The state of Michigan has been undergoing what legislators and the media have defined as Educational Reform. As a teacher I have felt that it has been an attack on my profession, by belittling our jobs, effort and intentions. In the name of this reform teacher’s unions have been attacked, school funding has been slashed, students are tested more and the value of a teacher’s teaching lie in these test scores. For profit charter schools have been popping up like zits on the middle school students I teach. Self-proclaimed “Educational Reform” experts Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee have flocked to the state to promote their “system” of reforms. Conservative, business centric think tanks continue to lobby for more “reforms” that reduce the judgement of a classroom teachers turning them over to untrained legislators and corporate interests. Most recently proposing the outsourcing of teaching positions. All in the name of Educational Reform. I ask myself: Is this reform? Are the reforming educational practices?
To start we need the definition of “reform”: Make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it. – Webster’s Dictionary.
Well the so-called reformers say they are going to make it better by tearing apart the old system and building it anew. Should this be done by parties with financial interests at stake? Most reform movement add money to the “thing” they are changing , not take it away, unless it is a financial reform.
So how is “education”: defined: The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, esp. at a school or university: “A new system of public education.” or The theory and practice of teaching. – Webster’s dicitonary
Are the reformers changing how teachers instruct? Some, teachers now have their practice of teaching interrupted by testing and test preparation activities. Most of the changes here in Michigan are less about educational practices of schools and more about the financial practices of the school districts. The reforms have also attacked the lobbying body for teachers (unions) in hopes of pushing all of the “reforms” through the legislative body without resistance. I would define all of this reform as Financial Reform, with the only beneficiary being corporations.
When searching for educational reform I ask: Is there any REAL educational reform out there?
From my vantage point I see many leaders of TRUE educational reform: None of which are driving state or federal policy but all should be recognized as leading the educational reform movement. Here is an incomplete list of three positive educational reform movements:
- EdCamps – “organic, participant driven professional development for K-12 teachers worldwide.” Edcamps are a great place to see educational reform happen. Teachers get together during their “free” time to discuss, share, teach and learn from each other about current teaching practices and issues. By having attended Edcamp, I have changed how I teach and feel that all of my students benefit. Best part about this reform movement: it is completely FREE. Nobody gets paid to be there or pays to attend. All legislators should attend an Edcamp near them to SEE a process that is changing how learning occurs in classrooms.
2. Twitter Ed Chats– Many think of twitter is a tool to keep up with Hollywood’s stars or your favorite sports team. For educators, twitter has become a place to keep current by chatting with colleagues from all over the world. There are chats going on constantly covering a wide variety of topics. Twitter helps teachers share best practices, bounce new ideas off of one another and support each other when struggles occur. Teachers also use twitter to their students how to collaborate and give their students an authentic audience.
3. Teacher Blog’s – Thousands of teachers are blogging. They are writing about an area where they are experts: TEACHING and LEARNING. The two vary things so many in society want to reform. Many teachers are writing about what needs to change in education and how to make our classrooms better learning environments. Legislators, are you listening to them? These are the experts who have NO financial interest in reforming education. Their interests are for the education of their students. Many educators disagree in the “correct” path to a better education system. In these Blogs one will find an honest debate and discussion about teaching and learning.
In the future let’s separate the two education reform movements: 1: The financial movement lead by corporate interests and 2. the teaching movement lead by educators themselves.
Who wins in the overall reform movement will reflect our nation’s values:
DO we value Education? or Money? only time will tell.