Wednesday, August 12, 2015


On July 31, 2015 Bill Gates funded a "California Teachers Summit" to convene teachers at various locations around California.  Real reason:  to promote Common Core.  To quote from Scott Folsom's great blog 4LAKids August 9, 2015 "Picking up the pieces of our broken heart" - he says "A week ago the grandly titled Better Together Teacher Summit (#CATeachersSummit) was held up-and-down the state grandiloquently+hyperbolically:  The States Largest Teacher Training Ever Attempted."  Supposedly 15,000 teachers attended at 33 venues plus "unenumerated multitudes via smartphone apps and livestream media".  It was all very high tech and interactive.  There was much gushing over what it was about and what it supposedly accomplished.  But no real truth.  At one point our moderator (who has definitely drunk the KOOL-AID) stated that we were #1 trending on Twitter WORLD WIDE.  (Forgive me Twitterers, I don't Tweet)   I knew it would be much of a farce but it surprised me how far they went.
  I attended the session at the Pasadena Convention Center, which was not quite full. We were told there were 2000 people in attendance. Who were the moderators and speakers?  First of all, the Dean of Education for Loyola Marymount University (where my daughter earned her Masters and teaching credential) Shane P. Martin, PhD was the main moderator.  I looked back in my memory trying to remember how much money the Gates Foundation gave each of these universities that were in attendance (except USC, for some reason, was absent despite the fact that it was given money).  An excellent source for information about this summit is Anthony Cody's blog Living in Dialogue: Common Core Teacher Day in California, Brought to you by the Gates Foundation.  Anthony says Gates funded this Summit to the tune of $3.5 million in grants for a 'single day' of CCSS exposure.  For example, Cal State Fullerton accepted $1.26 million.  The New Teacher Center (Santa Cruz) (which Scott Folsom says is run by none other than the JAIME AQUINO of John DEASY fame -- who had quit his LAUSD lucrative position - to avoid trouble perhaps?) accepted $1.2 million.  Several other schools were helping facilitate - Antioch University, and Chapman University but they were not given any prominence (and probably didn't get any money).  However, there was a long list of "corporations" listed as RESOURCES -- including ACHIEVE THE CORE, BETTER LESSON, CENTER FOR COLLABORATIVE CLASSROOM, NEW TEACHER CENTER,  TEACHING CHANNEL and more.  Listed among those was the CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION -- is it now, seriously, A CORPORATION?
  Dean or Dr. Shane Martin was enthusiastically introducing us to the fun-filled day where teachers would be appreciated and not blamed for every problem in the universe.  Others on the state came from Pepperdine University, Cal State University Fullerton perhaps, and USC in name only, New Teacher Center, Independent California Colleges and Universities.  We were handed bags with Summit logo, and thick cardboard program, and for us in Pasadena a Free charger with AICCU and "Better Together Teachers Summit" printed on it, courtesy perhaps of Bill Gates.  My friend Larry Lawrence, an excellent teacher who is also retired,  attended the session in San Diego and received many more gifts, including a flashlight.  I am thinking that our hosts in Pasadena didn't think we needed more gifts and kept more of the money for themselves?  Or perhaps they had to sink more money into technology since we had all the LIVE SPEAKERS in Pasadena - everyone else just had a screen.
I honestly do not remember hearing the words Common Core the entire day (except when we broke into groups for a brief tete a tete).  Perhaps I wasn't listening but I doubt it.  I do believe that the Dean Shane Martin truly values teachers and really thought he was being helpful to teachers putting on this show.  Let me give you an overview of the day.  We arrived at 8:00 a.m. to register and eat what amounted to a cheap breakfast of coffee, juice, fruit, and small pastries.  We sat and talked with other teachers.  Our parking was subsidized so truly the day didn't cost us anything.  At 9 a.m. we assembled in the gorgeous auditorium of the convention center. 
Dr. Martin kept repeating how extraordinary this was - "led by teachers for teachers" and "today is ground-breaking."  New models of professional learning -- and he mentions EdCamp.  Technology is connecting us throughout the state.  "Teachers matter" he says.  Networking and collaboration - we have a "statewide network of peers."  He really reminds me of a kid -- who is very enthusiastic about something but not really at all sure.  He shows us a Rah Rah film with Meryl Streep?
  Next is the CEO of New Teacher Center (so far no teacher has spoken).  "Teachers are rock stars" she says.  Keeps saying "college ready no matter the zip code".  She introduces YVETTE NICOLE BROWN - a movie star best known for Community, and now The Odd Couple. She is charming, well spoken, and easy on the ears. She tells how teachers made such a difference in her own life, very poor but her mother told her education was the key. Yvette is on the Advisory Board of Donors Choose and has helped Stephen Colbert fund projects in South Carolina. She wanted to be a teacher but she was signed by Motown at age 19. She is a very good speaker and comedienne, but I keep asking myself, WHY IS THIS A SUMMIT AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH TEACHING?
  Our next speaker is Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, from Pepperdine.  Extraordinary woman, she sings us songs.  She has lived in Liberia because her father is a minister.   Both her parents are writers. She is very clear about the need for ARTS in our lives and their correlation to higher academic skills and life skills.  ARTS save our lives."  She teaches us sing language for a song - "We are one family and one can separate us."  And last, she sings Tracy Chapman's TALKIN' 'BOUT A REVOLUTION."  I cannot capture the flavor of her speech or her ability to convey her loves for the arts. She is a licensed psychologist, poet, dancer, motivational speaker, minister, and life empowerment coach.  Her Pepperdine description says "I am primarily committed to uncovering and attending to the role of culture in the trauma recovery process."   
  What may not be clear (and wasn't at first to me) is that our speakers were LIVE but the rest of California was seeing them on a screen.  What a shock that was!  I am watching a film right now at home - Nightcrawler - which is really the story of sleazy capitalism, the real thing.  And it reminds me of the speakers at the Summit.  Not the movie stars or the one teacher -- but the fake promoters, the ones who aren't telling us that this really is a big promotional push for what are now being called THE CALIFORNIA STANDARDS! [the Golden State].  
  Mike Vollmert was the EdCamp specialist who laid out what we were to do in our two hour session. He had some cute quotes:  Yogi Berra said: "The future ain't what it used to be." And Jackie Robinson:  - "Life is not a spectator sport."  Just ask questions, Mike says.  Or share.  EdCamp is about conversations.  "Rule of two feet"  - get up and go to another conversation if you don't like the one you are in."  GOOGLE this [] and you'll find a presentation that tells you everything.  [My Question:  A school district actually PAYS this company good money to do what they are about to do with us?  I find it disgusting.]  
   From 10 a.m. to noon we sit with two facilitators and are given two sticky post-its -- one purple and one yellow.  The purple is for a question we have. The yellow is for something we want to share.  Our facilitators are young. Not sure they are really trained.  The female tells us she "loves DISRUPTIONS" -  like Arne Duncan loves HURRICANES!  We are told this is just a conversation.  They gather up the stickies and put them up on the wall in categories.
You can do EdCamps anywhere she says, with anyone.  Do these instead of your Adminstration's Professional Development at LAUSD (mentioned specifically).  Topics that emerge from these stickies:  1.  ELL/ELD, special needs Inc.   2.  ED Tech.   3.  Art and Music - STEAM.  4. Classroom Community Building, democratic process.  5.  Project and problem-based learning. 6. Classroom management. 7. Writing - Common Core (only time I heard it mentioned) [When the convener included PRE-K WRITING, I GROANED and said loudly how inappropriate that was.] 8. New Teacher Issues. 
  Teachers were to pick a group and meet.  I left at this point, to be honest. I have been retired for six years and have nothing to contribute to current teachers.   My friend who stayed spent her time talking with Technology teachers and made good contacts, she said. She convinced them to take interest in CUE - Computer Using Educators - which they had never heard about before.  My friend is a National 
Board Certified Teacher Librarian and helps teachers frame ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS so that their students have to do original research and can't plagiarize.  She felt the EdCamp sessions were helpful.  My friend Larry Lawrence, consummate teacher of math at Morningside High School in Inglewood and at the UCLA Lab school, who attended San Diego, also felt his sessions were useful. They actually had one entitled "Politics" - unlike our more mundane topics.
  I believe the majority of teachers attending the CA Teachers Summit was young, out of a job, trying to get a job, mostly new teachers as opposed to more seasoned ones.  The majority I also think was elementary - at least at the Pasadena site.  There were about the same number of middle school as high school teachers. And a smattering of special education and higher education teachers.  More men than usual.
  After a lovely lunch which cost them very little, we reconvened in the auditorium for more speakers. 
One was a Technology teacher from Santa Ana who billed herself as a Program Specialist Learning Innovation with Technology Teacher.  Teaching was her second career.  Had a catchy talk about the "5 Be's" - including Be Intentional, Be Encouraged, Be Curious, Be Better Together.  
  Andrew Stadel, Math and Digital Learning Coach [what's wrong with just BEING A TEACHER??]
is from Tustin Unified.  He presented something he seemed to think was novel -- teaching number sense using estimation.  He showed us how badly we all estimate. And shared his website which has many examples -   
  We were asked to find someone we didn't know in the audience, and talk about one thing you learned here that was impressive.  Perhaps this was time for some technological adjustments?  Not sure.    Observation:  California teachers feel they don't use CC -- they already have standards of their own - or have adapted CC.  Quite an easy sell this has been -- because most want to keep their jobs, despite the negative pressures on teachers.
  A moderator comes back at 1:30 -- one hour to go.  We are TRENDING ON TWITTER --first World Wide -- we are told.  Who would like to share a thought?  A kinder teacher from South Los Angeles says she "loves EdCamp." A high school teacher -- maybe from Roosevelt HS -- one of the reconstituted schools, says -- "Take the kids back to preschool when they didn't care, weren't so restricted in their thinking, and do creative projects with them."  A teacher from a Charter asks -- "did we get positive press today?  Did we get the message out -- Teachers Save Lives?"  Moderator says YES.  Twitter going crazy.  and  "There will be press."  A teacher who doesn't give her name says "Yvette was a great speaker - story of favorite teachers lets people know there's still value in our jobs." 
  Next - a video of Kid President -- I'm too old to appreciate this but the audience likes it. 
Kristin Soares [not sure which corporation she is from] introduces LELAND MELVIN, football player and astronaut.  Impressive person.  Talks about Nichelle Nichols  [Martin Luther King, Jr. told her to stay on Star Trek - she was THE FIRST TO INTEGRATE TV].    Melvin is full of interesting stories.  He never gave up what he wanted to do even though discouraged many times.   
He shows us a video of himself on the shuttle trying to eat M&Ms.  But the photo above says it all -- THE RIGHT STUFF,  NEVER GIVE UP STUFF.   Do I detect a lecture on the famous GRIT?  that all the CCSS pushers are so fond of repeating?  Melvin is definitely full of it.
  This Summit reminds me of the time I happened upon the TFA RALLY that my daughter was attending after her five glorious weeks of training at USC.  Clearly I wasn't meant to be there -- because it had all the shrieking rituals of a SECRET SECT!!!  TFA would surely have preferred that all their rituals be kept secret.  Which makes me want to scream:  HOW ARE TEACHERS SUPPOSED TO TEACH CHILDREN TO THINK CRITICALLY WHEN THEY ARE ASKED TO STOP THINKING THEMSELVES?   
  And what has this Summit to do with collaboration, and teacher to teacher learning and teaching, and anything else that was promised for the day?  Nothing at all apparently. This was all in all A HUGE INSULT to the participants, and we were treated as little children.  Nothing of depth or interest was imparted, no strategies or theories of teaching and learning imparted.  All gimmicks and gung-ho exercises. Before Martin ends the day two women from New Teacher Center speak to us as though we are intimate friends. One of them mentions UNION - again, only time it was mentioned the entire day. "We are better together" and "Be a curious educator" and more trite sayings we've heard from others. 
  Dr. Dean Martin ends the day. Tells us to take the SURVEY that will be online.  We are also told to fill out a postcard to ourselves which will be mailed to us later sharing What did you learn?  How do you feel? and What are you going to do?  It will be a reminder.  A reminder of WHAT?
 Seriously, there was nothing of value learned today.  What a waste of $3.5 million.  How many libraries could have been stocked with new books or paid for a professional to run them, or arts programs for all?  I should have stayed home, except I wouldn't have been able to eat a "strawberry salad" or talk with my favorite colleagues (see above photo) who I don't get to see very often now that I am retired.
[FOOTNOTE:  the SURVEY the next day reveals exactly what this Summit was about: COMMON CORE
1. To what extent do you agree that the California Teachers Summit provided you with key learning you can take away and implement?    Strongly Agree - Agree - Disagree - Strongly Disagree.                                                     2. What is one key learning you are taking away from the California Teachers Summit?                                              3. The California Teachers Summit helped to build my enthusiasm for implementing the California Standards this school year.     Strongly Agree ----- Strongly Disagree.                                                                                             4. In what ways did today help build your enthusiasm for implementing the California Standards for this school year?                                                                                                                                                                                    5. To what extent were you able tons network with other teachers at the California Teachers Summit?       A Great Deal - Quite a bit - Some - Hardly Any - Not at all.                                                                                                   6. How will you stay engaged with them?                                                                                                                 7. How confident do you feel as you move forward to implement the California Standards based on what you learned today?    Very Confident - Confident - Somewhat Confident - Not Confident.                                              8. How confident do you feel about implementing the California Standards before today?    Very Confident ------ Not Confident.                                                                                                                                                            9. What is your greatest need moving forward to support you in the implementation of the California Standards?         10. How satisfied are you with the learning experience offered to participants at the Summit?      Very Satisfied ----- Not at all Satisfied.                                                                                                                                                11. What did you like best?                                                                                                                                          12. What two Summit resources have been the most helpful to you?                                                                    13. Please confirm your email address to receive your 2015 Better Together: California Teachers Summit Certificate.”                                                                                                                                                                             [Larry Lawrence says:   That's it! I will eagerly await my certificate which I will place on the wall next to my degrees from Occidental, Columbia and UCLA! If you want an actual copy as it appear on screen, let me know how I can get my Word file to you.]

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