Monday, March 27, 2006

Got it Bad, So Bad, I'm Hot For Teacher...

Thinking about my blog this weekend and those whom I'm hoping are going to click over and read it, I've decided to introduce each of the blogs on my blogroll to those who may not be familiar with them or the blogosphere in general. I'll employ a phased approach to this by linking to posts that "cross over" from what I commonly refer to as my New York friends to my non-New York friends and family.

This week, Jason Chervokas who writes Trickster! posts an excellent article on the No Child Left Behind Act.

I am surrounded by teachers in my life. My father has spent his post military retirement career teaching at the collegiate level and many years of his active duty service teaching and in administration at the military academy at West Point. I have a brother who has taught high school to New York's incarcerated, New York's elite high school kids, and New York's junior college pre-adults (he should write a blog about the differences in these various student bodies. I'm sure at times he felt there was no distinction between any of them). I also have a sister who is half way through a masters in education and is planning to teach 7-8th grade (proof that she is truly insane). My wife and I have some good friends who are teachers as well. Our good friend and next door neighbor is an up and comer in the Georgia state system and is an extremely energetic and engaging teacher.

Me, I know exactly jack squat about the art of teaching having spent most of my adolescence and teenage years avoiding teachers and their classrooms, but I have a four year old now and must play catch up to ensure my kid gets the best education possible (how else will she grab that appointment to West Point right?). Recognizing my severe shortcomings on this topic, I pay close attention to my friends, family, and media analysis regarding education and public schools. I'm determined to learn as much as I can.

I have heard a great deal about No Child Left Behind from my group of sources here. I find Jason’s take particularly interesting for two reasons: One, the guy is like a walking Google of knowledge on so many subjects he seems inhuman. Two, he is perhaps the GOP and the Bush administration’s harshest critic and when the guy passes on props to our sitting president or his policies either they’re playing hockey in hell, or he’s speaking of what he sees as real results of this controversial program.

So take a look and let him and me know what you think. And if you feel up to it, take a look at some of his other posts. He's a great writer whom I enjoy reading whether I agree with him or not.

P.S. If you have any interest in the history of popular music, check out Jason’s Podcast “Down In The Flood”. Shear brilliance. If you don’t learn something, you’re not listening.


At 3:27 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

There are some serious problems with NCLB, which are too numerous to get into here, but some of them are:

1. control of schools' fates being taken out of the hands of state or local governments and put into the hands of the federal government - without federal funding

2. chance for private (often religious) schools to start receiving taxpayer money

3. successful schools that are taking on students from unsuccessful schools do not get extra funding... and the successful school is now expected to boost the scores of these new students or see their rating go down as well

4. serious conflict of interest issues when corporations start running schools

There are more, but the primary complaint seems to be that the federal government is mandating a "one size fits all" standard that doesn't take into account social or economic causes of poor student development. It's also seen as a highly politicized back door approach to privatizing all education.

At 4:25 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

Roger Waters already said it all in '79. I have nothing to add except that I found college such an exceptional place to score chicks that I stayed for ten years.

At 5:04 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger Tony Alva said...

Understood, but at least for Jason, who probably agrees with you more on partisan issues overall, AND is a teacher himself, he seems to indicate that, while not perfect, the program seems to be having some positive effect. How do you respond to his perspective?

At 5:16 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

Well, he's teaching journalism to undergrads at NYU, one of the most expensive, sought after, and overrated schools in the country. That doesn't really give him much insight into NCLB. He hasn't done any time in a public school under NCLB, as far as I can tell.

I don't see where he is saying the NCLB is having a positive effect. He's saying that he sees a lot of variation among his undergrad students, which he thinks) NCLB would address, but in practice I don't see how it's possible. There are simply too many variables when it comes to public education to hold everyone to the same standard and then cut funding to schools who need it most (ie, the ones that are performing the worst). Education belongs im the hands of the local government.

At 7:25 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger Jason said...

Chrispy, actually I'm teaching CUNY students--pretty shabby public univeristy, not that it should make a difference.

My principal rant regards the importance of a single set of standards (a "cookie cutter" approach some might demur) and the value of testing as a benchmark. Unfunded mandates should be a crime. Diverting taxpayer dollars to religious schools IS a crime. Privatization of schools doesn't work.

But a single benchmark should be the minimum we require of our students. And testing shouldn't be viewed as punative. It can be diagnostic with results pointing out where resources need to go, which is precisely the process the NYT piece seems to describe taking place.


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