John Chase is a public school teacher and summer youth employment counselor. He is founder and president of the Musicians United For Songs In The Classroom Inc. (M.U.S.I.C.) and creator of Learning from Lyrics art and technology integration curriculum. He is also co-admin of the Facebook page “The Art of Learning”. View his LinkedIn profile for a more detailed and expanded Bio.
I had trouble posting a comment on Pater Greene’s blog so he’ll be posting this as a guest post.
The Curmudguation’s response to my post, like Wag the Dog’s and Paul Thomas’s response to the Gates call for a moratorium and the comments on both posts are indicative of a fundamental difference between the two sides in this education civil war. Corporate reformers refuse to submit their hypotheses to peer review by professionals or the give and take of democracy. We, the coalition of educators and families who do not even have a name, respect the clash of ideas.
Obviously, I knew my post would annoy friends. Honestly, the first drafts were more supportive of the moratorium, and less confrontational to Gates. I knew I had to listen and temper my call for offering an olive branch after thinking through the arguments it would provoke.
For instance, it makes an excellent point about Pearson and the profits that motivate them. Originally, I ducked that reason entirely, and I did so for a reason which many will reject. Especially in my first drafts, I tried to be as diplomatic as possible, hoping that Gates and other reformers would listen. Even in my final draft, I soft pedaled that issue, which of course is one of the dangers of trying to stress communication over confrontation.
Yes, I believe that Gates probably is taking the attitude of “Let’s get our PR and politics lined up and relaunch more effectively in a year or two.” Naively or not, my first drafts focused on explaining to reformers why that’s a bad idea. They won a lot of political victories for the first decade of two of reform, but they’ve wracked up one implementation failure after another. I don’t expect them to give up the political fight, but neither do I expect that they will find a bigger and better political gun to pull out. (We in schools and in the rest of society may lose to the worst of Big Data; we can’t deny the possibility of defeat or dwell on it.)
The last third of my posts stressed the political benefits that I see in working for a moratorium, as long as we are in stark contrast with reformers and don’t obscure our intentions. We’re in the fight against testing and other reward and punish schemes for the long run.
Yeah, the commenter, Eric Baldwin, is right, and I think it is great that Hanna Skandera, Kevin Huffman, and other Chiefs for Change have blown their gaskets and I bet the billionaires don’t like being called ridiculous by reformers an more than they do by teachers.
I agree with the great post below, Data is the Fools Gold of Common Core
Paul Thomas didn’t mention me, but I often ask myself what his response will be to some of my posts. He responded to Gate’s call with a brilliant passage from Hemingway. Yes, the “Road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs.”
His post prompted an equally good metaphor by Anthony Cody. Common Core is like a road through the Amazon forest. Stop the road and you can save the forest. (That explains why I said that I can’t see myself supporting a new set of NATIONAL standards, after Common Core is defeated.)
I’d say that that metaphor is supportive of both sides on the point that separates Curmudguation and me. In the overall fight against the road, don’t we accept as many temporary delays as we can get while trying to kill it? Students who would be damaged next year by Common Core testing are like a village that is first in the road’s path. Saving that village is a first step. Saving the village of teachers who would have been punished in the next two years is a second step.
Whether we’re environmentalists fighting a road or educators fighting corporate reform, we must discuss and debate the best ways to win shortterm and longterm political victories. By the time I finished the post, I knew I had toughened it up to the point where Gates people would dismiss it, but where it would still rile up allies. I went ahead with it because we need to converse about these issues.
I see Anthony has also responded.
I need to now think through his post. On first reading, I would stress that we agree that the first priority is the “impact our students. Does it relieve them of a test-centered education? Does it alter the path we are on towards an education system monitored by tests, increasingly delivered by technological devices, all aligned to a master set of standards? Or does it simply slow the pace slightly, in order to placate and silence critics?”
Yes, as Anthony says, Common Core “will yield terrible results for our students, especially those facing the greatest challenges in life and in school.”
We and the increasing number of families who are rejecting tests must continue to fight those who “will continue to label these students, and the schools they attend, as failures.”
Thank you John
Why not email me a email@example.com
As you might know I especially used lyrics in teaching history.
You might not approve of my assertive discipline plan. The kids howls were pitiful when I had to sing Dead Skink in the Middle of the Road, so I rarely had to progress to singing “I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison,” or all of Okie from Muskogee, but they liked the positive reinforcement of Mason Williams poetry,
Them Moose Goosers, ain’t they recluse?
Will do John, has been a challenge at times to incorporate some of my favorite lyric-based lessons and create enough “space” in our test-centric and data-driven class schedule for students to create PSA music video projects as in previous school years.
I had success building on strengths, not just remediating.
This week’s article features my former student Elijah.
Elijah first proposed the idea which is now called full-service community schools. I just returned from visiting him, swapping some stories and meeting his kids. As I told Elijah, the rest of the chapter from my manuscript draws on nationally influential scholars, and people like David Kirp and John Merrow have read his story and would be willing to come to OKC to help.
The only thing Elijah would change below is that he says that the pseudonym isn’t necessary.
Chapter TEN: Schooling as a Team Sport
Isaiah, a sophomore, was seething after a dispute with an assistant principal but, eventually, he spoke, “D.T., can I ask a few questions?”
Isaiah asked his classmates, “Do you remember when we made Mrs. So and So cry?”
The rejoinder from across the room was “Yeah! That was fun!”
“Remember when So and So was beat down?”
“Yeah! It was great!”
“Remember when we ran Mr. So and So out of the classroom?”
“Remember when we went to the Redhawks (baseball) game?”
“But we were good then,” responded the class with unsure voices.
“Remember when we went to the Omniplex and the zoo?”
“But we were good then, too,” were the even more confused replies.
“Remember the field trip to the river?”
“Yeah …, that was fun but we were good then, too …”
“That’s my point,” proclaimed Isaiah.
It turned out that Isaiah had been long term suspended and this was his last day in a regular school. He had diagnosed a downward cycle in middle schools where too many students failed to control their behavior. The system made the problem worse by abandoning efforts to make school more engaging and enjoyable. Worksheets and rote instruction were seen as the only way to keep disruption under control. Isaiah had also struck upon a solution. Field trips brought out the best in students. They did not want to be embarrassed by their peers or their own behavior. Bring students out into public and they became very receptive to instructions about behaving with dignity.
Isaiah eventually graduated from an alternative school, and whenever he came back to visit, I used him as an example for my modest reform proposal. Our communities are full of twenty-somethings like Isaiah who survived neighborhood schools and who now have the maturity to be role models. The Isaiah’s of our world would be ideal mentors for our struggling teens. For instance, these mentors could teach students the skills necessary to behave properly on field trips, as well as help to counsel students with behavior problems in class.