Monday, September 18, 2017

What It Means That My School Embraces Cultural Diversity by Aaron Michael Baker

Originally posted at: https://spoonvision.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/what-it-means-that-my-school-embraces-cultural-diversity/

I should clarify. I am not in a position to speak on behalf of my entire school. What follows are the implications of cultural diversity as they are apparent to me. My hope, however, is that I have earned the right to speak small truths into the theories and practices of my education colleagues both inside and outside of my building.
Last month, my middle school adopted a vision statement that includes the phrase, “…produce generations that embrace cultural diversity.” Embedded in this statement is the charge to become a school that embraces cultural diversity so that we can produce generations who do the same. But what does it mean to embrace cultural diversity? It seems innocuous enough.

The truth, however, is that the word “diversity” comes with its own set of historical baggage. Through the centuries, people from all sides of the political spectrum have rejected the virtues of a diverse society. A nineteenth century group of white abolitionists called the American Colonization Society assisted in the movement of more than 13,000 free African Americans to the newly formed west African country of Liberia. Abraham Lincoln was among the proponents of this “repatriation.” Furthermore, the colonization movement would eventually inspire the black separatist political and religious movement known as the Nation of Islam.
Conversely, The New York Times Magazine recalls how one social experiment in Virginia in the 60’s and 70’s set out to integrate an all-white private school for the express purpose of teaching the virtues of diversity to the white students who would one day become the thought leaders of a new society. Salon has a piece aptly titled, “Diversity is For White People,” which addresses the problematic ways in which the term “diversity” is used to avoid the difficulty of true anti-racism work.
So back to the question at hand. What does it mean for a school to embrace cultural diversity?
To begin with, embracing cultural diversity means both emphatically rejecting the white supremacy and white nationalism of the “alt right” and respectfully disagreeing with the black separatism of movements like the Nation of Islam. There is no place for claims of “good people on both sides” of Charlottesville. Diversity compels us to speak openly at school in opposition to any ideology that calls for the separation of people based on race. Furthermore, our curriculum should neither be Eurocentric nor Afrocentric (though a healthy dose of latter may be needed to counter the former).
Second, for a school to embrace cultural diversity means that its teachers and administrators must be equipped to have daily conversations about race with varying size groups of students. These conversations are not restricted to Social Studies classrooms. Diversity is cross-curricular. White teachers should regularly find themselves saying things like, “I am white.” Talking to a class about race can be difficult. Talking to individual students about race can be even more difficult. But it must be done if our product is a student that embraces cultural diversity.
w_culture_theme
Third, embracing cultural diversity means rejecting the re-segregation of the corporate education reform movement. We know that capitalism does not produce diverse communities. The most privileged neighborhoods and schools (mostly white) and the most under-privileged neighborhoods and schools (mostly communities of color) testify to this. It is in the lower middle class, where civic support is moderate to good and where housing is affordable, that we typically see the most diversity. The answer to the re-segregation of our inner city and suburban schools is not selective admissions and voucher programs. These only serves to exacerbate the problem. Affluent mostly white suburban schools should be looking upon lower socio-economic diverse schools with envy instead of animus.
Fourth, when we embrace cultural diversity we are embracing sanctuary for undocumented students. No one can truly embrace cultural diversity while clutching to the irrationality of xenophobia. Public schools are currently at odds with immigration policies espoused by the President of the United States. Education is about building bridges, not walls. The day that schools are required to obtain information concerning citizenship status is the day that teachers will become galvanized perhaps like never before.
Fifth, embracing cultural diversity means that on some level we acknowledge the reality of, or perhaps the need for, class warfare. This piece from The American Prospect takes the position that our society’s focus on diversity has distracted us from the real problem of economic inequality. This may very well be true, but I believe that embracing cultural diversity can also be a window to understanding class struggle. For instance, at my school, the answer to the question, “Why is our school more diverse than others?” is inherently about class and opportunity. I also believe in the possibility of a revolution of the people that begins in under-served urban schools (Reading for Revolution).

I am not na├»ve. We are not diverse because we have embraced it. Our decision to embrace cultural diversity is predicated on our student body being diverse. But regardless, we have been granted an opportunity, a gift even. For me it’s very simple, my school is a model of the kind of world I want to live in.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Camden Education Association Official Statement Re: Opening Of Kipp Whittier




At the outset and for the record, the Camden Education Association (CEA) is not interested in attacking anyone personally. Superintendent Rouhanifard, as an individual, is very likeable, intelligent and an engaging person who is very personable, approachable, and has an amazing life story. Similarly, the CEA is not focused on attacking our outgoing Governor, Chris Christie, our outgoing Mayor, Dana Redd; nor any of the elected officials attending today’s ceremony at KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy at John G. Whittier School. What we, the CEA take great opposition to is the manner in which all of the aforementioned individuals have used political connections, driven by financial and ideological interests, to exploit the Camden community; its residents, and its children.

Masked in the language of social justice and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, the Superintendent and utilized the powers given to him through the politically-orchestrated state takeover, to execute the sustained and systemic closure of our cherished public neighborhood schools to facilitate the opening of up to 15 “renaissance school” (takeover) projects. And while to the naked eye it may appear that a “new school” is opening in the Bergen Square section of the city and thus, cause to celebrate, upon further critical examination, we see today’s events as an exemplar of how the influence of distant millionaires and billionaires investing in education reform for financial gain, coupled with political cronyism, converge and preys on this community, and other low-income communities of color. Residents in this community of color did not, and do not, have a say in whether their public schools are closed or not. Residents nor students had a say when Lanning Square Elementary was closed and came back as a CMO operated, “no-excuses” takeover school bearing the name “Norcross”. Residents nor students had a say when Rouhanifard closed Raphael Cordero Molina, Pyne Poynt, McGraw, East Camden Middle, Bonsall, or Whittier and were all reopened as CMO operated, “no-excuses” takeover schools. So, if Camden residents have no say in where their children are educated, who does?

George Norcross III looms large in Camden’s arrival of corporate ran charters through the manipulation of his network of “yes-men” and “yes-women” including his brother, Donald, and the bulk of Camden’s local politicians, as well as elected officials at the state level south of Trenton. Governor Christie bears significant responsibility in silencing residents’ voices in executing the state takeover four years ago with little empirical evidence to prove this racist and ideologically-driven tactic yielded any significant or sustaining benefits for students. Certainly, Superintendent Rouhanifard shoulders blame for being a willing tool of those with more official and unofficial power than he, though it bears noting that Rouhanifard is no stranger to exclusively minority communities through his actions in Williamsburg while at the NYCDOE; his time with Camie Anderson in Newark, and certainly his time here with us. Last, but certainly not least, the influence of financial and investment gains in the spreading of corporate operated charter schools in minority communities, by outside groups like NewSchools Venture Fund, the Walton Foundation, Aspen Institute, Broad Foundation, and Sarah and John Arnold Foundations is present in what we are seeing here in Camden. All the philanthropies and organizations mentioned above have a financial interest in KIPP, UnCommon Schools, and Mastery Charter – and not coincidentally, all of those organizations have takeover schools in Camden that were forced into this community – while Camden public schools were being closed simultaneously.

While it appears that in this new KIPP Norcross school, educational progress is happening in Camden, to those who care to be truly informed, to those who genuinely care about this community’s residents and children, the opening of this school is a painful reminder that our residents’ voices don’t matter. It further reminds us of the many willing participants, who, for out of personal career advancement, financial gain, or racism, were willing to collude in the systemic oppression of Camden residents.

Finally, let it be known we at CEA firmly, and steadfastly love education; and we love when students are educated. Being educated helps enable us to be our better selves. True education adds to our knowledge base not simply for the sake of knowing more, but the added knowledge should inform, and change, the way we see the world around us – and even critique it. A good education is vital to our Camden community and its young people – and we at CEA respect and honor all good education no matter where that process takes place; whether within public, technical, parochial, or charter schools. But what must be critically examined, and mustn’t be ignored, is identifying who is doing the educating, and under what circumstances that party came to be the deliverer of our children’s education. Good education, for the people, for our neighbors, will never and can never come from parties that thrive off our exploitation. In today’s events, we see the reminder of our CEA’s greater cause to openly resist those who desire and profit from exploiting this community and our children.



Thanks for Reading,

Keith E. Benson, Ed. D
President
Camden Education Association
856.305.6193




#TeacherVoice by Mary J Holden


In May 2016, I quit my job as a high school teacher. I’d been teaching for a long time, and it wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, I miss teaching quite a bit.
I am still very involved in public education advocacy, especially here in Nashville, Tennessee.
One thing I care deeply about is our local school district, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). The school board hired a new Director of Schools last year, and I was very optimistic, even welcoming him to the district at a board meeting. Over this year, though, I’ve seen some things happen based on decisions he’s made that have made me very nervous and concerned. Actually, I feel angry. And as my concerns built up, I decided it was time to use my teacher voice to speak up.
Here’s the 3-minute speech I gave at the school board meeting this week, along with some ranting, er, I mean, notes:
Good evening. My name is Mary Holden, and I am an MNPS parent and a former teacher with 18 years of experience in public education. Tonight we have heard about some of the wonderful things happening in our schools with our teachers and students, but all my concerns lie at the top.
The school board meeting started at 5:00PM. There was a performance by White’s Creek High School’s World Percussion Ensemble that was incredible! It certainly got me pumped up. Then there were awards for students and teachers and local business partners, acclaim given to some of our schools’ programs, and presentations from community groups who support our schools. These were important things to hear about because public school successes are something you don’t always see in the news. So I wanted to make it clear at the start of my speech that the concerns I was about to express specifically have to do with decisions made at the top, meaning by Dr. Joseph and the executives who surround him.
Basically, the way I see it, MNPS is, as my friend TC Weber recently wrote, in the weeds. And it’s about time we pull them out.
When Dr. Joseph arrived last year, I felt excited about the possibilities for him to build on our successes and be a champion for our schools. Instead, the culture of fear is worse. Teachers have never been more scared to speak up. The demands placed on them far outweigh their pay. Their autonomy has been stripped away. There’s a teacher shortage and retention is a problem. None of this is acceptable.
There’s a teacher shortage here in Nashville, along with many places all over the country. But here, it seems like our own Human Resources department and the bosses at the executive level just can’t figure out two things: how to hire new teachers and how to prevent them from leaving. Again, TC wrote an excellent postaddressing the district’s shocking ignorance about why teachers are leaving. Here’s a hint to those flying blind over in HR: it’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And autonomy. And better pay. And teachers ain’t getting any of that.
Dr. Joseph, you talk about leading outside of the box, but instead you’ve put yourself in a very expensive bubble, keeping you isolated from not only what’s going on, but also from the bad and sometimes unethical decisions your executives have made.
So you’re leading from within the bubble instead of outside the box.
When Dr. Joseph arrived, one of the first things he did was have all the district leaders go through expensive, er, I mean, extensive training with The Arbinger Institute. They had to read this book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.
Here’s a review of that book: “The ‘disease’ of self-deception (acting in ways contrary to what one knows is right) underlies all leadership problems in today’s organizations, according to the premise of this work. However well intentioned they may be, leaders who deceive themselves always end up undermining their own performance.Thisstraightforward book explains how leaders can discover their own self-deceptions and learn how to escape destructive patterns. The authors demonstrate that breaking out of these patterns leads to improved teamwork, commitment, trust, communication, motivation, and leadership.”
Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t think Dr. Joseph heeded his own advice. He hired a large number of outsiders for the top positions and even created new positions that didn’t exist before to create his own protective layer of executives which keep him isolated from what’s going on. I call it a bubble. Former Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register also had such a bubble around himself and always seemed disconnected from what was really happening in schools. [And for the record, I called him out on it as well. I even sent him this post on data when I worked in MNPS. I don’t think it went over too well though.]
When I’ve spoken with Dr. Joseph one-on-one, he does seems genuine. But when he’s speaking in front of a group, I get the opposite feeling. It has seemed to me, from the first time I heard him speak publicly, that he seems somewhat disingenuous. Or blissfully unaware of the havoc being created by his hirees. Not sure which it is. But either way, it’s not true leadership, in my opinion. It’s the opposite of what was written about in that book. [And Dr. Joseph, if you’re reading this, I would like to you know I sincerely want you to succeed. But I also think that means some things need to change. We are about the same age. We have both spent many years in education. While I only studied how to be an administrator, you actually became one. But I have talked with several district superintendents about what it means to be an effective leader, and I don’t see it happening here right now. The culture of fear is worse. But I actually am rooting for you. Because your success here truly means success for everyone in MNPS. I’d love to talk with you more about it sometime.]
You’ve said you brought in the best people for these executive positions, but many lack the qualifications needed for their jobs. Instead of being forward thinking, they are backward thinking, only focused on standardized test scores and data. The only thing those scores show us are poverty levels. So while we should be working to combat poverty and make our schools equitable, instead we are wasting our time and precious resources focusing on meaningless test scores. We need to de-emphasize the role that testingplays and stop the false narrative that our schools are failing. This means getting rid of all the extra testing and data collection requirements that have been imposed and instead, trust our teachers and let them teach.
I’m going to again direct you to TC Weber’s blog Dad Gone Wild for specific information about the bevy of unqualified people Dr. Joseph has brought in, mostly from Prince George’s County in Maryland, which is where Dr. Joseph most recently worked. TC’s done a lot of deep diving when it comes to checking out who is behind the decision-making at MNPS these days. But let me highlight a few: we’ve got someone in charge of professional development who has never been a teacher. We’ve got a new executive position that was created and given to the wife of the second-in-command. We’ve got highly-paid executives who weren’t properly credentialed by the State when they got their jobs. Or who are involved in a lawsuit. Or who get paid more than more experienced administrators who were already working here. Or who are in charge of curriculum and instruction but don’t seem to understand what those words mean. Or who have questionable records of leading schools. Or who tried to enact charter school legislation in another state. And on and on and on.
Perhaps the biggest concern is the complete disregard and disrespect for the excellence, knowledge, and skills that already exist here in Nashville.
You’ve been operating from the false assumption that we are in crisis mode and that we don’t have the capacity to fix it on our own. And that’s been driving the bad policy decisions – like purchasing canned curriculum and scripted lesson plans, outsourcing home visits to a company based in Maryland, and expensive, unnecessary out-of-state trainings, to name a few. Just as the new school year began, there was a new grading policy, a new homework policy, and a new literacy plan all forced on teachers from the top down with no input.
This is the opposite of what should be happening.
This part really makes me the angriest. Dr. Joseph and his team came here with the belief that MNPS is broken. And when that is your paradigm, of course all your decisions are going to based in tearing down the “broken” system and remaking it into something you think is better.
Only we are not broken.
We do have great disparities in Nashville. Over 70% of our students come from high-poverty levels. But we aren’t broken as a school system. There are good people doing good things here. There are great teachers working way too hard for our neediest students without the resources they need. There is learning happening in classrooms throughout the district every day. There are schools and programs that have gotten national acclaim. But when the new people got here, they ignored all that. They fired people left and right and drove others out before really gaining an understanding of the culture that existed here before.
I’m not saying it was all good. I’m saying that they assumed it was all terrible and made their decisions based on that assumption. All this was based on test scores, of course. We had the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction tell all the district principals that she was ready to roll up her sleeves, slather on some Vaseline, and fight because she was so angry…. about poverty and inequity, you may ask? NO. About test scores. And now she’s on a mission to raise those scores, at any cost, it seems. She’s purchased scripted lessons and pre-packaged curriculum units that teachers are forced to teach, which basically renders teachers mute. She’s set up trainings on literacy that aren’t needed because teachers already know the material. She is not giving ANY credit to our teachers because it seems she thinks THEY are to blame for low test scores. A friend who teaches high school English told me the literacy coach at her school told English teachers not to bother teaching a whole novel and instead focus only on excerpts… because that’s what’s tested. As a former English teacher, this makes me fuming mad. Mad enough to where I’m willing to roll up my own sleeves…
All this emphasis on test scores and datadatadata makes me crazy. Because that seems to be the only thing that our leaders are focused on, all our resources are being devoted to raising scores. In the process, our curriculum is being narrowed and teachers are losing even more of their autonomy. Then teachers are directed to assess students frequently with outside assessments and benchmarks and keep track of the data. All of this is what drives teachers away.
And that’s why I called our district leaders backward thinking. They seem unable to see the big picture and the proper role that standardized testing and data should play (here’s a hint: it’s a very small role). And because of it, we get things like the district’s new homework policy forced on us right after the school year began. Now my 4th grade daughter MUST have 40 minutes of homework every night because the district said so and not because my daughter’s teacher thinks it may or may not be necessary. And we get canned curriculum in place of teacher autonomy and computer programs in place of real relationships and real teaching.
HUH?
It almost seems like district leaders don’t really care about teachers. At some schools, they’ve already plopped students down in front of computers because they can’t hire teachers to fill those spots. Is that the end goal here? That since they can’t find teachers, ahh, well, who needs them? Hey, it’s not unheard of. But that shouldn’t be what we sink to.
This is not right for our students. They are ultimately the ones being shortchanged here.
Relationships matter. In fact, they are the MOST important thing in life. 
School board members, I beg you, stop being silent followers. Your silence makes you complicit in these issues. You don’t need to be in lockstep agreement all the time. If you’re frustrated about these things, I expect you to do something about it.
A few years ago, current MNPS board member Amy Frogge wrote that experienced teachers should be the ones driving education reform. I couldn’t agree more, and I am proud that Amy serves as a board member. I count her as a friend and greatly respect her, as well as some others on the board.
But.
Lately – and by lately I mean since Dr. Joseph was hired – the school board has gone from being vocal in the media and on social media about issues that they agreed or disagreed on to being completely silent. And when they do speak out, it’s a little too Stepford Wives-like. Here are the opening sentences from the board’s statement in August 2016: “As the Metropolitan Board of Education, we speak as a unified body. As the Board Chair and on behalf of the Board, I would like to say that we support Dr. Joseph and his leadership team, and we stand behind the hiring decisions he has made.”
Well, dang. Pretty cut and dry then, right? We, the public, voted for you all, then you say this, and we’re all supposed to sit down and say, “Okay, then, do as you please”? I don’t think so. Not if you have a child in an MNPS school. Not if you know teachers who teach in MNPS. Not if you used to work for MNPS. And not if you care about MNPS.
[SIDE NOTE: Dear board members, I do not believe for one second that you all believe that statement from last August. I keep hearing that Dr. Joseph is doing what he said he would do, so there’s nothing to critique. But here’s the thing: If I’m the boss, and you hired me, and I say I’m going to hold community meetings and put together a report about what I learned from those meetings, and then I do exactly what I said I was going to do, are you going to give me an “A+” on my evaluation? But in reality, what have I actually done besides hold some meetings and make some pie charts? And I didn’t even do those things, by the way! I hired a consulting group to come in and do it. Hmm. In other words, there have been A LOT of meetings and plans made and due dates and reports and strategic plans and pie charts and graphs and surveys. Nothing against meetings and those other things. They are important. But it seems like when it comes specifically to the director of school’s evaluation (which, by the way, should have already happened, right? Wait, when is it going to occur?), there’s a lot of talk and not a lot of substance. And what’s even more problematic is that SERIOUS ACTIONS have been taken that are disastrous and maybe even unethical and they’ve been done by the Chiefs and they aren’t getting noticed by you because they weren’t enacted by Dr. Joseph directly. Remember that bubble I mentioned before? Do you really believe that he has hired the most capable people to make these very important decisions? I think not. But he is YOUR employee. I expect you to be supporting him overall, BUT ALSO critiquing, questioning, and criticizing when needed. AND IT’S NEEDED NOW. It is your PUBLIC SILENCE I am most upset about. I do NOT understand your compulsion to speak as one. You’re not the Borg, for f*$k’s sake. And you can disagree respectfully, by the way. You don’t need to be at war with each other or with the director. But you were voted into office for a reason. Please don’t forget that.]
I am an experienced educator. I care deeply about this district. And I see something wrong happening at the very top of MNPS. And I am speaking out.
You want to know where to focus the district’s resources? Change your paradigm to one of building on success rather than destruction. Build meaningful relationships. Genuinely listen to teachers, parents, and students. Trust, respect, and empower teachers. Get rid of the bubble around yourself. Bring in local, qualified leaders to take the top spots. Change the focus from being test-driven and data-driven to being people-driven. We need less top-down, more bottom-up leadership.
We need to be building up our schools, our children, and making their educational experiences equitable, not tearing down all the people who make them strong. We need to follow the transformational community schools model as a proven model of success.
Thank you.
I really, really tried to end my speech on a positive note with the suggestions of what could be done.
Really, I did.
Also, being a forward-thinking superintendent isn’t unheard of. Here’s a great example on one in New York.
I hope this all didn’t sound like one long rant. But it might have. I am pretty frustrated.
What is comes down to is this (and here’s a TL;DR for this whole speech/rant): I disagree with the leadership and the direction our district leaders are heading in MNPS. I worry the internal decisions being made will have serious repercussions on the district that will negatively impact our teachers and students. And these decisions aren’t really being publicized, but they are having a huge impact, so I believe the public needs to be aware of what’s happening.
So now you’re aware. Get involved. Speak up. Hold our leaders accountable. Fight for equity. Fight for quality public education. Be champions for our public schools.

The Restaurant Without a Kitchen. A Parable About Education In America by Kim Allsup


My teaching bag of tricks is full of stories, lots of stories— biographies that are a window into history, stories to teach the alphabet, stories that break down the complexity of a math process and metaphoric stories such as parables and fables that spark thinking.
My students are used to stories that take them on a journey that appears to bring them far away from our main theme, into a tale that is not so much a segue as a secret route to the heart of the topic.
Stories can be especially effective when students are stuck, when a concept is difficult or complex, when the kids just don’t get it.  At this moment in our culture we are collectively stuck when it comes to making decisions about the future of education. My perspective as a teacher is that most people just don’t get why standards and testing wastes the talent, inspiration and joy that our nations teachers are ready and able to bring to children while teaching them well.
I tend to bring my teaching practices in to my writing. My memoir, A Gift of Wonder, A True Story Showing School as it Should Be, uses the story of my journey as a rookie teacher to show the value of responsible freedom in teaching. The story I share here, however, is not based on actual events but is a parable, a metaphor. It is about someone seeking their first job, looking at a range of options. In the story the job seeker is a newly-trained chef named Amanda. The options before her are restaurants that, unbelievably, do not have kitchens.  Amanda’s options are a metaphor for the perplexing options facing all new teachers in the US.
The Restaurant Without A Kitchen 
It was my friend Amy who convinced me to look for a job at Mega.  “Amanda,”she said, “It’s an enormous office park. They are always advertising for new new chefs. ” 
So I drove through miles of  farm country for a tour and an interview with Jorge from Central Employment.
“When they built Mega so far from town there was a plan to build a village,” he said. “Once it’s built there will be restaurants, and most of the employees will eat there. They protect their future restaurant businesses with language in the leases that says nobody can have a kitchen. So, no kitchens.”  
“You know I’m a chef, right?” I asked, wondering why I had driven so far to tour an office park with no kitchens.  
“Oh don’t worry, Amanda,” he said, as we started walking down a long hallway. “We have lots of jobs for chefs. The companies have been very clever in  providing food to their employees without having on-site kitchens. They allow eating rooms but no kitchens.”
“Here’s a good example,” he said as we entered a cafeteria. “Most of our companies get their food from NMS. That’s Nutrition Management Systems. It comes off the trucks every morning, a standardized menu, pre-packaged and ready to eat. The food is free to employees, funded by a government program that promotes proper nutrition. See those employees checking out? That machine is not a cash register.  It ’s a tracker that evaluates everything taken by each employee and provides a score. It keeps your monthly nutrition score and tells you what you have to add to make a balanced meal. Watch that guy leaving the line and walking over to salads. He’s not allowed to check out without a green vegetable.’
“Here’s a chef now.” said Jorge as a man approached us wearing the tall white hat of our trade. “Michael, can you tell us what a chef does when your food comes from NMS?”
Michael shook my hand and said, “It’s all about friendliness and presentation. At some of the companies the chefs leave the food in the containers it comes in. Not here. We transfer everything to plates. I bring in a bit of parsley to dress it up. I help people run the microwaves so their food is hot but not too hot. We play music to create a pleasant mood. We have dietitians to help people with conditions like diabetes and I make sure I have menu options for every condition on the staff. We reward good nutrition in many ways from shiny stickers for those who make good choices to posting pictures of our nutrition stars of the month. But more and more NMS wants me to track the details of each nutritional element for each employee. That’s the work I take home at night.”
Next Jorge led me to the hallway and out across a courtyard. We’ll peek in the eating room at this brown bag company. “No chef jobs here,” he said. “They all bring lunches from home.” Here employees sat outside at picnic tables and in the adjoining, sunny rooms. 
“I take a lot of prospective employees on tours. Increasingly I get employees from NMS companies wanting to transfer to a brown bag company  because they want the freedom to eat whatever they want even if they do have to bring it from home.”
Entering a low building with brightly painted  hallways, I smelled what I guessed to be Italian food.  And, sure enough, the eating room buffet featured lasagna that looked and smelled like food from a real restaurant.  Jorge said, “Take a plate and serve yourself. The chef here offered us lunch.” 
Soon we sat at a table eating five star lasagna, fresh bread and amazing salad. 
“I thought you said there were no kitchens.” I remarked.
“That’s right,” said their chef, overhearing our conversation and joining us at the table. “No kitchen. I cook everything at home. I have a passion for creating irresistible recipes. I prepare the meals the night before and drive everything here in a truck with warming ovens and then I set up the dining area. It’s a ton of work, but the employees appreciate my efforts and often ask for the recipes. We don’t track nutrition here, but I plan meals that are highly nutritious and taste great.  I also pay attention to what the employees like. Everyone likes the food so much, I’m sure they get as good or better nutrition than they would from NMS. It takes me most of the afternoon to clean up, then, on the way home, I shop for fresh produce and begin cooking soon after I pull in my driveway.”  
“It sounds like you work all day and all night,” I said, incredulous.  
“I don’t work more than the NMS chefs,” he said, “But their evening work includes nutrition management. They record each employee’s lunch scores and  nutrition data. I’d rather cook at night than crunch numbers. I believe that inspiration is more powerful than management.”   
My head was spinning. My training had not prepared me to cook all evening after a long day of work nor to spend my free time crunching numbers.  I wasn’t feeling very positive about the idea of a restaurant without a kitchen.   
“Next we’ll peek into eating rooms at hybrid companies where lunch comes mostly from NMS but is supplemented by food from home-based kitchens.”  
“So the chefs have to both crunch numbers and prepare meals each evening?” I asked. 
“Strangely,” he said as we looked through windows into pleasant eating rooms, “even though these chefs work incredibly long hours, they are more likely to stay at their jobs than the NMS chefs who don’t cook at home. Overall, the more a chef gets to actually prepare meals from scratch, the longer she stays at her job.”                 
“Let’s head over to my office for the interview,” said Jorge. It won’t take long. I just need to see your chef school certificate and hear which companies you want to visit as a finalist.”
“ But what about those three huge buildings that we didn’t visit,” I said pointing down the road. 
“ My guess is you want to skip these,” he said. “Remember the NMS chef who said some companies don’t even unpack the food. He was talking about those companies. They are all big operations where most of the workers make minimum wage. Each chef has to deliver food to hundreds of employees and also track their nutrition. There’s a lot of food waste because folks put food on their tray just to meet the requirements. They don’t even plan to eat all of it. They just want to get through the tracker machines without getting sent back. On a twenty minute lunch break there isn’t time to go back for a salad. Whatever they don’t eat just goes right in the trash still in the plastic pods. I’ve learned that chefs like you, who ask a lot of questions, don’t last more than a week.” 
We walked in silence for a few minutes. The options presented to me were a lot to take in. I was a trained chef looking for my first job. I had imagined experimenting with recipes, making creative meals. But these chef jobs were bizarre. I could not imagine myself making a neat presentation of packaged food with a little parsley and muzak on the side followed by the take home paperwork of a food cop. Serving my homemade lasagna to eager eaters looked much closer to the future I had trained for. But would I be able to cope with devoting my evenings to cooking in my own kitchen instead of having a personal life? The idea of being a hybrid chef who both prepares meals and crunches numbers each night made me feel overwhelmed and tired.  
“I’ll tell you a secret,” said Jorge as we entered his office, “Many chefs in the NMS companies secretly do some cooking at home even though they don’t work for a company that is officially a hybrid. They would get in trouble if their bosses knew, but I guess you can’t stop a chef from cooking.” 
He paused, then asked, “So, where do you want to interview?’  
“I’ll get back to you.” I said. “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”  
As I drove home, I realized that Mega’s daily, full page advertisements  should have alerted me that they have problems attracting and keeping chefs. I decided to withdraw my application. I mean, really, what serious professional would accept employment in a workplace that did not provide a time and place to prepare? 
***
My 22 years as a classroom teacher resembled the life of a of a home-based chef. Like the home-based chef in the story, I prepared each evening for the following day. Just as a meal is more attractive when the ingredients are fresh, when a combination of flavors, herbs and spices are appetizing, a lesson is more engaging when it is fresh, and flavored with drama, humor, intrigue, music, artistic experience and allows for meaningful conversation. When diners are attracted to a meal that looks good, smells good and tastes good, they are, in the words of psychologists, intrinsically motivated to eat it. Similarly, when students are intrinsically motivated, they engage deeply in a lesson because they enjoy it, not because they want a good grade.
Like the home-based chef in the story, I believe that inspiration is more powerful than management. When preparing a lesson I spend as much time generating ways to elicit a laugh, a moment of wonder, surprise or intrigue as I devote to thinking about the kernel of the knowledge that is the supposed takeaway. And, when I hang the concept or kernel of knowledge on the scaffold of a story, I find that helping the class to assimilate key facts is almost effortless.  And I wonder, how can it be that Hollywood and every advertising executive understands the power of stories, but those who determine the future of education have no clue that a good teaching story told expressively by a live teacher is more valuable than ten chapters in a boring textbook.
It is a rare school in the United States that offers teachers the freedom to design their own lessons and to change them spontaneously to meet the needs of the moment. Most schools in our country are like NMS companies. In these schools the standards and testing movement rules. In my own state, Massachusetts, this movement began in the 1990s. Then, in the new millennium, national laws, No Child Left Behind (2002)Race to the Top (2009), and Every Child Succeeds Act (2015) tied school progress, as defined by testing, to federal funding. The Common Core State Standards, rolled out in 2010, had been adopted by 42 states by 2015. Those states which have not adopted the Common Core have their own similar programs. Almost all states now require their public school districts to adopt the education equivalent of NMS by utilizing Common Core standards and administering standardized tests. At most of these schools , using extrinsic motivation to get results is part of the accepted practice of teachers. This is the motivation to work for a grade, a test score, for praise and recognition.
One might imagine that a hybrid school, like the hybrid company combines the best of both worlds. Doesn’t it make sense that encouraging a student to be self motivated and then backing that up with rewards would lead to sure success?  Not necessarily. A fascinating study of 10,000 West Point graduates over ten years showed, in their own words, that “multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets.” They found that cadets whose motivation was a combination of their own interest in the work and a wish for rewards found less career success than those were motivated purely by their interest in their work. Based on this study it seems that encouraging any student interest in rewards in the form of grades or praise may actually hinder success.
The brown bag companies are, of course, the equivalent of home schooling. The number of children being home schooled is growing by as much as 8 percent per year. Like the brown bag employees in the parable who want to choose what they eat, home schooling parents want to choose what their children learn.
###
Take a moment to consider the parable from the viewpoint of the employee. Which lunch program would you prefer: 1) a home cooked meal based on good nutritional guidelines, 2) a subsidized, industrially packaged meal with enforced mandatory nutrition, 3) a hybrid subsidized meal with the same requirements supplemented with some occasional home cooking? Or, would you prefer to bring your own lunch? And, which educational approach would you prefer for your child: 1) lessons taught by a teacher who creates good, inspirational lessons, 2) lessons taught by teachers who deliver a pre-packaged curriculum 3) lessons that are primarily standardized but are supplemented with some original content created by the teacher? Or would you prefer to home school you children?
I’m guessing that many parents who would choose a home cooked meal for their own lunch, would not choose home cooked lessons for their child’s education. My hunch is that many  may want the security of the packaged approach even if it is bland, lacking inspiration and relies on questionable motivational techniques. This is because teachers are not trusted in our culture. We have much work to do before teachers are as trusted as chefs.
###
Once we are able to trust teachers we need to treat them like other professionals. Chefs, lawyers, accountants, nurses, doctors, scientists, engineers, pharmacists, architects are, like teachers, professionals who prepare work and then deliver it. A lawyer researches a case and and then goes to court. An accountant prepares a tax documents and reviews them with a client. A nurse organizes medications and then delivers them to patients. A doctor reviews lab results, plans a treatment strategy and then meets with a patient. A scientist organizes a research expedition, travels to collect data, analyzes results and then delivers a presentation. A pharmacist fills a prescription and then meets with a customer to answer questions. A teacher researches and plans a lesson and then delivers it to her students. However, chefs, lawyers, accountants, nurses, doctors, scientists, engineers, pharmacists and architects do most of their planning, preparing, and strategizing on the job, while a teacher is expected to do most of her preparation after normal work hours.
What would a teacher’s version of a professional kitchen look like?  I imagine a private office with a desk, a computer, a telephone, a well stocked bookshelf, chairs for a couple of visitors, a window. This would not be a shared room, but an office with a door, where paperwork could be left on the desk, where the books belonged to the single occupant, where silence balanced the busy dynamic of the classroom. Two consecutive hours in this office during each school day would allow a teacher enough time to get a good start on emails and phone calls to parents, original lesson preparation and evaluation of student work. No doubt work would still be brought home. But, two consecutive hours of office time each day would insure that, even when the teacher had to deal with a family emergency, she would have an acceptable level of preparation complete before the next school day.
A meal prepared from fresh ingredients is clearly better than a meal dumped out of a can and warmed. Yet, many do not understand that the fresh, original lesson is preferable to one delivered in a standardized script that the teacher reads to the class. This is why I wrote A Gift of Wonder, to show what education looks like when teachers are trusted, free and responsible.
Kim Allsup, M.Ed. taught elementary and middle school students in independent schools for 25 years. She is the author of A Gift of Wonder, A True Story Showing School As It Should Be
Resources: A Gift of Wonder, A True Story Showing School as it Should Be,  A book that shows the value of freedom in teaching: here
Research: “Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets” here


Top 10 Reasons Public Schools are the BEST Choice for Children, Parents & Communities by Steven Singer


Everywhere you look today you’ll find profits prophets of doom bemoaning the quality of our public school system.

We’ve got too many failing schools, they say. The only thing to do is to invest in private and privatized institutions – vouchers, chartersANYTHING but public.

But as education professors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski wrote in their landmark book “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools” there’s little evidence behind the hype. Public schools are far from perfect, but even given their deficiencies, they have benefits that far outweigh those of privatized schools. Indeed, market-based educational reform, wrote the Lubienskis, is “increasingly a belief system rather than a policy theory.”

Privatized schools are sometimes great at boosting standardized test scores, but when it comes to authentic indicators of student learning, they often fall well behind their traditional public school counterparts.

And when you stop to consider things like finances, accountability, self-governance, social justice and life-long learning, then public schools prove themselves to be a much better choice than any privatized system.

Clearly we’re speaking in generalities here. Every school – public or privatized – is different. But there is enough commonality to identify certain trends between each type of school to make general conclusions about each category. In short, despite any media or political propaganda to the contrary, public schools come out on top.

Here are the top 10 reasons public schools are the best choice for children, families and communities

1) Public Schools Attract the Best Teachers


When choosing a school for your children, you want them to have the best teachers possible. You want life-long, committed educators – people who entered the profession as a calling, who dedicate their lives to young people.

This is not the case at many charter or private schools. Their teachers often don’t have the same high level of education, experience, or commitment. In many states, they aren’t required to earn a 4-year degree from an accredited college, they routinely have less experience and higher turnover.

Compare that with public schools. With rare exceptions, teachers must have at least one bachelors degree in a specialized education field, and many have masters degrees or more. In addition, teacher turnover is much lower. This is partly because public school teachers usually earn a higher salary than those at privatized schools. (It’s still not comparable with professionals in other fields with similar levels of education, but it’s better than they get at privatized schools.) In addition they have higher job satisfaction because of increased union membership, which enables greater stability and helps create a safer workplace for teachers and their students.

Think about it. If you were one of the best teachers in the country, wouldn’t you want to work where you get the highest salary and benefits? Of course!

2) Public Schools Have a Greater Sense of Community


Most public schools have been around for a long time. They are the heart of the communities they serve. They do so much more than just teach children. They host continuing education courses for adults, extracurricular activities, sporting events, academic clubs, public swimming pools, open libraries, and invite the community for local events, concerts, seminars, etc.

This is rarely the case at privatized schools. Charters and private institutions are often fledgling startups. They’re located in rented office spaces, renovated store fronts and other locations chosen more for their cost benefits to investors and not for their efficacy as places of education or community outreach.

Public schools have histories that go back generations. Everyone in the community knows the teachers who work there. Parents often send their kids to the same educators who taught them when they were young. Sometimes this goes back to grandparents and even great grandparents. Older brothers can advise younger sisters what it was like to have this teacher or that principal. The kinds of relationships you get at public school just aren’t there at institutions that model themselves on big box stores like WalMart and Target.

3) Public Schools Increase Educational Choice


Privatizers often talk about charters and voucher schools as if they are the only places that offer parents and students choice. It’s simply untrue. Many public school districts offer a tremendous amount of alternatives for students living in their neighborhoods. Larger urban districts often have magnet or theme schools. But even beyond that, most schools offer a wide variety of classes and curriculum. Students can take foreign languages, vo-tech, arts and humanities, independent studies, and advanced placement or college credit courses. Students can take advantage of a plethora of services designed to personalize their academic experience to meet their individual needs with special and gifted education, even choosing which teachers are the best fit for their learning styles.
Obviously, these options increase with the degree of wealth in a community, but they prove that increasing choice doesn’t have to mean privatization. It means equitable funding.


4) Public Schools Have Greater Diversity


Students learn a lot more than reading, writing and arithmetic in school. They also learn how to deal with different kinds of people – they learn to share this world with other humans from various racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual backgrounds. The more diverse an environment they grow up in, the more well-adjusted they will be for the adult world, and the less racist, sexist and prejudiced they’ll probably become.

Public schools are often a sea of diversity. They are the best place to meet the entire spectrum of humanity. On the other hand, charter and voucher schools are routinely segregated and homogenous. Sometimes privatized schools make efforts to fight against this, but you can’t make much headway when your entire system is based on sorting out the underprivileged in favor of white, affluent children whose parents can afford tuition (private schools) or poor black but high achieving children (charter schools).

5) Public Schools Are More Fiscally Responsible


Public schools spend their money more wisely than privatized schools. They have to! Their records are an open book. All the spending decisions happen in public view. And the law requires that all expenses must relate to educating children.

Privatized schools rarely do this, and if they do, it’s by choice not necessity. They could close their books any day, make whatever decisions they like behind closed doors and layout bundles of cash for their CEOs or investors. Privatized schools are for-profit. Even when they aren’t explicitly labeled as such, they usually operate in the same way – cut student services to increase the bottom line. Their explicit goal is to make money off your child – not simply earn a middle class income like public schools. No, they want to get rich off of your dime.

Privatizers buy mansions and yachts with your money. Public school teachers pay off their mortgages. And in the rare instances where public school employees break the law and try to embezzle funds, they are much more likely to be caught because the books are right there for all to see.

6) Public Schools Are More Reliable


When you send your child to most privatized schools, you never really know if it’s going to be there tomorrow. Charter schools often close without a moments notice. Private schools declare bankruptcy.

If there’s one thing you can be reasonably sure of, it’s that your neighborhood public school will still be there. It’s been there for decades, sometimes hundreds of years. Charter and voucher schools are often fly-by-night affairs. Public schools are solid bedrock. If public schools close, it’s only after considerable public comment and a protracted political process. No one ever shows up to find the local public school chained shut. Not the same at charters or private schools.


7) Public Schools Have Greater Commitment to Students


Charter and vouchers schools don’t have to accept your child. Public schools do.

When you enroll in a privatized school, the choice is all up to administrators. Is your child a safe bet? Can they let your little one in without breaking the bank? Will he or she make the school look good with better test scores? Will he or she be easy to educate?

Public schools, on the other hand, have a commitment to educating every child who lives in the district. They even take homeless children. Only under the most extreme circumstances would they expel a young person. No matter who your offspring is, no matter how good or bad a student, public school operators have faith they can help the youngster succeed.

8) You Have Ownership of Public Schools


With privatized schools, you’re paying for a business to provide services. Public schools belong to you. In fact, you’re the boss.

Public schools are run by your friends, neighbors and co-workers. Privatized schools are most often run by appointed boards of directors who are not beholden to you but to the investors. As education blogger Peter Greene puts it, “The charter is a business, run by people who don’t ever have to let you into their board room.”

In addition, many public schools go beyond even this level of parental involvement. They more often have PTAs or PTOs. They have advisory councils where elected parents, teachers and community members can work together to advise the school board on important maters like hiring superintendents. If parents and the community want a voice, the public school system is overflowing with options. Ironically, the community rarely has any say over privatized schools and parents can only vote with their feet.

9) Public Schools Provide More Amenities


Public schools routinely offer so much more than privatized schools. At many charter and voucher schools, parents are required to buy supplies for the whole institution. Public schools accept donations and sometimes teachers ask for help, but if parents can’t (or won’t) send in pencils or tissues, the school provides it gratis. And even when the district is cheap in this regard, teachers often make up the difference from their own pockets. It’s not right that they have to do so, but they constantly step up for your children.
Moreover, public schools offer a much expanded range of services for your children than privatized schools. Special education and gifted programs are first rate at public schools while often intermittent or nonexistent at privatized schools. And the requirements put on parents at public schools are much lower – less restrictive dress codes, fewer demands on parents’ time and they take a greater responsibility for your children.
Heck, private schools rarely even pay for transportation. Public schools offer a free ride via the school bus from home and back again.


10) Public Schools Match or Outperform Privatized Schools


When it comes to academic performance, comparisons all come down to what data you think is indicative of student learning and which factors you exclude. You can find plenty of studies funded by privatizers that unsurprisingly conclude their backers business model is the best. However, when you look at peer reviewed and nonpartisan studies, the story changes.
The Lubienskis, in particular, paint an extremely compelling picture of public school superiority based on numerous complex statistical models including hierarchical linear modeling and multivariate regression. In short, the authors conclude that after accounting for the demographic differences among various school sector populations, traditional public school students outperform those at private schools over time. Students typically enter public schools with much greater degrees of poverty than those entering private schools. As such, public school students start with greater academic deficiencies. Even so, public schools are able to make up for these deficiencies over time more easily than privatized schools. And by fourth grade, public school students actually have greater academic success than their demographically similar peers at private or charter schools. The Lubienskis call it “The Public School Effect.”

With all these benefits, you’d think we’d be cheering on our public school system, not denigrating it. However, the failing schools narrative sells a lot of people on privatized alternatives. But it’s not fact. It’s marketing.

It’s time someone explicitly outlined the benefits of our public schools. We could be doing a lot more to help make them even better. But the first step is recognizing what an asset these schools already are.


Public schools, they’re what happens when we value children over profit.