A recent story from the New York Times profiles a remarkable group of students at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in New Jersey, who are fighting autism by running a coffee shop on the school's premises. The kids are all part of a special class for students with autism or other learning disabilities, and the class is in charge of operating the middle school's coffee shop every Friday.
The experience is great for the students, who are forced to step outside their comfort zone and interact with customers, serving lattes and smiles in the process. The coffee shop is a nice addition to the school itself, as it strengthens community by bringing teachers and students - those with and without disabilities - together over doughnuts and coffee. Most teachers are regular customers, and some regularly donate homemade cupcakes and pastries to the menu. The coffee shop is the brainchild of 26-year-old teacher Thomas Macchiaverna, who wanted to give the students a chance to learn more about social interaction and business skills in a real-life setting.
Macchiaverna's experiment is yielding great results - the students with diagnosed disabilities are becoming more and more comfortable working in the public arena. Students like twelve-year-old Norman Shamy look forward to the days of work serving coffee, and parents are equally pleased with the results. These happenings at Woodrow Wilson Middle School demonstrate how crucial learning outside the classroom truly is for students' development. Learning by rote and other traditional instructional methods that prepare students to crunch numbers just aren't cutting it anymore. Let's give students a chance to challenge themselves socially as well as academically - after all, today's middle-school barista could be tomorrow's Bill Gates.
Recent news headlines have all pointed our attention to Madison, Wisconsin, where unions are protesting Governor Walker's proposed law against collective bargaining rights. Most recently, the Governor has officially refused unions' offers for compromise. In a recent story on NPR, Walker claims that his aim is to cut state and local spending in an effort to boost job prospects for citizens, salvaging what's left of the economy.
So, the stalemate continues and union members remain on strike, including many teachers, some of whom have even brought students with them to protest:
After all, the National Education Association represents a total of 3.2 million workers. If teachers' rights suffer, we can anticipate problems in the classroom as students lose access to the instruction that they deserve.
Speaking of granting education rights to deserving students...yesterday's fundraiser for the Tutorpedia Foundation was a grand success - thank you to those of you who came out for the 2nd Annual Benefit at Minna Gallery! Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to support FREE one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-served school districts.
Here's a final reminder about the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit TOMORROW, February 23rd, from 6-9 pm at Minna Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Listen to Seth and David give the scoop about our fundraiser:
Don't miss out on our fantastic panel speakers, auction and raffle items, and scrumptious hors d'oeuvres! We expect to see you there, and so do all those Bay Area students who deserve a high-quality education but can't afford it...remember, all proceeds from the fundraiser go to fund free one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-privileged students. See you at Minna Gallery!
The California legislature recently passed a law that enables parents to vote on major changes in schools that are chronically failing to serve their students' needs, the details of which are described in this recent SF Gate article. According to this law, parents are authorized to organize and petition for changes to their students' education, and a mere 75 out of California's 9,000 schools qualify as under-performing enough to merit use of this legislature.
And, as detailed in the article, sometimes an attempt to use this law results in a major letdown. McKinley Elementary School in Compton, Los Angeles, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit between parent groups and the school administration, which denies legitimate cause for change. Yet, this is an important precursor to what will hopefully be an increase in parent involvement to get further funding for student education. With the proposed state budget cuts in hand, we know that all efforts to salvage funds are necessary.
Want to make education possible for a student who can't afford it? Remember to join us at the Tutorpeida Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit this Wednesday, February 23rd, at Minna Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Apart from an awesome silent auction, raffle, and supreme catered food, we will be hosting distinguished speakers Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the revolutionary education tech company Grockit. All proceeds will fund free one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-served students! Don't miss out on this chance to make a difference for Bay Area students today!
Check out this brief interview on PBS with professor and writer Amy Chua, whose book on rigorous parenting was profiled on our blog last month. Interestingly, here Chua pulls back from what seemed to be a harsher voice and talks about making mistakes while raising her kids to succeed at all costs. She admits that what she deems the "Tiger mother" approach, which she ties closely to the Chinese immigrant experience, resulted in many squabbles with her young daughters when they were growing up and routinely had to give up socializing with other kids in order to practice violin and piano. Amy Chua claims that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a "not a how-to guide, it's a memoir" - admitting that children do need a sense of balance between work and play, or calamity ensues. Chua also defends "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," the article in The Wall Street Journal on turning children into perfect students that created so much commotion last month.
The bottom line here, though, is that students do need more motivation in school than a screaming parent, and that there's more to life than scoring 100%, as opposed to 99.9%. For an enlightening dialogue on student needs, join the conversation on February 23 at the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit on February 23, 2011, featuring speakers Vicki Abeles, the director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the educational tech company Grockit. All proceeds go to support personalized tutoring for the Bay Area's low-income students.
Alfie Kohn's latest contribution to The Washington Post traces the rising importance of what he calls "STEM" subjects - science, technology, engineering, and math - over the humanities when it comes to prioritizing education. Kohn criticizes Obama's State of the Union for calling attention to math and science in lieu of literature and the social sciences. Any subject involving numbers today is immediately deemed more "practical," and most, if not all, school funding routinely goes to the advancement of math and science programs.
Kohn concedes that there is something reassuring about quantitative subjects - about having an exact number be the solution to every problem. Obama's speech equated the quality of a nation's education with its competitiveness in the international arena, and it seems that schools take quality to depend solely on technological and quantitative advancement. Reading and writing proficiency fall behind, a lazy afterthought of what students should be learning. Maybe it's time to redefine excellence for our students. Let's try linking success to concepts like interest in learning, the literary imagination, and life skills in communication. After all, there is a staggering number of engineering and science graduates today who are overqualified for the type of work they will routinely do. Mathematical proofs and physics theories don't quite provide the exact skills that a good communicator in the working world should have. In the fight to improve our schools, let's not forget about reading, words, and the value of a hearty political debate. Take a look at how Kohn views the value of words over numbers here.
For more discussion on modern students' priorities, come to the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit at the Minna Gallery on Wednesday, February 23 at 6 pm. We will hear from Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, along with featured speakers Dennis Littky of Big Picture Learningand Farb Nivi of Grockit. Don't miss our exciting auction items, take part in the raffle, and try the delicious food! All proceeds from the event will benefit one-on-one tutoring for under-privileged students in the Bay Area.
Dr. Ronald Ferguson, a professor of Harvard University who is based in Cambridge, is conducting studies on the achievement gap between black and white students and identifying its causes in an effort to turn the statistical game around. Profiled in this New York Times article, Dr. Ferguson chooses to quantify causes of the gap rather than to blame the disparity on cultural differences. At T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, he has found that 55% of the students who are white females maintain an A to A- average, while less than 20% of black students overall could lay claim to the same grades.
The causes? Half of the reason, claims Dr. Ferguson, is family income. Among families living in suburbia, 79% of blacks are in the bottom 50%, while 73% of whites are in the top half when it comes to wealth. What does this mean? In general, white families in Virginia make more money, and their kids do better in school as a result of these added resources. The other leading cause behind the achievement gap, postulates Ferguson, is that black children simply have fewer academic resources at their fingertips growing up. In a study conducted by Ferguson, 80% of white parents had 100 or more books in the house available for kids, while only 40% of the black parents did so. Ferguson and his colleagues are working to make more educational resources available for black children in the suburbs of Virginia, hoping to make this project a nation-wide campaign that will increase literacy for all ages, closing the famous achievement gap.
Come join our dialogue on what students today really need to succeed! Attend the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit on March 23, 2011, where we will delve into the future of education along with Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the revolutionary tech company Grockit. Proceeds will fund one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-served students.
California's proposed budget cuts for 2011 will cut one billion dollars from higher education - namely UCs, CSUs, and community colleges, specified Governor Jerry Brown. Check out this video with a break-up of the state's new budget plan:
Governor Brown's cuts remove funding for 90,500 students - a staggering number that can only grow as community colleges and state college campuses continue to endure losses, estimated to last at least five consecutive years. If fewer college students get access to higher education, will fewer high school students retain the motivation to pursue a college degree? How can we counterbalance the proposed cuts to education by keeping middle and high school students engaged? Loss of student drive is just one potential side effect of Brown's devastating measure, which has also led school districts to deny teachers tenure in light of the proposed cuts on education.
Let's hope that the tables will turn and the state passes some positive education reform in the coming months, as promised by Obama's State of the Union in January. Don't stay on the sidelines as we discuss measures central to the development of education in the U.S.! Join the conversation at the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit in San Francisco on February 23, 2011. We will be hosting speakers Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the educational test prep company Grockit - all at the Minna Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Proceeds will fund one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-privileged students.
John Tierney's recent article in The Atlantic provides a nice summary of some of the latest developments in education news from the last year. In general, Tierney concludes, students in high school are spending more time stressing out, while those in college devote more time to drinking and partying than actually studying - perhaps a by-product of the excessive stress that they have endured in school? The decline in college students' overall mental well-being is also worrisome, Tierney adds, as the numbers of those who seek psychiatric care for depression and stress rise every year.
Tierney's point on the partying vs. studying ratio of America's college students can be called into question - many of US college students excel at undergraduate institutions due to the sweat of their brow, so to speak, not because of pure luck or favoritism by a professor. Although depictions of contemporary college life by modern media productions such as The Social Networkcertainly show us the underbelly of life at elite college campuses, drugs and drinking included.
The final point that Tierney makes about high school student life presents the juiciest tidbit for consideration. Tierney argues that, as a teacher at an elite girls' private high school, he routinely sees students waste time on Facebook, computer games, and other temptations of technology. The students are not stressed so much as distracted and lazy, Tierney concludes. Does Vicki Abeles's Race to Nowhere, a powerful documentary on the modern-day stresses of contemporary student life, then give a false portrayal of the challenges facing educators today?
Don't speak so quickly, Mr. Tierney. While the advent of technological distractions does present issues of concern, students are certainly struggling under the burden of academic performance rather than learning for its own sake. Perhaps Facebook and the iPhone simply provide channels for students to vent their frustration over a rigid, unsatisfying academic environment. If we change our schools, then maybe we can change students' attention spans and emotional health as well, and for the better.
To continue the conversation on education and our students’ future, attend the Tutorpedia Foundation’s 2nd Annual Benefit on February 23, 2011 in San Francisco. We will hear from Vicki Abeles herself, along with featured speakers Dennis Littky of Big Picture Learningand Farb Nivi of Grockit. Don't miss our exciting auction items, take part in the raffle, and try the delicious food! All proceeds from the event will benefit one-on-one tutoring for under-privileged students in the Bay Area.
Students at colleges and high schools all over the country are facing new challenges after the Senate failed to approve the Dream Act on December 10, 2010. Those students who had previously "come out" about their illegal immigrant status now have to live in constant fear of being deported, says Maricela Aguilar, a junior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose own struggle is profiled here in the New York Times.
Nor is the road toward achieving legal status in any way clear for these students. What's more, some states - like Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, Nebraska, Indiana, and Wisconsin - are considering banning illegal immigrants from attending public universities or simply denying in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, thereby making it too expensive in many cases for the students to attend college.
It's a shame to deny United States classrooms in high schools and colleges the intelligent input of some young minds simply because their parents shirked immigration officials fifteen or twenty years ago. The students themselves, like Aguilar in the article mentioned above, or Jose Varible, a student in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have grown up in the states and possess the curiosity and intelligence that make them valuable contributors to college and high school campuses. It's up to the House and Senate to decide whether these kids stay or go in the long run. In the latter case, it's going to be our loss by far.
To further discuss the future of our nation's education, join the conversation at the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit on February 23, 2011, featuring speakers Vicki Abeles, the director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the educational tech company Grockit. All proceeds go to support personalized tutoring for the Bay Area's low-income students.
Re-segregation in Charlotte, North California? Despite what Michelle Obama has been saying about Charlotte's warm, forward-thinking ambiance in a recent story powered by NPR and the Root, the situation in Charlotte's school districts seems to be reaching a critical point with respect to socioeconomic and race relations.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District eliminated a busing program in 2002, a system that normally ensured that kids from low-income, more "troubled" areas of the city got transportation to a more competitive school in a different part of town. The program was aimed at encouraging diversity. Now, North Carolina is apparently encouraging the separation of poor and rich students, which usually translates to a separation based on race. Most recently in 2011, the Wake County School District in North Carolina has said "no to the social engineers!" - abolishing a re-integration policy that gave students access to schools regardless of their socioeconomic status. Students are being increasingly shuffled into neighborhood schools as school politics encourage the poor kids to stay with the other poor kids. In our world today, this usually means that students who are minorities are clustered together, while the more wealthy school districts grow increasingly white.
Let's say it like it is. Psychologist Beverly Tatum's book on racial identity, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, now has a new answer to the question posed by the provocative title. Why, Beverly? Because our school districts said so.
Hopefully though, that's not the final answer, as the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be held in no other city but Charlotte, North Carolina. Let's expect more dialogue on these issues and the institution of more busing programs in the South, as well as other parts of the United States. After all, what do kids really need in a classroom? To be exposed to the world as it is and learn to appreciate cultural diversity or none of the above?
Continue this conversation with us at the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit on February 23, 2011 in San Francisco. Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, will be making an appearance as guest speaker, along with Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the test-prep company Grockit. All proceeds will go to fund free personalized tutoring for students in the Bay Area's low-income school districts.
Monday night's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart hosted Bill Gates in a dialogue that, while focusing on how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to eradicate polio around the world, also praised Bill Gates for his efforts to reform education in the United States.
Stewart closed the show by quipping that Bill Gates is the new Batman, out to save the world. Bill Gates acknowledged that the next focus of the Gates Foundation after instituting the polio vaccine in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India will be personalizing the educational system in his home country. Gates wants to give teachers the tools they need to ensure success in the classroom, he stated during the interview. Education is the first step toward eliminating poverty - also evidenced by Greg Mortenson's work in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the Three Cups of Tea campaign. Educating one woman, Mortenson claims from experience in his novel Three Cups of Tea, can change an entire community.
Gates's new focus successfully underscores the spread of the anti-poverty, pro-education campaign worldwide. If Gates is the new Batman, hopefully the United States can begin to eliminate poverty and crime, replacing drug cartels with schools and drug dealers with educators. Take a look at the interview here:
Passionate about education? Want to look and act like Batman? Come join the conversation at the Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit on February 23rd at the Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Take part in a dialogue along with Vicki Abeles, director of Race to Nowhere, Dennis Littky, co-founder of the charter school network Big Picture Learning, and Farb Nivi, founder of the revolutionary education tech company Grockit. Proceeds will fund one-on-one tutoring for the Bay Area's under-served students.
When President Obama urged more young Americans to become teachers in last week's State of the Union address, he sparked more than a nation-wide recruitment campaign. This Monday movie maker Spike Lee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan teamed up at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia to specifically encourage more black men to become educators, with more details here at the Huffington Post. Lee noted that, today, there are 8,500 unfilled teaching positions available in the nation, recorded on teach.gov. There are 3 million teachers in the United States. Less than two percent are black men.
Lee and Duncan repeatedly stressed the importance of education, which should be on par with business, technology, and law for graduates choosing their profession. Those who choose to pursue degrees in education have the opportunity to influence generations of children, who grow into adolescents, who grow into young adults - who, in turn, choose whether to work or to take the side streets, entering the world of crime. Lee and Duncan hinted at the fact that black male teachers have the powerful potential to appeal to black male students, showing them a straight path that they can follow.
And it's true - we do need to create role models. But at what cost? Monday's talk at Morehouse College sparked a wave of interest from the media, but will it be enough to incite more black college undergraduates to enroll in graduate schools of education? The wage gap between that of a starting teacher and a financial consultant remains embarrassingly wide. And Spike Lee himself - arguably another black male role model for today's students - is a film-maker, not a teacher. He chose Hollywood, not a classroom in the Bronx. It's that simple. Again, America, we're delivering well on media coverage and well-articulated speeches, but not so much on concrete steps that would ensure change. Duncan's take on the TEACH campaign, which encourages minorities to study education, is a small step forward. Here's hoping more is on the way!
To talk more about issues central to education in the U.S. today, come to Tutorpedia Foundation's 2nd Annual Benefit, on February 23 in San Francisco, for a dialogue with the Director of Race to Nowhere, Vicki Abeles, along with other education visionaries: Dennis Littky, co-founder and co-director of the internship-based charter network, Big Picture Learning; and Farb Nivi, founder of the innovative ed-tech company, Grockit. Spread the word to your friends and colleagues, educators and non-educators alike, because we can all be motivated to make a change in how and why we educate. Great food, impressive auction items, and a raffle will top off the evening. All proceeds from the evening provide free one-on-one tutoring for low-income students in the Bay Area.