The purpose of education: the three E’s

 

I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:

Enrollment

Enlistment

Employment

I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:

Emancipation

Enlightenment

Empowerment

Let us consider the differences between education in different settings.  The elite private schools of Indianapolis certainly don’t offer up “enrollment, enlistment, and employment” as the purposes for the education that they are offering their students.  In fact, one website I visited  included three C’s in their vision: curiosity, compassion, and courage.  It is just me, or are there radically different connotations to each of those lists of words?  Yep.  Enrollment, enlistment, and employment should not be the end game here.  Being enrolled, enlisted, or employed should be natural byproducts of an education that honors and inspires the whole child…a child who is:

EMANCIPATED:  has realized that his current socioeconomic status and/or identity is not predictive of or limiting his future possibilities.

ENLIGHTENED: has been exposed to a wide variety of curricula, activities, and interests, can apply that information to her current circumstance, and is inspired to pursue further learning on topics of her choosing.

EMPOWERED: has realized that his locus of control lies within himself, takes his resources into account and knows when to use them, demonstrates responsibility and self-determination.

Allow me to offer a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

School A students wait outside or on the bus until the bell rings.  Once allowed inside, they walk with bubbles in their mouths and their arms crossed in hallway hugs on the right side of the hallway, using the red tape line as a guide, with absolutely no talking.  They arrive at their classroom, and are greeted by an under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked teacher, who (in some cases) loves them anyway, and are doing the absolute best they can despite the current conditions.  School A student sits at their desk, quietly doing bell work.  Their day consists of a math block, a reading block (typically with basal readers and pre-made worksheets), and Science or Social Studies if it’s in a grade where it’s tested on ISTEP, and when there is time in the day for it.  The Indiana Academic Standards are posted on the wall so we always know which ones we are currently working on, and because there will be a test soon.  There is always an upcoming test; quizzes, benchmarks, I-READS, I-STEPS.  Student A gets gym twice a week, Music twice a week, and Art on a cart or library once a week.  She gets the same lunch as everyone else, whether kindergarten or high school athlete.  She sits down at the long cafeteria table, next to the kid in line according to alphabetical order.  Sometimes she has to sit in silence with the lights out at lunch, while a stressed out adult yells at them through a microphone to be quiet.  If she talks, she get after school detention.

A student from school B arrives at school early to go and speak with his favorite teacher before class starts.  There are no bells, but student B knows when it’s time to head to homeroom because he can hear the happy chatter of students in the halls.  Teachers throughout the halls are standing at their doors, smiling, and greeting students.  Student B enters the classroom and gets ready for his discussion in circle time.  He knows he will have to plan his day of learning, and his teacher guides him in planning to make choices throughout the day, such as where to sit, how to see the best in his (sometimes annoying) classmates, which books to read, which topics to write about, which centers to visit during math workshop.  When his friend helps him to discover grouping pumpkin seeds by ten to count rather than counting by ones, his teacher notes his success and celebrates by asking the class to stop and watch his demonstration.  At lunch, he sits outside in the spring air with a chosen group of friends but plans to visit the library during lunch tomorrow. In the afternoon, he has a disagreement with a peer that wouldn’t leave him alone.  He had to set aside time to attend a peace mediation session with his teacher, and everything is back to normal now – which is great, because the best part of his day is going to the Environmental Club after school.

As you think about the differences in the vignettes from school A vs. school B, please consider the following:
  • What organizational differences in these two settings are creating such a vast gap in the learning experiences of students?  What is the “work” culture of these two districts?  What policies are in place to set these conditions?  What role might standardized testing play?  How might the concept of accountability be experienced differently in school A vs. school B?
  • What do you think the adults in school A are doing differently than the adults in school B?
  • Trick question: which school has the highest paid outside consultants? (Hint: it’s not the one you might think.)
  • Which school offers more individual freedom?  What are the consequences of allowing students to make authentic choices, both negative and positive? (dare I say it, student AUTONOMY?)
  • How might the opportunity to make decisions in school affect a student’s learning…after all, isn’t LIFE about the ability for people to make sound decisions for themselves?
  • Over 12 years of schooling, what cumulative effects can we expect on human lives?  In other words, which set of three E’s is school A preparing students for?  School B?
  • Which school is designed to produce leaders and innovators?  Which school is designed to produce worker bees?  Does either school encourage the questioning of authority, or the status quo? Is this by design?
  • Does student A DESERVE different treatment than student B, based on an ability to pay for a private school education?  To what extent (if any) can a public school offer a private school education (or a semblance of it)?
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For the first time ever, I am allowing comments on this blog thread.  Responses are moderated, and idiocy of any kind is not tolerated.  Let’s discuss the questions above, and the general idea of the PURPOSE of education, public, charter, and private.  If your comments do not get posted, it’s because you did not give input to the questions.  Or you were inappropriate. Don’t take it personal…
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Do you want to share the story of what is going on in your Indianapolis school?  I am inviting teachers, school staff and students to write about their experiences, good and bad, to be shared anonymously (or not, you choose) on my blog.  Please email submissions to: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com
These thoughts are my own and do not reflect IPS or any other entity.  I assume no responsibility for the comments of others on this blog or in any other format.

 

State of the “Maverick” Address

I don’t care what a lot of people think (especially those who perceive themselves to be in power).

However, I do care deeply about my community.

For this reason, I have decided to announce early my decision to not seek re-election to the IPS school board.  I want to give my community as much lead time as possible to prepare viable, strong candidate(s) ready to compete for the district 2 seat this November.

Some of you might be wondering why I have chosen this path.

In an attempt to further understand some of the crazy political maneuvering I’ve seen thus far in education, last year I began the journey to obtain a Ph.D. in Urban Education Studies.  This degree will further enable my advocacy work toward education for liberation.

I’ve always been an ambitious person, but folks, I am human.  It’s been a delicate balancing act to juggle the roles of mother, wife, doctoral student, employee, and commissioner.  I cannot reasonably expect myself to be able to devote adequate time and energy to all of these demanding and highly important roles for the duration of another 4 year term.  Not to mention the short-term trajectory of my doctoral work will include writing a dissertation and the eventual possibility of relocation as I settle into the profession.  Therefore, it’s time for someone else from district 2 to prepare to represent us.

I fully intend to complete the final year of my elected term by continuing to advocate for my community.

I have a few things on my mind as I move into the last year of my elected term.

  1. Increase the presence of student voice in policy making.

Other school boards hold regular meetings with the student government bodies from their high schools, or they implement a process for forming *some* type of student advisory council, and a regular meeting schedule. Student voice is incredibly important.  It teaches students to think critically about their education, and forces them to employ different skill sets to achieve their desired outcome.  It can lay the foundation for future civic engagement.  Aren’t students the reason why we’re here?  Don’t we need to figure out what they want?  Would it be so much to give them some of what they want?  A little happiness at school can go a long way toward keeping our students invested and engaged in their education.

 

  1. Parents, families and the community deserve autonomy also.

It makes me cringe every time a school community is informed of something that has been imposed on them: a school closing or relocation, a new model, so on and so forth.  In my opinion this should never, ever be the case.  Why?  Because parents, families and the school community should be given the opportunity to engage in driving those decisions before they are made.  I’m not talking about forced last-minute choices, either.  I’m talking about real community education and informed dialogue.  If the school community is involved to this degree, proactively, then there are no surprises.  In 2013 a policy was enacted that allowed for a diverse group of school stakeholders (parents, teachers, community members) to serve as a principal selection committee.  Are stakeholder groups still invited to the table to weigh in on these decisions?

 

  1. Innovation partnerships merit more careful consideration.

Did I ever share with you that my oldest graduated from a charter school and my middle child currently attends one?  They are both locally owned charters.  I don’t have anything against local charter schools, per se.  [CAVEATS: In a perfect world traditional public schools would be well funded and freed from the destructive patterns caused by standardized testing.  If that were the case, there would be no reason or opportunity for charter school competition.  However, charter schools do exist – I therefore prefer homegrown charter schools that don’t seem to have profit motive at the forefront.]  There are also some charter school “chains” that have promising ideals, located in cities outside Indy.  Our communities need to be educated on differing types of charters and be involved in the decision making for potential partnerships.  Since it is school performance that everyone is judging, then it would make complete sense for us to judge a potential charter school partner by its past performance.  Also, demand to see the number$.  A precedent has been established that appears to favor the charter school partner – see the details HERE.  Can this type of investment in outside partnerships be sustained year after year?  For how many years? How will these expenditures affect the school budgets of children in traditional schools as innovation schools expand?  How will potential outsourcing of many Indianapolis residents’ jobs (transportation, custodial, food service) affect our communities?

 

I don’t think that I am the only person who thinks that (at least some of) these are priorities or concerns.  As evidence of this, the Core Commitments reflect some of this language. Anyhow, whether I think they are important or not is pretty irrelevant.  I am just one lone dissenter on a board with an established supermajority.  If anything at all takes place, you won’t see me taking credit for any of it.  I’m not in a position to DO anything at all…which brings me to my last question.  Being that I am only one vote, and have absolutely no chances of affecting the future course of anything, why does my dissenting voice bother anyone?  In the interest of democracy, why is there such a fuss when I simply want to speak to my convictions?   Why is diversity of thought viewed as a hindrance rather than a strength?   Why is it so desirable to have 100% total agreement on a publicly elected board?

My thoughts represented on this site are my own free speech.  This blog is a personal publication.  I don’t represent anyone or anything other than myself.

You can email me by clicking this link: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

STAND for something, fall for anything??

I came across this little gem in the Indy Star:
STANDletter
I suppose that I am the one cautious board member that is named in this letter.  So, allow me to address your concerns.  For the record, as a former IPS teacher, I have seen firsthand the “failure” that you speak of, and share some of your frustration. I am also currently an IPS parent. My child attends a school which will likely be rated a D or an F this year (if you care about that sort of thing, given the current state of standardized testing/ISTEP).  However, the devil of “innovation” is in the details. The dissent that I offer on the board in regard to innovation schools is because: I believe in equitable access to a free public education, and I do not believe that parceling out our public school system to become a loosely associated chain of charter organizations that have contracts with IPS is in the best interests of children.  Do you realize that when Phalen Academy was given a contract to run school 103, they got upwards of $3 million dollars to do so?  That money has to come from somewhere…and as we create more and more of these “innovation partnerships”, we are siphoning valuable and extremely limited resources from the very D and F schools that you speak of. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the money – understand that these partnerships are with corporations (non-profit or otherwise) – so when you have a concern, you do not have an elected official (such as myself) to represent the people.  You will be taking your chances with a privately appointed board who is tasked with running the day to day operations of the school.  Good luck signing up to delegate there.
Reason #456 on my list is because: people will undoubtedly lose their jobs. As private organizations take over, they do have the right to hire their own teachers.  Frequently at lower pay.  There will be layoffs of teachers.  These organizations also have the right to contract out any services they desire – including janitorial (bye bye, IPS custodians), food services, bus drivers – you name it, it will no longer be a secure source of employment for our community members with stable pay and benefits.  It will be McBusDrivers Incorporated sending folks from out of town that don’t know how to navigate Indianapolis that will be driving your kids around for minimum wage and no health insurance.
Reason #992: Have you checked the performance of most Indianapolis charter schools lately?  They fare no better than IPS.
Don’t believe the hype – innovation is possible without privatizing our public school system.  Look at Project Restore, which is a model in place at schools 99, 88, and 93.  It is a homegrown IPS concept that has been very successful – and it doesn’t need a contract, millions being given to an outside organization/board of directors in order to make it happen.  Those schools are given the latitude needed to increase student achievement, and it works.  Let’s think critically about how to really improve our school system without fragmenting and reducing it to a binder full of  $$ contracts.  I applaud your advocacy for your children, but you need to ask some hard questions.  What is the real agenda of Stand for Children?  Why have they thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars into getting IPS board members elected, including myself?  Why aren’t they putting that money toward helping IPS develop more innovative homegrown programs like Project Restore, and making them available to other schools, MINUS the middlemen with their hands out?? Are you getting the whole story?
My thoughts are, obviously, my own.
Email me if you’d like: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Black lives matter.

Disclaimer:  if the thought of having bold conversations about race issues is a turn-off, then read no further.  If you are sensitive or thin skinned, then this article may not be for you…because my intent is not to be offensive. The Indianapolis community needs to have broad, fearless conversations about race…and in order to figure out where to go – we first need to understand where we’ve been.  Here’s my attempt at an easily digestible history lesson, and food for thought about what is happening now.

1877 law stated that if no local school facility existed for black students, they could attend a school designated for whites.

An unintended consequence: by 1920, there were about 800 black students enrolled at Shortridge, Tech, and Manual High School – because there was no high school for black students at that time.  Apparently the 1877 law was based on the assumption that black students would attend to the 8th grade and then leave school.  When blacks sought a high school education and began to significantly populate these white institutions, some community members began to raise a fuss.  This fuss raising ultimately led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School – where black children, for decades, attended…until desegregation.

At its peak, IPS enrollment reached over 100,000 students in the late 1960’s, with 11 high schools.  A federal court order mandated that desegregation of IPS schools be achieved by busing black students to townships to attend school.  After several years of appeals, busing finally began in the 1981-82 school year with 5,600 students being sent out of IPS to attend school in the townships.  It is notable that no students from the townships were bused into IPS to attend school.  It is also notable that the busing of black students to the townships likely spurred many disenfranchised black parents, with no means of engaging in their child’s school – inaccessible, way across town.  The loss of students caused the  closure of Shortridge and the conversion of Crispus Attucks to a middle school.  Desegregation of Indianapolis schools also undeniably caused a mass exodus of white folks who had the means and desire to flee the city to do so.  They left as fast and as far as their money would carry them – to places where the schools remained homogeneous.  The combination of busing and white flight over the decades has arrived at our current enrollment of around 30,000 students.

Why is this history important?  What is on my mind?

The fact that my husband came home shaken at the news of a former student murdered this past March.  He did not graduate.

The multitude of stories that have been confided in me by students over the years – the pre-teens who have mothered their younger siblings, the boys whose entire futures have hung, heavily suspended,  in the split-second space of a trigger pull, the 12 year old girl, robbed of her innocence, telling me about the miscarriage she had two years ago.

The 15 year old boy that the police killed over the weekend.  No dash cam.  No body cam.

Are our educational opportunities in Indianapolis still segregated, many decades after were we ordered to change?

In every school, do we not only see faces of every race represented – but do children with varying degrees of social capital and resources attend school together?  Do they not only learn from the same teachers, but maybe more importantly, learn from each other?

To take it a step further, what are the adults and the decision makers doing to create the conditions for this to take place?  Where are schools being intentionally designed to serve children of all races and economic means?  Give them equitable sets of “tools”?

If you see it, please let me know. Give me some examples.


Sidener (gifted and talented school) is 49% white, 26% black

CFI (school 2) downtown is 67% white, 14% black

CFI (school 84) Meridian-Kessler is 82% white, 7% black

CFI (school 27) King Park/Fall Creek is 35% white, 46% black

The entire district is 20% white, 50% black, 23% Hispanic

Source: IDOE Compass


Above I have illustrated the demographics of some of IPS’s more “in-demand” magnet programs.  If we were truly desegregated, ALL of IPS schools would roughly be microcosms of our overall demographics in the district.  Instead, we see pockets of white students concentrated in certain schools.  District policies, such as the sibling preference policy and the neighborhood/proximity boundary preference policy ensure that these demographics don’t change much.

All I see are the conditions being created for: the expansion of gentrification, and the perpetuation of a system which continues to impoverish and further disadvantage some… and we all know that those invisible lines of socioeconomic status – are usually marked with black and brown pens.

This society was built on oppression.  The U.S. was founded on inequity and inequality.  Need proof?  Women not being allowed to vote.  Blacks being considered three-fifths of a person.   It’s systemic.  Does our educational system continue to foster this oppression?  I think many of us would like to turn our cheeks and say, “No, this is just a part of our sordid past.  This is not happening – not here, not today.”

But it IS here, and IT IS TODAY.

What are we going to do??

Maybe my anguish won’t let me see the positive right now…too many traumatic endings for me to process.

My thoughts are my own and do not reflect any entity or any other person or sets of people.

Thoughts? Email me:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com