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America’s schools are at a turning point. Our children are being over-tested, our teachers are physically exhausted and emotionally demoralized, and our tax dollars are being diverted to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free-market system of education.
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In 1831, the French government sent twenty-seven-year-old Alexis de Tocqueville to America to study and report on the American prison system. He traveled across our nation making notes not only on the prison systems but on all aspects of American society and government. From these notes Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America. In his final campaign address in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 3, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to one of Tocqueville’s most powerful and often-used quotes: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Throughout my life, I have observed this goodness.… Continue reading
Resistance to test overuse and misuse has reached unprecedented heights across the nation. This year, resistance won notable victories, such as ending, lessening or postponing graduation exams in at least eight states and easing or ending grade promotion tests. The ultimate goals of the movement are to dramatically reduce the amount of testing, end high stakes uses, and implement educationally sound assessments. An in-depth look at the rise of anti-standardized testing movement recently appeared on the website of the Washington Post.
One of the major reasons why I wrote America’s Schools at a Turning Point: And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future is that our nation’s teachers are currently overwhelmed by the parade of education reforms being foisted upon them and their students. As a result, many of our teachers are worn out both physically and emotionally, and some are being stretched to their breaking point. An all-too common example of how waves of school reform efforts have negatively impacted teacher morale is contained in the heart-felt words of a twenty-four year veteran teacher in Ohio. Her letter describing why school isn’t for children anymore was published on the website of the Washington Post this past March.
To put it bluntly, the future of our nation’s public schools is now even more uncertain and the need to sit down with the American people and talk about it is even greater as a result of the elections last Tuesday. While much of the media coverage has focused on the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, for our nation’s public schools the most significant impact of Tuesday’s elections will occur at the state level. According to the National Journal, the governorships provided the biggest surprises of the night, with Republicans nearly running the table, mostly in Democratic states. They entered the night holding 30 governorships, a high-water mark given that most were elected in the 2010 wave. They could end the night controlling as many as 35. The prediction of a group of 50-75 influential leaders who are shaping federal education reform, including individuals who have served or are currently serving as key policy and political “insiders,” is that school choice and teacher tenure reform efforts will gain more traction while the Common Core standards will face a significant setback as a result of the outcome of the governors’ races across the country.… Continue reading
It was predictable. On Tuesday night as the election returns rolled in and the victory speeches began, one after another, the victors promised – no doubt with good intentions – to reform our education system and fix our “failing” schools. My point here is not to bash our political leaders. I believe that most of them are sincere and doing what they feel they have been elected to do – which is to represent us, serve as our voice and fix our problems. The big problem, however, is that they are hearing from everyone but the American people when it comes to education. And there is good reason for this. Other than the growing public concern about the Common Core, most people are in the dark about how our nation’s education reform movement is impacting our schools and communities. They are unaware that our students are being over tested, our teachers are physically and emotionally exhausted and our tax dollars are being diverted to the corporate sector to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free market system of education. As long as our citizens remain in the… Continue reading
With election day tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to share a thoughtful warning from my friend and colleague, Charlie Irish. Charlie served as superintendent of the Medina City Schools, Medina, Ohio, for 13 years and is now the point person for the Santa Rita Collaborative on an important research initiative with the Kettering Foundation. Here is his warning:
While we hear school leaders promote the attributes of their public school systems, we don’t hear them talk very much about their community’s commonly held purpose for their schools and children. We seldom, if ever, see school leaders trying to help their communities forge that common purpose. As a result, the legitimacy of our schools as an institution representative of our communities is vanishing, and our schools are on track to becoming little more than a service that has no voice.
The following fictional story written by an 83-year-old Nobel Prize winning author from Portugal speaks to this loss of legitimacy.
On a rainy election day, practically no one went to the polls until 4 in the afternoon, and then everybody seemed to arrive at once. When the ballots were counted, almost three-quarters turned… Continue reading
Amazon will begin shipping copies of my new book, America’s Schools at a Turning Point: And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, on November 15.
When I was sharing with one of my Green Valley, Arizona, friends the fact that I had recently completed writing a new book about our nation’s public schools, he politely but bluntly asked me a great question: “Since my kids are no longer in school, why should I be interested in reading it?” I thought about his question for a few seconds and then responded. I said that America’s Schools at a Turning Point: And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future is not just about our public schools. It is also about our country. It is about hope and trust and how the American people will put their differences aside and come together and make a difference when they are told the truth.
In rolling out this website and announcing my new book, I’m beginning to hear from a growing number of my non-educator friends. The hot topic for many of them is their concern and, in many instances, opposition to the Common Core Standards. This, of course, tracks with national polling and what is happening in many states where legislation has been introduced to repeal these standards. For example, in its most recent annual poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools conducted by Phi Delta Kappan and Gallup, six out of ten Americans indicated they oppose the Common Core State Standards. This, in turn, fuels the anti-Common Core legislation. Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, explains how the Common Core went wrong and how advocates can get it back on track. It is a bit lengthy but thought-provoking and worth reading.
“Shock and awe” is the overwhelming response from the citizens who have viewed a powerful, new educational documentary titled, Rise Above the Mark. The documentary was created by Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette School Corporation in West Lafayette, Indiana, to alert the general public about what he calls the “corporate takeover” of our nation’s public schools. Since its premier less than a year ago, more than 10,000 people have seen Rise Above the Mark throughout the United States and in several countries, including Belgium, Finland and The Netherlands. Rocky reports that after viewing it many people acknowledge they haven’t been aware of what has been happening to our public schools and ask: What can we help do about it? Narrated by Peter Coyote and featuring Diane Ravitch, Jamie Vollmer and other nationally recognized educational leaders, this documentary is a must-see for anyone who wants to know or let others know how our nation’s education reform movement is impacting our school children. Rise Above the Mark DVDs are available on Amazon.com.