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Cascade Matters is the blog of Cascade Educational Consultants. Cascade has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. We are committed to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens. Learn more about us.

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Leading to Reform: October 21

This Week’s letter highlights a an article about why school reforms fall apart, the pending release of Wisconsin's school report cards, and new evidence that enrollment is down in the Milwaukee area and it is not due to fewer kids but rather families choosing virtual charter schools. As always, we link as always to an array of columns and articles spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership, education and reform.

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Almost All School Reform Efforts Have Failed
Why is it that wave after wave of school reform doesn’t seem to make much of a dent in the problems that they are designed to address? David C. Berliner of Arizona State University offers an answer in a new essay entitled, “Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth,” which was just published in the Teachers College Record at Columbia University.

Berliner say his paper, "Arises out of frustration with the results of school reforms carried out over the past few decades. These efforts have failed. They need to be abandoned. In their place must come recognition that income inequality causes many social problems."

Berliner is a renowned researcher of educational policy and the study of teaching and this is definitely worth a read,
click here.

Teachers’ Angry Comments Stop Education
Julia Steiny analyzes the work of Dr. Martin Haberman, pioneer of the ‘Star Teacher Interview,’ on teacher attitudes -- and hurtful words -- toward students.
The recently published 62-page monograph is aptly named “When Teachers Face Themselves.” It looks through the interesting lens of research about teachers’ relationships to themselves, specifically their beliefs, feelings, and tendency toward defensive reactions.

Haberman says, “The school is, in effect, a judgmental pressure cooker in which all who participate are both victims and generators of anxiety. Unfortunately for students, large numbers of teachers remain in teaching who cannot function under constant pressure.” And students pay the price for adults who really should be there any more.

While some schools have reached a counter-productive level of stress, Haberman notes, “A reasonable amount of anxiety is helpful for teaching and learning anything.”However, “Teachers who exceed their tolerance for anxiety demonstrate angry behaviors when they cannot achieve the level of control they feel they need. This engenders angry student responses which in turn fuels the teacher’s anger still further.”

To learn more about Julia Steiny’s findings,
click here.

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A Long-Awaited Validation
Paul Tough is
back with his new book, which should be read It is engrossing, easy to read, full of stories, relevant to teachers and parents, and epiphany producing.

There are ideas upon which we could act immediately -- tomorrow -- in our schools and classrooms (and in our homes -- lots of ideas for middle class, educated parents). There are success stories that seem replicable and depict transformational change in education, not just "reform," or improvement. The suggestions that emerge from Tough's research don't mandate more standardized tests or longer school hours or vocabulary development for preschoolers. They do require more funding for counselors, mentors, conflict mediators, and initiatives like the mindfulness program that has been so successful at reducing stress in a San Francisco middle school.

Perhaps the most powerful, and indisputable, argument in Tough's book is that poverty matters. Many children (not all, of course) who grow up in poverty also experience chaotic environments, instability, and stressful relationships with adults. This impacts their brain development. Which affects how they learn and how they respond to other stressful situations later in life. Tough has found schools and non-profits that have developed strategies to mitigate these circumstances; it can be done -- it's just going to require funds, and a lot more.

The popular NPR radio program, "This American Life", recently aired a back-to-school episode that centers on Tough's book.

From the Sunday Papers:

dpi.wi.gov_oea_pdf_parentrptguide.pdf
Wisconsin Education Leaders Prepping Public for Release of School Report Cards
Education leaders are prepping the public for the release of first-ever school report cards based on tougher standards. Every Wisconsin school in the state will be rated on a five-point scale based on performance indicators such as student test scores, graduation rates and achievement gaps. The report cards are one piece of wide-reaching school accountability reforms in Wisconsin.

Members of the public will be able to find the report cards online at dpi.state.wi.us or through their local school beginning Monday. This story should be front and center much of the upcoming week in Wisconsin. Parents and education reformers will now see how important it is to set the bar higher for student learning in Wisconsin schools and be able to compare easily how their schools match up with their neighbors.

Newark Teachers Union Agrees to Merit Pay
A new three year contract for Newark, New Jersey’s teachers includes a clause that will link pay raises to performance, marking the first time that merit pay will become part of a teacher contract in New Jersey. The new system will reward teachers ranked as effective or highly effective with financial bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $2,500.
Learn More...

Articles for the Week:

“New research underway using this fall’s enrollment data shows an unanticipated surge in homeschooling via online schools in the Milwaukee metro area. Local school district administrators and boards are unaware that schools losing enrollment is not due to fewer kids in the community but more families taking advantage of options beyond their school districts and opting out of reporting it to state and local bureaucrats." --Overheard this week in a meeting in Madison.

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