes testing, turnaround-school policy, marketization and privatization of schooling, narrowing of curriculum, lessening of teacher preparation, and experimentation of school reforms by investors, which all are making schools look less and less like the best schools and less and less like what America’s children need and deserve.
  • Are current reforms building on sound research, or do they fall back on common sense? Common sense is not always supported by research.
  • Common sense tells us, for example, that if students are struggling with reading and mathematics, then schools need to cut out the other subjects and focus on the basic skills, laying a solid foundation before advancing to other subjects. But research tells us otherwise: Students actually learn basic reading better when reading in context and across the disciplines than when only drilling on basic skills, and similarly, learn basic mathematics better when applying mathematics to solve complex problems than when only drilling on basic skills.
  • From high-stakes testing of students to performance pay for teachers, from turnaround policies for schools to choice programs for parents, from less preparation for teachers to for-profit management of schools, current reforms not only lack a research basis, but more important, have already been proven to lead to widened disparities.
  • Of course, research is a vastly diverse enterprise: researchers are asking different questions, using different methods, and drawing various conclusions that can be used to justify any range of policies.
  • Third, Are current reforms guided by a vision in which all of America’s children can flourish, or are they framed by a commonsensical story that has led to the opposite outcome? Perhaps the most salient story today is that of competition solving all problems.
  • fail. But competition does not always raise the bar. The level of inquiry in a classroom can go up when all students are supported and engaged, which means that the success of one child is greater when others around that child are also succeeding .
  • Here is where, as a nation, we need to think deeply about what we really want for our children , what we really believe are our core values as a democracy.
  • Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions (originally published in February 2011, updated in June 2011, and available in its entirety at http:// ).
  • The four visions: provide bold leadership that addresses difficult systemic problems and avoids scapegoating the “usual suspects”; develop and implement educational policy and reform initiatives that are primarily research-driven, not market-driven; improve teaching and learning effectiveness by developing standards, curricula, and assessments that are skills-based, not sorting-based; and ensure the support, dignity, and human and civil rights of every student.
  • Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE).
  • Just as teacher preparation should refuse to offer lesson plans or strategies that presumably work for all students in all contexts , so too should advocacy refuse to offer strategies for all to replicate without attention to the particularities of the local context and the strengths of the local actors.
  • Too often , we ask only the first question, Who is winning and who is losing…But particularly in today’s context where billionaires are driving school reform, we also need to be asking Who made the rules?...What are the stories that we tell the losers to get them to want to continue playing?
  • My ideas about moving from blaming teachers to seeing the bigger picture do little to change educational debates and policies if I converse only with people who already agree with me. I must also be meeting with partner organizations, facilitating workshops and public forums for various constituent groups, writing articles and speaking in interviews for the news media, blogging on the Internet, issuing press releases and other public statements, lobbying my elected officials, speaking with my own family and former classmates and neighbors, marching with signs in the streets, rallying with bullhorns at the capital, dancing in a flash mob downtown, painting in a public mural in the park, performing with an open mic, and of course, continuing to do my own homework and learning from others in order to resist complicity and self-righteousness.
  • In a context where common sense has been framed by ideologies rooted for decades in efforts to undo public education, we should not be surprised that current reforms are producing the exact opposite of the stated goals, including and especially reforms that come from politicians who identify as liberal, investors who identify as altruistic, and superintendents who identify as proponents of public school teachers and advocates of those students who are struggling the most. Improving public education requires more than having good intentions. It requires more than our common sense. It requires doing our homework.
  • Change is inevitable, which means that we can stand by and watch, or we can intervene, engage, innovate, create, transform. Yes, change is inevitable, and therefore, we all have a role to play in ensuring that those changes reflect our vision and our values. Too often, the problems seem overwhelming, and the barriers insurmountable. But our responsibility to our children and our next generation, as members of our communities, as participants in our democracy, is to refuse to lie complacent and complicit.

Kumashiro, Kevin K. (2012-03-16). Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture (The Teaching for Social Justice Series) (Kindle Locations 1403-1406). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.

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