Growing apples in rocky soil

TLN member Anthony Cody, a science coach in the Oakland (CA) Unified School District, published two op-ed articles in major California newspapers last Friday — maybe a record. While the articles explore a similar topic (the disproportionate impact of No Child Left Behind sanctions on inner-city schools), they are not “duplicates.”

One piece, which appeared in the capital newspaper The Sacramento Bee, is titled “State Schools on Collision Course with Standards” and begins:

A few years, ago some people warned about the trouble we were headed for in the home mortgage industry, but we ended up waiting until millions began facing foreclosure to act. California schools are heading for a similar fate, and once again, we seem to be waiting for calamity rather than looking ahead to avert it.

This calamity is the full impact of the federal No Child Left Behind law on our schools. Up until now, the brunt of the accountability law has been felt largely by schools attended by poor folks and immigrants, so few have objected to them being labeled “failing schools.”

But we’re on the verge of a big shift…

The second article was published in Silicon Valley’s newspaper of record, the San Jose Mercury, with the headline “Rigid school standards ignore reality of inner-city atmosphere.” It begins with this intriguing metaphor:

Imagine the following:

The mayor gives everyone in a town an identical apple seed to plant. We are given guidelines on how to water the seed, fertilize and prune. Ten years later, the first harvest is due, and we all receive our standards for what a good apple is. A good apple must be at least four inches in diameter, it must be sweet and free of blemishes.

But some of us have had trouble. Our yard had rocky soil. The building next door cast a shadow so our tree only got an hour of sun each day. Our trees grow fruit, and it is sweet, but it is not as robust as that grown on the sunny, fertile plot by our neighbor down the street.

We are told, “Each and every apple on your tree must meet the standards! You must be a poor farmer. You must not have given your tree the encouragement it needed!”….

The Teacher Leaders Network is all about promoting the voices of accomplished educators, and encouraging policymakers to pay close attention to their thoughtful reports from the front lines of school reform. Our members have many points of view — but what’s important about TLN is that it creates an environment where they develop and test their ideas in a challenging yet entirely civil professional community. You can read other views of TLN members by visiting our collection of essays at Teacher Magazine.

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