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I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Education


I'm suffering from the results of my jet-lag induced 7am risings but I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by spilling some haphazard thoughts.

One of the pieces of news I was most disappointed to catch up on upon my reimmersion into our glorious American culture (and there were many, believe me) was the SCOTUS decision on school segregation that essentially, for all intents and purposes, overturned Brown. Funnily enough, this educational inequality issue has really been bugging me lately because of an article of mine that got published while I was frittering about in Europe. Writing it really stirred up all the anger that dogged me all during my time as a teacher and still irks me during the school year when I work with students from different backgrounds (which I still do part time) and see how vastly opposed their experiences are.

For a really heartfelt and cogent analysis of the ridiculousness of the Supremes' decision and some excellent discussion from commenters, see Samhita's post on feministing.

Now that Michael Moore has taken on Health care, I feel like education is the last silent crisis facing our country.

1 comment:

  1. no_slappz1:18 PM

    fellow-ette, your article noted that Gates wants:

    "...three changes: rewards for good teachers (through competitive merit pay) a uniform national curriculum, and longer school days and hours."

    Merit pay: Good.

    Longer Day: Bad

    Uniform National Curriculum: Horrifying, goosestepping idea!

    Perhaps the biggest problem is the certification process for teachers. It creates an artifical labor shortage in math and science. I speak from experience.

    Meanwhile, there is NOTHING that can be done to stop kids from bringing their various family and societal problems to school.

    But there is much about the school bureaucracy that can be restructured.

    First, there is a lot of money available in the system already.

    The School Construction Authority is a segment of the Dept of Ed that has a multi-billion-dollar annual budget. NO ONE disputes that at least a BILLION A YEAR disappears through graft, self-dealing, theft and other obvious forms of corruption.

    That billion is enough to pay for a lot of new teachers. But there is a steadfast unwillingness to put an end to the corruption in the School Construction Authority. I can't remember the last time I heard of Joel Klein even mentioning this huge problem.

    Meanwhile, it appears to me that the Fellows Program is a failure. It's a great idea. But based on the quit rate, it's a failure.

    The city would fare much better by dropping the arcane certification rules and hiring people on the basis of passing the LAST, the ATS/W and a Content Exam.

    If you can do that much, there's no need to gather academic credits in addition.

    People with Engineering degrees do not qualify for math certification because too many math courses taken by engineers are "applied" math courses. Despite having passed algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and differential equations, engineers are deemed insufficiently educated in math to qualify for certification without taking additional courses.

    Of course it's more than bizarre to think that a kid would encounter math beyond calculus in high school in NYC. I say if a person can pass the content exam, that's sufficient to demonstrate knowledge of the subject. The math exam, by the way, required me to study a bit, but I passed without difficulty.

    Meanwhile, as in most professions, serving a form of apprenticeship is a good idea. Doctors and lawyers do it.

    Moreover, as you know, much of teaching is classroom management. There is no curriculum that can teach it. It is a skill acquired ON THE JOB. But it's best to learn it from others who can do it.

    Frankly, I would create a corps of Assistant or Apprentice Teachers who would also be called upon to substitute-teach as well.

    The school system, in its current configuration, attempts to draw in people likely to stay forever. Instead, it should be structured like the military, where short tenures are normal, but good people are urged to stay for long careers.

    As I think the Teaching Fellows program will prove, the people who enter teaching through the Fellows program are people who like challanges -- and they're looking for a life filled with a series of challenges.

    If, in 30 years, the resumes of today's Teaching Fellows are collected and compared, you will find that most Fellows will have gone many different and interesting ways. But few will have stayed in the NYC school system.

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