Friday, March 18, 2011

A great article about our education!

Students First Button
What it Really Means to Put Students First
Posted by Tony Pedriana - a studentsfirst.org article!
Tony Pedriana worked for over thirty years as a teacher, principal, and mentor in Milwaukee's central city. During his career as an educator, he has focused on improved pedagogy and professional development for teachers in reading. He is the author of “Leaving Johnny Behind: Overcoming Barriers to Literacy.” 
The expression “Children First” was a mantra that reverberated throughout my career as an urban schoolteacher and principal. In retrospect, what I have come to discover in countless situations is that high-minded expression of child advocacy has proven to be little more than a thinly veiled lie. Many in education seem to operate under the mistaken notion that if we say it loudly and often enough, it will somehow be true. But in the end, it is what we do rather than what we say that will expose our true agenda and ultimately reveal who precisely it is that we desire to put first.
Let’s take just a moment to examine what has evolved during our continuing crusade to place children at the heart of all our efforts:
  • Student achievement is disallowed as a factor in teacher evaluation decisions.
  • Teacher seniority takes precedence over teacher success in determining who stays and who goes when staff cuts are made.
  • Those given the task of teaching the teachers continue to send their clients into the field with an inadequate skill base, then leave them hanging in the wind when their ill-advised strategies prove woefully inadequate.
  • Legitimate reform based on evidence-based practices soon crumbles beneath the weight of adult wrangling and political posturing.
  • Two-thirds of American 4th graders read below a proficient level and nearly 80 percent of poor and minorities cannot demonstrate even basic reading competency.
Let’s face reality. Despite our ubiquitous and sanctimonious claims that children are our first priority, it really hasn’t been about children at all. Rather it has been about elections to win, careers to validate, jobs to keep and in some instances, axes to grind.  
Michelle Rhee’s movement at StudentsFirst represents the first serious effort to counteract these insidious forces. If we really seek to walk the talk, we must follow her leadership. Yes, it will take courage—courage to challenge the conventional wisdom, courage to risk being characterized as politically incorrect, and courage to confront the special interests and bloated bureaucracies that have prevailed for so long. Rhee has demonstrated that kind of courage. It is time for the rest of us to makechildren first a reality rather than just another empty promise.

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