Category Archives: education reform

The real problem of U.S. public schools

I am tired of reading about edreform in the news focusing on failing schools, merit pay, test scores, school of choice, bad teachers, etc. It is time that politicians and “reformers” recognize the huge elephant in the room of education reform-poverty.

by Shavar Ross 

First go read Mel Riddile’s excellent post about poverty’s effects on PISA  Here is evidence that all of our schools are not failing, but the real problem in this country is poverty. Our best schools compare favorably with the top countries of the world. (By the way I personally could care less about these test scores, but since everyone else uses them to make points-here you go).

Next University of Texas psychologists release a study about poverty and genetic potential. Summarized they found that 50% of the progress of wealthy children can be attributed to genetics. No, they are not smarter than poor children, but they reach their genetic potential because of extra resources and opportunities. Children of poverty do not reach their potential.

Finally a New York Times piece by Charles Blow states that

      According to the National Center for Children in Poverty,
      42 percent of American children live in low-income homes 
      and about a fifth live in poverty. It gets worse.  The number
     of children living in poverty has risen 33 percent since 2000.
     For perspective, the child population of the country over all
     increased by only about 3 percent over that time. And, 
     according to a 2007 Unicef report on child povertythe U.S. 
     ranked last among 24 wealthy countries.

My thoughts are that this is not any new information. We know that socio-economic is the most important factor for school success. We know that our poor schools in rural and urban areas are the schools with the most students who struggle and drop out. Of course we need to take every means necessary to improve these schools.

But lets stop dogging public education non-stop in the media. Let’s stop portraying teachers as lazy and worthless. Let’s stop acting like the entire system is broken when we have thousands of successful schools and millions of successful students. Let’s stop treating public education as both the cause and solution of our economic problems.

I for one am appalled that 1 in 5 children in this country live in poverty. 1 in 5! It is an embarrassment that we have the highest poverty rate of developed nations. I will not pretend to have all of the answers to end poverty, but let’s acknowledge it as the real problem of inequity in this country.

Let’s fix that problem and quit blaming public schools and teachers.

Hat tip to Bill Ferriter for the Charles Blow link.

No one is "Waiting for Superman"

No one knows about or cares about Waiting for Superman Really.

I have not seen the movie, but have read many blogposts and newspaper reviews about it. I feel fed up with the negative portrayal of teachers just like many others. But does it really matter?

Very few people are going to see this movie or even know about it. Probably more people saw the “commercial” for it on Oprah than will actually see the movie. Jackass 3-D was the number one movie this past weekend and Superman fell two places to 18th on the list of movies viewed.


With just over 2.5 million in total sales at $10 a ticket that is only 250,000 people. If we double that to half a million people to count for free viewings and cheaper tickets (I am being overly generous here) that is around 1 out of every 700 Americans.

Try this quick quiz with some people you know in real life:
  1. What is Waiting for Superman?
  2. Tell me everything you know about it.
  3. Who is Michelle Rhee?
  4. Tell me everything you know about her.
  5. Who is Joe Klein/Geoffrey Canada/fill in your favorite “reformer” here?
  6. Tell me everything you know about them.
You can add any fun questions you want to this list. Ask your spouse, neighbors, or friends. I am willing to bet you will get responses like this:
Now ask your colleagues at school. Did you get better answers? Again I bet probably not. So if no one watches Superman and no one knows about it then how dangerous is it really? I think for the average American it is as important as this is.
PS: Of course, I know that it matters that we debate this stuff at many levels, but I think edubloggers are over reacting at the effect of this movie on the average American.

Wanted: learning lobbyist

Like many educators I am tired of NCLB and RTTT. I am tired of the hyper-testing attitude of this country and its politicians. I also feel like such a small voice as a teacher in a middle school in Michigan. Through Twitter and blogs I know that there are many, many educators out there who are trying to make a difference and create authentic learning experiences for kids with and with out technology.

One question I have had that re-surfaced in my mind today is why is it that none of the “ed-tech leaders” have any political power with Duncan, Obama, or any of the other politicians who are making these terrible policies. This is not a critique of any educators but a serious question of why no one is working the political channels for better policy decisions. Or maybe they are and I just don’t know about it.

I consider the great minds that I learn from to not just be ed-tech leaders but the leaders in learning period. So what if we created a new lobby group. I know just the thought of it is sickening, but that is how this country works. What if everyone in our networks who believes in student-centered, problem-based, authentic learning using all tools available sponsored a lobbyist.

Now I know we have the NEA lobbyists and I believe in the need for a union. But the union is looking after teachers rights and benefits. We need a separate entity that focuses on what is the best educational policy for student learning.

It is not my intent to nominate a candidate for this position, but rather propose what they should look like. It should be someone who has been a teacher and an administrator. They need to be an established leader in education with a deep commitment to student centered learning. They also need some skills in communicating and networking. They should be a person who knows how to work with politicians and how to get things done in Washington D.C.

I think we need to get out of the echo chamber of our network and have someone represent us in the political fray. I got $20 a year to donate to this person. If we all did this we could afford to pay them a fair salary. So what do you think?