We know some kids are not going to have a good experience.’” “So I said, ‘Let’s look for data.’” says Bright. There wouldn’t have been the uprising. The community should have been given a chance to be part of the process. Without being able to apply for financial aid he began to see college as an unobtainable goal. “I realized that I could only pursue my education so far, there was homework market always going to be a wall between me and my dream and that hurt.” Padilla, now 21, and a student at the University of Washington, is currently a summer intern at the National Education Association. Padilla first became aware of exactly how his immigration status affected him when he began looking at college applications in his sophomore year of high school. “When the Social Security number question came up, I knew that was not my reality,” Padilla said. Public Schools Could Benefit From Less Test-Taking and More Equitable Funding, Says Finnish Educator Shameful Milestone: Majority of Public School Students Live in Poverty The Long History of Blaming Teachers First ‘I Was a Bad Teacher’: Five Months In a Corporate School Reform Nightmare If Zuckerberg was able to see that reform efforts fail when the debilitating effects of poverty aren’t addressed, why don’t corporate reformers recognize this?
DR: I think the reform movement got caught up in the “poverty is an excuse for failure” notion. He had a web of support around him, but then he went to high school there wasn’t anything like that. After comparing a year’s worth of Florida child abuse cases to the dates that report cards were sent home with students, the UF team found a correlation—but only on Fridays. There needed to be much more of a continuum for individual kids. She recognized that if that’s not addressed, they can’t learn at level they need to.
How can a philanthropist best contribute to improving school quality? Dale Russakoff: Zuckerberg realized he needed to know a lot more about Newark itself. If the needs of the community had been addressed and the parents and grandparents and other community stakeholders were included in the reform effort, what would have been different in Newark? DR: I’m sure the reformers would say nothing – they’d say it would be all about consensus and nothing about change. If that school needed two teachers in early grade classrooms, it got two teachers. Recently, he and his colleague, David Liendo, shared their powerful stories to show support for comprehensive immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients who meet various requirements, including the completion of at least two years of college or four years of military service. A file should go with each student detailing what each one needs to succeed.
He was too young to remember the journey, but has heard his mother tell the story of how he and his brother, then six, and his four-year-old sister made the journey from Tijuana to Los Angeles. She saw firsthand that they have neurological issues form living in fear and poverty and living in strife . There were also charter schools that closed down because they were so poorly run. How can you measure the effectiveness of that teacher without taking those issues into consideration? Everything in business is about data and metrics, and they are right that we have too little measurable data in education. It’s important to work very closely with the people on the ground and in the districts rather than on consultants or other people who say they know what’s going on.
Liendo came to the U.S. on a 6-month visa, but told his parents he wanted to stay and pursue his education while living with relatives. Some NEA local affiliates have worked to improve communication through teacher-home visits. The Padilla family did not have documentation to reside in the country legally, so for years they lived in the shadows of society familiar to many undocumented immigrants. But it’s very hard to reduce education to measurement. Everyone needs to face how much needs to be done and addressing poverty is a big part of it. The system isn’t fixed.
Others are making sure that parent-teacher conferences are well-planned and effective. “The idea is to put everybody on the same page,” says Bright. What was the biggest lesson Zuckerberg seemed to learn from his experience in Newark? DR: There’s always going to be opposition and there will always be people bent on stopping you at any cost, but I think Zuckerberg learned that you need real consensus from the people who really want to do the tough work to improve schools. Bureaucracy does get in the way. But because we don’t know why it’s happening on Friday, it’s possible we might just move the cases to an earlier day.” Fridays often are pay days, she notes. What do you hope the education community will take away from this book?
DR: I would say to all sides that there’s a lot more to education than your argument allows. In “The Prize,” you profile a young boy who attempts to hide his illiteracy by disrupting class. Photo: Getty Images Something many teachers and pediatricians have long suspected to be true is that child abuse incidents increase when report cards go home. Or it could be the day that some children switch homes, if their parents live apart. What happened in Newark became a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of ill-conceived and misguided education reform efforts in urban school districts – the focus of a compelling new book by journalist Dale Russakoff. Any philanthropist should do due diligence and be in tune with what the community’s needs are.
There were some committed people at the grassroots who could have helped by leading community change. If everyone could see the big picture and see how many needs aren’t being met and focus on those rather than on who is right or wrong, the conversation could be a lot more productive. Before she was certified she had to teach the program to a student who had huge reading deficits but wasn’t classified. Parents tend to be more punitive about bad behavior. NEA Today recently spoke with Russakoff about what went wrong in Newark and what lessons we can draw from the experience.
A lot of the money Zuckerberg pledged went toward charter schools. Why do they seem to lay the blame solely on bad teachers and the unions who protect them rather than seeing the bigger picture of poverty and how it effects a learning environment? DR: I think they make it sound like its simple to fix education when they say that teachers and their unions are to blame. Once he started trying, he did very well and everybody fell in love with him and wanted him to succeed. While Zuckerberg’s intentions may have been good, educators and many others have long said that philanthropists with no education policy experience shouldn’t lead major school reforms, and your book shows us why. Do any of these things matter?
Researchers can’t say for certain. “I think it’s also important to figure out the nature of report cards,” says Bright. “This is speculation—but I don’t think this is just about bad grades. He relied on people who told him what the schools needed, but those people might not have known as much as they needed to. See Also: ‘These Kids Are Just Pawns’: The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding U.S. There’s a principal in the book who came from a school that was closing but who led the consolidation of that school with the other. Carlos Padilla crossed the border between Mexico and the United States on foot when he was only two years old. I don’t understand why no support network followed him. There are so many teachers, principals, administrators and and community organizations who are intimately familiar with what they need and who want what’s best for students.
They’d been neglected, abused, exposed to drugs in their homes, or were hungry. There was a teacher in the book who had 26 kids in her class, half of whom were welfare cases. When report cards were sent home earlier in the week, no increase was found. Why don’t kids in poor urban districts continue to get the support they need throughout their school careers? DR: There was a special education teacher who was in the process of going through a certification course to teach a program that was new to her that would help kids who hadn’t learned to read in a traditional classroom. In September 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, flanked by then-Newark mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, appeared on Oprah to announce to make an important announcement. “We’re setting up a $100 million challenge grant so that Mayor Booker and Governor Christie can have the flexibility they need to turn Newark into a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” Excitement and expectations ran high, but they weren’t able to deliver on that promise.
Without strong management, you can’t create a learning environment where kids can succeed. In “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” , Russakoff delivers a riveting account of celebrity politics, big philanthropy, extreme economic inequality, the charter school movement, and the struggles and triumphs of schools in one of the nation’s poorest cities. Zuckerberg’s wife is the one who came to that conclusion. This flexibility allows charter schools to target funds to where they are most needed. Padilla and Liendo came to Washington D.C., as participants in the Dream Summer National Internship Program, sponsored by the University of California Los Angeles. “NEA is especially focused on expanding and passing the DREAM Act, family unity and citizenship,” said Rocío Inclán of NEA’s Human and Civil Rights department. “We focus on these three issues because we know they directly impact schools, school communities, our members and their students and their families.” Liendo, 22, also spoke about the struggles he faced due to his immigration status and chokes up when describing how he hasn’t seen his family since he left Bolivia seven years ago. It is abundantly clear that concentrated poverty is an issue in an urban district like Newark.
Whatever support there was for middle school disappeared in high school and students and teachers had to start over again. He was able to convince parents and the community that they had a chance to make the school they wanted. That wasn’t part of the plan in the Newark reform effort. A simple answer—maybe too simple—might be to send report cards earlier in the week, says Bright. “If it’s really just something that happens on Fridays because of something about Fridays, then maybe we could move it earlier. I don’t think anyone understood how fragile his reading ability was.
Just like that principal did, there were many people all along who were waiting to lead major school improvement efforts but were simply left out. They’re right, a University of Florida (UF) research team has found—but only when report cards go home on Fridays. You measure the good and bad and get rid of bad. In fact, cases of child abuse, verified by the state’s Department of Children and Families, were four times higher on Saturdays following a report card. Their study was published in December in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The reform movement has all these ideas but they don’t acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers.
UF research scientist Melissa Bright, a NEA Higher Ed member, was talking last year with a UF pediatrician whose patients include victims of abuse or neglect. “He said to me, ‘there’s this idea that when the report cards go out, our patient load goes up,’” Bright recalls. “And then I also talked to some teachers who said, ‘oh yeah, we hate sending home report cards. As a medical student and resident, she had focused on the most underserved children. But that’s just a piece of it. What makes a charter school ineffective are the same things that make a public school ineffective – poor leadership, an unmotivated staff, and the absence of a commitment to serving all kids, no matter what their needs. Fridays also may kick off a weekend of substance abuse. If the card says the kid is acting up, or not paying attention, I think those are the things that upset parents.” With that in mind, a more sustainable intervention to prevent abuse—but one that requires more work from parents and educators—is increased, more constant communication between school and home. “It’s not that teachers need to keep an eye on parents, or help them do their job better, but everybody should understand that their shared goal is to help the kid succeed,” says Bright. (l-r) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on NBC’s Education Nation.
In elementary school, the report cards include grades and also behavior reports. I don’t think a lot of corporate reformers have that experience or perspective. Liendo’s parents agreed, but did not apply for any type of legal status on his behalf. They just knew he was struggling so teachers sent notes to the principal that he didn’t belong in their class. There’s an obsession in the corporate world to measure everything. He was told to fight the powers that be rather than engage them, but the reality is there are so many teachers, principals, parents and community members who could have really helped him and his advisors to think about how best to help and do so strategically.
If there were lots of kids falling behind who needed tutoring and an academic interventionist was needed in every grade, they got that. Also, Zuckerberg was told there was too much grassroots opposition to change and to avoid getting involved there at the outset. Not only were kids not learning, they weren’t even safe because there was so much chaos resulting from poor management. The reformers and anti-reformers have their arguments, but there’s a big hole in the middle of all these issues that affect children and need to be addressed. The KIPP school, for example, was able to get a lot more money to the classroom than the Newark district, partly because their bureaucracy is much leaner.
He finally gets the support he needs and jumps three reading levels, only to lose support in high school. Her goal is to start a school where trauma is addressed as part of addressing each child’s learning needs. In Newark, what was effective and ineffective about these schools? DR: What makes charter schools effective is their structure – they have incredible flexibility. Maybe the schools don’t solve the problem of poverty, but they have to address it. He came to her every day of seventh grade during his free period and she gave up her prep period to tutor him. history, and for the first time in 2014, Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL). So the vice principal at school paired her with this young man.
He needed to tap into those people as allies and even as messengers and there would have been less of a push back. I believe there could have been change.