Saturday, December 8, 2012

A few notes from EDU

The lower-level classrooms of the Harrington Learning Center block signals quite effectively, thus no notes until now. I did tweet as possible. A few notes:

  • The news that the Movement of Rank and File Educators, the progressive caucus of which Brian Jones is a member, will be mounting a challenge to the UFT (the teachers' union in New York City) at their next union election is, I have to say, pretty awesome. It's impossible to do justice to Jones in notes (he's the sort of speaker who will have you calling out "preach it!" Baptist or no), but he commented that the future of public education was in real doubt, and that we have moved into that movement that he's heard from those who protested the war in Vietnam, when you realize that this isn't all a misunderstanding, but is actually a deliberate action. We have a responsibility, he said, to call out as explicitly racist those policies and funding decisions that result in different amounts of resources--library time, art classes, science labs, field trips--going to different kids. He also commented (on TFA and the like) on our "taking kids from Denver and having them teach the kids in Harlem...are you telling me you can't find people in Harlem to raise them up to teach?"
  • As much as talking about it makes my teeth hurt, I went to the morning session on educator evaluation. It was clear from those talking that this is really all over the map: while lots of districts have come to some sort of an agreement on the evaluations thus far, how it works on the ground (and the degree to which it is working on the ground) is all over the place. There was much commentary on how this really can be a "gotcha" sort of system, and one that pushes (again) test prep at the cost of much else; as one teacher said, this "does not allow me time to show my kids how to live in a democratic society, how to have agency."
  • After lunch, I went to the session on the push by the charter school association in Massachusetts plan to push for a lifting of the cap on charter schools starting in January; you might remember they were looking for a director for this effort. If you're a regular reader, the arguments raised--that the population of charter schools does not reflect the sending districts, that the funding is atrociously inequitable and not appropriately funded, that faculty has burned through at a great rate, that parents and community have no system of accountability--will be familiar. The piece of information I found new is that some charters are, sensitive to the criticism that they have extra resources, doing an analysis on how much difference they make on student achievement using just public resources. Guess what? Turns out that resources matter. 
  • At the end of the day, Xian Barrett, who is a member of the Chicago Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), who are the group now running the Chicago Teachers Union, spoke. He spoke eloquently of unions being born out of struggle (once upon a time they didn't have a million dollar budget and full time executives), of the need for close connections and alliance with the community served (something which CTU did brilliantly in their recent strike), and the question of who gets a seat at the table: "Those with no connection to public schools currently have the largest voice at the table; I am not convinced they have any business being at the table." 
A hopeful day!

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