Thursday, September 30, 2010

Collaboration Convention & unConference MSP 2010

Over the past few months I have had a number of conversations on Twitter with educators from MN, WI, and IA about holding something like an Edcamp or Educon event in our region. Events like these which are described as unConferences have come to be an emerging phenomena in recent years and a growing trend. However, no one has organized an unConference for educators in our region and the discussion has always been, "We should get something started..." but then it never happens. People get busy and no one ever gets around to taking the reigns and leading such an initiative.

Well, someone did finally take the initiative and finally organized an unConference in St. Paul, MN this November 11th-13th (thanks Jill!). The event is called the Collaboration Convention & unConference MSP 2010 and will be focused around the topics of education, collaboration, web 2.0, and connective learning. I am happy to be involved with this event and think it will be a worthwhile experience for all who attend. Registration is open. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How tenure gave rise to Teach for America

Yesterday Tom Whitby posted a well-written response to the teacher he saw at NBC's Teacher Town Hall this weekend who stood up and said she did not want tenure. In his post Mr. Whitby gives a very compelling reason for why tenure is necessary in schools but, I don't believe this account tells the whole story.

Without Tenure I never would've kept my job. It had nothing to do w/my teaching & everything to do w/my being vocal and a learning advocate.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

While I understand the need for due process that teacher tenure provides and I fully support the position that we need due process to protect against the potentially wrong-headed decisions by an abusive or short-sighted administrator in my own experience the inverse has been true. Let me modify Mr. Whitby's statement to make it fit with my experience:
Without Because of Tenure I never would've have been able to kept my job for more than three years. It had has nothing to do w/my teaching & everything nothing to do w/my being vocal and a learning advocate(of which I am both), it has to do with budgets and unequal protection.
Tenure does not protect teacher jobs equally. It protects those who have been in their positions the longest the most. The problem is, our nation's teacher workforce is unbalanced. There are a lot of teachers who are from the "boomer" generation who are nearing retirement, are mostly wonderful teachers, whose experience is a great resource for our schools and for younger teachers, but who cost more because of union-negotiated steps and lanes. Whats more, many of these teachers would like to retire (and many could by rule of 90 that many states have) but they can't because of the cost of health care. So, each year (until they reach 65) their employment costs school districts more money. The tenure provision coupled with the seniority and teacher pay structure in a time when schools are tightening their belts means that cuts always happen first at the bottom of the seniority list and first among the highest-payed employees who do not possess tenure who work in areas not considered "core" subjects.

I think this graph illustrates the issue. These stats were from 2004 so you can shift the lines to the right by six years to estimate what the teacher workforce looks like today:

In the past seven years I have been on the receiving end of budget cuts three times and four times my classroom was directly affected by those on the receiving end in adjacent programs at the schools where I have worked. After ten years experience as a teacher and now with my Master's degree I have been told by many school administrators in interviews that the place they would have to place me on the pay scale if they hire me would be cost-inhibitive. I have also sat in on interviews for candidates for other teaching positions where when a teacher with 10-15 years of experience comes in with high mobility on their resume the others on the panel have expressed this mobility raises red flag for them. That is a hard thing to hear when I know my resume reflects this same level of mobility. That is two strikes, one more and I am out.

The real truth about tenure is, given this imbalance in the age distribution of the teacher workforce, and given that not all teachers are granted due process, and given that schools are being forced to deal with less means that tenure only protects the jobs of teachers at the top of the seniority list. The other inconvenient truth about tenure is because of this imbalance and because of the weight at the top these "protection" measures have in fact caused a condition that has allowed programs like Teach For America to flourish. Teach For America fills the need for cheap teachers by foregoing traditional teacher training and recruiting Ivy League graduates to give two years of their time, before embarking on their high-paying careers, teaching in our country's public schools. Instead of a career commitment to education, TFA teachers receive only a five-week crash course in how to teach. It is not that that TFA teachers are filling jobs that no one wants, there are plenty of teachers out there who would love to take these positions but whose qualifications make them too expensive.

I would like to be able to lend my support behind the fight to keep tenure but I can't. I need to be able to feed my family. I would prefer to work toward eliminating the need for things like tenure in schools. It is why I so fervently support and advocate for teacher-run schools and teacher professional partnerships.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twitter Book Club: John I. Goodlad (1979) What Schools Are For - Chapter 4

"The norm by which the performance of schools is now judged is entirely inadequate from one perspective (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The affixing of accountability for improving performance according to the standard now used inhibits the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"many people outside of schools who think they know what will lead to improvement and who are imposing (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

This statement I believe to be partially true. It is why I am starting to think that in order to make real substantive changes in education one needs to leave the classroom and grow into an outsider role. An educator like Tim Walz who left the classroom for the House of Representatives is perhaps in better situation for change than the teacher fighting the struggle in the classroom. Problem is, the teacher who leaves the classroom to fight for the changes they thought they needed ends up passing on changes for others that they felt they need, not necessarily what kids or current teachers need. In many ways this is a paradox.

"neither satisfied nor dissatisfied parents give much thought to whether their children's curricula were (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

I think this is a condition we are schooled into. A passing thought I had this morning was that maybe the Libertarians have a good point in their drive to restrict what schools do. If we reduce what schools do to a more basic purpose it will force other institutions to take responsibility for what they have let schools take the burden for. On the other hand, this approach would need to be coupled with other measures to ensure equity happens by some other means.

"how a student spends precious time in school and how he feels about what goes on there is of much greater (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Use of norm-referenced standardized test scores as the standard for judging student, teacher, and school (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Is the time not overdue for seriously considering other ways of accounting for what goes on in the education system?" Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"what about this school administrator's criterion of a successful school: 'I know this is a better school (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"my further guess is that more complex intellectual processes not easily measured will decline at an even greater rate." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

My concern as well. In fact, I believe we have seen this happen large-scale in the past ten years.

"Schools are caught up in society's conflicts when they try to educate for changing circumstances." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The family is potentially our most powerful educative institution. Nonetheless, it is regarded primarily (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

How do we restore this role for the family? This, I believe, is one of the issues Education Nation on NBC ought to be discussing. Yes, we need good schools, but we need to recontextualize what role they play. They ought to be seen as resources to help families in educating their children, not as the sole proprietor.

"There are few instances in our society of organizations increasing in size without increasing in (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

@anderscj Thanks for the gems from Goodlad. Do you Oprah, Arne, Gates, or the DFERs have read any of his work?less than a minute ago via web

@sabier I doubt it, but I think his work did in large part add fuel to the beginning of the charter movement.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@sabier problem is the direction they take it bastardizes it's original intentions. Instead of creating places 4 R&D they create inequities.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

"Scholars and innovators in research and development enterprises outside of schools rarely possess the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"legislators assume not only that they know what is best for schools but they will give it, even though (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"It would be easy to suggest that the improvement of schooling rests with educators...But it would be (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Teachers, in turn, are more tied to their disciplines and the teaching of content than oriented to the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Our schools must be reconstructed, one by one, by citizens and educators working together." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I had a dream last night, that after watching "Waiting for Superman" and watching the whole PR campaign on Oprah and MSNBC this week the American people saw through the crap and rallied to actually help improve their own schools. It was sort of a "peasant revolt" against the corporate "common core" options being sold to them by the "reformers" acting from their ivory towers and imposing reforms on them instead of with them. In my dream parents became driven to take an involved role in school in places where none had done before. In my dream local businesses donated supplies to fix up crumbling infrastructure. Then I woke up wondering, could it happen?

"The goal-oriented factory model furthers the instrumental role of schools, taking attention almost (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"the indices of improvement used in the model are such that a school can appear to be getting more healthy wh (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

@anderscj i have not read anything of Goodlad's. Can u suggest some links or books... I want to read what you are tweetingless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

"It was of great importance to the health of the system that the children began to see the difference (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"We gave little or no thought to outcomes but a great deal of attention to each other, to how we wanted to (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The issues of accountability are substantially more complex in the ecological than in the ends-means model (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

I love these last two tweets. They are from a story Goodlad tells about a class he taught where for some act of fate he ended up teaching a class of students in a classroom that was effectively situated as a one-room schoolhouse. In that environment he had a lot of leverage and flexibility to do whatever he felt necessary. He ends up establishing a culture of shared goals and shared experience. It really is a lovely description of what I believe is one vision of an ideal learning environment.

"We can no longer be content with standardized achievement test scores in a few subjects as the sole (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

@joe_bower I have not read anything else of Goodlad's. I read this book in a grad school Ed policy class and it made a strong impression.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@joe_bower At the time I was so pressed to speed through it I never really got to digest it the way I would have liked to. So, now I am.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@joe_bower The strange thing is, I think, the charter movement began heavily influenced by Goodlad's work...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@joe_bower ...but what it has devolved into, with corporate entanglements and "common core" legislation, is a departure from Goodlad.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

I do wonder if Duncan, Oprah, Rhee, Canada, and crew have read any John I Goodlad. How could we get them to?

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Twitter Book Club: John I. Goodlad (1979) What Schools Are For - Chapter 3

"Education occurs in the individual; it involves the whole of the individual; it occurs in schools, homes, (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Our public system of schooling is to a considerable degree a servant to its clients and dependent for (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"the patrons of schools in our kind of society are impatient; they tend to want quick, highly tangible returns." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"To evaluate schooling solely for its contribution to specific goals and objectives is to misinterpret what education is all about." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Even when one concedes the importance of goals for schooling-and one must-it is the quality of the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"because of the dominance of the production model of schooling with ends being defined without (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The logical that such goals should be abolished or ignored. Schools would probably be more educative as a result." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"state legislators and educational leaders are fascinated with the prospect of reducing general goals to (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

Regarding clear goals: "This is like saying that students are more likely to run in straight lines when asked or required to do so." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"the simpler the learning task (counting or kicking a ball), the more productive the practice of using precisely defined objectives."Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"debate usually sets up a dichotomy between responsibility to an ever-widening social and cultural order (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Schools that do not produce self-directed citizens have failed both society and the individual." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"We say that our schools fail to educate; what we should be saying is they have scarcely tried it yet." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I might come back at a later date and add commentary to these quotes. Right now they speak for themselves for me but I needed to archive them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Technology Integration Specialist Field Guid: Strategy #5 - Show your vulnerabilities

In a previous Twitter Book Club post I discussed four strategies I believe work well for working with teacher professional development where the goal is to bring teachers from assimilation to accommodation of new learning, something I believe is extremely necessary with technology integration. I believe I have stumbled upon a fifth and powerfully effective strategy to add to this list. This strategy will also probably work for anyone working with others to deliver professional development in a coaching setting but it seems to be especially relevant for tech integration since many teachers are often reluctant to come ask for help for any number of reasons. To explain this strategy let me tell you about how I came to it.

Last April I bought a used car that doesn't have automatic headlights. It is the first car I have owned since I began driving in 1992 that didn't have this now basic feature. So far this has not been a huge problem. The length of the days in the summertime mean that I rarely need to use them on my to or from work. However, now that the days are starting to get shorter it is dark enough when I leave my house in the morning that I need them on and my drive is long enough that by the time I get to work I have long past the time when I need them. Consequently, since school started there have been four times when I forgot to shut off my lights after I parked my car and went into work. By noon my battery is drained and I need help jump-starting my car.

It seems like it is always a little bit embarrassing to ask someone to help you jump-start your car, especially when you know the reason is because of your own absent-mindedness. You have to put your tail between your legs and ask someone to help you fix your own mess. In my case the people I asked help from, at least for three of these four times, were people who I had not yet built a strong collegiate relationship with. Asking for help and then receiving it is a bonding experience between both parties. Since these bonding experiences I have noticed the people who helped me have been more likely to approach me at school with problems they have with technology or to ask for suggestions for how they might improve something they are doing in their class. They have also been more comfortable with me coming into their classrooms and assisting them with their classes or even just observing them teach.

I don't know why this never occurred to me before as a necessary strategy to use. In fact, I don't know that it would necessarily work if these were not authentic situations where I needed help. I used to use this strategy all the time when I taught at-risk learners at an alternative learning center. In that setting I saw a disproportionate number of students who for one reason or another had built a wall between them and those in authority, especially those who represented "schooly" authority like teachers and principals. I always found that to reach these kids I had to show them a little bit of my vulnerable side, I had to ask them for help with something. Usually, once removing my teacherly authoritative facade they removed theirs and often they became model students in my classroom. In fact, thinking back on every year I taught art in the face-to-face classroom this was the case.

Given the fact that among sectors of the economy education ranks last in its use of technology and so many teachers report being uncomfortable with it, maybe it makes sense to think of teachers as "at-risk" learners. Maybe, on this topic, it makes sense to apply some "at-risk" pedagogies to teacher professional development. But then, what I found worked well with "at-risk" students worked well with mainstream students as well.

So, what should we call this strategy?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Twitter Book Club: John I. Goodlad (1979) What Schools Are For - Chapter 2

"Some institutions take on things that society never specifically nor officially asked them to do and (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Education has a way of trickling out of any and all confinements often to the annoyance of individuals and (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Books are burned because they contain dangerous messages." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The 'Good Book' was retained in the hands of those who preached the Gospel until the printing press changed all that." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"historically those in power often have feared education and sought to deny it or to provide inferior schooling to the masses." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"[Education] is civilization's most significant process for determining what a society might become." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"A society using it's educational institutions and resources predominantly for training is in grave trouble." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"To make education into a vehicle for social engineering usually results in both disillusionment and the corruption of education." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"If we see education as both the long- and short-term answer to all of society's problems, we will make (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Going to school, not going to school, or going to certain kinds of schools may be more important for (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The educating that does go on in them is carefully controlled through teacher education, materials of (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Social and communicative networks within the topmost levels of the hierarchy ensure maintenance of career (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Faith in God and the invocation of God's will to justify and sustain man's inhumanity to man are two very different things." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Education and schooling have been equated; but in the process, education and training have been confused." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Schools that truly educate threaten long-standing mores and beliefs." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"If we did not have schools we would have to invent them." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Have years of bad news about schooling convinced large numbers of people that 'out there somewhere' are legions of bad schools?" Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I will let Sam Sherratt handle the commentary on the first half of these tweets. Thanks Sam!

I've written a blog post using @anderscj's quote from this morning! than a minute ago via TweetDeck

"my colleagues and I were unable to identify better educational programs in the private ones; but we did (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

This sounds so much like it describes our current condition with regard not only to private schools but charters, online options, Gates & company, etc. Difference is now the literature/propaganda has also entered an era of negative campaigning.

"This is no time for abandoning commitment either to social purpose or public education. Rather, it is the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"we need to initiate a national dialogue about what education is, what it should do, and where it can be most productively advanced."Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I think this dialogue should be ongoing and should run as a backchannel to the operation of public education in general. It is a topic that needs constant reexamination.

"Undoubtedly, many teachers were dissipated by the admonition that they had to change their ways, but the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

That wasn't supposed to be "dissipated" I don't remember what word it was supposed to be but obviously my iPod didn't know it. I think it was supposed to be "disavowed." This statement was published in 1979 but he might as well have been talking about our current condition. I know I am guilty of this as are other educators working toward change in schools. This is a great reminder to keep in check the realities of the classroom. It also presents a dilemma.

"Few of those in and around a given local school are in a position to set an agenda for improvement, (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

""Do not our young people have a right to comprehensive educational programs in which they will (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Schools generally have neither the requisite resources nor the authority to be accountable for an end product." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator

While this is so true it also runs contrary to the current political climate. When a school fails, whose fault is it? It certainly cannot be 100% the teacher's fault. This is especially true the more policymakers and administrators dictate prescribed curriculum and prescribed pedagogy. If you tell me I have to follow a script and I follow it but my kids fail you cannot blame me for the failure, you have to blame the script. But, that is not what we see happening.

"[approaches to accountability] which have assigned responsibility without any commensurate authority, are a sham." Goodladless than a minute ago via Twittelator