Tag Archives: charter schools

It’s a Start

I watched with great interest this afternoon as Brian Williams moderated a teacher town hall discussion on MSNBC, a special presentation of Education Nation. With reform dialogue reaching a fever pitch lately, from Marc Zuckerberg’s donation to Newark to Michelle Rhee’s seeming impending ouster from Washington, D.C., to of course, the release of the movie Waiting for Superman, education is pretty much on the forefront of American consciousnesses like it probably never has been.

The program, which hosted 200 teachers in the audience and a rotating panel of educators from across the country, started off as a shill show, and no real dialogue commenced until about 10 or 15 minutes in.

The discussion was limited to presentations of arguments about tenure, charters, parental involvement, poverty, and other hot-button education issues. But as so many in my PLN pointed out: no one seemed willing to offer any solutions.

Perhaps the most heartening development to me about the two hour forum was the fact that we teachers finally had a public, individual voice that wasn’t coming from the union. At the very least, we may have been shown to be human beings, rather than insensitive machines collecting a paycheck and taking it to the bank every two weeks. As many in the forum pointed out, one of our major concerns as professionals is the fact that while education reform has become a topic that everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey feels they deserve a say in, it remains a topic where the most important voices – teachers’ – are withheld from the table. Today was a start, and if nothing else, we can hope our views have been, to a certain extent, been introduced to the public in a constructive way.

But there’s something that has been gnawing at me since the conclusion of the show. Never mind the failure of MSNBC to identify their panelists as charter school employees or Williams’ reticence at guiding serious discussion about the points being raised by the audience.

If our voices are to be heard, shouldn’t the people who vilify us like their life depends on it be there to rebut? Where was Arne Duncan? Joel  Klein? Mike Bloomberg? Geoff Canada? Eva Moskowitz? Gates? Zuckerberg? Winfrey? One woman questioned the absence of Diane Ravitch, as she is a vocal opponent of current reform movements. I’d argue it was more important for teachers to articulate their points for themselves, and that her attendance was far less vital than those who operate their vocal bullying at every turn.

Teachers have voices, opinions, and issues worth fighting for, and it’s exciting to know our ideals may finally galvanize in a productive way. However, I wonder: if a teacher scrapes his nails across the board, and nobody’s in the classroom to hear it, do they make a sound?

A Jumbled Mess

I have quite a few educational thoughts buzzing in my brain of late. I’m trying to determine the most tactful, least injurious ways to tackle some of the latest hotbutton issues: 

  • Charter Schools – I’m currently reading Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough and will follow it with The Death and Life of  the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch. I’m becoming particularly interested in the charter debate as my friends go to work in them and with my discovery of the shiny new Charter Bug blog. I have very strong opinions on the matter, but I’ve been asked to educate myself further before I so resolutely define myself as either a supporter or detractor. Plus, if these places are the wave of the future (for better and worse), I better be versed in them. (Side note: after devouring the Eva Moskowitz/Harlem Success article in New York Magazine, I fought with every fiber of my being to resist firing off a scathing rebuke of the tactics and ideologies employed there, knowing that it’d be inappropriate to do so without knowing more. My compromise was to introduce you, my readers, to the article, hoping you’d find it as intriguing as I did, and knowing full well I might someday return to it).

    Which way should I go first?

  • Fairness in Schools – I’d like to consider administrations’ motivations for certain things, be they having us submit superfluous amounts of paperwork, requesting observations, etc. Also, I’ve had reason to think about administration-teacher interactions on the whole, not through anything personal, but through the experiences of colleagues. Perhaps it’s the end of year frustrations that are making me think of these things, and maybe it’s best that I bite my fingers for a bit on them.
  • Climate of NYC Schools – With the city having just decided on a budget (without the state having done so), schools, and all city agencies, are in a major state of flux. This opens up the Pandora’s Box of tenure, seniority, merit pay, and accountability debates. The Chancellor recently wrote that all hires made after the fall of 2007 could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs for next year. This would put me and a great deal of my friends and colleagues at risk. It’s a major issue that warrants exploration and discussion. Currently, it is the singlemost pressing issue of my career, and it has the potential to set me on a path I never anticipated at this stage – which could mean something good or something bad.

So, I shall return. Know that my absence from my readers has been on my mind, and I have a lot I want to say. I’m just trying to figure out how to approach things. I want to make sure I know what I’m talking about before I ask you to devote any time to reading my thoughts. I’ll be back, and I hope to see you then.

Link: The Patron Saint (and Scourge) of Lost Schools

The charter vs. public school debate is really percolating lately here in the big city. I highly recommend you read this New York Magazine article about Eva Moskowitz, the leader of perhaps the most visible NYC charter schools system.