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Education reform – edu|FOCUS
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Education reform Tag

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Should All Teachers Be Education Majors?

There is a school system in Savannah, GA that offers a non-traditional path for people to become teachers (you can read about it in an article here).  Leaders there are questioning whether or not all teachers should be education majors. In a district with over 400 teaching positions to fill, the process basically allows for a larger application pool from which to select the most qualified teachers, including some who didn’t start out in the field; for example, having a retired army veteran who worked in aerospace engineering to teach math. The program has been around for a while, but is getting more publicity recently due to the teacher shortages in the district and the state. I’ve mentioned before how public education today suffers from being a system stuck in the past, disproportionately adapting to how the world works today.  So I think this school district’s method for selecting new educators holds some merit.  Not to say that those who pursue a career in teaching from the get-go are any more or less qualified to teach, but that there is something to be said for those who can relate their actual life experiences to the classrooms they lead.  They tell writers to “write what you know” in order to make a good story, so why not apply that thinking here?  Teach what you know. In this instance these “new teachers” are mostly coming out of necessity to fill positions, so it could seem like more of a desperate attempt rather than a way to facilitate new (better?) learning methods.  But it’s not as though these educators are randomly plucked out of their office buildings and told to teach - I would hope that they at least have some desire to pass on their knowledge.  Plus, as the article points out, they are required to pass a teacher preparatory program and pass educator exams and background checks.  The only thing they’re missing is a title on their diploma.  I know of a few people who majored in completely different subjects in college, and ended up becoming teachers in public and charter schools, only getting certified in teaching after the fact, so again, it’s not this is a particularly new practice. But I think one of the biggest benefits to having alternate career professionals come into schools to teach is having a more direct way to relate subject matter to lesson plans, and to showcase exactly where and how those lessons can be used in an actual job. Teaching in general gets a pretty bad rap since people are less likely to take a job that comes off as being thankless, underpaying, and stressful.  This means there fewer people actually pursuing a degree in education, which is what is has led to the situation many places across the country now face – not enough qualified teachers.  By openly and proudly offering an alternative path for those who may want a career change (into the world of education), it could lead to a revolution in the way many...

Another Charter Management Company nightmare

The link below points to an investigation by @WFLA 8 in Florida around Newpoint Education Partners, who is accused of creating bogus loans using taxpayer dollars. The issues in Florida are an indicator of a larger issue in our country where the average charter management company puts profits first, ahead of students or even taxpayers. The issues around a lack of general accountability, transparency, and efficiency are hallmarks of charter school management organizations, which are for-profit entities determined to turn public education in a system of haves and have-nots. @WFLA's investigation actually resulted in several school districts distancing themselves from Newpoint but only after losses to the community's public schools. Read the investigation and see the video by WFLA's Mark Douglas by clicking here. When you check out the article, the one thing I think will stand out to you, that stood out to me, was the fact that the San Jose school board paid Newpoint a staggering $500,000 per year the last 3 years as an "annual fee. An annual fee...

The Presumptive Presidential Candidates: What’s at Stake in Education

We’re approximately five months out from the general election for the presidency, and after a long and protracted battle for the nomination, we have presumptive candidates for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Both presidential candidates have strong opinions on issues that will affect our nation for the next four years of their potential presidency and beyond. It’s important to note that thus far, education hasn’t been a big topic of discussion in the presidential primaries, with debates focusing on issues related to the economy and immigration. Trump’s campaign website minimally addresses education in the “issues” section (and not the more visible “positions" section). Clinton’s website has two sections in the issues page dedicated to education (one for K-12 and one for early childhood education). Notably, in this election, because education hasn’t yet been a big topic of conversation, it’s up to the voter to pursue information on their own to try to get a feel for the reforms their preferred candidate might make. From their campaign websites, it’s easier to decipher Clinton’s education policy platform; Trump has been more reluctant to define his opinions on education aside from his strong support of moving away from federal oversight to more local control. The table below showcases some of the “hot button” issues in education of the moment, and the current standings (as of June 2016) of the two presumptive presidential candidates. Issue Clinton Trump Common Core In Favor Opposed ECE Supports universal pre-K Unknown Federal Oversight In Favor Opposed Free Community College In Favor Opposed School Choice In Favor (in public system) In Favor In February, Trump emphasized, “We need to fix our broken education system!” and he has previously advocated for school choice, saying “Competition is why I'm very much in favor of school choice. Let schools compete for kids. I guarantee that if you forced schools to get better or close because parents didn't want to enroll their kids there, they would get better. Those schools that weren't good enough to attract students would close, and that's a good thing.”* School choice is the most specific issue that Trump has recently addressed (aside from common core); it’s a fitting focus for him, given his background in business. Clinton has spoken on numerous education related issues recently. To compare their views on common core, Clinton recently said, "I know Common Core started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum…What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous…Remember a lot of states had developed their own standards and they'd been teaching to those standards. And they had a full industry that was training teachers to understand what was going to be tested. And then along comes Common Core and you're expected to turn on a dime.”* Trump strongly opposes common core and federal oversight in general. The biggest difference between the two candidates will likely come down to the struggle between local and federal control when it comes to supervising education reform and ensuring that every...

A Return to Education in Politics

A few months ago I mentioned that education should be the number one topic of discussion this election season since your education level affects, literally, everything in your life and the lives around you.  And I don’t mean “education level” like whether or not you went to college, but education in that you are knowledgeable and informed on things that matter; the education of the general American public. Since then there have been all sorts of interviews and debates that gave all sorts of opinions on the issues, education included, but I personally feel like the media’s biggest focus this year has been skewed away from education in favor of topics that garner more views and anger (border walls, anyone?).  And as the two main parties are still fighting amongst themselves for a nomination, we have to look at the importance of education for both from different starting points.  I can remember hearing more on the subject on the democratic side, as there are only two major players, but also because they seem to at least have education reform near the forefront of their campaign promises.  Plus they haven’t had to constantly battle for media attention from one particular outlandish and outspoken candidate by giving soundbites and quotes on other subjects, if only to keep their name in the media circuit.  I remember hearing slightly less on the subject on the republican side for that very reason – the attention continually gets placed on other more controversial issues instead. So if you really want to know what your candidates think about the future of education in this country, you’ll have to do a bit of digging around, which on the one hand is kind of good as it means taking an active interest in the political machine (increasing your education, as it were).  But on the other hand, it means that this election season is failing at putting education at the forefront of the general public interest as a whole.  While this may partially be the fault of the capital M “media,” since it’s what drives public interest in the first place, it’s also on the candidates’ shoulders for not realizing just how important education really is with regards to everything else.  Yes, there are still many other factors when it comes to running a country that deserve attention, but I still maintain that most of the issues that stem from those factors start from the education (or a lack thereof) on the matter.  Not everyone deals with the inner workings of our foreign policy or how the national budget will be balanced, so not everyone has to be fully educated on the subject, thus making its importance in media coverage less relevant.  How can we expect the entire population to know what’s the best method for dealing with something like foreign affairs when they know so little about how it works?  There are only so many topics you can cover, politically, before you start to lose attention, so why not make...

Is A Year-Round School System Better?

Should children have so much time away from school?  Is the system of going to school for 180 days straight (minus spring and winter breaks), then having three months off for summer outdated and ineffectual?  Perhaps this sentiment is coming from the dreariness of a working adult, but sometimes I think grade school kids end up being away from a school environment for far too long after spending a very compressed period of time trying to learn everything they can.  So are the concepts behind having school year-round a better solution? Hopefully you’ve all seen the statistics about how kids lose a large portion of what they learned throughout the year during their summer break due to inactivity, and a lack of experiences relating it to real life (a problem with American education as a whole, really).  Therefore the first few months of the new school year are spent recapping what they already should know, which then leaves less time to learn the new stuff.  Of course, this isn’t true for every student, but it is enough of a problem to create statistics for it. The older I get, the more I start to agree to the idea of year-round schooling like they have in most other countries.  In case you were unfamiliar, there are still 180 school days total, they are just spread out through the entire year, for instance having 45 days in school followed by a 15 day break or having 90 days on and 30 days off.  There are already numerous studies and articles about the pros and cons of this system – the National Education Association website lists a few of the basics plus links to a few sites discussing the topic – and a quick google search can yield you all the results you could want for either side.  The biggest concerns come from a much wider range of life aspects like parent vacation time, babysitters, summer jobs, extracurricular activities, finances to run the school, complications between schools going year round versus schools with a full summer break in the same district/location, and so on.  All of this basically comes down to the fact that schooling is treated as such a separate entity from the rest of daily community life that there isn’t really a way to adapt a year-round schedule without a general community overhaul.   [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Year-Round or Traditional?[/caption]   So maybe it’s not the year-round thing that I’m into, but the sense of a more immersive education experience, without overworking students (and teachers) for such a long time only to step away for three months of nothing.  Perhaps if there was a way to emulate the feeling of getting a break from the routine of going to school, but still be in a structured learning environment that can add to the learning experience, while also getting the community involved.  I think something like 45 days in traditional classes and 15 days in some type of modified school environment, like work studies, or mini-internships, something along those lines. ...

Education should be our #1 topic in 2016

As we go into a new year new challenges will come to the forefront for our evolving American society and education should be our #1 topic in 2016. There will be a Presidential election, amongst others, and the country will enter into yet another year of toxic testing, corporate-led educational reforms, and declining school quality due to continued budget cutbacks and charter school lobbying. I for one, am hoping beyond all hope that education is at the forefront in 2016...

New Education Legislation, Same Problems

So the president finally (finally!) signed legislation that ended the torment that was No Child Left Behind in favor of allowing states to take more control over education issues.  The new legislation, called Every Student Succeeds (White House Press Release here), also prohibits the government from implementing Common Core-esque requirements that force every single school system to fall in line based on the same criteria.  While there will be less emphasis on standardized testing, students in certain grades will still be subject to some standardized tests throughout their school career, as before.  The biggest differences are that the federal government no longer has any say in how to reprimand those schools who perform poorly, leaving it up to the states to take action as they see fit (with the exception of the schools who fall in the bottom 5%), the required yearly tests are more flexible in how they can be administered, and graduation rates are given more attention. President Obama himself referred to this as a “Christmas Miracle” since this rewrite was met with bipartisan support, but the real miracle would be actual progress in the education reform movement once the hoopla dies down. While advocating power from the federal level down to the state level may work for some aspects, it isn’t necessarily true for everything.  Take for example other issues the nation is still struggling with, like gun laws, marriage rights, and reproductive rights.  There are still massive disagreements (both on the local and national level) on how these topics should be regulated, which is understandable when you have a large group of people from different backgrounds.  You can’t expect an owl to understand the plight of a stingray, although as humans you would think we could all come to some kind of understanding when it comes to basic human rights. As far as education is concerned it seems as though the majority can at least agree that everyone deserves to go to school, but the concern stops there.  Seeing as how getting what’s considered a “good” education is largely based on financial stability, this makes education a class issue (and inadvertently a race issue).  As long as there is such a large gap between the upper and lower classes in the world, there will be conflicts when it comes to receiving and delegating finances. I’ve mentioned in a previous post about the issues that arise with this new legislation (back when it was known as Every Child Achieves), including how children in poorer schools still can’t be accounted for in the same way that more affluent schools are, and that relying on testing to prove effectiveness can lead to big business like Pearson and McGraw Hill being the ones in control of your child’s education.  And these issues are still a potential problem, but it seems like that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream media as important to think about right now.  It’s election season, so anything having to do with politics is given the forefront, especially something that paints the...

Small Steps for Education Reform, No Giant Leaps Yet

The education reform movement is finally starting to make some more headway across the country, what with the government admitting the pointlessness of high-stakes testing and failure of NCLB-esque programs, and an increasing desire for accountability from charter schools and other alternative education mediums when it comes to results. But is it enough? You may have seen ads lately for something called the XQ Super School Project, where Jessica Williams from The Daily Show walks around the street in a spacesuit talking to people about problems with the current school system. Those ads were just vague enough to peak my interests, but had I not already been involved in learning about the education reform movement, I don’t think I would have given it a second thought, let alone visiting the website myself to learn what the deal was. In case you didn’t know (or don’t watch much TV), the XQ Super School Project was started by Russlynn Ali, former assistant secretary of civil rights for the US Department of Education, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs (yes, that Steve Jobs) with the intent to create a new school model for American schools. According to their website, by taking ideas from literally everyone who has something (constructive) to offer, they propose people to team up and put their creative ideas together to re-imagine how the American public school system operates. A quick google search will give you more info on the project, who’s involved and what people are saying, the biggest headline being how Powell-Jobs has personally donated $50 million to the project for future developments. While I applaud this movement for trying, I can’t help but think that it isn’t enough. Yes, $50 million is a lot of money for one person, but for an entire nation, it’s barely enough to cover the costs of advertising this campaign. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen or heard much about the project in full. Maybe Powell-Jobs was hoping other high-profile individuals would donate as well. Maybe they were hoping for the social media machine to latch on to this project and run with it. Whatever the case, the site only boasts just over 5000 people having signed up, which is no small group, but in the long run aren’t nearly enough people thinking about the future of education to make a lasting difference. I vaguely remember similar projects in the past that had significant financial backing from a few people with the hopes of changing and bettering the American education system (I believe Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation being another big one). And yet, we’re still in the same place we were decades ago when it comes to how education is run. It’s not for a lack of trying, but a lack of comprehensive action. Anyone can ask others what they think about the American education system, and how they think it could be improved, and most people would agree that there needs to be some sort of change. But it’s only when...

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