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Teachers Seek to ‘Reclaim’ Education

6:48 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

(Chicago Teachers Local Union 1/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Originally published at In These Times

After years of being backed into a corner, on Monday public-school teachers stood up in defiance against what they see as their chief bully—budget-slashing school reforms that have made school more stressful and less fulfilling for both them and their students.

Under the banner of a National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education, educators, students and community groups coordinated demonstrations, rallies and other public gatherings in dozens of cities. In the long run, the day of action kicked off a broader campaign by a coalition of unions and community groups to chart an alternative path to education reform.

According to a policy statement by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the leading union behind the campaign, and its partner groups, the goal is to foster “a community-union movement for educational equity and excellence.” While that agenda may sound neutral to the uninitiated, it speaks to growing resentment toward the prevailing reform rhetoric pushed by the White House and many politicians: corporate-oriented “standards” and “management,” leading to a test-heavy curriculum focused on math and reading at the expense of all else. First imposed under the No Child Left Behind law of the Bush administration, this hardline approach rests on the belief that a lack of academic rigor and “ineffective” educators are impeding U.S. students’ performance. The prescription has been an avalanche of high-stakes testing, public-school funding cuts and free-market privatization measures such as charter schools, often funded by corporate-oriented philanthropists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

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Measuring Teacher ‘Diversity’ in a Segregated School System

12:48 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Creative Commons, evmaiden via flickr

Cross-posted from In These Times

Kids do most of their growing up in school, but our schools aren’t growing to meet the changing needs of their communities. And the disconnect between the education system’s capacities  and the aspirations of the kids they serve subtly illustrates the roots of the so-called “achievement gap.”

Among the litany of “failures” that politicians have identified in public education, the debate has increasingly affixed on the issue of who is teaching your kids and how they influence student achievement. A new study says one metric that reflects the divide between students’ unmet needs and the human resources of the education system is “teacher diversity.” The centrist think tank Center for American Progress argues:

At the national level, students of color make up more than 40 percent of the public school population. In contrast, teachers of color—teachers who are not non-Hispanic white—are only 17 percent of the teaching force.

This is a problem for students, schools, and the public at large. Teachers of color serve as role models for students, giving them a clear and concrete sense of what diversity in education—and in our society—looks like. A recent review of empirical studies also shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they’re taught by teachers of color. …

The overarching critique seems straightforward enough: Kids benefit from an educational experience that is socially and culturally reaffirming. This should include teachers they identify with.
But is statistical “diversity” really the objective? Yes, demographics matter if you want schools to be a part of, and an asset for, the community they serve. Social divides within a school amplify the social barriers outside of it. And if teachers and school administrators are isolated from the day-to-day realities students deal with, from economic hardship to violence in the home to limited English-speaking ability, school will become a pretty unwelcoming place for youth. Read the rest of this entry →