Great Thoughts from a Smart Guy

You know, there are some really smart people out there thinking about public education and public discourse.  I wish more people would read their writings.  It's people like Trish Millines Dziko who runs TAF Academy.  (FYI, they are having STEM Day camps during Spring Break.)

Vu Le, who is the Executive Director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association, is another one.   He has the blog, Non-Profit with Balls.

(Explanation on the title:  You may be thinking, “Why ‘Nonprofit with Balls’? Isn’t that sexist?! Why not ‘Nonprofit with Balls and Ovaries,’ you sexy sexist pig?!” The title comes from an experience he had, described here. Basically, it refers to all the balls that we nonprofit professionals have to juggle: clients, board, staff, volunteers, funders, auditors, payrolls, budgets, cashflows, trainings, annual events, etc. We are all knee-deep in balls. We have balls coming at us from every direction. Sometimes we “drop the ball,” but no worries, since there is never a shortage of balls in this line of work.) 

(He also has a fabulous page on scheduling meetings which I think should be required reading.)

His latest thread - Which comes first, the Equity Egg or the Accountability Chicken - is worthy reading.

At a panel I was on, the topic was parental engagement. “We can talk all we want about all sorts of things,” said one of the other speakers, “but at the end, it comes down to parental accountability. Parents need to be responsible for their kids’ learning! They need to read to their kids and make sure they do their homework!”

Yeah, said the room, clapping, that’s the American Way!

“I agree,” I said, “parents should be involved in their kids’ education.” But, I pointed out, many of them don’t have the language skills, or they are poor and work several jobs. And then because they are poor, they tend to go to struggling schools, and those schools don’t have translation services, or any staff who can spend time with the parents, so even if a parent really wants to be engaged, they come to school and there is no one to help them. So if we want parents to be accountable, provide them the resources they need first.

You'll see this coming - for every kind of parent - with Common Core homework.  That, my friends, will be fun.  (I did talk to OPSI and they say there will be help for parents.  I have seen some of this and find it....not-so-helpful.  You can, of course, say, "Okay, Timmy, we're supposed to read this and find this" BUT if you don't know know the Common Core way, how can you really help.  Math will be even more fun.  

That’s why our work is important. We above most people understand that equity comes first. Sometimes, though, we also forget, and we also fall into the accountability trap.

If we want equity, we must start with equity. And there are instances where it is working. Finland, for example, has become one of the best school systems in the world, if not the best. They focus on ensuring there is equity first. In fact, they don’t even have a word for “accountability.” There are few standardized tests, for example, and they don’t make their principals spend 80 hours writing a grant to get the resources they need, a grant so awful it’s like taking a handmade quilt, gathering crazy ants onto it, then wrapping the quilt around yourself while listening to Passenger. And yet they are excelling. In comparison, Norway, with a similar homogenous population, has bought into this system of competition, punishment, and accountability, and they are not doing nearly as well. This is only one example, but it is a strong one.  (bold mine)


Anonymous said…
Big Type Alert: I think you mean TAF academy, not TFA academy.

~Ovarian Fortitude
Hilarious - I'm on meds for a sinus infection so maybe that's the problem.
mirmac1 said…
The VFA is first in line for getting access to student educational records. In their annual report, they say they do that for their own "performance management". I read that as using our students data to make their pro forma look better to philanthropic orgs.
Bothell130 said…
I think there are some key points here and it reminds me of this point from a discussion by Paul Gorski on
"the Myth of the Culture of Poverty":

MYTH: Poor parents are uninvolved in their children's learning, largely because they do not value education.

The Reality: Low-income parents hold the same attitudes about education that wealthy parents do (Compton-Lilly, 2003; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Leichter, 1978). Low-income parents are less likely to attend school functions or volunteer in their children's classrooms (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005)—not because they care less about education, but because they have less access to school involvement than their wealthier peers. They are more likely to work multiple jobs, to work evenings, to have jobs without paid leave, and to be unable to afford child care and public transportation.

It might be said more accurately that schools that fail to take these considerations into account do not value the involvement of poor families as much as they value the involvement of other families."

If we want equity, we must start with equity. -- This is really important to think through - and act accordingly.
Unknown said…
VFA is running into that accountablity chicken just like all the other nonprofits.

He has a good blog. I used to write grants for schools. It's almost always painful. It's like dumping honey all yourself, covering yourself in mangoes and then jumping through hoops made of barbed wire. Or one of his other colorful metaphors.

Philanthropists' mandates for accountability is what drives a lot of the questionable need for student data. I am perhaps guilty of the same thing myself. Why should I give thousands of dollars to a nonprofit which seeks to improve student graduation rates, but has not an iota of data to support that they do what they say they do? I don't have a short answer to this dilemma, but I do think it is an issue which needs a lot more attention. A lot.
mirmac1 said…
Outfits like VFA can use aggregate data. I understand their programs to be:

Saturday English School, After School Academic Program, Summer Science Academy

They have been given access to the following:

1. Student Demographics: including Special Education and 504 Status and contact phone number
2. Attendance History
3. Discipline History
4. Coursework and grades
5. Test Scores
6. Enrollment History

Do they really need to know all this to perform their "community partnership" role for SPS? It's goes beyond getting access to The Source. It is intrusive.

A student and family must know that they do not have to give up this information in order to benefit from after school enrichment, summer academy or whatever. Period.
Unknown said…
I don't care if CBO's get information like that as long as they have parental permission. That's the key. If they don't have parental permission, then it's really problematic.
mirmac1 said…
They get permission, because there are some parents who think "what's the harm". That is until the crap hits the fan. Kinda like my Target Red card.

FERPA should be like HIPPA, there better a darn good reason you're getting this data in nightly data dumps. Remember Clover Codd told the board it's all good; parents sign those forms about directory info and use of photos at the start of the year. She glossed over the discipline and disability information.

Besides, how many of these forms are sent home in Vietnamese? I'm guessing few if any.

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