I received two surprises last Friday at the annual NCTIES conference in Raleigh. The first was being honored with ISTE’s Making IT Happen award. This really wasn’t a surprise for me because they needed my coat size before hand. But it was an enormous career-gratifying honor.
The second surprise was something a bit strange – a phenomenon that I have noticed in my conference experiences across the United States. You see, in some regions, when you receive an award, you walk up, take the object, shake a hand, thank the organization, pose for a photograph and walk back to your table. North Carolina is a perfect example of this practice.
In other regions, say New England, you take your object of honor, shake a hand, but are also obliged to “say a few prepared words” to the audience – words of understated but eloquent humility in the case of New England.
So when the Outstanding (Tech) Teacher of the Year “said a few well prepared words” after her award on Friday afternoon, I calculated that I had only the “carefully prepared words” from two more honorees left in order to come up with something Warlick’esque to say.
I did, though I bungled it badly behind the microphone. So I thought I would try to say it more eloquently here.
I started teaching in 1976, and in these 40 years as an educator, one fact has become clear. We live in a complicated world. Despite what some would have you believe, there is complexity in our world and in our individual lives – and that complexity is beautiful.
Our problems are not simple and they deserve better than simple tried-and-true solutions. They are complicated and they require creative and complex solutions – solutions that also provide new and wonderful opportunities.
The best uses of technology in our classrooms help us and our students to understand and appreciate today’s complexities and to imagine the opportunities that they offer. But we must continue to understand, as true educators, that simplifying and streamlining education will fail, not to mention the fact that it insults our children.
..because the most beautiful aspect of this exquisite complexity is that it invites us all to be different – and we can continue to permit our children to exercise their differences as long as we are willing to simply say, “Surprise Me!”
On January 8, 2002, George W. Bush signed into law, the No Child Left Behind Act. For 5,084 days, the United States has engaged in despicable acts of child labor, forcing its children to slog through physically and emotionally harmful toil and stresses, for reasons that have nothing to do with what was best for them.
We have speculated about the intent of No Child Left Behind, a title that exemplifies political PR’s employment of the english language to “..make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”1 Our speculations have varied into the realms of conspiracy, going so far as to suspect an all out effort to kill public education in America. We have delighted in our own retitling of the law, my favorite being, “No Child Left able to Think for Him Self.”
Sometime today, President Barrack Obama will sign into law, Every Student Succeeds, overhauling the flawed NCLB, which has corrupted the institution of public education for 14 years. Just like the Bush-era law, Every Student Succeeds emanates from political machinations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel calling it a victory for “conservative reform.”2
Of course, returning education to the hands of parents, teachers, states and school boards is not a solution. It is an opportunity for courageous and inventive educators to seise. So here are some suggestions from one in a minority of educators, who actually remember classrooms unconstrained by policy compliance and political accountability.
|R||-||Throw the scripts away and Resourcefully invent practices that work here and now or our tomorrow.|
|I||-||Return scientifically proven research to its proper function and Innovate. Bring back the art of teaching.|
|P||-||Reject the practices of beating our children over their heads with test-prep. Instead, inflect them with Passion. Become passionate again about teaching and what it is that you teach, and make it glow with that passion.|
|N||-||Take the “No” out of education. For 5,000 days, education has been defined by it limits. Education today must be defined by its lack of limits.|
|C||-||Don’t teach students to collaborate, to be communicators, to be creative. Instead, create learning experiences that utilize Collaboration, Communication and Creativity to energize students’ accomplishment of things bigger than they are.|
|L||-||Reinvent Literacy. Free yourself and your students from 19th century notions of the three-Rs. Look for the literacies that instill in us all, a learning lifestyle.|
|B||-||Be Bold. Courageously teach, what has not been taught before and craft learning experiences that are new and exciting. You students will love you for it, and their communities will fund your educational programs.|
1 Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English Language. Penguin.
2 Barrett, T. (2015, December 9). Obama to sign ‘No Child Left Behind’ Overhaul. CNN. Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/09/politics/education-bill-no-child-left-behind-senate-obama/index.html?eref=rss_topstories
North Carolina anxiously awaits its grades. State law (General Statute 115C-83.15) now (2013-2014 school year) directs the State Board of Education (my former employer) to award each of the state’s public schools a grade, A-F. 80% of the calculated score is based on standardized test scores.
This is, to this citizen, further evidence of the arrogance of North Carolina’s pompously conservative law makers. Is their goal, to improve the state’s public schools, when there actions are designed to make it easier for parents to judge their community schools at the same time that they continue to cut staff and instructional materials?
An October 2013 NC Policy Watch article itemized the effects of state’s education budget (2013-2014), as reported by 34 local mostly conservative news outlets in 34 NC towns. Among other degradations to North Carolina children, the cuts totaled the loss of 364 more teachers, 901 more teacher assistants and $8,226,774 for textbooks and instructional materials.
By coincidence a publication just released by the Southern Education Foundation reports that students in American schools, who qualify for free and reduced lunches, now outnumber those who do not. 51% of U.S. public school students are low income children. Of North Carolina’s Students, 53% are low income, and to our south, 58% of South Carolina and 60% of Georgia public school students are low income.
I especially appreciated the statement made by SEF Vice President Steve Suitts.
“No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness… Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”
Some of you are aware that I am working on a new book. I wrote about it here, in I Can’t Believe that I’m Doing this Again! The initial intent of the book is to describe the history of educational technology, as I have witnessed it. However, I won’t really know for sure what this book is about until I finish it. Like all living things, it’s becoming…
Reaching the vicinity of 1994 has provoked a long forgotten memory, an event that convinced me that my days, in my cushy government (NCDPI) position, were numbered.
Here’s what happened.
The big thing in leadership circles at that time was Total Quality Management (TQM). It was developed by Edward Deming, at least partly during the post-war years helping Japan rebuild its economy. I have shamelessly forgotten all of the tenets of this movement, as with all of the improvement schemes of the 1990s. But TQM was really big thing at NCDPI, as the Associate State Superintendent, Henry Johnson, had recently attended a set of workshops. So inspired was he, that hire the consulting firm and required the entire instructional services staff to attend.
I do not remember the name of the firm that delivered the workshops, nor the name of the little woman who led them. I just remember that she came in about every other week, with two or three young minions in tow, prepared to change the way we did things. Although we felt that we could better use the time, we also recognized that we could alway improve our services. So we came with learning and self-reflection in mind. What we didn’t expect was to have our steady-enough legs swept out from under us.
It was near the end of the day of the third or fourth session, when she asked us, “Who do you work for?”
We said, in unison, more than a hundred of us, “The Children of North Carolina.” She looked a little puzzled, and then repeated the question, “Who do you work for?” We looked at each other, our turns to be puzzled. Some people, hesitantly called out, “Communities of North Carolina?” “Parents of our students?” “The schools of North Carolina?” “The teachers in the schools of North Carolina?” ..after each attempt that little lady would repeat,
“Who do you work for?”
Our frustration turned to horror when she blurted out, “You work for your General Assembly (legislature)!”
We, in instructional services, had all come to the Department of Public Instruction because we were educators. We were not there working jobs. We had missions. We believed that we were contributing to a better world by serving the education of our children. The North Carolina General Assembly was viewed, most often, as a barrier to our work, restricting us with budget cuts, politically motivated dictates, and the effects of increasingly blaming teachers and NCDPI for what these politicians called, “Failing schools.”
Horror probably best describes how we felt when she told us that we worked for the General Assembly, and even more horrible was the sudden realization that she was right. The job of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction was to enforce and support the laws passed by our law-making body.
That was the day that I realized that I would be doing something else, sometime soon.
I take this kind of disappointment personally. I should have done more.
I also voted with my checkbook, writing checks to my candidates’ campaigns – probably more than was fair to my family.
But, my checks can’t compete with those from millionaires, billionaires and huge corporations.
The sad thing is that according to exit polls, most Americans seem to side with the positions of Democrats’ on many of the actual issues.
Yet this election was not about issues.
This election was about volume. ..and volume is $bought$ before the voting begins.
This election happened in dark rooms where checks were written, adding zero after zero, with the expectation that the writers would soon be legally freed from many of the consequences of acting to add many more zeros to their bank accounts.
I wonder now if this was the intent of our “Founding Fathers.”
My wife and I are buying a house in the Shelby area, so that we can spend more time with both of our parents and have a larger place for family gatherings.
We’re very happy with the house, except that we can’t get reconnected, the DSL line that the previous owners enjoyed. I’ve spent many hours on the phone with AT&T mostly on hold, or desperately trying to navigate their menu system, or listening to the scripts recited over and over again by the sales and support staff. The story seems to be that DSL is simply not (no longer) available to our house.
Time Warner will not serve the house, apparently because there are not enough houses on our street. The next street over, more populated, has had Time Warner for quite some time.
Being an early adopter of iPhones and iPads, I have been able to keep unlimited data plans on both of them.
I also have an AT&T hotspot device that provides WiFi for me via a local cell tower, up to 5Gb per month. So I went to the AT&T store last night to get its data plan upgraded to 20Gb. It seems that the only way that I can change the plan on that device is by also changing the plans on my iPhone and iPad, giving up my unlimited data there. AT&T seems more interested in providing less service, not more nor better.
We are probably going to go with a Verizon product that will provide WiFi and Ethernet, via a cell tower, 20Gb.
The reason I burden you with this is my wondering,
“What if our roads were handled like this, as a service to customers rather than citizens?”
“What if there weren’t enough people living in my area to result in enough profit for the road company to lay a road?”
“How would my children get an education, if they couldn’t go to school? How would I get my work done, if I couldn’t get to work? How could we shop for essentials, if we couldn’t get to the store?”
You get my point. Our Internet connection has become as important to us as our roads. Yet service depends on the convenience and profitability to AT&T and Time Warner. What’s worse is that North Carolina it is now agains the law for municipalities to establish and provide Internet service to its citizens, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of dollars of compaign contributions from the telecommunications industry.
So what do you think?
A few days ago, I posted an article explaining “Why You Won’t See Me at ISTE ’14.” In it I wrote,
I blame and accept the fact that experience that spans from TRS-80 to IOS has become a little less important compared to the creative energy of much younger educators…
Our discussion, however, had almost nothing to do with technology, but concerned the era in which we began teaching.
For me, it was a full 25 years before No Child Left Behind standards-based teaching and punitive high-stakes tests stained the “art of teaching.” Things were quite different in terms of the autonomy that teachers exercised in determining what and how their children learned – and some mediocre teachers, admittedly, took advantage of the freedom. However, most, whom I came in contact with, used their academic freedom as a seedbed to create dynamic and effective learning experiences for their students.
For years I have felt that this-too-will-pass, that the arrogant belief that we can know and teach everything our children will need to know to be prepared for their future simply makes no sense, and that we would come to our senses.
But it occurred to me, during that email exchange, that more and more of the teachers in our classrooms today were trained to test-prep and have been indoctrinated to an education system based, more than ever before, on an industrial production model.
So I did some research and tinkering with a spreadsheet, and found that about half of the teachers in U.S. classrooms today have never worked in a school culture free from high-stakes testing.
To illustrate this, I made an infographic that shows the decline in teachers who have experienced academic freedom and the rise in teachers who have always worked under the constraints of government/corporate standards.
To be sure, this does not mean that there aren’t young educators, today, who are courageously and creatively going beyond the regimentation that is the character of test-prep classes, nor that there aren’t older teachers who are happy to model their classrooms on mass production.
But it does suggest a dramatic shift in the culture of our schools,
An approaching point of no return.
To complicate things, the table included only data for every 4th year, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011, which was not enough to plot the level of accuracy that I wanted. In addition, the years experience were grouped, i.e. less than 3 years, 3 to 9 years, etc. I searched further, but could not find any more complete data at the national level. If you know of such a document, please comment below.
To fill in the blank years, I worked my OO spreadsheet so that it calculated trends from the 4 years and the experience ranges, and filled in the blanks, across and down, based on those trends. Not a perfect solution, but the point of my infographic was to illustrate a trend, not precisely measure a phenomena.
Having such a seemingly rich data set enticed me to plot for other trends and anomalies, such as specific rises or declines in teacher numbers, indicating times of sudden influx of new teachers, or increased retirements or, and I hate to suggest the possibility, mass resignations. Alas, it would take more completely accurate information to do such a thing, not just calculated trends.
My daughter just alerted me to a 10:42 AM article appearing on the WRAL.com web site, Lawmakers Propose Dumping Common Core Standards in NC.
The puppet-masters of the Tea party have effectively used the Common Core standards to create a flashpoint for generating emotional energy against government regulation. North Carolina is not alone in struggling with the politics of CCSS, as several states have abandoned the Common Core – as a title.
But the arrogance of NC’s General Assembly demands that we go further.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said that other states, such as Florida and Indiana, had merely renamed Common Core in their repeal bills. Indiana, he said, “didn’t totally devolve itself from Common Core. This bill does that.”*
The clincher, and what provoked me to write this article, was that the proposed bill assigns the writing of a new, North Carolina curriculum to an “Academic Standards Review Commission,” which would be part of the state’s Department of Administration not the Department of Public Instruction.
In an effort to find any logic in this, I found, not without difficulty, an organizational chart for the N.C. Department of Administration. Its offices include:
|Motor Fleet Management||Purchase & Contract||State Construction|
|State Property Office||Historically Underutilized Businesses||Mail Service Center|
|Surplus Property||Facility Management||State Parking|
|Council for Women||Human Relations Commission||Commission of Indian Affairs|
|Youth Advocacy & Involvement Office||Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation|
And, here it is…
-> Non-Public Education <-
- Raleigh is No. 1 place to live in U.S. - Businessweek 2012
- No. 3 Best Places for Business and Careers - Forbes 2013
- No. 1 Best Places to Retire - CNNMoney 2013
- No. 1 America’s Best City - Bloomberg Businessweek 2011
These are only a few of the accolades layer at North Carolina’s capital and surrounding Wake County. So why are the county’s teachers resigning from their jobs in record numbers this year, a 41% increase over last year’s mid-year resignations, according to an April 17 article in the News & Observer.
In a recent press conference, held at Underwood Elementary school, district leaders reported that 612 of the county’s 9,000 teachers have resigned during the current school year (that’s 1 out of 14 teachers). By this time last year, only 433 teachers had resigned. The most mentioned reason in the News & Observer article was money. North Carolina is 46th in teacher pay. Teachers in this state have received one raise since 2008.
The upcoming Speaker of the House, of the “most arrogantly conservative state government in the country,” Paul Stam, wrote in an email message that, “There is nothing particularly alarming in this report, other than WCPSS cherry-picking numbers to fit its narrative.”
Stam mentioned an increase in teacher retirement as a big reason for the increased resignations. True that 142 of the 612 mid-year resignations were taking early retirement — experienced teachers leaving the profession.
Where’s the good news in that?
Regardless of the claims of school officials, politics almost certainly played in to the press conference. Teacher raises will be part of the General Assembly’s (re-election) business this term, even though the newly adopted state tax plan leaves little room for higher salaries for NC teachers. Governor Pat McCrory (Rep) has proposed a $2000 raise for first year teachers, quickly touting the $200 million it will cost tax payers.
Underwood Elementary has lost five teachers this year. Two had lost their homes to foreclosure and one was living on food stamps.
As we lose record numbers of experienced professional educators, the number of students entering the UNC system’s schools of education declined 7% in 2013. Raleigh’s North Carolina State University expects 18% fewer enrollments this year in its school of ed.
There is simply nothing good about this –
..unless dismantling democracy-born public education is the plan of a conservative government–supported big business desire to turn our children’s education into a profit-driven market place.
In early 2012, Public Policy Polling ran a national survey to determine the favorability of each state in the union. Not surprisingly, Hawaii was number one with 54% of those polled giving it a favorable rating and only 10% an unfavorable. Southern states, North Carolina and south, generally did not fair well in popularity. Exceptions were my state (NC) and Tennessee, both landing among the top ten. All others, except for Florida, were in the bottom half, four of them in the bottom 10.
Later that year a new government took control in North Carolina, Republicans winning 65% of the seats in the General Assembly based on only 52% of the citizens’ votes (see the Best State that Money can Buy). Since then, this arrogantly conservative body has?
- Denied access to federal emergency unemployment benefits
- Blocked access to federal Affordable Care Act health care benefits
- Increased taxes for low-wage workers
- Lowered taxes for millionaires
- Did away with 5,200 teacher positions and 4,580 teacher assistants
- Canceled salary incentive for educators to become more educated
- Are giving away $10 million in public funds to private schools
- Closed 15 of the state’s 16 abortion clinics
- Suppressed voting rights
- Enacted policies policies that make millionaires more important to candidates and voters less
On September 5, PPP reported a re-assessment of the states’ favorability and wrote,
North Carolina’s national image has seen a strong shift in a negative direction since that time. Its favorability has dropped from 40% to 30%, while the share of voters with an unfavorable opinion of it has more than doubled from 11% to 23%. Its +7 favorability rating would have ranked it 40th in our national study of state popularity in 2011, rather than its top 10 popularity at that time.
I fail to see how this points to improved economy, more good jobs, safer and healthier citizens, more tourists or new businesses.
keep looking »