MisEducation Nation 2011

I just finished a class for my International/Intercultural Education Master’s program and we watched a panel called “MisEducation Nation” that captivated me.  This panel was in response to the annual Education Nation Town Hall that is held by NBC.  The video is a bit long, but I hope you will find it as interesting as I did.  Here is the video and below it are my notes (which are by no means comprehensive).

The panelists:

This panel is a reaction to the fact that many of those who are fighting for education reform believe that teachers and unions are bad and standardized testing will push our students.  They also discuss other challenges faced by the US school system.  I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but here are some of the rough notes I took about some of the most interesting ideas (I am not responsible for any inaccurate thoughts – I didn’t transcribe, I just wrote down the interesting ideas).

Diane Ravish:

Schools are not about the grades and the test scores, they are about serving the kids.  Finland is really high in international testing, but they don’t do standardized testing.  All the tests made by teachers – the teachers know how the students are doing because “they are professionals.”  In Finland the expressed purpose of their schools is to develop the humanity of the students.  It’s very hard to become a teacher.  It’s a respected profession.  Every teacher in Finland has to have a master’s degree.  The only standardized test is for matriculation to college – and college is free no matter what you study.  There are no more than 24 kids per class. No merit pay, no focus test scores – the whole focus is what’s best for children.

Brian Jones:

He taught in Harlem and then Brooklyn.  He is upset about the way that people think little black boys need to learn for the test in isolation.  He recommends the film “American Teacher” – everyone in the film says that the teacher is the most important thing in the classroom.  But NBC thinks that as long as we are talking about the teacher then we are not talking about any of the other issues as long as we are talking about teacher quality, but things are not consistent.  The teacher is ABLE to be different depending on the school and what they are allowed to do.  The focus on teachers becomes about punishing the labor force.  We can spend millions of dollars on war, but we can’t make sure there are pencils in every classroom.

Diane Ravish:

Is there really a crisis?  No, it’s been created by the “reform” movement by their data driven approach –  it is disadvantaging the poor kids.  The reform agenda is focused on privatizing teaching and education.  Yet in the education world leader Finland, 95% of teachers are unionized and the principals are part of the same union.

Pedro Noguera:

You can’t be in a permanent crisis.  There is no crisis.  It is where poor children are located that you have bad education and educational issues that are caused by a number of factors.  It’s not good enough to critique what’s wrong, but these kids are in school and they are having long term negative consequences.  There are dropout rates of 50% or higher – when will people acknowledge that No Child Left Behind has failed?  Sure there was a problem before, but NCLB is not fixing it.  “It is possible to educate all kinds of children.  Poverty is not a learning disability.”  If you ask the administration at an affluent school who they are accountable to they say the parents they serve.  If you ask the administration at poor school who they are accountable to it is almost never the parents and that’s a problem because it means they aren’t serving the students with the dignity they deserve.  The people [making the decisions] do not know why the schools are failing.

Leonie  Haimson:

One of the new teaching plan will use fellows, brand new teachers, not even experienced teachers.  When asked about the plan for closing schools someone said  that “we don’t know what makes a good school so we will put in charter schools and some will succeed and some will fail.  That’s just the way it is.”  They’ve created a system where only a fraction of students get into the few selective schools.  What parents really want is a good school, near home, that their kids can go to all the way through high school.

Moderator Laura Flanders: Can we have fair education in an unfair society?

Brian Jones:

No, you can’t, but jobs, opportunities, unions, support the system.  We need to fight for the conditions of the adults and shape that.  Unions are a good thing.
It’s absurd to think that we can fix education when those students’ parents are being hired then fired.  MLK was slain fighting for public workers – the reform movement is now using King against us.

Diane Ravish:

There was an article called “What Happened to the American Left.”  It said the silence was deafening.  There are huge increases in poverty as jobs disappear.  Huge increases in child poverty.  We are the developed country with the highest child poverty rate – 25%.  That is a disgrace. And ⅓ of children born without neonatal care are born with learning disabilities.

Leonie Haimson:

We know what a good school looks like – they are where Bill Gates and other rich people are sending their kids – they have small classes, yet we see class sizing increasing.  We know how to fix schools but we don’t care enough in our society to do it.  Billions of dollars are being spent for charter schools from philanthropists.  The University of Pheonix said that online learning is not ideal, it’s to help adults who work, it’s definitely not the solution for K – 12, and they aim to have 12 students to every one teacher – in NYC Bloomberg wants unlimited kids to one teacher for online learning and they want to push it out to get rid of teachers.

One Response to “MisEducation Nation 2011”
  1. Erskine Dottin says:

    Thanks for sharing. Diane Ravitch’s ideas are critical to any current discussion on education in America.

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