Teachers to Blame? I don’t think so.. Look more closely at the “politics “of Education

A democratic education means that we educate people in a way that ensures they can think independently, that they can use information, knowledge, and technology, among other things, to draw their own conclusions.
– Linda Darling-Hammond

Transforming Education Using Tools and Well Trained Teachers

Visualization and Modeling with an IPad

Whose to Blame for Poor Urban Schools? Look more closely at the politics of schools to find out.

I am losing a lot of my educational friends lately or at least we are sparring on line. Like the press, they look at the older teachers of America and say, that the problems in education are the fault of the older, teachers the digital immigrants. Well, is it really?

When I question people about what happens in K-12 they rest the problem squarely on the shoulders of the K-12 teachers.

Why is America falling behind in academics? There are many reasons. We are 21st in the world in Science and 25th in the world in Math. We who started the use of the Internet…Well it is so bad that the Congress has created a solution.

US to back 21st century learning
By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News Website, Silicon Valley

The US Congress has given the go-ahead for a new centre to explore ways advanced computer and communications technologies can improve learning.
The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies will focus on “bringing education into the 21st century.”Supporters said classrooms have failed to keep up with technology innovations.
“America’s reputation as an international leader rests in the hands of our youth,” said Sen. Chris Dodd.
“It should be among our top priorities to provide our students with the tools they need to maintain and build upon this standing.”
The Senator was one of the original sponsors of a bill that proposed the setting up of the centre. Meanwhile Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky spearheaded the passage of the bill through the House and said its timing could not be more critical.
“American businesses know that they need a well-educated workforce to face growing competition from China, India and Europe.”
The Federation of American Scientists said, “The creativity that developed extraordinary new information technologies has not focused on finding ways to make learning more compelling, more personal and more productive in our nation’s schools.
“People assumed that the explosion of innovation in information tools in business and service industries would automatically move into classrooms.”
That, the Federation said, has simply not happened.
The centre will support a ‘first of its kind’ comprehensive research and development program aimed at improving all levels of learning from kindergarten to university and from government training to college.
Missed opportunity
“Education is falling further and further behind the rest of the economy and we have to rethink our basic approach to helping people learn,” said Henry Kelly, the Federation’s president.
The FAS said that learning scientists and educators have known for years that people learn faster if education can be personalised and if students are motivated by seeing how their knowledge can help them solve problems they care about.
Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2008/08/19 07:51:13 GMT

In the past the unmatched vitality of the United States’ economy and science and technology enterprise has made this country a world leader for decades, allowing Americans to benefit from a high standard of living and national security. But in a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas so that the nation will consistently gain from the opportunities offered by rapid globalization, says a new report from the National Academies.

Given the United States’ history of economic and scientific pre-eminence, it is easy to be complacent about these complex issues, the report says. Following are some indicators that illustrate why decisive action is needed now:

· For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India.

· Last year chemical companies shuttered 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for closure. Of 120 chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, one is in the United States and 50 are in China.

· U.S. 12th-graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries on a test of general knowledge in mathematics and science. In addition, an advanced mathematics assessment was administered to students in 15 other countries who were taking or had taken advanced math courses, and to U.S. students who were taking or had taken pre-calculus, calculus, or Advanced Placement calculus. Eleven countries outperformed the United States, and four scored similarly. None scored significantly below the United States.

· In 1999 only 41 percent of U.S. eighth-graders had a math teacher who had majored in mathematics at the undergraduate or graduate level or studied the subject for teacher certification — a figure that was considerably lower than the international average of 71 percent.

· Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.

· In 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.

Without a major push to strengthen the foundations of America’s competitiveness, the United States could soon lose its privileged position. The ultimate goal is to create new, high-quality jobs for all citizens by developing new industries that stem from the ideas of exceptional scientists and engineers.

Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education.

· Among the recommended implementation steps is the creation of a merit-based scholarship program to attract 10,000 exceptional students to math and science teaching careers each year. Four-year scholarships, worth up to $20,000 annually, should be designed to help some of the nation’s top students obtain bachelor’s degrees in physical or life sciences, engineering, or mathematics — with concurrent certification as K-12 math and science teachers. After graduation, they would be required to work for at least five years in public schools. Participants who teach in disadvantaged inner-city or rural areas would receive a $10,000 annual bonus. Each of the 10,000 teachers would serve about 1,000 students over the course of a teaching career, having an impact on 10 million minds, the report says.

Sowing the Seeds

Sustain and strengthen the nation’s commitment to long-term basic research.

· Policy-makers should increase the national investment in basic research by 10 percent each year over the next seven years. Special attention should be paid to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences, and to basic research funding for the U.S. Department of Defense, the report says.

· Policy-makers also should establish within the U.S. Department of Energy an organization called the Advanced Research Project Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) that reports to the undersecretary for science and sponsors “out-of-the-box” energy research to meet the nation’s long-term energy challenges.

· Authorities should make 200 new research grants annually — worth $500,000 each, payable over five years — to the nation’s most outstanding early-career researchers.

Hands on Technology

Best and Brightest

Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the United States and abroad. The United States should be considered the most attractive setting in the world to study and conduct research, the report says.

· Each year, policy-makers should provide 25,000 new, competitive four-year undergraduate scholarships and 5,000 new graduate fellowships to U.S. citizens enrolled in physical science, life science, engineering, and mathematics programs at U.S. colleges and universities.

· Policy-makers should provide a one-year automatic visa extension that allows international students to remain in the United States to seek employment if they have received doctorates or the equivalent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or other fields of national need from qualified U.S. institutions. If these students then receive job offers from employers that are based in the United States and pass a security screening test, they should automatically get work permits and expedited residence status. If they cannot obtain employment within one year, their visas should expire.

Incentives for Innovation

Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation. This can be accomplished by actions such as modernizing the U.S. patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation, and ensuring affordable broadband Internet access, the report says.

· Policy-makers should provide tax incentives for innovation that is based in the United States. The Council of Economic Advisers and the Congressional Budget Office should conduct a comprehensive analysis to examine how the United States compares with other nations as a location for innovation and related activities, with the goal of ensuring that the nation is one of the most attractive places in the world for long-term investment in such efforts.

· The Research and Experimentation Tax Credit is currently for companies that increase their R&D spending above a predetermined level. To encourage private investment in innovation, this credit, which is scheduled to expire in December, should be made permanent. And Congress and the administration should increase the allowable credit from 20 percent to 40 percent of qualifying R&D investments.

The study was sponsored by the National Academies, which comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.
This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy

And Urban Schools? ????????

Academic freedom: the typical urban school district’s personnel and budgeting systems leave principals without much say in hiring teachers or allocating resources.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school system in the nation–and perhaps the worst. Slightly less than half of its 75,000 employees are classroom teachers, meaning that Los Angeles spends just 35 percent of its budget on teacher pay. By comparison, the school systems in Houston, Texas, and Edmonton, in the Canadian province of Alberta, spend 49 percent and 56 percent, respectively, of their budgets on teachers. Since 1980, Los Angeles Unified’s enrollment has grown by 180,000 students, but the district has added only 15 schools with a total of 20,000 seats. As a result, nearly 200,000 students must be bused to a distant campus while most attend multi-track, year-round schools that can push more students through but offer 17 fewer days of instruction.


Although elementary schoolers in Los Angeles have made real gains in literacy in recent years, among high-school students, only 23 percent in reading and 34 percent in math meet or exceed the national norm on the Stanford 9. Of the district’s teachers, 27 percent lack full credentials. The system has a chronic shortage of qualified principals.
If Los Angeles is the worst school district in America, its East Coast cousin, New York City, is a close second. And the Chicago schools, while improving, are still recovering from the day in 1988 when William J. Bennett, secretary of education in the Reagan administration, pronounced them the “worst in the nation.” Why are these three school systems in such deep disarray? Certainly not because they are the three largest.

None of them has more than a fraction of IBM or Toyota’s work force, and those companies are icons of good management. Nor is it because they serve high percentages of minority children from low-income families. Houston’s schools, which are equally minority and poor, perform well relative to other urban school districts. The reason is that the school districts in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are too centralized, much too top-down in their management, for their size.

I Excellent teaching requires extensive training and experience. A seasoned, excellent teacher would have training in and experience with pedagogy and content. 

“Telecommunications provides the new learning platform of this century and is replacing the textbook as the medium through which a modern education is provided,” Lucas said. “The world’s knowledge is now available online, far beyond what books and materials can provide in schools and libraries themselves.” George Lucas

K-12 was the group that got the blame. Most of the time I was the only K-12 teacher in the audience. But there have been times when I was not, and ageism struck. A young teacher sitting beside me
not knowing my work, or advocacy, said, its the old teachers who are to blame for all of the ills of education. She went on to talk about her mother, who was a teacher and to say that
people like her mother ought to get out of education. I didn’t say much, unusual for me. but I thought what??

I was the only K-12 teacher on a committee, the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council
. It was a lot of hard work. I learned a lot. I traveled all over the country, in areas of need, and difficulty. My teaching experience is also varied, I have taught in black schools, at the lower socioeconomic areas, in a so called charter school designed to welcome those who were interested in , in a science focused school, done team teaching and I have been a demonstration teacher for AAAS, for the use of hands-on science teaching. I have worked with Karen Buller of Niti.org and we wrote curriculum for American Indians.. and traveled to the schools in Indian country, sharing technology.
I guess most of my life has been teaching, with extraordinary experiences in professional development during the summer. As a legacy teacher. I was trained in a HBCU. Not much was expected of me, and not much was taught . According to the times, we had to be able to teach and to know curriculum to seventh grade level. The math was certainly not old or new. It was drill math. End of story.

So I think what I want to explain is that we had two societies and two kinds of schools. I boldly integrated into schools, teaching in schools as the only black teacher on the faculty of some schools who did NOT teach the tracked students. I taught , initially the gifted and talented students and I was good at it. I am an excellent teacher.

So what happened to me that did not happen to most minority teachers? I rested my professional development outside of the public schools. I was a child of museum study and my Sunday excursions to the Smithsonian, and I am stubborn. I went to the well where the movers and thinkers and those with ideas were working, in workshops, courses, expeditions, and especially had wonderful teaching experiences, learning experiences with NASA and with the National Geographic and three years of Oceanography at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Sadly, most teachers get the WORST of professional development.


My reason for talking about those experiences is that I was taught by the best. From various groups like NCTM, and NSTA I gathered resources, knowledge, networks, and pearls of wisdom. Who can teach the use of geography and visuals like the National Geographic. I feel into a wonderful set of examples of how to.. and it has been a passport for the use of technology for the rest of my life.
That is not the usual case for teachers. Usually the professional development comes from within the school system, or a special group of experts that they trust. It has been wonderful to see school systems allow their teachers to use Blue Webn Videoconferencing for Learning, Exploratorium, Thinkfinity Learning Network, and the resources of the National Geographic. Some school systems , even advise their teachers of learning opportunities and initiatives that occur.

I believe that some of the politics in school systems and the
lack of professional development of merit are to blame for the teachers who do not measure up. Not being new teachers they have been allowed, encouraged to teach as they do. It probably didn’t make much difference.

They were teaching minority kids. Who cared?

There is blame in the politics of teaching, the bad professional development , the use of only in-house knowledge, and the stubbornness of schools resisting change and depth of content knowledge. I worry about the digitally naive and the content deprived teachers. But then, who cares? To people like Michelle Rhee, its the older teachers. I don’t think that rings true for all teachers.

We might also remember that there was a knowledge divide
a content divide , and of course the low expectations exoected for those who teach our most needy students.