It May Be Summer But...

Deborah Barnes

There is nothing more enticing than a warm summer afternoon to turn your thoughts to vacation.  Even though I am not at my desk right now, I am finding myself spending time preparing for the fall and the new school year.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I am a teacher who still has her job in Oregon.  I spent a week at the National Education Association's Representative Assembly in San Diego.  Thousands of teachers from around the country converged to talk business, hear from the Secretary of Education, honor the Teacher of the Year, and exchange ideas on how to improve the education of our students around the country.

It was the second time I attended the national convention.  We debated cellphones in the classroom, national and state funding, mandates, and helping to transform public education.  We learned about cutbacks, layoffs, and dropout rates.  We embraced our new mandate that "Hope Starts Here".  But, as I returned from California (where education is going through a crisis of astronomical proportions), I began to focus on what we all need to do for the future of education in Oregon...

It's not an issue of just adequate funding (and yes, there are some who believe we have enough already but I would bet they have never taught in a school), it is a matter of reaching out and connecting our students for the real world.  It is about preparing them for economic times such as these.  It is educating them about work ethics, communications, meeting deadlines, working well with others, and understanding that they will be expected to do much more in the future in their careers.  It is about giving them the tools that help them find their niche and courage to continue when times get tough. It is about learning that you should give back because that is your responsibility as a member of society.

I am revamping parts of my curriculum this summer so that come this fall I am better prepared to give my students a jumpstart at reality.  I am lucky I am a teacher.  I am lucky I have a career in education that allows me to get to know young people.  I am lucky that for whatever reason I have this summer to reinvigorate before those teenagers walk into my classroom looking for hope so that I am ready to be there for each and everyone of them.  Hope starts here.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Teachers had a profound and beneficial impact on my life for the good. I thank you and all teachers. We all need to support teachers more than we do, with stable and adequate salaries, and with the resources they need to do their work. We need to support teachers in having a disciplined environment in which to teach. My wife works as a high school media specialist/librarian. From what I hear parents today oppose at every juncture disciplinary measures to keep schools safe and free from distraction, from having a reasonable dress code to the intrusion of cell phones and ipods.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    Good on you for thinking about preparing kids for the real world they are going to inhabit. Have you read "A Nation of Farmers" by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton? There's a lot of useful information in there about what needs to be in the curriculum for all kids.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Adjusting the education system to the "new economy" is going to take a lot of thought and work and I salute Ms. Barnes for starting this conversation.

    Our best and brightest students find themselves competing for jobs on an international basis against students from Japan, China, Vietnam, India etc. where educational opportunities are viewed much differently than they are here. Disruptive behavior that is sometimes considered "normal" in many US schools would never be tolerated by our international competitors. I assume that expulsion of those who can't or won't cooperate is the ultimate answer, but that creates more issues which are not easily solved.

    I believe we need to deconstruct and reconstruct the US educational system. No more warehousing kids for 10 or 12 years. Figure out what works in Asia or Europe and copy it. Trying to retain the 200 year old US public school system without major reorganization seems like a hopeless and dead end dream.

  • Rick Hickey (unverified)

    I remind YOU all that the NEA & OEA took Millions of dollars out of our Teachers pockets to lie to the Public that Measure #58 Immersion for Immigrants, instead of failed Bilingual was not the way to vote last Nov. and so the Brainwashed of Mult. CO. killed the proposed law.

    As this Union parrot admits California has gone from #1 in education Nationwide to a nightmare of failure (despite Funding that has grown far more rapidly than inflation or poulation increases) because of a flood of non english speaking students and the Union supported programs that have failed over and over again.

    As I debated this last year all over Oregon year my Union opposition kept mentioning the pending Lawsuit in Arizona over Bilingual vs. SEI (Immersion) education, in the Supreme court. (Sotomayor would have voted NO because she is such a "Wise Latina", despite the facts).

    And my friend DR. Rosalie Porter, from Mass. (sei results below) produced results after results, only too be ignored by the people that CLAIM to care about educating all students.

    Meanwhile most Oregon schools such as Woodburn (DROPout rate = 1 in 2) continue to waste TEN times OUR money per ELL student per year(compared to AZ. & MA.), with an 80% Failure rate, while Union stooges claim they will now start teaching "reality". M-58 would have given our Schools up to 3 years for english proficiency for ELL's, as the HONORS immigrant students in Mass. are doing. Our education Unions are a tragedy for all of our Students, and I was right wasn't I?

    The US Supreme Court decision on SEI vs. not realy Bilingual Teaching...

    Washington Times , Sunday, June 28, 2009 Supreme Court sends a signal - in English ; Common tongue is the key to the American dream. COMMENTARY BY Phil Kent

    Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Horne v. Flores drives another nail into the coffin of bilingual education, the teaching theory in which immigrant children are segregated by language and taught primarily in their native language while being taught English on the side. Bilingual education is a documented failure in school systems across the country, and the 5-4 decision, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., involving Arizona's Nogales Unified School District emphasizes this failure with a stark conclusion: Teach English. Specifically, the high court recognizes the demonstrated effectiveness of structured English immersion (SEI) methods for teaching English language learners (ELL). Here's what the high court concluded: bold"Research on ELL instruction indicates there is documented academic support for the view that SEI is significantly more effective than bilingual education.bold Findings of the Arizona Department of Education in 2004 strongly support this conclusion."

    new numbers just released by the Arizona Department of Education estimate that 40,000, or 29 percent, of ELLs enrolled in SEI classes passed the English fluency exam and will transition into mainstream classes this year. That is up from just 17,813 students, or 12 percent, of ELLs who passed the English-fluency exam after being enrolled in bilingual education classes in 2006-07. The Supreme Court ruled that the Nogales school district is doing exactly what the law requires - taking "appropriate action" through English immersion techniques to teach English to students who grew up speaking another language.

    The Supreme Court could have cited many more SEI success stories. Massachusetts, for example, effectively uses English immersion as opposed to bilingual education. The June 7 Boston Globe reported on that state's top-performing high school graduates - the valedictorians - including a boy from Haiti who arrived in Boston four years ago without knowing a word of English. The paper reported that Edner Paul not only leads his school but won a four-year scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Furthermore, according to the Globe, immigrant students were class valedictorians in 17 of the 42 high schools in Boston - and most arrived a few years ago barely knowing English. A recent study by the Editorial Projects in Education also spotlights Massachusetts education and chronicles further encouraging news about English learners. Compared to English learners across the country, 36 percent of the state's ELL students reached a proficient level in English, as opposed to just 16 percent nationwide. If that level of success holds true each year, most kids would learn English quickly enough to be out of special programs in two to three years at most.

  • (Show?)

    Mr. Hickey,

    For most of us, education is a fundamental right (and in the case of America) a need for a better life. We believe that every time a child is given a good education they prosper and add to their quality of life and those around them. I disagree with your arguments and wonder why you are so angry about having all children be given a good start at life through education. And, I have to wonder, when was the last time you volunteered in a school to see how your investment in public education has actually made a difference. Education is important for all of our children, no matter where they came from or what color their skin. It's the least we can do for our next generation.

  • Danno (unverified)

    Hope starts in the home and extends through the classroom ... good for you.

  • John F. Bradach, Sr. (unverified)

    [Off-topic comment removed. Use Google to find what you're looking for. -editor.]

  • delosangeles (unverified)

    Why does everything have to boil down to Hispanics and/or immigrants (not necessarily one and the same) being blamed for all of our state's ills?

    Barbara, I also sense the anger. What's up with Progressive Oregon?

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