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Colin Kaepernick and What It Means To Be Patriotic In Schools – Student Voices
"In our classrooms, students are constantly asked to think deeper about the presented information, but simultaneously, our schools are structures for American obedience and compliance. Saying the pledge of allegiance before any learning happens means that any learning from the end makes the pledger assume that the learning happening shortly thereafter is part of this set of lessons that is impervious to critique and dissent. Every book, every equation, every piece of work that’s provided by every adult in the classroom is not worth amending or correcting because these are all American, and, if it’s American, it can’t be wrong. Obedience. Compliance.

Even though history scholars must read from multiple sources, first-hand accounts along with critical analyses of histories in order to get a larger scope of the narrative. In our K-12 schools, too many of our students are still dependent on one source, generally the story given by the winners. Slavery in America, for example, doesn’t always get taught as a longstanding crime against humanity that literally subjugated millions of people from the African continent that still has consequences until today. It gets taught as something that happened in the past and we’re all better now. The same goes for segregation, redlining, Native American genocide, Japanese internment, immigration policy during the 1920s and 30s, and any number of policies that don’t get taught as part of the grand American history.

Or that the pledge was part of a marketing scheme for the flags in schools. Or that it’s unconstitutional to compel kids to pledge allegiance to the flag.

America is religious about its American football, too. Certainly, football has taken over baseball as America’s most enthralling pastime. During the season, fans draw themselves along major league team lines and use pronouns like “our” and “we” to discuss the dozens of robust men on the field of play. Fans yell at other teams for their fortunes,embrace an unhealthy level of schadenfreude for successful teams that aren’t theirs, yell at their own teams for losses, and pick scapegoats they were once rooting for almost weekly. Sports fans don’t like to think that their players think about anything besides their given sport. They love to see ads showing players driven to success in the off-season. They love to see athletes signing memorabilia even after they’ve long retired from the game. They love to see athletes bruised, broken, beaten but ultimately coming back in the service of their teams i.e. billion-dollar corporations.

But the minute the athlete, especially the athlete of color, thinks to step out of line with their own visions of America, they’re relegated to the very status that made said protest possible.

When we look at post-9/11 America, our country offers “freedom” for countries which supposedly can’t speak for themselves and patriotism / nationalism for its own citizens. When our youngest citizens see the events of the past weekend, they should wonder why there’s been so much retaliation against a man who America otherwise forgot lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance. They should wonder why so few voters chose the current Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

They should wonder why they’re told to wait and wait to engage in learning the depth and breadth of atrocities and victories that make our country what it is today.

They should ask themselves why so many of the people critical of a black millionaire athlete and a black President of the United States, who unironically wear Make America Great Again hats, also believe it’s unscrupulous to sit for the very America they don’t consider great anymore. Perhaps to many of its underserved and underrepresented citizens, especially the marginalized, this country’s never been great, but they do what they can. We need a new patriotism that embodies the labor and suppression that’s made the “America is great” narrative permissible.

Until then, it’s liberty and justice for some. I’ll pledge to that."
schools  education  2016  colinkaepernick  josévilson  protest  patriotism  nationalanthem  criticalthinking  compliance  obedience  publicschools  allegiance  pledgeofallegiance  us  policy  politics  history  flags  race  racism  sports  americanfootball  nfl  freedom  democracy 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Teaching Rebellion: Schools Must Cultivate A Struggle for Justice | The Progressive
[Remarks by José Vilson:

"The issue with only focusing on literacy for its own sake is that some kids get to learn how to read manuals and some get to create them."
https://twitter.com/TheJLV/status/682326011632062465

"Inequity isn't just about access to academics, but the actual pedagogy, which is largely a function of the adults and the systems within."
https://twitter.com/TheJLV/status/682327316492582912 ]

"“Our ultimate objective in learning about anything is to try to create and develop a more just society”-Yuri Kochiyama

These words from human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama are never far from my mind each morning as I think about my students. I plan our lessons as just one tiny sliver of a great, historic justice movement.

So much of the debate in education is about how poverty and other outside forces impact kids in school, but in many classrooms students are learning to use their education to fight poverty and systemic oppression. With a nod to Dr. King, if we are to win, we must focus all of our energy on tilting the moral arc of the universe toward justice and to counter those who are actively pushing in the opposite direction.

For many across the country right now, this idea is contained in the image of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old executed in a short minute by 16 shots from a Chicago police officer’s gun. Laquan didn’t need more academic rigor, he needed a city that valued his life.

But if the Laquan McDonald shooting is a wake up call to the nation, it reflects something we in Chicago have known all along. We live in city ruled by people who do not value the lives of black youth. Chicago Police rank third nationally in shooting and killing residents, and disproportionately shoot African Americans. Chicago police harass residents, especially youth of color, with a stop-and-frisk rate nearly sixty times that of New York police.

In Chicago, groups like Black Youth Project 100, STOP/FLY, VOYCE, and Project NIA have been fighting this battle for years. These young folks are very clear about the systemic nature of this deadly oppression. The Chicago Teachers Union and its social justice unionist caucus CORE (of which I am a member) have joined the students to take vocal stands against racist oppression both in the streets and within our schools.

We all agree that mayor Rahm Emanuel and the powerful people who worked to get him elected don’t care, or know how to care, about kids afflicted by poverty in our communities. We see this in the Laquan McDonald video and those of the killings of Ronald Johnson and Philip Coleman and others. The mayor and his cronies drop crocodile tears, apologies, and promises to change, even as they fight the release of news about the murder of another Chicago youth. We see the same callousness in the systemic protection of Dante Servin who murdered Rekia Boyd.

Thousands of people who poured into the streets demanding the resignations of Rahm Emanuel and other city leaders responsible for these injustices will not be placated by apologies and spin doctoring.

The Chicago Teachers Union has announced that 88% of its teachers voted to authorize a strike. Only 4% voted against. We have even invited parent and community groups to the bargaining table to voice their own demands, much to the board’s chagrin. Those opposed might paint our demands for more libraries, nurses, and social workers as unfeasible given the school district’s financial crisis. But our students’ lives matter, and they deserve the same services that Mayor Emanuel’s own children receive.

In this context, Kochiyama’s quote seems to me a deep universal truth to embed in the heart of every student. When a young person knows he or she might die in the street at the hands of a police officer who is supposed to be there to protect all kids’ safety, the respectability politics of “no excuses,” “academic rigor,” and “college and career ready,” add insult to a desperate, injurious reality.

Why waste precious class time doing a close read of a technical manual from a Pearson reader when we can read local newspapers and community blogs? Why should students learn docile obedience in class when the times call for us to civilly disobey and march in the streets? What does “College and Career Ready” matter when the bodies of students of color are being obliterated?

Kochiyama’s quote is not so much a directive, but a brilliant guiding light.

For the last month at my school, our 7th and 8th grade students have studied the Laquan McDonald case as part of a broader look at race, justice, policing, and violence in 21st century Chicago. The students have participated in actions of their choice, and built their own campaigns, for example a push to amend the uniform policy to allow all black dress for #BlackoutTuesday in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

They ask me each morning, “When’s the next protest? “Has Rahm Emanuel resigned yet?”

Students at Roosevelt High School are boycotting the unhealthy lunches served to them; at Dusable Campus students launched a sit-in to protest the closing of one of the few remaining libraries left in primarily black high schools. Student leaders are joining community activists for a walkout calling for Mayor Emanuel’s resignation.

Our youth are not failing. They are reacting with their whole hearts to what they feel and witness in their communities. For too long, school has been a place where righteous youth rebellion is smothered and placated. Too many teachers put a halt to social justice in their classrooms with the phrase: “It’s good you want to act, but don’t disrupt the teaching and learning here."

Let’s make school a place to plan, build skills and plot to smash injustice. Let’s teach our students that it is not only permissible, but desired for them wake up every single day with their minds set on justice, and that they can use their schools to fight for their own and our communities’ survival.

As Grace Lee Boggs put it, “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”

In that sense, this isn’t just Chicago’s struggle. Yes, we have a particularly oppressive leadership. But the reality is the same elsewhere. If you are an educator, join us with your own students. Create a space for students to develop into leaders of this movement. If you are not a teacher, help us by recognizing that our communities need to stop waiting for outside leadership. Let’s grab the future!"
xianbarrett  yurikochiyama  2015  revolution  criticalthinking  schools  chicago  education  teaching  howweteach  local  community  relevance  empowerment  curriculum  josévilson  socialjustice  activism  democracy  publicschools  literacy  power  voice  pedagogy 
december 2015 by robertogreco
I'm Not Racist, But My Kid's Not Going There [On Segregation] | The Jose Vilson
"It starts the same.

“I heard what you’re saying about integration and everything, and I agree with you in general …”

“Yes?”

“And I hear you on fighting for all schools and not just mine …”

“Mmmhmmm.”

“And I’m not racist, but I don’t want to take my kids out of a well-resourced school so they can go to a school with gang violence.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“I don’t mean …”

Yes, you did.

If you’ve read any reporting from New York Times’ Kate Taylor in the last few months, any discussion around school segregation and integration in New York City has a “but I’m not racist” in it. Racism isn’t merely a set of feelings one has towards another, but also the systematic ways we view schools where the students predominantly attending are black.

Our school system, as a function of our country, moves with the best interest of rich white folks. Despite some pundits’ willful ignorance about education history, the real first opt-out movement was when droves of middle to upper class white people created private schools to avoid desegregation court orders. Segregation was always the ostensible representation of inequity, and its dismantling puts schools at odds with American laws, systems, and values. All too often, asking for any level of equity has been met with violence from firings of entire staff to the torching of bodies and buildings, all because some folks got used to black people not reading.

In New York City, the concurrent battles against Success Academy charters and rezoning / integration speak to the idea that, ultimately, the education of people of color in this country is seen as a matter of compliance, bias, and oppression. Re-segregated schools in our country haven’t worked to a large extent as the great equalizer, even when its promise has come close in a couple of spots in an otherwise sordid history. Policymakers and activists alike continue to shut out the very folks in need of the most help, preferring to create mascots and figureheads.

And the minute an under-the-radar school decides to shift the focus to the black students it serves, our officials try (and fail) to convince a neighboring white school that it’s worth their kids.

While some parents don’t want to be part of a social experiment that has children of different races sitting in the same classrooms (all while quoting Martin Luther King Jr.), the same parents rarely advocate to get better schools for others either. That difference in resources (i.e. segregation) makes some parents feel special, as if their child is getting a relatively better education, because education is relative to the receiver. Legs ups (i.e. segregation) thrive in communities like this because people of color getting a substandard education sets the bar low enough for our country to exploit.

The tale of two schools begins and ends with a white school and a black school, and, no matter if the schools are equal by any measure that our society deems credible, one will always be different from the other. Segregation.

Integration isn’t just a strategy for equity, but also an anti-racist strategy that suggests that we are all responsible for the legacies we leave all of our children. So, when people say “I’m not racist but,” I am inclined to ignore anything prior to “but”. I prefer they honestly tell me they can’t stand their child in the same classroom with someone who they’ve already predisposed for vermin-like treatment. I’m not inclined to keep my mouth shut. I’m not predisposed to folks mistreating my students. I truly believe in an education that’s inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the students most in need.

Without that common understanding, mass education movements will fail. And you can keep your racist notions in the purses you clutch when I speak."
josévilson  racism  schools  education  inequality  segregation  2015  parents  parenting  resegregation 
november 2015 by robertogreco
#MrVilsonsClass
"This is Mr. Vilson's exhibition of curriculum pieces, student work, and materials from class."
josévilson  math  mathematics  teaching  education  tumblrs 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Shut. It. Down. (On The Battles for Racial Equity and Public Education) | The Jose Vilson
"This felt like the perfect space for us to challenge the inadequate resolutions that have beset those fighting for a better public education.

The public education blueprint for many of us for years has encompassed these items: stop the privatization and charterization of public schools, decrease (if not eliminate) the amount of standardized testing, shrink class size to private-school levels, create equitable funding systems across any and all public school districts, do away with mass school closures as a function for reform, work towards minimizing child poverty, and develop better teacher evaluation systems that don’t depend on unreliable and non-sensible equations. If, on the path towards following the blueprint to the tee, we can increase recess, the arts, and teacher pay, we would apprectiate it.

Yet, that “we” is fraught with several opportunities for the erasure of agency from the folks most affected by the decimation of public schools.

As Erin and Xian Franzinger-Barrett quickly pointed out to us this weekend, this “we” hasn’t always been “we.” This weekend allowed for the “we” to be parsed and deconstructed for a more nuanced view of our agenda. We have students who get suspended for merely speaking in the school hallway. We have parents who get shut out of their child’s learning because they look different. We have community activists who did not find allyship with their local teachers unions when they fought against racist policing or the deportation of millions of undocumented workers. We have teachers chagrined by the attack on teachers, but simultaneously pass the angst onto others, amplified by latent racism.

As I stood there listening to other people’s stories, I found myself torn in kinship and complicity. As an educator, I almost felt compelled to say “Not all of us.” As an educator of color, I almost felt compelled to say “I told you so.”"



"Community activist Zakiyah Ansari asked us to be fearless in our works. There’s a start.

These are the elements that the conference that came to light as social justice organizations came up to speak. The conversations weren’t about wages, benefits, pensions, presidential endorsements and the rage that often accompanied the mention of AFT President Randi Weingarten. It was the collective inability of teachers to reflect on the cultural identities of students that don’t share their racial makeup. That’s why I applaud this conference and its participants because, instead of reflexively asking their staffers of color to fix it, the AFT organizers proactively invited the challenge, moving themselves to the intersections of organizing, community, the Fight for 15, equitable immigration policy, and yes, Black lives mattering. To do it in disaster capitalism’s playground underscored the work we must do.

James Baldwin reminds us that, because he loves America so much, he insists on critiquing it early and often. 

Those of us with a racial consciousness within unions do the work because, in reclaiming the path for public schools, we find affinity with those who may not have that racial lens yet. Simultaneously, we struggle as optimists and hopers in places that have often attempted to silence us via disinvitations, phone calls to districts, and, yes, rumors in on and offline group forums. If this “we” is to truly be a “we,” then reflection, action, and growth become paramount elements of our work. Chicago organizer Jitu Brown reminds us that the current education reformers play chess while we’re playing checkers when we don’t update our strategies. 

The challenge, then, is to push each other towards a better future for public education. And if. we. don’t. get. it, they will shut. it. down. In the worst ways possible.

P.S. (At times, I wondered aloud when AFT would proffer its rank-and-file members who concurrently do social justice work, but more soon.)"
josévilson  education  socialjustice  publicschools  unions  activism  2015  race  poverty  inequality  inequity  us  policy 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Of Challenge and Controversy (Why I Support Marylin Zuniga) | The Jose Vilson
"The third honest question for anyone following this should be, “Why this? Why not other cases that merit your attention?” To that end, we as a whole need to challenge ourselves to work through the things we consider imperfect and complicated. Race as a social construct is more complicated than Black and white, so why would we expect situations that involve race to get simpler with race as an ingrained layer? 21st century activism means delving into situations where the heroes and villains haven’t been narrated for us, or are simply ideas, and, instead, work with the given elements to restore a sense of peace, akin to the classrooms we occupy. More so, how do we demand the difficult work of working through racial situations of others when we have so much to do of this ourselves? Self-healing matters.

To paraphrase Dr. King, the ultimate measure of a person isn’t during times of comfort and convenience, but during times of challenge and controversy."
josévilson  marilynzuniga  2015  complexity  socialjustice  justice  slef-healing  education  protest  mumiabujamal  restorativejustice  rehabilitation  restoration 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Opting Out of Everything | The Jose Vilson
"Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at Organize 2.0’s annual conference, a gathering of some of the country’s most influential organizers to speak about thought leadership as a classroom teacher. I had far too much to say over a 20 minute period, so I read a portion of my book and spoke about our current education reform issues. I got plenty of applause for hounding Andrew Cuomo and speaking up about racism, sexism, and homophobia in our communities. I also had an opportunity to shout out a group like Change the Stakes because a) they’re in NYC b) they have materials in Spanish and c) they’re in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I believe in parents opting their students out of the standardized tests, especially if they can meet the requirements for grade advancement. (Actually, even if they can’t, but that’s another post.)

Radical.

During the Q&A period, a concerned parent asked, “But what if my kid needs to use those test scores in order to get into a better school?” These are the types of questions meant to stymie speakers, as if I hadn’t seen it already. People who asks these questions presume that the speaker isn’t a parent themselves, and that there isn’t a negotiation between “parent as expert” and “for the public good” that society has to find ways to balance all the time. I replied that we first need to define what a bad school and a good school are. Secondly, that there are multiple ways to demonstrate that a student has learned something, and I can’t see too many principals who would reject a student who has a strong portfolio of work.

Eventually, I find out from other attendees that the “parent” also works somewhere that should work at the behest of teachers, students, and parents, but that’s another matter completely. This idea that the standardized test is the ultimate way to ensure passage to the next level sounds like pseudo-meritocratic drivel.

After leaving the conference, my blood only boiled hotter after hearing a commercial in Spanish telling Latino parents that the upcoming state tests are designed to improve students’ cognitive skills, so they should be encouraged to take them. Excuse me? Whoever paid for that spot (my bet: StudentsFirst) forgot to mention that tests don’t explicitly teach anything. Teachers do. Tests don’t go up or down magically or because of raised standards, but because of what happens on a daily basis in schools.

I wanted to listen to the whole commercial, but, instead I hurried up, paid for my groceries, and got the hell out. You guessed it: I opted out.

In fact, I wish I had a refusal letter handy for a bunch of different things I need to opt out of. In no particular order, I’d like to opt out of giving the exams, of being rated on standardized tests, of arguments that say “students need these tests to learn”, of educators not openly supporting other educators when they decide to do something about the testing regime we’re still beholden to, of contentions that these tests are similar to the SAT / ACT when colleges are paying less attention to those things, of folks on all sides silencing voices of color opting their students out by saying opting out is a mostly white suburban moms issue, of giving America’s public monies to private testing corporations for the express purpose of perpetuating testing, and of any mandates that shutter schools on the sole basis of achievement on these tests.

I’d like to opt in to more resources and redistribution of said resources so that the more students need, the more we give. I’d also like to opt our kids in to demonstrating their learning through multiple factors. I’d opt into professional development that would make me a better facilitator for students showing their own learning, too. It’s the right thing to do.

The largest question about the opt out movement for folks is color is whether these tests help highlight our educational inequities via numbers. Opting out students stands as a powerful rebuke of the idea that standardized tests should be the primary determinant as to whether a school stays open or not. So if opting out is an option for you, please do."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  resistance  optingout  2015  activism  teaching  tests  sat  schools  policy  protest  josévilson 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Crosshairs of High Expectations and Poverty | The Jose Vilson
"Our schools are currently underfunded, and our governments currently exacerbates this through long-standing property tax laws and inadequate state and federal formulas for funding schools. With such little political will to truly overhaul our public education system, frustrations ought to bubble. The safety net has withered from under us as our student population has become more diverse, and we’ve had little recourse in the educational debate but to stick to linguistic bunkers when discussing under-performing students:

“Kids don’t do well because of poverty!”
“Are you saying poor kids can’t learn?”
“Poverty means kids can’t sleep or eat well, and when they come hungry to school, they can’t concentrate.”
“That just sounds like an excuse to not teach students to the best of their abilities. We can’t accept that!”

These are arguments all worth listening to, even if the sources sometimes come off as suspect. On the one end, we have to acknowledge that poverty sucks the life out of our kids on multiple measures, from health care and life expectancy to school resources and college admissions. The more we use the word “poverty” to discuss learning and living conditions, the more we speak to social justice because, for many of our students, just getting to the classroom can be a struggle that many of my colleagues can’t comprehend. With the way poverty manifests itself in our schools, schools can’t always take the same trips, have the same lunches, or afford the same speakers to galvanize students. Schools in these environments are more likely to get shut down or restructured, and their teachers and administrators turn over more often because it’s that much more difficult.

On the other, too many of us in communities of color (not just Black or Latino, but Asian-American and Native-American communities too) have seen “highly trained” teachers who come into classrooms with pity and, eventually, resentment when teaching the students there. Many people of color acknowledge the condition they’re in, but they can’t afford for teachers to think of them as “poor” kids. In Latino communities for instance, when they hear “poor,” they also hear pobrecito, which translates to poor thing. People in poverty don’t want others to see their kids as poor things, but as people living in a condition they can’t control right now. They entrust their local institutions to do the best job possible, and for every good or average teacher who buoys up their children, there are those one or two who ruin the experience for a generation, too.

Racism, classism, and sexism manifests not just in the structures that hinder our most troubled schools, but also in many individuals within the system itself, carrying their rather visible knapsacks into our schools and dropping their bag of rocks on our kids.

That resentment leads people to turn to homeschooling or, in more recent times, charter schools. (Mostly white) activists are quick to dismiss the concerns of these parents, so, under the guise of “We want you and those schools don’t,” parents will turn to charter schools in these instances. Of course, it also means we have no idea what happens when our students get into school. For profit schools and the non-profit industrial complex have partnered up to shift the national dialogue about what school means, but those schools have made their names with zero-tolerance discipline policies and rampant de-matriculation too, so perhaps people are too quick to call it a solution.

With folks willing to give away our children of color to poverty pimps and school-to-prison-pipeline funders while so-called progressives build canoes for the kids to swim down the tubes (and all of them thinking they’re working against each other), perhaps political talking points for social justice activists of color just won’t do.

It’s important for all stakeholders to recognize that poverty matters and that achievement is a complex manifestation of environmental factors. It’s also why we shouldn’t treat outliers as miracles nor as rebuttals, but as case studies for us to examine in full (one of my bigger beefs with EdTrust / Doug Reeves 90-90-90 Theory). It’s important for all stakeholders to recognize that, despite and because of this, educators have to work to the best of their abilities because we are what’s left of the social safety net. Educators have to work in the aura of hope because our job is necessarily different, complex, and public. That also means our government officials need to vociferously support and properly fund schools in ways that make equity possible.

Instead of dwelling in the frustration of black parents or using the word “poverty” whenever we need an argument about the achievement of students of color, we’re better off discussing the systemic marriage of poverty and achievement while using our individual pockets of influence to affect change.

This isn’t an either / or argument. It’s a lot closer to the truth than 99% of what I read, though."
2015  poverty  education  schools  racism  class  classism  race  sexism  homeschool  schooltoprisonpipeline  politics  socialjustice  progressivism  acievement  casestudies  publicschools  equity  inequality  josévilson  charterschools 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Broken Windows, Broken Schools: A Panel Discussion on Education & Justice on Livestream
[So much here.]

"Many times schools are looked at as a solution to an in-equal society. This panel brings together a range of experts on the connections between schools and communities to highlight what policies and practices be undertaken to make both more just. **PANELISTS ** ZAKIYAH ANSARI - Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education R. L'HEUREUX LEWIS-MCCOY - Sociology & Black Studies, City College of New York/City University of New York; IRAAS Adjunct Faculty CARLA SHEDD - Sociology & African-American Studies, Columbia University JOSÉ LUIS VILSON - NYC Public School Teacher and Author"
education  publicschools  policy  2015  inequality  community  privatization  choice  teaching  howweteach  commoncore  schooltoprisonpipleine  zakiyahansari  l'heureuxlewis-mccoy  carlashedd  discipline  pedagogy  race  institutionalracism  bias  class  society  canon  expectations  neworleans  chicago  nyc  advocacy  parenting  children  learning  overseers  justice  socialjustice  doublestandards  edreform  agency  democracy  voice  empowerment  josévilson  nola  charterschools 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Beautiful Bytes of Data | The Jose Vilson
"The word data slides easily off the tongue but has no personality and sounds as dry as a funeral drum. School administrators try to grace the word by telling parents that “data-driven school districts” will radically change public education, hoping that a staccato of words and a flare of alliteration will impress a captive audience. Some disingenuous school officials assert that “data-driven” is an essential tool for effectively managing a business, so why not a school system?

But it’s all a ruse. The sum of all the rhetoric about the importance of designing data-driven school districts is a shell game, a slight of hand practiced by illusionists to distract trusting parents who believe school administrators know what is best for their children. Anything “data-driven” must be beneficial for schools, parents are told, because data is information, and information is necessary to make sound decisions about curriculum, instruction and learning. And since even the best used car salesperson can no longer sell the faux elixir of Common Core now that this failed one-size-fits-all education policy has been exposed, school administrators need a new mantra to mystify parents.

Data has an ugly side, a face that frequently emerges when it is misinterpreted or convoluted to justify a faulty assumption or bad decision. The countless financial manipulations practiced by Wall Street brokers and bankers have repeatedly proven that data can be exploited and cause financial ruin for millions of people. Data may be defined as a set of values of quantitative and qualitative variables, and business savors at the trough of data, but schools should be people-driven rather than data-driven institutions.

The young man who stepped in front of the train was a beautiful byte of data, but he was more than the sum of the quantitative information collected by a data-driven school district. His social and emotional data fills less space on his school district’s list of quantifiable student data than math and science scores, and that is the shame of the present state of American public education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease … combined. Need quantitative data? Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12, and four out of five teens who have attempted suicide give clear warning signs. Maybe its time to take off the blinders of a data-driven school district to see clearly that our students are suffering.

Data is not our generation’s penicillin. It is an ugly word used by school administrators, policy makers, and government officials to demean the greatest social institution ever designed by human hands – a public school. Data is being used to compare the United States with countries such as Finland because the Finns score higher on international math and science tests, but can someone – anyone – tell me what Finland produces with their wealth of science and math knowledge?

[crickets]
The United States may score lower on international math and science tests, but somehow we instill creativity in our students and produce amazing technologies.

I taught and helped mentor the young man who stepped in front of the train. I helped him get a scholarship to a vocational school after he earned a high school diploma. He wanted to be an electrician, but I also knew about the many demons that tormented his gentle soul. He endured a miserable childhood, never knew his father, drank too much, and could not leash his black dog of depression. I tried to place him on a road that could lead him to a better place, believing that terra firma would make him feel a clearer path to success and salvation, but he could not see nor feel the ground beneath his feet. I failed.

I believe the vast majority of classroom teachers are not opposed to collecting data that may enhance instructional strategies or improve learning, but do object to a school system trying to emulate a business model designed to increase production and profits rather than enhance social and emotional growth. The social and emotional learning needs of children are too often omitted when describing the purpose of a “data-driven school district” and this is a flawed education philosophy.

The young man was a beautiful byte of data. Now he is a cold dead statistic."
2014  data  depression  metrics  schools  publischools  comparison  standardization  standardizedtesting  politics  policy  pisa  finland  us  testing  commoncore  josévilson 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Common Core State Standards and The Code To Equity — Teaching, Learning, & Education — Medium
"We’re trying to close the achievement gap by trying to talk to the winners of this game instead of asking harder questions about the game itself.

Whenever we center education on the dominant norms while laying blame on the less-dominant for not being more like the normal, we implicitly exclude the traditions and cultures of those, 30-day annual celebrations notwithstanding. As a person of color who’s ostensibly learned the ways of the mainstream, I’ve seen firsthand the effects of getting so deep into learning these norms that acculturation (learning another culture) can easily be mistaken for assimilation (discarding one’s culture completely for another).

Instead of asking “How can we find equity while still keeping the more fortunate as fortunate,” we need to ask, “How do we address communities with the same humanity that we afford the dominant culture?” This discussion also has financial and political ramifications, but it has a root in ideas and ideals. We need better tools to dismantle the inequity, because the ones we have at our disposal just won’t do it."
commoncore  equity  race  inequality  2014  education  policy  us  politics  josévilson 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Just My Imagination Running Away With Me (A Post-CCSS World) - The Jose Vilson
"I‘ve seen this article in my e-mails and feeds no less than ten times this morning. Much of this is old news for me since, if you’ve put all the pieces together for the last four years, it’s fairly obvious just how invested Bill Gates has been in getting Common Core State Standards moved across different desks. It’s also obvious how many folks, from union leaders to business leaders, have put their hat in at least some part of the CCSS ring. The publishers, as I expected, are having a field decade with the CCSS because, they don’t necessarily need to care whether people get it. Districts will unconsciously still pay up for outside expertise.

Yet, the push-and-pullback against the CCSS has been palpable. Opponents on the left and right have joined forces on a small set of issues related to CCSS, specifically the overemphasis on testing and student data privacy, things that pre-date CCSS, but that have been conjoined with CCSS implementation agreements. State after state keep dropping from CCSS allegiance. Regardless of “who” you root for in the CCSS debate, it seems that there needs to be a conversation about what happens if CCSS collapses.

What will you fill the CCSS “gap” with if it goes away?

This question has the feel of “Well, what’s your religion?” There’s a whole set of educators who’ve been following the Dewey-Meier model for some time already have an idea of where things might go. Others who lean on the E.D. Hirsch / Core Knowledge works may still fall back on a CCSS-like structure because that framework depends on a knowledge base from which learning arises. There are so many frameworks to choose from that it begs the question as to why these two are the only camps that have actually proffered theirs.

In other words, we can’t just say no to everything.

From a math lens, as much as I dislike the way CCSS came about, I also don’t want children of color (!) to only learn multiplication tables in the 10th grade. In literacy, we need a balance of fiction and non-fiction texts, but they can’t all be from the “normal” canon, meaning we need more diverse books, not just from one dominant perspective.

As my readers know, I have legitimate concerns about the Common Core. But, in the midst of protests and pullbacks, I’m already seeing a scenario where states that pull back are simply replicating CCSS and giving it another name. This leads me to believe that the discussion isn’t in the “what,” but the “how.” Again.

I imagine that more folks will find their edu-beliefs rooted somewhere because, otherwise, the people squarely in the CCSS camp win. If folks can’t work towards a better set of standards and curricula than the CCSS, then they’ve lost. I imagine that we can do better than no, but it might be just my imagination, running away with me."
commoncore  2014  curriculum  education  policy  teaching  josévilson 
june 2014 by robertogreco
This Is Not a Test (This Is a Review of José Vilson's New Book)
"Unlike a “traditional” bildungsroman, Vilson’s narrative doesn’t contain a simple triumph or teleology. This isn’t your typical “American success story.” It isn’t your typical “American education success story” either.

It’s not surprising that the Vilson gives a nod to Jaime Escalante, the East LA high school math teacher whose story was the basis for the movie Stand and Deliver – probably one of the most well-known stories of contemporary (math) education. Vilson admits that Escalante’s story influenced his decision to become an educator, and there are some similarities: Latino educators working with disadvantaged students.

But the story of Escalante and his students centers on a test – the AP Calculus exam. The title of Vilson’s memoir gestures elsewhere: This Is Not a Test. Indeed, when picked up and told by Hollywood (by Washington Post reporters, etc), education stories do take a different bent; they become stories of redemption, for example – neatly packaged in narratives that resolve far more neatly than real life could ever afford us. In the movies, there’s a trial – a test – and a triumph. All in 103 minutes.

Moreover, our current education system isn’t focused on a test; rather it’s become a regime of year-round testing. (Testing is a touchstone again and again in Vilson’s memoir.) He writes that
“I can’t help but feel that when my students walk out of their exam, they aren’t just frustrated by the inordinate amount of testing they’re subjected to. They’re starting to sense that the process of schooling in and of itself was not actually designed with them in mind — a feeling those of us born into poverty and racism know all too well.”

The onslaught of testing means that, unlike the story of Stand and Deliver, we aren’t working with a narrative in education that affords a win - for teachers or for students – based on the scores of a single exam. The wins are to be achieved elsewhere. And they’re complicated, not the things captured on multiple choice exams or in grade-books. (This is not a test. This is life.)

The students and their stories, they’re complicated too. But instead the education system often sees students, particularly students of color, as pathological. “When we assume poor kids behave as they do just because of their poverty and not as a manifestation of their frustration with poverty,“ writes Vilson, ”we do an injustice to their humanity.”

I’d add too that we do an injustice to the humanity of educators when we pretend as though they are not “whole people,” when we demand their private lives and their personal beliefs be “pure” by some ridiculously paternalistic (and gendered and racialized) standards.

There is much justice and much humanity and so much bravery in this book. But that’s José Vilson."



"One of the things that privilege affords you is that your stories get told. Your voice gets heard. Your coming-of-age narrative fits neatly into – hell, makes – the bildungsroman genre, if you will, because you become the individual that society wants or expects.

Vilson offers instead, as the subtitle of the book suggests, “a new narrative of race, class, and education.” The stakes are high in doing so, and they are, no surprise, incredibly political. (Vilson’s popular blog remains blocked in NYC public schools, it’s worth noting.) After all, we aren’t simply talking about a new entry into the coming-of-age literary genre. The book is an entry into the ideological battles in education and education reform – battles that draw on narratives about grit, for example, and “no excuses,” narratives that I’d argue, configure students of color as objects to be transformed and assimilated, not as subjects to seize their own learning and lives and tell their own story."



"In This Is Not A Test, José Vilson writes a personal narrative that counters folks like Coleman’s concept of education, literacy and language, their valuation of people’s voice and experience. This Is Not a Test is a refusal to be silent. It’s a refusal to capitulate or conform. It’s an expression of a vision where we do give a shit about what you feel or what you think, because we care about people. Because in doing so – particularly in education – we help support one another in growth, in coming-of-age, in learning, and in liberation."
audrewatters  narrative  davidcoleman  commoncore  race  class  education  2014  testing  standardizedtesting  standards  standardization  jaimeescalante  voice  bildungsroman  josévilson  high-stakestesting 
april 2014 by robertogreco
An Education Spring in Our Step: Reflections on the #NPEconference | Chris Thinnes (@CurtisCFEE)
"2. ACTIVE LISTENING AND SELF-AWARENESS

… I have, for some time, been deliberately studying the ways that white men – particularly those vested with authoritative roles and rights that extend even beyond their white privilege, and their male privilege — understand their presence and their impact in conversational dynamics and in space. I do this purposefully in an effort to explore – sometimes helpfully, and sometimes ham-handedly – my own identity, responsibility, and opportunity as a white man, as a school leader, as a parent, as a partner, as a friend, and as a citizen. Sometimes this presents itself in relatively banal and mundane examples worth noting – the dude last night in the movie theater, for example, who splayed his arms across the armrests on both sides of his seat, stared over at my phone before the movie started to take a peek at my twitter stream, and offered his audible commentary to his friend throughout the coming attractions. And sometimes this presents itself in profound examples of people who understand the significance and symbolism of the space they occupy, the meaning of the boundaries they presume to cross, and the impact of the things they say on others.

Recently at the Project Zero conference in Memphis, I was struck by the example of Rod Rock, Superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools, who was only too content to support the leadership of a principal who co-facilitated their workshop, and the learning of participants who’d gathered to exchange their ideas, by listening. “Listening” sounds simple, and innocuous enough, but what I’m talking about is a kind of active listening that intentionally elevates the contributions of others above the inclination to influence, to alter, or to question those contributions. The kind of listening that doesn’t respond to the notes that people play as good chords, or as bad chords, but simply as unexpected chords. We do not often see that in our leaders.

And yet I saw this regularly in the dispositions, behaviors, and actions of leaders at the NPE conference – men and women, white folks and people of color, ‘management’ and ‘labor,’ young and old. And the personal preoccupation I described with white male identity drew me emphatically to the examples of white men in leadership roles who the defy prevailing examples of white men in leadership roles. In the same spirit as my example above, I offer this image of Principal Peter DeWitt and Superintendent John Kuhn, alongside co-panelist and Superintendent H.T. Sánchez:

[photo]

I was taken by the purposeful efforts they made – at this instant, and in many others like it over the course of our time in Austin — to really hear and to honor the contributions of others; the authenticity of their responses to questions, even and especially when they presented them with a challenge; their willingness to take steps back in order that others might take steps forward; and their seeming preference to defer to the insight and experience of others, in order that they might learn themselves. Imagine what could happen – in and among our schools, and in the public discourse about them – if our extended conversations and collective decision-making were framed by such an ethos.

3. FACILITATION AS ACTIVE INCLUSION

Naturally our capacity – in the immediate relationships of our personal and professional lives, and the collective dynamics of a shared effort to support all our nation’s children – depends on more than our resistance or repudiation of dynamics that limit teacher, students, and parent voice. We need urgently to challenge the dynamics of hierarchy, prestige, and privilege that have seemingly determined who should have the most influential voices in a national conversation, and we need actively to recognize and to challenge our own dispositions to marginalizing the input of others who may not share, or who may not have a space to share, their views.

But we also need to make active, purposeful, intentional, conspicuous, and fierce efforts to create a space for other people and ideas. We need to develop active facilitation and inclusion skills alongside those interruption and resistance skills with which we may be more practiced.

To that end, words cannot describe the influence on me of Jose Vilson’s example. There’s a lot that has inspired me in Jose’s work, and a lot that has made me dig deeper in the healthiest kinds of ways, over the time I’ve been familiar with him. But at the NPE conference I got to see him do his thing in a real-life situation for the first time. In the first case, I watched him quietly, respectfully, and clearly create and protect a safe and productive space for the contributions of exceptional student leaders:

[photo]

He did so not just by lauding the efforts of these brave young activists, but by creating a structure of adult participation that limited our inclination — no matter how noble or well-meaning our intentions might be — to steer or shape the conversation. He did so by noticing the impact of our responses (applause, silence, commentary) on the dynamics of the conversation, and by providing subtle cues to adults that helped us co-create an inclusive space. He did so by gently and respectfully pushing two student participants’ thinking further – not at all to question or to critique that thinking, but to lure these students’ wisdom past the threshold of their nerves, and to give their insights the wings of words that might carry us all further forward in our recognition, support, and deference to authentic student voice in the months and years to come.

He did it again during a Common Core panel with several other extraordinary participants, but in a different way. In that context, he managed to create a space for voices and dynamics who are rarely present in such conversations — either about the ‘standards,’ or the high-stakes testing and evaluation schemes with which they are inextricably intertwined. Jose insisted, through his words and through his example, that we examine the implications and impact of education policy and politics through the lens of race and ethnicity; that we deconstruct and challenge the facile assertions of some policymakers and pundits that they are fighting for “the civil rights issue of our time;” and that we recognize and honor the many, many thousands who won’t have a seat at a table until and unless we demand and create a shared, inclusive, respectful, and honest Common Conversation."
christhinnes  npeconference  20145  listening  activelistening  race  self-awareness  power  leadership  servantleadership  inclusion  facilitation  diversity  activism  inclusivity  relationallearning  learning  conversation  hierarchy  hierarchies  relationaldynamics  peterdewitt  deborahmeier  anthonycody  leoniehaimson  dianeravitch  petergow  commoncore  karenlewis  relationships  community  johnkuhn  education  policy  josévilson  inlcusivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
A Draft Of My #TEDxRevolution Speech: A Kid’s Responsibility to Freedom | The Jose Vilson
"Let’s build schools that help us pull down that ceiling. Let’s de-emphasize schooling and more about learning. Let’s teach them extraction, and asking the questions behind the bubble sheet. Let them have breakfast; give them some! Make sure they clean up after themselves, though. Walk away from the chalkboard and repeat their names when they say something important. Implore them to say “I don’t get it” and don’t berate them for it. Don’t take their failures personally, but be sure they know why you’re disappointed. You’re planting seeds even when you’re not the only one tending the farm."
prisons  schools  schooliness  comparison  lists  control  freedom  responsibility  self-discipline  discipline  decisionmaking  democracy  revolution  rebellion  silence  order  hierarchy  authority  authoritarianism  dresscodes  tcsnmy  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  criticalthinking  identity  questioning  schedules  reflection  teaching  cv  josévilson 
march 2011 by robertogreco

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