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Archive for the ‘Secondary Education’ Category

By Paul Lauter

I was fortunate enough to be on leave during the spring semester and so was surprised to learn at the first faculty meeting that Trinity College, where I teach, had launched a new initiative to partner with the Hartford Magnet Middle School (HMMS).  The Hartford Magnet Middle School, located right across Broad Street from the College, is one of the nation’s most successful.  About half its students, selected strictly by lottery, come from Hartford, one of the nation’s poorest and largely minority cities; the other half come from the surrounding towns.  Trinity is a small, selective, and expensive liberal arts college, one of only two or three located within a substantial city; its campus is on the edge of Hartford’s Latino/a barrio, about a mile from the Connecticut State Capitol, in the middle of Hartford.  A decade or more ago, Trinity had been instrumental in developing a plan to turn an ancient trolley and bus barn across the street into a Learning Corridor containing a small group of schools, including the HMMS.  Now the College was challenged to take a next step in its relationship to educational institutions in the city of Hartford.

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As a critically queer librarian in a vibrantly gay urban setting, out and proud for as long as I can remember, I sometimes forget how important simple acts of recognition can be. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project is a poignant reminder, and a wonderful opportunity for GLBTQ adults to send messages to young people struggling with issues of sexuality and identity. By recording simple videos and uploading them to YouTube, folks living happy gay adult lives can tell young gay people–whose suicide rates are shockingly higher than among their straight peers–that life really does get better.


A pair of teachers has recorded a video that is a difficult but moving reminder that teachers are often unable to live openly and honestly without enormous personal risk. Life gets better, but it’s also still hard. Wearing bandanas that cover their faces and telling their stories with words printed on the page rather than with voices that might give them away, they assure students that gay teachers do exist despite their occasional silence. “We will work to protect you,” they say, even if that protection sometimes happens under cover. “Trust your instincts.” Acknowledging the often-silent links between GLBTQ teachers and their GLBTQ students, the video also points to the work we still need to do together to make a world where all of us are welcome.

–Emily Drabinski, Brooklyn, NY

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At the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Convention last week (July 7-11) in Seattle a resolution was passed that called for unionizing charter schools into already existing AFT locals (not separate locals) and called for transparency in budget, student progress, funding, and corporate and private interests. Apparently the AFT already represents 140 charter schools. All of the Baltimore charter schools are unionized and in NYC the AFT runs several charter schools.

Many of us were alarmed by this resolution because of the apparent embrace of the AFT of charter schools with the resultant move to privatization. The strongest objections came from the teachers from Washington, DC, and Chicago. The DC teachers worried about the influence of the private corporations/entities that run their charter schools on collective bargaining. The Baltimore teachers had no hesitation.

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Good heavens, school teachers and principals are cheating–maybe 1% to 3% of them, nationally;  4% to 5% in Chicago.  So reports Trip Gabriel, in a front page New York Times story, “Pressed to Show Progress, Educators Tamper with Test Scores” (April 11, 2010).  For example:  a principal in Massachusetts told teachers to look over the shoulders of test-taking kids and point out wrong answers to them.  A principal in Virginia “pressured” teachers of struggling special ed students to put the correct answers to state reading test questions on an overhead projector.  In Georgia, the state board of education launched an investigation of 191 schools whose students’ test sheets showed evidence of tampering:  someone had erased wrong answers and penciled in correct answers.  In Houston, an assistant principal and three teachers resigned after a finding that they had peeked at the state science test, written a study guide based on correct answers to test questions, and distributed the guide to students.

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OK, I know I am preaching to the converted, but… There is only one thing that can be said about the mass firing of Central Falls, R.I. teachers on February 26: it was anti-teacher, anti-union, and anti-education. We all know the basics of the story: the test scores of the students, mainly low income, immigrant, learners who moved around school districts, were abysmally low. Despite this, the students described the majority of their teachers as committed and hard working, in the words of some, “like family.” The students recently held a lively demonstration in support of their teachers. Would they do that for non-caring teachers? (more…)

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