Instruction & Curriculum

Accountability Conversation

Thank you for reading and responding. Each piece will come to you first because I am getting to accountability, and if you are interested in honest accountability that better serves children (and us all) I will share ideas with you. But where you might be focused on a burden of student outcomes that lies entirely with schools and teachers, I am starting from the very Democratic notion that schools need to be accountable, but in the end  “It takes a Village”. Not a village that blames schools for all its ills, but one where the village steps up to its responsibilities.

My Part 2 will address that more completely and even mention some of the good that has been done by wealthy people who know next to nothing about guiding a classroom but have had so much influence.

Part 3 will get to an accountability alternative, but be warned: it is collaborative. Not the kind of thing where policy wonks, non-profit supported school board member/community activists, hedge fund enthusiasts, and former news gals can sit at the periphery and beyond/above and take pot shots and digs at a job they wouldn’t/couldn’t/couldn’t do (and still get published) and demand that others jump through their hoops.

As I proceed, here are some reflections on your guiding comments:

1) “Get people on my side of the issue to keep reading” made me think of that Chris Wallace interview of Jon Stewart. The one where he told Jon that FOX News told “the other side” of the story-indicating that he (Wallace) envisioned his network as in a camp opposite some enemy faction, obligated to present facts only in a way that suited an agenda and not really “fair and balanced” facts suited to a better conversation more respectful reflection on the pro’s and con’s of both sides. An echo chamber does little to move a better conversation forward.

2) “Do you really think I am going to publish digs at Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee?” made me wonder if you would publish “digs” at folks like Jesse Hagopian and Diane Ravitch? If so, what makes them appropriate targets while those others are not? But it could simply be my style (“perv-hunter” and “broom-riding”). I phrase things a little over-the-top sometimes. But is it a “dig” to suggest that undue reverence of a public figure (whether it be an unqualified “reformer”,the head of a union, a public school teacher who dares to speak up, or the former assistant sec w/insight dating back to NCLB) is not really moving an objective conversation forward? Yeah I take shots, but I have seen clearly agenda-driven waves of worse. My tone is elevated because of the obvious packaging that is involved in presenting and then defending/promoting characters like Rhee, Campbell, and (bow tie) Steve Perry. It’s like being told how fabulous some strange meat-filled wrap you purchase at a market in Guatemala is, but the only thing you are told about it’s contents is that the local rat population has been successfully controlled. “Just taste the delicious sandwich, but don’t ask how it was made.” is not acceptable to me. Just tell me I’m eating rat meat and why I should. (P.S. Being a major Democratic contributor is not necessarily a check-mark in the assured positives category these days. An entrenched, entitled, elite establishment is all I see there.)

My real introduction to twitter happened when I wanted to connect with others interested in education issues at a time when I felt the issues had been hijacked by market interests. I feel there is a difference between 1) putting money gained in the markets behind an honest endeavor and 2) trying to turn an honest endeavor into another market. I quickly came across a Chris Stewart/Steve Perry stroke-fest where Chris was reminding Steve of how awesome he was and how ignorant anyone who challenged him must be, Steve readily agreed.

I had to ask some qualifying questions. I think Steve still has me blocked, Chris did for a spell too, but since he and I have had some semi-respectful exchanges. I believe his heart is in the right place and that usually is enough to win me whether I agree with the points made or not. What I mostly notice though, is how the narrative points have shifted as realities come to roost. Early on, when I suggested that poverty, parents,communities, the availability of enrichment programs, and outside forces had influence: the responses were nuts!

“You teach, let others do their jobs.”

“That’s hogwash”

“What are you even responsible for then?”

“Is that really how you feel about your students, Dan?”

“Do your students know the disdain you have for their parents?”

Thankfully as a child I watched a lot of professional wrestling and hard core investigative journalism (back when it wasn’t considered a threat to national security) so I have a high tolerance for hilarious theater and pointed questions. But my burden, I’m told, is my elite middle class whiteness (while that same doubt isn’t cast on the even whiter, eliter, and wealthier driving reform).

The devil defended depends on how it moves any agenda forward, though, because while I was blocked, bashed, basically had my integrity insulted for pointing to vital outside influences, I now see a personal narrative from Chris about parents who made the choice to move him out of a violent area. Another from you, I think about the changing demographics in schools that need to be considered as poverty spreads, another from someone else about how “the village” is decaying into violence and bad influences.

So, since I have no “side” other than honesty, I see hope and I have to ask:

If you write, say, and do nothing about the political, economical, social, and moral decline that sends kids to school with increasing challenges-but only look for a market friendly way to target and separate particular populations and hold schools accountable-is that a reform that should be defended?

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