New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Will We Ever Learn?

April 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

High-Stakes Testing Undermines the Essence of Teaching

by Robert C. Koehler

A mind is a terrible thing to test, especially a child’s mind — if, in so doing, you reduce it to a number and proceed to worship that number, ignoring the extraordinary complexity and near-infinite potential of what you have just tested.

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” What if?

What if the American education bureaucracy understood these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and honored the latent genius of every student? What if it funded teachers and schools with as much enthusiasm as it did corporate vendors? What if, in some official way, we loved kids and their potential more than the job slots we envisioned for them and judged them only in relationship to their realization of that potential? What if standardized testing, especially the obsessive, punitive form that has evolved in this country, went the way of the dunce cap and the stool in the corner? (more…)

Community Support

January 31, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

‘Housing First’ Doesn’t Work Alone

by Pat LaMarche

Homeless advocates from 36 states are gathering this week at the Beyond Housing Conference sponsored by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH). Institute President and CEO, Ralph DaCosta Nunez, opened the conference by explaining the agency’s intent when they named the event. Nunez said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding about this issue,” that goes beyond homelessness.

Nunez should know. He served as Mayor Koch’s Deputy Director when New York City first started tackling the issue of homeless families. He explained that the city’s initial approach was a rush to find housing. Families burned out by their homes, or those who lost housing after paying a big medical bill were relatively easy to help. And the numbers were workable. Thirty years ago there were 800 families a year. Nunez said they worked with their re-housing model, but when that number jumped to 5000, they realized the problem wasn’t going to “go away.” It wasn’t even going to “level off.” Additionally, and because of a change in direction the federal government took in the 1980s, the situation of homelessness went from a problem to a catastrophe. Today, there are 12,155 homeless families in New York City. Nunez told the group, “Tonight, 55,000 men, women and children will sleep in shelters all across the city.” (more…)

A People Rise

January 23, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Robert C. Koehler

Beyond Our Broken Dreams

by Robert C. Koehler

Every night gunshots lullaby me to sleep
In ruins of abandoned buildings
the broken glass is
where we bottle up all our broken dreams….

Hold the dream with me, as it breaks loose from Jameale Pickett’s poem. Something beyond the insane dance of crime and punishment is happening, at least this year, this moment, in Chicago’s high schools. Young people are getting a chance to excel and become themselves, as more and more schools find and embrace common sense, also known as restorative justice.

The funding is fragile, precarious, but some schools in struggling communities are figuring out how to break the school-to-prison pipeline, even though the system as a whole remains wrapped up in suspensions, expulsions, zero tolerance and racism.

“The Obama administration on Wednesday urged school officials to abandon unnecessarily harsh suspension and expulsion practices that appear to target black students,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported recently. (more…)

Bike Lanes to Somewhere

October 24, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

On Race, Health, and Equity

by Jay Walljasper

Rev. Kenneth Gunn’s ministry at Chicago’s Bread of Life Church encompasses both the Bible and bicycles. He organized a bike club that regularly rides from the South Side church to Lake Michigan and along the Lakefront Trail. In his spare time, Gunn repairs donated bikes that he gives to kids in the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Rev. Gunn believes biking offers great benefits to the community. “Besides good recreation, biking is economical,” the 70-year-old minister explains, especially in a city where many people don’t own cars and transit fares are rising. “But health is the number one reason to ride a bike. It’s good for your coronary, your respiratory and your blood pressure. And I find it’s good for my arthritis.”

Gunn welcomes the new protected bike lanes popping up across Chicago’s South Side as a way to encourage more African-Americans to bike. “The city is becoming more and more bike friendly. The new lanes on 55th Street are super-safe and I love it.” (more…)

RJ in LA

September 24, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer

Bringing Restorative Justice into Los Angeles Schools

by Diane Lefer

In May, when the LAUSD board voted to end the practice of suspending students for “willful defiance,” the blogosphere heated up. Monica Garcia, then board president, was called a moron, and students were referred to as thugs, animals, and savages. Well, guess what, haters? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Recently, after the school year began with LAUSD rolling out a plan to replace punitive disciplinary measures with the practices of restorative justice, Garcia was applauded by community advocates at a meeting at Loyola Law School. In return, she gave the activists their props: “It’s because of your advocacy,” she said.

The restorative justice initiative was championed by community groups including CADRE, Community Rights Campaign, Dignity in Schools, and Youth Justice Coalition, all committed to keeping kids out of the criminal and juvenile court system and in school. This approach asks, Who was harmed? How can that harm be repaired? What are the needs and responsibilities of the parties? How can the parties be held accountable in a positive and healthy way? (more…)

School’s In…

August 29, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Laura L. Finley

Four Lessons for College Professors

by Laura L. Finley

A few days ago, I read on Facebook the re-posting of an essay, authored by a young college professor, which discussed the five things students should never say to their professors. Originally published in USA Today, the list includes such gems as “Did I miss anything important?” “I took this class for an easy A,” “I didn’t know we had anything due,” “I was studying for another course so couldn’t do my work for this class,” and “Did you answer my email yet?”

While I, like so many professors, have been asked all of these questions during my teaching career, I want to offer a different list, this one for professors. Too often, educators, and especially professors, seem to operate from the perspective that “this job would be okay if it weren’t for the kids.” That list of questions not to ask, in my mind, comes from the same place. While it may have been intended to help students get in good with their professors, it seems to suggest that students are clueless dolts who are annoyingly self-centered. (more…)

Challenging the Test

May 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Bacon, Politics

Teachers in Oaxaca Resist the Standardization of Education

by David Bacon

Recently an American Federation of Teachers resolution declared that U.S. public schools are held hostage to a “testing fixation rooted in the No Child Left Behind Act,” and condemned its “extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy.”  AFT President Randi Weingarten proposed instead that “public education should be obsessed with high-quality teaching and learning, not high-stakes testing.”   In Seattle teachers at Garfield High have refused to give them.

Many Mexican teachers would find these sentiments familiar.  The testing regime in Mexico is as entrenched as it is in the United States, and its political use is very similar — undermining the rights of teachers, and attacking unions that oppose it. (more…)