Thank Jay-Z

I apologize for taking so long to write this. Doctoral studies have been kicking my butt. I’m also still a husband, father, and principal of a school, so things can get busy for me. Anyway, it’s taken me a little bit to absorb Jay Z’s new album 4:44. I’m actually still absorbing it, but I think I have enough in me to begin writing.

At first listen the sound through me for a loop. It was different and unusual. It didn’t have that boom bap. You know, that head nod bounce that serves as the root of Hip Hop sound – especially for those of us in our 40’s. So, I put the album down for a few days and continued with my studies. I often do this with books and articles as well. When the content is too complex or obscure, put it down, let the brain adapt, and come back to it later. The brain and the heart often needs time to adjust.

On second listen, I started at the song Marcy Me, followed by Legacy, then scrolled up and listened to Smile. As I listen to Smile for the second time, I sent the following text to my two best friends: “Listening to this Jay album again, incredible!”

Jay’s response to Beyonce’s Lemonade and his profuse apology to her stole the headlines when the album first dropped. I also read in passing everything from the album was “wack,” to the album is anti-semetic, to “this is an album for black men.” As you can probably tell by the range of topics, this album has depth. I love depth, because depth leads to conversation. If I were to make a list of what humanity needs at present, more than ever, depth and conversation would definitely occupy my list.

This album represents an evolved Jay Z; representative of evolved Hip Hop. He doesn’t just apologize to Beyonce, he shares his deepest fears of what life without her and his children would be like. He also apologizes to black women in general for past transgressions, verbalizing what black men have struggled to articulate for quite some time:

I apologize for all the stillborns, because I wasn’t present, your body couldn’t accept it. I apologize to all the women who I toyed with your emotions because I was emotionless.

Throughout the album, Jay models what he raps about on the intro track, Kill Jay Z. Though hardened by an absent father, he now has a daughter so he has to be “softer.” As a married man, I would argue that being married requires this mollifying as well. The Black men we were raised to be, often within dysfunctional families and society, is not who we need continue to be in order to thrive through adulthood.

Jay pours his soul into this album. The soul of a husband, father, son, flawed human being and Black man in America. Hip Hop needed this, the black community needed this, America needed this. Check out this powerful ancestral connection Jay makes on Smile:

Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian
Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian
Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate
Society shame and the pain was too much to take
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate
Marie Antoinette, baby, let ’em eat cake

How many of us live a lie? How many medicate to survive? Don’t lose site of the stigma that Hip Hop has acquired over the years: homophobic, misogynistic, materialistic, gangster. Jay is evolving the culture into a psychological, intellectual, and literary space. It has always been there, but now hopefully the masses will begin to recognize. Like life, Hip Hop cannot be boxed in. It is brilliant and beyond. Jay exemplifies that.

As usual, Jay Z is super lyrical. Check the lyrical gymnastics on Marcy Me:

Gave birth to my verbal imagination
Assume a virtue if you have not
Or better yet here’s a verse from Hamlet
“Lord we know who we are, yet we know not what we may be”
So maybe I’m the one or maybe I’m crazy

In five bars, Jay encourages us to live by virtue, quotes Shakespeare, and shares the inner conflict of self-esteem and psychosis. This is black magic and black brilliance at its finest. I’m emphasizing black because of the stigma and the ridicule, and how we’re reminded annually that there’s an alleged achievement gap in schools between white and black. Yet Jay-Z is a high school dropout, and one of the most brilliant artist and businessmen of our time. This is why I profess the need for an education revolution. What if our schools nurtured the innate brilliance of all children, instead of trying to anesthetize them into cogs for capitalism.

This album is the perfect storm of literary form, vulnerability, and social consciousness in the context of American capitalism. Jay wants us to build wealth, and a legacy, by any means necessary. Yes, he still makes reference to crack cocaine, and lavish lifestyles, but on this album, flossing is not the main course; it is a side dish used as a jumping off point to deeper content: his mother, his wife, his daughter, the black community, himself, and the quest toward self and collective actualization.

Through Jay-Z’s truth, we see an exhibit of the infinite power of catharsis. This is the beauty of art and why we love artists. They model what we all need to strive for. Love of self, conveyer of truth, strength in vulnerability, expression and creativity. I highly recommend the album. And I highly recommend you listen very carefully.

The Need for Child Centered Education Policy


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the second reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) signed into law as part of president Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty in 1965. In this paper, we explore the provisions of ESSA through the lens of Deborah Stone’s policy framework and explore the impact of federal involvement in public education. Despite federal involvement in education policy, student achievement has remained flat across subgroups. Because of proximity, a singular focus on accountability, and a narrow view of education quality, the federal government continues to fail to address the nuanced needs of all children in our public schools. Throughout the paper we also explore problems, solutions and goals, and make recommendations as we explore the gap that exist between the ESSA policy intentions, and the current implementation.

Problem Definition


The reauthorization of ESEA serves as a symbol that the federal government takes equity seriously and will continue to support our highest need schools. However, accountability, which is a pillar of the new policy also serves as a symbol in the current public education climate. Accountability in public education denotes the need to be tough on lazy teachers and their unions, top down management structures, annual testing, and standardization. This point of view has become the new common sense in public education. Accountability also implies that teachers lack efficacy and have low expectations for students, which are research based pillars to student achievement.

ESSA Goals

The goal of ESSA, is to put systems in place that ensure every student succeeds in school. ESSA is attempting to do this by holding states accountable for state report cards and state plans, providing more flexibility and control over education policy at the state level, assessment flexibility, guidance around test refusals, offering an innovative assessment pilot to select states, mandating indicators of school quality and student success, maintaining a focus on English language learners and low performing schools, and continuing with Title I, Title II, and Title IV provisions (Arogon, Griffith, Wixom, Woods & Workman, 2016).

The problem with ESSA is it pursues the goal of student success by continuing the annual testing framework and its demand for “high” standards. First, the annual testing framework has been in place since NCLB, and not only has achievement remained flat since 2001, but achievement gaps remain between the rich and the poor, and the white and minority. There is no empirical research base to shows that annual testing improves student success. Second, although high standards are important, the idea that all students develop “proficiency” at the same rate is misguided. Children are different and ESSA does not provide enough flexibility to schools and districts to meet the unique needs of their communities. The ESSA policy continues to ignore the nuance of community culture, diverse student needs, socioeconomic variables related to poverty, and other tacit community factors.

Finally, at present standardized tests have a particular design that favors students who are strong in linguistic intelligence and verbal reasoning, which reside in the neocortex and analytical center of the brain. This design is biased against students strong in the limbic system of the brain, and interact with the world more aesthetically and holistically (Goleman 1996).

Problem Measurement

With regard to efficiency, analyzing the cost related to annual high stakes testing and the remaining achievement, we must conclude that annual testing has been inefficient in practice. At present, our annual testing program in New York State, consists of at least 9 hours of testing in grades 3-8, and there is clear evidence to show that the majority of students are not succeeding especially in low income communities.


From a welfare perspective, the welfare of individuals most impacted by ESSA: teachers, principals, parents, superintendents, school boards, and students, has been greatly overlooked as local stakeholders have been largely marginalized throughout the creation of the ESSA policy. As a result, there are teacher shortages throughout the country, large numbers of students report being disengaged at school, and parents across the country are refusing annual state testing in droves.

ESSA requires state accountability plans to include the following five indicators: proficiency on assessments, growth in proficiency in grades below high school or another academic indicator, high school graduation rates, progress of English Learners’s toward proficiency, and a fifth “other” indicator that looks at school quality (Arogon, Griffith, Wixom, Woods & Workman, 2016). Four out of five ESSA indicators focus on academic performance, with the one “other” indicator possibly interpretable as a well-being indicator.

Under ESSA, government is seeking to, as Stone (2012) explains, “provide for human wants” with its Title I, Title II, and Title IV programs (p. 86). However, because of the lack of care regarding the challenges of implementation, the resistance from stakeholders, particularly in New York State remains strong. In New York State, roughly 225,000 parents refused to allow their child to take the state test after the law was signed into place. Many parents will continue to resist annual testing because of concerns for the welfare of their children; especially children with special needs, English learners, children of color, and economically disadvantaged children; all groups who historically do poorly on standardized tests.

As poverty and demographics are more of a predictor of student achievement than the behaviors of schools and teachers, by testing students from certain backgrounds annually, one can argue that ESSA inflicts “persistent denigration” on children who were born into poverty, which as Stone (2012) explains, leads economically disadvantaged students to continuously doubt their “self-worth, believe negative stereotypes about themselves, devalue their own cultures and lower their aspirations” (p. 111-112).

These harms not only impact students, but the profession overall. A 2015 NPR article written by Eric Westervelt explains that there are alarming drops in teacher enrollment programs in big states like “California, New York, Texas, and North Carolina” (p. 2). Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education identifies a growing sense that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in a bitter, politicized environment. The article goes onto say:

The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis (pg. 2).


Which facts inform the ESSA law? Former secretary of education Arne Duncan, who is a proponent of annual testing and “high standards,” was a major actor in the process. Secretary Duncan also believes that rewards for those who comply with the law, and punishment for those that do not (carrots and sticks), is essential to student success. Despite research to the contrary, ESSA continues the accountability narrative with few adjustments. Consider the contrast of self-determination theory (SDT), discussed by Daniel Pink (2011):

Over the last thirty years, through their scholarship and mentorship, Deci and Ryan have established a network of several dozen SDT scholars conducting research in the United States, Canada, Israel, and Singapore and throughout Western Europe. These scientists have explored self-determination and intrinsic motivation in laboratory experiments and field studies that encompass just about every realm – business, education, medicine, sports, exercise, personal productivity, environmentalism, relationships, and physical and mental health.

They have produced hundreds of research papers, most of which point to the same conclusion. Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another (p. 128)

The SDT research indicates that our education policy should influence autonomy and collaboration as opposed to standardization and competition.

The facts driving the ESSA policy as was the case with NCLB, and ESEA, were the facts of special interests, and corporate actors, and not the facts of teachers, who were ostracized during federal policy negotiations.

Policy Solution

A whole mind, whole child, whole community mindset and approach to learning and child development would begin to address the welfare and diverse needs of children and local public education stakeholders.

Whole mind pedagogy, ensures a curriculum that incorporates both the neocortex and limbic system. It focuses on both analytical skills and the skills of synthesis, creativity, and collaboration. How stakeholders feel about their work matters. Therefore, whole child pedagogy includes the social, emotional, and cognitive design of curriculum and learning experiences. This includes the multiple intelligences, cultural competency, leadership, and mentoring among many other components. Finally, a whole community mindset involves the implementation of a child development and ecological approach to learning. All of a community’s resources, including schools and healthcare, work cohesively as part of a learning organism to meet the needs of children and families.

ESSA’s approach is mostly academic; and in a very narrow way. In A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, sociologist Daniel Pink (2006) explains:

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people – Artist, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys (p. 22)

To create a whole new mind, ESSA requires a whole new approach.

Design Analysis

Policy and Goals

The gap between the policy ideal and the reality of achieving policy goals, is caused by a focus on accountability systems and academic achievement as more important than whole child development and the teaching and learning process overall. ESSA focuses more on programs than people, thus, leaving our differently abled children behind.


Incentives are built throughout the ESSA policy. Regarding test participation, the federal government identifies four actions that could be taken if schools do not reach the 95% test participation rate. Those options include assign a lower summative rating to the school, assign the lowest performance level on the state accountability system’s academic achievement indicator, identify the school for targeted support and intervention, implement another equally rigorous state-determined action described in the state plan that will result in a similar outcome for the school and will lead to improvements in the participation rate (Arogon, Griffith, Wixom, Woods & Workman, 2016). This “carrot and stick” approach goes against the research related to SDT and the fact that teacher expectation, ability, and efficacy impacts student achievement more than anything else.

Additional carrots and sticks exist within the Title IV – 21st century schools section of the policy. Arogon, Griffith, Wixom, Woods & Workman, (2016) explains that part of Title IV is the “student support and academic enrichment grant program (SSAEG)” (p. 23). These programs are funded directly to school districts and include three subsections:

1. Well Rounded educational opportunities
2. Safe and healthy students
3. Effective use of technology

SSAEG is a type of block grant that provides districts with a lot of flexibility on how to spend the federal dollars. This block grant should be expanded to give LEA’s the funding and focus to support their diverse curricula and instructional approaches to high standards. Incentivize diversity of high standards as part of a whole mind approach, and incentivize collaboration at the local level so stakeholders can learn from each other.


The rules are very clear with regard to the ESSA policy. States are allowed to create their own standards, but must have “challenging” standards in place. States must also administer tests annually in grades 3-8. If schools and districts have less than 95% participation on the state test, some form of intervention or sanction must be implemented. Certain states can apply to be a member of an assessment innovation pilot to implement assessments more aligned to 21st century learning competencies, and states must have specific plans for English language learners and struggling schools. Stones (2012) explains the concept of rules:

Rules include and exclude, unite and divide. They include and exclude by defining different treatment or permissible activity for different people. They unite and divide by placing people in different categories; those treated favorably by a rule have a common interest in preserving it, while those treated unfavorably share an interest in changing it (p. 293)

The innovative assessment pilot should be expanded from seven states to all fifty states to meet the unique needs of LEAs. Instead of implementing carrot and sticks incentives, let’s take a look at how SDT works in public education. Finally, we should discontinue the inefficient practice of annual testing. Mullen & Tienken (2016) explain how standardized test can be predicted based on socio economic status:

Results from previous studies (Maylone, 2002; Tienken, Tramaglini, & Lynch, 2013; Turnamian & Tienken, 2013) demonstrated that it is possible to accurately predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or above on state standardized tests in language arts and mathematics at the district level by using community and family-level demographic variables found in the U.S. census data. If the percentages of students who score proficient or above on high stakes tests can be predicted statistically using only community and family-level demographic variables, then how appropriate are those results for making significant decisions about student achievement, educator effectiveness, or the overall quality of public schooling (p. 158).

Based on classic and current research, because of proximity, federal accountability does not improve student learning.


Although it is important for rules to be precise for the sake of clarity and compliance, as Stone (2012) mentions, “precision has its disadvantages” (p. 294). Annual testing, 95% participation rates, and four out of five academic indicators of school quality are precise rules. Precise rules are insensitive to individual and contextual differences, and are not tailored to individual circumstances (Stone, 2012).

We are an incredibly diverse democracy, and our diversity requires vagueness of rules so that every voice and every community is valued. From our country’s inception, we have been categorized and classified based on race, gender, class, citizenship, age, ethnicity, and orientation among other things. These classifications have separated all and oppressed many. ESSA with its continued funding of Title I, accounts for some of the historical marginalization involved, the parent resistance, and state test data indicate that our rules should be a bit more tailored to the needs of each community.

Stone (2012) states, “precise rules stifle creative responses to new situations” (p. 295). As America is becoming more diverse in a variety of ways, vague rules are required for districts to be agile in meeting the challenging needs present.

Causal Theories


Stone (2012) explains, “the failings of precision are the virtues of vagueness” (p. 295). Vague rules allow sensitivity to differences in a rapid ethnically, politically, and technologically changing environment. Our English Learners represent rich and diverse cultures. Our special needs students cover a wide spectrum just in the categories of learning and emotionally disabled. All blacks, whites, and other “races” are not the same, and while some economically disadvantaged groups do well on annual testing, the majority do not.
Stone (2012) goes onto say:

Vagueness can boost a rule’s effectiveness by allowing individuals with knowledge of particular facts and local conditions to decide on the means for achieving general goals. This is one argument for allocating federal money to states in the form of block grants rather than dictating exactly how a state should spend their public education money (p. 295).

ESSA provides block grants in certain areas but not in others. It is essential to remember that local stakeholders have the tacit knowledge of their districts to adjust and adapt accordingly in the most efficient manner; which runs contrary to the federal government creating policy that impacts states, districts, and even schools.

The needs of public schools are inherently multifaceted as we deal with the diversity of students, families, and their needs. Stone (2012) reminds us that “social systems necessary to solve modern problems are inherently complex” (p. 215). A whole mind, whole child, whole community approach to teaching and learning considers these complexities while preserving the child at the center of the equilibrium.

Maslow’s Theory

When considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and human development, Maslow advances a theory that humans have five developmental needs that should be met in sequential order. These needs are: physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, the need for self-esteem, and the need for self-actualization (Stone 2012). The language of these needs is noticeably absent from the ESSA policy, although one might argue that Title I funding and flexibility helps to provide for the safety (security), and thus welfare of certain populations.

That said, the foundational component of Maslow’s hierarchy, physiological needs, are met mostly outside of school; which is where the impact of poverty on learning comes into play. Poverty has been known to be the number 1 indicator of student performance on standardized tests. Lacour and Tissington (2011) explain:

A study conducted by Sum and Fogg (1991) found that poor students are ranked in the 19th percentile on assessments while students from a mid-upper income family ranked in the 66th percentile on assessments. In data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) measuring kindergarten student achievement on the ECLS reading achievement assessment, low income students scored at about the 30th percentile, middle-income students scored at about the 45th percentile, and upper income students scored at about the 70th percentile (Rowan et al., 2004) (pg. 522).

ESSA does not include in its policy, provisions that encourage collaborations between school and healthcare or other community based organizations to offset the impact of poverty more holistically. Collaboration, an important skill of a healthy democracy is absent from the ESSA policy.


Whole Child reform includes 21st century skills, local decision making and an ecological approach. This is the approach that I argue will lead to success for all students. Research advocating for a more holistic approach to education reform and accountability is growing considerably. A true holistic approach includes not only systems thinking but ecological thinking, as an ecological mindset requires schools and teachers within communities to learn and improve together. Further, a holistic approach encompasses an infrastructure of community as a learning organism. A Whole Child approach also ensures that the social, emotional and cognitive components of a child’s development are fundamental to all schooling and lifelong learning.

Singapore’s education system over the past decade evolutionarily encouraged the integration of a traditionally valued, content, disciplinary focus, and new literacies of self-regulated learning, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (Chua, Hung, Jamaludin & Toh, 2014). Whole Child learning is directly aligned to 21st century learning, and should be treated as essential for a healthy and thriving democracy.

As Slade and Griffith (2013) illustrate, Whole Child learning, at its core, “views the purpose of schooling as developing future citizens and providing the basis for each child to fulfill their potential” (p.21).

Explaining the ecological approach, Griffith and Slade anchor their theory in the welfare of actors by referencing Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Whole Child perspective is inclusive of the health and well-being of a child and operates with Maslow’s theory interwoven throughout school and community practices. This approach includes mental health, physical health, proper diet and hygiene, and high academic expectations. Without all of Maslow’s identified needs being met, students will stagnate on the path toward self-actualization.
Often misunderstand; opponents of the Whole Child model not only label such a model dismissively as focusing only on “non-cognitive” or “soft skills,” but as a model also absent of data and accountability. On the contrary, incorporating health and wellness into data tracking and school accountability systems will provide educators, policymakers, and the public with a refined understanding of how to achieve learning and academic outcomes (Ahmed, Hurley & Murray, 2015). Learning is impacted by health and wellness, including trauma and emotional stability. A child that suffers or has suffered from adverse childhood experiences, psychic harm, or is emotionally disconnected from the curriculum, will not learn to their full potential and will not self-actualize.

Further, concerning accountability, Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) has created a Whole Child accountability system, after an extensive community input and data collection process (Ahmed, Hurley & Murray, 2015). The district measures student progress in alignment with whether students are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported.

Ahmed, Hurley & Murray (2015) explain:

TPS reports publicly on the benchmarks, promoting trust, transparency, and accountability to the community. TPS engaged in a comprehensive gap analysis of all related policies, processes, and programs to identify action steps. As a result, TPS has increased graduation rates by approximately 20% in 4 years, over 90% of students participate in the PSAT and SAT testing, and an increased number of TPS students receive scholarships to community and four year institutions (p.799)

A key word above is “challenged.” We can cognitively challenge students while also meeting their holistic needs. This is a “yes, and” not an “either, or” approach. Our school system must be redesigned around both quantitative and qualitative measures to promote the welfare and success of all students.

Executive Summary

Based on the research, all training, retaining, and professional development programs in public education must focus on whole child reform for all stakeholders. The federal government should provide equitable funding to LEAs and LEAs must be given the liberty to design curriculum, assessments, and learning experiences to meet the needs of their students. Funding can be allocated in the form of block grants to incentivize collaboration at the district level, to facilitate the process of superintendents including principals, teachers, and parents working together to create policy. Finally, to ensure the social, emotional, and cognitive development of essential learning skills for a healthy democracy, the arts, sports, culturally relevant content and pedagogy, and portfolio based assessments must be incorporated in a well-rounded curriculum.

Again, these decisions are made at the local level with guidance and funding from states and federal constituencies as needed. If annual testing is to continue, it should be designed by teachers, begin in grade four, and be no longer that 4 hours per year (2 ELA, 2 Math). Ideally, I would propose grade span testing that occurs only in 4th and 7th grade, and invest the remaining money into professional development and whole child reform.


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The True Truth

Who is the keeper of the true truth? I do not know the answer to this question, but I can begin to ponder a response based on my experiences. As an educator at the school level for over 17 years, I often think about this question as concerns to the needs of my students. Although there is some debate as to what those needs actually are. In my opinion, the true truth depends on context, and context involves both a macro and micro perspective.

I began my career as a math teacher at a south Bronx elementary school in one of the poorest zip codes in the country. The school housed 1500 students, 95% were designated to receive free or reduced lunch, and many students were recent immigrants from south America and Africa. There were a few metrics we used to measure our success as a school. Among these metrics included state standardized test scores, attendance, and disciplinary referrals. School leadership was unstable as I had 4 different principals within a five-year period. Because the test scores were consistently low, a few years after I moved on to become a high school dean of students, the school was closed down and reopened in a restructured capacity. Eight years after the restructuring test scores remain below average. This school was evaluated from a macro perspective while the micro needs continued to be ignored.

As a kid growing up, I was fortunate to be raised primarily in an economically middle class community. I say fortunate because up until the age of seven I lived in the housing projects and remember distinctly some of the maladaptive behaviors that occurred among both my peers and the adults in the community. I was also very cognizant of how some of my friends in the 6th grade, from the projects, but more importantly, without proper parental supervision, engaged in drug use and drug dealing, and had sex at ages much younger than I could ever understand. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing mother and two loving older sisters that gave me love, stability, confidence, and education. I am also aware of the state law that allowed my mother to live in a middle-class community below market value, and pay rent based on how much money she earned. A macro policy gave my mother the opportunity to live in a safe, upwardly mobile community, while my micro needs were met at home.

Because of the home I grew up in, learning in school was never a challenge for me. I did not experience many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as studies now show impact brain development and health outcomes. Unlike many other kids, including those from my first school, my development was in alignment with Maslow’s hierarchy of need and Glasser’s theory of psychological development. I had food, clothing, shelter, a loving home, and a diverse community of values and social resources. I got the chance to engage in formal, non formal, and informal learning through structured and unstructured play, organized and street sports, visual arts, and music. All of these experiences helped me to develop my skills of citizenship, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and the character education that Michael Fullan highlights in The New Meaning of Educational Change.
I even had voice and choice in my upper middle class school district, taking an animation class and developing my creativity and entrepreneurial skills as Yong Zhoa discusses in World Class Learners.

It was later in life as a professional educator and now as an aspiring academic, that I learned of the theories of self-determination (Deci and Ryan), Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner), Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman), self-actualization (Daniel Bloom), Critical Race Theory (Hany Lopez), and many others. All continue to inform my practice and beliefs regarding the purpose of education, and the definition of the true truth.

Before proceeding, I have to mention my role as a father of three and my “training” as a guidance counselor. My children have probably informed my understanding of the world more than anything else. First, they are all different and have different desires and needs. Second, they are not like me. Whereas I expected my son to be born athletic and aggressive, like dad, his taste more align to the art and creativity world.

My guidance training allowed me to study psychological theories that introduced me to Glasser and Freud among others, and have provided an understanding of how internal colonialism, bias, habitus, and excessive trauma impact our individual and collective lives. The true truth in American education must train teachers in these areas, to leverage the brilliant diversity of our children.

America’s diversity, and globalization provides an opportunity to create dynamic communities and learning spaces the world has never seen. However, our ugly history of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and segregation, have kept us from being open to learning from and with those who are different from us. As opposed to viewing these diverse experiences as enriching, we have often seen them as a roadblock and threat. This threat is not just based on race or gender or class, but a threat of divergent ideas.

This ideology is exacerbated by a school system built on a survival of the fittest mindset and the principles of ranking and sorting children based solely on their linguistic and logical intelligence. The true truth for me must involve nurturing the holistic learning experiences of children and communities.

Some would argue that western culture is dominated by the neocortex part of the brain, while we continue to neglect the limbic system. As a result, many kids and communities suffer. The limbic system, encompasses an emotional “language” that is universal. Everyone smiles, cries, and laughs. Everyone interacts and explores. We all, regardless of culture, try to understand the world around us whatever the context. This has been reaffirmed for me not just through research, but by observing my own and other very young children. From the infant stage, without being told or formally trained, children navigate aesthetically as natural scientists, artists, and explorers. Therefore, if we aligned education and learning to the natural behaviors of children, we will develop communities of well-being and actualization, which in my opinion, is the true truth we should be living for.

The keeper of the true truth is the community; both the individuals within it and the community collectively. The concept of community as learning organism, championed by Margaret Wheatly among others, is one that makes sense to me; as does the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.” Market theory does not work in this context because market theory is driven by social Darwinism and rugged individualism, which cannot work without equality. Because of colonialism and institutional discrimination, we do not currently have social and economic equality. Further, working toward the gluttonous accumulation of inanimate objects like capital, and control over individuals and their posterity is inhumane, which is why society continues to reject it as is evidenced by our economic inequality, poverty, and the rise of the populist movement.

The keeper of the true truth for me encompasses all things, which is why community change must involve all people, and our pedagogy, as Paulo Freire believed, must begin with the needs of the people. Maslow’s theory of well-being, along with Bloom’s theory of actualization, tied to Sternberg’s theory of creativity, and Deci and Ryan’s theory of self-determination and efficacy, create habits of mind and behaviors that lead to a world of fulfilment for all.

The controversies in education are not controversies at all. They are two sides of the same coin; and all need to be implemented depending on the context. For example, high-stakes standardized testing does not need to occur every year, but there is a time and place for it. Traditional disciplines must coincide with 21st century skills as one is the continuation or evolution of the other. Education controversies are also necessary as they represent both sides of a conversation that needs to be explored for us all to create a new reality. These topics represent pathways to innovation; and human history suggest, that innovation is innately human.

Eugenics, ALEC, and the For-Profit Agenda in Public Schools

High stakes standardized testing, authorized by the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, is now ubiquitous in American schools. With the approval of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2016, we continue the legacy of administering annual tests to every child in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Although federal policy has driven America’s testing program since the arrival of No Child Left Behind, standardized testing has a long and provocative history in the United States. From their inception, standardized tests have often influenced, and been influenced by, a variety of social, cultural, human, political and economic factors. The purpose of this paper is to explore the history of standardized testing in the United States and its role in all aspects of society, and to provide an alternative vision that embraces the intellectual, cultural, and developmental diversity of America’s children. This new theoretical and conceptual approach has been referred to by many as educating the whole child.

The Four Frames
Bolman and Deal’s four-frames helps leaders to view the same situation (Bolman and Deal, 2013) from different perspectives which facilitates effective problem solving. Oftentimes, leaders view situations through a singular frame, and thus become frustrated when the answer to a challenge does not readily present itself. However, leaders who strive to reframe a situation, and understand it from another point of view, become better at managing varied occurrences. According to Bolman and Deal (2013), the goal is for leaders to develop “fluid expertise,” which illustrates the seamless use of each frame when the appropriate opportunity presents itself. (p.12).

Some would argue that public education and standardized testing disproportionately function from a structural frame perspective. With the implementation of annual standardized testing, and now with the explosion of computer testing in our schools, we are operating from a hyper-rational frame driven mostly by metrics (Bolman & Deal, 2013). At present, standardized testing that are administered by state education departments annually in grades 3-8, are generally created by a third party private vendor (Livaudais, 2016). In the past, standardized tests were administered by local schools and school districts and were also created by a third party (Au, 2013). Some states in both the past and the present have used standardized test scores for promotional decisions, as well as to make both homogeneous and heterogeneous classroom decisions, which often resulted in disproportionally tracking the poor, immigrant, and African Americans into classrooms of low efficacy and low expectations (Au, 2013).

The human resource frame explains the importance of understanding the complexity of human beings and human relationships. Some would argue that schools, like other organizations, are like families where individuals have needs, feelings, prejudices, skills, and limitations (Bolman & Deal, 2013). With regard to the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the recent Race To The Top initiatives, there is evidence that human needs have been neglected based on the lack of teacher preparation and training (Scholastic, 2014) tied to the initiatives. As a consequence, a parent-led resistance to these policies have resulted in the refusal of standardized testing by hundreds of thousands of parents throughout the country, citing a lack of knowledge of the changes and the harm that was being done to their children among other things. (Levy & Saraisky, 2016).

Politically, power dynamics have often been in play throughout the history of public schools and standardized tests. We continue to rank and sort individual students based on test scores, as opposed to implementing more cooperative practices that leverage the strengths of our diversity. This paper will illustrate many of the power dynamics involved with regard to testing, but here I will briefly mention that some of the most powerful people in our country, from the president, to governors, to local school superintendents, have continuously supported annual standardized testing as a strategy for improving public schools (Chingos, Dynarski, West & Whitehurst, 2015).

Symbolically, organizations and schools do not exist separately from but rather are anchored by the social and culture reality of its students, staff, and families (Bolman & Deal, 2013). From a symbolic perspective, cultural expression occurs through rituals, events, stories and ceremonies that abandon the assumptions of rationality. Annual testing serves as a symbolic ritual in our public schools. Every year, test results show African Americans, Latinos, English language learners, special needs and low income students, performing below their white, English speaking, general education, economically advantaged peers. This “persistent denigration” (Stone, 2012) serves to illustrate the continued struggles of students from particular groups, just as early standardized tests have done in the past as part of the eugenics movement (p. 111-112).

High-Stakes standardized testing in the United States began as a re-contextualization of an assessment tool developed in France by Alfred Binet in 1904. The Binet Scale IQ test was designed to assess if young children were mildly developmentally disabled (Au, 2013), and to provide them the adequate supports needed to function in society. Despite the fact that Binet argued against the use of IQ scores as static, due to the race and class politics at the turn of the 19th century in the United States, American cognitive psychologists Henry Goddard, Lewis Terman, and Robert Yerkes distorted Binet’s original use of the test to justify the ranking, sorting, and segregation of people by race, ethnicity, gender, and class according to supposed hereditary based intelligence (Au, 2013).

In 1865, the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution was narrowly passed effectively ending slavery in America unless you were incarcerated. Despite the ending of slavery under federal law, many of America’s citizens were not ready to accept African Americans as equals. Therefore, states began to implement segregation laws, and lynching became an ever-present aspect of American life (Kousser, 2003).

The post slavery period in America also consisted of a rapid rise in immigration to support our industrial revolution. During this period, many of the soon to be factory workers that fueled the industrial revolution were from southern and eastern Europe. Many believe this population along with the recently freed slaves, became targets of discrimination based on standardized test scores, and America’s structure of a biological caste hierarchy (Au, 2013).

Citing Dikotter (1998), Winfield (2010), states “eugenics was a fundamental aspect of some of the most important cultural and social movements of the twentieth century, intimately linked to ideologies of “race,” nations, and gender, inextricably meshed with population control, social hygiene, state hospitals, and the welfare state (p. 467).

Inequality was so pervasive in American society, many citizens, politicians, and scholars supported segregated schools, segregated classrooms, selective breeding and even forced sterilization. Beginning with Indiana in 1907, 32 states adopted laws authorizing the sterilization of people judged to have hereditary defects (Jones, 2017).

Sir Francis Galton, English statistician and cousin of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species, developed the term eugenics in 1883 to articulate his plan to improve the human race through selective breeding (Black, 2003; Kevles, 1985 & Winfield, 2012). According to Spiro (2009), Sir Francis Galton, analyzing the long line of wealthy Englishman on both sides of his ancestral tree, believed that “if a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create” (p.121).

Another major spokesman for the eugenics movement was psychologist Edward Thorndike, who many refer to as one of the “Fathers of Curriculum.” Thorndike played a leading role in the design of our modern education system (Winfield, 2012). Between 1908 and 1916, Thorndike and his students at Columbia University developed standardized achievement tests in arithmetic, handwriting, spelling, drawing, reading, and language ability. Thorndike wrote a New York Times article in 1927 that coincided with the release of his book The Measurement of Intelligence. Winfield (2012) highlights Thorndike’s thinking from the Times’ article:

Men are born unequal in intellect, character, and skill. It is impossible and undesirable to make them equal by education. The proper work of education is to improve all men according to their several possibilities, in ways consistent with the welfare of all (p.147).

Here Thorndike, a Columbia University professor, is not only clear on his beliefs related to intelligence being hereditary and unchanging, he also does not believe it is worth investing the time and money to “make them equal by education.” Instead, he believes we should do the best we can to maintain the system of inequality, for the “welfare of all.”

The welfare of all in American culture at the turn of the 19th century and into the 20th century referred mainly to the middle and upper class of American society. All did not mean African Americans immigrants from certain countries, or the less “fit.” Fitter family contests were continuously written about in newspapers and the wealthy continuously supported the study and proliferation of eugenics through investments. From 1920-1938 the Eugenical News was also published to continue narrative of intelligence based on heredity (Winfield, 2012).

Some would argue that America’s first general-purpose philanthropic foundations — Russell Sage (founded 1907), Carnegie (1911), and Rockefeller (1913) — backed eugenics because they considered themselves to be progressive, and as searching for root causes of societal problems (Schambra, 2013).

Testing Begins to Spread
Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist with the support of the National Academy of Sciences, revised an intelligence test originally created for the army, to be used to rank and sort school children. Along with others, Terman created the Stanford achievement test in 1922 and by 1925, reported sales were near 1.5 million copies (Au, 2013). Using tests to track students into achievement groupings in school began around this time. A 1925 survey of 215 cities with populations over 10,000 found that 64% of participating cities used testing to sort students into classrooms in elementary school, 56% used tests to sort junior high school students, and 41% of high schools used tests to classify and sort students as well (Au, 2013). By 1932, almost 75% of school districts began to use intelligence testing to place students into ability groups and colleges began to use tests to justify admissions as well (Haney, 1984).
Through this tracking system, and in accordance with Thorndike’s “proper work of education” concept, John Franklin Bobbit, also considered one of the fathers of curriculum (Winfield, 2012), believed that schools should be structured to prepare students for their future social roles. Therefore, structuring schools like industrial factories with students as raw materials and teachers as assembly line workers was the best way to achieve the goal of social efficiency (Au, 2013).

Beyond Race
Although immigrants were needed to support the boom of the industrial revolution, maintaining the American caste system was important to many. To stem the immigration tide of the early 20th century, Henry Goddard translated Alfred Binet’s test and put it to use assessing the intelligence of immigrants on Ellis Island in 1917. The study concluded that 83 percent of Jews, 79 percent of Italians, and 87 percent of Russians were feebleminded adults with a mental age of under five years old (Pepper, 2006). Also in 1917, psychologist and Army Colonel Robert Yerkes was responsible for the mental testing of almost 2 million recruits during World War I. Yerkes used test results to sort incoming soldiers and determine their “mental fitness.” Some conclusions drawn by Yerkes during this time was that the intelligence of European immigrants could be judged by their country of origin. According to Yerkes, the darker peoples of eastern and southern Europe were less intelligent than their fairer skinned, western and northern counterparts (Au, 2013).

Karier (1972) explains how the tests designed by Yerkes and others had deep seeded bias built in:

Designing the Stanford-binet intelligence test, Terman developed questions which were based on presumed progressive difficulty in performing tasks which he believed were necessary for ascending the hierarchical occupational structure. He then proceeded to find that according to the results of his tests, the intelligence of different occupational classes fit his ascending hierarchy. It was little wonder that IQ reflected social class bias. It was in fact based on the social class order (P. 163-164).

As we analyze data from current standardized testing in American schools, the results continue to fall along socioeconomic lines (Tienken, 2016).

The For-Profit Agenda
Just as philanthropy and investment contributed to the spread of standardized testing in America from a local school and school district perspective, the spread continues at present following the No Child Left Behind, Race to The Top, and Every Student Succeeds Act legislation from a federal policy perspective. Shortly after No Child Left Behind became law, organizations like the Sylvan Learning Centers increased profits by 250%. Organizations like Sylvan Learning Centers increased profits because parents rushed to place their children in tutoring programs to ensure their children attained proficiency on annual standardized tests. Within five years of the NCLB legislation, sales of printed materials related to standardized tests nearly tripled to $592 million (Pepper, 2006).

The testing industry is also related to the charter school industry. Under the federal “New Market Tax Credit” program, investors in charters and other projects in underserved communities can collect a generous tax credit of up to 39% to offset their costs (Wiggins, 2013). This generous tax credit can help organizations almost double their money within a seven-year period. The corporatization of America through Citizens United and other endeavors directly relates to the testing industry and the proliferation of charter schools. Pepper (2006) further explains:

The effect of NCLB has been to dismantle public education by funneling public tax dollars directly to corporations through penalties, private tutoring companies, and vouchers. Once more, the populations paying for this policy are students of color and the poor, since according to Ben Clarke in CorpWatch, the poorest schools with limited resources comprised primarily of such students perform the worst on the tests. The schools are then reconstituted by the school district, outsourced to private companies like Edison, or a portion of their federal funding is diverted to “parental choice” (p. 40).

The Heritage Foundation, and other conservative think tanks that support market based theory in public education have a history of union busting and decreased accountability in charter schools (Anderson and Donchik, 2016).
Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, founded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 1973.  Anderson and Donchik (2016), report:

While ALEC’s espoused mission statement is clear about its grounding in free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, a holistic coding of the model bills of the Education Task Force found that bills tended to cluster around three main themes: (a) the privatization of public assets, or, in other words, the transfer of state taxpayer dollars from public schools to private non-profit or for-profit education corporations; (b) opposition to teachers unions, tenure, and certification; and (c) the transfer of new managerialist principles to the public sector (p. 333).

Education management organizations (EMO’s), are now the norm in public education. Citing a report from Amy Goodman regarding the New Orleans school system, Pepper (2006) states:

The EMO model has already dismantled the New Orleans public school district. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, the Louisiana state legislature voted to take over most of the city’s public schools and effectively fire the 7,500 teachers and employees who work in them. Control of many of the schools is being given to private charter management organizations (p. 41).

How students perform on standardized tests, continues to impact school closures, the opening of charter schools, de-unionization, and segregation based on intellectual, social, and economic resources.

A Way Forward
The Civil Rights Movement was a watershed moment in American history. Legislatively, America was no longer going to accept inequality as our reality. This movement followed the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case which unanimously ruled that state-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment and therefore unconstitutional. Interestingly, near the end of the Civil Rights movement, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) was first administered in 1967. In 1970, the NAEP illustrated a 50%-point gap between African Americans and Whites in math and reading achievement. There was still a long way to go.

Despite continued testing in the U.S., president Lyndon B. Johnson finally began to take a holistic view of what was happening in our public schools. As part of his Great Society initiative, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was authorized in 1965 which included Title 1 funding to support the poorest students in the poorest schools. The Voting Rights Act was also authorized in 1965 following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended legal discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and provided opportunities for marginalized people to engage in the electorate and to receive labor justice. America, from a federal policy perspective, was redesigning itself politically and structurally to meet the needs of all children.

In many ways throughout American history, inequality has been facilitated by a dominant culture, which has been present since before the Declaration of Independence. Generally speaking, the dominant culture has been white, male, “educated,” English speaking, and property owning. All other cultures in the United States, from African Americans to immigrants, to indentured servants have been trying to measure up and be accepted by America’s dominant culture.
Otherness is the way we appreciate others who are different (Edwards, 2015). It reflects, healthy socio-moral outlook and cultural warmth during interactions with others and reactions to those who are different. Otherness development is based on human nature, and reactions based on differences (Edwards, 2015). Looking at the standardization of America’s schools via standardized testing solely in English language arts and mathematics, standardized curriculum, and standardized instructional practices, we notice the ignoring of the multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2011), the social emotional development of all children, and a lack of self-reflection and deeper learning present. Despite our increases in diversity, we continue to support only a pedagogy rooted in the dominant culture.

Moreover, from a cognitive perspective, this dominant culture has operated from the neocortex, analytical compartments of the brain. When embracing all children and educating the whole child, we must incorporate emotional intelligence into our public schools. Cognitive intelligence predominates America’s schools. And though beneficial to many, continuing to neglect the emotional intelligence of America’s students stagnates us from reaching our ideals as a country. Emotional intelligence is necessary to fully embrace America’s diversity. We do this with a focus on experiential learning, and by focusing teacher training and classroom pedagogy on the limbic system of the brain (Goleman, 1996). Further, our analytical strengths have also become our analytical weaknesses as we continue to judge and support all children through this narrow lens. Sternberg (2006) talks about analytical, practical, and creative skills as being of particular importance to society. Don Ambrose (2011) discusses how utopian, neoliberal market based ideology is suppressing our creativity. To properly educate the whole child and every child we have to go in a different direction.

Change Theory
Because the dominant culture is so embedded in American society, it will take Kurt Lewin’s change theory, by means of the implementation methods used by Edgar Schein throughout public education, to facilitate the process of reexamining ourselves, identifying disconfirmation, and making the necessary changes toward socio-moral people, schools, and nation. We must holistically analyze America’s “data” to see if our expectations and hopes are being realized (Schien, 1995). America’s disproportionality in college graduation, incarceration, infant mortality, and wealth indicate a country that is not living up to its ideals and provides disconfirming data to begin the change process. As we connect this disconfirming data with the survival anxiety of the masses, we can begin the process of unfreezing which initiates change.

As we leave the unfreezing state and enter the changing stage, cognitive restructuring will be required. Within the context of moving from a white English patriarchy lens to a more multicultural lens with regard to achievement in public education, we must redefine what achievement is from one rooted in analytical verbal reasoning, to one encompassing both pragmatic and creative intelligence (Sternberg, 2006). Moving away from the narrow definition of intelligence championed by Terman, Yerkes, and Goddard and toward Gardner, Sternberg, and Goleman requires the process of cognitive restructuring.
This is a process that we must commit to both locally and nationally as it is a process that takes time, commitment, and leadership. Consider scanning, which is necessary for refreezing, and one can grasp the gravity of the change that is needed.

Double Loop Learning
America’s current test and sanction practices are an example of single loop learning as policy (Anderson, 1994). We focus on changing actions, related to singular measures as opposed analyzing and changing our governing variables. Our espoused theory of equality, as evidenced by the Preamble to the United States Constitution, is vastly different than the theories that have been in practice throughout American history. By implementing double loop learning as part of the professional preparation and development of all educators, we begin to critically examining our “governing values,” which will lead not only to change in our surface actions, but the governing variables themselves. Our theory-in-use must become more multidimensional.

Two Success Stories
Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) has created a Whole Child accountability system, after an extensive community input and data collection process (Ahmed, Hurley & Murray, 2015). The district measures student progress in alignment with whether students are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported.
Ahmed, Hurley & Murray (2015) explain:

TPS reports publicly on the benchmarks, promoting trust, transparency, and accountability to the community. TPS engaged in a comprehensive gap analysis of all related policies, processes, and programs to identify action steps. As a result, TPS has increased graduation rates by approximately 20% in 4 years, over 90% of students participate in the PSAT and SAT testing, and an increased number of TPS students receive scholarships to community and four year institutions (p.799)

A key word above is “challenged.” We can cognitively challenge students while also meeting their holistic needs. Our school system must be redesigned around both quantitative and qualitative measures to promote the welfare and success of all students.

Another success story is the implementation and research of Howard Gardner’s theory of the Multiple Intelligences implemented in an Ireland school district. Gardner defined an intelligence as the ability to solve problems or fashion products that are of consequence in a particular cultural setting or community. Hanafin (2014) explains in her study that “teachers reported successful student outcomes including more interest and motivation, better recall and deeper understanding, higher attainment, improved self-esteem, and more fun and enjoyable classroom experiences” (p. 126).

Under current federal education policy, innovative assessment pilots will only be authorized in seven states. Going forward, holistic learning, encompassing the community as a learning organism, established locally, will meet the cultural needs of each community and ignite the full potential of every child. This will allow America to fulfill the ideals of its constitution.

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Devos’ Tenure Must be Trauma Informed

Devos’ Tenure Must be Trauma Informed
Jamaal A. Bowman

The confirmation of Betsy Devos is primed to ignite an old and tired education paradigm: school choice is the answer to all of our public educational problems. Choice, in a democracy, is good at any level. We should all have the freedom to choose how we go about living our lives; unless of course that choice negatively impacts other people. Choice in the context of public education means defunding and demoralizing neighborhood public schools, while reinvesting public school money into school vouchers and charter schools, with limited regulations and oversight. The charter school lobby loves this because they are able to invest private money into schools, while receiving public funds as part of substantial profits within their financial portfolios. This money-laundering scheme has been well documented, as well as its positive impact on little beyond test scores.

But this article is not about the charter lobby or Betsy Devos’ abysmal reform record. Today I am writing about the number one killer of children in the U.S. today – psychological trauma. Psychological trauma is often a silent and slow killer. Its impact grows inside the mind and body while destroying children of every race, creed, and class across the country. We are accustomed to responding when impacted by physical trauma as it is easier to identify and remedy. But psychological trauma, caused by toxic stress, often goes undetected and unnoticed – until students enter a school building.

As an educator of almost two decades in historically disenfranchised communities, I can speak first hand of the traumatic experiences my students continuously face. One former student’s brother was stabbed to death trying to break up a fight. Another cluster of students began self-mutilating to cope with their anxiety and depression. I have had students run away from home, attempt suicide, and be placed in foster care because of abuse or neglect. These are not exceptions; this is the norm in historically disenfranchised communities throughout the country. This, is what public school teachers have to deal with every day.

Poor, Latino, and Black students continue to be overwhelmed by psychological trauma and neglected in our country at disproportionate rates. It is a disgrace that neither during the recent presidential campaign, nor during the Devos hearing, did the impact of trauma on learning (and long term health outcomes for that matter), become a topic of conversation. Why is this the case? Because educators and parents have been excluded from our political discourse, while profiteers have conspired to take over the political arena. America continues to be more concerned with building an economy by training human capital, than nurturing human beings toward a healthy democracy. Profit over people is the mantra. America continues to eat its young.

On almost every negative measure related to education and health outcomes, Black, Latino, and poor people are excessively represented. From Preschool expulsions and K-12 suspensions, to grade level proficiency and college graduation rates, to incarceration and addiction, the effects of trauma are ever-present and continue to baffle our elected officials and financiers. Luckily for our children, parents, educators, students, and researchers remain crystal clear on exactly what needs to be done.

Brain development begins at conception, and rapidly develops between birth and age three. Therefore, early childhood programs that provide childcare and parenting supports are essential for the long-term health and development of our children. Parents need help with creating nurturing environments for their children while also receiving opportunities to continue their education and improve employability. Instead of investing in annual standardized testing that illustrates what we already know, we must invest in early childhood programs to give our neediest children and families the start and support they need. This approach, if done well, will dramatically decrease the trauma experienced in high need communities and will improve long term health and education outcomes. Though I appreciate local and national universal Pre-K program initiatives, it serves as an expensive false solution for most children. Trauma is a daily, moment to moment occurrence when it is chronic, so if the proper supports are not in place beginning at conception, students will enter Pre-K cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physiologically delayed. Pre-K is way too late!!!

A child born to parents with limited formal education, will hear thirty million fewer words than a child born to parents with extensive formal education. Quite often in homes with limited formal education, the words heard carry negative connotations. This reality impacts the emotional and behavioral disposition of a child. In addition to this language deficiency, if the toxic stress, poor diet, and psycho-social elements of poverty are ubiquitous, the child’s executive functions become compromised. Some studies show that poor children literally have smaller brains . This neurological under-development, continues across the life span for students affected by chronic psychological trauma.

My message to Betsy Devos is simply: Engage all of the American people in discussions based on their reality. Listen carefully. Consult with researchers and practitioners who work with children daily. Continue to do your own homework and learn as much as you can about K-16 education. If you do this, the proper path will become abundantly clear. Invest heavily in early childhood education. Remember that for many children, Pre-K is far too late. Ensure our teachers are trained in trauma informed pedagogy and cultural competency, and receive ongoing training in exemplary instructional practices. Implement a child centered, project based 21st century learning curriculum, while working collaboratively with teachers, parents, students, and community members to provide the resources and autonomy necessary to meet each community’s unique needs. Build our education system from the ground up. Incentivize collaboration among stakeholders and create community based learning ecosystems throughout the country.

The vision is clear and the time is now. Our children are waiting on us.

This Saturday, 2/11, a Public Schools March organized by , will send a message loud and clear to the new secretary of education Betsy Devos: public schools are here to stay and we are ready to educate the whole child. You can go to the website to sign up for the march!

Our Potential 

I love connecting with people because I learn so much. I am in awe of our potential. As an educator and father this is very important to me. It is also important to me as a human being. I want to continue to learn and grow so that I can share in all of the beauty in this amazing world. Connections matter tremendously, because to quote Margaret Wheatley, “ever human beings their own unique story.” Everyone has a life and a story to share that we can learn from, and I yearn to learn from all people, all religions, all music, food, and culture; in every corner of the world. 
Our original sin of separation, hate and evil is horrifying for our growth and development as a human race. We have halted! Stagnated by differences and discontent. We are more than we believe we are capable of, but we are distracted by constant stimulation to the reptilian brain (Michael Elliot). This is all my opinion of course based on my experiences, but the hard evidence also speaks for itself. We are unhappy and we need to do better. Not just for ourselves but for our family, our community, and all of humanity. We are not here alone so we must work together to make the world better. 

As an educator I see this clearly and I see the potential in this opportunity. We get to work with children everyday and learn along with them and our adult colleagues as we aim to make sense of and recreate the world. Our human purpose is to explore, connect, and create. From the wheel, to fire, to the internet that is what we have always done. I yearn for a life where we are beyond discrimination, fear, and oppression; where we work together to accomplish things beyond our present perception. Where LOVE and TRUST is our ultimate guide. This is where we have not been. This is what we have not tried. True integration. True collaboration. True love of humankind. There are so many languages to learn, music to sing and dance to, foods to eat, games to play and adventures to take. How much time will we waste before we decide to let go of that which continues to hold us back? When will we embrace the full potential of our mind, body, and spirit? When will we be ready for our ascension? 

Our thoughts, combined with our emotions, make up our spirit. If our thoughts are tainted with doubt, and our emotions are cursed with hate, then the strength of our spirit will become disoriented and unavailable to us. How can we find happiness this way; especially with trauma, stress, and distractions all around us? Will we survive as isolated individuals under the constant vicious attack of greed and gluttony? How do we begin to resist the social engineering designed for our self destruction? 

It’s time to connect and form human alliances of love. It’s time to self actualize. Connection is the healing and nurturing we need — desperately. We need to trust each other, uplift each other, and learn from each other. We need to be humble and practice “the beginners mind,” to continuously learn the world as we go. None of us have the answers to this world of infinite complexity. We can only share our truth, connect, and seek to learn more to improve a specific context. No so called solution works for everyone. Problems are subjective as much as they are objective. Our separated categories and classifications are necessary at times, while acting as a big part of the problem at others. If our purpose is to move the world and humanity forward in a healthy and fulfilling way, we must embrace “the other” as much as ourselves. 

Can we create a world where we all maximize our potential? A world where all children are born into nurturing homes. Where all caregivers continue to learn to do their best. Where children, run, jump, climb, play, dance, sing, build, paint, draw, read, write, swim, ski, fight, speak, listen, care, collaborate, initiate, manipulate, create, learn, unlearn, relearn, cry, yell, apologize, grow, and everything else in the present and future. How might we design, communities, to maximize the creative, joyful, healthy potential of every inhabitant? In my opinion, this should be our goal and we should give our souls to this purpose together. Let us together engage our whole world, whole community, and the whole child to move the human race forward. 

The Promise of Public Education

The Promise of Public Education

On January 9, 2017, I had the pleasure of attending a major education speech by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten, a former high school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, championed a vision for public education that celebrates the promise of our public schools, while also denouncing Betsy Devos as the wrong pick to be our next Secretary of Education.

As a public school educator for over seventeen years, and a father of three, I have experienced firsthand the education wars that have frustrated and demoralized the teaching workforce. We have been trapped in an over-standardized, one size fits all education system, while repeatedly failing to nurture the innate brilliance of every child. Top down, narrow policies, have silenced and misguided educators and families at the local level, while members of the “testocracy” continue to profit substantially off our kids. At this important time in our nation’s history, we need true leadership in public education.

Randi Weingarten displayed that leadership in her inspiring speech. Her powerful words were a call to action. A call to focus on the whole child, and to remind this country that the promise of our democracy will only be reached if we ensure a healthy and vibrant public school system. The test and punish policies of the past two decades have not worked for our schools. Achievement gaps remain, achievement overall has flattened, student engagement is declining, and new teacher applications have decreased dramatically. For the schools that are celebrated as panaceas of student achievement, they also carry abysmally high teacher attrition rates; with teachers consistently reporting feeling dejected and dehumanized. Ms. Weingarten’s speech urges us to pivot away from these oppressive policies, and to fully embrace four pillars of public education

In the most diverse country in the world, where ninety percent of our children attend public schools, where child poverty is growing and technology evolves instantaneously, the four pillars are a pathway to health and prosperity for all. First, by placing the well-being of our children at the core of our education policy, we recalibrate our moral compass as a nation, and invite all to support physically, mentally, and emotionally safe schools. By beginning with well-being, we will no longer ignore the importance of early childhood education, and will work to give all families the support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Finally, well-being includes an academic curriculum inclusive of the arts, leadership and citizenship, and a socio-emotional curriculum that includes opportunities for self-reflection and correction, and restorative practices, supported by a well-staffed Guidance Department.

Ms. Weingarten also highlights powerful learning, building teacher capacity, and collaboration to round out her four pillars. The challenges of today, which include criminal justice reform, a growing economic divide, substance abuse, and increased diversity, require a dynamic approach to learning. Students must consistently work together to solve authentic problems, communicate effectively, take initiative and practice creativity. Further, building teacher capacity and continued learning is crucial to ensuring that teachers remain highly skilled and inspired, while guaranteeing that every child has a quality teacher in their classroom. Policies that focus on improving teacher capacity are incredibly impactful, because they affect classroom practice directly; which numerous studies have shown impacts student achievement the most.

Finally, collaboration serves as the essence of lifelong learning and critical for all to truly thrive in a diverse global economy. Through learning and working together, we will fortify our amazing profession and work to solve the world’s most complex problems. Collaboration, done genuinely, creates systems that troubleshoot naturally and harmoniously adjust to new ideas. If all schools are supported as community spaces for learning, where teachers, principals, students, parents, superintendents, retirees, and community based organizations come together to meet the needs of all children, we will all have a chance to benefit from and celebrate the promise of public education. I will answer Ms. Weingarten’s call to action, and encourage all who value public education to do the same.

The Whole Child

There is unlimited talent and potential within our schools. Children come to us full of excitement and infinite ideas. They believe and know that anything is possible. They are fearless, and not tainted by age, time, or the ridicule of failure. They are natural leaders; and when they find a passion, they’ll work vigorously to achieve mastery without provocation.

Whether shooting a basketball, practicing a dance routine, or playing an instrument, when children find an interest they are insistent. They don’t have to become “the best” player, dancer, or musician. For them, the continuous practice of perfection is priceless. Some will make it to the NBA, Juilliard, or Carnegie Hall, but the majority simply enjoy the pleasure of the pursuit, and accomplishing that which was once impossible. 

This behavior is natural. We are born explorers, artist, scientist, and acrobats. Kids will try anything on their own if we give them the space to do so. Of course, safety is important, but how many of our “stops,” “no’s,” and “don’ts” are as necessary as we make them out to be. Children are born brilliant, and if we guarantee that every child is born and raised in a healthy environment, they will ask more questions and generate more ideas by the age of 3 than we will know what to do with. Therefore, we must nurture, support and expose our children to the endless beauty of life, and we must work together as teachers, parents, and community members to leverage each other’s talents, and create boundless opportunities for our children.

It is often hard to avoid the ugliness in this world.  The media is a constant reminder of it. So much so that we begin to convince ourselves that the world is unkind and hopeless. This stagnates us, frightens us, and forces us into cowering from life. I am such a lucky man. I get to work with children every day. Children that despite their circumstances, bring so much joy, hope and love into my life. I can’t help but see and feel the beauty of the world because of them. They make me; whether I want to or not. 

Imagine if we created schools that allowed the natural brilliance of children to blossom. Imagine if we supported families that are living in dire circumstances with truly improving their lives. The mistakes of a teenage parent, high school dropout, substance abuser, or someone struggling with mental health should not be a life sentence. Every “problem” has a solution and there is a light at the end of every tunnel. All people need is help; help from other people. Not programs, protocols, or procedures; actual real people guided by a love for humanity. Throwing more money and technicality at a problem without investing in great people, will continue to lead us to pain and failure.

It is our duty as a country to help all people, because it has been our laws and behaviors that created the mess we are in. Mass incarceration, mass addiction, the “wealth” and “achievement” gaps, and mass shootings are all manifestations of misguided and inhumane policies that have left us in a state of confusion, fear, and extreme violence. The time is now to overcome — together. 

Let us come together to reverse the impact of man’s inhumanity to man. Let us build a culture of love, sharing, and creativity. Let us create humane and exhilarating spaces where children can be passionate explorers, collaborators, creators, and performers. Let us continue to learn from each other and take aggressive action against injustice. We don’t need a “leader” or “boss” or mayor, governor, or president to give us permission. We must listen to our hearts and follow our instincts to do what’s right for our children and communities; while continuing to learn along the way. The better we are, the better our children will be. The better they are, the brighter the future will be for all. 

The time is now to educate the whole child.

End School Privatization 

I have many friends and colleagues that I admire and respect who work for charter schools. I have no doubt that they love children and would give their lives to transforming our highest need communities. 

My friends and colleagues have no problem working in charter schools partly because far too often, because of the convoluted bureaucracy, public schools get in their own way. As a result, many children have suffered. This is not the public-school norm; as the propaganda machine of privatization would lead us to believe. Through their control of media and political influence, a new “common sense” has been created. Public schools are failing, while charter schools are thriving. The reality is, on average, public and charter schools perform about the same on achievement tests.

From the moment I began to pursue my school building leadership license, I knew I wanted to lead a public school. I don’t know why, but charter schools felt very corporate and elitist to me at the time. After my residency at an Achievement First charter school, my presumptions were just the tip of the iceberg. Not only were charter schools corporate and elitist, but they were also abusive. 

At my Achievement First residency, breakfast and lunch were silent for children. Hallway transitions were also silent. In classrooms, students had to use specific hand signals to ask questions and use the restroom. In my professional opinion as a certified teacher, school counselor, and building principal, these policies are child abuse. Achievement First is not the only charter school that implements these so called zero tolerance policies. The same practices are applied at schools like Democracy Prep, and Success Academy charter schools.

Some conservatives might read this and think it is okay to treat children this way because kids are “out of control” and need order. From my perspective, I wonder why children in white communities are not treated this way, while a black child’s pedagogy has to revolve around some form of oppression; especially considering most of the charter organization’s leadership is white.

Another important point is the fact that charter school environments seem to be abusive to teachers as well, as teacher attrition at charter schools is tremendously high.

Since my time at Achievement First, I’ve learned an awful lot about the political and financial incentives associated with the charter school movement. I’ve learned that this movement is not about charter schools and student learning, it is about the privatization of America and a pedagogy of oppression for the masses. Charter schools in general are non-union entities, and not only are they exceedingly unregulated by the state and thus prime for corruption, their teachers do not have the ability to collectively bargain — which is the bedrock of any healthy democracy. 

Teacher unions are arguably the strongest remaining union in the country. If they are defeated, America will be fully privatized and our democracy will officially be an oligarchy. There are many who would argue that democracy is already dead in America as we have elected a corporation, Donald Trump, into the presidency. Judging by president-elect Trump’s initial moves, he is following the conservative playbook, and his choice for education secretary is no different. Trump, like his conservative base, wants to privatize and control all of the institutions, people, and resources of our country and the world. 

Just look at our economic divide and all that has contributed to it. Wall Street took control of the housing market through mortgage backed securities, and collapsed the economy; while a percentage of the 1% gained enormous additional power and wealth in the process. Citizens United’s unlimited investment in elections, tips the scales of our democracy in favor of the wealthiest. Lobbying by the wealthy over the last forty years has created policy, like reversing Glass-Stegall, that has made the banks our masters and us the economically enslaved. Bank CEO’s along with oil tycoons, are the richest and most powerful individuals in the world.

Now they are coming for our schools; the last domino to fall in the global privatization equation. Once they take over public schools and destroy the teacher unions, we will be a racist oligarchy led by the wealthy elite. This is Donald Trump’s mission and plan.

I wonder how the blue collar hard right (alt-right) Trump supporters perceive their place in the privatization equation. Will all the new jobs go to them, and allow them to sustain their place in a class system above certain “undesirable” groups? Do they care about the core of our democracy; freedom, being taken away, or are they more concerned with their ability to oppress Blacks, Latinos,Jews, Asians, and Arabs?

Back to charter schools for a moment, for the charters that perform well, not only is their curriculum linear and narrow, they have also implemented a system to ensure that only the savvy parent with the right social capital could handle the rigors of the charter school application and enrollment criteria. I would also like to see some of the data of the students before they transfer to the charter schools. Were they at or near “proficient” on state tests? The point here is, charters do not work for all kids and parents.

The weapon of choice for public Ed privatizers is standardized tests. High stakes standardized tests, forces schools to implement a test prep curriculum. Test prep learning involves the rudimentary learning of isolated information, with little to no opportunity for understanding concepts, connections, big ideas and complex systems. This method of schooling creates a populace that’s cognitively compromised, and vulnerable to oppression. Creativity, evaluation, authentic problem solving, collaboration, agility, initiative, and leadership, all skills necessary to thrive in a healthy democracy, are absent from the standardized testocracy as the brilliant Jesse Hagopian (you have to watch his Ted Talk) refers to it. Ironically, the schools where the privatizers send their children, do not administer annual high stakes standardized tests and implement innovative curricula and pedagogy.

The same standardized testing weapon was also very popular during the eugenics movement. That movement was designed to “prove” that certain races and groups of people were inferior and thus it was okay to oppress, neglect, disenfranchise, and reject them. The strategy goes as follows: mistreat and oppress a group, underfund their institutions, put guns and drugs into their communities, then give them a test to show how much they don’t know. Create anguish and a low sense of self-worth over time and the people will beg for you to come and save them — enter charter schools, de-unionization and the privatization of America. 

They want to control us. They want to disempower us. They want a dictatorship. And now they have a conservative republican president, a republic senate, and a republic house, with a conservative republican Supreme Court judge on the way. The conservative oligarchy has risen, will the rest of us put aside our differences, unite, and fight like hell to save ourselves and our country?

Ms. Deborah Danner

Ms. Deborah Danner was 66 yrs old. A documented history of mental illness that the police were aware of. Multiple officers in the apartment. She had a bat. They shot her twice and murdered her. They could’ve tased her. They could’ve tackled her. They could’ve talked her down. If you’re that afraid, you should never become a police officer. This is a horrific disgrace and a true representation of the hate and fear that lives in the spirit of our country.

We need IMMEDIATE police reform! Right now!