Celebrating Our Failure
Comments from Annie: These two pieces come from Jim Horn’s blogsite, Schools Matter .
When Jim writes about NCLB, especially the effects of it on teaching, he speaks eloquently, as an educator, with passion, and first-hand experience, about the profound destruction of a system under siege.
The second piece is from a teacher commenting on his website. When you read the two together, you can’t find a more powerful account of the damages corrupting our schools.
Celebrating Our Failure
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Teacher Education is Out of Touch, and I am Proud of It
No doubt, much hand-wringing will result from Arthur Levine's
out-of-touch appraisal of how out-of-touch teacher education programs
are. Here is how Levine's Executive Summary (PDF) frames it in the
The nation's teacher education programs are inadequately preparing
their graduates to meet the realities of today's standards-based,
accountability-driven classrooms, in which the primary measure of
success is student achievement.
I haven't had a chance to read the whole report, but there is enough
here to get my attention. Let me say unequivocally that, as a teacher
educator, I agree wholeheartedly with Levine's opening statement, and,
furthermore, I would not have it any other way. Teacher education
programs, the best ones at least, are entirely out-of-step with the
present-day disaster of "accountability-driven classrooms" to which
Indeed, the present-day "accountability-driven classrooms" neither
require, nor desire, teacher education programs, if they include any
departure or variation from the high tech version of the same
iron-fisted 19th Century traditional pedagogy that was just as
ineffective a hundred years ago as it is today. The fact is that
federally-mandated classroom of today looks much more like the
prevailing educational model of 1906 than it does the education models
of 2006, which, by the way, continue to be the focus of teacher
education programs despite the anti-democratic aberration that has
sucked the oxygen from any other educational narrative or methodology.
So yes, Levine is right, thank god--we are hopelessly out of step with
the march toward the past a past that makes teacher preparation as
irrelevant as, let's say, social justice and equality of opportunity.
In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs teacher training to
teach to the the high-stakes standardized junk tests that have replaced
professional standards and curriculums all across the nation. In today's
test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs a teaching degree to do the
parrot math and reading programs that are pushed by the Reading First
thugs (and what will soon be Math First thugs). In today's test-obsessed
classrooms, no one needs a child development course when the insanity of
testing kindergarteners and first-graders has made core principles of
child development entirely irrelevant. In today's test-obsessed
classrooms, no one needs an historical or philosophical foundations
course when the current agenda of worldwide economic domination has
replaced all the other purposes and aims that have historically shaped
schools once devoted to creating good people to build a good democracy.
In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs educational psychology
courses when the current chain-gang behavior modification tactics for
classroom control are provided in the various scripts and canned
instructional programs that accept no deviation to achieve their
When, eventually, sanity is restored, when the public dialogue replaces
the silenced voices, and when these crooks, hucksters, and corporate
fascists are expelled from the seats of power, we may, in fact, come to
celebrate those teacher education programs now demonized for not
"preparing graduates to meet the demands of today's . . .
accountability-driven classrooms." Perhaps those university programs
will have at least preserved the possibility of a free and just society
during this melee of the fundamentalist cultural revolution, and perhaps
then we can truly begin to give teacher education programs the attention
they need to honestly make them better.
In the meantime, let us celebrate our failure.
Posted to Schools Matter 9.20.06
The second piece with a comment from Jim Horn:
All schools and local educational agencies that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) are identified for Program Improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This art teacher in a PI California school finds herself caught in the grip of an education policy that is undermining and threatening any chance of providing a meaningful education for the most vulnerable and neediest students. Her comment was posted on ScoolsMatter in response to "20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB."
I am a teacher in a PI school.
It is so apparent in my school in Oxnard, CA that what is passing for "improvement" is undermining the quality of instruction and the learning outcomes in my students. I can barely see my way through to do my job, much less be effective with students.
In fact, at Hathaway I would say my perception is one of mass frenzy on site and an atmosphere of eroding core teaching praxis. This is being replaced with fairly poor textbook generated pacing and content that assures us no outcome but keeps reiterating that it's based in "data driven" programs. Experienced teachers obviously retire and leave, newer teachers lack skills, voice, understanding of why things are really getting ridiculous. Many teachers are reflective enough to challenge the assumptions for these are sophisticated societal issues being addressed in a very unsophisticated manner. I doubt Bush can articulate his rhetoric well enough which is why his architects do the planning for him. No ChildLleft Behind was about all he got from his attendance in the plans, and indeed their best piece is controlling the rhetoric.
Anyway, I appreciate this list especially after listening today to a county presentation on "year 3" in “underperformance world” and the federal "take" on the rectification of teachers. I am examining the why of my teaching life. After 23 years dedicated to the poorest students in California in the Salinas Valley, South Central Los Angeles, and in Hueneme District I, find myself dealing with those I think who see the whole NCLB notion as a way to privatize, make a buck off audits, data proscribing program pieces and taking the teacher and literally flailing them alive -- and getting paid big money doing it.
And as that person who stayed in the classroom dedicated to students who watches many of these figures flee to run DataWorks or other agencies/companies that are collecting the big bucks by maintaining this big lie I ask myself..what can be done? In my world I talk.
Often teachers ask me to stop-questioning basic assumptions is a no, no. I seek outside connections and help. I try to write and talk to those we work with. But you know, as I sat today in this meeting, (in part why I found your site), it occurred to me my kids and parents are further from a voice in this picture than ever before. We know they are too poor, language hampered, possibly not even correctly papered, they can't come in to advocate, some lack the skills and tools educationally to have the view articulate enough, that places me, this elementary teacher into an advocacy role.
Concurrently, my district is mandating my voice, scripting, proscribing and reacting to the act and its bite. Lost in all of this is the little girl on my apple carpet with a family in a garage or the little boy unready to take on a curriculum paced beyond him who is now the room "problem". Now I go to my yard at recess, a place I've known for 12 years, and watch chaos. I observe, without a doubt, children in stress, children depersonalized, children shoved in "universal access" who should be doing something very different -- maybe even painting. It's like watching and living a human nightmare. I'm in as unethical a position as ever in my life.
I appreciate this site. I wish you might write for me where you think this gets us to if you go to the ultimate end point. I know privatization is one aspect but I look further. I do not see how mutual cooperation and survival, respect and the values that built America are in play here. I see a thing eating its young. I see children as commodities. I see ultimately a permanent underclass, a creation of a divide of have/have nots that's unbridgeable via educational systems. It’s so fundamentally clear here in poor South Oxnard. I'm ashamed really that this country could unleash this on our children and doubly ashamed I am forced into its implementation.
Jim Horn/ Sarah Puglisi
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES