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What You're Missing At Yale

I've passed in and out of consciousness during Rick Hess's opening talk at the Yale thing today -- the guy talks so fast and I'm still catching up on coffee.  Favorite lines so far include one about how he's not going to talk about how much he loves kids.  That's not the point, says Dr. Hess.  Hear hear.  I often think about renaming this blog "It's Not About The Kids."  Hess also slammed the current turnaround craze, pointing out that even in business most turnarounds fall on their faces.  That may be, says I, but new school creation isn't going to get us there, either.  Spotted so far:  Andy Newman (Eduventures), Steve Barr (Green Dot), Jonathan Gyurko (UFT), Jenny Medina (NYT), Joe Williams (mentioned on Slate!), Eva Moskowitz (NYC).  Pics and updates to follow. 

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I agree with so many things in todays' blogs, ranging from the newspaper articles on successful turnarounds to the comment by that evil Finn guy who didn't buy you lunch.

One of the best things about the turnaround craze is their admissions of how daunting the challenge is. If they are serious, though, they have to address discipline, as was discussed in the Christian Science Monoitor article and the Bronx turnaround you cited.

Although the word "discipline" is largely missing from ed research and policy, common sense says it is a prerequisite. We all give lip service to "safe and orderly schools," but I am unaware of ANY public discussion of the issue that is HONEST ENOUGH for the challenge. In my experience, the ONLY option is to tip toe around the topic, hoping you won't be condemned as a reactionary.

Discipline can't just be a "get tough" approach, and it must be established in tandem with improved instruction, better understanding and communication, and additional alternative slots for chronically disruptive and dangerous students. It requires political will-power, as well as diplomacy.

I don't love my violent and disruptive students any less. They are mostly responding to trauma beyond my direct life experience. And that is one reason why we can't have a frank discussion. EVERYONE needs to face up to the toxic world we have left for so many kids. William Julius Wilson correctly observed that in today's America, we're all jockeying for the position, "I'm innocent."

If we make tough choices, we'll also make mistakes, and kids will suffer. Who wants to make those choices if we are just going to engage in a spasm of discipline and then abandon the challenge as too difficult?

I know this is politically incorrect, but we should all ask these questions. How many students are more likely to drop out if we raise behavioral standards and what can we do to minimize the inevitable harm that would be done to real kids? But how many students drop out because of fear and because they are completely fed up with the disorder? I doubt anyone has attempted to research an answer. After all, it would hardly be a career-enhancer. But I'm confident that our fears about making tough choices are allowing a much, much greater number of kids to be driven out of schools by the chaos that is common in high challenge neighborhood schools.

Here's my metaphor. Being a teen has always been like crossing a tight rope. But now we are losing so many teens and we adults have not be able to think of a better solution. So we just loosen the tight rope (i.e. drop behavioral standards). And which is tougher to cross, a tight or a loose tight rope?

By the way, we need to deprioritize the search for the magic data-driven accountability measure, and hold educators, like students, accountable for their behavior. Firstly, we must collobaratively devise procedures. Then, teachers and administrators must be held accountable for their BEHAVIORS when implementing those agreed-upon procedures. So afterwards, we must hold adults and students accountability for actually controlling their behaviors, which of course must include effort to provide engaging instruction. Then, adults and students in urban schools can be held accountable for academic proficiency. Our immediate priority must the creation of the conditions that allow for a respectful learning climate, and the simultaneous implementation of safety nets for children who are not emotionally ready to function in such an environment.

I agree with so many things in todays' blogs, ranging from the newspaper articles on successful turnarounds to the comment by that evil Finn guy who didn't buy you lunch.

One of the best things about the turnaround craze is their admissions of how daunting the challenge is. If they are serious, though, they have to address discipline, as was discussed in the Christian Science Monoitor article and the Bronx turnaround you cited.

Although the word "discipline" is largely missing from ed research and policy, common sense says it is a prerequisite. We all give lip service to "safe and orderly schools," but I am unaware of ANY public discussion of the issue that is HONEST ENOUGH for the challenge. In my experience, the ONLY option is to tip toe around the topic, hoping you won't be condemned as a reactionary.

Discipline can't just be a "get tough" approach, and it must be established in tandem with improved instruction, better understanding and communication, and additional alternative slots for chronically disruptive and dangerous students. It requires political will-power, as well as diplomacy.

I don't love my violent and disruptive students any less. They are mostly responding to trauma beyond my direct life experience. And that is one reason why we can't have a frank discussion. EVERYONE needs to face up to the toxic world we have left for so many kids. William Julius Wilson correctly observed that in today's America, we're all jockeying for the position, "I'm innocent."

If we make tough choices, we'll also make mistakes, and kids will suffer. Who wants to make those choices if we are just going to engage in a spasm of discipline and then abandon the challenge as too difficult?

I know this is politically incorrect, but we should all ask these questions. How many students are more likely to drop out if we raise behavioral standards and what can we do to minimize the inevitable harm that would be done to real kids? But how many students drop out because of fear and because they are completely fed up with the disorder? I doubt anyone has attempted to research an answer. After all, it would hardly be a career-enhancer. But I'm confident that our fears about making tough choices are allowing a much, much greater number of kids to be driven out of schools by the chaos that is common in high challenge neighborhood schools.

Here's my metaphor. Being a teen has always been like crossing a tight rope. But now we are losing so many teens and we adults have not be able to think of a better solution. So we just loosen the tight rope (i.e. drop behavioral standards). And which is tougher to cross, a tight or a loose tight rope?

By the way, we need to deprioritize the search for the magic data-driven accountability measure, and hold educators, like students, accountable for their behavior. Firstly, we must collobaratively devise procedures. Then, teachers and administrators must be held accountable for their BEHAVIORS when implementing those agreed-upon procedures. So afterwards, we must hold adults and students accountability for actually controlling their behaviors, which of course must include effort to provide engaging instruction. Then, adults and students in urban schools can be held accountable for academic proficiency. Our immediate priority must the creation of the conditions that allow for a respectful learning climate, and the simultaneous implementation of safety nets for children who are not emotionally ready to function in such an environment.

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