Friday, March 26, 2010

The Role of the College of Education in the 21st Century

Recently, there has been some discussion on the article entitled, Black Education, by Dr. Walter E. Williams, an economist from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virgina. While I respect Dr. Williams work in economics and have done so for years and will continue to respect his work there were some points he brought out that I felt was more politically motivated as opposed to solution oriented. Unfortunately, conservatives and libertarians who I have been discussing educational issues with have brought this article to my attention on several occasions and have been using this as a backlash against the education of children here in the City of Detroit.

Before I continue please read his article here:

http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2009/12/23/black_education

Now allow me to set the record straight.

I have lived in Detroit all but 10 years of my life. As an urban conservative who has done many works in the field of education for years I find it disturbing that we live in a society where we continue to fail our children. Education, as I have always said, is the #1 issue on our agenda because it gives us a foundation for us to build.

I am not, nor never will, make any excuses for the Detroit Public Schools because they have embarrassed us as a community. I am also embarrassed of the recent test scores that were administered to our fourth graders by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). It's criminal for us to continue in this manner.

But my problem with Dr. Williams assessment of Detroit schools was the fact he said it was because we keep asking for more money for the schools. Civil rights leaders ask for more money while silver rights activists asks for accountability and integrity in the public school system. We are asking for Detroit Public Schools to post their check registers to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's website to show where the dollars are being spent.

Dr. Williams also took a cheap shot at mentoring:

"What about role models? Standard psychobabble asserts a positive relationship between the race of teachers and administrators and student performance. That's nonsense."

It is reported that boys receive up to 70 percent of the Ds and Fs given to all students, and create 90 percent of all classroom discipline problems. According to a Schott Foundation report, "Given Half a Chance," some alarming educational trends involve young black male students. Their 2005/2006 national graduation rate was 47 percent. That means that most black male students did not graduate with their cohort.

These startling school-related statistics, coupled with the increasing number of children growing up without fathers, are creating a permanent underclass. This underclass can be measured by studying the escalating rates of community violence, economic isolation, poverty and substance abuse.

In cities like Detroit, father absence has hit Black communities hard. It is decimating our communities and we have garnered no adequate response to it. This reality highlights the need for communities to engage in projects that make black men better fathers, better husbands and better community leaders.

Here is my question to Dr. Williams. What should these children do without mentors? The psychobabble is coming from people who stand on the sidelines and do nothing. He failed to even mention how Black owned and operated faith-based and non profit organizations, in the Black community, mentor students who project positive measurable outcomes.

Dr. Williams also failed to expound in his article on how Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has called for the development of a reading corps. The Detroit Free Press, in partnership with Detroit Public Schools,has called for citizens to volunteer 100,000 hours collectively to tutor reading in DPS schools. People and organizations have stepped up to the plate in hopes of trying to change the tide of education in the City of Detroit.

However, the biggest concern that stood out in the article was this:

"Another issue deemed too delicate to discuss is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admission tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. They are home to the least able students and professors. Schools of education should be shut down."

This has become the libertarian cry when it comes to education. Just in the past week I have been engaged in heated debate over the role of the College of Education on university campuses. 95% of the mainstream conservatives and libertarians who I have encountered have used this statement from Dr. Williams. But what they all fail to realize is that teachers are not in the classroom to babysit the children. This is the parents responsibility to promote positive habits and norms BEFORE they get into the classroom.

The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom and other countries have a College of Education. This is nothing new. But Dr. Williams in his article said get rid of them.

The College of Education is important because they are certain core elements that are helpful in aiding educators.these elements include teacher education, curriculum, and instruction. Another element is educational administration. As the main institution for the training of principals and superintendents, there is a focus on the administration of schools and school districts. A final element of interest is education policy and reform. Many graduates of schools of education become involved in education policy.


At the same time some of these schools have some serious flaws such as the lack of training potential teachers to deal with hostile environments. Student teaching does not prepare you for such environments 100% because where you may student teach is in the suburbs you may well end up in the worst school district in the state.

But to say they should be eliminated is not only reckless but dishonest. I would have rather for Dr. Williams to say the College of Education on university campuses should be reformed rather then eliminated.

Let's take a look at what some of these College of Education have produced over the years.

(1) The Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) is a non-profit organization that targets poverty-stricken children and families living in Harlem, providing free support for the children and families in the form of parenting workshops, a pre-school program, three public charter schools, and child-oriented health programs for thousands of children and families. The Zone is aimed at doing nothing less than breaking the cycle of generational poverty for the thousands of children and families it serves.

Its President and CEO is a man named Geoffrey Canada. Mr. Canada holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College and a Master's degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Hmm...an educational degree? I thought educational degrees were useless.

(2) When teachers Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg completed their Teach For America commitment and launched a program for fifth graders in a public school in inner-city Houston, Texas. That program today is called KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program). KIPP is a nationwide network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States. KIPP schools are usually established under state charter school laws and KIPP is America’s largest charter chain.

More than 95% of KIPP students are African American or Latino / Hispanic.

The Texas Education Agency has recognized KIPP Academy Houston as an "Exemplary School" for almost every year of its existence. According to the New York City Department of Education, KIPP Academy New York is the highest performing public middle school in the Bronx. KIPP alumni have earned over $21 million in scholarships for college-preparatory high schools and are continuing to excel in four-year colleges and universities.

By the way, Dave Levin got his B.A. in History from Yale University (with distinction). Mike Fienberg graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1991 with a degree in international relations. What can you do with a history and international relations degree? Many things. The core thing was how BOTH went through Teach for America to launch their dream and ambition of helping low-wealth students.

(3) There is a Black Republican named Rod Paige, who was the 7th Secretary of Education in the United States. Paige is the son of public school educators. He earned a bachelor's degree from Jackson State University in Mississippi and a Master's degree and a Doctor of Physical Education degree from Indiana University Bloomington.

Hmm...an educational degree?

As a trustee and an officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) from 1989 to 1994, Paige coauthored the board's A Declaration of Beliefs and Visions, a statement of purpose and goals for the school district that called for fundamental reform through decentralization, a focus on instruction, accountability at all levels, and development of a core curriculum. A Declaration of Beliefs and Visions was the catalyst that launched the ongoing, comprehensive restructuring of HISD.

And an educational degree does not mean anything?

(4) Deborah McGriff will forever be my favorite Detroit Public Schools Superintendent. McGriff was overseeing reforms as far back as the 90s. McGirff was named by Crain’s Detroit Business newsmaker of the year for 1992.She is currently president of the Education Industry Association, the leading professional association of professional providers of education services.

She has a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in history from Norfolk State University, a master’s degree in education, with a specialization in ready pedagogy from Queens College of the City University of New York, and a doctorate in administration, policy, and urban education from Fordham University

Education degrees from a College of Education? A waste of time?

(5) Howard Fuller is the former Superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Dr. Fuller was an early African-American advocate for vouchers and choice as an urban reform strategy. During Fuller’s tenure as the superintendent of the Milwaukee Public School District (1991-1995), the city started the first publicly- funded school voucher program in the nation. This program grew from 350 voucher students in seven private schools in 1990 to 15,000 in 110 private schools by 2006.

Dr. Fuller also co-founded the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). BAEO's goals are to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working-class Black families.

Again, did Dr. Fuller waste his time earning his educational credentials?

There are others who have given to improving education including Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee. Kopp founded Teach for America and Rhee founded the New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization which works with needy school districts to recruit and train new teachers. In ten years, the New Teacher Project has expanded to forty programs in twenty states and recruited more than 10,000 teachers. Rhee is currently the Chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools...the same school district that Dr. Williams criticize but fail to recognize Chancellor Rhee's effort of turning things around.

Think about the number of school districts across the United States who hire educators from the College of Education at various universities to teach in the school districts and perform well. Blacks are not exempt from this process. As many educators I know personally, who turn out the grade, create and publish curriculums, and have changed the tide of education.

As much as I criticize Detroit Public Schools I also must show the positive. There is a report from the Skillman Foundation called Good Schools. This report can be found here at this website: http://www.skillman.org/good-schools/

Now, Dr. Williams is supposed to be an educator of economics as well as a researcher. How come he did not put in his article about the number of schools that are making the grade in Detroit? Sure, the NAEP showed that we have a long way to go in terms of educational output and yes, I agree that current educational policies as well as public policies have damaged the infrastructure of education in urban communities. But the liberals are not just to blame for this. We are having a hard time convincing most conservatives in business that education is a #1 issue. Both ideologies are at fault for this crisis because its easier to play politics than play solutions.

The Skillman Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation that is a charitable, tax-exempt organization. The chief aim of the Foundation's three programs is to help develop good schools and good neighborhoods for children. Within the Skillman Foundation there is a popular program called the Skillman Scholars. This is a program provides educational opportunities for academically gifted, minority scholars from Metropolitan Detroit to maximize their potential to become future leaders in society.

Not one time, Dr. Williams brought this up in his article. However, lazy ass leeches like those who are constantly bashing Black children in the City of Detroit are reading Dr. Williams's article and taking it face value without every cross examining the real issue.

Williams also did not bring up the fact that other programs such as the YES Foundation have a program called the Yes for Prep that prepares our children to compete in rigorous academic achievement.

College of Education such as Eastern Michigan University is the No. 1 producer of educators in the nation. The school received an "Exemplary" grade from the Michigan Department of Education. Eastern's Teacher-Preparation Program earned a 66 out of 70 possible points; tying EMU for third place in the state.

Michigan State University's College of Education is also high-ranked programs in elementary, educational technology, educational policy, and secondary education. Again, teachers who are actually turning out the grade.

America’s colleges of education play an important role in education but need to dramatically change how they prepare the next generation of teachers so that they are ready to prepare their future students for success in college and careers. In the next five years America’s schools will need to hire up to 200,000 first-time teachers annually and these new teachers will need the knowledge and skill set to prepare students for success in the global economy.

Most College of Education students tell me while they appreciate the knowledge they receive in the university setting some have admitted that teacher-preparation programs need to ensure that new teachers will master the content of the subjects they’ll teach and they will have well-supported field-based experiences embedded throughout their preparation programs.

This can be done with new revolutionary thinking.

While assertions made by these critics include that the typical school of education has a Left-wing political bias, favoring Socialist philosophies such as Paulo Freire's critical pedagogy the truth of the matter is conservatives have allowed liberal ideology to dominate the academic spectrum for decades. This should have never been allowed to happen but moving away from the critical need of education and allowing liberals to run rough-shot on colleges and universities show not only the lack of competition coming from conservatives but also allowing liberal though to dominate HOW classes and lessons are taught. You cannot complain about liberal education without ENGAGING in the process of ideals and thought.

This is the 21st century and while the U.S. Constitution says nothing about education, states for over two centuries states have been responsible for meeting the nation's education needs. But in a world of fierce economic competition, we can't afford to pretend that the current system is getting us where we need to go. Greater federal interference is not the answer -- but neither is a naive commitment to "states' rights." A new model -- standards set nationally, daily decisions made locally -- strikes the best balance. The reason? Education is no longer just an local issue. It's no longer a parental issue. It has become a national security problem. The lack of education has caused a breech in our intellectual capital and therefore needs to be reexamined. This is not the time to always point out the negative in Black communities when it comes to education. If Black libertarians such as Dr. Williams would like to sit at the table with us to discuss ways of improvement in terms of policy,governance and methods of instruction we are open to that in our community.

The Black community has all stars in their midst of students who can achieve higher and greater standards. When we realize that we too have a stake on the global balance sheet is when we will be able to participate in both the educational and economic markets of the world. To keep showing America how dumb Black people are is a demonstration and lack of being solution focused, as well as demonstrating a vision for urban education in the 21st century.

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