A Contrasting View on Educational Reform

Education is a vast topic with many voices trying to put their opinion in on what needs to occur in order for reform to be possible. The educational system is an ever-changing system, constantly seeking to improve both for the good of the students and for the well-being of teachers. There is no one right answer to how the educational system should be reformed, as there will never be one solution that will make everyone present happy, but there are several organizations that offer valid options.

The first organization I looked at was the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s website. This organization “is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement.” Who’s mission “is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter movement. This organization is attempting to show charter schools as a positive option for parents seeking a better schooling system for their children. More importantly, they are pushing for public funding to these charter schools, which is different from the current system that charter schools are funded. Instead of having charter schools stand entirely on their own, they argue for a system in which public charter schools are rewarded when working with traditional public schools; this would create unity between the two different options of education. I greatly appreciated this piece, as public and charter schools are often represented and understood as two conflicting opinions for education. I value unity and excellence above all else, and this organization seems to promote these. Much of their advice to help this reform/movement to continue is to become, unsurprisingly, an advocate for charter schools. By making your voice and opinion heard, the charter school movement would be able to progress quicker. Partaking in conferences and the National Charter School Week are some of the ways it is suggested you are can become an advocate for this movement.

Personally, I am against charter schools, be them privatized or public. For this organization to want government funding, I question what would make them different from the traditional public school. In my opinion, if you are receiving government funding, no matter how little that is, you become a public school and should teach to the same common core standards as all other public schools. I am not persuaded by this websites argument, as I see no difference between a public school and a public charter school, other than a label that insists upon freedom a teaching while receiving the same funding as school that are required to teach to specific standards.

The second organization I looked at was  Rethinking Schools’ Website, which promoted against the privatization of schools in order to promote “the common school”, one that allows students of diverse backgrounds to come together to “learn to talk, play, and work together.” This is a grassroots organization, whose methods of advocacy involve promotion, recommendation, and donation. They suggest spreading the word and message of the organization as its form of advocacy. I find this to be successful, if presenting the information to the right kind of audience. The spoken word can only do so much; those who are receiving my information/advocacy decide on whether or not they will accept my cause as their own. I appreciate the purpose of this organization: “Most importantly, it remains firmly committed to equity and to the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy. While writing for a broad audience, Rethinking Schools emphasizes problems facing urban schools, particularly issues of race.” Now, more than ever, inequality and inequity limit the educational system. By working against this, reform in schools can be made possible that will not only benefit the students, but also the faculty and the communities individual schools are located in.

I agreed far more with the purpose of this education. Instead of focusing on funding and the push of charter schools, they remind us of the “common school”. Diversity is so important and by placing the attention needed toward public schools, reform can be possible. These issues seem more pressing that those presented by the opposing organization. Most of the students in this country attend public schools. To me, this makes the problems surrounding the public school system are the most important ones to reform.

 Both organizations offer different issues with different solutions, but I lean toward the one that focuses upon public school reform.

Morning Pages 4/27; A Loss of Creativity in Schooling

It is well known that the STEM concentrations are prioritized far more than the arts. It is a question of whether or not I feel as though advocacy for the arts is lacking in schooling nowadays, and the answer is yes. It has been lacking for many years and continues to decline every year. Our society seems obsessed with the sciences as the only way of progress that the arts are often forgot and pushed aside. It is the arts that keep us creative, however. They are what continue to inspire us — to push us toward the new, the creative, and the innovative. Neither should exist without the other, as we will always need the sciences for factual progression, while the arts are there for creative progression. Both are necessary.

Schools often sacrifice creativity to follow common core standards and rubric culture. You cannot expect creativity to live within the restricting structure of rubrics and common core. That goes against the core nature of what creativity is. Creativity pushes boundaries, strays far outside the box, and the emphasis on rules and ridged structure is severely hindering to its process.

In my own experiences in high school, I saw the direct neglect of the arts. While math and science classes were continually getting new textbooks every two years, English and art classrooms were still using materials from over ten years ago. I was consistently pushed to take advanced science and math courses instead of those associated with the humanities because they would “push me in the right direction.” Even from these final years of my required education, I was taught that the STEM concentrations were to be immensely valued above the arts and humanities.

There needs to be someone who is willing to advocate for the importance of the arts and humanities before schooling phases them out through a lack of funding and a lack of attendance. The humanities remind us to value inspiration and creativity. Our society cannot live on pure fact. We will always need something there for expression. It is in our nature to want to express what we are feeling; facts are not able to convey emotion, but the arts can. By removing funding and attention from the arts, we are directly hindering students. They need a place where they can express who they are — where they are allowed to feel rather than prove.

We as humans are neither completely based and centered around facts, nor are we completely grounded in creativity and feeling. There needs to be a mixture of both. Advocacy on behalf of the arts is needed. Let our voices be heard.

Issues in Education: My Take on Charter Schools

“One significantly comprehensive multi-state study found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional schools in reading and math on state achievement tests; 37 percent performed worse; and the rest, nearly half, performed about the same.” (Source Carr).

Recently, the House of Representatives has introduced a bill, known as the “Choice In Education Act” which would allow vouchers to be used in order to send a child to any school of their choice, using federal dollars to cover the expenses. Personally, I find there to be little benefit in charter schools, specifically after reading the above statistic. I find that many people seem to be roped into charter schools by the rumors and promises of a better and more specialized education, but this doesn’t seem to occur for the majority of the time.

Beyond that, the voucher system can cause more problems that many may realize. If a parent doesn’t want their child to go their general school, it may seem as though it is the proper, and better, option to send their child to the best school possible. This, however, can bring up issues of transportation, segregation, and unevenly distributed funding. Many bus routes have been canceled due to funding cuts, so just getting the child to school can be a large problem. Also, if you are able to take out these vouchers, and desire to send your child to an excellent school, they are often found outside of urban, low-income areas, and are often predominantly white. The voucher system could make this segregation even worse. And finally, the most important day for charter school is the head-count day. This is when they try to get as many children to attend as possible, as they are paid thousands of dollars per child. This is not the case for public or private schools in America.

Overall, I don’t support charter schools as they show no real improvement when compared to public schools, and it often seems to be more related to a business rather than a place focused on the students (ie: head-count day). This voucher system seems as though it will cause more issues than problems it may solve.

Meeting the Expert: Cathy Fleisher; How Can I be an Advocate?

After meeting with Cathy Fleisher, an expert in advocacy in education, I was able to broaden my ideas surrounding advocacy and the ways in which I am able to act to cause change. I greatly appreciated much of the things she talked about, specifically centering around the advocacy we are able to create and the broad horizon to which is applies. The  central idea in all of her ideas about advocacy is Community Organization, something that shows the joining together of a community toward a greater goal of change. It is key that there is a sense of unity and alliance in order to make change possible. This idea bled into the concept of Everyday Advocacy. It matters to know what you can do in your community and make those small changes. The small changes are the ones that are able to bleed into the larger changes.

Cathy also spoke of having patience, as much of the issues we are passionate about are lifelong journeys. It is easy to become frustrated, using one tactic after the next, without causing any true change, or using them as a way to claim advocacy doesn’t work if one tactic fails. Really, it is about setting both short term and long term goals and being proud when those goals are met. It is okay if we aren’t able to fully meet our goals or change the  world.

The biggest takeaway from this meeting with Cathy is that involvement is key in all aspects of advocacy. You must learn how to involve yourself in the community you are surrounded by, understand what that community needs to hear in order to gain them as allies, and then act. Change small things that will lead to bigger things. Beyond that, understand that advocacy and being an ally go hand in hand much of the time. You will sometimes need to be the voice of a movement or sometimes be an ally to such a movement.

Know the situation, know your cause, and act.

If you can do this, you are well on your way to becoming an advocate for the profession.

My Type of Leadership

I recently took the Leadership Compass Self Assessment in order to determine what my specific leadership style was. Not surprisingly, two of the types tied: Analytical and Vision. These two leadership styles seem to conflict with one another, but it makes sense. I am both very creative and emotionally driven, while remaining detached and analytical of situations. It really all comes down to the situation in which I need to lead. I seem to take strengths from both; I am very dependable like an analytic think is described as, while often thinking and living in the future (this can often act as a hinderance however and I am working against it).

I do realize that I may appear cold and withdrawn, but I can also become very emotionally engaged. It all depends on the situation. Really, as much as this quiz was fun to take, I am not taking it very seriously. If I completely invested in the results of this test, I could close myself off to other leadership approaches. That would not only hinder myself, but also my coworkers and students because if I am hindered, I impact all those that I interact with.

I like to think of myself as flexible above all else. I have grown beyond my younger, closed-off mindsets and hopefully the resistance to other kinds of leadership styles. I can use both of my leadership styles, so long as I mix them properly, and create a successful environment for me to work within.

Morning Pages 4/20; Anxiety in Teaching: Am I Good Enough?

Any change in the near future gives me a fair amount of anxiety. This included my future job. As much as I may spout about my confidence or excitement to teach, I can say it also worries me like crazy. My biggest anxiety comes back to my fear of failure. I don’t want to completely bomb my first year because it isn’t just about getting a bad evaluation; it comes down to the fact that I would be failing my students as well. I just hope that I am successful enough in my first years that my kids will gain something from me. If they don’t that says something about me. Which would explain my other large worry about going into the education profession: what if I wasn’t meant to be a teacher after all? What if everything I have studied thus far was purposeless? That would leave me feeling incredibly lost.

I feel that I will struggle the most in becoming comfortable in front of a large group of people that are expecting me to educate  them all. It is incredibly stressful to feel as though people are looking to you as an expert. Admittedly, I’m sure that I’ll be able to teach general English, as I have read To Kill A Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet enough, but that isn’t really the most important piece of teaching. Yes, I need kids to show improvement and comprehension, but I want them to take more away from it than that. I feel that my struggle to become comfortable may negatively impact them. That scares the hell out of me.

I think the easiest way I can get over this is by talking to my aunt who is a teacher. She has several years of experience beneath her belt as well so I’m sure that she would be able to ease some of my apprehensions. Also, when I do my student teaching, I can lean on the teacher I am working with to gain some insight and advice to the profession. That will allow me to work through the biggest bumps of all my worries, as it will be my first true experience educating, and hopefully, I will be able to go into my true job more confident. I think the only other way to deal with these stress and worries is to put a great amount of faith in to myself. I know that I am capable of this job and all that it requires of me. If I wasn’t, I would have already dropped the major.

I know that I am capable, and even writing like this has helped me work through some of my largest anxieties. I won’t know until I step into that classroom on my first day how things will go, but I know that I am capable and competent. I will succeed, even if it’s a rocky start.