An Invitation to Connecticut Educators

There is a lot of conversation about public education going on.

Politicians are talking about the Common Core in regard to federal vs. local control. Billionaires with no understanding of child or adolescent development are mandating what education should look like in every grade from kindergarten through high school graduation. Testing companies are dictating that what is taught is limited to what they know how to test. Entrepreneurs are saying that schools should be enterprises from which they make a profit. Journalists are writing about the worth of standards they have never read. State legislators require students to take tests which determine promotions and graduations although no one has any idea if those tests measure what it takes to be successful in higher education or the workplace. The chief writer of the English language arts standards tells teachers exactly how to teach although he has never taught himself and is shockingly unfamiliar with good pedagogy. Proponents of the standards claim that the standards are evidence-based and internationally benchmarked although they are neither.

All in all, the ongoing conversation is dominated by a combination of those who have not read the standards, those who have never taught, and those who have little or no knowledge of child development, including how children and teenagers learn.

The Common Core and the accompanying tests are not receiving the scrutiny they deserve so implementation marches on. As a result, students do not experience the passion for learning, the engagement with ideas, or the substantive content to which they have a right.

It’s time for public school educators to reclaim the conversation so that Connecticut’s students receive the education they need. In Connecticut, we have innumerable educators who are experts in their academic disciplines and practice effective pedagogy. We have many excellent teachers and administrators who mentor inexperienced teachers and administrators. We have renowned educators in both our public K-12 schools and at our universities who are experts in child and adolescent development and who know how to shape instruction that fits that development. We have many accomplished administrators who know how to create collaborative school environments in which both students and teachers grow and learn. We have an untold number of teachers in our public schools who know how to inspire students to be critical thinkers, pose pivotal questions, read thoughtfully, communicate effectively, construct individual meaning by interacting with other thinkers, and gain the skills of learning how to learn. We have educators in Connecticut who prepare our children for the future instead of equipping them for the past as Common Core does.

If we educators start talking about what we know, perhaps the public, the politicians, and the journalists will listen and give the Common Core and the accompanying testing the scrutiny they warrant. Our conversation, however, will not deter corporate “reformers” and test makers because their interest is in making a profit off our children, not in the quality of their education.

This blog provides a space for educators to talk to one another and to the public about what real learning is and how excellence can be provided for all Connecticut students. If we educators share with one another what we know from our teaching, from our research, and from what we have learned from our students, there will be no stopping us, no stopping what we can do for Connecticut’s students.

Let’s aim big. Let’s make real learning available to all Connecticut’s students. Let’s join with other educators across the nation as two University of Arkansas professors of education, Jason L. Endacott and Christian Z. Goering (read here), rally us together with this summons:

Let’s take back the story on education by any nonviolent means necessary… Just when it seems that all of the money and all the of the influence is stacked up against us, we can absolutely recapture our schools for the sake of our children. Stand together and say it: Our children aren’t products, aren’t numbers, and aren’t for sale.

Let’s start talking on this blog. Let’s explore key questions and highlight current issues. I invite you to offer your own posts – posts you write yourself or articles, photos, or videos you find provocative. I urge you to take the surveys and comment on the postings. I especially ask you to submit descriptions of a moment or activity or unit of study from your classroom that demonstrates real learning.

We will then do more than reclaim the conversation about education. We will shape that conversation. We will elevate that conversation. We will focus that conversation. At last, the conversation will be about what we know best and what students need most: real learning.

Here are some conversation starters for you:

What is real learning?
How can all of Connecticut’s students have real learning opportunities?
What is the content or the substance of the Common Core standards?
How are the Common Core standards related or not related to real learning?
What do we know from research and from our experience as teachers about the cognitive development of children and adolescents?
How do we engage students as learners and thinkers?
How can we, as the state with the largest achievement gap, close that gap?
How can we, as a state, promote equity?
Do the SBAC tests measure real learning?
How do we best prepare students for their future?
What do you think? Let the conversation begin…

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