Archive for the ‘Arne Duncan’ Tag

2011-12 School Year in Review: I’m still sane   Leave a comment

With all the faux pas major screw-ups this school year, I naively thought the last 3 days would be peaceful and incident free. Just when I thought the Universe was conspiring for my greater good, I have yet another fire to extinguish with this school run by bumbling idiots. No more than twenty minutes after I enter the house, Boy Wonder asks me if he can have money to eat lunch tomorrow. Hmmm, that’s odd because the last time I checked, he was supposed to receive free breakfast and lunch at school. So, as mothers do, I unloaded a barrage of questions:

Me: Why didn’t you eat lunch today?

Boy Wonder: Because they didn’t serve lunch today?

Me: Why not? Did you eat breakfast at school today?

Boy Wonder: Yes.

Me: Well, what time do you normally eat lunch?

Boy Wonder: 11:30.

Me: What time was school dismissed today?

Boy Wonder: 12.

Me: So let me get this straight: The school didn’t serve lunch yesterday, today, and they won’t serve it tomorrow?

Boy Wonder: No. The other kids bought Chik-Fil-A sandwiches.

Me: <Audible sigh, thinking: WTF? Didn’t we already deal with this at the end of first semester?> Are you sure because I need to know before I contact the school. (READ: I need the facts before I raise hell and read the Town Idiots the Riot Act.)

Boy Wonder: Yes.

Now, let me ‘splain something: If this were the first time, I wouldn’t be as upset. But as I mentioned, we had and discussed this exact same issue first semester. I don’t know where you all are from or how you were raised, but the people I know had this saying: ‘A hard head makes a soft a$$.’ It took me a very, very long time to understand the true meaning of this saying (because I rarely got in trouble), but I knew it was not good. I need to know: How many verbal a$$whoopings will it take for Gwinnett County Schools to get their act together? Better yet, do they even care? Or do I need to punch, kick, and scream harder and louder? Probably.

So here I am, mentally spent from dealing with this one school in particular but honestly, I am tired of the district. Sure, there are some excellent teachers here. And there are certainly some bright students who pass through the schools, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t seem like their Stepford-esque district sponsored leadership program is simply cranking out a bunch of desensitized, clueless, and less-than impressive overseers leaders for the schools. Correct me if I am wrong, but if there is a problem within an organization, don’t most true leaders put measures in place to ensure that the same problem does not arise a few months later? Or is that something only us city-slickers do?

This year has been filled with ups, downs, and countless emails written in perfectly clear English, but yet no one seems to know anything much less how to do any damn thing. After dealing with a Math curriculum few can teach and many do not understand, paying $100 for a Credit Recovery class that caused more anxiety and stress than necessary, reminding personnel that my kids attend Title I schools and, therefore, are entitled to enrichment programs, whether they are struggling or not; and what happens bureaucracy and incompetent people hinder the education process.

That’s a lot of SHAT for one person to handle. Now can you imagine how overwhelmed I would be if I didn’t know how to navigate  send tersely written letters with fancy $50 words, casually mention my knowledge of federally funded programs, and Cc: state and federal education officials?

So I will end this post with this:

Dear Gwinnett County School System,

I may be a little grayer due to your shenanigans. My approach may make you uncomfortable. You have dealt my child some blows to his self-confidence this year, but guess what? I Ain’t Through. I have 2+ months to recharge my battery, make some new alliances, and ask important people the kinds of questions that make them uncomfortable so they, in turn, can make you uncomfortable. Enjoy your summer because I sure will!

Advertisements

Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?   3 comments

So (late) last night I decided to embark on a 24-hour Twitter fast after reading a testimony from @CandiceNicolePR. She openly shared how so many things had gone wrong during the past fews months, but then, almost suddenly things started to work in her favor. As I thought about her and her refusal to give up (even though she came close), I thought: I really need to take a break, sit and reflect on some things because I have been waiting for answers/direction for a very long time. And that’s exactly what I did today: No logging in to Twitter or Facebook. Instead, I rested and thought. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s code for I slept. All day, save for the few disturbances by the ringing cell phone. (FYI: You will see this post on Twitter, but I won’t be online until 12:01 AM)

When I finally got out of bed, I checked homework then logged in to check my email. Despite my protest last week, I read the contribution to the Huffington Post by my friend @TheJLV. Jose honestly tackled an issue that has become a talking piece amongst psuedo-edreformers, such as Arne Duncan: Increasing the numbers of Black and Latino male teachers. What’s really interesting is that I engaged in a conversation (not debate, not argument) with @rugcernie on Twitter last night on the same topic. But Jose’s piece made me think of the bigger picture: Race and its role in education, edreform, and everything ed-related. I couldn’t help but think about the blog post I wrote after I was shafted overlooked by the Huffington Post. Why are some people so obviously uncomfortable with talking about race? Better yet, why do some people get offended (defensive) when others discuss it?

PSA: If my frank discussions about race and class offend you, STOP READING! For those with a healthy and realistic view of the way things really work in this country, grab a seat and a snack because this one will be a little lengthy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on my perception on what I (key word) perceived to be a dismissive/rude/unprofessional handling of my request to write for the Huffington Post’s Education Blog Special. Like other recent news and media outlets, like Education Nation, the online news outlet decided to dedicate a section of its web to discussing issues related to Education. To its credit, however, the Huffington POst did do a much better job at selecting a few good writers (@TheJLV and @TeacherSabrina). On the other hand, they mirrored the Education Nation’s efforts (or apathy) in selecting some parents (with actual school-age children, who attend public schools) to contribute to the dialogue. In every recent debate or teacher-union bashing event, the voices of parents have been silenced. More specifically, the voices of Black and Latino parents. I can’t help but wonder if, I were a parent with less than a college degree (or three) and a proclamation that I am willing to do whatever necessary to ensure that my kids attend college, would they have accepted me? Silly me! I thought someone was genuinely interested in hearing diverse perspectives, even those from single parents, a.k.a., the downfall of the family unit and public education. I guess not.

I continued to think….then felt that there were a few things I needed to say, in reference to some of the comments left on that blog post.

1. At no point in that blog did I say that the Huffington Post did not choose me because I am Black or a single parent. I simply inferred that they are no more interested in the parental perspective than Education Nation, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, or Gates… Black teachers, a little. But Black parents, not so much. The same applies to Latino teachers and parents.

2. The title I chose for that post, ‘Ain’t I a woman…’ was a play on words and one of my (many) attempts at sarcasm (Definition: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual). By the way, my insertion of the definition of sracasm was also an excellent example of sarcasm. That’s how I roll: Go with the flow or get ran over. (Seriously) More importantly, if you didn’t recognize from whence the paraphrased title came, STOP reading this blog and go read this! I felt that my Blackness and my status as a mother were of little to no significance to the organizers of Education Nation. Being overlooked by Huffington Post magnified those feelings. So yeah, I was a little pissed. I had and have every right to be. How dare anyone assert themselves as leaders in Education, the ones ‘chosen’ to educate my kids, but not give any consideration to my viewpoint or what I can contribute to the discussion. The unmitigated gall!

But here’s what really ires me (I promise, I am almost done): People, Black, White, Latino, and everything in between, who refuse to acknowledge that the educational disparities we witness in present day, are in fact, directly correlated to race, which is directly correlated to the history of this country and every institution within it. Believe me, it’s a vicious cycle and it will not be broken until we have the courage to openly acknowledge and challenge what’s wrong, how we can fix it, and who needs to be involved in rebuilding it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

So, my question still stands: ‘Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post? But in all fairness, I will make an addendum and include the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and that woman. I guess if I decided to rile up some other ‘militant’ Black parents and start our own forum on education reform, someone would take me seriously. Doesn’t matter because I know what they spend millions to figure out. For the time being, that’s entertainment enough for me. So yeah, I’m a whole lotta woman.

To hell with ‘waiting’ on Superman, we have Karen Lewis!   Leave a comment

‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ ~ Maya Angelou

This post is not going to be about hyping some movie that promotes parents as desperate for immediate solutions to the public education crisis. I don’t like to think of minority and low-income families as ‘desperate’ for anything, unless of course they are amongst the millions of un- or underemployed Americans in this country. I think ‘victims’ would be a more accurate characterization because, well, they and their children have been robbed of 40 acres, a mule, and a separate but equal education. Sure, No Child Left Behind was enacted to address the latter, but by now we all know that all it really did was expose the decades-long disparities in the caliber of education between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Of course, the ‘have nots’ are the kids relegated to dilapidated schools in neighborhoods where the jobs have long gone, hundreds of babies die by the hands of their peers, and people with NO practical experience in education have been bestowed the power to close neighborhood schools (leading to more violence) and create a working environment rife with fear and mistrust. (Examples: Chicago, Detroit, and D.C. Feel free to substitute any of these cities above.) Anyone wonder or even ask why we should ‘wait’ on Superman, much less anyone else to fix problems that our government has known about forever? Probably not.

Yes, those things are disappointing, disheartening, and enough to make anyone with common sense reconsider (several times) entering the teaching profession. But there is hope for parents, students, and teachers….and it ain’t Superman. It’s not Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, or any of the other self-righteous, self-proclaimed education experts with their Ivy League degrees and colonialist complexes. Nope, it’s an educated Black woman, from the South Side of Chicago, with dreads, and a pair big enough to call a spade a spade and expose the truth about the mess Duncan and Daley created with the Renaissance 2010 debacle. Ok, maybe ‘pair’ is an overused cliché, but I couldn’t think of anything else.Well, I could but I don’t know Karen well enough to call her a ‘Bad B*&%$!’

Some people may not understand my excitement about the ‘arrival’ of Lewis onto the education scene as the newly-elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union. My excitement is comprised of equal parts enthusiasm for the fact that:  (1) Lewis is Black; and (2) she holds no punches. Ok, ok..maybe I am more excited about the second one..we have way too many people in education chasing the carrot, shuckin’ & jivin, skinnin & grinnin, and holding their peace for a small piece, of whatever. There are too many people who are cheerleaders for scientific experiments (masked as entrepreneurship) in education for the sake of securing additional blood money, er… funding for continued support. (I guess everyone forgot about the Tuskegee Experiment and it’s lasting effects, but I digress.) There are also people who work/worked under administrations that implement/implemented policies that failed, from the start, yet kept quiet until they made their exit (and nice salaries and built name recognition). I cannot respect such individuals or give weight to anything they have to say because they sold out millions of kids and never said a word. Not.One.Word. Until now, because it’s profitable to bash these doomed-from-the-start policies on the ‘Pimpin’ Education’ circuit. But I guess everyone has their price, I just haven’t found mine yet. God willing, I never will.

I am neither in Chicago or have any direct connection/affiliation with the city, but I am sure the thousands of teachers who work there can perform their jobs without worrying about being fired by some CEO who’s eager to jump through hoops for monetary offers to fire veteran, trained educators in order to make room for other Ivy grads and oops..wrong person. Where was I? Oh yeah, I am confident in the abilities of Lewis as she has not minced words on her stance on Race to the Top, Duncan, or anyone else making ill-informed decisions about education. Karen Lewis is a breath of fresh air, in a tight-knit circle long controlled by clueless windbags only interested in attracting businesses and government grants. Yes, it’s been a long time comin’ but a change has finally come for the teachers of Chicago.

Karen, may the force be with you. Dr. Angelou’s quote provides some good advice for us girls, but in a pinch do what my Granny and Mamma always said: ‘Kick ass and take names later!’

To hell with 'waiting' on Superman, we have Karen Lewis!   Leave a comment

‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ ~ Maya Angelou

This post is not going to be about hyping some movie that promotes parents as desperate for immediate solutions to the public education crisis. I don’t like to think of minority and low-income families as ‘desperate’ for anything, unless of course they are amongst the millions of un- or underemployed Americans in this country. I think ‘victims’ would be a more accurate characterization because, well, they and their children have been robbed of 40 acres, a mule, and a separate but equal education. Sure, No Child Left Behind was enacted to address the latter, but by now we all know that all it really did was expose the decades-long disparities in the caliber of education between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Of course, the ‘have nots’ are the kids relegated to dilapidated schools in neighborhoods where the jobs have long gone, hundreds of babies die by the hands of their peers, and people with NO practical experience in education have been bestowed the power to close neighborhood schools (leading to more violence) and create a working environment rife with fear and mistrust. (Examples: Chicago, Detroit, and D.C. Feel free to substitute any of these cities above.) Anyone wonder or even ask why we should ‘wait’ on Superman, much less anyone else to fix problems that our government has known about forever? Probably not.

Yes, those things are disappointing, disheartening, and enough to make anyone with common sense reconsider (several times) entering the teaching profession. But there is hope for parents, students, and teachers….and it ain’t Superman. It’s not Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, or any of the other self-righteous, self-proclaimed education experts with their Ivy League degrees and colonialist complexes. Nope, it’s an educated Black woman, from the South Side of Chicago, with dreads, and a pair big enough to call a spade a spade and expose the truth about the mess Duncan and Daley created with the Renaissance 2010 debacle. Ok, maybe ‘pair’ is an overused cliché, but I couldn’t think of anything else.Well, I could but I don’t know Karen well enough to call her a ‘Bad B*&%$!’

Some people may not understand my excitement about the ‘arrival’ of Lewis onto the education scene as the newly-elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union. My excitement is comprised of equal parts enthusiasm for the fact that:  (1) Lewis is Black; and (2) she holds no punches. Ok, ok..maybe I am more excited about the second one..we have way too many people in education chasing the carrot, shuckin’ & jivin, skinnin & grinnin, and holding their peace for a small piece, of whatever. There are too many people who are cheerleaders for scientific experiments (masked as entrepreneurship) in education for the sake of securing additional blood money, er… funding for continued support. (I guess everyone forgot about the Tuskegee Experiment and it’s lasting effects, but I digress.) There are also people who work/worked under administrations that implement/implemented policies that failed, from the start, yet kept quiet until they made their exit (and nice salaries and built name recognition). I cannot respect such individuals or give weight to anything they have to say because they sold out millions of kids and never said a word. Not.One.Word. Until now, because it’s profitable to bash these doomed-from-the-start policies on the ‘Pimpin’ Education’ circuit. But I guess everyone has their price, I just haven’t found mine yet. God willing, I never will.

I am neither in Chicago or have any direct connection/affiliation with the city, but I am sure the thousands of teachers who work there can perform their jobs without worrying about being fired by some CEO who’s eager to jump through hoops for monetary offers to fire veteran, trained educators in order to make room for other Ivy grads and oops..wrong person. Where was I? Oh yeah, I am confident in the abilities of Lewis as she has not minced words on her stance on Race to the Top, Duncan, or anyone else making ill-informed decisions about education. Karen Lewis is a breath of fresh air, in a tight-knit circle long controlled by clueless windbags only interested in attracting businesses and government grants. Yes, it’s been a long time comin’ but a change has finally come for the teachers of Chicago.

Karen, may the force be with you. Dr. Angelou’s quote provides some good advice for us girls, but in a pinch do what my Granny and Mamma always said: ‘Kick ass and take names later!’

Edreform epiphany: Charters on crack   Leave a comment

(If you are reading this, my sensationalized headline served its purpose!) By now I know better than to draw conclusions based on a sensationalized headline, so I took the time to read through the recent @AJCGetSchooled blog post by Maureen Downey. Actually, it was a  letter written by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky who suggests that we can fix education by making every school a charter school.

According to Smagorinsky, “Charter schools have been offered as one way of invigorating public education by excusing them from many of the rules that bind ordinary public schools. In exchange, they provide charters that outline their mission and means of accountability.” He’s kinda right and kinda wrong. Just like a lot of other people who have not actively engaged (Read: Devoted 2 or more years to developing a charter application) in the charter ‘business.’ Yes, petitioners (those who write and submit charter applications) can opt to seek waivers for some of the state regulations; however, some regulations must be followed, e.g., attendance rules, accountability measures, etc. Be leary of anyone who says that charter schools have different or fewer accountability measures. Any charter school operating in the state of Georgia is required to administer the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), End-of-Course Test (EOCT) and/or the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). Why? Because that is how Georgia’s Department of Education determines whether a school/district meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). No publicly funded school can opt-out of those tests. Not one. Ultimately, the decision to grant any waivers lies with the State Board of Education. We have to stop alluding to the fact that charter schools can pick and choose the laws/rules to which they will adhere.

Here is where my frustration lies (ok, at least one of them): I have yet to hear or read anything about the role lack-luster leadership has played in the demise of public education. Ineffective teachers – check. Bad-arse students – check. Apathetic parents – check. Irresponsible single parents – check. Poor kids – check. When will leaders own-up to their failures as leaders? You know, wasting money to fill unnecessary central office positions. Or wasting money on textbooks not supported by classroom teachers. Changing instructional models/methods every 2-3 years without giving the previous one enough time for implementation and tracked results, or with every new superintendent. Does anyone reading this have any links to any stories covering screw-ups of overpaid central office administration, aside from the indictment of a metro-Atlanta superintendent? I’m still looking…

So here’s what we need to realize: Whether districts opt for charter schools, turnaround schools, firing every staff member, etc., none of these methods will deliver the results they seek. Why? Because some people (leadership) fail to accept that they may be a key contributing factor to the problem. From what I’ve learned, a true leader knows when it is his/her time to move-on to something else. The problem with education is that many decision-makers have been in authoritative roles for 20+ years and still think that solutions of the 90s are applicable to the problems of 2010.

But that’s just me: A crazy mom and former Special Education teacher. What do I know?

New dropout rates aren’t really ‘news’ to many of us   3 comments

Yes, we have been bombarded with yet another report on the number of kids who drop out of high school each year. I read over Duncan’s comments, but I was not shocked. Nor surprised. I didn’t cuss, fuss, shake my head, or throw anything. It’s not that I don’t care because I do. My frustration apathy towards this regurgitated data is based on one simple fact: We already knew this. And by we, I mean teachers, parents, and other people with a genuine concern about education and kids. The problem: No one listens to us. Especially important: No one listens or pays any attention to the kids. Despite what the ‘experts’ purport, kids should have a voice in their education. After all, they are considered stakeholders (education buzzword), right? If we expect them to go to school everyday, work hard, earn decent grades, and pass the oh-so-important graduation tests, shouldn’t we at least listen to what they have to say? Or is it just me?

One thing I hated to hear when teaching: ‘Ms. Seward, this stuff is boring.’ Not because it hurt my feelings, but because I knew that boredom led to other things, such as classroom disruptions,  absenteeism, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and yes, dropping out of school. When kids tell us (both parents and teachers) that school is boring, they mean it. We need to listen and take that as an opportunity to figure out what they need. That’s right, I said it. The adults need to listen to and learn from the kids. If we don’t, we will get the same report about dropouts every year. With no new solutions.

I guess I’m just tired. I’ve met my education b.s. quota for the year. And it’s only June 2nd. Like I said before, we know the problems, but we need to start focusing on solutions. There are many valuable and untapped resources available, waiting for the opportunity invitation to roll-up their sleeves and get to work.

New dropout rates aren't really 'news' to many of us   3 comments

Yes, we have been bombarded with yet another report on the number of kids who drop out of high school each year. I read over Duncan’s comments, but I was not shocked. Nor surprised. I didn’t cuss, fuss, shake my head, or throw anything. It’s not that I don’t care because I do. My frustration apathy towards this regurgitated data is based on one simple fact: We already knew this. And by we, I mean teachers, parents, and other people with a genuine concern about education and kids. The problem: No one listens to us. Especially important: No one listens or pays any attention to the kids. Despite what the ‘experts’ purport, kids should have a voice in their education. After all, they are considered stakeholders (education buzzword), right? If we expect them to go to school everyday, work hard, earn decent grades, and pass the oh-so-important graduation tests, shouldn’t we at least listen to what they have to say? Or is it just me?

One thing I hated to hear when teaching: ‘Ms. Seward, this stuff is boring.’ Not because it hurt my feelings, but because I knew that boredom led to other things, such as classroom disruptions,  absenteeism, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and yes, dropping out of school. When kids tell us (both parents and teachers) that school is boring, they mean it. We need to listen and take that as an opportunity to figure out what they need. That’s right, I said it. The adults need to listen to and learn from the kids. If we don’t, we will get the same report about dropouts every year. With no new solutions.

I guess I’m just tired. I’ve met my education b.s. quota for the year. And it’s only June 2nd. Like I said before, we know the problems, but we need to start focusing on solutions. There are many valuable and untapped resources available, waiting for the opportunity invitation to roll-up their sleeves and get to work.