Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pedro Noguera Speaks at NBPTS Conference

Yesterday morning, Pedro Noguera, New York University professor and expert on school reform, diversity and the achievement gap, challenged the United States government and educators to improve education for all children with an inspiring, supportive speech.

Noguera encouraged the government and educators to support educators' ability to serve the whole child utilizing a diversity of educational strategies.  He made the following points in his speech.
  • The politics of blame is harmful; when we focus on blame we can't get creative.  The focus instead should be on responsibility.  When the government blames teachers and teachers blame parents and students--no one progresses.
  • We can't ignore children's basic needs when we want to educate them.  
  • Right now we hold every child to the same standards even though we're not educating under the same conditions.  Every school in America needs to have conditions for excellence in education.
  • The focus should be on mastery; simply covering the material is not enough.  There's a big difference between teaching and talking; if the evidence is not there that children are learning then you have to stop and teach differently.
  • One reason New Zealand's education system works is that it's a system of high-trust, low stakes whereas America now has a system of low trust, high stakes.
  • Every school should employ high quality instruction, an enriched environment, and essential skills acquisition.
  • We have to rethink accountability, reduce isolation and increase collaboration.
  • When adults are learning; the students are learning.
  • Every adult in the school should be engaged in helping students learn - that's the first priority.
  • Schools should have a multi-service lens; partnering with local agencies can help schools serve the whole child.  He cited the fine example of PS 28 in New York.
  • Education can play a role in breaking the cycle of poverty only if students are empowered and engaged.
  • The children's time is right now--educators should ask, "What can we do right now to serve children well," with a sense of urgency.
  • He quoted George Bush's words and warned us not to operate "under the soft bigotry of low expectation."  If you come from challenging circumstances, it's of even greater import that you are prepared.
  • Developing knowledge with optimal pedagogy and strong relationships is essential.
  • If you are working with a population of students that is different from your own socio-economic and/or cultural background, then you have to take the time to know and understand that population.
  • Current national policies limit and constrain educators rather than provide conditions for excellence that engage and empower educators and students alike.
  • Schools bring stability to children.
  • Schools are complex organizations; teaching well is not a simple process.  Policy makers who believe in simple solutions don't understand the complexity of education.  Educators need to be an integral part of the conversation related to school transformation.
Noguera is an ally to teachers.  He supports a positive direction for education in America.  I'm listening and I hope our policy makers are listening too. 

Please add your thoughts about Noguera's speech and ideas if you'd like.  Thanks for listening.