Poverty is a circumstance, not an excuse

By Dr. Patrick Michel

Originally published as “Realign public school system to serve poor students, too” in Albany Times Union, Sept. 14, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, once promised $100 million to the City of Newark, NJ, to help improve their public education system. His only stipulation was that another $100 million in matching funds be raised locally so that Newark would have plenty of money to use for public school reform. The goal was met and over the course of five years beginning in 2010, Newark had an additional $200 million to work with.

Unfortunately, Mr. Zuckerberg learned what the Gates Foundation had already discovered. No amount of private or public sector money is going to change the trajectory of public education. Take time to read Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize. It does a wonderful job describing how $200 million was wasted in Newark, NJ. Continue reading

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Testing what really counts

By Dr. Patrick Michel
District Superintendent, HFM BOCES

For months, “opting out” has been the torch and pitchfork tirade echoing around schools in my region. In their quest to show Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature their displeasure about standardized testing and teacher evaluations, lots of parents and the teachers’ union have dredged up something deeper and more relevant to student success in schools. Testing, particularly standardized testing, is a broken model.

The current system of testing was created for an education system doggedly sustained since the 19th century and cannot meet the needs of 21st century students, post-secondary educators and employers. As we desperately aspire to match the educational successes of other countries, we have lost track of what makes New York State and the United States great — innovation. Continue reading

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Stop feeding the dinosaur

dinosaurBy Dr. Patrick Michel
District Superintendent,

We need to stop feeding the dinosaur of archaic educational policy and practice.

I stood looking at my diplomas the other day, wondering what they really said about what I actually know or can do. Sure, they represent a level of accomplishment, and presumably indicate that my skills grew in proportion to my achievement. However, no one hands out copies of their diploma as a means of demonstrating actual skill and knowledge, as you would a resume.

I stood looking at my diplomas because, while graduation rates are improving in our schools, a new report based on an international assessment reveals that United States workers – at least one significant portion – rank very near the bottom in three critical life and work skills: literacy, numeracy (the competence and confidence to use numbers and think mathematically in everyday life) and problem solving.

Where the United States had arguably the best-educated workforce in the world 40 years ago, this new study says it just isn’t so anymore. Continue reading

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