Archive for the ‘education reform’ Tag

Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post?   14 comments

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I had the weekend (and part of today) to work through my frustration and anger regarding the manner in which staff at the Huffington Post handled my request to write for their Education Blog special this month. The initial email and ensuing responses are below.

From Me to Them:

Good afternoon,

A Twitter friend ( @ReadyWriting) suggested that I contact you regarding writing for the upcoming Education section of the Huffington Post. Could you provide some additional information on the guidelines and criteria please? I am very interested in this opportunity, as the parent-teacher voice has been silenced in recent Education dialog efforts.

Below are some links to a few blogs/articles I have written:

My personal blog: https://educationceo.wordpress.com/

Contributions to Race-Talk blog (Kirwan Institute);

‘Black women in Education: Do our voices count?’

”Don’t blame the drop-outs, blame the outdated education system’

Examiner.com: Atlanta Education Reform Examiner

I would also like to add that I have approximately 2,300 followers on Twitter. Not quite celebrity status, but not bad for an unemployed single mother (and former teacher) who only started seriously tweeting earlier this year!

Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Sincerely,

~Monise

An email sent from D.G. to T (with a Cc: to myself):

T

Let me know any next steps to take with this one. Thanks!

– Show quoted text – (The initial email I sent, which is above.)


D.G.

Associate Editor

The Huffington Post Impact

Causecast.org

Second email from D.G. to Me (same day):

Dear Monise,

Thank you for showing your interest! People interested in blogging for the Education section are asked to send in a brief bio for review by our editorial staff. If we feel you could contribute to our section we will get back to you as soon as possible.

To familiarize you with the expectations we have for our section and our bloggers I have provided you a bit of information below. If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.

Best,

D

_____________

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system. This is a great opportunity to share your opinions about education and education reform and to encourage readers to get involved. We want to inspire thoughtful discussion about education, spur innovation in the field, recognize great teachers and provide tools and information for ordinary Americans to make a difference for their local schools.

Like the Impact section launched last fall, Causecast has partnered with The Huffington Post to develop the Education section.

By providing unique content (text or video) either regularly or as an occasional guest contributor on this platform, bloggers will be able to share their message with millions of active Huffington Post readers who are looking to be inspired and get involved. HuffPost Education will feature blog posts from teachers, students, education reformers, nonprofit leaders, politicians and celebrities and provide clear calls-to-action for readers looking to get directly involved with the issues discussed. Contributors will include Arianna Huffington, Davis Guggenheim, Rosario Dawson, Geoffrey Canada, Joy Bryant and numerous other individuals passionate about improving education in America.

HuffPost Education presents an exciting opportunity to build a community centered around education topics on one of world’s most active news blogs. To build a strong relationship with your HuffPost readers, we encourage you to contribute regularly. This is the best way to maximize your effectiveness on the platform.

So here is my issue: First of all, I didn’t quite appreciate to the reference ‘this one,’ regardless of the intended context. For the record, I don’t like ‘You people,’ ‘Those people,’ and any other derogatory terms/statements. Second, look at this line (yes the response was canned, but it speaks volumes about the lack of respect that everyone has shown for the parents):

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system.

Did you happen to notice who was missing from the line-up? The same group that was missing from Education Nation and the talk show circuits during the past 2 weeks: Parents. No, not the kind like Guggenheim who can afford private schools for their kids, but the kind like me who sacrificed a lot to buy our first home within a school district known for its (supposedly) excellent schools. Me, who when backed into a corner and threatened to choose my job or my child’s well-being, chose my child and now cannot get another teaching job in the state of Georgia. Me, who is suffering because I cannot do what I love-what I was called to do. Me who realizes that I would rather struggle alone in calling attention to the Johnny-Come-Latelys who don’t know a damn thing about Public Education, must less how to relate to people like me. Like I said before, money does not buy you the experience. Sleeping with a Black man does not buy you the experience. There is no substitute for experience. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. It is what it is.

But despite the elitism and condescension, I knew that I could count on someone (@readtoday) for support and a little hell-raising. To her words and constant support, I say this:

‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And in keeping with who I am and knowing whose I am, I will embark upon my own little boycott of the Huffington Post and any other media rag that choose to continue to ignore the voices of those who have the most at stake in this game of Russian Roulette disguised as education reform. Yes, I know I will be alone but that’s how I came into this world and I am sure that is the same manner in which I will leave. But you know what? I am ok with that because when I have to answer for what I did/did not know do, I know that my actions/words will not have been in vain.

Don’t put your faith in man…….or fictitious superheros   1 comment

DISCLAIMER: I usually post a bunch of links to stuff I reference in my blog. Once you start reading you will see that the topic has been beat like a dead horse (Oh wait, can I say that?) so there’s no need to repeat….everything is on the Internet.

For those of you who clicked the link thinking you would read my .02 on that popular mega-church preacher in Atlanta, you are sorely mistaken. But, since you took the time to click the link, you might as well sit a spell and read what I have to say. If nothing else, my words will compel you to think about some of the people whom you admire(d) and examine why you do so in the first place.

The past week we were bombarded with advertising for the much-anticipated (by some people) movie, ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which provides an inside view (for some people) on the state of public education. We saw Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and others parading around the media circuit to both promote the movie and their agendas. For those of you wondering: No, I have not seen the movie. And for good reasons:

  1. I am gainfully unemployed and have been so for 3.5 years. I can think of about five others things that are more deserving of my $10-12 dollars than a movie which I could have easily written, if I were in the business of pimping showing how kids and parents are stuck without quality school choice options;
  2. I do not need a movie to show me what I already know. Unlike Gates, Oprah, Guggenheim, and (fill-in-the-blank), I have classroom experience, both as a Special Education Paraprofessional and Teacher. In urban schools. Title I schools. Where kids came to school hungry, sleepy, unclean, without school supplies, etc. for a number of reasons. But no judgement because I, unlike the afore-mentioned people, talked to the students, not at or about them as if they were subjects in some science experiment. Big difference. I knew what they dealt with when they left the building.
  3. I don’t trust too many Hollywood movies, especially when people are portraying us (at least people who look like me) as downtrodden and on the brink of whatever, instead of investing into something more meaningful and immediate. Sure, Guggenheim will win an Oscar/Emmy/Whatever but what else will change? Exactly. Next year it will be a different movie. By some other person privileged enough to send their kids to private school. Whatever.

I have more reasons, but that is not the impetus for this blog…maybe later though. So, as people have bum-rushed theaters to see this move, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and online media outlets have been ablaze with stories of snottin, boo-hooin, and carrying on. Wow. Imagine that? Grown folks crying because they saw a 90 minute movie about the conditions of our public schools. I wonder how many stopped to ask themselves: ‘O.K., what about the other 75,510 minutes (180 days x 7 hours a day x 60 minutes for those who are mathematically challenged) that the kids are in school? Should I cry for those minutes/days/weeks/months too? Are the conditions the same?’ But no, they are not asking those questions because, like millions of other Americans, temporary outrage will suffice.  Yeah, I said it. Your outrage is temporary. Please do not mistake my honesty for cynicism or lack of compassion. I spent many days sitting in my classroom (and driving home) crying because I felt like there was so much more that needed to be done for students, but I just did not have the resources, connections, or pedigree to meet those needs. In fact, I still cry for my students because I wonder if they are: (1) alive; (2) incarcerated; (3) employed; and (4) if they ever went to college, as I stressed on a daily basis. But my kids deserved and got more than 90 minutes of sympathy from me. FACT.

I have never been one to shy away from a debate. And I am sure people will dissect and attack what I have written, anonymously, of course, by way of blog comments. And that’s fine. But I know what I know (and have seen) and no one can take that away from me. Or convince me to see ‘it’ from a different perspective. I have been both teacher and parent, working within crappy systems where Greek and church affiliations, or minstreling/Tomming/Shuckin & Jivin clear the path to administrative jobs, even if you cannot string together a complete sentence (Ex: The words tomorrow, yesterday, next (day of the week) DO NOT need to be preceded with ‘on’), or you lack the most basic people skills. By people skills, I do not mean that everyone has to like you, but if students are calling you ‘Bitch,’ ‘Dumbass,’ and ‘Motherfucker,’ then clearly you lack the ability to command/gain respect. In your attempt to deflect the obvious lack of respect from students, you belittle and disrespect the very people you need to help run the school, even at the most basic level of functionality. Sound familiar? She’s not the only one.

I am putting forth this challenge to those of you who have been ‘enlightened’ by this movie. Here are some things Iwould like you to consider when telling others how they should feel about the movie or playing writer and penning a blog, when you obviously don’t have a damn clue as to how to function in a classroom (Did you catch Tony Danza’s crying spell on Oprah? He played the role of teacher for a year and couldn’t hack it.)

  1. What do you think is the real underlying motivation for these people giving millions of dollars to improve Education for these poor little Black and Brown kids? Don’t be too quick to answer this one because you just may get it wrong. If you studied psychology, then you probably know the real answer. Not so much to do with Education directly though. The bible warns: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’ (Matthew 7:15) Some people’s good intentions may be fueled by their desires to mend their battered public images, or convince the wayward sheep (and school districts) to continue buying their products. Besides, good deeds should not come with stipulations attached, under any circumstances. (I just realized that argument is suitable for merit pay too….)
  2. If the philanthropists are genuinely concerned about addressing the underlying issues affecting Education, then wouldn’t it make more sense to address those issues and not just the schools? If you know that 98% of the kids in a district receive Free and Reduced Lunch, why not start a Farmer’s Market in the school or community so that parents can buy affordable (fresh) fruits and vegetables for their kids? Then, you could offer nutrition classes at the school and within the community so that parents understand the importance of a balanced meal. After all, healthy eating habits are linked to academic achievement. Well, at least that’s what the experts say…
  3. Affordable (free) after-school enrichment and remediation programs. See #2.
  4. Academically rich summer programs. See #2.
  5. Healthcare. See #2.

Do I really need to present more examples? I know the writing is a little harder for some to see than others, but I think I have made my point. For those of you who are quick to say, ‘Well, Rhee has done some great things in D.C. so she really needs to stay on to continue her work,’ I present these questions for you to consider:

  1. Do you, based on everything you have learned as a teacher/parent/whatever, honestly believe that she isthe best person to lead that district? Given everything that has transpired publicly (because many obviously don’t know about the under-handed stuff she’s been able to cover-up), do you honestly, deep down inside, believe that she can move the district forward? Usually leaders that have generated such (warranted) animosity amongst employees and other stakeholders are unsuccessful at implementing change that people can believe in and whole-heartedly support. Yes, those things are important. That does not mean they all have to participate in sleepovers at her house or buy Christmas gifts, but an environment free of fear and distrust is imperative if genuine teaching and learning are to occur. Leadership 101. Just ask any leader who has been successful at leading a school or profitable company….
  2. Are you going along with the status quo in hopes of being recognized (on Twitter, nonetheless) and holding out hope that one day, someone may offer you a key position within their organization? I have been reading Tweets very closely and too many people have far too few facts to be her (or any edreformer’s) biggest cheerleader. Every story has three sides: His/her sides and the truth. Like that New York philosopher Jay-Z says (paraphrases, whatever): ‘Men Lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie.’ In this case, congressional reports don’t lie.
  3. Can we really trust a person who falsely accuses teachers of abusing students when she herself admitted to putting masking tape on the mouths of 2nd graders? No, this was not some science experiment. Apparently she had become frustrated with the noise and thought it would be a good idea to turn this into a game. I guess the crying kids with bleeding lips alerted her that it was not fun. At least not for the students. If you do not possess basic classroom management skills, how in the hell are we supposed to trust that you can manage teachers, staff, and students? It’s obvious she can’t manage the parents because they voted her boss (and hopefully her) out of office.

Your answers really aren’t that important (to me) because you do not have to answer to me in the end. But if you had to re-consider your stance on any of the above questions, then I certainly hope you are not a classroom teacher or a parent. More importantly, you do not have enough first-hand experience to interject comments of merit into this debate because you are clearly out of touch with my reality and that of millions of parents and teachers across the country. Before you position yourself over the keyboard to type a tersely written response, consider this: No check, no matter the size, can buy you an experience or a real sense of what people have been/are going through. They call it compensation for a reason. Mocking the Black vernacular to share an experience with new teachers or covering-up for your handsy Black boyfriend will not earn you a ‘homegirl’ card. They call it compensation for a reason. (BTW: I just answered the second #1 for you. You’re welcome)

So in this edreform circus, short men with little feet have been replaced by rich, White (mostly) men with big checkbooks who, undoubtedly, are looking at this with the ‘What’s in it for me?’ angle? There’s always something in it for someone….

Before I conclude today’s sermon I would like to take-up a ‘love offering’ because I do believe I took at least one person to chuuch with this blog post. Thank you and God bless!

A lesson in solidarity, brought to you by Newark City Schools' students   1 comment

Those Who Stand For Nothing, Fall For Anything” Alexander Hamilton 

Newark Public Schools students converge on City Hall. Photo by Andrew Miles/The Star-Ledger

I like this one because it is short and to the point. It is especially timely in light of yesterday’s organized protest walk-out, led by students of Newark Public Schools. Based on what I have seen, I must say that I am impressed. Not by the fact that they walked out of school, but instead by the fact that they had the maturity to recognize that the adults have, up to this point, been fiscally irresponsible with school funds and now the educational system will suffer. Teachers and students are innocent victims, as they do not control the purse strings. 

Want to know why I am really impressed by these kids? They had the guts to do something that so many ‘adults’ are afraid to do: Take a stand. They know that ‘important people’ (a.k.a. the Boogeyman and his cousin Big Brother) will not listen to them. They still hold on to that ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ school of thought. Anyone with an MBA or Ph.D. from an Ivy League school can make decisions for the poor, downtrodden kids, from broken single-parent homes, who live in the drug infested and crime ridden inner-cities (Wow, that was a lot of sarcasm for one sentence). Everyone except, of course, those kids and their single parents. Oh yeah, their teachers have very little input as well. 

So I pose this question: Who will speak for the students, parents, and teachers? Pretty soon, if certain chancellors/superintendents have their way, some teachers will be without the counsel protection of a union. Is this the only thing keeping teachers from openly speaking out? Have conditions in public schools gotten so bad that teachers literally fear losing their jobs if they disagree with the dictatorship leadership? For the opponents of unions, I suggest you take a riding tour throughout the southern states that do not have unions. Ask teachers about what really goes on in their buildings. Take notes. Take really, really descriptive and detailed notes. Ask teachers in Title I schools what those funds were used for. Chances are, the majority of them do not know. Why? Because, for the most part, teachers are never invited to participate in the decision-making process. Lastly, interview parents who say they want their kids to get a good education, to improve their options in life, and ask them why they are not more involved in school-related activities. I already know the answers to these questions, but I would be curious to see what responses others get. 

Dear teachers, parents, education ‘officials,’ and politicians: Do you know where your students are? They are making a statement, right there in the streets of Newark. 

A lesson in solidarity, brought to you by Newark City Schools’ students   1 comment

Those Who Stand For Nothing, Fall For Anything” Alexander Hamilton 

Newark Public Schools students converge on City Hall. Photo by Andrew Miles/The Star-Ledger

I like this one because it is short and to the point. It is especially timely in light of yesterday’s organized protest walk-out, led by students of Newark Public Schools. Based on what I have seen, I must say that I am impressed. Not by the fact that they walked out of school, but instead by the fact that they had the maturity to recognize that the adults have, up to this point, been fiscally irresponsible with school funds and now the educational system will suffer. Teachers and students are innocent victims, as they do not control the purse strings. 

Want to know why I am really impressed by these kids? They had the guts to do something that so many ‘adults’ are afraid to do: Take a stand. They know that ‘important people’ (a.k.a. the Boogeyman and his cousin Big Brother) will not listen to them. They still hold on to that ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ school of thought. Anyone with an MBA or Ph.D. from an Ivy League school can make decisions for the poor, downtrodden kids, from broken single-parent homes, who live in the drug infested and crime ridden inner-cities (Wow, that was a lot of sarcasm for one sentence). Everyone except, of course, those kids and their single parents. Oh yeah, their teachers have very little input as well. 

So I pose this question: Who will speak for the students, parents, and teachers? Pretty soon, if certain chancellors/superintendents have their way, some teachers will be without the counsel protection of a union. Is this the only thing keeping teachers from openly speaking out? Have conditions in public schools gotten so bad that teachers literally fear losing their jobs if they disagree with the dictatorship leadership? For the opponents of unions, I suggest you take a riding tour throughout the southern states that do not have unions. Ask teachers about what really goes on in their buildings. Take notes. Take really, really descriptive and detailed notes. Ask teachers in Title I schools what those funds were used for. Chances are, the majority of them do not know. Why? Because, for the most part, teachers are never invited to participate in the decision-making process. Lastly, interview parents who say they want their kids to get a good education, to improve their options in life, and ask them why they are not more involved in school-related activities. I already know the answers to these questions, but I would be curious to see what responses others get. 

Dear teachers, parents, education ‘officials,’ and politicians: Do you know where your students are? They are making a statement, right there in the streets of Newark. 

A little change requires a little (or a lot of) discomfort   17 comments

Yes, the presidential election is over but people are still using the word change when describing anything from politics to education. I can’t help but wonder: Do most people really want change? I think a lot of people talk a good game, but when it comes to walking the walk, folks start to disappear or get really, really quiet. Yeah, I think I may need to go a little ‘rogue’ in this post because there are some things that need to be said because a lot of people are oblivious to what’s going on in the world, especially as it relates to education.

Barack Obama was elected the first African American President of the United States. He made history. We must move on. I did not hold any unrealistic expectations for this president because I understood (to a certain degree) the mess he inherited: two wars, a crappy economy, a broken-down educational system, and hatred from other countries of the world. As David Letterman would say: I wouldn’t give his problems to a monkey on a rock. Obama definitely has his hands full and he needs our help. First and foremost, we all need to be realistic: He is not going to come close to fixing all of these problems during his first term (yeah, I am claiming a second for him). Secondly, there are things we can do to be the change we want to see (Ghandi).

How? You might ask. Well, for starters, there are thousands of educators on Twitter who have an opportunity to participate in ‘professional development without walls’ like never before via various weekly chats. We can communicate and share best practices with people from all fifty states and many foreign countries. However, simply talking is not productive. Let me go a little deeper: Ignoring the real issues facing our educational system will not make them go away. Since I was a little late to the chats, I thought I would ‘observe’ first to get a better understanding. After observing for a few weeks, I started to notice a recurring theme: Technology. Now don’t get me wrong, I think technology is great, especially since I can connect with other educators. Unfortunately, technology is not solely responsible for the opportunity gap (or achievement gap, as others call it) that exists for millions of students. Let me be more specific: Lots of African American, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, and kids eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. You may know those students as members of the AYP subgroups. I don’t doubt for one second that Interactive White Boards (IWB) are great educational tools but let’s keep it real, shall we? How may schools actually have them? Do they have enough for every teacher? Better yet, how many Title I schools have them? I have said it before and I will say it again: Too many kids have to dodge pimps, whores, crackheads, and dope dealers on the way to school. Reality check: School is the safest place for a lot of students, whether you care to accept and acknowledge that fact or not. Ignoring it won’t make it any less true. I seriously doubt they give a damn about whether their teacher is effective at using an IWB. Reality check: Yes, technology can be a great teaching tool, but when I am hungry and my stomach is growling, I am only focusing on how/where I can get something to eat.

So this brings me to my issue: I suggested that we discuss a real educational issue, like what different schools are doing (besides talking) to address the opportunity gap. Well, the question submitted was completely edited/altered and in no way reflects the one submitted. Hence, the point is completely missed. If ‘professional’ people are too uncomfortable with addressing the issues, are they really competent enough to be in front of the student groups in question? I am reconsidering my opinion on that one because you cannot enter a classroom with the notion that you don’t ‘see color.’ If something is right in front of you, how do you not see it? That’s something David Copperfield could master, but the average teacher, I don’t think so. But here’s a better question: Why do people attempt to stifle the dialogue of those who are interested in addressing these issues? Whether the stifling comes via completely ignoring or changing the question posed, it’s ignoring nonetheless. And it’s not right. It’s unprofessional, offensive, and dismissive. Certainly counterproductive in any attempts to address and eliminate the opportunity gap. I guess we are not as far removed from D.C. as we’d like to believe, huh?

Million dollar question: Do my honesty and directness make you uncomfortable? If I were a man, would you be less uncomfortable? Do you genuinely care about your students’ success? Do you care enough to acknowledge that they may not pay attention to you because they are wondering if they will eat when they get home? Or they could be worried about whether they will have a home at all. Did you ever stop to consider that? If not, you need to at least acknowledge that, as of today, you are not equipped with the knowledge necessary to adequately deliver any content to your students, whether you use an IWB, iPad, Mac BookPro, or not. Period. Before you can take them anywhere, you have to know and acknowledge from whence they came. Yep, it really is that simple. By the way, notice there was no mention of one (racial) group not being competent enough to educate another. I know some of you were looking for it (and probably found or interpreted it somewhere) but I never said it. I will not stop discussing the real issues just to make people feel more comfortable. Sorry, there is too much at stake for me to live in oblivion. If my stance means I have to talk to myself, then so be it. I usually get more done and better answers that way anyway!

Peace!

When it comes to Education, everyone’s an expert   1 comment

I keep flipping through my calendar but I can’t find it: national ‘Education has suddenly become a mess’ day. Is it on your calendars? Apparently, it’s a holiday that only politicians, talking heads, and anyone who has never been involved in Education celebrate. Since the Obama Administration announced the Race to the Top competitive funding initiative, everyone has chimed-in on what’s wrong with Education and what needs to be done. This latest Wall Street Journal op-ed piece got my dander up today, simply because we have reached the point of politico-overload. Do these nuevo-Education experts know that No Child Left Behind was authorized in 2001 to address the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students, as well as the gap between minority and non-minority students? Probably not. Do they realize that we are asking for trouble if the government signs over million dollar checks to states that have repeatedly failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress without the midnight-hour ‘safe harbor’ crutches? Probably not. Do they realize that in order to even begin to touch the surface of the Education crisis, we need to have a major change in leadership? Probably not. But I digress. If you can close the achievement gap with RttT funds dangling in front of you, why can’t you do the same without it?

When it comes to Education, everyone's an expert   1 comment

I keep flipping through my calendar but I can’t find it: national ‘Education has suddenly become a mess’ day. Is it on your calendars? Apparently, it’s a holiday that only politicians, talking heads, and anyone who has never been involved in Education celebrate. Since the Obama Administration announced the Race to the Top competitive funding initiative, everyone has chimed-in on what’s wrong with Education and what needs to be done. This latest Wall Street Journal op-ed piece got my dander up today, simply because we have reached the point of politico-overload. Do these nuevo-Education experts know that No Child Left Behind was authorized in 2001 to address the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students, as well as the gap between minority and non-minority students? Probably not. Do they realize that we are asking for trouble if the government signs over million dollar checks to states that have repeatedly failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress without the midnight-hour ‘safe harbor’ crutches? Probably not. Do they realize that in order to even begin to touch the surface of the Education crisis, we need to have a major change in leadership? Probably not. But I digress. If you can close the achievement gap with RttT funds dangling in front of you, why can’t you do the same without it?