PictureSummer Reads 2015
Little doubt remains that the current emphasis on standardized education squelches creativity. In the book Creative Schools author Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D. argues masterfully that the industrial aged, one-size fits all, educational structure of yesteryear exists in our schools still to this day but in a most destructive manner. To curb this continued course and positively transform education it will take a revolution of the masses.

Revolts begin with dissemintating information to crystalize the unity of the many. Identifying curricular outcome flaws is often not enough to sway involvement. However, presenting the political purse of maintaining ancient industrial education testing techniques is a  powerful motivator. 

The sticker price to clone learning costs billions of dollars. Testing and supporting students in the United States is a booming big business. It finances political electionioneering and drives the education systems. In 2013 the revenue was $16.5 billion. To put this in pespective Robinson points out that in the same year the U.S. domestic cinema box office grossed a lttle less than $11 billion and the National Football League (NFL) is a $9 billion business (pg. 165). Movie goers and football fans would never continue to pay for tickets if their return was anything like what's put in front of students in the form of standardized tests. The current educational system shortchanges consumers. We're purchasing an inferior end product for our students.  
Student engagement, learning outcomes and success of career preparedness depends upon allowing individuals the opportunity to pursue their interests, innovate and collaborate within the realm of educational curricucula.
Student engagement, learning outcomes and success of career preparedness depends upon allowing individuals the opportunity to pursue their interests, innovate and collaborate within the realm of educational curricula. Now with over 8 million views on YouTube Ken Robinson's TED Talks presentation from 2007 titled Do Schools Kill Creativity is an introduction of this very topic that is expanded upon in his 2015 book. In short, Creative Schools contains all of what he was unable to say in 18 minutes 8 years ago.

As a mission all teachers enter the profession with the intent of making a difference in the lives of those whom they serve. Regardless of the age, subject or role in education (as I described in my "Bad" blog post in June 2015) all educators want students to become compassionate, innovative and active citizens in the future. Ken Robinson explains and expands upon this perspective very well with his humorous analogies, sarcasm, school and classroom observation examples and educational data. 
The drill and test industrial aged education model of old must give way to a modern day creative one. Project based learning, maker spaces and a technology integrated curriculum need to be advanced, promoted and implemented in schools. Factors such as motivation, class size and funding can no longer be the crutch to explain the lack of student success. Schools and staff need to be supported and valued more by government leadership to allow for the building of quality relationships with students, parents and community. 
Education, as Robinson eloquently writes, is "...cluttered with every sort of distraction. There are political agendas, national priorities, union bargaining positions, building codes, job descriptions, parental ambitions, peer pressures. The list goes on. But the heart of education is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Everything else depends on how productive and successful that relationship is. If that is not working, then the system is not working. If students are not learning, education is not happening. Something else may be going on, but it's not education (pg 71-72)." Simply put, the priority in education needs to be about discovering individual talent not determining deficiencies. Discovering the gifts of each individual student is accomplished only through the building of a positive relationships.

Creative Schools needs to make an appearence at some point on everyone's night stand. Sir Ken Robinson doesn't disappoint. He's crafted a brilliant, inspiring and thought provoking book on where education needs to be and how to get there. When finished you'll have a more profound understanding of the education world.
PictureTwo-TeacherZ at U2 in Chicago
"If I could, yes I would. If I could, I would Let It Go." A lyrical snippet from the song "Bad" performed by U2. Most recently it reminded me of my personal and professional mission. I recalled the creed I pledged to myself when entering the education profession. To purely and simply educate todays youth to be responsible, respectful and compassionate future adults that take an active role in bettering the world in which we live.

The reflections that follow originate from when my wife and I traveled to Chicago in June of 2015. A celebratory evening for a milestone of 20 years of marriage together. We dined at RPM Italian, enjoyed time together without our children and attended a U2 concert

It wasn't my first time witnessing U2's music making brilliance. The difference now from then -- It's impact on me as a middle aged adult educator is meaningful in a much more profound manner than it was when I was an 18 year old fan. No longer is it only the fact that I love the music. Rather in this moment I relate to their message and their tireless efforts to be more than artists but to be difference makers.

U2's stage is more than a place for presenting their musical talents and artistic expressions. They've transformed a physical platform into an avenue to publicize our worlds ills. U2 wills us to be active members of society, to correct injustice and to cure others pain. Organizations such as GreenpeaceAmnesty International and Red benefit from the due diligence and dedication of U2. 

Like U2 educators have a stage.

Each and every day educators take the stage. It's a stage shared with an audience of young minds awaiting daily guidance and leadership.
Each and every day educators take the stage. It's a stage shared with an audience of young minds awaiting daily guidance and leadership. A classroom concert unleashes meaningful artistry that creates the memories of a lifetime. My fellow teaching colleagues remember and reflect upon your mission. Continue to live and work to maintain your Creed. Standardized testing, politically generated curriculum, educational funding cuts and the lack of support for the daily rigor to meet the needs of all learners weigh us down, slows our course and may entice us to stray from our mission.  

"This desperation, dislocation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation, in temptation
Isolation, desolation"

As educators our goal is to plant within each young mind the seeds of compassion, creativity, critical thinking and to prepare them to solve the problems that beseech us as a people.
Be "Bad." You can "Let it go." Don't let these uncontrollable issues allow you to vary from your true mission. Hold firm to your creed. Continue to engage learners through real life project based learning activities. 21st Century students must understand that a wrong answer or complete failure on a test for that matter is fine. Instruct students to over-come adversity. Pass-on the knowledge that the greatest of achievements blossom from nutrients of the worst storms. As educators our goal is to plant within each young mind the seeds of compassion, creativity, critical thinking and to prepare them to solve the problems that beseech us as a people. Morally and ethically it's okay to stay true to quality instruction. Don't teach to the test. Lead student learning. Inspire student imagination. Promote educational innovation. Weave, entwine and embed state curricular requirements and standardized test preparation within lessons. 

"If I could, through myself, set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away, see you break, break away
Into the light and to the day."

Know now that you're not alone in this world of education. Find a common voice. Team up with other educators for support and to share ideas. Use Twitter and Google hangouts to connect to and work with other educators from around the world. Collaborate with other educators to advance your pedagogical needs.   

Educators return from your summer professional development reinvigorated and ready to be "Bad." You're armed with the righteousness to lead learning to the multitudes that enter your classroom. One size doesn't fit all. From the impoverished pupil, to the family fragmented freshman, to the special needs learner, to the socially shy student, to the overly active scholar -- educators lead instruction to one and all. "You're wide awake, you're not sleeping." Your mission isn't to test students. It's your mission to lead students to imagine, innovate and inspire ways to make a better world.

U2 Website
Bad Lyrics
Hearts and Minds - U2 - 21st Century Ed. Framework
PLN on Twitter: Gateway to a NEW World
In teaching you are not working with colleagues daily, you're working with colleagues rarely. As educators we find ourselves day-in and day-out among children, adolescents and/or young adults. That's the profession. The job is to teach the students in class. It's also a profession that takes the highest level of unmitigated commitment. It's a profession that depends on self-motivation, self-monitoring, self-direction, self-set standards, self-imposed goals and a whole-lotta self-less-ness. Let's face it, in the world of teaching, you're by yourself.

Because teaching is such an isolated profession it often falls under scrutiny. The Department of Education and politicians at the national, state and local levels impose upon teachers requirements, standards and/or benchmarks on student achievement to substantiate effective teaching. As such, standardized testing is imposed to "ensure" student learning ("sarcasm" just in case it wasn't obvious). That's fine, some mode of data gathering is needed and typically the external requirements fall far short of our self-imposed standards anyway. The disconnect in the education system is that outsider imposed standardization coupled with an isolated working environment drives Educational Professional Development (PD).  Without going off on a long rant about teacher PD troubles it's suffice to write that it has BIG issues. We've all endured our time wasted at bad PD work shops. PD needs to be teacher driven. The goal here is to provide a self-cure to the PD woes, not list its countless problems.

Stand Up Against Educational Inequality and Over-Testing
On April 4th in 1968 the world suffered a terrible loss when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken from this earth. However, in his death he left us with the mission of carrying forward his legacy: to ensure an equal education for all citizens, promote strength of character and an end segregation. Most famously the I Have a Dream speech encapsulates his mission when he eloquently told the world of his hope that his "...four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." One wonders what this greatest of men would think about todays educational reform movement that promotes children be judged on the almighty test score rather than their values, morals and ethics.  Within that same prophetic address Dr. King espoused his hope that one day "...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." One wonders what this mightiest of leaders would think about the existence of the segregation of todays special education and poverty laden little boys and girls from those charter and voucher school little boys and girls. Public Education in the United States is founded upon the concept of teaching ALL of its citizens to be compassionate, well rounded and participatory citizens of the future.

0-59% Contains Greatest Range of Growth?
Data in the world of education today has become perhaps the hottest, most trendy of issues. It is used to show the success of a particular school, an entire school district, the effectiveness of a teacher and, of course, to determine the learning of a student. As a veteran of twenty years teaching grade 8 U.S. History myself I truly know the value of standardized tests from personal experience: for the most part it allows me to compare and contrast one student pool against another from year to year. The data allows me to analyze areas of my daily instruction that are successful or that need more attention as it pertains to what that test is focused upon. After decades of analyzing Social Studies standardized tests in the State of Michigan I have found there to be one constant: the inconsistency of these standardized tests...

PictureCartoon by David Sipress
Misguided; this could be the best way to summarize today's United States' lawmaker mentality that considers a test score to be the proper and best way to evaluate student success, as well as, teacher performance.  Already, we are starting to see the fallout of this ridiculous methodology. The Atlanta Public Schools are perhaps the best known to date to be cited in the unethical quagmire surrounding high stakes standardized testing but in reality the problem will only fester if this educational course of action continues.

Recently, in my own backyard, the Detroit Free Press developed an article on the increased pressure placed upon educators to ensure that the students under their supervision score well on standardized tests. In this survey 29% of the educators polled feel pressure to cheat. While this statistic is both alarming and angering to me as both an educator and parent; I am more SADDENED than anything! The pressure placed upon educators is due to the fact that state funding for the school/s depends on these scores, as well as, in many cases meeting AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) to prevent the building from being closed down. Now in the State of Michigan the stakes will be even higher in the years to come since Governor Snyder signed into law a new teacher tenure law in July.  This law can ultimately lead to a teacher being identified as "ineffective" if students under their instruction perform poorly on a standardized test. If an educator is deemed "ineffective" they can be dismissed if subsequent evaluations show that no improvement occurs, that is, if they are not laid-off first.  ALL the "effective" teachers will maintain employment ahead of those that are "ineffective" when downsizing of staff is needed to meet budgetary restraints; years of prior teaching success has no merit any longer. As much as I wholeheartedly disagree with everything associated with standardized testing I am saddened by the long term effect/s on students and the teaching profession...