Make Roar Happen

First things first. Eduflack is a huge Katy Perry fan. I have purchased all of her albums. I have been known to use her songs as my ringtones. I have seen (with my wife) Katy perform a live show, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in years. Yes, I am Eduflack and I am a Katycat.

As the son of a retired schoolteacher, I also know it is that time of year when my mother used to start dipping into her own pocket (I know it is an ongoing activity for teachers) to pay for materials for her classroom. I can’t even think the likely tens of thousands of dollars she spent over her career to have the best 10th grade English classroom she could.

So I was thrilled to see that Katy Perry has teamed up with Donors Choose and Staples to help direct $1 million to help support teachers. Dollars that can be used to make up for recent cute and fill the funding gaps that have persisted for far too long.

20140720-143314-52394348.jpg Then it hit me. The teachers unions are advocating a boycott of Staples stores across the country, showing solidarity with the postal workers union. The issue is that Staples is working with Congress to turn its stores into quasi-post offices, but non-union branches.

So it begs an important question. Can one support Katy and Donors a Choose in this important effort, even with Staples involved? Can we #MakeRoarHappen for teachers, and help send a million bucks to educators in need, without it betraying the union? I certainly hope so.

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Social Media MVP

Last month, I was honored by PR News for the social media work I do on the Eduflack platform (primarily Twitter) and the SM counsel I have provided a wide range of education organizations and individuals over the years.

This is the badge that PR News has asked its MVPs to use, so I am proud to post it here on the Eduflack blog.

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Universal Design and the Common Core

We continue to hear a constant, deafening drumbeat about the Common Core State Standards. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But how often does Universal Design for Learning fit into that discussion?

Over at BAM Radio, the latest episode of #CommonCoreRadio is now up. This time around, we talk with Dr. Katie Novak, a reading coordinator in the Massachusetts public schools and author of UDL Now! A Teacher’s Monday Morning Guide to Implementing Common Core Standards using Universal Design for Learning.

BAM Radio: Universal Design and the Common Core

It’s an interesting discussion of UDL and how it can actually work as part of our common core implementation efforts. Happy listening!

Word Crimes

As a kid, I absolutely loved Weird Al Yankovic and his music parodies. Yes, I was one of those that bought his cassettes (you heard me, I said cassettes). I even saw his movie, UHF, in the theaters. I found his parodies to be witty and funny.

I recognize Weird Al is an acquired taste. But we all must agree that his latest — Word Crimes — is just what many in the education (and education blogging/social media) community need. Consider the song, and its accompanying video, as Schoolhouse Rock on steroids.

I give Weird Al special props for the multiple visuals of the sentence diagram. But I’m a little disappointed he come si/come sa approach with the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma most definitely is a requirement.

Happy watching, and listening. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Time to Read Dadprovement

I am thrilled to announce that my new book, Dadprovement, is now officially available. This book is a deviation from what I typically write. Instead of opining on the latest and greatest in education policy, It is a far more personal story.

Dadprovement tells of the journey I have gone through to become a father. It details all my wife and I experienced adopting our two children from Guatemala. Such international adoption tales are typically told through the eyes of the mother. Dadprovement is decidedly father-centric.

The second half of the book, though, spotlights the path I have taken to become a more involved father. My shift from careerist, a man focused primarily on my work and sacrificing my family in the name of taking care of them, toward a real dad and husband who rightfully placed my family first and foremost in my life.

Those who have read it are amazed by the story. It officially comes out from Turning Stone Press at the end of the month, available in bookstores around the nation. It is available as a paperback now from Amazon. It is also now available on Kindle here.

Don’t take my word for it on how terrific a book it is. Just look how happy my kiddos seem with it, finding it in NYC this weekend.

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You can also read more about the book and related issues over on the Dadprovement blog, www.dadprovement.com.

AFT Yells, “Game On!”

Some were wondering how AFT, at its annual assembly, would top NEA and its official vote calling for EdSec Arne Duncan’s ouster. Would AFT call for the same? Would they seek heads on pikes?

Well, AFT has responded, and they decided to do so in the most political of ways. First, they announce the formation of “Democrats for Public Education,” a new 527 that will seek to inject addition teacher unionism in political races. While details of the new org are still being worked out, it’ll be co-chaired by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Dem political consultant Donna Brazile.

It is best seen as a direct counter to Democrats for Education Reform, a group that has grown more and more active in political campaigns. So,me traditional Dems in Los Angeles even tried to block them from using the “Democrats” word, questioning their allegiance to the party.

In welcoming the new group to the fold, DFER ED Joe Williams offered an appropriate Guns n Roses response, “Welcome to the jungle, baby!”

Then over the weekend. AFT also issued an email missive to rally the troops. Under the header of “Are You In?” AFT sent the following:

The promise of America isn’t disappearing by accident. We are being ripped off.

Today, I stood in front of 3,500 AFT members and leaders and asked them to pledge to push back and fight forward. Now I’m asking you.

Our students are suffering. Our families are being squeezed. Our communities are being starved. But it doesn’t have to happen this way.

Will you pledge to stand with us—in our communities, in our workplaces, and at the ballot box?

Our enemy is organized and motivated. They blame teachers for struggling schools. They blame public employees for budget deficits. They blame workers for the broken economy. They sell austerity as the solution while they buy elections, push radical legislation and fund court cases to strip us of our rights.

They use their wealth to build power. Our strength is people-powered. It’s in our members, our leaders and the communities we serve. Despite the vast challenges we face, our ranks continue to grow. Today, our union is 1.6 million members strong.

We work every day to create a better life for our members and the communities we serve. More and more, we’re fighting together to reclaim the promise that’s being stolen from us.

Take the pledge, and join us as we push back and fight forward.

This is the promise we believe in: If you work hard, you have a fair shot to get ahead. Your children can attend a great neighborhood public school, no matter where you live. You can get high-quality healthcare without going broke. Your tax dollars will help build and support a safe community for all of us. You’ll be treated fairly at work, and you’ll get a real raise once in a while. A lifetime of work will earn a retirement with dignity.

While we’re fighting for big things, no action is too small. We need you to do whatever you can. Commit to engage your colleagues in the fight. To build power at the ballot box. To share our work online and in person. To work hand in hand with the communities we serve.

Joe, it seems Randi Weingarten’s retort is “game on.” The big question is whether the new AFT response results in the sort of power they seek come Election Day. Will the new AFT call be a reason for folks to vote in coming elections, or will it be an also ran, as education issues have been for decades. Only time will tell.

The Importance of a Mother’s Education

Over on my Dadprovement blog, I write about a new study that looks at how a mother’s education impacts a child’s education. Definitely offers some real food for thought. The full post follows:

 

Yes, this blog is primarily about issues related to fatherhood. But it is also about being a better parent and raising a better family. So it was quite interesting to see an article in today’s Washington Post of a new research study that finds that a mother’s education may be the biggest influence on a child’s education.

WaPo reporter Michael Alison Chandler really distilled the findings by offering that “one in eight children in the U.S. … are born to a mother with no high school diploma, compared to one in three whose mothers have a college diploma.”

So how do those groups compare? Chandler reports:

“● 84 percent live in low-income families, compared to 13 percent

● 48 percent have a mother who is not securely employed, compared to 11 percent

● 16 percent read proficiently in the eighth grade, compared to 49 percent

● 40 percent do not graduate on time, compared to 2 percent

● 27 percent are obese, compared to 13 percent”

Some fascinating food for thought, particularly for dads, and parents in general, who think the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to child rearing can get the job done in the long term.

 

Federal Educator Quality, Take 62 1/2

Today, Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education announced its new “Excellent Educators for All Initiative.” A likely response to much recent data (including that from Ed Trust) that students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds are least likely to have the best teachers leading their classrooms (and likely in partial response to change the subject from the divisive Vergara decision in California, ED is seeking to turn a new page on teacher quality and the equitable distribution of our most effective educators.

In making the announcement, EdSec Duncan said:

All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential. Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better. Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most.

Perhaps more interesting, though, was the communique that Team Duncan shared with the nation’s chief state school officers in rolling out the new initiative. Included in the letter:

Over the past several months, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has conducted outreach to Chief State School Officers, school districts, civil rights groups, teachers, principals, and other stakeholders to explore ways to tackle and resolve the disparities in access to great teachers that we know continue to exist. Through this outreach, we heard that there is no single solution to this problem; we need a broad and systemic focus on supporting and improving teaching and learning, especially in our highest-need schools and for our highest-need students, including students with disabilities and English learners. We heard that the best efforts will not only include recruiting, developing, and retaining great educators with the skills to teach all students, but will also build strong school leaders, create supportive working conditions, and address inequities in resources and supports for teachers.

and

This is not the first time that states, districts, and the federal government have tried to grapple with the complex challenge of ensuring equitable access to excellent educators, but previous efforts have not fully addressed the challenge. Our continued collective failure to ensure that all students have access to great teachers and school leaders is squarely at odds with the commitment we all share to equal educational opportunity. I thank you for your ongoing and tireless work on behalf of America’s schoolchildren, and I look forward to working collaboratively and supporting SEAs and districts as part of a nationwide effort to close this unacceptable opportunity gap.

The new initiative is initially focusing on three key areas: 1) New State Educator Equity Plans; 2) Educator Equity Support Network; and 3) Data Release and State Profiles.

At face value, it all seems well meaning. These are three areas that all those, whether they be “reformers” or defenders of the “status quo” should be able to get behind. Maybe some consensus on the one area — effective teaching — on which we need the greatest collaboration and commitment.

But it does raise one unanswered question. How will this new effort interact and build on the work that has already happened on this topic? How does it build on the existing research? How does it move forward from past ED efforts, like teach.gov? How does it build on the teacher-focused philanthropic efforts led by everyone from Gates to Ford? How does it learn from upstart efforts such as the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows and STEM mid-career programs? How will it bring together colleges of education and alt cert programs in a meaningful way?

How does it learn from all that came before it? Or will it simply be another effort that seeks to reinvent a wheel that already has plenty of road miles on it? Only time will tell …

I’m (Almost) Back

Eduflack is happy to report that I will soon be back in the saddle on this dear ol’ blog shortly. I appreciate all the loyal readers’ patience with me as I wrapped up my book on fatherhood (coming to a bookstore or e-reader near you next month) and wrapped up the second edition as lead editor of Why Kids Can’t Read: Challenging the Status Quo in Education.

Come August, I’ll be back to multiple posts a week here on the important intersections of education, policy, politics, and communications. And if you can’t get enough of Eduflack, check out my Twitter feed and all those articles I find interesting, and hope to blog about one day.

Thanks, as always, for following. Have a great Independence Day weekend!