Saving Our Schools?

Most of those who read the education blogosphere or follow the myriad of edu-tweeters know that this weekend is the “Save Our
Schools” rally
 in Washington, DC.  On Saturday, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens with gather on the Ellipse.  They are encouraged to “arrive early to enjoy performances, art, and more!” and they are slated to hear from Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, Jose Vilson, Deborah Meier, Monty Neill, and “other speakers, musicians, performance poets, and more.”  This collection “will encourage, educate, and support this movement.”

For weeks now, we’ve seen the media savvy folks in the Save Our Schools clique use their blogs and Twitter feeds to promote the rally.  Ravitch has been touting it since its inception.  Teacher Ken has written about it on multiple blog platforms.  And Nancy Flanagan has used her perch at Education Week to tout the event, its justification, and its potential significance.
As I’ve written about many times before, successful public engagement is about far more than simply “informing” people on an issue.  Sharing information, as the slated speakers intend to do, is the easiest component of public engagement.  The hard work is affecting outcomes.  How do you move from informing at a rally to building measurable commitment to a specific solution?  How do you mobilize around that specific solution?  And ultimately, how do you successful change both thinking and action related to the issue?
To that end, rather than rehash the points and counterpoints that have been going back and forth, Eduflack simply has a few questions to ask:
* What is the expected turnout for the event?  Noting the “RSVP” function, how many actual attendees will be considered a success?  And how many physical bodies would be considered a failure?
* Will Save Our Schools disclose its funders?
* What are the tangible outcomes coming from the principles?  Does equitable funding mean moving more dollars into failing schools, or can it mean a new formula where funding follows the student?  Where do the dollars for all of the “full funding” come from?  What specific “multiple and varied assessments” are “demanded?”  What exactly do you propose for curriculum development (recognizing the bullets under the principle of curriculum seem to have little do do with actual curriculum development)?
* How does a weekend of speeches, music, and art “draw sustained attention to the critical issues?”
* And why are you following the kiss of death for many recent education movements, opening a “Save Our Schools” store?
I’m all for people have a good, fun time during these hot and humid summer days in our nation’s capital.  But if one is serious about school improvement (setting aside whether SOS’ agenda can be considered “improvement”), you need to offer a little more than arts and crafts.  Set an agenda.  Publicly disclose intentions.  Establish clear, measurable goals and report back on progress.  Allow the same public you are appealing to now to hold you accountable a year from now.  Without that, it is just another fun day in the sun, with chants of “go schools!” between games of ultimate frisbee.  And that gets us no closer to improving student achievement and potential for success.
 

12 thoughts on “Saving Our Schools?

  1. It’s amusing to watch the right try to smear the SOS march.We are a grassroots organization with little to no funding, save the huge donation Diane Ravitch made of her award money.Almost all the money came from donations from the grassroots supporters of the march.Your attempts to smear it as a tool of unions or other funders is disingenuous and a red herring, and you know it.The SOS March aims to inform the public that the reform position is based not on research or what’s best for children, but on business and how to open up the public education system to privatization and to saddle every child with what might as well amount to a tattooed score on their body.If you want to know about the march and what we aim to do, just ask, don’t make shit up.Also, it’s an attempt to show just how many people, who have asked to be heard by the reformers but been denied that honor, are NOT on board with education reform, the biggest corporate takover of a government program amybe ever (at least since Blackwater took over our military).

  2. Frustrated Teacher — Asking one how one measures the success of an effort hardly seems like a “smear.”  It seems like a natural question in a community that is dominated by white noise.  

    As for the funding question, the issue is raised on SOS’ FAQ.  But it didn’t provide muh information.  We ask politicians where they get their funding.  We question who funds education research studies.  And we certainly ask who is the money behind reform initiatives.  It only seems fair to ask who is funding this effort.  If it is all grassroots, small dollar support, terrific.  Is that the case?

    I’m also assuming that this is a boilerplate response to any blog post discussing SOS.  At no point did I mention unions.  Are you concerned this is a “tool of the unions?”

    Your statements on the SOS March don’t seem to reflect the principles and objectives laid out on the SOS website.  It isn’t described as an anti-reform rally.  It isn’t positioned as an anti-business rally.  

    I am asking you questions.  Thus my list of questions.  What, exactly, did I make up?

    And finally, I completely agree that SOS is attempting to show just how many people support SOS.  Thus my first question.  What is the expected crowd?  What crowd is a success?  What crowd is a failure?

    Those efforts that ultimately succeed are able to withstand questions and criticism.  Success doesn’t come from insulting your opponents or attacking their motives or calling them names.  It comes from offering a better solution.

  3. I’ll keep it brief because I too will march at this magnificent event. I believe the purpose of the event is to have a call to action for a new narrative, one that diverges from the ideas presented by public education deformers. I see what you’re saying, but you’re missing the point. These things we’re doing, we believe, will culminate in a social, long term movement that will eventually put us on the right course for what we believe a democratic, equitable public school system is and should have been all along. In hopes that no one uses the words “status quo” (because high-stakes testing and the deformer agenda has become part and parcel that), we have to do better for our students. We can do better. We can fund more equitably, we can have better teacher preparation programs, we can have less testing … and still see higher student “achievement” across the board. I put that in quotations because the jury’s still out on real definitive measures not named TIMMS or NAEP. With such a wealth of expertise and … wealth, why do we consider throwing money at the already wealthy a good investment and throwing money at our most needy a waste? If you know where I’m going, then yes, that’s why I’m marching. I march for you too, sir.

  4. I am very disappointed with this post. You are a policy person. What are you doing to save our schools from the destructive “reforms” of the decade? If your job is educational policy, you should know how destructive those policies have been, and if you are aware of their effects, you know why we march. A teachers main job is to protect his or her students.

  5. I am neither on the right or the left…I just want our kids to get a real education in government schools…I think SOS is decades late and more about the status quo…I think teachers are scared to death of change as we will see how many are truly ineffective regardless of all the “certifications” they may have…we know “certifications” does not mean one is a great or transformative teacher…

  6. I was glad to see that people fight to save something so precious as that school.When we are gathered together and have one common dream everything is possible.

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