Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Education Worth Fighting For - Keeping CCSS In Perspective

We are so fortunate to live in a country where a free, public, standards based education is available to anyone who wants it.  Common Core Standards are important. They will ensure that all students have access to an education that will prepare them for college or a career - no matter what district or state they live in. How awesome is it that the majority of states in our country are working together on the new standards- sharing resources and ideas. Sometimes I think we lose sight of that as we struggle with how to make the transition to the new standards, plan for how to prepare students for college and careers, debate teacher accountability, and argue over school funding. I know that sometimes I have felt overwhelmed with all of the changes, so I spent this evening putting things in perspective.

 I spent some time  looking at education articles on Google News - and found the story of Malala Yousafzi, a 14 year old Pakistani student who has advocated for the continued education of girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, in opposition to the Taliban policies being implemented there. She was shot today while on the school bus.  Last year, the New York Times did a documentary on her family while they were temporary refugees from their home during fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army in their community. Her main concern, that her father's school for girls and her books would be destroyed.  In the video she shares her dream to become a politician, so she can impact change in her country. She is in serious condition.

Just this past week I worked with one of our 5th grade ELA teachers on ideas for teaching the book, The Breadwinner to as student who is ELL and speaks Spanish. The book tells the story of Parvana, a young girl who live in Kabul and must deal with bombings, the loss of family members and the need to work around Taliban restrictions to earn money for her family. Parvana has also lost her access to education.  Parvana reminds me of my former student, Mina, a refugee from Iraq who could not attend school while a refugee in Jordan because her academic records were lost in Iraq.  As a HS senior here, she struggled with learning English while maintaining a full course load and taking the OGT. Sometimes she worked on homework until 3:00am.  She is now a student at TriC.  Her main focus, the need to finish her education so that she can become a pharmaceutical engineer.

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture by William Kamkwamba, the author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. As a child in Malawi, he was forced to drop out of his school because ongoing drought and crop failure prevented his family from paying his $80 a year tuition for his school.  Forced to continue his education on his own, he finds an English book on electricity at the small library in his village.  Using the book, he teaches himself how to build a windmill to generate electricity for his small home. He builds the windmill from discarded materials. He makes enough electricity to run a light bulb and charge a cell phone.  Reporters visiting his village discover his windmill, and from that exposure he now has access to a university education here in the US.

As teachers, we need to remember that in our school, in our community, in our state, in our country and across the world, students struggle everyday just to attend school. They are overcoming hunger, lack of supplies, lack of access to books, financial hardship, homelessness, inadequate buildings and social restrictions to pursue an education.  What are we doing in our classrooms to ensure that all of our students have access to the same quality education? How can we work through our own discomfort with change to make sure that we are ready to implement Ohio's New Learning Standards by 2014-2015?

My next blog will focus on Ohio's Academic Content Standards - Extended -- How we can identify appropriate access points to Ohio's New Learning Standards for all of our students.

New York Times Documentary on Malala Yousafzi - (warning -some graphic images)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - William Kamkwamba
The Breadwinner - Deborah Ellis
CIA World Factbook - School Life Expectancy Data (how long a student can expect to be in school)
Unicef - Gender Equity In Education
World Bank - Access to Secondary Education Worldwide

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