The Exam School Choice, #15: A mystery solved…sort of

Devil in the detailsThe Parent Imperfect got many questions (both online and offline) about the last post about how students get placed in the exam schools. Some people reported to me that they had put BLA first, but had gotten placed in BLS. This was a bit of an eye-opener, since other people said that they had chosen BLS first and gotten placed in BLA. What’s up? How is that possible, unless someone is doing the ropa’ dopa’ with this process?

One of these folks got back to me with an interesting explanation of how that happened, in her case.. When this woman investigated with the exam school people at the BPS, it turns out that the BPS never received the choice form for this student. The school had record of it being handed in, but it never got to Court St (Dudley, I guess, by this time). I had to chuckle as this is exactly what happened with our dear daughter, not once, but TWICE! Why do we bother filling out these forms?

In any case, when the BPS doesn’t have a choice form for a child that has taken the test, they have a default order of preference that they enter for him/her. It is: 1. BLS 2. BLA 3. O’Bryant. Isn’t that an interesting assumption? In any case, this child was assigned to BLS because that’s what the District assumed she wanted. Happily, because her mother is metida, this child is now high on the waiting list for BLA, and will likely get in there. All’s well that ends well, right??????

That explains this case, but what about the others?

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Exam School Choice, #14: But BLA was my first choice!

The LetterOn Friday, the Parent Imperfect received a number of messages from people who had received their exam school assignment letters from the Boston Public Schools. Their children had taken a private school admissions test that does not correspond to the BPS curriculum, and based on those test results and their grades in Grades 5 & 6, they were offered admission to one of the city’s exam schools.

Being who I am, I tend to hear from people who chose the nation’s oldest public school for their sixth grader, and got their first choice. Their doubts about this choice are returning and they are wondering if they can still opt for their child to go to one of the other exam schools. They want me to say that BLS will be fine for their child…as if I know.

This year, one of the most common questions came from people (four…this is not a huge sample size) who had chosen BLA as their first choice, but had actually received their second choice…Boston Latin School. One wanted to know if I thought that the BPS had just put her child into BLS because of her high score, regardless of their first choice, and the other three asked what I thought they should do, given that they had already decided that they didn’t want their child (boys, in each of these cases) to go to the nation’s oldest.

Since BLA accepts fewer students for seventh grade  (about 150 fewer, I think), it is not hard to figure out how this happens. Susie’s test scores and grades mean that she is ranked #340 for BLA, but that school is only accepting 332 children this year (these are made-up numbers). Susie, unfortunately, doesn’t get into BLA. The computer then goes to Susie’s second choice, BLS. It turns out that, at that point in the process, BLS has only filled 469 of the 534 spots it has for this year, so Susie becomes the 470th student assigned to BLS. She is admitted to BLS (her second choice) when some students ranked lower than Susie, who made BLS their first choice, won’t get it. Susie’s parents then have a decision to make.

Latin AcademyI’m sure that this has always happened, but I’m going to go out on a limb (with no data other than my own anecdotes) and say that more students with relatively high test scores and grades are making BLA or the O’Bryant their first choice each year. Gradually, this idea that BLS is “the only high school worth going to in the city” is going away. This is a very good change. There are still people who start choosing among private schools if their child doesn’t get into BLS, but I sense that the number of these folks is dwindling. I believe that more of the higher scoring students (not to be confused with “better” students) are still making BLS their first choice, and, eventually, attending that school, but the numbers are changing. “Sumus primi” remains the BLS motto, but that doesn’t mean what it once did.

If this shift is, indeed, taking place, it means something different for each school. For BLS, it would mean more academic diversity in the school (not necessarily more of any other sort of diversity). There may actually be more students at the school who have a hard time adapting to the academic expectations and social pressures of the school. The systems that exist at the school to support these students (peer tutoring, Saturday Success School, extra help from teachers, etc.) will be under increasing stress to meet increasing demand.

So what should Susie’s parents do? They went through this painstaking process of looking at the schools and deciding that BLA, as a more diverse school with a noticeably more supportive culture for students not in the top 25% of their class, was best for Susie. Now, her assignment for 7th grade is the nation’s oldest.

I don’t know what Susie’s parents should do, but there are a few things that I do that may affect such a decision:

1. Each of the three exam schools has much to recommend it. Parents have carefully ranked their preferences among the schools, based on their sense of the kind of environment that will work best for their child. That said, a lot of students who don’t get their first choice do quite well in the school to which they are assigned. I always suggest that people look closely at the school where their child has been placed, before assuming that a non-BPS alternative is the only option.

2. How one places in the exam school derby is not predictive of how they will do in any particular school environment. Our two children were not all that different in terms of test scores or elementary school grades, but their experiences at BLS have been totally different. The organizational skills, personality and learning style of the child seem to be much more predictive of success at BLS than where one places on the exam sorting list. Gender also matters, as I continue to be told that boys are the most challenged demographic group at the school, in terms of academics. This means, for example, that Latinos as a group (a quite small group) fare better at the school than do boys (a quite large group).

Wolfpack3. BLS changes a bit each year, but remains a place that works better for some types of students than others. Just last night, a mother wrote into the BLS Village list-serv to address the question of too much homework. Her son, a ninth grader gets fine grades at the school, while spending 1-2 hours on homework each night. She doesn’t say this, but he is apparently quite happy at the school. Others talk about children who are spending 4-6 hours per day on homework and routinely staying up past 11PM to complete their assignments. This puts an incredible strain on the child (and the family) at a time when the transition to adolescence is putting its own strains on them. We have lived both stories in our own household, and would not wish the strain and conflict on anyone. There have been important changes during the time we have been at BLS in how the school deals with students who struggle with the academic transition. I would not, however, begin to say that the school does everything possible to make it possible for every student to be successful. For example, after a lot of work by a community-wide task force, BLS adopted a “homework policy” mandating that students be assigned roughly 30 minutes of homework in each subject, each evening. There should be no homework over school vacations. Perhaps responding to curricular pressures, teachers routinely violate this policy, and there seems to be no way to hold them accountable to this or any other policy–regular information on student progress, for example–that might help struggling students.

4. Diversity matters and some schools better reflect the diversity of the BPS than others. We believe that economically and socially diverse schools better prepare students, including ours, to be good citizens in the very divided society that they are likely to live in. Of all BPS high schools, the O’Bryant more closely reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the BPS student body than any other school. BLA is less diverse, in this sense, but is still among the more diverse schools in an increasingly segregated set of high schools. BLS is simply off the charts in this regard. Because the student body of the school is so heavily Caucasian and Asian (two groups that, together, make up much less than 25% of the system’s students) BLS is, by quite a bit, the least diverse of the schools in the system. The BPS no longer collects good information about the socioeconomic circumstances of its students, but, based on older information, there is little doubt that BLS is an outlier in this regard, as well. Our children certainly have African-American and Latino friends at BLS, as well as friends from different socioeconomic backgrounds, but their social lives immediately became dramatically less diverse spaces upon entering the BLS school environment. They are certainly not “bad’ kids as a result, but they are becoming different people. We knew that this would likely happen when we chose BLS for our children, so we must have decided that other factors were more important.  What we thought less about was the fact that this change in the social lives of our children would also impact the social life of the entire family.

According to the BPS, over half of the students taking the ISEE exam get into their first choice school. That means that a lot of those families are still facing difficult choices about high school for their child. And then there are all of the students who didn’t opt to take the ISEE, in the first place. With their families, they face an even more daunting set of choices. We wish that everyone in the system was in the position of choosing among quality options, but that is certainly not the case.

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Talking ChangE, Chang prevails

ChangNo doubt about it, the Parent Imperfect was surprised. Few of the handicappers gave Tommy Chang much of a chance when the four finalists for Boston School superintendent were announced on February 19, but that’s just who the school committee named, in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday night. People at last night’s meeting were acting like the guy was holed up in a motel in Saugus and would be in Boston by sun up, but it seems that he will take a prudent amount of time to transition out of his role in Los Angeles. WBUR reports that he’ll be here by July.

The Mayor and the School Committee chair definitely wanted a unanimous decision, but it was not to be. Many people made public comments in favor of the candidacy of Pedro Martínez, and Committee members Miren Uriarte and Regina Robinson courageously cast their votes for the accountant turned school leader when the committee tally took place. I have to say that, while I was not a supporter of Martínez, the support he received from the community and the School Committee made me want to go back and take another look at all that the man said during his interviews.

Last night’s show had some of the feel of theater of the absurd. At 10:20AM, yesterday, I got an ominous e-mail from someone who was very much at the center of the hiring process.

Thank you for your thoughts.  I read your blog post with interest. I particularly agree with your final point.  At the end of the day, all of us who care about public education in Boston need to commit to doing all the can to support whomever is the new superintendent.

That did not sound good…at all. Then, just after noon, another message came in from an education advocate who has an uncanny way of knowing what is going on in City Hall.

Mayor chose Chang and is meeting with individual BSC members one on one.
 2-3 are not on board yet and …will make some statement of her own.

Can’t discuss now but really really shocking news here.

By the time I got to Court St., candidate Dana Bedden had dropped the bomb that he was withdrawing from consideration (he must have gotten the same noontime message I had), and boston.com was reporting that Chang was the one. So, virtually everyone in the room knew the result before the meeting started, but we all went through a 2.5 hour collective charade as if the decision was being made before our very eyes. People had to keep correcting themselves to maintain the illusion of a real process. It was truly bizarre.

No matter, Chang was the youngest of the finalists and arguably the least experienced of them, as well, when it comes to district-level leadership experience. In his public interviews, he emphasized his experience with Special Education and that seemed to catch the attention of some SPED parents in Boston. Two representatives of the local Special Education Parents Advisory Council spoke in favor of Chang at the meeting, one even introducing herself to the Committee as “Carolyn Chang,” getting the biggest laugh of the night. That said, the one SPED parent on the School Committee did not vote for Dr. Chang when the roll call came.

Chang was careful to be respectful of Boston school leadership and to acknowledge the achievements of the system, but also painted himself as a change agent, someone who embraced the idea of “creative disruption.” The message was that he is willing to challenge and even trash existing structures to achieve the change needed in the system. This nuanced commitment to risk failure in order to achieve dramatic change, coupled with at least one mention per minute of the word, “autonomy” gained him the support of many education reform advocates in the area. Most importantly, Chang became the darling of the Daddy Warbucks of education reform, The Boston Foundation.

In one school committee discussion during the interviews, a member memorably said what some others were obviously thinking. It was something like, “We need a leader who can speak the language of the people and institutions who can provide the resources we require to achieve school improvement.” Chang apparently speaks four languages, but our erstwhile School Committee member was not referring to one of those four in that statement.

School CommitteeBut this transformation talk didn’t just gain Chang the support of the deep pockets. Roxbury City Councillor, Tito Jackson, strode to the mike last night and offered surprisingly strong support for Dr. Chang. His main point was that we need transformation, not mere reform, (who would have thunk it? a City Councillor, channeling Che!) so we need a leader who will not just move the existing levers a little bit better. We need a change agent. Jackson’s spirited argument for Chang took me somewhat by surprise. I have to believe that his message might have been different had not Dr. Bedden bolted at the last minute. Bedden’s last-minute withdrawal completely changed the dynamics of the meeting.

Most importantly, some combination of things that Chang said and didn’t say gained him the support of the Mayor. In his statement expressing his pleasure with the School Committee’s choice, Marty Walsh characterized the new super as an “innovator.” I need to go on record here saying that I thought Chang presented himself very well and had prepared public framing of his candidacy that was second to none. He managed to somehow escaped the tarnish that should have come with playing a leadership role in a corrupt and financially profligate school administration in LA. He definitely talked a very good change game, at a time when Boston rightly feels that it needs deep transformation of our educational system. But when I look at the man’s record, I just don’t see the evidence of him initiating successful new ways of doing things.

But who cares about that now? The man is our next superintendent, and we will welcome him to Boston and make the very best of his leadership. Tommy Chang was not the only one who got a job last night. Any student, parent, teacher, principal, school administrator or public education advocate who is committed to equity and quality in education also got a big job last night…the job of making it happen when the wind just might not be with us.

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Super search sizzles down home stretch

super searchThe Parent Imperfect continues to look for signs of smoke rising from the City Hall signalling that a new Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools has been chosen (and has accepted the job). Despite advice from the Globe and others to slow the process down, all signs suggest that the Mayor really wants the decision behind him and his chosen School Committee. I have a feeling that, despite the pressure, the suspense will continue for at least a few more days.

To its credit, the search committee has orchestrated a near circus around the candidates this week. I think it is great that a wide cross-section of the community has had a chance to interact with the four finalists. I’m less clear how the input from these discussions will influence the final decision.

I wasn’t able to be present in any of the various rings of circus, but that would never keep me from having an opinion. My homework is done. I have listened to a whole lot of people who did attend. I’ve also tried to watch video of some of the candidate interviews, though I must admit that these interviews won’t be taking a lot of viewers away from the new season of “House of Cards.”

The first thing that jumps out at me about the four finalists is that they are all candidates of color. This was obviously a priority for the search committee and their headhunters, and the results speak for themselves. That’s great, but I do share the dismay of those who wonder why there are no women among the finalists. Seriously???? A national search in a profession where women have successfully opened space for themselves as leaders and we couldn’t find a single woman who deserved to be considered a finalist for this job? I’m amazed that neither the search consultants nor the mayor’s hiring committee hit the “pause” button on the search. Given how long this has dragged on, the pressure to move the search forward must have been considerable.

championEveryone has their priorities for a super in Boston. I think we need a very visible and dynamic champion of public education in the city, someone who knows that this institution so important to what is left of democracy in our country faces huge challenges and needs to change to meet those challenges. Our champion will know that the only way forward is to bring students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators and district leadership together with community and political allies behind a vision of quality and equity in public education. S/he (it ain’t over, ’til it’s over) will be an effective and decisive manager with a collaborative style and will know the importance of being a great listener. The new super must also manage a mayor and an administration who don’t seem to have a clear education agenda. A champion must, of course, be ready to fight for his/her vision, whether that is the fight to secure adequate funds for public education, to move the mayor, or to preserve the integrity of the system.

Predictably, no candidate emerges as the perfect champion for this moment. All four present themselves as change agents, capable of leading Boston through what will be a tumultuous time. Two of them, Chang and Martínez, seem ready to really shake things up in the service of change. Martínez is a former accountant who entered educational leadership not through the door of classroom instruction, but through a relationship with the current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Of the four candidates, he has most clearly embraced the national education reform that has emphasized permanent testing, charter school expansion and “no tolerance” discipline in schools. In the interviews with him that I have watched, he seem brash, arrogant and extremely critical of what he sees in the BPS. This is an interesting strategy for someone hoping to lead a system.

Chang seemed like the sharpest and most dynamic of the candidates to me. He has been focused on how to improve instruction in some of Los Angeles’s most troubled schools, which would be a very useful skill to have in a leader of Boston’s schools. Chang certainly didn’t allow himself to be pigeon holed as a blind devotee of charter schools and the other pillars of education reform, but I have a sense that he would be more ready to move Boston in that direction than some of the other candidates.

Guerrero and Bedden are more clearly products of the liberal educational establishment, though as a military veteran, Bedden’s road to the establishment wasn’t the typical one. They both talked a lot about change, but the change they would lead would be more managed and incremental change, as opposed to the kind of disruptive changes that both Chang and Martínez seem ready to consider. Bedden is much more experienced than Guerrero and Guerrero brings both the advantages and the disadvantages that come with previous experience here in Boston. His six years as principal at the Dever School in Dorchester were not the high point in his educational career to date. The Globe has also made a big deal of Guerrero’s exit from the education doctoral program at Harvard. The ed school administratively terminated Geurrero because he didn’t finish his dissertation in time, and that wasn’t crystal clear on the description of him shared here in Boston. School Committee chair< Michael O’Neill has said that this was his error. Sorry, but this is not a big deal to me…at all.

Bedden seems like a very strong candidate. Chang-like energy was notably absent in Bedden’s interviews, but he calmly answered some tough questions by sharing examples from his district leadership experience in several places. His answers on his approach to charters were clearer and less worrying to this parent than what some of the others said. The fact that parents and community leaders in Richmond are trying to get him to stay also adds to his resume, but it also makes me wonder if he’ll take our job, if offered. Some parents and community members seem concerned about Bedden’s ability to work in a multi-cultural context, especially his ability to connect to Latino parents and students. I’ve seen information about a bad incident between African-American and Latino students in Richmond that was not well-handled, but it seems that this happened before Bedden took the Richmond job. He apparently was left to try to clean up a very messy situation. Bedden may not have handled that clean up in the best possible way, which is a concern.

Rumor has it that the Mayor wants to hire a Latino candidate, and the composition of the finalist pool would seem to support that idea. Given that Boston has never had a Latino super, that Latinos are now the largest group of students in the BPS and that the system has faced chronic challenges around educating ELL students, I agree that it would be great if a Latino leader committed to multicultural education emerged as the best candidate for this job. It’s sad, but I’m just not feeling it with either Guerrero or Martínez. The latter is the finalist I’d least like to see as Boston super, and I believe that Mr. Guerrero needs successful experience as a superintendent of a smaller district before I would believe he’s ready to take on a job like this one. I think Chang would be a very interesting choice, but I fear that he would not provide a good enough counterweight to the strong education reform push that I see coming from the Baker administration. If I had any influence on this process, Dana Bedden would be my choice.

Some say that there is a fifth candidate lurking in the wings who didn’t want to public exposure of the circus. I can imagine that there were several strong candidates not willing to take the risk of exposure, but I can’t imagine that any of them is treading water in some separate, confidential pool. That would be truly bizarre.

Others say that, even more than a Latino candidate, the mayor is after a “team player” who won’t overshadow his boss. I truly hope this is not the case, but one never knows…If I was concerned about the super’s shadow, I’d probably be thinking of the less-than-charismatic accountant with no credentials as an educator and minimal network here in the city.

Whoever gets this job, they have a rocky path before them.

 

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Day One…A Father’s Remembrance

Childbirth stories
The Parent Imperfect notes, once again, that readership has increased quite dramatically during the long absence of new posts. I’m ready to risk a new decline in viewers with something new that is a bit different than my usual pontifications on the state of public schooling.

Last week, Vince turned 18. Fearing that the day would just pass like any other, Liz and I proposed a party of sorts to mark the occasion, one that would include whatever friends he might invite, along with adults who have known the boy over the years. To our near shock, he agreed, as long as it didn’t “ruin” a whole night of debauchery. True to form, as soon as the invitations went out, Boston was hit by the largest January snowstorm in its recorded history. Nothing is easy.

The weather was bitter cold, and there was no place to park on our street. But many friends braved the sub-zero wind chill (inside the house, as well as outside) and sheets of ice along the sidewalks to share this evening with Vince. They included one of his current teachers at the nation’s oldest public school as well as a remarkable man who helped Vince through both 4th and 5th grades at the Hernández. Also present was the friend who volunteered hundreds (no, thousands) of hours over several years to share with Vince his love of soccer. Against her better judgement, the current schoolmate who has known Vince longer than anyone else his age was also in attendance. Finally, one determined guest, a parent who we met on Vince’s very first day of school in kindergarten, rammed her car into a snowbank in order to park. So stuck was the car that she had to summon AAA to yank it out. This was not an August trip to Larz Anderson Park.

At a certain point, we lured Vince into the dining room with birthday cake and then made him sit there as people said what they dared to say about him. Those who knew the real stories were prudently silent. When my turn came, I had a story all ready but, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to tell it. Maybe I was afraid of embarrassing Vince. More likely, I was afraid to humiliate myself. Instead, I stammered out some incoherent stream of consciousness and passed the baton to Liz, who told two beautiful stories.

Now that story is burning a hole in my pocket, so I’m going to write it here. That way, I can be sure that only a select few will see it.

IMG_0054I’m going to take a moment to tell a story about Day One, a story of birth. I’m not doing it to embarrass you, Vince…really. I’m telling it because I think there are people in the room who will know you much longer than I will, and I want them to know this about you.

The story starts with Vince not being where he was supposed to be. If you know about childbirth, you know that babies are supposed to come into the world looking down, so that the world doesn’t shock them too much. They also come through the birth canal much better that way, with less wear and tear on Mommy.

Unsurprisingly, as he prepared for his coming out party, Vince twisted and turned until he was face up. This act of defiance made the whole thing much more difficult for Liz…only one of many hints of things to come.

After a long and painful (for Liz) journey, Vince was ready to be born. Because of a transition in the birthing team, I was, at the moment, alone at the gates, waiting for him. And suddenly, there he was! This little head and shoulders emerged into the world and then…he stopped. It was as if he wanted to check out the scene before he committed himself. Maybe he wanted to see if any of his friends were around.

His eyes opened to the world and, for what seemed like a half-hour, his little head swiveled around taking it all in for the first time. And then as I moved my head closer to his, those eyes “fixed” on mine, as much as a baby’s eyes can fix on anything in the first seconds of life. I was, of course, overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of my first child. I’m sure his first blurry view of my eyes found them full of tears. I was truly smitten, but his reaction was a slightly different one. 

His eyes opened wide, with a startled expression. His mouth followed, as if to say, “Whoa, talk about a face to stop a ninth-innin’ rally…No offense, boss, but I’m going to get me another little dip in the hot tub.” 

And I swear to everyone in the room that this creature’s first body language was all about going back from whence he had come. But we know that nature and mothers have other ideas at this moment, and from somewhere deep inside Liz came the energy for one last powerful push. With that last burst of energy, a primal act of unconditional love, she overruled Vince’s ambivalence and popped him into the world. The rest, as they say, is history.

Vince, I remember this story today, 6602 days later, as if it was yesterday, in part because I’m reminded of it every school  day at 6AM when I face the unenviable task of rousting you out of the sack. Very much like Day One, your eyes open on those of your loving father and you quickly turn back to your covers, hoping it’s all a bad dream. But I also remember it because in those few seconds on Day One, you showed me many things about yourself that I think have turned out to be amazingly true. I’ll leave it to you and your friends to figure out what those things might be… 

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Ciara Sees (the Dangers of Social Media)

Social media cautionAs you well know, the Parent Imperfect has often turned to this social media platform to rail against the evils of social media, especially for teenagers. How’s that for hypocrisy? In truth, I do feel quite strongly that social media, while surely a mixed bag, is damaging those young people whose social lives are so powerfully conditioned by their odd relationships with “friends” via hand-held computers supplied by their parents. I used to be able to feign self-righteousness on this until, just about a year ago, we made the irreversible and unforgivable mistake of getting Connie a smartphone. Being an eighth-grade girl is hard enough without an instantaneous connection to all the people who love you today, but will have a very different opinion tomorrow.

Setting limits is, of course, the way to a solution, but we find that setting limits on Vince and Connie has become much more complicated as they and their devices have become more sophisticated. The combination of being more knowledgeable about the space than their parents and boldly defiant at key moments has shifted the balance of power decidedly toward the kids in this discussion. Long, long gone are the days when strict parental controls on the Mac they used was all that we needed. Now setting limits usually means imposing similar constraints on ourselves, and we never quite get around to that.

Dystopian LitThen, just as the parents approach the abyss of mindless prohibition, one well-known (to us) social media maven writes something suggesting that she may have more understanding of the problem than those who would sanction her. Asked by her ELA teacher to indicate that she was awake during the class about dystopian fiction, our favorite SnapChatter came up with something called, “Ciara Sees.” In it, she hints at a world in which “The Device” has made the transition from being constantly clutched to becoming a defining member of the human body. What follows is an except from the words providing the door into this strangely familiar world.

…Ciara walks through the corridor, hurrying and trying to muffle the noise of her sneakers. It’s her daily trip to the bathroom at school, but there’s something else on her mind. Scanning her arm at the entryway, the door swings open and she walks in. Her device looks just like everyone elses, but it’s different. Ciara wasn’t born with a device on her arm. In Rafertin, everyone (except Ciara, clearly) is born with a device. This device is where inhabitants get all information. All humans rely completely on their device to function. Ciara doesn’t.

The DeviceThe bathroom is gray. Looking in the mirror, Ciara holds up her arm to view the device. CIARA 10 it reads. AGE: 16. HAIR: BROWN. EYES: GRAY. MENU- NEWS, WEATHER, EMOTIONS.  She chooses WEATHER. It reads -4 degrees Celsius and snowing. On her tiptoes Ciara peeks out the tiny window in the bathroom. It looks sunny outside. “But right,” she thinks, “I’m supposed to believe everything I see on the screen.” Her thoughts are interrupted by the swinging open of the metal door. In walks Galia 8. “Why are you wearing sneakers, it’s freezing outside and snowing” Galia barks. As Ciara begins to shake her head, she remembers that she must agree. “I must rely solely on the device,” she thinks. “Umm- well my mom, my m-.. I mean, my snow boots are too small. My mom is buying new ones on her device sometime today”, Ciara rushes to explain. She notes that her device reads 2:43 and counting. She has almost exceeded her 3 minute time slot for the bathroom. Hurrying, she swings open the door and stumbles out. “Weirdo”, Galia mutters.

A tear trickles down Ciara’s face. She begins to run. 2:52 2:53 2:54. She enters the classroom, panting. “About time, Ciara”, says the Device Studies Professor.  On the board the word OLIMENTAL is written. “Can someone please explain what this word means to our beloved classmate Ciara?” The professor gives her a sideways glance. There is a smirk on his face. “Anyone?” A hand goes up. It’s Diandra 2. “Well, it basically means you’re different, stupid, annoying, bad…” she trails off when the professor gives her a hard look. Ciara muses, “I’ve seen this word somewhere before. Where was it?” She shifts in her seat, waiting for an answer.

And just what word would that be?

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Open Letter to Teachers Unions, Professional Organizations, and Teacher Education

Parent Imperfect:

A long time teacher and now a teacher of teachers suggests that it’s high time to take back the profession. The Parent Imperfect needs to have the reality of the teaching life in mind when spouting off about the problematic teachers involved with his kids.

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

After speaking and guiding a workshop recently, I was struck by some distinct impressions I witnessed among several hundred educators.

First, although teachers and educational leaders coming to a conference are a skewed subset of teachers, I was impressed with their passion for teaching but more so for their students.

However, I must add that these teachers repeatedly expressed a lack of agency as professionals; a common refrain was “I [we] can’t,” and the reasons were administration and mandates such as Common Core (or other standards) and high-stakes testing. That sense of fatalism was most often framed against these teachers clearly knowing what they would do (and better) if they felt empowered, professionally empowered, to teach from their expertise as that intersects with their students’ needs.

This experience came just two weeks after my trip to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, this year in Washington DC—where…

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