Here be Dragons..Maybe the Dragons in Education are Ancient Practices

Not Reform, Transform, Here be Dragons.. I think not….Dragons may be the people stuck in ancient practices.

Not Reform, Transform Schools, Look Toward the Future, Not the Pastby bonniebraceysutton on January 25, 2011

Not Reform, Transform, Here be Dragons.. I think not….Dragons may be the people stuck in ancient practices.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton, Power of US –

Reflections from a Truthout Article

Who can disagree with reform? Who can be against helping children stuck in a bad school system?

What the corporate reformers have done well is to essentially trademark “reform,” branding in the public mind their diagnosis of what’s wrong with schools and the harsh, chemotherapeutic remedy.They own reform. They are the people of Aspen, the digerati that meet and greet and talk about the future. Few real teachers, or administators, or community membersin real educational situations are a part of these conversations. Most have never experienced or know the real areas of difficulty, in education. Their experience of bad school systems is filtered. There are people suffering from really being involved who have a real perspective on the problems. But, they have hardly been consulted.

Rhee Goes Rogue

What’s wrong with the school system, according to corporate reformers, is the bad teachers, their unions and “special interests,” as Rhee claims practically unchallenged in her Newsweek cover story and across the corporate media, including in “Waiting for Superman,” which earned ample air time on Oprah’s “Shocking State of Our Schools.” The corporate media has adopted this diagnosis, as is best illustrated in Tom Brokaw’s segment in “Education Nation,” an NBC special applauding the corporate reformers featuring Rhee and Gates (Gates also appeared in “Waiting for Superman”). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was also one of the sponsors of Education Nation, and Gates was a star of his own show. Not surprisingly, Brokaw – a reporter, not a pundit – claims, as fact, that there is a “teacher establishment,” which is part of the problem, echoing Rhee and other corporate reformers sponsoring the event..

I have been involved in some of the digerati discussions, in places where the rich and famous gather to discuss ideas. For the most part there are few genuine educators present. But there are “scholarships” for a chosen few.

The audience is of powerful people with big ideas. Think Aspen, Ted, PopTech,  and other specialized groupings that are a digital divide, well a monetary divide as well.There re are some wonderful things that happen as a result of these powerful meetings. Clark County in Nevada has demonstrated some wonderful projects as a result of Gates Funding. I enjoyed learning in their schools of the future


Often the diagnosis, the corporate reform remedy is obvious: take down the “teacher establishment,”

For the most part, teacher voices are left out of the conversation.

The real stories of schools in Washington DC were never told.

Slowly, the effects are being judged.

I personally taught for three years in DC and ran screaming for the suburbs.Children were sleeping under my car, Children were following me because of need in the neighborhood. Children were falling down elevator shafts.There was  no nurse in the schools. The school I taught in stank when the heat was turned on from years of old urine. We had rats. But I did stay three years. When we had to teach on a bench in the gym during some remodeling, that was too much for me. We were not in touch with the community. We did do the technology mentoring , and some learning took place. But the culture of the educational community and the support of the learning community parents was what we worked on for the most part. We had measured success.

I live in Washington DC. I know the lay of the land and the needs of the schools. While in the Clinton Administration we worked to help Ballou High School.’Actually not much helped, there was the culture of those who feel deserted, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of real training of teachers and we tried, but lots of people had bandaid solutions. I am not sure that anything worked. Don’t tell me that they had a wonderful band that went to the Superbowl. I don’t care about that.

What did Rhee Leave in her Wake...

This headline did not make the national news . But , it should have.The press does not follow up on their highly flambouyant stories. We don’t have a movie of the reality of rural, poor, minority and reservation schools. Perhaps the story is too hard to tell. Probably they are afraid that teachers won’t come to teach in areas of need. maybe reporters just need a very media ready story.

Private contractor failed Dunbar High’s students, D.C. says

There are other stories to think about as well.

The press does not tell the bad stories in education. The bad stories are depressing. Some children live the bad stories every day of their school life.

Say it isn’t so on IMPACT, Mayor Gray

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Reporter

“Here’s why I was so disappointed to read my colleague Bill Turque’s report on a plan by D.C. schools officials to have the flawed IMPACT teacher evaluation system reviewed by a Harvard think tank:

1) I was optimistic that new Mayor Vincent Gray was serious about fixing the problem when he said at a recent public forum that the evaluation system –instituted under former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — was unfair to teachers. In his own words:

“I guess I would say at this stage… it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s got a long way to go to be a fair evaluation of our teachers. And frankly any system that isn’t sensitive to the differences in challenges of the kids in the schools only encourages teachers to teach in one part of the city and not in the other parts.”

But, the national news does not pick up the examination of Rhee’s work under the microscope of public and academic opinion. The voters had their say and the press moved on.

There are reasons to be concerned about the legacy of Michelle Rhee.

Those of us who work, and who try to impact, change and help transform the schools know a lot of stories that the press is not talking about. Sometines the truth may be too ugly to tell.Sometimes the press does not tell the good things that happen either.  The George Lucas Educational Foundation is left to sort the stories out. Emaginos  says on their web site.

The Need To Transform K-12 Education

As President Obama recently told Congress and the American people,“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity — it is a prerequisite. Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish. This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

Emaginos has the concept of transforming educational practice through example at the Tracy Learning Center in Tracy, California, a time tested learning project.

Tracy Learning Center

The Tracy Learning Center is the first in a network of research and development schools implemented to demonstrate Emaginos Learning. The Tracy Learning Center is a dynamic response to the compelling need to revolutionize teaching and learning. The foundation for Emaginos Learning has its beginning in the vision, creativity and innovation used to design the Tracy Learning Center. The Tracy Learning Center opened in July 2001 and operates as a K-12 charter school. The Tracy Learning Center serves as a model for both public schools and learning in the private sector. It is an innovative collaborative of industry, education and government that provides a positive change in the process of learning.

The center involves, parents, community, learners and the community colleges.


I like the NFIE project which probed teachers about their learning a href=”“>>;.”To improve schools we must focus on the teachers,” said Judith Rènyi, executive director of the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, (NFIE) in releasing this report .

Teachers Take Charge of Their Learning “Schools can only be as good as the teachers in them. This is something that all other so-called ‘reform efforts’ have missed. It’s what teachers know and can do that will make the difference in improved student performance..When I am on the road, I learn that most teachers have little or no knowledge of the documents, and kinds of support they can get. People keep giving us lesson plans, and more websites, webcasts, nings, and other way to communicate, But a basic understanding and fluent knowledge of the new ways of participatory cutlure, and deep curriculum, is important. We need web 2.0. an understanding of Cloud Computing and we need to know the significance of the use of mobile technologies.

Children with their hands on the keyboard have access to knowledge beyond the textbook, teacher, and sometimes the local library resources.


.They need to know the resources for


Beyond this web site is a tool kit for the use of computers for community, school, and personal use. Here are pictures of an event that took place in Washington.

What we need is applications of pedagogy. These should be delivered up close and personal. A website to a techno-terrifed teacher is of NO significance.The website can be a wonderful link after teachers have developed a vision for driving technology into their personal school tool armature.   If we look at the way in which people are attracted to technology, there are several routes, courses, games, mentoring, and use at school that entice people to use technology..

Clark County Schools in Nevada have some wonderful showcase schools.

These are my pictures but there are discussions of the various schools in the Edutopia web site.

My tour of Clark County Schools

Pedagogical Tools

Technofluency fir teacchers  is the word


It is also described as TPCK – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Bloom’s Digital Technology is the word. And construct to think about. Bloom’s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally, Andrew Churches

Computational Thinking is the word.

Every day we read, use, employ and get information from computational tools, and resources. We access the weather, read the oceans, find our way in cars, use the Internet, get medical treatment using imaging, and so on. There are gatesays to  the use of superconmputing that we learn about in the press, but not as a part of preparation for the future in school. Why is that?

If you say supercomputing, or computational thinking few people know what that is, or cloud computing, yet they use it every day.

Teachers are sometimes still in the dark ages of education, using tools that my mother and others used 80 years ago. Chalk and Talk. Globaloria is an example of a state effort to teach teachers, with collaboration, connectivity and community. Here are photos of teachers taking charge of their learning. It was a wonderful event.

How Many Teachers Use Technology?

An ETLS survey showed these points…Connecting Teachers and Technology

Research shows that helping teachers learn how to integrate technology into the curriculum is a critical factor for the successful implementation of technology applications in schools. Most teachers have not had the education or training to use technology effectively in their teaching. As technologies are ever evolving and many times professional development is a very short interface. Some esteemed professors feel that technology has no place in the curriculum and I do not debate them on line because they have made their minds up to the contrary, but use the technology to tell us that the participatory culture does not work , excuse me?

In medieval times, the scripters, the careful monks who painstakingly copied books, had most written knowledge in their hands. The monks and priests had a network even then to disseminate knowledge to the capitals of the countries that the Jesuits served. The “knowbots” of medieval times were the intellectuals who could read, write, and discourse, and they made decisions or were able to influence the decision making of that era. In those dark ages, information was available, but very few were privileged to be a part of the sharing of knowledge. Once the printing press was invented, the industrial secrets of that world and global niches of specialization were quickly shared. But even then, the movement of ideas was based on a person’s ability to read and to purchase or have access to a book. It took a long time to bring the cost of books down to a level that the general public could afford. Hence, the town criers. Oyez! We are undergoing change that is more widespread and just as transformational, if allowed.

The New America Foundation brings up the images of dragons. Here be Dragons…

Maps in the old days often included depictions of sea dragons or lions to connote unknown or dangerous terrain. Unfortunately, when it comes to a future that will be altered in unimaginable ways by emerging technologies, society and government cannot simply lay down a “Here Be Dragons” marker with a fanciful illustration to signal that most of us have no clue. Many of the nay -sayers have no clue but lots of press presence. I remember when the Pope, Oprah, and others warned of the Dragons in the use of the Internet. Check out their web pages. Lots of the people made a lot of money raising red flags about technology. Remember Todd Openheimer? He is probably somewhere quietly counting his money.

Many teachers are not far removed from those primitive ways of communication. We are still using the book for our basic teaching and the voice for the delivery of the program with a little help from some current technology, some hands-on projects, and a few field trips. The current economic crisis strikes hard in places along the digital dark road, where Internet is suspect, and teachers have little or no training in the use of technology.”

In the book, 21st, Century Skills, Learning for Life in our tines, Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel remar that the world has undergone foundational shifts in recent decates-widespread advances in technology, and communications, increased competition, and the escalation of global challenge from financial meltdowns. They query , how can we prepare students to meet the challenge of our century if our schools remind virtually unchanged?

They focus on Learning and Innovation Skills

Creativity and Innovation Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration

, Digital Literacy Skills

Information Literacy , Media Literacy and ICT Literacy( this should include an understanding of Cyberbullying and the whold concept of the participatory culture.

Many teachers , schools and communities don’t have a concept that defines Wired Safety.

Here’s a place to get a start.

Career and Life skills.

Many of us call these skills workforce readiness skills.

Flexibility and Adaptability, Initiative and Self Direction, Social and Cross Cultural Skills, Productively and Accountability , Leadership and Responsibility.

How do we transform practices?

The good news is that many teachers are using the new cells of virtual communication and networks that exist on the Internet to reconstruct and improve their teaching practices. The number of people involved in network communications is larger than the cable and television viewing public. Teachers are learning multimedia and using platforms to create learning environments that are rich in motivation and interest and cater to different learning styles. Our link is the computer, online telecommunications, and our virtual communities of thought, conventions, and teacher organizations.

We are just beginning to develop new ways of learning. Unfortunately, we are like the monks. Most people outside our sphere do not understand our words when we talk about the information highway, any more than the peasants understood Latin from the monks. There are more people who do not understand this hue and cry about the information highway than those who do.

What is interesting is that most of the people talking about education are not educators.

Even the experts in education are ignored. Here is the questions. Do or should reporters be the experts, choose the experts?


The digital world will change education as much or more as the printing press did. For years we did not understand the changes the printing press made in the storage and retrieval of information. The digital world will change learning as much or more than books. Frank Withrow

The corporate reformers have reached the hearts of the public, blinding them with a beautifully rendered fiction.Even though Ravitch is very visible, even though she has powerful data and analysis to support her conclusions, which are widely published and read, she hasn’t been successful in capturing the public imagination, as there is no story – no hero or villain – for the American public to easily grasp, to reduce into a simple plot with an obvious moral. There is no heartwarming tale to sell newspapers or to draw viewers to the evening news or sob-filled theatres.

On our present course, we are disrupting communities, dumbing down our schools, giving students false reports of their progress, and creating a private sector that will undermine public education without improving it. Most significantly, we are not producing a generation of students who are more knowledgeable, and better prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship. That is why I changed my mind about the current direction of school reform.

Ms. Ravitch is author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” published last week by Basic Book

Powerful Learning : What We Know About Teaching for Understanding

The nation’s leading education experts present the best teaching strategies for powerful learning

Teaching: what works, what doesn’t, and why? Within the fields of reading, math, and science, bestselling author Linda Darling-Hammond and colleagues describe, in clear and practical terms, the best teaching methods for K-12 student understanding. Rich classroom stories show that students designing and working together on engaging projects are challenged to do more than just memorize facts. This invaluable resource offers innovative strategies to support student learning.There is a wrinkle. We are talking often as if everyone has access to the new technologies and broadband. The hope today is that wireless technologies will vault the Digital Divide. What do you think?

Communications technologies have continued to evolve and now increasingly provide opportunities for deploying low-cost broadband. However, conventional commercial business models for providing broadband often create bottlenecks to spreading connectivity. Over the past five years, successful community and municipal wireless networks have been overlooked and often dismissed, yet they hold tremendous promise for improving our nation’s approach to building communications infrastructure, empowering local communities and addressing the digital divide. This event will launch an important report that reviews community and municipal wireless networks across the United States and Europe.

The Case of the Misinformed Manifesto

You may be aware of a recent article published in the Washington Post.  The article was called, “How to Fix Our Schools: A Manifesto”.  The article was written by a group of well-intentioned but apparently uninformed or misinformed school superintendents including Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders.  I say uninformed because I don’t think that they intentionally lied in writing the manifesto, but they are clearly wrong on several of the ‘facts’ that they cite to bolster their opinions.  The only part of the manifesto that we might agree with is the closing paragraph.  In it, they say:

“For the wealthiest among us, the crisis in public education may still seem like someone else’s problem, because those families can afford to choose something better for their kids. But it’s a problem for all of us — until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems. Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory.”

To read the full manifesto, go to

For a well-reasoned response that details the false statements in the manifesto, go to

The degree of recognition and frustration with the many problems associated with today’s K-12 education system in America continue to grow.  And every time I read another article, I am more encouraged about the work we are doing.  We have by far the best solution available to this complex issue.  In the words of Victor Hugo, “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Allan C. Jones
Emaginos Inc.- Customizing education for every child in America
571-222-7032 (home)
Campbell’s Law is an adage developed by Donald T. Campbell.
“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”[1] [Think NCLB and high-stakes testing.]

Teacher Community Angst.. What is a Bad Teacher?


Who is a bad teacher? Who decides?

When Innovation and STEM were considered unusual...


In some of the press, recently teachers have been attacked in many different ways. The initial assault was months ago with a pose of Michelle Rhee on the cover of a national magazine. The story gained national attention and the story started a whole new perspective , a look at what is called a BAD teacher.  Since that time there have been a raft of stories with test scores as the reason that teachers were being tagged as being unfit. There was even a teacher suicide that was hardly reported. The suicide was based on the LA TImes ” revelation or assumption ” that the teacher was unfit,

What is a Bad Teacher?

I am not sure what most people consider a bad teacher but the press began to collect evidence , or build the case for bad teachers and the articles continued, without a stop until the movie, “Waiting for Superman” . By that time the stories were at a fever pitch. The Los Angeles Times created even more furor by publishing information on teachers that had to do with testing and the assumption that a teacher was a bad teacher if the students had low test scores.

I think I would have been considered a bad teacher in some of the schools in which I taught though I taught , gave, contributed and worked overtime to make a difference. I taught in Washington DC. I am a long time teacher and have lived through the fashion of educational change of decades. I have lived through unit methods, team teaching, new math, a Nation at Risk, New Standards. I probably have missed a few of the educational dictates.

New Ideas in Teaching and Learning

Think  benchmarks, Hands On Science, New Math , Independent reading vs Textbook reading, the pendulum changed with the dictate of political pressure.

Sometimes I moved to new schools, and sometimes I stayed and tried to wait until the new educational mandate came. I never feared for my job but once or twice, but I have been harassed, bullied, and transferred to another school. Sometimes it was personality, sometimes it was that I worked too hard without involving other teachers , and was successful. Sometimes it was that I was dazzling parents and community members, school children with the expertise that I gained from learning partners, NASA, National Geographic, NSTA, Earthwatch, NCTM, AAGE, .. How I loved attending the workshops, using the resources, the various outreach that happened by working with learning partners. I was so pleased to be an AAAS demonstration teacher.

My mother and father were teachers and when I got upset, they calmed me and advised me. I admit that being a teacher who helped to integrate schools across the spectrum was hard. I never experienced difficulty from other teachers until I started to use technology. Playing , with computing I was told was a problem. I was taking away valuable time from teaching. Doing field trips often and going to learning places, what a waste of time. Other complaints doing enrichment using resources from NASA. Inside my head, as I was winning awards nationally and getting in difficulty with administrators because I was becoming a teacher ” star” I was probably considered to be a bad teacher.

I am of color, I am a minority, I came from schools that were marginal in their preparation of me and others as a teacher. I graduated without difficulty and with honors.  When I had taught for three years, I escaped the profession by going to Europe to teach. The first three years of my teaching were hard years. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of my students.

There are secrets in teaching that bothered me. I was trying to teach everything, some other teachers mocked me as I taught science, and social studies, .. eventually I was told , teach reading , math and spelling .. the rest is extra and if you have time fill it in. Well, I never did that .. I had been trained as a gifted and talented teacher and loved teaching science and new math. That made me a BAD teacher. I wanted to teach the kids that were not identifies as Gifted and Talented.. I worried about tracking.

There were students who had all kinds of problems, homeless students, poor students, students who had parents going through divorce, a couple of girls who were suffering from sexual  relationships against their will and even more difficult problems. Once a child who was being sexually compromised as an adoptee, shared her angst with me. Interestingly enough my pursuit of her concerns made me a bad teacher.

I was able to survive because I wrote grants, got national attention and learned to involve community.

So what is a bad teacher…I know what I wanted to do with that broom that Ms. Rhee used in her pose. I admit that I was hurt, angry and saddened that a person who had the power to change teaching and learning could so openly blame tie ills of society on teachers .

Teaching is hard work. Being a good teacher or one of the best is even harder work. The press has been unmerciful and mean. It is time to stop trashing teachers and look at the problems of society that affect our children. Most of the time I have loved working with students. The current media position on teachers even for teachers in the District of Columbia, does not consider the reality of the job, parental involvement or not, and or problems of the community.

Teachers and students work together in some schools that are pointed toward the future.  The power of us is to make change and to demonstrate the possibilities.

MetLife Survey of the American Teacher

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success examines the views of teachers, principals and students about respective roles and responsibilities, current practice and priorities for the future, addressing the issues of effective teaching and leadership, student achievement and teaching as a career (2009).ED509650

The Survey report was originally released in three parts, which have been combined into the document posted above:

  • Part 1: Effective Teaching and Leadership examines views about responsibility and accountability; what collaboration looks like in schools, and if and to what degree it is currently practiced.
  • Part 2: Student Achievement examines views on student goals, teacher expectations, and what educators believe would increase student achievement.
  • Part 3: Teaching as a Career examines collaboration in the context of teacher professional growth, experience level and career paths.

Home-to-School Connections Guide: Tips, Tech Tools, and Strategies for Improving Family-to-School Communication

Edutopia shares with youtheir  latest classroom resource guide highlighting new solutions for connecting home and school in order to improve student learning and success.

Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or district administrator, this new guide provides  relevant and valuable tools and resources for how best to strengthen the bonds between schools, families, and communities.