Headlines in Education

I troll various sites during the week to find topics for my blog. This week I found several I wanted to write about – some good news and some bad news. I decided to post a few (with links if you want to read more).

~At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association came out strongly for a ban on assault weapons, and made a firm stance against arming teachers as a way to fight what they say is a “growing health crisis” (AP News). They agreed to:

Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers (AP News).

~Michigan State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck (R) this week proposed changes in what is taught in social studies in the state. Colbeck’s proposed curriculum removes all references to gay rights, Roe v. Wade and climate change  (CBSlocal.com).  It also slashes the word “democratic” and replaces it with “republic” and reduces references to the Klu Klux Klan.

Colbeck claims these changes were brought on by concerns that, “…some standards are not politically neutral or factually accurate, and to ensure students are “exposed to multiple points of view” (CBSlocal.com).  Crowds of people have gathered at the state capitol to protest these changes. **In researching for this story, I found an article titled    “11 Most Ridiculous Things Done By State Senator Patrick Colbeck”   Changes to the Social Studies curriculum in Michigan seem to be on par with some of his other decisions.  In other news, Colbeck seems to be behind in the polls in the race for governor.

~Cynthia Nixon, gubernatorial candidate for governor of New York outlined her education policy this week, promising to “tackle what she called the ‘unholy trinity’ of racial segregation, underfunding, and over-policing in schools (chalkbeat.org). Nixon said, “We have two different education systems in our state – one that sends wealthy white children to college, and another that sends poor children of color to prison (chalkbeat.org).

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A spokesperson for current Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke against Nixon and her education policy, saying she was acting as a front for parent advocacy groups. As Diane Ravitch said, “Cuomo’s education policies are controlled by hedge fund managers, billionaires, and Wall Street advocacy groups.”

~The California Teachers Association is calling for support AB 276, which would set the standards for charter schools across the state.  “AB 276 requires all charter schools to be transparent and accountable to parents and to disclose how they spend taxpayer money, including budgets and contracts. It prohibits charter school board members and their families from profiting from their schools and requires charter schools to comply with California’s open meetings, open records and conflict of interest laws (CTA.org).

~Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) was not able to seat a state board of education because he couldn’t get his appointees approved. The new governor, Mike Parson (R), has already seated his board. The bad news is the board immediately renewed the charters for several under-performing schools in St. Louis and Kansas City despite their weak performance. The good news is the new president of the board, Charlie Shields said that it was time to review charter school laws.

Shields argued the charters in question “do not convincingly outperform St. Louis Public Schools. He said the state Legislature allowed charter schools to operate in Missouri on the premise that charter schools would be easy to open, but poor-performing charter schools should be easy to close(St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

~In a huge defeat to charters in New York, this week a judge ruled against allowing certain schools to certify their teachers. The ruling ends Success Academy’s plan to hire teachers at their discretion and removing the master’s degree requirement. Success Academy is the largest charter chain in New York.

“The regulations, approved by the State University of New York in October 2017, were designed to give charter schools more discretion over how they hired teachers. They eliminated the requirement that teachers earn master’s degrees and allowed charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their teachers with as little as a month of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching (Chalkbeat.org).

~The Seattle Education Association voted this week for moratorium on standardized testing.  This movement began in 2013 when high school teachers refused to administer MAP tests. The superintendent threatened teachers with a 10-day suspension without pay, but teachers would not back down.  “At the end of the year, because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students around the country, not only were no teachers disciplined, but the superintendent announced that the MAP test would no longer be required for Seattle’s high schools (Iamaneducator.com).

The movement in Washington has continued. In 2015, Nathan Hale High School had a 100% opt out rate on the test given to all high school juniors. As many as 60,000 families opted their children out of common core testing as well.

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~To end on a positive note, here’s an inspiring graduation speech. Dr. Louis Profeta, MD, an emergency room doctor who spoke at his alma mater, North Central High School in Indianapolis of his failure in schools, only to become a successful doctor.

These are my reflections for today.

6/29/18

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“Defendemos La Educación Pública”

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“Defendemos la educación pública” (We defend public education). This chant was heard in the capital building in San Juan, Puerto Rico in March. Teachers, parents, and supporters of public education rallied against a proposal to close more public schools.

If you ask Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher why she is closing an additional 283 schools this summer (last summer it was 167 schools), she would say it’s because of the declining enrollment as many students and their families fled to the US after Hurricane Maria. Keleher would cite 1 in 13 (22,350) students have left their neighborhood schools. There are 1,100 schools remaining (NPR).

Puerto Ricans have a long-standing history of resistance in the sphere of education. Lauren Lefty pointed out that since 1960’s and 1970’s, campaigns promoting community control of schools, along with the curricula focused on Black and Puerto Rican studies, with slogans, “Seize the schools, que viva Puerto Rico libre!” formed an essential part of the education reform.

But despite a history of strong resistance, “the island’s political leaders and investors are hoping the post-hurricane confusion and demobilization will allow them to push their agenda through” (Jacobin).

If you ask Mercedes Martinez, president of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation the same question, she would say Keleher is using the hurricane as an excuse to accelerate closures. “Our Secretary of Education has a plan to shut down schools. She wants to privatize and close more, but the communities have fought back” (NPR).

Martínez sees these reforms as part of a larger push to hollow out the public sector, undermine labor rights, and sell the island’s public education system to the highest bidder. “Public education in our country, like in all capitalist countries, has been under attack for many years,” says Martínez. (Jacobin).

An investigation of school closures revealed Keleher “never conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of closing the 283 schools she plans to close.” However, after seeing mounting opposition to her plan, she quickly backtracked saying she plans to visit every one of the 283 schools on the closure list to make a quick and hurried assessment (NPR).

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Keleher has advocated to bring charter schools and reform the educational system since her arrival to the island as an education program specialist for the DOE in 2007.  She was appointed Education Secretary in January 2017. She has argued the hurricane has given Puerto Rico an “opportunity” to reform the system, citing the changes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (Telesur).

The Puerto Rico public school system still is very rural and many of the schools are small, serving poorer communities that are some distance from urban centers. Following the hurricane, many schools became community centers and aid distribution sites and shelters. In some communities, parents and neighbors cleaned schools of debris and did repairs, even helping provide food for meals so children could return to classes (NBC News).

“No a los charters buitres!” (No to the vulture charters!).

Much like in New Orleans, the movement to privatize public education in Puerto Rico started before Hurricane Maria struck.  An IMF-backed, hedge fund–commissioned report sought school closures, with school-choice policies in 2017. However, unlike New Orleans where 7,000 public school teachers were fired after Katrina, Keleher announced there will be no layoffs or employment terminations. Those who currently work in schools slated for closure will be given new assignments in different locations.

Keleher’s plan is to start with 14 charter schools, two in each of the island’s seven provinces. “If the schools are super successful and more people want them, we should allow that up to a point” (The Intercept).

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a group of reporters “she was very encouraged by Puerto Rico’s leadership for embracing school choice after the hurricane. She praised its approach for thoughtfully “meeting students’ needs … in a really concerted and individual way” (Politico).

The proposed legislation would also allow for the creation of virtual charters in Puerto Rico – a particularly contentious type of online school, even among school choice supporters. (DeVos is a big proponent of virtual charters, and a former investor in them.)  (The Intercept).

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has exacerbated concerns he is not considering the risks of the proposed education reforms. Last week he visited an ASPIRA charter school in Philadelphia, and reported it represents an “excellent charter school model.” Interesting statement. Two months ago Philadelphia voted to close two ASPIRA charter schools for their low academic quality, as well as a host of financial scandals and mismanagement issues (The Intercept).

Diane Ravitch identified many misleading statements coming from Puerto Rico regarding school closures and the impact to the island:

  • The Government of Puerto Rico has been unable to sell any previously closed schools and is leasing 50 schools for $1 annually.
  • The Governor acknowledged there is very little cost savings from closing schools.
  • A recent Pew research study found municipalities get a fraction of the savings they budget for when they close schools.
  • The government just passed voucher and charter school legislation written by Betsy DeVos that would cost the Puerto Rico up to $400 million a year.
  • The Puerto Rico Secretary of Education argued that school closings were driven because the fiscal board required it. However, in a recent interview with Telemundo, Jose Carrion, Chairman of the Fiscal Control Board, said the Fiscal Board did not require school closings.

If Keleher is closing schools because of declining enrollment, then why is she also opening charter schools at the same time? Using New Orleans or Philadelphia as exemplar models should scream what NOT to do. We know how this story ends. We’ve seen it before.

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These are my reflections for today.

5/11/18

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“I was just there to be there.”

As I have many times since last January, I am compelled to write about the Secretary of Education as she has once again drawn negative attention to herself. Following are two recent events where Betsy DeVos showed who she really is.

Last week she spoke of how the structure of public school classrooms hasn’t changed since the industrial age. In her words, “Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class,” she tweeted. “Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t” (The Hill). To drive her point she included a stock photo of a current classroom.

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Teachers were quick to fire back.

“Don’t you know that stock photos aren’t real? How many classrooms have you visited in the past year? Classrooms don’t look like that anymore. Students don’t work like that anymore,”

“Rows and lectures are NOT the norm in public school,”

“It doesn’t look familiar at all. Have YOU even looked in a public school classroom in the last 10 years?”

“Come visit our school and classroom! We spend 75% of our day in small-groups, independent reading, researching our interests, learning about the world, and engaged in play. We love learning in hands-on ways and would welcome you any day!”

“How many classrooms have you visited in the past year? Classrooms don’t look like that anymore. Students don’t work like that anymore. I would think that as Sec of Edu you would be celebrating us, not putting us down(The Hill)

Most teachers criticized DeVos for not having visited public school classrooms. If she had, she would see the reality is largely contradictory to her stock photo analogy. One would think the Secretary of Education would support and advocate for the roughly 3 million public school teachers in the US , rather than demean and devalue them.

Last Wednesday the Secretary visited Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, FL and students were not pleased. DeVos met with a few students, “and gave “BS answers” to their questions about what she plans to do to address gun violence (Huffington Post).  A small group of student journalists grew increasingly frustrated as the Secretary dodged their questions (Time).

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According to Alyson Sheehy, “It was a publicity stunt, really. There was no point to it,” Sheehy said DeVos didn’t meet specifically with any students. “She was kind of just walking around the school and not talking to anybody,” the high school senior said (Huffington Post).

When a student asked DeVos how she plans to stop school shootings, DeVos showed reluctance. “She kind of gave us simple answers and didn’t really answer the questions we asked,” Sheehy said. When the students pressed her for an answer, DeVos told them officials were “working really hard on things” and that she didn’t “think this is the time to really ask those types of questions” (Time).

During the press coverage, she defended Trump’s call to arm teachers, but quickly walked away from the podium when asked about it (New York Daily News)‘I think to say ‘arming teachers’ is oversimplification and a mischaracterization really,’ DeVos said later.  She continued, ‘I think that the concept is to, for those schools and those communities that opt to do this … to have people who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of training to do so” (CNN).

At the end of her press coverage, she called for elevating ideas that are ‘done well.’

‘Like what?’ asked a reporter. ‘Any specific things?’ asked another.

‘Thank you, press,’ said an aide off camera, as DeVos walked away. ‘Five questions, that’s it?’ said a reporter as she avoided a follow-up about arming teachers (Daily Mail).

If DeVos’ plan was the connect with students at MSD High School, she did not do a very good job. She met with only a few students, did not answer their questions, and walked out of the press conference without addressing any specific concerns. As Kyra Parrow said,“She wasn’t informative or helpful at all. It’s nice that she came to give us condolences, but we are so done with thoughts and prayers. We want action… She didn’t come to inform us or talk about how we are going to fix this issue; she just came to say that she came. That disappoints me.”

DeVos spoke with reporters following her visit, saying, “I was just there to be there, to be with them. I would love to come back sometime, in an appropriate amount of time, and just sit down and talk to them” (CNN).

Later the same day, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade made a surprise visit to the MSD, meeting with students and staff. Speaking to students, Wade said, “I just wanted to come and say I’m inspired by all of you…  As someone out here in the public eye, I’m proud to say I’m from this state because of you guys, because of the future of this world” (Huffington Post).

While I am encouraged by Wade’s thoughtful comments to students, I am appalled by DeVos’ lack of self-awareness.  If this was a publicity stunt, it wasn’t even done well.

“I was there to be there.”

That says it all.

***This blog was written prior to DeVos’ abysmal interview on 60 Minutes last Sunday night. I am compelled to respond, but I need to spend some time on it. Next week’s blog will be about DeVos’ interview with Lesley Stahl.

These are my reflections for today.

3/16/18

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The secretary, the first lady and the queen

Perry Stein of the Washington Post reported recently that more than 700 students at the Excel Academy Public Charter School in Southeast Washington will soon be looking for another school. On January 11, the DC Public Charter School Board voted unanimously (6-0) to close Excel due to very little evidence of academic improvement. Not a big deal? Tell that to the more than 600 students in grades Pre-K through eight. Excel is the district’s only all-girls public charter school.

Saba Bireda, a member of the DC Public Charter School Board said, “The longer girls are at Excel, the further they fall behind their peers in the city” (Washington Post).  Excel Academy is not alone. Since 2012, 24 charter schools have closed in DC due to poor performance.

In arguing against the closure, school leaders said the framework to assess schools is biased against those with a high percentages of at-risk students, and two-thirds of Excel students are considered at-risk. However, Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, deputy director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said that 22 of the city’s 120 charter schools have greater at-risk populations than Excel, and most of those schools perform better on their annual assessments (Washington Post).

Nationwide, there is a repeating pattern of charter closures.  Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said, “Each year, about 400 charter schools open in the country, while 200 to 300 close because of low enrollment, poor performance and financial woes” (Washington Post).

In April Betsy DeVos visited Excel with Melania Trump and Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. DeVos made a statement after the visit.

Excel Academy is a shining example of a school meeting the needs of its students, parents and community. As Washington’s first public charter school for girls, Excel Academy shows the transformation that can happen when parents are empowered to choose the education setting that best fits their child’s individual needs, and when kids are given a true chance to learn and thrive. The school’s focus on STEM education prepares its students for success in high-potential fields that need more female representation (Ed.gov).

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DeVos touted Excel as a “shining example”.  Nine months later, the school is preparing to close. Excel is not a shining example at all. It is an example of the failure of yet another charter school to turn students around academically, while siphoning money away from the public schools.

With regard to the closing of Excel Academy, what are the thoughts of the secretary, the first lady, and the queen now? I really wish someone would ask them.

#anotherdayanothercharterscandal 

These are my reflections for today.

1/26/18

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Still more charter scandals

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This is the fourth blog I’ve devoted to charter scandals. Sadly this could become a monthly post. These stories are from November.

Milwaukee, WI –  Out of 126 teachers at the Milwaukee Charter Prep (MCP) school, 22 are not currently licensed. Milwaukee Public Schools teachers are required to have a license to teach, so are MCP teachers. According to Rob Rauh, the CEO of MCP,  they are “working diligently” with Teach For America and Milwaukee Public Schools to get the applications processed.

Rauh explains why there is a high number of unlicensed staff. Some teachers were recruited from another state. Others are taking part in recruitment programs like Teach For America. Others have pending applications for renewal. But one of the biggest obstacles, Rauh says, is the state’s rigorous certification exam known as the Praxis (Fox.com).

“It’s a challenging test,” Rauh said.  Nghia Foster, who is the Dean of Students for Milwaukee College Prep, struggled to pass the Praxis. “A test does not justify what you can do in a classroom,” Foster said (Fox.com). 

Thirty seven states require students pass Praxis to gain state licensure. Other states require a different exam, but all require a test as a criteria for licensing.

My question: How is reformers answer to failing public schools unlicensed teachers who can’t pass a basic core competency exam?

Chicago, IL –  In 2005 Pamela Strain founded the Beacon Hill Preparatory Academy, a private school for underprivileged children in a south Chicago suburban neighborhood.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Strain is suspected by the FBI of using the school to steal $2.7 million in funds over a seven-year period, including money from federal school lunch subsidies and other grants designed to provide nutritious food to low-income children. “During one visit to the school’s Harvey location in 2015, a state inspector encountered offices with badly outdated equipment and records of a food program that were either missing or incomplete. The school appeared to have no dedicated food prep area, and an empty classroom where food was being stored was infested with moths Chicago Tribune .

Strain, 60, is charged with using school funding to “…pay for a lavish lifestyle, including her home and other properties, luxury cars, spas, salons and shopping sprees at stores such as Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s” Chicago Tribune.

My question: Without oversight from the state, does anyone see why so many people are misappropriating funds?

Dover, DE –  Noel Rodriguez, principal of the Academy of Dover, a charter school was recently charged with embezzling $145,480 from the Academy over a a three-year-period beginning in July 2011. “Rodriguez used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as electronics, gardening and camping equipment, automobile costs, a dog house, personal travel and home improvement items” (Delaware State News).

My question: If this gentleman was under investigation from the beginning, why did it take so long to investigate?

Chicago, IL – Megan Kotarski, 28 was a teacher at the Horizon Science Academy was charged this month with having sexual contact with a 16 year old student. Kotarski is charged with a felony count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim between 13 and 18 years old (Fox News).

My question: What the hell????

Tobyhanna, PA – Reverend Dennis Bloom, 62, was the former CEO of the Pocono Mountain Charter School, and pastor of the Shawnee Tabernacle Church. This month Bloom was fined $55,000 by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission for filing deficient financial statements for four years. Additionally he was charged with ethics violations. “According to the commission, Bloom gave his wife a substantial raise and hired his children for positions in the school(Pocono Record).

Bloom founded the K-12 school in 2003 and resigned as CEO of the charter school in 2010 under a cloud of controversy regarding his personal and school finances.  The PA Charter Appeals Board revoked the charter’s license renewal application, because of “excessive entanglement between the school and its landlord, the Shawnee Tabernacle Church” (Pocono Record).

My question again: Without oversight from the state, does anyone see a pattern of misappropriation?

I’ve written of only a few of the multitude of stories about charter scandals. We know what happens when the fox guards the hen house, and we continue to watch it happen. Shame on us.

These are my reflections for today.

12/1/2017

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For-profit universities

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For-profit universities are institutions operated by private, for-profit businesses that receive fees from each student they enroll. For-profit education is common in many parts of the world, making up more than 70% of the higher education sector in India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia (Shah & Nair, 2013).

Not so long ago, these institutions were touted as the future of higher education  in the US largely because they targeted non-tradition students – meaning they were drawing from a population of older people with jobs who can’t or don’t necessarily want to attend school full-time. Many schools marketed heavily in the business sector, looking to draw students from the corporate world. The selling point was at lower costs, students could attend classes online, and take as many or as few classes as they wanted. There was a boom in enrollment from 1990-2010.

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What has happened since 2010? Regulators started cracking down on the industry’s misdeeds. Here are a few examples.

For-profit colleges are far more expensive than community colleges, their closest peers, but, according to a 2013 study by three Harvard professors, their graduates have lower earnings and are actually more likely to end up unemployed. To make matters worse, these students are usually in a lot of debt. Ninety-six per cent of them take out loans, and they owe an average of more than forty thousand dollars (Surowiecki, 2015).

In an incident involving Corinthians Colleges (with over 24 campuses in the US and Canada) investigators  found  the school lied about job-placement rates nearly a thousand times. In a 2010 undercover government investigation of fifteen for-profit colleges found that all fifteen “made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements” (Surowiecki, 2015). Corinthians and 24 of its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

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President Barack Obama worked to stop many of the abuses of for-profit schools by cracking down on the industry-which was later blamed for pushing Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech into bankruptcy.

Enter Betsy DeVos. Her connection to for-profit institutions is deep. Recently she hired former DeVry Institute Dean Julian Schmoke who made headlines last year, as he was under fire from state prosecutors and the Federal Trade Commission. DeVry agreed to pay $100 million to students who complained that they had been misled by its recruitment pitch.

DeVos also hired Robert Eitel who now serves as a special assistant to the secretary. Eitel’s former job was as a corporate owner of for-profit colleges. He spent the last 18 months as a lawyer for a company facing government investigations-one that ended with a settlement of over $30 million over deceptive student lending (Halperin, 2017).

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Trump’s pick to be the Education Department’s general counsel, Carlos Muñiz, is a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education Corp. which is a for-profit education company under several investigations.

Betsy DeVos’ department is hell-bent on removing many of the Obama administration’s regulations governing the for-profit college sector. Here’s one example:

DeVos has stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools. The Education Department has a backlog of more than 87,000 applications from students seeking to have their loans forgiven on the grounds they were defrauded, some of which date to the previous administration (Collins, 2017).

As a result, in July 18 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against DeVos over the decision to freeze Obama’s borrower defense to repayment which helped forgive student loan debt for people whose for-profit colleges closed amid fraud accusations, leaving students without degrees and with piles of debt.

Since the election last November, stocks of for-profit institutions have soared as Trump made clear he supports any plan which will slash government regulations (Cohen, 2017).

Sarah Dieffenbacher borrowed $50,000 in federal student loans to attend Corinthian’s Everest College from 2007 to 2012. While waiting for a reply to her claim to have her loans discharged, she had her wages garnished. Though a federal judge ordered the Education Department in June to rule on her application, they have not rendered a decision (Cohen, 2017).

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said in September, “It’s telling that Secretary DeVos is once again quick to blame students who were victims of fraud, including many of our nation’s veterans, rather than the predatory for-profit colleges who defrauded them” (Douglas-Gabriel, 2017).

Hard to say what DeVos loves more – unregulated charter schools or unaccountable for-profit universities.

These are my reflections for today.

11/3/17

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Sphere of Influence

Today I have a guest blogger, my esteemed colleague, co-author and friend. She writes about a sphere of influence we all have and may choose to act on or not every day.

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With the recent events in Charlottesville, Houston, and the current impact of Irma as it hits Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the people in my life who live and work all over the United States. It’s not that I forget about them when their specific cities or states are not blasted all over the morning news and radio programs, but at times it’s easy to be lulled into thinking our lives are progressing in forward-thinking momentum. Yet when natural catastrophes, violent human behaviors, and unpredictable incidents occur, it often serves as a harsh reminder that this world does not always operate in positive progress. These events clearly impact huge numbers of people – time seems to stand still, lives are changed in an instant. These events also give us individual opportunity to truly consider our own thoughts, words, and behaviors – our proactive and reactive responses. What are the ways in which our thoughts, words, and behaviors impact and influence others?

In recent years, my research on preparing pre-service teachers to work in environments with diverse students and families led me to examine some of the social structures and interpersonal dynamics present in other areas of scholarship, such as psychology and government.

In government, sphere of influence is defined as a country or area in which another country has power to affect developments though it has no formal authority. In psychology, it is a systematic way to view how one’s surrounding environment influences who one is and will become. I would argue that each one of us can not only be acted upon by these outside forces, but each also possesses the potential to act upon, within, and even beyond our spheres of influence.

So the sphere of influence as a concept is not a new notion, but applying sphere of influence to the field of education is a new opportunity to address the intersectionality of our lives as learners, teachers, mentors, coaches, colleagues, administrators, professors, family members, and friends.

It’s been said that a teacher has a ripple effect on human lives. Specifically, a teacher in Year One teaches 25 students, then in Year Two teaches a different 25 students, in Year Three teaches a third unique set of 25 students, and so on. And for each individual life a teacher touches, this individual grows up and takes the lessons learned as a young person into a whole other sphere which comprises their adult lives. So as a pebble thrown into the middle of a huge lake, the original point of impact ripples out to reach, eventually, the farthest edges of the shore.

Yet educators are not the only ones with a widespread sphere of influence. Each of us, and our own families and homes, neighborhoods and communities, workplaces and professional organizations, possess a great potential to powerfully contribute toward creating a kinder, more respectful, inclusive world. This potential power within each of us centers on our choices. Quite simply, each morning when we wake up we have choices – choices such as how we greet the people we encounter, whether we will stop and help someone in need, how we will respond to that one person who is always complaining. These interactions stem from the specific spheres of influence each of us occupy.

So the questions surrounding sphere of influence are really WHAT and HOW.

WHAT: What do you represent? What beliefs are worth the effort of standing firm? As educators, many of us believe in developmental growth and learning. As a mother, I advocate for all children to receive equitable access and opportunities to quality healthcare, education, and housing. As a human, I greatly value respect for and acceptance of all people.

HOW: How will you use your sphere of influence? Will it be something you acknowledge and capitalize upon in your life? Will you use it to propel positivity or harbor hate? Or will you pretend your life and choices bear no impact upon others’ lives, refraining from action?

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I urge you to think. I urge to you act. The world cannot survive with our silence.

Cori Brown, Rowan University.

9/8/17

 

 

 

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