In the meantime, we hope you'll visit one of the blogs in our list of "Other Blogs" (most of which are written by one of us or a group that includes one of us).
May the determination of Education Policy some day be the result of careful democratic discourse that takes into account both the findings of research and a core set of shared beliefs about the importance of education for the cultivation of a democratic public.
When we landed at Paine Field, our plane was dwarfed by Boeing jets stacked up, awaiting insignia painting for many countries around the world. From there, we drove to three meetings with stakeholders in WSU’s initiative to operate the present University Center in Everett, starting in 2014.
We met in the lovely new convention center in Everett’s harbor area, joined by several other WSU deans and partner institution officials. Also present was WSU Spokane Chancellor Brian Pitcher, whose Riverpoint campus is seen as a model for what WSU’s effort in Everett could become.
WSU’s first order of business in Everett will be to establish mechanical and electrical engineering programs, modeled on what we already offer in Bremerton. The programs will involve a clinical faculty member, distance education via video, and summer study in Pullman. But the stakeholders in Everett — including the mayor, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and state legislators — also want programs in nursing, media arts and, importantly, education. At the meeting, I shared my eagerness for the College of Education to provide educational opportunities to local school administrators, and to teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Western Washington University has traditionally provided education course work in Everett, and I look forward to working with them.
President Floyd said it is premature to think of Everett as being the fifth WSU campus. For now, we are exploring the opportunity and learning how we can collaborate. An advisory board and planning committee are already at work.
I am proud that the College of Education is so well represented in the leadership of this initiative. Paul Pitre of our Vancouver faculty will oversee WSU’s developments at Everett in the coming year. Joan Kingrey, our academic director in Spokane, led the discussions at the Everett meeting. And President Floyd has his faculty appointment in our college.
Our plane took off from Paine Field just before 5 p.m. I rode shotgun. Heading east, we flew above a blanket of clouds over the Cascades, with Mount Rainier peeking above that, off the right wing. A half hour later, I could see in the distance lush green fields, and Kamiak and Steptoe buttes. It was thrilling to see Pullman edge closer as we sped home. It was a fun and inspiring day.
So, where did this war on teachers, and other public employees come from? I certainly didn't see that coming.
A former colleague (a faculty member in a humanities department) was responding directly to word that Pennsylvania was cutting P-12 funding and slashing state support for public higher education. But her consciousness was framed by events in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
So I have been paying attention to the news in a new way. Is my colleague right? Is there a “war on teachers”? I think she may right that there is a “war” going on but I’m having a little more difficulty determining just what it is we are fighting about and fighting for. Are teachers the target? Or are teachers collateral damage in a larger struggle –because teachers (and their students) don’t fight back and because everybody feels entitled to an “expert” opinion about educational matters generally?
I hope to think more about this over the summer and invite any readers to join in with news items, anecdotes and analyses that help us all figure out where we want to stand in what is clearly a struggle for the social, economic, political and educational terrain within our own communities and our nation.
Here are a couple for starters:
· Randy Turner, commenting on the Huffington Post about new education legislation in Missouri, asks whether public school teachers are an “endangered species”? His question is motivated by regulatory proposals that seem to suggest that all teachers are lazy perverts.
· Paul Mucci, a fifth grade NBPTS certified teacher, asks
“since when did teachers become the bad guys?” Mucci is in Florida where education is rapidly being “reformed” on the backs of teachers: “elimination of teacher tenure, teacher pay based on student performance, increasing teacher contributions to the Florida Retirement System, raising the retirement age/years of service, increasing student testing and reducing the number of "core" classes to name a few.”
He conveys his demoralization clearly:
“More important, gone is the respect teachers once had. The steady erosion of respect is palpable in parent conferences, in line at the grocery store and in politicians' statements in the media.
As one legislator said to me, ‘The public deserves accountability they deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent.’ In one respect, he is right, but what good are numbers and test results if we lose our integrity, our compassion, our humanity along the way?”
Mucci notes that it is ironic that the rhetoric is all about “good teachers” but in the process they are destroying any chance of respect [for teachers].
· Bill Haslam, Governor of my new home state of Tennessee apparently hasn’t met any Paul Mucci type teachers. Last week he rejected the Tennessee Education Association’s claim that “teacher morale is flagging,” despite passing measures that limit collective bargaining and proposing others that would end any licensure for educational professionals. (More on events in Tennessee in the days to come.)
As someone who spends a fair amount of time cultivating partnerships with public schools so that we can jointly (university/school) provide substantive and challenging but guided practical experience for teacher candidates, my sense is that teacher morale is fragile at best. Neither principals nor teachers – no matter how accomplished --generally feel free to take on novice teacher candidates. Even when they can identify the value of teaching collaboratively with a young person with energy and ideas, they are hesitant, even fearful, about jeopardizing their compensation and even their jobs (based largely on student test scores). Everybody is looking over both shoulders at once.
What do these snippets suggest?
Whether or not there is a war on teachers, teachers are feeling under siege. And the march of legislation that targets the teaching profession is undeniable. But the point of the legislation is harder to tease out. Limiting collective bargaining might be a cost-cutting measure. It might be an undercut-the-unions measure (my favorite theory with thanks to Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow). The undercut-the-unions theory is supported by proposals in Tennessee to get rid of teacher licensure all together. Put this together with the appointment of a new Commissioner of Education with a Teach for America and charter school background and it does appear that the war is not on “teachers” per se but on the public school “establishment” (whatever that is).
The point then is an utterly free market for education? (Odd that we would seek a free market for the development of human capital when we have no such truly free market for any other commodity – oil subsidies, farm subsidies, interstate highway systems anyone?)
But this is a kaleidoscopic phenomenon, I think, and this particular ideological interpretation is just today’s turn of the barrel. What does it look like to you? What will it look like tomorrow?
Forty-seven percent. Within that statistic is news both wonderful and sobering.
Nearly half of all of the graduate students who received College of Education scholarships for 2011-12 are the first in their families to go to college. That’s the wonderful part. Those future educators are realizing the American dream of self-improvement. But the number also speaks to the need for financial support, which is especially acute for first-generation students and their families.
This spring, faculty and staff volunteers reviewed the scholarship applications. They weighed the students’ accomplishments and goals and stretched the contributions of our generous donors to award 96 scholarships totaling $171,150. The average per student was $1,782.
Amy Cox of our development team, who coordinates the scholarship selection effort, provided those statistics. Others that might interest you:
In all, 98 graduate students and 453 undergraduates applied for scholarship assistance.
Scholarships were awarded to 24 juniors, 31 seniors, and 41 master’s and doctoral degree candidates.
Twenty-eight percent of the scholarship winners are minority students. The largest groups represented were Hispanic/Latin America (seven) and Asian Pacific American (five).
Seventy percent of scholarship winners are women.
Seventy-six are enrolled in Pullman, six in Vancouver, eight in Tri-Cities.
More compelling than the numbers, of course, are the people they represent. Here are two examples:
Israel Martinez of Walla Walla starts our Master in Teaching program this summer. Israel, the first in his family to get a college degree, wrote in his application: “It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, such as working two part-time jobs while being a full-time student, working overtime in the orchards during the summers to save enough money to stay in school.”
Kelly Frio’s home town is Brush Prairie, Washington. That’s near Vancouver, where she is working on an undergraduate teaching degree. She has a perfect 4.0 grade point average. One of her goals, she wrote, is to instill an appreciation of the elderly in her own children and those she works with. “The wealth and skills and knowledge that our senior citizens possess is often not only unappreciated, but dismissed.”
My congratulations to all of our scholarship winners and my thanks to those who support our scholarships. We only wish we could do more, for more. If you would like to help, look here for information.
This movement – composed of a loosely inter-related set of programs, practices, and philosophies such as service-learning, civic and community engagement, public scholarship, and community-based research – has become an assumed and expected part of the higher education landscape. More than half of all faculty, according to UCLA’s ongoing American College Teacher surveys, believe that instilling a commitment to community service is a very important or essential aspect of undergraduate education; NSSE data suggest that service-learning is one of very few “high impact practices” that deepen undergraduates’ learning; and the Carnegie Foundation recently released its third round of colleges and universities selected as worthy of the “community engagement” classification, whose membership now numbers over three hundred such institutions.
Yet even as the public face of community engagement becomes ever more embraced, there are troubling signs of its internal malaise. Key groups and scholars have begun to openly talk of a movement that has “stalled.” Strong research suggests that co-curricular engagement continues to be a more meaningful variable than singular curricular service-learning courses in fostering a range of key student outcomes. And the plethora of programs, centers, and practices that intermix community service, service-learning, and civic engagement contributes to frustratingly opaque notions of even basic definitions, categories, and hoped-for outcomes in the field.
The trouble is not that service-learning and its ilk have not been successful enough. The problem, I suggest, is that they have been too successful. Too successful, that is, at positioning themselves as a social movement for the transformation of higher education to reclaim and rediscover its civic purpose and meaningful engagement with, for, and in their local communities. But in so doing, in becoming a movement that attempted to reach everyone across the academy, the community engagement movement has become unmoored from some basic precepts. There is neither a core vision nor an overarching network able to guide or link the disparate centers, groups, scholarly communities, national organizations and activists all attempting to, ironically enough, foster an engaged campus and community. The gap between the rhetoric and reality of the “engaged campus” is ever increasing.
The reasons for this are complex, intertwined, and not easily changeable given the long-term economic retrenchment sweeping across the academy: the expanding demographics of “non-traditional” part-time commuting students; the outsourcing of labor to contingent and adjunct faculty; and the “wickedly” complex and contested problem of engaging with (much less solving) community issues enmeshed within multiple racial, political, economic, social, and historical realities. If the goal of the first generation of scholars and activists was to transform higher education, the real issue is who is transforming whom.
I am not suggesting that we wipe our hands, shut the classroom door, and walk away from the pressing societal problems that colleges and universities must indeed be a part of solving. Rather, we must reframe how we think about the engaged campus: namely, community engagement must become an intellectual movement. If the next generation of scholars, students, and community members are to have a chance in fostering a deep, sustained, and ultimately powerful campus and community collaborations, then we must embrace a second wave of criticality towards civic and community engagement in the academy.
By this I mean what other movements, such as Women’s Studies and Black Studies, have accomplished in the last thirty years. They have created, through majors and minors and interdisciplinary concentrations and research centers, a means to influence and impact the knowledge production and dissemination of their respective areas of study. They have succeeded in the impressive accomplishment that it is no longer possible to speak simply or “obviously” about what feminism or blackness “is,” either within their respective fields, across the academy, or, for that matter, in the larger world.
Interestingly enough, academic programs (such as majors and minors) focused on community engagement have indeed begun to spring up helter skelter across the academy. I helped organize a research institute this past summer for academics interested in developing or expanding such academic programs. We expected twenty or thirty people to show up. Instead, we had to stop registration at ninety, as scholars, administrators, and doctoral students poured in from across the country, as well as a few from Canada, Mexico, and even Ireland. We have now documented over sixty academic programs at varying stages of development across the United States and will be hosting another institute this summer to continue to deepen this dialogue and support such program development.
There are longstanding and deeply impressive programs, such as Providence College’s major in Public and Community Service Studies and UC-Santa Cruz’s department of Community Studies. There is the newly developed Civic Engagement minor at Mary Baldwin College, and the Department of Justice and Policy Studies at Guilford College. In each case, there are dedicated faculty members attached to each program, doing the deliberate, careful, and critical work that is necessary for any successful academic program: advising students, creating introductory courses, questioning the quality of the capstone experience, reaching out to colleagues across the institution and community members outside of it for perspective and feedback and collaboration, advocating for additional tenure-track lines, and questioning whether what they do is ultimately of value and relevance to its critical stakeholders.
This, then, is the face of the next generation of the scholarship of engagement. It is the critical work that cannot take for granted the practice and philosophy of community engagement. For community engagement is a complex and contested practice that claims to engage in “border crossing” and as such engages issues of power, race, and class. It is a practice that has real-world ethical, legal, and political implications as to what our undergraduates actually do out in the world. And it is a philosophy of practice that is seemingly at the heart of a liberal arts education. As such, what we do with, for, and in the community must be open to the same type of scrutiny as any other legitimate academic practice. It needs to be done in academic spaces that foster and strengthen the very qualities we are looking for in the community partnerships we espouse: deep, sustained, and impactful reflection, engagement, and action. That is an intellectual movement.
In the end, of course, this is not an either/or proposition. The academy must embrace both the community engagement and the critical academic spaces. To have engagement without the criticality is to succumb ultimately to a cheerleading mentality of a social movement with thin skin unable to withstand the critique of the academy. To have disciplined academic inquiry without a deep and sustained experiential community-based component is to succumb to an ineffectual model of “hallway activists” where theory and practice are disjoined and disjointed and where the thick skin of academic debate cannot feel or see the needs of the community all around it. But without the next stage, without the second wave of critique within academic spaces, the next generation of the engaged campus will be ever more imperiled.
Then there is the question of the role of the endnotes in Klagge's study: some are simply references, some elucidations, and yet others mini-essays almost. They constitute some two-fifths of the book, which seems quite a lot really, as Monty Python put it with respect to the amount of rat in the tart.
Now that's what academic writing should aspire to. :)
In March, the Obama administration announced its plans to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The last time the act was reauthorized, in 2001, it was called No Child Left Behind and became the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s education efforts. NCLB brought with it an increased focus upon testing and accountability in schools.
What have we learned from the act during the past decade? What changes would improve it? In my own search for answers, I asked faculty members from various education specialties for their views, which I share here.
Professor David Slavit on accountability
Right now Secretary Duncan talks about NCLB as being too punitive and prescriptive because of its accountability measures. Why do we have accountability? Because we don’t trust people to do their jobs.
Surveys show that most people think their own children’s teachers are quite good, but that teachers in general are not. This says a great deal about the kind of negative messaging people receive in this country about teachers, and the political harm this has been doing to teachers for the past decades. The basis of any reauthorization needs to assume one thing: Teachers are professionals deserving of trust and respect. The many teachers whom I visit on a regular basis are some of the hardest working people I know. And certainly some of the most caring.
Associate Professor Judy Morrison on science education
Under the NCLB, science education has not received the same attention that reading and mathematics have, because the law did not require yearly science assessments.
Though not necessarily advocating for yearly assessments, science educators would like to see students taking more science courses and being exposed to the reality of science in their science courses. There also needs to be an ongoing conversation about which important scientific knowledge and skills our students should be exposed to so that they become scientifically literate citizens. We need to open their eyes to the development, meaning, value, and limitations of scientific knowledge. As students engage in more authentic science in their K-12 science courses, they will be exposed to the creativity and innovation that science involves, strengthening their passion and causing them to consider careers in science.
If higher standards and more assessments can produce more opportunities for students to receive quality science instruction, then these certainly should be a part of the ESEA revisions involving science education.
Clinical Associate Professor Gay Selby on support for teachers, leaders
There is much about No Child Left Behind that I personally support—most important to me is that it requires schools to examine data, including student achievement data, high school graduation rates, and the qualifications of teachers as to teaching assignments. These areas of examination have “shined a light” on important areas that all too often prior to NCLB were not well examined.
I believe most teachers and principals today are intentional in their efforts to address the learning needs of all students and to improve high school graduation rates. Many teachers have changed how they work together and many innovative programs have emerged to provide the needed support to students. The role of principals also has changed from one of manager to leader—an instructional leader focused on assisting teachers with their classroom practice and student needs.
The downsides of NCLB are the heavy reliance on standardized tests data to determine how well a school is doing and the use of test results to punish teachers and principals as a means of motivating them. It is my hope that a reauthorized NCLB will focus on targeted support for teachers and principals.
The public and policy makers have every right to expect high performance from their schools and every right to hold teachers and principals accountable, but should be realistic about the challenges schools face and recognize that schools need authentic support in their efforts to improve. Only after such efforts should punitive measures be taken.
Assistant Professor Janet Frost on the intent of the law
I greet reauthorization of the act with mixed feelings. The intentions of actually meeting the educational needs of all children were noble, and the federal funding provided the opportunity for extensive professional development work my colleagues and I do that seems to be making a difference for teachers and students. However, the means of accountability and implementation of NCLB seemed misguided.
Most teachers and administrators with whom I have worked have felt that this legislation forced them to take steps that seemed educationally bizarre and the opposite of the legislation’s intent. They learned to focus their efforts on those students whose scores were just below passing, cutting back attention for lower or higher students. Schools reduced or eliminated time for science, social studies, the arts, and physical education — all areas of study that engage students who may be less interested or successful in mathematics or literacy learning. Teachers’ emotional energy became so focused on meeting Adequate Yearly Progress that they were less aware or considerate of their impact on students. I learned of students who couldn’t sleep the night before the high-stakes tests because their teachers had told them they were responsible for the school’s score and future. Some principals couldn’t be bothered with improving grade 11-12 students’ preparation for college success because yearly progress was focused on grade 10 scores.
Associate Professor Brian French on achievement testing
The attention given to achievement testing will not wane with reauthorization. It will only increase as common standards are applied to schools nationwide. First, there is the challenge of producing high quality assessments. The timeline and budget may not be sufficient to ensure proper development and implementation of tests.
Second, the magnitude of the common core project is almost overwhelming to the states and organizations charged with implementing the assessment system. For example, changing from paper-and-pencil tests to computer adaptive assessments sounds simple. However, having enough adequate working computers is a major barrier to implementation. Plus, there is a heavy bet being placed on technology for success for this system–technology that may not yet exist.
Third, achievement tests are designed for measuring individual student progress. However, the scores are put to many other uses (such as promotion, grades, teacher effectiveness, program accountability) with no assurance that they are valid measurements for those purposes.
Fourth, teachers will be asked, if not required, to make use of assessment scores to modify instruction, see and understand individual student mistakes, and convey student progress to parents. The challenge is to ensure they are prepared to do so.