<em>The PS 22 Chorus performing last year at the Tribute WTC Museum. Courtesy of ##http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com##PS 22 Chorus##</em> "A week from tomorrow, the games begin," Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience of a few hundred teachers at a welcome event this morning at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Speaking of New York City students as "my kids," Klein encouraged teachers to "teach them well and they will do well on these exams." In addition to speeches by Klein, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and others, the event featured performances by city students, including the music of the PS 22 chorus from Staten Island, double dutch by Stan's Pepper Steppers, and foxtrot, swing, and mambo by the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company. Pointing to the accomplishments of his fifth grade choristers, music teacher and chorus director Gregg Breinberg told the audience, "I know many of you are entering the profession, and I just want to tell you — reach, reach, reach." Other speakers echoed that message of high expectations for students — and for oneself as a teacher. "Quite frankly, we don't have room for so-so teachers, we don't have room for that mediocrity in our schools," Deputy Chancellor Marcia Lyles said. She recalled the way her sixth grade teacher made each child feel like her favorite. Lyles honored 33 teachers chosen for the Gotham Graduates Give Back Award, a $1,000 prize given to select teachers who graduated from New York City public schools.
AP Tests by ##http://flickr.com/people/doctorow/##gruntzooki## Last week, all four of the city's major papers led their education news with previews of the first REACH NYC payout event, at which the privately funded consortium awarded city students cash prizes of up to $1,000 for scores on Advanced Placement exams. While some of the papers provided analysis of the numbers, all focused on the declining scores and suggested that the incentives program might actually have contributed to worsening outcomes for students. I want to revisit this coverage because, as with all education data, we need to ask ourselves what inferences we can legitimately make from the data we have available. First, it's important to note that last year's "incentives" were announced well over a month into the fall semester, long after students had already started courses. And many of the schools selected for the pilot, including Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, already had strong AP track records. At least for its first year, we might better understand REACH as a "rewards" program for already-achieving students. Still, we can make some inferences about the fact that the number of top scores increased, but the number of other passing scores decreased.
Tucked in at the end of Elizabeth Green’s Sun story about Obama’s education orientation, Obama advisor Jonathan Schnur argues that dividing education policy into two camps — those who side with the “Broader, Bolder” platform and those who prefer the Education Equality Project’s — “presents a ‘false choice.’” Philissa hinted at the same point in her post about “total schools.” The more I read posts accusing "Broader, Bolder" supporters of making excuses or "Education Equality" supporters of scapegoating schools and teachers, the more I tend to agree. As an educator, it makes no sense to sit around and wait for society to level the playing field so that all your kids come into school healthy, prepared to learn, and fully supported at home. You see that you have kids who didn't benefit from good prenatal care, nutrition, early childhood education, or clean air, and who face physical and developmental challenges as a result - but what are you going to do about it? You throw yourself into your teaching, and, if you're lucky, your school comes together to tackle the other issues to the extent possible. You can work some wonders this way, but you know, deep down, that while it's not an excuse, you could do more if the background issues were addressed. As a policymaker evaluating schools, it makes no sense to ignore context.
The education blogosphere is abuzz this week with responses to Jay Mathews' most recent Washington Post column, in which he issued a call for a term other than "paternalistic schools" to describe the wave of schools, mostly charters, featured in "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism," a new book out of the Fordham Institute. Mathews considers several terms — including "tough love schools," "achievement-focus schools," "high-intensity schools," and "tough little schools" — but says none of them successfully conveys to parent and policymakers alike all of the schools' characteristics. Other suggestions have popped up around the internet, from "relentless schools" to "elite charters." Over on her blog, Joanne Jacobs is toying with "total schooling," suggesting that the term comprises both the academic and "values" approach these schools employ. I have to take issue with Jacobs' nomenclature, because I've actually been thinking recently about the term as well, but in a somewhat different way: as an education counterpart to the notion of "total war." Total war is a modern iteration of warfare in which one side marshals all of its resources, both military and civilian, to defeat the enemy. World War II is widely considered a total war, for example, because civilians contributed to the war effort and were considered legitimate targets for military action. The theory translates imperfectly to the education world, of course, but in my mind, "total schools" would be those that marshal all of the resources of the community to defeat the "enemy" of low achievement.
How do you know when something is developmentally appropriate? asks the Science Goddess. My first thought was, I'll bet Daniel T. Willingham has addressed this one. Willingham, from the University of Virginia, writes a regular column in American Educator called "Ask the Cognitive Scientist," and sure enough, his column this summer asks, "What is developmentally appropriate practice?" Willingham writes that research has disproved some key assumptions behind the "developmentally appropriate" concept. The problem is that cognitive development does not seem amenable to a simple descriptive set of principles that teachers can use to guide their instruction. Far from proceeding in discrete stages with pervasive effects, cognitive development appears to be quite variable--depending on the child, the task, even the day (since children may solve a problem correctly one day and incorrectly the next).
With the start of the school year fast approaching, and the list of "persistently dangerous" schools released yesterday by the state, student behavior is on the mind of many educators and parents. New and returning teachers alike plan procedures and systems to help their students focus on learning, and many wonder how they will be supported as they try to create a positive classroom environment. Class rules, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindah/113841605/##LindaH##</em> In response to last week's post about restorative justice, a reader sent me a link to the Dignity In Schools website, which includes an annotated list of resources for schools that want to implement strong, positive behavior management systems, improve family involvement, and make schools safer. Worth a look; I could imagine whole schools or grade teams coming together to study and implement some of these ideas.