Like this tag cloud designed by Wordle, everyone heard something different in President Obama’s Inaugural Address:


I don’t know what images or themes resonated for you, but Nelson Smith, the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Charter Schools reviewed the historical Inaugural Week in his Charter School Blog, and he heard this:

I found a strong echo of our [charter school] model in this passage of the President’s inaugural address:

 “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

What this means for charter schools can be found on the new White House web site under Education Agenda. President Obama promises to “double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools,” but warns there will be “a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools.”

Fair enough.  As on most things, I agree with President Obama (and Nelson Smith, too). But how will the President define “successful charter schools?” and what are the criteria for an “underperforming school?”  

Presently “underperforming schools” become “underperforming schools” when their test scores in math and reading fall short of the prescribed benchmarks called Annual Yearly Progress or AYP. And since nobody wants to bear the mantle of an “underperforming school”, you can be sure we all teach the heck out of math and reading.  President Obama recognizes that schools have narrowed the curriculum in response to these pressures at the expense of science and technology and social studies and the arts.  And recess. He calls it teaching to the test.  I call it teaching to what is tested. Others may call it teach what you better teach if you don’t want lose your charter or be called an underperforming school.will-i-am

Nevertheless, as Will.i.am says “It’s a New Day” and thank God for that.  We have a mandate for change.  And since I don’t mind using test results to determine how effectively schools are serving children and their families, I don’t care whether president Obama changes the whole assessment game or not.  

What I do care to C H A N G E is how we recognize and define successful schools– charter or otherwise. Math and reading results are one indicator, but can we get some love for the other extraordinary things that happen for children at El Milagro?

Like when we …carlos

• introduce our children to the latest technologies…

• or teach them to think…

• or refer them to the eye doctor for properly fitting glasses…

• or teach them proper dental hygiene so their teeth aren’t rotting in their heads…

• or  teach them to sing and draw and recite their poems on a stage…

• or  teach them that their forefathers won congressional medals of honor in foreign wars too…

• or help them preserve and perfect their native language…

• or connect a family to health insurance…

• or help Rafael properly grieve for his relatives who were recent murder victims in Tijuana’s horrific drug wars…

• or help Laura stay grounded even as she  is about to lose her mom to stomach cancer (which is a big deal because her dad passed away two years ago)…

And so forth.  Supporting kids in crisis– isn’t that high performance too?

Just last summer, Nelson Smith and The National Alliance of Charter Schools published a tool they call “Quality Indicators“.  It’s one way to expand the definition of what a successful school is.  So at El Milagro we decided to integrate the general concept into our charter as we get ready to take it to the local governing board for re-authorization in March.   We will be able to describe the goals of our charter in broader terms than just academic achievement– but also longitudinal growth, progress of English Language learners and the sense of engagement for students, teachers and  parents.

                                                             *                *                  *

So when Wordle created their cool tag cloud from some of the major themes and words that were used by President Obama in his Inaugural Address, they were unintentionally shining a bright light on his priorities.  The bigger the word the more often he used it.

 I like that C H A R T E R and  C H I L D R E N are so predominantly positioned on the top of the box, and in the center– and that they are surrounded on all sides by C A R E  and  C O O P E R A T I O N and W O R K and  H O P E.


1 Comment

Filed under California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, President Obama, public education

One response to “WORDS MADE CHANGE

  1. RaiulBaztepo

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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