Archive for the ‘Michelle Rhee’ Tag

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!

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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!’

Blacks, Latinos & Public Education: Who will be our voice?   4 comments

Several weeks ago, BlackEd (Thursdays, 9 PM EST – shameless plug) launched on Twitter. It is an opportunity for parents, teachers, and community members to ‘meet’ once a week and discuss different issues regarding the education of Black students. The interest has grown and I am glad to see many non-minorities actively participate in the discussions each week. However, I will admit that a medium such as BlackEd is long overdue and we have a lot of ground to cover. Here is my concern: Once we discuss these issues, how do we take what we have learned and apply it to the classrooms and communities in which we live? Better yet: How many of us actually have the power (or politics/money) to apply what we learn to the classrooms where our kids spend 6-8 hours each day? What if our communities do not want us to improve education for our kids, and instead, block our efforts at every turn? Now pose those same questions to our Latino brothers and sisters, who are trying to find ways to address the same issues for their children. It becomes very overwhelming, but we must do something now rather than later. Too many of our kids are dropping out, everyday. Too many of our kids are short-changed by the institution of public education. Too many of our kids are conditioned to become criminals and delinquents; not enough of them are trained to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. How do we fix this?

During the past few weeks I have limited the amount of time spent on Twitter in an attempt to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life and the amount of information swirling around in my head. Another reason for my Twitter ‘fast’ has been to avoid reading all of the education rhetoric that is tweeted and retweeted. Sometimes that amount of verbiage b.s. is just too much… I have also learned not to even comment on some stuff because, well, some people post things just to make themselves feel/seem important. As I watched the dialogue last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I were a man (first White, then Black), would I have fewer problems working in the Education system? It seems to me that the majority of those in positions to make important decisions have different genitalia. We could say the same words, in the same manner but I know no one would take me seriously or even listen for that matter. Do I really need to jump on the ‘blame the parents, teachers, or unions’ bandwagon to make things happen? Should I follow in that woman’s footsteps and start sleeping with men in powerful positions to gain entrée into leadership roles? Would I ever be able to go into a suburban school, fire all the (Black and ineffective) teachers and then accuse them of abusing children knowing that my job is protected because Gates and Broad believe that I am increasing test scores? Hmmmm…I doubt it.

Yes, we have a few Black and Latino leaders in education, but I can’t help but wonder if they actually believe everything they say? Do they really believe that blaming parents is productive and necessary? Or do they say those things to appease White people, e.g., district officials who call the shots? I can’t help but wonder why Pedro Noguera is not a household name (in households other than those with Latino names, that is). Why have we not seen him or Baruti Kafele featured on NBC Nightly News or 60 Minutes? Who will speak for the Black and Latino children? There is only so much information you can obtain from research articles and longitudinal studies. At some point, someone needs to ask a Latino how to serve his or her community effectively. At some point, someone needs to ask a Black, single parent what kinds of programs s/he needs to help their kids succeed in Math and Reading. Who will speak for us? Better yet, why won’t they let us speak for ourselves? Afterall, asking someone from a privileged middle-class background to represent kids from Southwest Atlanta is like asking me to be a spokesperson for the Asian community. And we all know that will never happen.

Remember when you point the finger…   5 comments

three are pointing back at you. Yes, I went there with song lyrics again. Couldn’t help it. Dealing with ‘education rhetoric’ overload. Last week I wrote about the single parent-bashing that has been going on in the media, especially as it relates to Education. Since I wrote that blog ‘off-the-cuff,’ I didn’t have time to do any research on people raised by single parents or grandparents who are now very successful and well-adjusted. I am sure that we all know someone who, despite the statistics and negative Nellie, went on to college, graduated, and are making some form of contribution to his/her community. I know I can name a lot of people who are succesful and self-absorbed, but I digress because that is not the topic of today’s blog. Instead, I thought I would issue a challenge to those who are still playing the blame-game and laying the responsibility of Education’s demise at the feet of teachers and teacher unions.

For those who are ‘in’ the 3-ring circus of Education reform, I can’t help but wonder:

  • How many of the ‘experts’ attended public neighborhood schools? Not the elite schools where parents pulled a few strings, but the schools located right in their own neighborhood. Probably none.
  • Of the people, actually ‘in’ Education, who are bashing public school teachers, how many would be willing to contact their teachers to say they did a crummy job? Probably none. For the record, I try to connect with my teachers each year and thank them for their dedication and high standards. Some of them are actually still teaching. Yeah, who says teachers aren’t committed?
  • Has any union-basher actually done any empirical and peer-reviewed research on the detrimental effects of teacher unions? No one seems to notice that Georgia, a state without a union, consistently performs in the bottom five. Massachusetts, however, consistently performs in the top tier. Hmmmm. Could one dare to say that student performance is tied to teacher effectiveness, which is tied to a strong and active support system, a la unions? No one wants to admit that. Nevermind.
  • Will anyone admit the real issue with unions: The only reason why education ‘experts’ are calling for the dismantling or reorganization of these institutions is because they (experts) want to bring-in Rhee-type leaders to fire anyone who does not conform to the regime-of-the-moment and replace them with TFA alums. I guess I just did. Nevermind.

I would like to know when someone, anyone, will start addressing the educational infrastructure, which parents and teachers alone cannot change? You know, things like overrepresentation of minority students (particularly African-Americans) in Special Education. Or how about the underrepresentation of minorities in Gifted Education programs? Here’s a good one: What about the systemic tracking of minority and low-income kids into technical education programs? It’s one thing if kids are interested in those programs, but a completely different issue when kids are not provided with exposure to options. I guess I will continue to have this conversation with myself because no one wants to jeopardize losing powerful connections by admitting that our country’s education system (not teachers) and its archaic policies are, in fact, racist and classist.

Sometimes song lyrics are the best way to convey your point!