I had to explain to a friend of mine from another country what the term “pink slip” meant. I had to explain that even though they weren’t actually pink these days, it meant that a perfectly hard-working, dedicated, competent person was losing his or her job because the employer didn’t have enough money to pay them.
I had to explain that hundreds of thousands of educators, teachers and support staff, were facing pink slips. And these non-pink, pink slips mean that students will find themselves in unmanageable class sizes sitting in rooms of 40 or 45 or 50 children.
I’m a teacher who knows something about what happens to children in unreasonably high class sizes. I had 39 5th graders one year when I taught in Utah.
I’m about to become an official “commissioner”. I’m not really into titles, but this one, I want. This commission, I want. This work, I want to do because it’s work that matters.
Because so much depends on the success of the work of this commission. (The White House Commission on Excellence in Hispanic Education). It will advise the President of the United States on what needs to be done to create state-of-the-art, high-quality, proven learning opportunities for our Hispanic students. These are students who so often come to our schools needing something special, something customized to fit them.
These are students who come to us often speaking English as their second language or not speaking English at all. The ability to speak English is essential if you’re going to succeed in the United States. But the ability to speak two languages is a gift; it’s a strategic advantage to our country.
In a global economy where more and more employers are looking for employees who are bilingual, how do we nurture an immigrant student’s first language while ensuring he or she is proficient and comfortable speaking English.
(From the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, New York, March 16-17, which brought together the top performing school systems in the world)
One of the distinguished dignitaries participating in the first-ever world conference of leaders from education unions and education ministers, reported on a remark once offered after a presentation of solid, undisputed education research, “Well, that may be true, but it sure isn’t what anyone believes.”
He was making the point that it doesn’t matter what the research says if the political realities are that most people don’t believe it. Powerful people who have any old idea about what they’d like to try to improve public schools will trump solid, undisputed education research if most people think the any old idea seems to make sense.
Like, for instance, something called “market reforms” for schools. Powerful people have an idea that if we ran schools like businesses, we’d see better “outputs”. If we motivated teachers with bonuses for higher test scores, they’d be inspired to work harder.
If we threatened to fire them for low test scores they’d be afraid and work harder. If we standardized instruction and standardized assessment and standardized textbooks then we’d be able to count on the standardized consistency of a global McDonalds where a Big Mac tastes the same to a poor child as a rich child.
The dignitaries in this world conference are sharing the truth of their success.