1) If you could change anything related to education on a nation-wide level, what would be at the top of your list?
I would replace the US Secretary of Education with an experienced teacher who meets the following credentials:
--A minimum of 15 years of verified, full time teaching experience.
--Of those 15 full time years, a minimum of 10 must be as a full time classroom teacher in a traditional public school.
--Of those 10, a minimum of 2 must have been completed in the last 2 years in a state in which corporate education reform has a stronghold.
2) What is your stance on No Child Left Behind? How could it be improved?
NCLB has no redeeming value and should be completely scrapped. Any federally-instituted “reform” needs to begin with a recognition of the dignity of the teaching profession made manifest by asking teachers nationwide what the federal government might contribute in order to help classroom teachers better meet the needs to the American traditional public education student. The federal government needs to also openly acknowledge the influence of childhood and community poverty upon the public school classroom environment. The federal government also needs to acknowledge that standardized tests cannot capture the complexity of student learning.
3) How do you approach standardized tests?
I teach, but never to any standardized test.
Given the reformer abuses of standardized test results, I currently have no use for standardized tests. I graduated from a public high school in 1985, two years after the Reagan administration’s infamous A Nation at Risk report. I do not remember taking any standardized tests in high school. Maybe I did, but they were rare. And there was no consequence attached to the scores. I had no graduation exit exam.
I completed my first standardized test in August 1973. It was the Metropolitan Readiness Test by Harcourt Brace. My kindergarten teacher administered the test to me in order to determine whether I was ready for first grade. I missed an entire quarter of the year due to childhood illness, and my teacher used this test result to help inform her decision to promote me to first grade. This is the proper usage of standardized tests—to inform teachers. The test result was not used to berate my teacher. In 1973, berating a teacher using student test results was unheard of.
4) What do you suggest students do to help alter their education for the better?
Make it a point to learn. Grades should be secondary to genuine learning. Students today are under more pressure than ever to obsess over standardized test scores, but I say, actively defy such a focus. Have faith in learning for learning’s sake.
5) How widespread of an educational reform do we need?
Wherever there is childhood poverty, we need to address the issue. The term “education reform” should be replaced with “poverty reform.”
6) Should education remain a state program, or should it become a national program?
Education at both the state and national levels has been hijacked by corporate reform. Therefore, I must qualify my response that I believe education should be a state issue with the added statement that most states need to first be purged of the corporate reform stronghold.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) promotes federalism (state control), but only as a front for them to gain control of statehouses by controlling the legislatures and using such control to promote privatization of public entities. So, once again, to say that education should be a state concern is a loaded statement given the likes of ALEC.
7) Should classes be standardized across the nation? What would be a better alternative?
It is a demeaning waste to believe that the American classroom can and should be “standardized.” A far superior alternative is the humane one—recognize, value, and nurture the individuality and creativity of both students and teachers.
This superior alternative is what happens without question in upper-crust private schools across the nation.
Consider the history of American ingenuity and invention. It defies “standardization.” Now, if you want a society full of citizens incapable of independent thought, a society bereft of the critical thinking truly necessary for America to thrive globally, then attempt to “standardize” the American public education system.
8) How does the purpose of education need to change?
The reformer “purpose of education” is to produce high test scores. This is an empty purpose. So what if test scores are high if students are unable to think critically and produce creatively?
The American public needs to confront this corporate reform obsession with standardized test scores. The purpose of education should be to enhance the quality of individual life and, by extension, the quality of American society.
9) What role should creativity take in education? How can this be changed (if it should be)?
Without creativity, American education is dead. Without creativity, American students become superficially functioning shells. It is either worship the standardized test or kill the tests and nurture creativity. There is no middle ground. The tests have been abused, and for this reason, they must go in order for creativity to thrive.
10) How can we best utilize the virtues of childhood (imagination, energy, productivity, excitement, &c...) in education?
Make any set of standards secondary to the needs of students. Students need creative outlets. The classroom experience should honor as much. I am not advocating a removal of standards. It is important to have education standards as guides. However, the professional judgment of teachers mush be recognized and respected, as well. As a seasoned teacher, I am keenly aware of my students’ needs for creative outlets in my classroom, and as a seasoned teacher, it is my job to craft a classroom atmosphere in which standards and creativity operate in concert.
The best means of my fostering creativity in my students is to model the creativity I foster in myself.
In order to “utilize the virtues of childhood in education,” these virtues must first be valued in the public school teacher. Neither NCLB nor RTTT does so, and so, both NCLB and RTTT are doomed to fail.
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