Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Upon starting to research this topic, the first thing that I typed into Google was “special education teaching solutions.” Something that I came across that I wasn’t really expecting was a company called “Simple Solutions.” They sell software programs supposedly designed to be able to accommodate students at all levels of learning with their “universal design strategy.” Basically, it “supplements the curriculum by providing daily distributed practice.” They claim that if teachers use this product in their classrooms with special education students, these students will be better prepared to understand the general curriculum and keep up in the classroom with other students because of the practice they get from this program. I didn’t quite understand the specifics of this product, and chose to move on to different research because this was not what I was looking for. I wanted actual teaching methods, not a product that you can buy. Especially after having read the “Heart to Heart” segment, this website seemed like an easy way out for special education teachers that may not even work that well.
I then came across the "National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)", which was established in 2004 with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). I was glad to see that there is research being devoted to this issue: “Since 2006, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has funded more than 150 research grants through the National Center for Special Education Research.” The site listed several research initiatives that are currently being done and have already been done, and though I wasn’t able to really obtain as much information on the results of these initiatives as I would have liked, I was pleased with the array of different things going on in this area of education. With these grants and this research happening, I believe that one day children with disabilities will truly be able to get the education that they deserve.
-Efficient Implementation of ideas without any politics
-Teachers teach the same cohort of students, essentially "growing" with the students
-Country perceive development of education as "nation-building"
-Decisions are made by teachers and educators and never by business professionals-turned educators.
-Have standardized exams frequently only for confidential evaluation and never released to the public
-Have a nationalized curriculum but with no government intervention on pedagogy
-Marry the belief that education is about cooperation and sharing, not competition (US)
Here is an interesting comment that should give us more perspective on a US education:
"The Hechinger Report: How did Finland do it? Sahlberg: Most educational ideas that we are employing are initially from the United States. They're American innovations done in a Finnish way. You know, in the United States, there are more than enough ideas, there's superior knowledge about educational change and you speak a language that has global reach. "
There are many problems in American Education that we face everyday. One problem that has always been on my mind had much to do with the attrition rate of teachers. Having gone to inner-city schools where fights almost always broke out, bullying took place, and a place where students can care less about getting an education, I have seen teachers break down, lose their cool, and leave their post within the next semester. I have witnessed teachers get pushed around by not only their students, but their colleagues for being "weak". The fact that they weren't tough enough to handle their students properly and deal with overwhelming issues that teachers usually deal with, definitely made it easy for others to poke fun at them. It is this issue of education that needs to be addressed and dealt with properly.
In the Article "Problems Facing American Education" by Ashley Boyer, Boyer addresses the fact that one major problem that American Education faces is the high attrition rate of first-time teachers. In the article, Boyer describes that many first-time teachers see teaching as a fun, laid back job, where in reality, it is a very demanding profession. Besides coming up with a lesson plan and teaching students material to help them pass standardized tests, first-time teachers do not take into consideration other responsibilities that almost always get dumped on them. Some of these responsibilities include being involved in Prom, the yearbook, Sports, etc. The fact that teachers have more responsibilities than expected, it is easy for one to understand why first-time teachers have such a difficult time coping with this demanding profession. According to Boyer, there is no "cure all" medicine that teachers can take to rid themselves of all of their problems. Although there is no one simple solution, there are steps that schools, teachers, and districts can take in order to solve this problem-- create a strong and successful support system and offer introductory foundations classes.
Because first-time teachers are new, they do not have the support of their colleagues to help them overcome the issues that they continue to face. Because of this, many first-time teachers leave their post after a couple of years. Teachers need the support of not only their colleagues, but of their students and parents to help them carry on with their profession.
Introductory foundations classes may also serve as a step to a solution for it prepares first-time teachers for issues that they may face in and outside of the classroom. Since the course is based on case-studies, first-time teachers are given situations and are walked through how to solve these problems properly and efficiently. I personally think that by creating a support system for teachers and by providing these intro foundations course, we can solve these problems that American education faces by solving it one step at a time.
As the article reveals, Prevention Institute focuses on ending violence through a more comprehensive approach rather than the simple act of strengthening law enforcement. Prevention Institute works at multiple levels – from community organizers to legislators – to ensure that the city is working together to end violence. They also work on different levels of intervention – violence “upfront”, “in the thick”, and the “aftermath”. Thus, there work doesn’t end at one point but continues until violence can be successfully reduced.
The CeaseFire Chicago model is one of the models that really follows the ideas outlined by the Prevention Institute. Statistics have shown that CeaseFire was able to reduce shootings and killings in CeaseFire zones by 41-73%. They have also been able to end retaliation murders in 5 out of neighborhoods. They do so by bringing in community members to become gang interrupters that actively seek out folks and try to appease any conflicts. They also collaborate with the city to ensure that violence is understood and actively being fought against at many different levels.
Thus, these two programs makes me think about how ending violence is possible with the right framework in mind. Rather than believing that we are all meant to compete with another in this world, these two programs show that issues in education, such as violence, can be addressed if we all work together on multiple levels to end these problems. I truly admire the violence interrupters in CeaseFire because they struggle everyday to try and make sure violence does not occur. Many of them are people who come from those communities and are trying to actively end the problems they’ve dealt with in their own lives so that others do not have to go through the same thing. To me, they truly come from a place of love for their communities – a love similar to what bell hooks was thinking of.
A hot topic discussed in the education arena is charter schools. I have definitely been drawn to this as it's been discussed in the previous team facilitations. It's also something that highly interests me because I attended Oakland Military Institute, a charter school in Oakland, that I personally think was unsuccessful. That's why I have mixed feelings about this push for charter schools, and the New York Times article discusses some of these mixed feelings. However, because of this push for charter schools, the topic has definitely come to my attention, and I've been wanting to learn more about it. Recently, Waiting for Superman came out. Although I have not watched the movie, I know it's very controversial and discusses Harlem charter schools that have been successful such as KIPP.
This past weekend, I got to have a very deep conversation with a friend who's in the Teach for America program. He's currently working with students with Aspergers, and he's have a wonderful time in TFA. As a graduate from UC Berkeley, I got to ask about his experience in Education 190 and talked about the social change account where I got to ask him how he was using education as a vehicle for social change. We talked a lot about charter schools, and he brought up how he wants to work at KIPP for a few years to gain experience before working for school administrations. The topic of KIPP intrigued me because I heard about it in high school and how successful it was. I really liked the model of the schol, and I can see why many charter schools use it as a model. My friend said he advocates for charter schools but only if they are like KIPP. KIPP definitely has an amazing track record and it's amazing how it's keeping low-income students of color off the streets and into higher education. I had my doubts about charter schools, but I have to agree that if charter schools can be on the same level as KIPP all over the nation, then charter schools will be the way to go. However, right now, there's no standardization in these charter schools and they are free to do whatever they want. Moreover, I have noticed that many of the charter schools in Oakland are unsuccessful because they replace public schools that failed. Some even move into the old public school property and just change the name to a charter school to get different types of funding. I don't think charter schools like that work and just increase the problems education already has. Not only does KIPP have great teachers who definitely care about the students, but KIPP also has uniforms. Although I went to a school with uniform, I hated it, but I can definitely see the benefits of uniform. It takes away something that differentiates students and decreases bullying due to one's lack of money to purchase the best clothes. When it comes down to it, KIPP emphasizes high achievement, so if all the students care about this the most, then there's potential for success as seen in these schools. Moreover, KIPP schools are from K-12, which definitely incubates students for success in life and higher education. In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about this huge push for charter schools based on my own experiences, but if all charter schools can model that of KIPP's and if there's standardization across the board for all charter schools to be successful and meet standards, then I support charter schools.
Monday, April 18, 2011
A solution that has been catching my eye for the past year or so has been the Harlem Children's Zone Project, led by Geoffrey Canada (who was featured in 'Waiting for Superman'). The Project began in the 1990's, starting with just one block in poverty-ravaged Harlem. It provided a slew of support and resources to address the area's biggest concerns, and has now grown to serve almost 100 blocks of the city. What I really admire about the approach - and perhaps this is biased by my interest in health/medicine and the holistic approach learned in public health courses I've taken - is that the project serves not only the children and students, but also the adults in the area. It surpasses serving the pure academic needs, and reaches further to address issues such as obesity and how to best manage asthma. It also provides parenting workshops, and targets parents with children as young as ages 0-3. I think it's great that the program targets so many different components of the community it serves - especially as early on as it does - in its mission to surround developing children with a positive environment that supports higher education and increased opportunity. Another aspect of the program that makes it stand out to me is that they offer all of their services free - a quality that realistically speaking, is challenging to achieve but so necessary when the demographic to serve does not have the extra resources to spend on participating in these programs, beneficial as they may be in the long run.
In the end, what HCZ is doing seems like one of the most sustainable solutions because it is involved past the age group of students it originally had planned to serve and includes the entire community, which is an amazing first step towards building support in multiple sectors of the population that will enhance the development of the social change it hopes to achieve.
Research a present solution to an issue in Education that is on your mind from this class. Attach the research and discuss what you learned using the readings from class.
An issue that has been on my mind while being within this class is the inequality that exists within the education system. The article I came across touched more upon the inequalities between the white and black population within the U.S. I thought it was a generally informing article, but I don’t really like that it so specific about the ethnicities. I felt like it ignored many of the other minorities that struggle with a lot of the same issues. It doesn’t really bother me that much, but I was just a bit surprised that it did not mention any other races except the differences between the black and white communities. But anyways, this article talked about many of the socioeconomic issues that come along with certain types of people succeeding and not succeeding. Within this reading it mentioned that “whites tend to have parents who have high levels of education, occupational status, and income than do blacks.” With referring back to history, the Jim Crow Laws attempted to lay out the notion of “separate but equal,” but of course this did not live up the a true standard of equality. African Americans still experienced a great amount of discrimination pertaining to various educational and socioeconomic disadvantages. A large portion of the white population has always experienced this sense of privilege, so they have not had to deal with being oppressed in this manner. This in turn made a big difference in the educational outcomes between the two communities. And when people are set in a mold of most likely not to succeed, sometimes they are bound to this idea and they stay there. I think that is one of our major problems here. If someone comes from a poorer socioeconomic status and they are aware that their race is “not supposed” to become successful, it is not likely that they will step out of this mold that they have been placed into without their consent.