It’s been a crazy year in education! If you’re taking time over winter break to reflect on 2013’s highs and lows, here are the education “hits” that have changed my thinking this year:
- Invisible Child by Andrea Elliot, New York Times. Anyone who talks about the achievement gap in this country needs to read this searing profile of a 11-year-old girl cycling in and out of homelessness in New York City. If we are serious about addressing the needs low-income students of color in this country, we need to first understand the conditions in which many of our students are growing up.
- Educating the Educators by Mike Rose, The Answer Sheet, Washington Post. Cutting through the hysterical rhetoric of so much of the conversation in education these days, Rose, a professor at UCLA, sheds light on the meaning of teaching with his thoughtful, wise, complex and compassionate discussion of what it means to become a teacher and who ought to be one. Part One is a re-examination of some of the terms we use to define teaching. Part Two is a discussion of diversity and what we mean when we say “selectivity.
- Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder by Ryan Fuller, Slate. This post has gone viral for good reason. Fuller, who became a teacher with TFA after several years as an engineer, is in his second year in the classroom. This piece brilliantly unpacks exactly why the job is so challenging.
- Examine Yourself by Camika Royal, youTube. A viral video from TFA’s convocation on the East Coast this year. Whatever you think of TFA, Royal, a veteran teacher, rips into opportunistic newbies who plan to fluff their resumes and get out, reminding them—and us—of why the battle for educational equality matters profoundly.
- Why Teachers of Color Quit by Amanda Machado, Atlantic.com. Rounding out my selection of pieces about TFA, Machado, a recent Brown graduate, deals head-on with the issues she faced in TFA as a Latina who had grown up in a low-income community similar to that of her students. Machado discusses feeling marginalized by her fellow corps members, who dismissed talk of diversity as irrelevant and annoying, and who often seemed to view the circumstances of their students with disdain.
- Can School Reform Hurt Communities? by Sarah Carr, New York Times. Carr, who wrote a book a couple of years ago that was a glowing report of new charter schools in New Orleans, returns to the task with a sobering look at some of the aftereffects of these new schools. Carr’s thoughtful and balanced examination of the benefits and unintended consequences of these new schools presents a microcosm of many of the issues faced by schools across the country.
- Even When Test Scores Go Up, Some Cognitive Skills Don’t, Anne Trafton, MIT News Office Title tells all in this one. An MIT study of 1400 eighth graders showed that students who demonstrated significant gains in test scores over an academic year—the current gold standard of what we call “growth” and what we look for in “effective teaching”—did not show any comparable growth in what the researchers call “fluid intelligence,” or the ability to think clearly and swiftly. In other words, schools that are achieving high test scores are not necessarily teaching their students how to think.
- Private Equity Investing in Education Companies – Seizing Success in an Industry Undergoing Transformation – Capital Roundtable Master Class Webpage – I’m not big on conspiracy theories that say that charter systems are pawns in a Wall Street push for privatization, but whenever someone tells me we can’t afford to lower class size in low-income communities or create tolerable working conditions for teachers, I remember that those same underfunded, overcrowded classrooms are somehow incredible business opportunities for a whole lot of investors.
- The Charlotte Danielson Rubric for a Highly Effective Husband – W.D. Haverstock, My Life as An NYC Teacher – A sendup of the evaluation system currently in use in many classrooms, in which every human interaction can now be assigned a numeric rating. Includes a libelous and outrageously inappropriate personal attack on Charlotte Danielson, creator of the rubric. It’s so wrong on every level, but damn, it made me laugh.
- Why I am Returning To School – Kenneth Bernstein, Daily Kos – And if you’re ready to hang it all up, I offer this post by a blogger who calls himself TeacherKen who had retired in disgust and then returned to the classroom determined to stay. Bernstein’s piece reminds me that in spite of all the politics, the bureaucracy, the torrent of data proving something that last week was regarded as heresy and which only next week will be disproven, teaching still matters. “I am a teacher,” he writes. “I care about the future of my students…For me to walk away while I am still capable of making a difference is a betrayal of all I hold dear.”
With the new year on the horizon, I only hope I have TeacherKen’s courage and wisdom.
Special thanks to my pseudonymous friend Ben, who sent me half of these pieces, as well as my indefatigable friend Randye, who has forwarded me pretty much everything in the blogosphere with the word “education” in it, all the while tweeting that she has a crush on the Pope.
Happy reading—and happy new year!