Jersey Shore, the MTV reality show opened last month to record audiences, the arrest of Snooki, one of the stars, resounded across the MTV world. Couple with Bob Herbert’s NY Times op-ed piece, the US has dropped from first to twelfth in the number of college graduates produced each year. That Albert Einstein college room poster seems to have been replaced by a Snooki poster.
I was participating in a discussion with young teachers: it ranged from the teacher evaluation process, or lack thereof in their schools, to the difficulty in engaging students, a rather desultory discussion, until I asked, “Was Drake the new JZ?” An impassioned debate ensued.
In spite of the increasingly shrill cries from Joel Klein and his surrogates the river card has been dealt. Eight years into Children’s First New York City schools continue to stumble. The Daniel Kortetz study of the NYS ELA/Math grade 3-8 tests is indisputable: scores are inflated by twenty percent and the just released scores have burst the “progress” balloon.
This is not a cause to cheer, schadenfreude may be satisfying but the continuing failure of our schools is deeply disturbing.
In the Atlanta public schools a cheating scandal is bubbling and years of impressive gains are called into question.
For Diane Ravitch the answer is Common Core Standards; establishing a set of standards for each subject in each grade, creating assessments for each new standard, perhaps we will be able to raise the bar across the nation. BTW, virtually every other nation in some iteration or other has a national curricula, a kind of Common Core Standards.
The “achievement gap” cannot be eliminated by teaching prowess alone, as Duncan and Klein espouse.
Schools with large numbers of children of Chinese and South Asian immigrants in many instances are high performing schools. As you walk from classroom to classroom you see high performing kids and frequently ordinary instruction. Walk into a school in a Caribbean neighborhood, public school kids in uniforms engaged in highly structured lessons.
We shy away from a truism, family values and culture plays a significant role in school success.
Schools in high poverty neighborhoods are plagued by chronic absenteeism, high student mobility, much higher percentages of special needs youngsters, safety and suspension issues, and, a “dirty little secret,” the movement of staff out of the these schools into higher achieving schools.
These are not excuses, I agree with Arne and Joel, all schools can succeed, we disagree about the path to reach that end.
Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lifetime on the teacher end, Common Core Standards will raise the bar, however, the culture of schools is, for me, the core component. Next time you enter a school don’t simply observe classrooms, sit down in the teachers room. Glance at what the teachers are working on at the computers, their Facebook page or lesson plans? What is the “teacher talk”? the car pool, “bitching” about the school leader, sports, latest culture icons, or, the kids?
You cannot create is a culture of accountability by threat, fear of losing tenure, fear of exile to the ATR pool, the “stick” only creates a seething resentment and a culture of excuses. “If only they’d let me teach” … whatever that means.
A true school leader, and they’re few and far between, creates a culture of accountability to colleagues, creates a culture in which teachers have the opportunity to center their attention on their practice in a collaborative and supportive environment. Replace Snooki talk with “kid” talk.
Maybe the tsunami of MTV, reality TV, 24 hour sports and the news of the nano-second will gobble us up and condemn us to replace Rome as the fallen empire of the 21st century, or maybe Joel will meet Bill, Eric or Russell on some dark street on the Upper East Side.
Then again, perhaps Barack will undergo an apotheosis and will rise like the Phoenix, one can always hope.
Correction: Diane Ravitch advocates that Common Core Standards “… should be piloted, willingly, in a few states, before they are pushed on anyone. Standards are words on paper until they are implemented. The only way to know if are valuable is to give them a fair trial.”