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Uncommon Sense to the Core

I was talking to my neighbor the other day. On the front stoop, she introduced me to her friend who was visiting – a middle-school librarian from Maryland.

I told her I worked with the NEA, and we talked a little shop. I asked, “So what are you doing to get ready for the school year.” She said, “Well, my district is giving us all a lot of in-service on the Common Core StandardsI’m kind of excited about how it could change things. I’m getting all kinds of ideas about how our school library can be used in new ways.”

And so begins the revolution.

I’ll admit it. They had to win me over to the Common Core State Standards. Maybe it’s because it has “standard” in the name, and I can’t help but think of standardized tests – that tail that not only wags the dog, but has become the dog. Hitting your number on a standardized test has become what it means to teach and what it means to learn.

When state governors – Republicans and Democrats – started talking about national standards that would come from a coalition of states instead of an Act of Congress, I rolled my eyes towards heaven and whispered a silent plea for help from above that they stop the insanity. Something called Common Core Standards had to just be a new excuse for more standardization and more de-professionalization.

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High Stakes Testing Ground Zero…And the Revolution that Followed

Norma de la Rosa didn’t sleep the night before because she was afraid.  Norma is the president of the El Paso Teachers Association and she’s not afraid of much.  Not politicians or reporters or giving speeches before hundreds of people, but she was about to do something no one in El Paso had done before.  She had invited the entire community to come to what is being called their Ground Zero.  She was afraid that no one would come.

Ground Zero is what we call the pit left after an explosion.  After an attack.  Bowie High School was Ground Zero for hundreds of students whose futures were attacked.  The students at Bowie are smart, energetic teenagers with as much right to a future as anyone else’s kids.  The school is located along the border.  You can throw a rock and hit Mexico.  There is a high poverty rate among families. High unemployment.  Many students are English Language Learners.  These boys and girls need an excellent education to meet the challenges that are part of their lives.

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The Election is Over…So Where Do We Go From Here?

I was not neutral in this race. I see the re-election of President Obama as an important way forward for our students, preschool to graduate school. But the election is not the end. It’s the beginning of some very hard work.

First, we must pass the Dream Act. We must show compassion for the undocumented children who were brought here; who were educated here; who have stayed out of trouble and only want to work and study and be accepted in the only country many of them have ever known.

The issues of comprehensive immigration reforms are complicated. But I’m a teacher, and for me one thing is very simple: You never punish children for things beyond their control. The President did a very important thing in approving a change in visa regulations to allow a temporary safe harbor for the young “Dreamers” who would have qualified under the Dream Act, had Congress acted. But it is temporary. Congress must pass the Dream Act as part of comprehensive immigration reform. 

Next, Congress must see the importance of Head Start as an equalizing factor for poor little boys and girls coming to kindergarten prepared to advance, hand in hand with their more advantaged friends. (more…)

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An International Diane Ravitch Moment?

There is hope on the horizon, my dears.

For more than ten long, empty, intellectually dry and dishonest years, we’ve lived under the insanity of No Child Left Untested. (Someone told me not to be so negative. Trust me. I’m holding back.) Children, especially poor children, have been subjected to a corporate “reform” mentality of pass/fail by making their quota of test score points on some standardized garbage never designed to gauge anything more delicately complex than a child’s understanding of where the comma goes.

(Ironically, the only ones lately who have been afforded “social promotion” have been the morally corrupt CEOs who were awarded their gold star parachutes whilst bankrupting the global economy, but I digress.) (more…)

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