Archive for the 'borderland' Category

Levon Helm

Apr 18 2012 Published by under borderland,commonplaces

Charles Pierce:

It was what they were all about, Levon and the rest of The Band, in 1968, when the country was coming apart at the seams. Nothing was holding, least of all Mr. Yeats’s center. There were tanks in Prague and there was blood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The traditional American values of home and family and neighborhood were being fashioned into cheap weapons to use against the people who saw the death and gore as the deepest kind of betrayal of the ideals that made those values worth a damn in the first place. The music was disparate and fragmented; the Beatles were producing masterpieces that they couldn’t or wouldn’t take on the road. Brian Wilson was long gone, spelunking through the canyons of what was left of his mind. Jim Morrison, that tinpot fraud, was mixing bullshit politics with kindergarten Freudian mumbo-jumbo and his band didn’t even have a damn bass player. Elsewhere, there was torpid, silly psychedelia. The British were sort of holding it together, but, in America, even soul was coming apart. Nothing seemed rooted. Nothing abided. Nothing seemed to come from anything else. The whole country was bleeding from wounds nobody could find.

Pierce’s magnificent tribute to what he calls the “true Voice of America” was inspired by an announcement on Levon Helm’s website that he is in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

A little more from Charles Pierce:

It was a summoning of the idea of the American community, which has never been about conformity, either to fashion or to the politics of the moment. And, if you didn’t get the point, there were some sly hints on the record that pointed you back towards what was important, that made you realize that there was an America worth the effort of finding, that there was a country to which it was worth coming home.

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Thank you, Charles. And thank you, Levon Helm, for your music, your voice. You know it’s never been easy. We’ll do our best.

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Search for Meaning

Apr 08 2012 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,education

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.
- David W. Orr

The main work of the teacher, I believe, is to recognize those peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers, and to assist them in their efforts to attain their most noble ambitions. And this is not necessarily about career or college readiness, or data-driven lesson planning.

Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, and Nazi concentration camp survivor, believed that an individual’s primary motivational drive is the search for meaning.

The clip below is from a lecture Frankl gave in 1972. In it, he expresses what he claims is the “most apt maxim and motto for any psychotherapeutic activity.”

“If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take man as what he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

Common Core, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind – all are standards-based afflictions that are dragging us into the pits.

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Pavement Ends. Travel Strongly

Mar 29 2012 Published by under borderland,education

Hazardous Conditions

It’s been a while. Very briefly… we’ve got union contract problems this year – and I volunteered to be a building rep. After bargaining for more than a year, we’ve officially come to an impasse. Aggravating. And time-sucking. Additionally, I’ve got a classroom full of 12-year-old attitudes. At night, I flop on the couch and try to hold my eyes open wide enough to read.

An important part of my personal program is that I run or ski every day to keep sane and steady. The weather is getting warmer – up in the 40′s (F) and gloriously sunny the last two days. And there is still a hell of a lot of snow to watch melt. It’s invigorating. My favorite time of year to be outside.

We had our spring break a couple of weeks ago, and my son and I went down to Girdwood with our snowboards. We stayed at the resort, and were lucky enough to be there for a big snowstorm. Two feet of powder fell overnight, the most I’d ever been in. The best thing, for me, was that the falling didn’t hurt. Unfortunately, all I could do was fall. And getting back up in that much snow is murder when you end up with your butt lower than your snowboard-encumbered feet. Stuck. Which is why I quit the slopes early each day, and went running instead of snowboarding. I can stand only so much humiliation.

I ran on the Cat Trail and the Winner Creek Trail with my snowshoes a couple of days. But toward the end of the week I was up for something a little easier, so I ran down along the bike path to Crow Creek Road and turned up there, not sure what I’d find this time of year. At least it was a road! Turns out that it’s not officially plowed past the first half mile, but someone has done a fabulous job of opening a single lane beyond the State Maintenance Ends sign.

It was kinda funny, I saw a Hazardous Road Conditions sign, but the snow blocked my view of the bottom of it, so I only read the Travel Strongly part. I thought, Cool! But a little strange. DOT does not usually encourage aggressive adventure travel. I forged on. After all, I was a runner! And this is Alaska. We travel strongly! It was a beautiful sunny day. The footing was smooth. It was quiet and peaceful. I ran up the road for about 15 minutes before I decided to turn around. Really, really, a nice break from the wacky powder frenzy up on the mountain. I ran back to the hotel and soaked in the hot tub. It was a good hour and a quarter run.

The next day I did the same thing. But I got a better look at that sign, and I realized that with the part I didn’t see the day before, it actually said, Travel Strongly Discouraged. It was a WARNING, not a recommendation to proceed with fortitude. Ah! Figures. Still, I had another good run.

But I started thinking how odd it is that the state puts up these Pavement Ends signs, and No Maintenance Sept-May, and they warn people against going there. But with schools, the state flat-funds the education budget and expects us to Deal With It. We don’t even get a sign. Instead, we just get tests, “tougher” standards, and a bunch of flack. I liked the idea of a sign that says Travel Strongly, even though it’d be better to not have to navigate the piles of obstacles that come with having too few resources and too many useless policy directives. Why do they pretend they can improve schools by allocating fewer resources, but with roads, they warn people off of them when they’re unmaintained?

Other signs I’d like to see:

Attacking Teachers Attacks My Future

Protesting Scott Walker

I may sometimes be absent. But I’m not gone.

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A Decent Education

Dec 27 2011 Published by under anarchism,borderland,commonplaces,education,politics

The role of poverty in what have come to be known as “school outcomes” (or more precisely, test scores) has been getting a fair bit of attention lately at Schools Matter, and elsewhere. Rightly so. At my own school we’ve even been given a reading assignment for our winter holiday, and have been invited to read Ruby Payne’s “Framework for Understanding Poverty” (summary here). This is to prepare us for the indoctrination session to follow upon our return from our break. I’m going to read the book since I opened my mouth at a staff meeting and said that many people disagree with Ruby Payne, and “Would we have a chance to air dissenting points of view?” Take Paul Gorski’s Savage Unrealities or Randy Bomer’s Miseducating Teachers about the Poor, for example. These authors tell us that Payne claims, without any real evidence, that the poor are trapped in a “culture of poverty” and need to be explicitly taught the “hidden rules” of being middle class. I don’t especially look forward to reading this, but I want to be prepared for the meeting, which is part of our school improvement plan after too many of our low-income students did not meet the standardized testing targets last spring.

Servicing the poor is actually a growth industry in our present economy, and it’s been a magnet for school reformers like Ruby Payne and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America. Kopp’s organization was the subject of a critical piece by Andrew Hartman, who contextualizes the whole mess by pointing out:

The organs of middlebrow centrist opinion—Time Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic—glorify TFA at every opportunity. The Washington Post heralds the nation’s education reform movement as the “TFA insurgency”—a perplexing linguistic choice given so-called “insurgency” methods have informed national education policies from Reagan to Obama. TFA is, at best, another chimerical attempt in a long history of chimerical attempts to sell educational reform as a solution to class inequality. At worst, it’s a Trojan horse for all that is unseemly about the contemporary education reform movement.

It’s exhausting, being on the lookout for all of the Trojan horses that are being wheeled into our schoolrooms these days. My response has been to try to maintain my focus on the kids, and try to ignore as much of the outside noise as I can. But occasionally, one does need to pay attention to it. I was grateful that Hartman closed his article with a reference to Paul Goodman’s Compulsory Miseducation. Goodman prefaces this short collection of essays by telling us that in his criticisms he does not choose to be generous or fair, since modern life has delivered us into an unprecedented set of conditions which have caused much confusion and resulted in the rigid application of old methods which is “grossly wasteful of wealth and effort and does positive damage to the young.” Hartman summarizes Goodman:

In Compulsory Mis-Education, Goodman extended this general critique of the “organized society” to a more specific attack on its socialization method: compulsory schooling. Schooling as socialization, which he described as “‘vocational guidance’ to fit people wherever they are needed in the productive system,” troubled Goodman in means and ends. He both loathed the practice of adjusting children to society and despised the social regime in which children were being adjusted to—“our highly organized system of machine production and its corresponding social relations.” For Goodman, compulsory schooling thus prepared “kids to take some part in a democratic society that does not need them.”

Goodman published Compulsory Miseducation in 1964. His criticisms are still strikingly, and disturbingly, apt. I would like to close here with just this one, more general recommendation – one which echoes a model of educational change outlined today by P.L. Thomas, Social Context Reform: Where to Start. It should concern us all that we are still trying to articulate a framework for progressive education reform, and I offer Goodman’s recommendation as a kind of mission statement for the era of the Occupy movement.

Fundamentally, there is no right education except growing up into a worthwhile world. Indeed, our excessive concern with problems of education at present simply means that the grown-ups do not have such a world. The poor youth of America will not become equal by rising through the middle class, going to middle-class schools. By plain social justice, the Negroes, and other societies have the right to, and must get, equal opportunity for schooling with the rest, but the exaggerated expectation from the schooling is a chimera — and, I fear, will be shockingly disappointing. But also the middle-class youth will not escape their increasing exploitation and anomie in such schools. A decent education aims at, prepares for, a more worthwhile future, with a different community spirit, different occupations, and more real utility than attaining status and salary.

We need to make this happen.

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Hitting the Wall

Dec 18 2011 Published by under borderland

Saulich trail snowscape

I enjoyed the brief period of daylight we had today out on the trails near my home, running. It was 10 below zero, and the trail was firm and fast. It felt great. After many years going through this solstice season in the subarctic, I’ve learned to get out of the house and make use of the daylight as often as possible. Today’s excursion was a snowshoe run. I ski sometimes, too, but the snowshoes are simpler.

This is just the second season that I’ve done any snowshoe running. What got me started with winter trail running was Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. It triggered a long chain of decisions which eventually lead to what might be called a “learning experience” this past September when I ran the Equinox Marathon.

The book tells a story about how McDougall learned about a tribe of Indians living in Mexico’s Copper Canyon who were able to run great distances. Even senior members of the tribe had the ability to go on long runs of up to 50 and even 100 miles. He marveled at the grace with which they moved, and noted that they did not wear running shoes, but instead wore simple sandals. He was amazed that they could run such long distances without sustaining the high rate of injuries so common among runners who wear highly engineered, commercially manufactured running shoes. He hypothesized that perhaps the cushioned shoes encouraged people to run with poor form, and were actually contributing to runners’ injuries. This eventually sparked a trend toward what is being called barefoot, or minimalist running in the running community.

McDougall’s inquiry lead him to look at the history of running, and he learned that there is a body of research suggesting that humans are natural-born runners, evolutionarily speaking. Our ability to sweat allows us to run great distances at a moderate pace, whereas other animal species – many of which humans like to eat – need to stop and pant to cool down. This would have enabled humans to engage in what is called persistence hunting, and to kill prey animals at close range. All in all, it was an intriguing book, and it made me wonder if I could ever get into good enough shape to tackle some long runs.

My wife remarked that if I was interested, I had the time and enough of a training base to train for the marathon in the fall, and so I started seriously thinking about it. I worked out at the gym every day, and ran every weekend for the rest of the winter. I ran several days a week throughout the summer, putting in 40+ mile training weeks. I went out on several long runs in excess of two hours, and I ran competitively in a series of longish trail runs put on by the local running club. I didn’t know if I was ready for the marathon, but I did know that the the only way to find out was to try it.

One of the unique features of the Equinox Marathon is that there is a 2000 foot climb up to the top of Ester Dome in the middle section of the race. It’s kind of a gonzo marathon, not one that anyone who wanted a good time would do. I’m pretty good at running hills, so I wasn’t concerned about the climb. That was probably a mistake. I went out a little too briskly, I think, given the amount of training I’d done. By the time I got to the top of the dome, at 12 miles, I was starting to feel some worrisome aches in my hips, and my legs weren’t as snappy as they’d been. But hey, I’d made it to the top. The hard part was over, I thought. Hah! By the time I started heading back down, at 17 miles, the aches had gotten much worse, and I was walking the steeper sections. Going down an exceptionally steep place, known as The Chute, my knees wanted to buckle, and I began having a hard time even walking. And I still had 9 miles to go!

Getting to the finish line was agony. I limped and walked most of the last 9 miles. Other runners streamed by me. I remember being passed by a little 8 year-old kid at one point. I was utterly destroyed. My own mental state became a focus point for me, though. I suppose that was because my physical condition was so beyond repair. I began to watch my expectations gradually get scaled back. I’d gone from hoping to finish in 4 hours to hoping I could just make it to the next set of mailboxes or the next telephone pole. When I got near the finish line I met my daughter running the course in reverse looking for me, and she paced me in, urging me to keep running, which I did. But it wasn’t without a fair bit of whining near the very end. The muscles in my hips, knees and calves were completely played out. All that was left was pain and determination.

I wasn’t proud when I crossed the finish line. Just done. I was disappointed because I’d wanted my finish to be more graceful, more under control, instead of the desperate slog it turned into. But what it was, was all I had. It took me several weeks of hearing congratulations from various people to see it as the achievement that it actually was. I’d run a marathon at age 58. I’d finished in the middle of my age-group, and I’d begun planning for next time.

If somebody had offered me money (as in merit pay), or somehow tried to “motivate” me do this, I wouldn’t have done it. Reaching beyond my capacity is something I would only do for personal reasons, beyond the realm of ordinary motivation, and tests like this have to be undertaken voluntarily. Tests, in and of themselves, don’t call people to their best efforts. Real teaching has to begin with the intentions of the learner, not the teacher, and certainly not the administrator or the policy maker. The more I work in the shadow of the standards movement, the less I want to listen to anyone but the kids, themselves, for guidance about what they really need to learn. What good is an education if, in the bargain, we all lose sight of who and what we really are?

The barefoot running movement is a reaction to corporate involvement in running, which in reality is something that any healthy person can do without special equipment. Running shoes represent a form of standardized “curriculum” for our feet and a marketing opportunity for corporate interests. And now there’s a question about whether they may actually be responsible for some of the many injuries that runners suffer each year. Corporate control of school reform, curriculum, and teacher education, coupled with mandatory high stakes testing will do the same to education as it has to running, and we’ll inherit an overbuilt, inhumane institution that accomplishes nothing that it isn’t already doing – except create more losers. Already, schools are becoming pressure cookers in which there are expectations that anyone who works hard can be a winner. Win what? Really, anyone? Ahh, well …..

The days will soon be getting longer. Nothing to do but take care of each other and watch the changes unfold.

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Winter Light

Dec 16 2011 Published by under borderland,commonplaces

Long nights and dark days in the far north this time of year open a window to some magnificent light shows. From Finland’s travel and tourism site: “Aurora is a natural light display in the sky, particularly in the polar regions, caused by the collision of charged particles directed by the Earth’s magnetic field.”

You might want to watch this one full screen.

(via Alaska Dispatch and Eye on the Arctic)

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A Good Day

I hate all the wasted motion in the classroom these days, doing things that are not particularly productive or rewarding for the sake of jumping through regulatory hoops. Jeff Bryant blames it on what he calls the Edu-Bubble, which seems right on target:

Then education reform advocates — either unwittingly or intentionally (does it matter?) –gave the venture crowd a huge gift by decreeing that student scores on standardized tests would define the learning “output” that schools would be accountable for. And all of a sudden everything monetarily related to schools — operations budgets, teacher salaries, classroom costs, government funds, grant money — could be related to a test score output.

This in effect turned student learning — and by extension, the students themselves — into a commodity that could be speculated on. Now that edu-venturists had something they could put on the other side of the balance sheet, they could now “flip” student test scores into a speculative market. And all sorts of “reform” schemes and start-ups — from starting charter schools to lowering teacher salaries to closing schools — could be rationalized on the basis of test scores. (via TFT.)

So my focus in the classroom has lately shifted from teaching practice to thinking about more interesting things, like human consciousness (my own, mainly) as I ask myself all day long, day after day, What the hell am I doing now? And why? This is not really such a bad thing. The upside of it is that I spend way less energy worrying about curriculum and method, and more time watching my own interactions with the kids, trying to be as helpful and even-handed as I can be. It occurs to me that if a person was looking for a working model of resistance to reform, they really ought to spend a few weeks managing a sixth-grade classroom. It’s a test. Every day.

I was touched by the message in this video which begins, “You think this is just another day in your life,” narrated by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who is also a social and environmental justice advocate. He calls upon us, as teachers, to become more child-like ourselves, and to be open to the meaning in our lives which gets overshadowed by our preoccupation with purposefulness. What are we here for, really?

This video says it all, quite eloquently, I think.

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.
– Brother David Steindl-Rast

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Changing the Subject

Oct 30 2011 Published by under anarchism,borderland,education,politics,social class

The war on education that was declared with the passage of No Child Left Behind has been a class war all along. Teachers assumed that the stupidity of trying to reach 100% proficiency by 2014 would eventually become obvious, and the law would change. But alas, even as the deadline draws near, we don’t see that happening. Instead, we see waivers being offered in exchange for toxic policy changes that include more rigorous testing and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. We are watching the life being sucked out of public schools by what amounts to a giant vampire squid, a reference taken from David Blacker who sees what’s happening to schools as a part of a larger neoliberal project aimed at privatizing everything:

What we are left with now is an all-out assault on anything in the system that might still have a little exchange value. Monster movie-like, we are now witnessing the full unleashing, to borrow Matt Taibbi’s famous image, of the neoliberal banking vampire squid, using its “blood funnel” to sniff out money in previously less accessible precincts such as schools, pensions, infrastructure, public health and safety — anywhere, really. All that is solid is liquefied and sucked up into the blood funnel, to be consumed by the megabanks, who perform no function whatever except a kind of super rent collection, a permanent life-destroying tax on all forms of human activity.

Blacker points out that the effort is framed as something that is positive, progressive, and natural. Given these benign qualities, who could object?

This process of redistribution upward — one-sided class warfare from above — operates of course in a vast scale and is hardly limited to education. It includes the sale of public lands and resources; persistent privatization schemes involving pensions and, ultimately, social security; health care; and even formerly sacrosanct public preserves such as prisons, the post office, and the military. This is the neoliberal period of capital in all its fetid glory: the ruthless marketization of everything existing — including itself, in the sense that the marketization is itself marketed as, among other things, “natural,” “fair,” “win-win,” “progress,” and other empty signifiers.

Frank Rich wrote a great column last week about the Class War that has been engaged by the #occupy movement. He criticizes the clueless establishment for not seeing it coming, and which seems either unwilling or unable to admit what it’s now looking at. He compares what’s happening now with an event that took place in 1932, when a throng of WWI veterans converged on Washington D.C. and set up camp seeking the passage of a bill for a bonus that had been promised them for their service in the war. They became known as the Bonus Army. As with the violence in Oakland, things did not go well with the Bonus Army, as MacArthur’s troops razed the encampment and killed innocent people.

You can read or listen to find out more about it. It is believed to have contributed to FDR’s victory in the presidential election that year.

Rachel Maddow notes that the #occupy movement has gone mainstream now. And Dahlia Lithwick eulogizes the demise of our uncomprehending corporate media that remains apparently ignorant to what is obvious to everyone else:

Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us.

By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance. The rest of America has little trouble understanding that these are ragtag, complicated, and leaderless times. This may not make for great television, but any movement that acknowledges that fact deserves enormous credit.

I see that giant squid is on the menu. Where’s the ink?

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And corrupting our children every day

Oct 29 2011 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,science

Republican consultant and strategist, Noelle Nikpour: “Scientists are scamming the American people right and left for their own ‘finansual’ gain.”

It’s all too obvious:

Donchaknow?

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Hearts and Minds

Jun 04 2011 Published by under borderland,education

Going NowhereIn this end-of-year reflection, I’m tackling the “no excuses” dictum. Based on this year’s test scores, it appears we may at last have reached terminal status as a Level 5 (failing) school. Officially this means,

The district is required to prepare a plan to carry out one of the following alternative governance arrangements:

  • reopen the school as a public charter school,
  • replace all or most of the staff who are relevant to the school not demonstrating AYP,
  • enter into a contract with a private management company,
  • transfer operation of the school to the department, if agreed to by the department,
  • or any other major restructuring of the school’s governance arrangement.

It sounds bad. Yet…

  • Our principal was chosen by the Alaska Association of Elementary Schoool Principals as the National Distinguished Principal for 2011;
  • We have a strong school community, with a significant number of students coming from outside our attendance area boundary because they appreciate the work we do with their kids;
  • Parent input surveys were 99.9% supportive of our efforts this year;
  • Our average rate of proficient-level test scores for sixth grade consistently exceeds the district and statewide rates;
  • We passed our Title I audit and site inspection last year, with a complement from one of the monitors who said, “When I return to teaching, this is the type of school I want to become a part of.”

So, unofficially at this point, we may be nothing more than just another example of school policy roadkill, a perhaps-unintended casualty of what amounts to little more than a numbers game, and we’re left to wonder what will happen to us under our new special status – a status that nearly all schools will eventually attain as the demand for 100% passing rates by 2014 draws ever nearer. Hoping that none of those mandated “alternative governance” measures will kick in, we know that sentiment in Alaska runs from cool to openly hostile toward federal interventions in just about any area you look at. So we’ll wait and see.

As for me, I am done caring about reformist nonsense. At a staff meeting earlier this year we were discussing our AimsWeb Data Boards put up around the room to show how many students in each grade level are below proficient, at risk, or proficient based on how well they handled an oral one-minute timed reading. To me, this was a disgusting display of a brain-dead method to evaluate reading. We were asked to say what we planned to do to improve our students’ scores. Since the data showed lots of kids scoring “below proficient” in first and second grade and very few in that category by the time they got to sixth, I observed that the trend was positive, and that at least as far as word-calling skills go, we seem to be doing all right. Teachers at each grade level announced what they planned to do, like focus on comprehension, vocabulary, decoding – the usual. When it was my turn, I said I’d be going with the happiness plan. What’s that? It’s getting the kids to enjoy reading so that they do it on their own. How does it work? Easy. Give them choices and time to read every day, and then celebrate their accomplishments. I got a round of applause. Kind of sad, really, when I think about what that might mean.

People say that testing narrows the curriculum. Pressure to make the cut does worse than that; kids with the greatest needs tend to get trampled. Diane Ravitch points out that the one sure way to succeed in this environment is to stop enrolling poor kids, or kids with language limitations, homeless kids, or those with learning disabilities:

Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.

To prove that poverty doesn’t matter, political leaders point to schools that have achieved stunning results in only a few years despite the poverty around them. But the accounts of miracle schools demand closer scrutiny. Usually, they are the result of statistical legerdemain.

Being scapegoated for not being miracle workers, teachers and teacher unions should remind these critics that there is no excuse for child poverty, now running close to 21% in the U.S. If poor kids don’t do well in school, then let’s address the real problem and take care of them. Knowing that sick kids don’t do well in athletics do we blame coaches for not making them winners? People would ridicule the idea.

Ignoring what we know about the effects of poverty on families and children creates the impression that schools are somehow the cause of a social condition rooted in economic policy. William Mathis, director of the National Education Policy Center, explains the harm done to kids and to all of us when reformers “shine the light only on schools and leave the greater void in darkness”:

There is great harm in this myth, that schools can do it all. It provides the excuse for politicians, vested interests and advocates to wrongly declare schools “failures.” It gives a false justification for firing the principals and teachers who work with our neediest. It tells us a complex society does not need to invest in its skills or its children. It serves as a moral cloak for actions that are technically unjustified — as well as just plain wrong.

I’ve seen enough “data”. Next year my classroom is going to be about creativity, projects, and having fun with ideas. The way I look at it now, every year may be my last, and I don’t want to go out playing a numbers game that was rigged against me and my students from the start. Rigidly applied standards will fail the kids; that’s not my job.

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