Living in Dialogue | Hosted by Anthony Cody
Reimagining Education ‘Accountability’:
Asking the Right Questions
Anthony Cody asserted in a recent essay that “for far too long educators have accepted the flagellations of one accountability system after another, and time has come to say ‘enough’,” and framed much of the prevailing debate about high-stakes testing and accountability policy as “a monumental distraction” and “a shell game.” The urgency of his driving question — “Do we need a new accountability system for our schools?” — got me thinking. Anthony generously invited and posted my response on Living in Dialogue:
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You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes
NOTE: Some folks may be familiar with #PubPriBridge, a twitter chat on alternating Mondays (5:30pm PT/8:30pm ET) that helps to build bridges across difference between educators in both public and independent/private schools. Further information and resources about #PubPriBridge are available at PubPriBridge.net, including archives of past chats.
Earlier this week, #PubPriBridge set aside a planned discussion on school change in order to create space for urgent conversation about social justice and our schools, following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson – and Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, John Crawford, and Eric Garner in other cities. Beforehand, #PubPriBridge co-founders Peter Gow and Laura Robertson, our colleague Theresa Collins, and I brainstormed a series of questions to invite reflection and dialogue on the topic “After #Ferguson: Fostering Honest Conversations about Justice and Injustice in Our Schools.”
After the chat, we received some feedback from folks suggesting that some of these questions might be helpful to fostering ‘live’ conversations back at school – to encourage individual reflection, to inspire discussions with colleagues, to anchor semi-structured faculty/staff meetings, or to facilitate conversations with students in class — especially for folks who may not have returned to school just yet, and who may be searching for basic ideas to foster such conversation and reflection.
On one channel a pundit argues that the safety risk of revealing the officer’s name outweighs the public’s claims to transparency; on another, a local politician urges calm, and an open mind, as the investigations continue. One commentator explains that such investigations are more complex than we might think, and that the public ought not jump to conclusions; a reporter indicates that unconfirmed reports suggest the officer may have been injured in ‘the incident.’ One reporter suggests witnesses noticed there may have been a struggle that preceded the shooting; another wonders if the officer may have mistaken Michael Brown’s upraised arms of surrender as aggression, or his panicked retreat as resistance.
Need I mention that it’s White folks who’ve told me that I ought to think this way for now?
It has been a while since I posted on this blog — most recently because of my commitments to the Redlands Summer Institute for Social Justice and NAIS’s “Call to Action”, but primarily since I’ve waded neck-deep into learning with new colleagues in LMU’s EdD Cohort 11. This made me think it would be a shame to disconnect my learning and sharing in this space from my inquiry and research in my doctoral studies. So I decided that, once in a while, I’ll share the kind of thinking I’ve been exploring in the Educational Leadership for Social Justice program at LMU…
The timelessness and timeliness of Antonia Darder’s (2002) exhortation in Reinventing Paulo Freire: A Pedagogy of Love is perhaps most succinctly captured in Peter McLaren’s claim that “the consolidation of neo-liberal educational policies demands not only vigorous and ongoing engagement with Freire’s work, but also a reinvention of Freire in the context of current debates” (p.
Recently I shared the announcement that this fifteenth year at my school was my last, and my discovery of what was probably already obvious to you:
It’s the web of personal and professional relationships I’ve developed with these close colleagues in recent years — much more so than the ‘learning’ and the ‘teaching’ and the ‘leadership’ one might be tempted artificially to disaggregate from the relationships that make them possible — that I will miss the most.
Several days ago, I knew I’d be meeting with the division’s faculty for the last time in my position, and figured I probably ought to have something to say. So I wrote something down. Here are excerpts from my comments in that last meeting, right before they let me take an #OscarSelfie that will continue to make me smile in the months and years to come.
When Alison Park, Rosetta Lee, and I realized that the theme for this year’s “Summer Institute on Leadership for Educational Justice” at the University of Redlands would be Common Core: Academic Contexts, Complex Texts, Close Reading, Assessment, and More, we realized this could be an excellent opportunity both to press an urgent case for the centrality of cultural competency in students’ literacy learning, and to dive more deeply into our team’s research and collaboration (along with Gene Batiste and Steven Jones) on the ‘Cultural Competency Toolkit’ we’re developing to share with schools. We were excited to hear today that our proposal has been accepted for presentation on July 8th.
I’ve included the details of our proposal below — not only to share our intended approach, but to invite your input with regard to any resources or perspectives you think it would be helpful for us to consider.
In today’s surreal experiment in inclusive leadership, I tried to facilitate a meeting with teachers I’ve been supervising for several years, in order to collect and share their input with the search committee that will appoint my successor. This past Friday, you see, the teachers and the rest of our school’s community received a notice that this fifteenth year at the school will be my last. The notice explained I will be incorporating CFEE as an independent entity and serving as its Executive Director, while laying the groundwork for a variety of potential transitions in the years to come by pursuing an EdD in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at LMU.
In any case, it was a little too soon after the public revelation of this news, and therefore a little too emotionally complex for me, at least, to be particularly effective in supporting such a discussion.
The Court ends the debate over race-sensitive
admissions policies in Michigan in a manner
that contravenes constitutional protections
long recognized in our precedents.
The problem now is, how are you going
to save yourselves?
When Proposition 209 reared its ugly head in California almost twenty years ago, threatening to end the consideration of race and ethnicity as a factor in California university admissions, I was pursuing a PhD in English at UCLA — busily researching race, ‘otherness,’ and trauma in English and American literature, and teaching introductory comp and lit classes anchored to similar themes. Without having to discuss it much we — those of us, to intimate Baldwin’s prophetic call, who were “relatively conscious” and who believed we “must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others” — knew it was time to close the books and cancel classes; that enough was enough.
Heading out of Austin from the Network for Public Education national conference weeks ago, I learned about EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014 from its Executive Director Hannah Nguyen, who had just inspired hundreds of educator-activists many years their senior alongside Israel Munoz, Stephanie Rivera, and several other leading voices in student union activism across the country. Having just witnessed a student voice workshop at the NPE conference that drew many of us to tears, and drove many of us to action, I knew I had to witness and support this any way I could: #EmpowerEd2014, hosted by Students United for Public Education, promised to be “the first education conference led by students, for students” offering Los Angeles high school students not only “the rare opportunity to…listen to the powerful stories of high school student organizers” from across the country, but also “the chance to work with the student organizers in workshops to build organizing skills, discuss their ideas for education, and collaborate on developing a student power movement in their community.”
It was a privilege, an honor, and a gift — yes, people say that all the time, but I really mean it, and I am deeply grateful to Hannah Nguyen for her invitation and encouragement to attend — to witness this transformational event alongside hundreds of student leaders who packed ‘The Forum’ at USC at the beginning of the day.
I have been grateful for Diane Ravitch’s sweeping inspiration and influence, and direct support and advice, for quite some time. This morning, I was particularly moved by her affirmation of my recent reflections on the first conference of the Network for Public Education:
In this post, Chris Thinnes movingly describes his reaction to the first national conference of the Network for Public Education. Most powerful to me was his reference to the absence of hierarchy. All of us–students, parents, educators, citizens, old, young–met as equals. It was, from all accounts, a great and empowering experience. The words I heard often were, ” I am so glad to know that I am not alone.” All of us left feeling stronger.
ASCD | The Whole Child Blog
Don’t Settle for the Okey-Doke in a Third Narrative of American Education
I am honored that Klea Scharburg and Sean Slade chose to post my recent reflections — on my remarks at the ASCD Whole Child Symposium Town Hall, my inspiration from the Network for Public Education Conference, and my thoughts about an EdLeader21 PLC Advisory Group meeting — on the ASCD Whole Child Blog.
It is no mystery what the future of schools will be—and it’s no mystery what the future of the system will be—unless the decisions that have already been made are interrupted…
I’m concerned, at the end of the day … about the unexamined privilege in most of the decisions that policy makers make, in most of the decisions that policy advocates make, and … the unexamined assumptions in how we respond to the national narrative; how we make them as well, in terms of making choices for other people’s children…
I think, at the end of the day, what I want to see is something that people have referred to as a “third narrative”…
And I want to do that in the spirit of what Karen Lewis said a couple of weeks ago [at the NPE conference]: “Sisters and brothers, don’t settle for the ‘okey-doke’…”
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You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes
Sisters and brothers: Don’t settle for the ‘okey-doke’…
- Karen Lewis
We don’t support the status quo…
- John Kuhn
I just returned to L.A. after the honor of participating in one of the great conversations about the future of education, sitting around a table of district leaders engaged in writing what some have called a “third narrative” of public education in the United States. For days we collaborated in an effort to generate a theory of action, and made concrete commitments to a series of initiatives, that will have an impact on the experience of 2 million children in EdLeader21 member schools and districts in the coming years.
Seriously: nobody is more surprised than I to confirm that I will join “a panel of education experts” for the first installment of ASCD’s “Whole Child Symposium” at the “WCS Town Hall” this Sunday in Los Angeles. ASCD’s Sean Slade, who will moderate this panel, generously invited me to join the accomplished ranks of Steven Anderson, Goof Buijs, Liz Dwyer, Thomas Hoerr, Didier Jourdan, and Sara Truebridge to explore and to discuss the Whole Child Symposium’s central theme:
CHOOSING YOUR TOMORROW TODAY
What does this phrase mean to you?
An #EducationSpring in Our Step:
Reflections on the First National #NPEconference
I’m back! I’m back! I’m back!…
Get up offa that thing
And try to release that pressure..
Ha! Good God! So Good!
- James Brown
Sisters and brothers,
Don’t settle for the okey-doke.
- Karen Lewis
At some point I began to realize it might be nuts to take this on: I presented with a panel last Friday afternoon in Orlando at the NAIS annual conference, was presenting with another panel the following Monday morning in L.A. at the CAIS Southern Regional Meeting, and on a gut feeling several weeks beforehand, I’d made the out-of-pocket decision (or, rather, the out-of-my-family’s-pocket decision) to spend the Friday night through Sunday afternoon in between at the first national conference of the Network for Public Education.
Reflections on Project Zero Perspectives: How & Where Does Learning Thrive? at Presbyterian Day School, Memphis (Feb 13-15, 2014) [#PZME #PZextend]
An Unexpected Chord:
Reflections on Facilitation, Learning, and Leadership after #PZME
Two things drew me to the Project Zero Perspectives conference hosted by the Martin Institute at Presbyterian Day School in Memphis last week. The first was the invitation to collaborate with Martin Institute Fellows Philip Cummings, Robert Dillon, Jill Gough, Alice Parker, Meenoo Rami, and Glen Whitman. This proved to be a fantastic experience of generative and dynamic collaboration throughout the conference, gathering around Senior Fellow Grant Lichtman’s table to help shape a number of initiatives that will broaden and deepen the institute’s commitment to ongoing professional development for public and private school educators over time.
Don’t believe the hype, it’s a sequel
As an equal can I get this through to you?
…Don’t believe the hype.
- Public Enemy
More talking, less yelling.
- Peter Gow
Thomas Hobson writes regularly stunning blog posts that document both the learning of his preschool students, and his reflections as a preschool teacher. You should follow his blog right now — or, at the very least, his Twitter feed — if you haven’t already done so.
In a recent post Mr. Hobson explores his sense of the appropriate protocols for “circle time” in the preschool classroom: should all children be expected to join the circle, or not? Hobson explains:
The main idea of circle time is to convene the entire community on a daily basis, to set aside a time during which we check in with us, an opportunity to discuss those things that impact us all, with at least the potential of all ears listening and all voices heard.
or “The Power of Backwards Design”
And the point was to provoke thought and discussion…
- Grant Wiggins
The purpose of this post is to document an interruption. I say that as much to focus and to limit my own thoughts – in a haze of outrage occasioned by the betrayal of a seemingly feigned apology — as to ward off critical commentary from folks who may wish to take issue with other implications of my commentary. While you are welcome to disagree with my opinion, and while I will gladly approve and post your civil commentary, my purpose is not to draw attention from other, significantly more important spaces like Tressie McMillan Cottom’s analysis of “shoddy cheap race currency parading as principled intellectualism,” Jose Vilson’s response to “the co-opting of racial language by ‘well-meaning’ progressives,” or Bill Fitzgerald’s documentation of Grant Wiggins’ decision to “delete his way out of his mistake.”
On Sunday, Grant Wiggins — seminal educator and author, on the foundations of whose work many of us are otherwise deeply indebted — offered “a very brief post — a tiny provocation” which he chose to entitle “Apartheid.” In that post he cited a definition of “apartheid,” then imagined what his readers might be asking:
Scribble, scribble, scribble — Eh, Mr. Gibbon?
- King George III
Everywhere that you go, no matter where you at
I said you talk about this, and you talk about that –
When the cat took your tongue, I say you took it right back
…You talk too much. You never shut up!!
Jonathan Martin — an incredible leader of schools, educators, and learning, and a man I’m grateful to consider a personal and professional mentor — suggested to me a couple of years ago that I needed to get more active on Twitter, and to start writing a blog, for the sake of my continued learning and leadership. So I did. Then he suggested that I needed, in both spaces, to ‘come out’ from behind the badge of my school affiliation and to take more risks.
You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes
An Overview and Reflections on White Affinity Group Facilitation at the NAIS People of Color Conference
I wish we could start a school with
all the members who attended SDLC & PoCC…
I’m remembering a scene from Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould in which the protagonist, legendary pianist Glenn Gould, pulls off a lonely Canadian highway in the dead of winter, enters a packed roadside diner, and sits by himself at a small table — surrounded by strangers engaged in dialogue with each other at adjacent tables. Anonymous, unrecognized, unknown, he begins to eavesdrop on people’s conversations — first one, and then another — not with any malicious intent, but intrigued by the music of human conversation, emotion, and engagement.
A response to “My Q-and-A with author Dan Pink: Using motivational questioning and more in the classroom” on Tom Whitby‘s blog
There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify
the belief that human societies should structure their behavior
around the demands of the marketplace.
- Chris Hedges
Tom Whitby — unassailably seminal connected educator, and spectacularly prolific and insightful blogger — recently shared Daniel Pink‘s response to a series of questions based on Whitby’s reading of Pink’s latest release: To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. And something in me snapped.
That I had a weirdly emotional reaction to the post — conditioned. no doubt, by a chorus of highly visible, and primarily self-styled virtuosos in the mainstream press who restlessly, recklessly, and willfully foist the ‘logic’ of ‘free markets’ and the language of “buying” and “selling” onto the wholly unrelated discourse of teaching and learning — suggests I might not be fair, either in my reading or in this post, to Pink’s or Whitby’s original representations — and that, no doubt, you should probably read and reflect on the post yourself — “My Q-and-A with author Dan Pink: Using motivational questioning and more in the classroom” — on Whitby’s important blog.
Chris.Thinnes.me is the personal blog of an independent school educator and public school parent. My opinions should not be associated with any institution or organization with which I am affiliated.
Popular Posts This Month
- After #Ferguson: Sample Questions for Reflection & Discussion in Our Schools (via #PubPriBridge)
- White Patience, Privilege, and Michael Brown’s Murder: A Process Post
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 3]
- An Open Letter to the NAIS Board re: John Chubb’s Appointment
- A.I.M.ing for Inclusion with the NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (Resources from #PoCC Workshop C-4)
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 2]
- Living in Dialogue | Reimagining Education ‘Accountability’: Asking the Right Questions
- “Always Starting with the Children”
- Reading Comprehension Strategies from Ms. Lockhart's 4th Grade Students
- Revolutionary Love: Antonia Darder’s ‘Reinventing Paulo Freire’
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 1]
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 4]
- 45 Minutes, 28 Teachers, 76 Questions: Creating an Environment & Climate Conducive to Learning
- “Learning is Great; Homework is Not:” Elementary Student Voice on Homework
- Pas de Deux: On Public & Private School Partnership in EdLeader21
- Driving Questions about White Allyship (#PoCC13)
- Reflections on Citizenship, #DigitalCitizenship, and Parenting for #DigCitWk
- Morning Sting (by Nakeiha Primus)
- “Let Us Plant Dates:” Our Role & Our Moment in Schools
- The Crosswalks of Cultural Competency & The Common Core (Conference Workshop Proposal)
COMPLETE INDEX OF POSTS
RECENT TWEETS FROM @ChrisThinnes
@ProfETC Nice to see you again & thanks for saying hi! Glad to be still standing after summer term & look forward to connecting!
@JackHassard Hope you are well! Glad to see your posts :)
"What's Common Here: Teacher Ed, Authoritarian Reform, Poverty, & Charter Schools?" @JackHassard's areas of inquiry: http://t.co/SSdGIAW32Y
"The False Promise of School Choice" @RusWalsh: http://t.co/AkMRsCEC4V http://t.co/3tTt5Fo5AP
"Amy Frogge...has a truly novel idea: let experienced educators lead the way" @DianeRavitch: http://t.co/hufJUjJhqz > http://t.co/IKkA2ixnOo
"Learning to Document in Reggio-inspired Education" Wien et al (2011), 5 aspects of learning to document: http://t.co/deprfs94kE
"We need to re-evaluate at least 4 key assumptions about teaching and learning..." Krechevsky & Stork (2000): http://t.co/PlvYIuzZn4
- @ProfETC Nice to see you again & thanks for saying hi! Glad to be still standing after summer term & look forward to connecting!