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.
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.
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…)
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.
Constitutionally I do “others duties as assigned by the President”. Fortunately for me, our NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, assigned me to learn as much as I could about what was going on in the world outside the NEA.
Inside, we are all experiencing times that try educators’ souls as we struggle to make sense of some expert’s solution to fix education’s problems that were caused by some previous expert’s solution to fix education’s problems.
Some of our schools are able to survive the experts and are succeeding on every measure. Some of our schools are failing. Our kids are counting on us to find real ways to turn these schools around.