THESE ARE MY NOTES FROM FROM DR. PEDRO NOGUERA’S KEYNOTE AT ALAN NOVEMBER’S 2008 BUILDING LEARNING COMMUNITIES CONFERENCE. THE TITLE OF THE SESSION WAS “CHANGING THE CULTURE OF SCHOOLS: CREATING CONDITIONS THAT PROMOTE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.” I DID NOT ATTEND BLC08 IN PERSON, BUT THANKS TO BOB SPRANKLE MAKING THIS AMAZING PRESENTATION AVAILABLE VIA PODCAST I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LISTEN TO THIS ENTIRE 77 MINUTE TALK TWICE THIS WEEK IN THE CAR DURING MY COMMUTES. THIS IS PART 1 OF MY NOTES FOCUSING ON THE FIRST 26 MINUTES OF HIS PRESENTATION. MY THOUGHTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST PRESENTATIONS I’VE HEARD TO DATE ABOUT SCHOOL REFORM, WHICH I RANK AT THE TOP OF MY LIST WITH PRESENTATIONS FROM DR. DAVID BERLINER, DR. STEPHEN KRASHEN, DR. ROGER SHANK, AND DR. STEVE WYCOFF. PRACTICAL, TO THE POINT, AND SPECIFIC, THIS IS AN OUTSTANDING PRESENTATION FOR ANYONE TO HEAR INTERESTED IN THE ISSUES OF SCHOOL REFORM IN THE UNITED STATES.

Dr. Pedro Noguera photographs

When employees of Apple are designing a new product, they don’t just look at existing products and their functionality
– they strive to imagine something completely new and different and don’t want to be bound by existing models and ways of thinking
– we need to apply this same idea to schools as we reimagine schools for the 21st century

We know many children today do not benefit from access to a high quality education
– NCLB does provide transparency, schools can’t hide subgroups of underperforming or underachieving kids now like they might have done in the past
– all kids must learn, and this is good

The real measure of how good schools are is how we/they do with the kids who actually need help (not just the affluent kids with educated parents, who really can do most of the learning on their own)
– metaphor: Lots of our schools today are like doctors who are only good with healthy people
the problem is not the kids, it is the way we treat kids
– the problem is the way we often limit kids based on our inability to see their potential and cultivate their talents

We are 25 years out from “Nation at Risk” now

Read the 2006 Gates report “The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives on High School Dropouts” about our real dropout rates in the United States

International school testing comparisons show the U.S. is lagging behind in math, science, and basic literacy compared to many nations

MY THOUGHTS: I’M QUITE SURPRISED DR. NOGUERA REPEATED THESE HEADLINES WITHOUT EXPLAINING THAT ONE THING OUR NATION DOES DO DIFFERENTLY FROM MANY COUNTRIES IS EDUCATE EVERYONE. WE SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THESE INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON STATISTICS BUT WE ALSO NEED TO UNDERSTAND THEM IN CONTEXT, NOT TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR LOW PERFORMING SCHOOLS AND KIDS THAT CAN’T READ, BUT TO REALIZE THEY OFTEN PORTRAY A VERY SLATED STORY (A PARTIAL STORY) BECAUSE WE EDUCATE EVERYWHERE WHILE MANY COUNTRIES STILL JUST EDUCATE THE ELITE.

Sick kids don’t do well in school
– we keep ignoring the fact that conditions outside of schools have a great deal to do with conditions inside of schools

The adult literacy rate in Barbados is 95%, in the US it is close to 80% (that is a 6th grade reading level)

Problems with our educational system go back to basics and the way we attract or do NOT attract the best into the teaching profession
– typically we attract the lower one-third of college graduates into the teaching field
– this is a function of money and dollars
Linda Darling Hammond says correctly that we don’t have a shortage of teachers, we have a shortage of people who want to work in these schools (the poor, often low-performing schools)
– we have an allocation gap when it comes to finances and school funding: we continue to spend the most money to educate the wealthiest children who need the least help from our schools
– those who say money doesn’t matter usually have a lot of money

Challenges we face
– changing demographics due to immigration and backlash against immigration in many communities
– when you treat people like fugitives you make it harder for their children to get an education
– when you do this, you create a permanent underclass
– Latinos have the highest employment rate of an ethnic group in the United States and the highest poverty rate
– they are disproportionally stuck in the lowest wage jobs

We have an illogical debate going on in our country today with respect to immigration

we have an unfortunate history in our nation’s schools and in our country of believing that the primary function of schools is to rank and sort kids based on their genetic gifts

funding for public education in our nation is at risk right now
– if you don’t realize that, you are or have been asleep
– there are more people than ever clamoring for vouchers, for home schooling, and for not supporting public education

I AGREE WITH THIS VIEW, I HAVE CONCLUDED (ALONG WITH OTHERS) THAT A PRIMARY STRATEGIC FOCUS OF NCLB AND ACCOUNTABILITY REFORM IS TO DISCREDIT PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES SO THE COFFERS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION DOLLARS CAN BE OPENED UP TO PRIVATE, COMMERCIAL INTERESTS– TO DISMANTLE OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM BY PROVIDING STANDARDS OF ACHIEVEMENT WHICH ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH. SEE MY FEBRUARY 2008 RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, “A CONTRARY VIEW OF EDUCATION AND NCLB” FOR MORE ON THIS.

Despite all its faults, we must support public education
– public education is the only group in our entire society which accepts all children: even undocumented, homeless children

I AGREE WITH THIS 100%

If we lose our public education system in the United States, our democracy would truly be at risk

Seymour Sarason‘s 1972 book “The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change” was a very important work
– he pointed out that many times we’ve run into problems with proposed school reforms because we have viewed reform as something that could be like a cookbook: simply follow the prescribed recipe and everything will turn out great
– we often fail to contextualize solutions
– we must change beliefs, attitudes, expectations and relationships in our schools for meaningful reform to take place
– this is a complex challenge

My father who was a policeman for many years was fond of saying “Common sense is really not that common”
– certainly we see that is often the case with school reform movements
– it is never 1 thing
– it is always a complex set of issues and needs
– it is never a silver bullet: vouchers, testing, phonics
– we need good leadership, good teaching, parent support, and student engagement

We do see signs of good news in both Atlanta and Miami showing when you empower and support local campus leaders, provide extra incentive funding for teachers and focus on small class sizes, you can change the culture of low SES urban schools and move them forward positively
Kipp Schools are right at the top of those top performers in these places

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  • http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/digital_storytelling Joe Brennan

    Wes, you had me worried for a second. I was there and didn’t remember seeing you. It was one of the best presentations and one of the worst PPT’s I’ve ever seen. Just a few slides loaded with text, but absolutely secondary (if even that) to the great message, wisdom, and logic he shared.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    I certainly wish I could have been there in person, perhaps I’ll have a chance to attend BLC down the road. I think Dr. Noguera did a great job of not only highlighting what is wrong in many classrooms and schools, but also highlighting what is RIGHT. He talked about pedagogy, relationships, engagement, leadership, and so many things we need to focus on in our schools. He made the initial comment about Apple design but other than that he didn’t talk about technology at all. I thought this was interesting. Certainly there are ways technology uses can and should play a part in whole-school educational reform efforts. Great ideas here though overall.

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