20 de maio de 2018

Democracy Prep: “No Excuses” Schools that Build Citizens? by larrycuban

Professors, pundits, and Cassandras intone that democracy is dying. Global surveys of nations show that democratic processes, rights, and responsibilities have taken hits over the last decade. No longer is the U.S. A Nation at Risk (1983), now democracies are at risk. Including America, say  historians and social scientists (see here).
Since the early 20th century, Progressive educators--think John DeweyElla Flagg YoungGeorge CountsWilliam Kilpatrick, and later in the same century Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier--have seen schools as cradles, nay, crucibles of democracy. And over the past century, such schools committed to civic engagement and building citizens out of children and youth have, to varying degrees, made that commitment part of their daily program (see herehere, and here).
With the shadow cast from A Nation at Risk, preparation for global competitiveness has turned U.S. schooling, both K-12 and higher education, into a new vocationalism where students are expected to emerge equipped with knowledge and skills to enter the information-saturated workplace. All well and good since preparation for jobs has historically been part of the American Dream and mission of tax-supported schools. But so has building citizens been a priority in that mission--as parents, educators, and tax-payers have said repeatedly (see herehere, and here).
One charter school network has elevated that commitment to its central mission: Democracy Prep.
History of network
Beginning in 2006 with a handful of sixth grade classes in various schools, the network of Democracy Prep schools has grown to 6,500 students--called "scholars" by DP staff--in 22 schools (with most in New York City and the rest spread across various states. In these lottery-driven, open enrollment schools nearly all are minority and eligible for free and reduced lunch--the measure of poverty used in public schools. The network's goal is:
Our mission is to educate responsible citizen-scholars for success in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship.
Its motto is: "Work Hard. Go to College. Change the World."
Democracy Prep is a "No Excuses" school--- of a kind such as the national charter network of Kipp schools and Success Academy (New York City charter school network)--closely managing student behavior and a teacher-directed manner of classroom instruction. As one article put it:
At Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School, a sixth grade math teacher started her class by giving her students exactly four minutes to solve a problem involving ratios. When her watch beeped, homework was collected and all eyes turned to the front of the room.
"Pencils in the groove and you're tracking me in three, two, one and zero," she said, using a term common among charter schools where students are frequently instructed to "track" a speaker with steady eye contact and full attention.
Almost everything on a recent visit to a Democracy Prep charter was highly disciplined. Students spoke only when their teachers allowed them. They could lose points for talking out of turn, or chatting in the halls between classes.
Democracy Prep is among several charter networks with a "no excuses" philosophy. Like other charter schools the days are long, running from 7:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and the academics rigorous. But there is also a culture of discipline that can cut both ways. In some schools, and with some families, the tough approach has worked well while for others it has prompted students to leave....
"No excuses means that there’s no excuse for our kids not being successful in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship," said Seth Andrew, founder and Superintendent of Democracy Prep....
"Active citizenship" is wrapped into the school curriculum, classroom instruction and regular activities in the community. As the evaluation report said (for full report, click "download publication"):
Democracy Prep encourages civic behavior in students through a variety of curricular and experiential means, including visiting legislators, attending public meetings, testifying before legislative bodies, and discussing influential essays on civics and government. Each election day students participate in a “Get Out the Vote” campaign. Students receive tee-shirts and pamphlets with the slogan “I Can’t Vote, but You Can!” and canvass highly frequented street corners to distribute the message.... As seniors, students enroll in a capstone course in which they develop a “Change the World” project to investigate a real-world social problem, design a method for addressing the issue, and implement their plan....
The clearest indicators of Democracy Prep’s success in promoting civic engagement are the extent to which its students register to vote and participate in elections after they reach age 18. In this report, we measure the impact of Democracy Prep on the key civic outcomes of voter registration and participation in elections. We use Democracy Prep’s randomized admissions lotteries to conduct a gold standard experimental analysis that distinguishes Democracy Prep’s effect from the effects of families, students, and other outside factors....
Does concentrating on civic engagement in such "no excuses" schools, then, --where behavioral rules are strictly enforced and teachers' direct instruction dominate--make a difference in Democracy Prep's graduates' behavior in registering to vote and actually voting?
According to an independent evaluation released recently, the answer is "yes."
Two key findings are:
  • We find a 98 percent probability that enrolling in Democracy Prep produced a positive impact on voter registration, and a 98 percent probability that enrolling produced a positive impact on voting in the 2016 election.
  • Democracy Prep increases the voter registration rates of its students by about 16 percentage points and increases the voting rates of its students by about 12percentage points.
Yes, this is only study of Democracy Prep's outcomes on actual civic participation. And, yes, again the positive effects on adult graduates behavior in registering and voting in an election is one striking outcome but how many served on juries, participated in community organizations, ran for local office, met with neighborhood and city officials, wrote letters, etc. --remain unmeasured outcomes for these alumni.
I also was puzzled by the contradiction between the 'no excuses" regime in the school and the lack of efforts to introduce democratic practices into classroom and school cultures. Life in school, as Dewey's Lab School and other similar schools over the past century have shown can have strong student participation and voice.  Yet in such "no excuse" schools without such student voice and participation, there were positive outcomes in registering to vote and actual voting. I wonder how those past and present progressive educators would explain this apparent contradiction.

larrycuban | May 20, 2018 at 1:00 am | 

11 de maio de 2018

Can You Be a ‘Good Teacher’ Inside a Failing School? (JennyAbamu) by larrycuban

This article appeared in EdSurge, April 2, 2018
“Jenny Abamu is an education technology reporter at EdSurge where she covers technology's role in both higher education and K-12 spaces. She previously worked at Columbia University’s EdLab’s Development and Research Group, producing and publishing content for their digital education publication, New Learning Times. Before that, she worked as a researcher, planner, and overnight assignment editor for NY1 News Channel in New York City. She holds a Masters degree in International and Comparative Education from Columbia University's Teacher's College.”
Here’s a popular movie plot: Great teacher goes into a troubled neighborhood and turns around a low-performing school. Educators love the messages from these films, and even children are inspired. Unfortunately, many school districts never find the Coach Carters or Erin Gruwells who bring such happy endings. In fact, in a broken district such as Detroit’s, schools in hard-bitten neighborhoods sometimes go from “turnarounds” to closure.

Fisher Magnet Upper Academy is a middle school located within one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, stricken with poverty and crime. In 2013, local news reportsnamed the area the third most violent zip code in America. In 2016, Fisher was named one of the 38 campuses at risk of closure after the Michigan legislature passed a bill saying any school ranked at the bottom 5 percent of state campuses for three years in a row would be subject to consequences.
Despite a relatively new building, constructed in 2003 as part of a former superintendent’s turnaround project, Fisher has suffered from consistent low performance—falling far below state standards on exams and adjusted growth targets designed specifically for the school. During the 2015-16 school year, only 0.7 percent (3 out of 451) of students met state standards in math, and only 4.5 percent met English Language Arts standards.
Carl Brownlee, a former United States Marine officer, is a middle school social studies teacher at Fisher Magnet Upper Academy. He has been teaching at Fisher for over 10 years. He believes changes in academic performance can happen in a struggling school like Fisher but says he has only seen it happen in the movies.
“The only person I have seen that had the ability change this type of climate and culture was Joe Clark, or Morgan Freeman in that movie, ‘Lean On Me,’” says Brownlee. That doesn’t mean he thinks improvements are implausible, though. He says: “I think there were some good ideas that movie that you could translate into schools.”
Brownlee believes that he is a good teacher, in spite of what test scores may reflect. And he feels as though his students have been slighted by ineffective teachers in the past. So he plans to stay at Fisher, where he hopes to bring advanced teaching skills to students that other educators may ignore.
“My children are being cheated because they are not given the same experiences as their counterparts in other schools, and that’s not fair,” says Brownlee. “That’s one of the reasons I stay where I am at.”
As students trickle in Brownlee’s classroom on a Friday morning, he stands by the door to greet each of them. He instructs them to grab their work folders and get into groups. The 6th, 7th and 8th graders entering Brownlee’s class in their uniforms are respectful, quiet and—though naturally distracted from time to time with whispers and giggles—appear to be on task. They ask questions and support one another as they move around in groups through learning stations Brownlee has set up in class.
Technology has a role to play in Brownlee’s effort as well. Using the free version of tools such as Edmodo, Kahoot, and Google Forms, Docs and sometimes Slides, Brownlee varies his lessons on topics such as Chinese history and the Missouri Compromise. He opens up classes with hip-hop education from Flocabulary, then goes into worksheets, videos, group assignments, and desktop assignments—incorporating cell phone apps and music in the activities. He constantly walks around the room, refocusing off-task students and offering feedback on their work. His classroom does not fit the “before” image in most romanticized school turnaround stories.
“The skill sets that I have, I like to use them with these young people instead of going to another school where you might get the test scores that people are asking for,” Brownlee continues, noting that he is not looking to teach the “ideal student” in an exemplary school. “My kids don’t come from that, so I try to hang in there and do my best. They need it. They deserve it.”'
By “doing his best” Brownlee means constantly learning, often looking for resources outside of the district for support. He is also trying to incorporate more personalization into his classroom, noting that the State Department of Education has embraced the implementation of such instructional models.
Since Fisher does not have enough Chromebooks for every student, teachers share a cart of laptops that travel from class to class. Teachers also combine technical and non-technical ways of personalizing instruction. For Brownlee, part of personalization means gauging the social and emotional well-being of students each morning, so he knows how to approach them throughout the lesson.
“Are they ready for school work? You might have [a student] come in who just had a loved one die the night before. We have had that on many occasions. They still come to school,” explains Brownlee. “You can’t just go into teaching when they come into the classroom if you don’t know where they are at.”
To meet students where they are, Brownlee has a couple of go-to tools. He uses apps such as Quizlet to encourage students to learn independently. In addition, he uses Edpuzzle when students are having a hard time with particular topics in class. The app allows them to rewatch annotated video lessons.
“I have done it with several of our resource students,” Brownlee explains, noting how one struggling 7th-grader has been showing improvement since using apps like Edmodo and Edpuzzle. “He comes to class every day, and you can see that he is trying. He wants to understand what is going on. He likes to look at the videos, and his effort is starting to show in his work. You get a little joy when you see them getting it.”
Brownlee also has digital portfolios that he uses to track student mastery and growth, something all teachers in his school incorporate. Yet, he notes that this method has yielded mixed results, particularly since many teachers serve a large number of students--and struggle to keep records up to date.
Brownlee works with 198 students daily and admits its difficult for him and other teachers to add student work to the portfolios consistently. “It’s just very difficult when you have so many students to try to personalize for each one,” he says. “You can tailor for each student, but only to a certain extent.”
Despite the difficulties, Brownlee has not given up trying to tailor instruction for his students. He makes time to celebrate the small gains he sees students making, like the lessons he teaches that students remember long after they graduate. But he admits that there are days that he gets tired, particularly noting the difficulties keeping up with changes in the district.
His district has flipped between state and local control over the years and has had a number of different superintendents and principals; most of them bring new initiatives with them. This school year Brownlee has a new superintendent and a new school principal, but real-world challenges facing students in and out of his school continues. He is cautiously hopeful that things can in improve, but the familiarity of changes that don’t yield academic results is haunting— causing him to work overtime with his happy-ending out of sight.
“No matter what you do you are still going to be accountable for the test score. It does not matter if the students just came from another school or district. It does not matter if they came to you four grades behind, if that child’s family is impoverished, or if the child has any type of learning disability that may be undiagnosed,” says Brownlee. “It is more like a professional football team. If the team does not win, it is the coach’s fault, and the coach is fired.”

larrycuban | May 11, 2018 

6 de maio de 2018

Jean-Michel Blanquer: "La escuela debe transmitir los saberes fundamentales: leer, escribir, contar y respetar"

Ricardo Braginski, Clarin, 6-5-2018

El ministro de Educación de Francia impulsa una reforma desde la primera infancia. Y propone retomar estrategias pedagógicas clásicas, como el dictado y la memorización.  

El ministro de Educación de Francia Jean-Michel Blanquer va contra toda regla del marketing político. Ganó popularidad entre los franceses hablando sobre “aprendizajes” y “ciencias cognitivas”, a tal punto que hoy es el funcionario con mejor imagen en el gabinete de Emmanuel Macron. Impulsa una ambiciosa reforma educativa, que se centra en el nivel inicial y los primeros años de la primaria, y que toma en cuenta la comparación internacional y la investigación, en particular las ciencias cognitivas. Estuvo en Argentina participando de las primeras reuniones del G20.

Señas particulares. Jean-Michel Blanquer es observado en todo el mundo por las reformas educativas que está llevando a cabo en Francia. En enero participó de un programa de política en la televisión francesa y su buena imagen se disparó. Salió en las tapas de distintas revistas, que lo presentaron como “la nueva estrella” o “el vicepresidente”. Antes de ser funcionario, Blanquer fue profesor y director de escuela. También escribió dos libros en los que detalla su propuesta educativa.

- La educación en Francia tiene similitudes con la Argentina: a más inversión no se consiguen mejores resultados. ¿Por qué sucede?
- Hay distintos factores. En primer lugar, la falta de atención que tuvo la primera infancia. Hoy vemos de manera muy clara que aquello que no se hace durante los primeros años de vida -hasta los 7 u 8 años- difícilmente se logre después. Y por eso hay que darle prioridad a lo que en Francia llamamos “la escuela maternal”, que va de los 3 a los 6 años. Con el presidente Macron decidimos que en Francia será obligatoria desde 2019. En la escuela primaria se debe transmitir los saberes fundamentales, que son leer, escribir, contar y respetar al otro.
- ¿Tienen suficiente presupuesto para garantizar escuelas y docentes para todos los chicos de 3 años?
- Sí. Nos va a costar un poco, pero hoy más del 95% de esos chicos ya van a la escuela en Francia. Son más de 20 mil los que no van. Pero lo más importante es que va a haber un cambio cualitativo de esa escuela maternal. La vamos a pensar como una escuela del lenguaje. Porque, debido a las circunstancias familiares, la primera desigualdad que hay entre los chicos es la del acceso al lenguaje. La escuela maternal debe compensar eso, con juegos, música, métodos que permiten al niño enriquecer su vocabulario. Es clave para la adquisición de la lectura y la escritura.
Jardin Rodante. Todos al pizarrón.
Chicos jugando en el pizarrón de un jardín rodante.
- ¿Usted hizo críticas a la pedagogía de los últimos años? ¿En qué consisten y cómo lo piensan cambiar?
- La pedagogía como disciplina es clave para tener éxito en el sistema educativo. Creo que tiene que ir evolucionando con la práctica en el terreno y con investigación de alto nivel. Ahora hay una revolución científica, que es la revolución de las ciencias cognitivas. Sabemos muchas más cosas sobre el cerebro humano y los mecanismos de aprendizaje de lo que sabíamos diez años atrás. Entonces no podemos seguir con los mismos discursos sobre la pedagogía, que a veces se presentan modernos pero que no lo son. Hubo debates en Francia entre clásicos y modernos. Los que están a favor del esfuerzo y los que están a favor del placer. Estos dos aspectos no deben oponerse. Debe haber exigencia y al mismo tiempo benevolencia hacia cada chico. Hay que superar falsas oposiciones pedagógicas.
- ¿Por qué usted propuso volver al dictado y a la memorización?
- El dictado no es algo del pasado. Hay veinte maneras de hacer un dictado y todas pueden ser muy inteligentes. No tiene por qué ser aburrido: puede ser un juego. El dictado es un ejercicio muy útil para que el niño entienda la lógica del lenguaje. Puedo decir lo mismo sobre la memorización. El cerebro del niño es muy capaz, por ejemplo, de aprender otro idioma muy temprano.
Salió ganando la maestra.
Los expertos en educación debaten entre las formas de aprendizaje clásicas y modernas.
- Cómo tienen que ser formados y seleccionados los docentes?
- Todos los países necesitan que la profesión docente sea atractiva, porque el docente es clave. Una sociedad con buena salud es aquella donde el profesor es central, donde hay respeto hacia él por parte de padres, instituciones y alumnos.
- ¿Cree que el salario tiene que estar atada al rendimiento del docente?
- Lo importante dar incentivos cuando hacen algo especial, cuando van a los barrios difíciles, o en lugares lejanos. Para mí lo mejor sería entrar en una lógica donde haya recompensas no para un individuo sino para los equipos que alcanzan progresos.
- ¿Lo están implementando?
- Es una idea que se va a discutir en Francia. La profesión de profesor no es solo individual sino también colectiva. Sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que los alumnos deben ser vistos en su globalidad.
Jean Michel Blanquer, ministro de Educación de Francia (Juano Tesone).
Jean Michel Blanquer, ministro de Educación de Francia (Juano Tesone).
- ¿A qué atribuye su popularidad?
- Bueno, la popularidad es algo muy frágil. Lo que me parece muy importante es que haya una fuerte confianza de la sociedad hacia la escuela. Ese es mi objetivo, más allá de los cambios políticos o pedagógicos. Es lo que le estoy diciendo a la sociedad francesa, y por eso tal vez tengo este apoyo. Me gustaría mucho, después de 5 años, poder decir que hemos creado un nuevo círculo virtuoso de confianza de la sociedad con sus escuelas. Los dos principales factores de éxito de un sistema educativo son la formación de los maestros y la buena relación entre las familias y la escuela.
- ¿Cree que puede llegar a ser presidente algún día?
-No, no es el objetivo. El objetivo es ser ministro de Educación.
- ¿Qué puede aportar el G20 a la educación?
- La educación es un tema muy local, muy nacional y muy internacional, todo al mismo tiempo. Y no se oponen estas tres dimensiones. Es una cuestión cotidiana entre el maestro y el alumno, pero es también una cuestión mundial e internacional porque todos los países tenemos los mismos retos: qué hacer, qué transmitir, cómo concebimos la escuela en el mundo tecnológico, etcétera. El G20 puede ayudar a compartir lo que está bien en cada uno de los países.

5 de maio de 2018

Corruption that Kills: Why Mexico Needs an International Mechanism to Combat Impunity

Corruption that Kills: Why Mexico Needs an International Mechanism to Combat Impunity

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In 2017, Mexico experienced its deadliest year in two decades, with homicides exceeding 25,000. Despite the many crimes which have been committed in Mexico, however, criminal accountability still remains virtually absent. The extraordinary violence Mexico is experiencing, and the questions it raises about collusion between state actors and organized crime, demand a commensurate response.
This report calls for an international mechanism—based inside the country, but comprised of national and international staff—which would have a mandate to independently investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes and the corrupt acts that enable them. This report follows the Open Society Justice Initiative’s 2016 report, Undeniable Atrocities, which found reasonable basis to believe that Mexican federal forces and members of the Zetas cartel have perpetrated crimes against humanity.
Corruption That Kills was produced by the Open Society Justice Initiative in partnership with eight Mexican organizations: the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, the Diocesan Center for Human Rights Fray Juan de Larios, Families United for the Search of Disappeared Persons, Piedras Negras/Coahuila, I(dh)eas Human Rights Strategic Litigationos, the Mexican Institute of Human Rights and Democracy, Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, the Foundation for Justice and Rule of Law, and PODER.