For my final learning experience the readings were “Moving Beyond the Classroom” by Stan Karp, “Q/A: As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?”, “School Funding Basics” by Stan Karp, “Why Teacher Unions Matter” by Bob Peterson, and “New Teachers Energize Their Union” by Gabriel Tanglao. My group went about this learning experience through a presentation, a fun game, and discussion questions. The readings focused on how school funding is distributed. A lot of the time it is distributed in an unfair way based on meaningless test results. Understanding school funding and money also ties into understanding what privatization is and how it affects the education system. There are readings that focus on activism, whether that be in teaching social justice or being a part of a union. Any way of incorporating activism in the classroom can teach students more than any lesson. Our learning goals for this current connection were for students to understand the process in which school funding is distributed, for students to understand the importance and the impact of teachers unions, and for students to understand school privatization. Overall, I wanted our classmates to understand that there is more for us to do in the teaching world when it comes to educating than just learning the curriculum.
The first reading was “Moving Beyond the Classroom” by Stan Karp, which can be found on pages 249-253. This reading emphasizes the importance of teaching social justice within the classroom. However, social justice shouldn’t just be classroom teaching; it should be taking action and making a difference. This reading says that, “schools are social battlegrounds.” Meaning, to have true change, one needs to start with the education system. Karp says, “We need better, more cooperative relations with parents and communities, particularly across cultural and racial divides.” How can educators expect change without reaching out and taking action? Parents and the community are a great way to start that activism. This reading also discussed corporate educational reform which is “a specific set of proposals that have driven more than a decade of education policy at the state and federal level.” During the presentation, my group displayed some of the proposals to give our classmates ideas of how harmful these proposals are. Some of these proposals include chronic underfunding of public regulation and increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools. There is a lot of work to improve the education system, so it can feel daunting to some educators. However, if we keep taking action there can be change!
The next section was a question and answer section titled, “As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?” which can be found on pages 254-255. This section discusses the importance of understanding school privatization. We started this section by asking the students what school privatization is. Some of the answers were “like private schools?” or “to pay for school”, however, a lot of my classmates weren’t sure. Privatization allows policymakers to alter public education funds and students into private districts. Meaning this weakens the public school system by taking away their funds. The reading explains what voucher and charter schools are. Voucher schools are schools that have students who receive public funded vouchers that pay either full tuition or half of it. They have little oversight and are usually affiliated with a religion. Charter schools are funded and sanctioned by state law but they are privately run. We then asked the class “Why should we be concerned about school privatization?” Personally, I feel that school privatization is detrimental to the public school system. It is taking away needed funding that can improve education.
The third reading was “School Funding Basics” by Stan Karp”, which can be found on pages 257-259. This reading explains how school funding is distributed. Funding for schools is usually distributed based on standardized tests. When schools don’t perform well on these tests, they get less money. Personally, I believe if a school has low test scores and is clearly struggling they need more funding for resources and support. My group did an activity that showed how money distribution works in the education system. We split the room into two groups to represent two schools. The first school was a school in a wealthy area that performed well on their standardized tests. The second school was located in a low income area that performed poorly on their standardized tests. My group members passed out slips of paper that represented money from the federal and local government. The first school got significantly more. We then displayed on the board, needs that required money that they had to meet. While they were doing that, my group members took money from the second school and gave it to the first saying, “You did poorly on standardized tests.” When they had finished sorting where their money would go, the second school realized that they couldn’t afford everything. This activity was a great way to show how funding in the education system needs to change.
The last two readings were “Why Teacher Unions Matter” by Bob Peterson, and “New Teachers Energize Their Union” by Gabriel Tanglao, which can be found on pages 260-272. These readings go hand in hand by explaining unions. Peterson explains how unions can be portrayed negatively in the media, that’s why I asked my classmates what they thought of unions. I got some mixed answers with some answering it reminded them of “the mob”, “a good resource for teachers”, and “support for workers”. Unions have been around since the 1800s and continue to grow and gain more support. Teachers unions are a great way for teachers to be involved with the education system. Unions protect teachers from unfair layoffs and false accusations. Unions offer conferences and workshops for teachers to work together. Unions give a chance for educators to be heard. It makes the process of dealing with educational issues more democratic. The two main teachers unions are NEA (National Education Association) and AFT (Americans Federation of Teachers). Peterson introduces social justice unionism which is an organizing model that calls for the expansion of internal union democracy and increased member participation. I then asked the class why it was important for teachers to be involved in social justice issues. Many of them responded how teachers’ activism sparks others to participate and how a lot of social justice issues involve educators. Unions aren’t just a way to protect educators and their workers rights, but it’s a way to change the education system for the better.