Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's in a name?

AS#1 (Alternative School #1) is considering changing its name as a way to reposition itself within the Seattle Public Schools community. Many families of young students (K-3) feel like a new name would help breathe new energy into the school. It would allow us to distance ourselves from the inaccurate reputation that we are a "hippy" school that lets the children run wild or that we don't care about education. These families have chosen AS#1 despite the threat of closure and misrepresentation by the enrollment centers because it offers a dynamic learning environment that values each individual child in a small school environment

Others argue that the name AS#1 is historic - we are the first Alternative School in Seattle and we set off the chain of events that helped bring choice to Seattle schools - and the name should be preserved so the work we have done for the past 35 years is not lost. Many families have left over disagreements with the more structured and less democratic direction the new principal has taken the school. As a result of this loss of veteran families, burn out by families exhausted by the all-consuming task of fighting off multiple closure attempts, the loss of our website last year, and the retirement of many founding faculty, there is a disconnection between our current program and our history

The connotations of the word Alternative have changed since the early 1970's when AS#1 was founded. Back then it meant choice, a different way, out of the box thinking, a progressive option. Now, the word is associated with delinquent children, a place of last resort, and sub-par education. 

Do you think its possible to bring back the luster to the word Alternative, or would AS#1 be better off finding a new name to represent its commitment to an education that is child-centered, experiential, authentic, equitable, and democratic?


Eric B said...

I am a parent at Pathfinder (A.K.A. AE4). According to a survey of our parents 2 years ago, the #1 reason for choosing Pathfinder was "Alternative education," with almost three quarters selecting it as the #1 reason they chose our program. Given that our enrollment is strong (over 400 students right now) I wonder if your perception "alternative" being a detractor is correct.

Andy said...

Many families may be choosing alternative schools, but my fear is that the prevailing political climate is not so pro-alternative for lack of a better phrase. The movement towards a common (alligned)curriculum, and reduced transportation in our district combined with a continued nationwide obsession with testing and "data" continue to undermine the type of choices that AS1 and Pathfinder seek to provide.

Seattle's alternative schools have had to struggle for acceptance and respect more often than not in my opinion, and our crumbling buildings are a great example of this. I think we will learn a lot about the value of the word "alternative" on Tuesday, and I for one am more than a little afraid.

Jet City mom said...

Now, the word is associated with delinquent children, a place of last resort, and sub-par education.

I think some time should be spent on examining why the negative connotation.
I don't believe that is widespread- but like many cliches, has a grain of truth.

I attended an alternative school 30 years ago, my children both attended alternative schools.

But does alternative mean, more that one way to approach a problem, experiential learning & relationships with educators that last more than one year? or does it mean, spending much time & energy fighting classroom/district alignment & state testing, arbitrary standards for evaluation and a dumping ground for " challenged" students, and teachers waiting to retire?

anonymous said...

I know that AEII changed their name to Thornton Creek for the very same reason.

I think the quality of education varies from alternative school to alternative school just as it does from traditional school to traditional school. Some do a better job than others. Some get high test scores, while others struggle. Some are very popular while others can't fill their small buildings. It's not fair to stereotype or generalize all alternative schools. Each is different. They are not inter changeable, and they should each be looked at individually.

My children went to an alternative school (not AS1) and I can say emphatically that it was not run by a bunch of hippies, and that academics were solid and strong. Test scores were above district average, and the school always had a wait list. It still does.

I hope the district realizes how important alternative education is to so many families in Seattle.

That said, I think alternative schools must be held accountable to perform to standards just like every other school in the district. It really irks me that some schools encourage their students to opt out of taking the WASL, thereby hiding from accountability. I think this practice sets a terrible example for kids, and sets the stage for bad blood between alternative schools and the district.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Pathfinder has a name as does the fairly newly renamed Thorton Creek. I think some kind of reinvention, to define your school, might help. I don't think it would hurt. To those who might say it would dishonor those who came before, it honors the school to carry on its mission, no matter the name.

But this is certainly a choice for AS#1 community.

hschinske said...

I never used to be able to *remember* what AS and AE and all that stood for. Heck, I never heard of AS#1 until the Weekly article a few years ago.

I don't think AS#1 sounds hippyish at all, actually. If it sounds like anything from the 1970s, it's an early computer.

By the way, the negative connotation is because the school district itself uses "alternative" in the names of schools such as John Marshall Alternative School to mean something quite different than what "alternative" means in AS#1.

Helen Schinske

SolvayGirl said...

As Melissa noted, AS#1 does have a name: Pathfinder. How about using the Alternative designation as a tagline instead:

Seattle's First Alternative School

Personally, I love alternative schools but also fear that they will feel the brunt of the closing crisis.

Beth Bakeman said...


Pathfinder is not AS#1. Pathfinder was the fourth alternative school, and is therefore sometime called AE4.

qa_parent said...

Without standardization, every school is an "alternative". To me, "alternative" means an alternative to a standard. Since we have site-based management, we have no standard school configuration. So, calling anything an "alternative" is a misnomer, when we really have 100s of different "alternatives". We might argue that WASL preparation/test focus IS the standard... and then, schools which don't have that focus are the alternatives. In that case, they should NOT be measured by WASL scores. And that is a case made by parents at alternative schools frequently. But I would have to agree that names like AS1 or AE2 aren't really great.

seattle citizen said...

Two yeara ago, the Alternative School Coalition proposed a checklist to define and protect Alt schools. Carla Santorno, the CAO, thought this was worthwhile work and approved a board-approved committee, the Alternative Education Committee, comprised of alternative parents, staff and students. They met regularly over 2006-2007 and came up the following checklist, submitted to SPS in June of 2007. These are merely the checkpoints, not the indictators that go along with each checkpoint. CAO Santorno received the document respectfully and is open to discussion about how to move alternatives forward into new paradigms. Here is the checklist:
1. Clear and Coherent Mission and Objectives
The mission and objectives of an alternative school go beyond academic achievement to include the intellectual, physical, personal, social and emotional well-being of each student.

2. Informed Choice
School choice increases educational effectiveness by responding differentially to diverse student needs and interests, enhances students’ interest in education and commitment to their schools, and contributes to the vitality and democratic structure of public education. Students, staff and the principal have chosen to be at an alternative school because of the school’s philosophy, mission, core values and practices.

3. Open to All
Assignment to an alternative school is available to all students in the District, within the parameters of student assignment policies.

4. Continuousness
Students must not only be able to choose to attend an alternative school but they must also have the option to stay.

5. Shared Decision-making
In alternative schools there is a shared commitment to democracy as a significant element in the life of the school. School governance is open to all members of the school community. Decision-making on school-wide issues is informed by the school’s philosophy, mission and core values. It is embedded in the curriculum and valued as part of the educational experience. Decision-makers are responsible for being fully informed about issues.

6. Deeply Caring, Respectful and Safe School Culture That Creates Community
Alternative schools are likened to families because of the strong sense of belonging experienced by the students, staff and families. The relationships that are created emphasize personalization, acceptance and cooperation.

7. Social Justice and Equity
The program includes a focus on social justice and equity by actively recognizing the talents and hopes of all students and actively addresses issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism and other issues of discrimination. Cultural diversity is central to school decision-making, design and implementation to ensure personal success for all students, staff and families. Structures and practices are in place on a school-wide basis to address social justice and equity within the school community.

8. Many Ways to Learn
Curriculum and instruction are challenging and meaningful in order to actively engage and motivate each student to grow. The teacher’s work is to learn about each student’s needs, talents, learning style, interests and academic background and to create a safe community that supports each learner.
9. Alternative Assessment
Alternative assessment is created for learning. It is holistic and helps the student to develop a view of self as learner and a willingness to put forth best effort. Curriculum and instruction are designed to enable students to communicate what they need to know and why it is important. A variety of assessment methods provides authentic evaluative information to and about the student.

10. Caring and Challenging Teachers
Teaching in a personalized, student-centered environment requires teachers who care, motivate and challenge. Teachers balance support for the student with high expectations of the student. The focus is on helping students fulfill their potential as learners, thinkers and creators.

11. Alternative Scheduling and Attendance Policies
Flexible scheduling and attendance policies are designed, within the parameters of state law, to accommodate the academic and personal needs of students and also to help students take advantage of resources found both within and beyond the school walls.

12. Small School Community
A small school community is integral to and actualizes the philosophy, mission, core values and practices of an alternative school. The implementation and embodiment of the preceding eleven characteristics are dependent on small schools as defined in best practice for personalized schooling and alternative education.

seattle citizen said...

additonally, the purpose of the checklsit wasn't that any school that considered itself "alt" had to be far along on each and every checkpoint, but that the checklist would serve as a guide to determine how far along schools were in terms of what the committee thought were good definitions of alt practice.

How such a list would be used would be up to the district. If a school wants to be "alt," they might consider these checkpoints in their practice.

seattle citizen said...

Not incidentally, AS#1 is one of the most truly alternative schools in the district. Their practices have helped other alt communities determine what exactly and alternative school is.
I would not shy away from the "Alternative" name because of some modern confusion about alternatives. Alternative is still what we call these wonderful schools, and just because some in the community continue to be confused because of late the "remedial" or "reentry" or "safety net" tag has been placed on alts, that is no reason to change.
The district recognizes the difference: The "safety net" schools are called that, in part, to differentiate them from the true alts. The true alts have convinced the district of the need to separate these "categories" of on-traditional school.

John Marshall Alternative WAS an alt school. It started out as People's School # 1, on Queen Anne, and moved to the Marshall building in 1981. Then, due to a variety of factors, other programs started to be added to it: GRADS for teen moms, B-Mod special ed for students that were identified as having behavior issues, Reentry for students who had been expelled or suspended, etc...Until very recently, the school had a large Alt component, staffed by dedicated teachers who recognized some of the different ways students learn and some of the deomcratic principals that make a truly alt school. The last couple of years saws the Alt population decline as a "perfect storm" of factors worked against the school and it became, in its last year, merely a Reentry program.
R.I.P People's School # 1...

Charlie Mas said...

I think the District needs a change of language to distinguish between schools of choice that offer an alternative to the industrial education model and safety net schools. They began to move towards this change in language when they started using the expression "safety net" school. I think they should continue along that line and reserve the word "alternative" for schools of choice with educational models other than the current standard industrial one.

I can't say that I'm very satisfied with calling the other schools "safety net". Surely we can think of some more positive turn of phrase.

hschinske said...

"John Marshall Alternative WAS an alt school. It started out as People's School # 1, on Queen Anne, and moved to the Marshall building in 1981."

Ah, I didn't know that, thank you! I thought the district was following the same usage other districts have, where "alternative" means "safety net," "re-entry," etc.

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...


NO ONE seemed to know that Marshall was, at heart, an alternative. This speaks to making your program transparent, and defining it so others know what you are doing. It also speaks to what some might consider "contamination" by other programs...do added programs help or hinder? Are they more effective together or do they hurt students by being together? Do they have similar goals and methodologies?

Marshall, once upon a time, was a good place for GRADS, for some behavior issues etc, because the alt students were, generally, accepting of all sorts of people, and the "behavior" students got to see some true learning in an accepting environment: "citizenship" and "academia" were modelled and appreciated.

But there's a balance, and it tipped.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree with trying to see the differences between alternative and re-renty. When Dr. Goodloe-Johnson first came, I think her previous district had "alternative" schools as re-entry schools and she couldn't understand why we had so many.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree with trying to see the differences between alternative and re-renty. When Dr. Goodloe-Johnson first came, I think her previous district had "alternative" schools as re-entry schools and she couldn't understand why we had so many.

Sahila said...

I'm really interested in the checklist published above by Seattle Citizen above, and I know that there is a statement of policy from the School Board that it is committed to supporting alternative education....

Given that these fine words exist on paper, how come the Board is threatening to close/move not just one alternative programme in the north end, but two - Summit and AS#1, potentially making 'homeless' more than 800 children and cutting choice/options for next year's kindergarteners, seeing all the other alternative schools are full with waiting lists?

AS#1 has not felt supported by the Board or the enrolment centres - at last year's kindergarten fair, it was placed with the West Seattle schools... West Seattle parents were interested but didnt want the commute for their children, while North Seattle parents didnt get the chance to find out about the school.... this, plus confusion about terminology - 'alternative' versus 'remedial' or 'safety net' - and under-resourcing (eg no maintenance to speak of on an already old building), put AS#1 behind the 8-ball in trying to maintain its enrolment numbers....

A name change in an effort to reposition itself might go some way to redressing this problem for AS#1, but what's really missing and needs to change, is the Board's obvious lack of real commitment to alternative education.

Director Peter Maier, at his meeting with AS#1 parents recently, seemed not to know much about what is real alternative education. He seemed to think the AS#1 community had chosen the school for its small size and its 'family' atmosphere, a quality he maintained could be found in most schools. Indeed, he said that when it came down to it, each school was unique in character and could be called 'alternative'.

If the Board was serious about supporting alternative education, it would put its money where its mouth is, supporting and building up existing programmes, especially in view of the demand that already exists and the population expansion that's happening in the north end, rather than closing down or moving programmes out of the area!

Unknown said...

adhoc said: "It really irks me that some schools encourage their students to opt out of taking the WASL, thereby hiding from accountability."

It seems implied that you are saying AS#1 is one of these schools, and while there is a large percentage of people who don't take the WASL at AS#1, it is not true that the school encourages the students to opt out. The school simply accepts each family's choice because the right to opt-out is state law. Families know they have the choice, and many families at AS#1 believe standardized testing is extremely limited in its ability to assess anything of value. Some choose to opt-out because the test is useless to them, and others choose to take the test anyway because we are, after all, part of a larger system. To each his own. I would suspect that this is a common thread among many alternative school communities - part of the reason they seek out alternative schools in the first place.

In addition to that, there is actually a major cost to having so many families not take the WASL. We as a school are held accountable for our choice to largely opt-out! AS#1 is a failing school according to NCLB. A huge percentage of our students receive a zero for not taking the test, and as a result we are constantly under scrutiny because our test scores look lousy. Many people see low test scores and don't even bother to come see what our school is about. Our low scores make us a thorn in the side for the district, and our teachers and families are stressed out for years at a time because they're constantly fighting to keep the school alive. It would seem like a good idea for everyone to just take the silly test to make life easier, but it's just not possible. Part of what AS#1 teaches is to stand up for what you believe in, and to work hard to promote what is right. It will never teach its students to conform just to appease "the man."

Even with the many hurdles AS#1 has to clear, I think a name change is a great idea. We already have a lot of things working against us. The last thing we need is a name that has to be explained each time it is uttered.

anonymous said...

Perhaps the current AS1 principal, Earnie Seevers does not promote opting out of the WASL, but the previous principal did, and did so loudly. It is a tradition of the school. I don't think it is the children that have a problem with "appeasing the man", I think it is the parent and admin at the school.
Appeasing "the man" is, at times, just the way it goes.

I don't want to buy my kids lollipops but sometimes I appease them and buy them because compromise is a part of life. Sometimes my husband doesn't want to eat at the same restaurant as I do but he appeases me and goes along, because he loves me. I don't like the heavy load of homework my children get, but I appease their teachers and ensure my kids do it because I know it is what is expected of them.

AS1 could teach children that though they don't value the WASL they recognize it is the district chosen assessment and as a school that is part of this district they are expected to take it. I don't think the children would fuss at all. It's really about what the adults are making of it.

As Lara pointed out, taking the test would reap tremendous benefit on the school. So whose foot are you really shooting?

Sahila said...

I cant agree with Seattlegal's premise that appeasement is a valuable and necessary part of life, and that children should be taught to knuckle under...

First you appease here, then you appease there and pretty soon, you have World War II...

I'm a parent who, after raising a first family in traditional schools, now doesnt believe in homework and wont make my child complete it...

Learning happens in all of life and all environments/situations... its enough that my child spends 6 hours a day at school learning in one specific setting... after that, he needs freedom to learn through other experiences, or to just blob and process...

And, if he chooses, from the love of the experience rather than from any other pressures, to do homework, then I'll provide him access to the resources he needs but the work will be entirely his own...

The Industrialisation of learning is so ridiculously inappropriate for the 21st Century, given all we know about the brain and bio-rhythms and learning styles... for example, its just plain stupid for the school day to start so early in the morning, particularly for adolescent boys, whose brains dont actually wake up and start to function until around 11am... who hasnt had the frustration of trying to get a teenager out of bed to go to school? Sad thing is they arent being lazy - the need for sleep is a biological reality, part of the growth and adjustment process.

We know this stuff and yet we are stupid and stubborn enough to insist that teenagers turn up for school by 9am - 7.30am if you're in the Edmonds school district! And then we complain that they arent performing up to expectations/standards...

We are so unfit to guide the next generation into maturity....

anonymous said...

"I'm a parent who, after raising a first family in traditional schools, now doesn't believe in homework and wont make my child complete it"

I hope you are planning to home school for HS, because like it or not, in HS each homework grade averages into a child's class grade, which of course averages into their GPA. My son, in middle school, didn't turn in two homework assignments, and took a zero on each of them, and his A dropped to a C. If he didn't do any homework he would fail that and every one of his other classes.

I understand your philosophical opposition to homework, but in the real world we have to sometimes do things we don't really want to do. I don't want to get up and go to work every day, but I know if I don't go to work my mortgage will not get paid.

What message does breaking rules, and not completing homework send to a child?

anonymous said...

Even he alternative HS's Simmit and HAle require homework completion, and grade for it. Charlie, how does NOVA handle it?

Charlie Mas said...

the NOVA Project is practically ALL homework.

NOVA's educational practice is built around project-based learning. Student have to turn in projects to get credit. There are a number of assignments throughout the year and the students are expected to work on all of them outside of class time. The school provides time for working on projects, but there is a heavy expectation that work is done outside of the school.

Any student who is more than two assignments behind in math is required to attend "math lounge" - essentially an in-school homework period - until they are caught up.

If you don't like homework, NOVA would be an EXCEPTIONALLY bad choice.

Of course, since the students define and design their projects for themselves, there is a high probability that they will be things that pique the students' interests and they will be enthusiastic about doing. I'm pretty sure that NOVA students work longer and harder than average Seattle public high school students - they just enjoy it more.

Sahila said...

The problem with the idea that there's a 'real world' is that this statement implies there is only one reality...

There are (or could be) multiple 'real worlds' - most of us have bought into and think and accept there is only one, and then create all these rules and live our lives based on that (false) premise...

That 'real world' only exists in its current format because the majority of us support and enable its continuance...

The challenge is to step out of a paradigm that's not healthy and create a new one....which is one reason why I chose an alternative (sadly under-resourced) school for my son - I dont accept that the paradigm operating in 'mainstream' schools is a healthy one for individuals and, ultimately, for society... experiencing alternative education is one step towards enabling my son to create his own alternative, holistic, reality...

Its weird really - all social (and educational) change movements have a history of being ridiculed or suppressed, and yet most of the values espoused by those change movements end up being adopted much later as 'normal' by the mainstream culture...

So, while today some might think that my views on homework, for example, are crazy, that I'm failing to teach my son important lessons about the need to work hard and to do stuff he doesnt want to in order to be successful in life, and that my stance will disadvantage him by dragging down his stats and lose him the chance to go to college - in years to come I am confident most schools will be taking the same position.

And in the meantime, he will have learned to be his own person and to follow his passion, wherever that road takes him, mainstream, 'real world' or not....

seattle citizen said...

Real worlds and new worlds:
Public institutions are just that, public. They are supported by taxpayers, who need to be assured their tax dollars are well spent.
In addition to the tax dollars, there is the "mission." What is it that the public schools purport to do, and are they doing it?

While I agree with Sahila that there is much benefit to be had in "following one's passion," and that there are (depending on circumstances) probably many educational benefits, the problem is that no one will write a blank check for this, and no one will support a system that has vague processes and unknown outcomes.

Alts ARE the developers and testing grounds of new ways of teaching. But they are also an expensive, unquantifiable unknown to most people.

What alts NEED to do is DEMONSTRATE their pedagogies, their processes AND their success. This could be done with quantifiable data (if alts teach well, students should do okay on something like the WASL or some other common asessment, right?), or it could be done with qualitative data culled from post-grad reports or other means.

People seem to agree that Nove does a good job. Why? It's not so much the WASL as it is the knowledge, that is actively desemminated, that Nove students are successful in later ventures.

If alts want to continue to receive public dollars and the support of the public school infrastructure, they have to demonstrate what they do and how well it works, otherwise the taxpayers will question their existence. If the taxpayers question their existence, you can bet the admins at JSCEE will, too.

Alts must bring to the public and the district the data that supports their existence, and in the process demonstrate the new pedagogies that they are famous for, so ALL students can benefit. Otherwise they will probably go away.

hschinske said...

Charlie, how would you compare NOVA's level of homework (talking mainly about time requirements here) to APP middle school homework? (feel free to email me if this is too off-topic here)

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

My comments about alts advocating are of a more general nature than address the immediate need of AS#1 and others: I would recommend a super-fast gathering of qualitative and quantitative data that can be publicized in the next week or weeks. Nothing succeeds like success; building condition will be become less relevant if there is demonstrated student success.

Sahila said...

As to quantifying success for alternative schools, I think the most compelling data would be that which relates to the progress of graduates out in the 'real' world - where are they, what are they doing now and how that compares (in numbers functioning at specified levels of achievement)with graduates of 'normal' schools...

A marked positive difference for alternative school graduates would support the demand to keep successful educational processes alive and well, and possibly argue for the transformation of 'normal' schools along similar lines.

How available is this information for Summit and AS#1 in particular, and for alternative schools in the area generally, who has access to it and how hard will it be to gather it and submit it in an appropriate format to the Board?

seattle citizen said...

Sahila, the information about post-grad success is notoriously hard to get, and once you get some it's notoriously unreliable.
How do you get it? You have to survey grads after a few years in the "real world". This is difficult: How do you find them? Even if you find them (by locating them or asking them to report back after, say, five years) the data is not reliable because those that report back are the self-reporters: they WANT to report back. Those that don't, won't, and those that might not have found that wonderful job heading Microsoft, and instead are unemployed (creatively, perhaps, but still a drain on public funds), those that are not doing well won't report that, won't "phone home" in five years.

The PERCEPTION of Nova success is grounded, I believe, in apocryphal knowledge, word of mouth and history. While I think I read that they do well on WASL, which would be helpful to them in demonstrating "success" (real or perceived: it's what "the man," men and women taxpayers and admins downtown, want to see, so do it!), Nova also has a reputation in community: people accept it beacuse they've HEARD that students work hard outside of class, that they are engaged, that they go on to do great things...

anonymous said...

Sahila said..."my stance will disadvantage him by dragging down his stats and lose him the chance to go to college "

Forget GPA's and college, your child WON'T graduate from HS if he/she doesn't complete homework. He won't pass his classes, and thus won't earn the credits needed for graduation. And, let's not forget he has to take and pass the WASL to graduate too.

It seems irresponsible to condone or encourage a child to not complete his/her assignments.

I agree with you, I don't think our children should have the quantity of homework that they get. I also think the WASL is a waste of time and hope it will be replaced by an efficient, competent test. But I understand that I am only one person. My opinion is but one opinion. I work toward change, and am somewhat an activist, but I also understand that as part of a larger society my opinion will not always match the opinion of the majority.

If the speed limit is 60MPH, then I do not exceed 60MPH when I drive. I may have a firm argument as to why the speed limit should be 70MPH, but I do not break the rules, I do 60MPH. There are speed limit signs in all forms and facets in life. You can choose to comply quietly, you can comply but be an activist for change, or you can ignore them and speed. If you speed you will get a ticket. If you get too many tickets you may get your license suspended and your insurance premiums raised or your insurance canceled. If you don't pay your tickets or drive without insurance you go to jail.

Do you expect your child to follow any rules? Your rules at home? Rules that his/her class room teacher sets? Rules that society sets?

anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. AS1 families continue to opt their children out of taking the WASL, knowing that the school will suffer great consequences as a result?

The consequences for step 4 under NCLB:
A) Offer all families a choice to leave the school.
B) Provide supplemental education services (tutoring) to students.
C) Create a restructuring plan for your school

The consequences for step 5 (next year for AS1)
A) The district will restructure the school the way they see fit, up to and including closing the program.

The way I see it AS1 has two options:

option 1 - They encourage all families to take the WASL, even if they are philosophically and/or fundamentally opposed to the test, and life goes on as usual. They continue to operate as the school they are. No fanfare.

Option 2 - Families continue to opt out of the WASL, and AS1 will have to come up with a restructuring plan by the end of this year and present it to the district. Next year when AS1 is in step 5, which they will be if families opt out of the WASL, then the district will deiced if the restructuring plan is adequate. If they feel it isn't they restructure the school for you, or close it.

Which do you want?

Take the test!

Sahila said...

I dont expect my child to follow/obey rules unquestioningly - at home or out in the world - just because they are there and I or some other body or organisation/structure say this is how it is/needs to be.

Most rules are set up to maintain control, and originated in attempts by one individual, group of class of people to maintain control and power over others...

I am teaching him to observe, analyse, question and then decide what rules to co-operate with, based on a decision as to what serves his own and the greater good...

WASL and other standardised tests dont serve the greater good.... industrialised education, arguably, doesnt serve the greater good - it serves a minority in that it maintains the current pyramidical (is that a word? - it is now!) power structure with all the benefits held at the apex/capstone, but it doesnt serve those stuck in the middle or at the bottom...

Not many people are aware that universal education began as a movement at the time of the industrial revolution. It was promulgated by industrialists who needed to convert an agrarian labour force into a workforce that could read, write and do just enough basic arithmetic to operate machinery... children went to school to be socialised into factory, clock-driven life, a far cry from rural living...

Not much has changed in 200-300 years, really - we still socialise kids to be cogs in the machine - this time the machine is Microsoft, or Boeing, or financial institutions and we beguile them with the promise of huge paypackets and that they'll join the exclusive club of the 'haves' rather than being relegated to the miserable ranks of the 'have nots'.

But they still wont have any real freedom or power, because to be successful (important) in this reality, they have to conform, to give up aspects of themselves to be part of the machine....

Anyway - all of that is another discussion about social change and a long way away from the topic of "What's in a Name?"....

Sahila ChangeBringer

Momma Snark said...

I realize this thread is now completely off-topic from the original post, but I feel compelled to say something about the homework issue.

If it is assigned thoughtfully, homework is not only a "good" thing, but a necessary component of learning. There is only so much that can be accomplished within a classroom, and much of the time students spend in school is not spent working independently over a sustained period of time.

I teach writing and literature. If I did not ask my students to read outside of class, it would take forever to get through a book. If I did not ask them to write outside of class, they would not have the opportunity to try their ideas out in writing on their own. For me, homework represents a chance for students to struggle a bit with the ideas, to grapple with a paper or a book without my assistance or the help of their peers. This is CRUCIAL for learning. Kids resist this type of struggle, and yet it is the only way for them to really make an intellectual leap. And this type of struggle cannot always happen in a class of 20-30 kids. Kids need time and space to sort out and apply their ideas.

That is why I assign homework, not because I want to train my students to become "good little workers" in the "real world," but because I respect their needs as thinkers and expect them to push themselves and actually learn something, which takes more than spending 50 minutes in my classroom.

anonymous said...

Homework teaches independence, time management, responsibility, and accountability.

As an added bonus to me, the parent, I get a little glimpse into what my child is doing and learning in school. I get to see firsthand the process and progress that my child is making in a live situation, which means much more to me than simply reading a report card.

Homework should never be assigned just to meet some arbitrary guideline, but well thought out, meaningful and relevant homework assignments are welcomed in my home.

hschinske said...

"Homework teaches independence, time management, responsibility, and accountability."

Maybe appropriate quantities of homework might teach such lessons. Wildly inappropriate amounts of homework mean parents have to be far too involved in making sure it gets done, infantilizing students and teaching them dependence. It's like potty training too early; it's the parent who is trained, and not the child.

Helen Schinske