Politics. Education. Philanthropy.
As in Cory Booker, Newark Schools, Mark Zuckerberg.
If you’re on the MillersTime mailing list, you no doubt have interest in at least one of these topics (unless you got on the list solely because you’re family or you’re interested baseball).
And you may remember a few years ago that then Newark Mayor Cory Booker (now NJ Senator) announced that Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was investing $100 million in what was to be an effort to revamp the Newark public schools.
In this week’s New Yorker Magazine, Dale Russakoff has a fascinating article about what has happened as a result of mixing politics, education, and philanthropy. It’s a long article, but once I started it, I stayed up until I had finished it.
You can read the article, Schooled, on line or get a copy of this week’s magazine. You won’t be disappointed.
Once you’ve finished it, I encourage you to leave a Comment on this site as to what is your ‘takeaway’ from Russakoff’s article and what has happened in Newark.
It does not surprise me that people throw money at problems without collecting info from the recipients of ” the services”. Unfortunately, it rarely works. So much money is spent on education now, but the overwhelming testing and common core regs , keep good teachers fr being creative and helping each child be successhful.
Until society goes back to respecting teachers and school requires a respectable appearance as well as complete safety, al the money being dumped into education will be wasted.
That is my 2 cents
The sad thing is, once again, not one of these people have degrees in education, or hell, probably talked to one student in Newark. Once again, the bottleneck for money and funds ran dry before a drop got to the kids.
Money flows into the education industry, but there is no accountability. The science lab still needs microscopes, the teachers still need aides, janitors have been laid off and somehow, $100 million disappears with nothing to show for it.
Plus, Zuckerberg comes off looking very bad in the article. He didn’t really seem interested enough in the outcomes.
Bob T said:
This was a really well-written account of this saga, and even though the way it worked out was not much of a surprise to me, I enjoyed how Dale Russakof gets us wrapped up in it, wanting to see what happens next. She catches a lot of the way a lot of this looks, sounds, and feels and seemed to understand something of the many ways of experiencing it.
Everything in the Newark story rings so many bells I wouldn’t know where to start. But as in Newark, many of our (DC) schools have not done a good job and are badly in need of reform. Simplistic thinking may favor business-like notions like “fire everyone and start fresh”, but not only is this unlikely to lead to the desired results, it puts the whole “blowback” mechanism into play.
“School reform” appears to be an idea that everyone favors– it cuts across political, ethnic, social, economic lines– who is in favor of bad schools or poor learning? But the “school reform movement” that is currently in vogue does indeed carry lots of overtones that are not as widely appreciated. Russakof mentioned some of these overtones: the “missionary” approach; the deliberate decision not to consult with stakeholders; the secretive decision-making and then surprise announcements.
Washington DC, under the “school reform” as directed by Michelle Rhee and now Kaya Henderson, has put DC through much of the same game plan as described for Newark.
–Lots of central office firings, to the point where there were almost no departments (like math, english, social studies etc) any more.
–Million dollar consultants, most with very limited experience or knowledge but seemingly unlimited confidence that they knew the “right way”.
–Plenty of reliance on Teach for America (here come the young missionaries, putting in their 2 years, most of them overconfident because they took a crash teaching course in the summer).
–New evaluation system called “IMPACT” that rates many teachers based on how well their students do on high-stakes testing (as judged by a mysterious formula that they would never share, implying that we wouldn’t be able to understand this sophisticated formula!)– oh yes, and also based on pop-in observations to rate the teachers on how well they perform on 10 teaching behavior criteria– at least according the the folks they had trained to use their checklist.
–The massive firing of principals is also a part of this as well– if your school’s test results don’t improve enough you’re out.
–So not any wonder that all of this leads to cheating on tests– but hey, in DC Michelle Rhee had the gall to basically deny that it was happening (she refused to allow for a full investigation, and even hid the letter that was written after a preliminary investigation).
Well there’s a lot more but you get the drift. I want to say I don’t have “the answer” either, if there is one. I have a few thoughts and questions:
— There are LOTS of intelligent and hardworking folks teaching and working in our schools; given the right environment and leadership they will work their butts off to improve their school or at least some aspect or part of it. Especially if they feel like they are a member of a team that’s working together! Why not invite teachers and staff to be partners in school improvement, instead of seeing them as subjects to test and experiment with?
— As a nation we have to take a harder look at what is happening in our schools. (We might first look at whether the schools ARE “ours”– there is such a strong movement to privatize schools, and at least some of this has less to do with school reform and more to do with investment opportunities.) But as all of the Brown v Board + 60 years discussions have pointed out, we are re-segregating our schools, right along with our neighborhoods and communities. At the same time my understanding of the research is that true integration of schools (economically, ethnically, etc) is one of the most effective forms of school improvement. And the Supremes really had it right the first time: separate is not equal. So– do we really want to reform schools? If so a small step in that direction might be to really think of all schools, and all students, as “ours”.
— Here’s a wacky idea I had the other day. We know we’re screwing up the education of millions of students right now, and there is little prospect of getting it right next week. So shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to make it easy/possible/acceptable to get whatever you need in the way of an education at almost any age? Anyway we seem to have trouble finding jobs for everyone, maybe a whole chunk of jobs could consist of going to school– or teaching students of all ages who want to learn something?
— There are lots of reasons to despair but what gives me hope is that old question/bike title: “What do I do Monday?” In some form we’re still going to have teachers and students meeting in some sort of school, they will connect in some way, and I am confident that many of these interactions will be human, humane, and enlightening for all involved, no matter what silly educational program or approach is in current vogue. Something good will come out of this. At least until they decide that everyone should just learn at a computer screen.
(Sorry for the length of this!)
Bob T said:
Oops. That’s book title not bike title.