Photo: Graur Codrin (click photo to link)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

What Kind of Teachers Do We Want?

On Diane Ravitch's blog today: The Future of National Board Certification, a guest posting by Nancy Flanagan.  She says:
Here’s what I worry about: NBPTS has now been taken over by Pearson. The teacher-led, teacher-developed goals of the original founders’ mission–using teacher expertise to shape education reform–are so far from what we’re doing now it’s frightening. And–the US Dept Of Ed decided not to put the National Board in their last budget. They gave $$ to Teach for America instead.
I, too, am a National Board Certified Teacher. Like Nancy, I also took time away from the classroom to work for the National Board in assessment development, and then returned to teaching. I was one of the first 87 teachers in the country to earn the distinction of being board certified, at a time when there was NO context for such an attainment–one had to make one’s own. I continued to teach and found myself more articulate about my teaching decisions, and more observant about how my students learned. And I agree with Nancy’s comment:
NB Certification has nothing to do with credentialing–largely because credentialing has little to do with increasing student learning…NB Certification is all about what happens in the classroom; advanced degrees focus on other issues and knowledge.
My greatest hope for education reform was that the interesting work of teachers would take center stage, and that many more teachers would be engaged in sharing their practices with future generations of teachers. Instead, teachers have been shoved to the margins, and operations like Pearson have grown into giant ed-factories, bending to political influence and financial expedience.
What is central to my concern is what gets funded, and who gets funded–Teach for America, and the Common Core. We march ever forward, reducing education to a technical exercise, measuring accountability with machine-scored tests, and staffing the neediest schools with fewer and fewer committed, career-minded educators. Once schools lose the trust of their family community, the project of dismantling public education becomes easy to sell–parent triggers, emergency manager takeovers, and farming out the business of public education to for-profit charter operators.

Pearson, formerly Harcourt, used to run the operations side of National Board Certification–booking the needed rooms for training and running the scoring operations, making sure that assessments were properly logged in and distributed to scoring sites, handling applications and so on. Other organizations ran the assessment development portion of the work of the National Board–Educational Testing Service, Educational Development Center, WestEd, etc. Each of these organizations brought their most knowledgeable resources to the table to create assessments that were authentic representations of the essential elements of teaching practices in each field. I think that it is wise to be concerned when all aspects of an operation such as National Board Certification are under one roof. One might reasonably speculate that such an arrangement might lead Pearson to revise National Board Certification processes with profit and power, rather than student development and growth, in mind.

My first grandchild enters kindergarten this fall. I hope that his early years in school will mark the beginning of a turnaround where all children, not just my grandson, will experience the joyfulness of being “known” by committed teachers in healthy environments where learning provokes awe.
I saw that in many of the National Board Certified Teachers whom I met after becoming one myself. Too bad that we aren’t about funding that kind of effect.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The Michigan House of Representatives has been pretty busy lately. First, they passed this bill (HB 5040 of 2012) which makes it okay for students in counselor training programs to engage in discriminatory practices against LBGT clients, by refusing to counsel them. Then they passed House Bill 5711 of 2012 which places draconian restrictions on facilities that offer abortion as part of their services. And, in response to the word ("vagina") used by Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown in speaking out against HB 5711, HB 5712, and HB 5713, the Republican Majority Floor Leader  banned her from speaking the next day.

It seems to me that these actions aren't about decorum or conscience or manners--they're about Power--who is entitled to wield it, and who is not. This quote from Animal Farm is apt in describing the situation: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others"- George Orwell, Ch. 10. The latest targets are women, but the "Freedom of Conscience Act" troubles me because, although it targets LGBT people, there is nothing to prevent other vulnerable groups from the "equal opportunity" of discrimination.

I really waffle about this "Freedom of Conscience Act".

Would I want someone who is so clearly biased counseling me? What if my being overweight or having red hair set off a gag reflex in some counseling intern and (s)he decided to tell me that I made them sick, it was against their religious principles to treat fat redheads, and I'd have to go to someone else?  

Would I be hurt? You bet! 

Would I argue over their reaction to me?  No--but I might say something pretty choice to their supervising instructors. 

Would I be likely to seek counseling from another intern in the program? Not very...

Isn't this like allowing a doctor to refuse to treat a (name your persecuted minority) patient?  Yes, it is.  We cringe in horror when we recall the shunning that patients with leprosy, tuberculosis, and later AIDs were treated.  We fight to close the institutions for the disabled because they are inhumane.  And yet, our legislature thinks it's okay to hide behind (Christian) religious beliefs to refuse to give counsel?

Of course, then it occurs to me that no amount of counselor training is likely to make a difference. Maybe it's a losing proposition to try to open such a closed mind.  Maybe it's okay to discriminate, as screwed up as that sounds?

Now, this Act only singles out students in counseling programs.  But what if we take it another step further?  What if our legislature decides that this "protection" should be extended to teaching interns?  What happens when the legislature extends its' attack to teacher education (e.g. I only teach (name your privileged class)? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

But then, I guess that "Some of us are more equal than others".

Monday, March 12, 2012

On the death of laptops

Quick rant:

Once again, I have worn out a laptop. I hate when this happens.  First of all, it's never at a convenient time.  Second, it invariably means that I also have to figure out what software has been lost in the data transfer...and then either re-load it or replace it.  Both are expensive--one in time, and the other in actual dollars...and time. And finally, it means learning the new hardware, system software, and customizing it all to my idiosyncratic need for same-ness in spite of the advances in technology that force me to learn new things.

This time is no different.  Sigh.