Over the past three years that Education Nation aired, I remember getting excited about the program...and then let down. It seemed as though from the segments I watched that there was no real discussion about the public school without the dialogue focusing on what schools were not doing. Yesterday, as I sat in the New York Public Library I watched a few panels. Yes, some of the members were talking about schools and teachers as if they were all the same. The panels focused on getting teachers ready in their preserving programs, which I also agree with, and they even focused on the importance of good school leaders...something I cannot deny is important. But then something happened. During every break from a panel an NBC commentator walked on the stage Jose Diaz-Balart from NBC’s Telemundo station began talking about education and his task was to interview US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan was not able to make the event in person because of the shutdown in Washington. Diaz-Balart asked poignant questions about the Common Core and testing. He focused on accountability, and talked about the fact that his wife is a teacher. Jose did not let the secretary off the hook on questions and invited a few attendees ask questions...which most likely Duncan knew ahead of time. One of the people asking questions was Dick Iannuzzi, the President of the New York United Teachers (NYSUT). Iannuzzi asked about accountability and having the new tests tied to the Common Core. He wondered if there could be a moratorium on testing, because there are many parents, teachers, administrators and students who are asking for one....especially in NY State. In my opinion, Duncan skirted the answer and focused on how the US Department of Education allowed flexibility on accountability and testing to schools. He said some took the flexibility and others did not. Duncan, who was quoted a few months ago stating that NY was leading the charge in reform, did not state whether he agrees any longer with what the state has been doing. I hope today brings some more debate. However, I hope that those who dive into a debate actually answer one another.
Today I am sitting on a panel to discuss school climate and safety, which is something I am passionate about. Whether we like to admit it or not, many marginalized groups feel as though they don’t have a place at the table, and one of those groups is our LGBT population. They are bullied and harassed more than most groups.
There are so many aspects to school climate. Three groups that are my beacon of light when it comes to school climate are the National School Climate Center (NSCC), ASCD, and the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). NSCC has the most comprehensive resource on school climate, ASCD has their Whole Child Initiative, and GLSEN has the resources every school needs to create an inclusive school climate.
There will only be four of us on the panel and this video on restorative justice will run before we start talking. Pamela Cantor, Founder and CEO of Turnaround for Children, Meria Joel Carstarphen, Superintendent of Austin Independent School District, and actress Goldie Hawn. Ms. Hawn has her own foundation that works with schools around the world using their MindUp Program. According to her website, MindUp,
MindUP™ is a research-based training program for educators and children. This program is composed of 15 lessons based in neuroscience. Students learn to self-regulate behavior and mindfully engage in focused concentration required for academic success. MindUP™ lessons align with all state standards including Common Core and support improved academic performance while enhancing perspective taking, empathy and kindness as well as fostering complex problem solving skills."
I will talk about the importance of social-emotional learning and I’ll probably talk about some of the counterproductive ways schools...all schools (ex. charter, public, private) discipline students, much like I did in this blog.
In the End
This week I have had a chance to read blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter comments about Education Nation, and many of them have not been kind. It’s been called a corporate nation and criticized for not having a public school voice.
I have read these comments at the same time I have seen congress shut down our nation’s most valuable resources because neither side wants to talk. I’m not sure if the discussions on Education Nation will change the face of education, but I’m happy to be here. Pearson Education is one of the sponsors and I was conflicted about coming at first, but I realized that if I did not lend my voice, then I would not have the opportunity to speak for my school community, and they deserve to have a voice in this education debate too.
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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.