Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waiting for Superman and Our Responsibility

By Matt Buccelli

This past Monday, I was riding a bus back to DC from New York and happened to be sitting across the aisle from a GW student who had been in New York for an interview and became my friend for the trip.  After we exchanged the usual pleasantries (school, major, class year, etc.), and I mentioned that I worked with DC Reads, my new travel companion (David was the kid's name) asked me about what it was like to work in the DC school system.  Immediately this set off a very interesting conversation that I think says a lot both about the state of education reform in this country and about our broader responsibility as people who work in schools.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Christie on Earned Tenure

To be frank, although I am not the biggest fan of Chris Christie or his policies, I actually support his proposed reformation of teacher tenure. Teacher tenure remains a contested issue in education policy throughout the United States, mostly because it makes it extremely difficult to dismiss terribly ineffective teachers. I think every public school student experienced being stuck in a class taught by an awful teacher who had been teaching for thirty years—a teacher who the school would never be able to fire, no matter how unsuccessful her teaching methods were. 

The Right to Write

By Bisi Orisamolu

Something that was said at the educational panel last night really resonated with me. For those who did not attend Thursday night’s panel discussion, it consisted of five teachers and administrators who had taken an alternative route to teaching. One of the teachers who works in tenth and eleventh grade classrooms said something that I thought was truly inspiring. To paraphrase, he said that educational reform is the new civil rights movement. Stop and think about that for a second. If you let it sink in, then you feel the full impact of this statement.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A "Duhh" Moment

By Tierra Evans  

Thursday, March 31st, Georgetown University and Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy hosted an education forum focused on the importance of character development within the realm of student achievement. The conversation was carried by a distinguished group of panelists including: Tim King, who is founder, President and CEO of Urban Prep Academies, James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement under the Department of Education, Abigail Smith, Chief of Transformation Management Office of DCPS, Irasema Salcido, CEO and founder of the Chavez Schools and driving force behind the DCPNI, and Paul Tough, New York Times Magazine former editor and author of Whatever it Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

DC gets hosed, Gray gets arrested

By Matt Buccelli

I'm taking a class on Washington, DC history this semester, and a couple weeks ago we had a local talk radio host (Mark Plotkin for WTOP FM) come and talk to us about local DC politics and other related issues.  Mr. Plotkin has lived in this city since he was a student at GW in the 1960s, so he had plenty of perspective to offer.  When the conversation turned to DC voting rights, and the injustice of living in a city that is federally taxed but not federally represented, the class talked about how people here and around the country seem to be complacent toward, if not completely ignorant of, the voting rights issue.  Mr. Plotkin gave his opinion that it would take something dramatic, something eye-opening, a we're-not-going-to-take-this-anymore type of moment, to raise public awareness and actually change the predicament here in DC.

Although the ramifications of DC Mayor Vince Gray's arrest on Monday remain to be seen, it at least may have provided the optic that people like Mr. Plotkin have been waiting for. 

Reflections on Waiting for Superman

by Mallory Widell

Tonight I watched the screening of Waiting for Superman as a part of Education Week. Some of the statistics and facts presented in the film are astounding. The movie lists countless problems in the American education system but two of the biggest problems that stood out to me were those of teacher tenure and teacher unions. Of course there are both positive and negative sides to these concepts, and they were mainly positive when teachers' unions  were first founded. For instance, unions can help protect teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons and from being mistreated. On the other hand, many uncaring teachers are kept around because of these practices. The film stated that only 1 in 2500 teachers lose their credentials, while the number of other professionals who lose their credentials is much higher. I think Michelle Rhee's idea to give teachers potentially higher salaries on a merit-basis is a good one but teachers' unions were unwilling to accept this proposal. Rhee's response to this was, "it all becomes about the adults," which is so true. The movie demonstrates how effective charter schools are for the most part (top charter schools send 90 percent of their students to 4-year colleges), but show us that there are not enough spaces for all the children who need them. The movie explains that the education system is broken and fixing it is not going to be easy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Morning Miracle

By Kate Newman
When my alarm goes off at 8:00 A.M. every Tuesday and Thursday morning, my immediate desire is to groggily grab my phone and press SNOOZE for at least another five minutes of much-needed sleep. However, knowing that this battle with technology would continue for at least another hour, I don’t try. More importantly, knowing that some very special second-graders are waiting for me at Houston Elementary School, I actually get out of bed.
It doesn’t matter how tired I am as I walk down to the McDonough parking lot, or if my eyelids start drooping in the van ride from Georgetown to Houston. Once I sit down with Da’Mion or William, I somehow find a sudden burst of energy. They make me want to wake up in the morning and be there for them.
Although I’ve been tutoring with DC Reads since my first semester at Georgetown, this is my first semester as a morning tutor—and I have to admit that I’ve never left in the morning feeling frustrated or unaccomplished, as I have in the afternoons. I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that students are more concentrated during in-school time than during after-school care. However, I believe the main reason is that I’m more concentrated.
As a morning tutor, I start my day with D.C. Reads. I don’t let myself dwell on the events of yesterday, or the things I have to do once we get back to the Hilltop—I allow myself to fully embrace the new day as a fresh start. I wake up with a purpose concerning something bigger than myself. When our van arrives back on campus, I already feel as though I’ve done something with my day. I’ve accomplished something for my tutees, and learned something in return—whether it’s the fact that I apparently look like a “very, very small 20-year-old,” or that a second-grader can come across the word “compassion” and relate it to the earthquake in Japan all on his own.
My experience as a morning tutor has revealed the benefits of fully immersing myself in the time I spend with my tutee. It has also taught me how to be a more engaged and more effective afternoon tutor. Most importantly, it has shown me how essential it is to start every day with a larger purpose. My suggestion to anyone who has an open schedule in the morning: skip the sleep and sign up for morning tutoring—you won’t regret it. Dealing with the alarm is worth it for the students of DCPS.