Thoughts On The New Elementary and Secondary Education Act “Blueprint”

Some quick thoughts / reactions about the new ESEA “Blueprint” that just came out. Note that my thoughts are shaded deeply by the fact that I teach elementary school:

Innovation is not just taking a “proven” or “promising” already tried technique or program (i.e. KIPP) and tweaking it a bit. Innovation often comes from doing something really differently and having the time to continue what works, and change what doesn’t until, hopefully, you develop a working model. The ESEA Blueprint seems to support mostly the current charter schools that are already in place and basically allows tweaking them a bit and calls that “innovation.” Unfortunately many of the charters that have been given great notoriety have also been found to have great issues, or are not all they’ve been pumped up to be by those with vast amounts of money that are promoting them. Rich people that have no real education experience outside of their own (and didn’t Gates drop out?). Certainly the Gate’s and Broad’s  can have a voice, but the Billionaire Boys Club’s voices are too greatly amplified by their wealth and too often take on smug, demeaning tones. They drown out and get precedence over those of us in that work day to day with students … and actually have degrees and experience in teaching.

How about part of the funding being earmarked for truly different approaches? Approaches that may expand the day, but do so by providing daily art, physical education, field studies (zoos, art, science and history museums, outdoor education), sports programs that include everyone. Schools that build schema by doing, instead of just building schema by looking at pictures and reading about it. But other models too. Why restrict ourselves if we are really looking to innovate and find what works for as many students as possible? (see bold print below)*

Professional Development – how about funding for PD? LOTS of PD. PD that teachers use to plan and design and discuss what their school will do, what materials and methods they will use, what assessments they will use to guide them and more. Then give them time (see above about trying different models) to work through things. But this PD money has to give teachers time before the school year (a week or 2 would be good, but maybe 3 weeks or more the first year to have time since they would be starting from scratch – oh and hold teachers accountable for what they do during this time – make them get the plan down and share it). This should include funding and time for training (as part of the PD, training that the teachers choose to support their plan – experts they bring in and so forth). (see bold print below)*

Then there needs to be more days throughout the year to re-visit and re-evaluate during the year, not waiting until after the year is up. Do these things –  and now you can hold education professionals that were trained to do just this kind of work accountable because it is their plan, methods, materials and changes they direct over time (5 years might be a fair amount of time to prove your plan) that either work or don’t work. Teachers that don’t like what the entire staff has designed will be more apt to leave on their own accord because the philosophy and pedagogy will be obvious, and built by the entire staff not dictated to them from above (Top-Down … isn’t that supposed to be avoided?). Teachers will find a school that fits their philosophy and pedagogy or not, at least that’s the idea. (see bold print below)*

This is the bold print referred to above:

Oh, and don’t give me the, “Your state / district / school could decide to do any of the above,” meme -

Might as well say NO you can’t do that. If I had a dollar for every time we heard during the last 10 years of NCLB, “If your state didn’t decide to do this or that, or if they decided to do that testing or whatever, that’s not the fault of NCLB, you should have pushed that at your state. That’s your union’s fault, state education systems fault, school board’s fault, admins fault, …” Again, you are really saying, “No, you can’t do that,” by throwing the decision to multiple layers of bureaucracy and washing your hands of the whole issue. Make it clear that all or most of these and other ideas are mandatory right in the legislation, or its all just fluff.

Don’t tell us that children’s healthcare, nutrition and general well being are essential if they are going to be successful in school and then not provide that …  but make us accountable. If it is essential then it is essential … hold us accountable after it is in place and ongoing. Yes I know there is a plan for healthcare in the works (maybe), but much of it gets phased in over time …

Just a start, more later … I hope, add your thoughts.

Learning is messy!

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One Response to Thoughts On The New Elementary and Secondary Education Act “Blueprint”

  1. Jenny says:

    I love your thoughts about innovation. We’re celebrating tweaks rather than trying for real change.

    I really struggle with PD. I don’t in any way question the value and importance. However, I know that being out of the classroom means that the learning that goes on in of a lower caliber (a bigger issue in first grade, I think, than it was in fourth/fifth). I want to find ways to have PD ongoing without such an impact on my students. I have no idea how to do that in any way that is scalable.

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