Torn Over #EdReform: Belief Analysis

If you are like me, you have been following the debates surrounding choice education, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Teach for America, and education inequalities.  All of these issues, according to my perspective, are interrelated and fall under the umbrella of education reform.  The rhetoric on both sides of the debate have some validity to them.  People like Diane Ravitch argue that the CCSS are basically a one-size-fits-all approach to education that is being forced on educators and students without sound proof that they are appropriate.  Dr. Steve Perry, another heavy hitter in education reform, is an advocate for full open choice for families as a way to remedy what he sees as a broken education system.  Of course, there are many more players involved especially those with business and/or political interests.

All of this debate has me torn over education reform and in the spirit of reflection and introspection I have analyzed and listed my core beliefs of education in order to frame further analysis of the education reform movement.  Please note that this list is not in order of importance.

My Core Beliefs:

  1. All students have a right to access a safe, rigorous, relevant, and free education that builds both competence and confidence for future success.
  2. Our democracy and society depends on equal access to quality education.
  3. The purpose of education is not solely preparation for careers.
  4. The purpose of education is to prepare students to be critical thinkers and active citizens with the diverse skills and the habits of mind necessary to navigate an increasingly complex world.
  5. All students, and their families, want an opportunity for success.
  6. Although education is vitally important, one institution, working alone, cannot remedy societal ills stemming from generations of injustice.
  7. Most, if not all, educators and policy makers have good intentions.
  8. Policy makers and educators at all levels sometimes suffer from clouded judgement due to their personal values and interests.
  9. Highly qualified, trusted, valued, and supported school-level educators are a critical component to preparing students for future success.
  10. Elevating student voice and choice within the school and classroom environment will equip students with the skills and habits necessary to navigate an increasingly complex future.
  11. Decisions regarding education policy should be made with a mindset of doing what is best for students.

The State of Social Studies in CT

The state of social studies in Connecticut mirrors and amplifies the state of social studies education in the rest of the nation. Some of the major issues include an unapproved, draft curriculum frameworks, no social studies consultant at the Connecticut State Department of Education, and no official position statement from the state at all. This is a dangerous cocktail for apathy. Without these three critical components, Connecticut champions mediocrity when it comes to social studies education. This is especially concerning when you consider that the purpose of social studies is to produced an engaged citizenry endowed with skills such as critical thinking, empathy, and collaboration.

However so much that it seems like the Nutmeg State is disinterested with social studies education, there is hope. First, the state recently convened a committee to craft a curriculum framework based on the recently released College, Career, and Civic Life social studies framework. The forthcoming CT document is slated to put inquiry at the heart of the social studies classroom and provide students with an authentic social studies experience that will benefit them long after they graduate high school. If this committee holds true to their charge, this will be a giant step forward for the state of social studies in the land of steady habits.

Another layer to this silver lining lies with the efforts of the Honorable Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill. Social Studies has a true friend in Secretary Merrill. At a recent Social Studies Conference held at Central Connecticut State University, Merrill touted the importance of Social Studies education and her commitment to a quality social studies education for all of Connecticut’s students. With such an important person in our corner, Connecticut should be able to attain a social studies position statement to guide instruction and policy at all levels, a curriculum framework that promotes purposeful and powerful social studies education within our schools, and a social studies consultant to assist districts and teachers in meeting the demands of the 21st century.

In order to meet this goal, social studies education in Connecticut needs your help. First and foremost, contact Denise Merrill’s office to express your support for purposeful and powerful social studies education. While you are at it, contact your state representative and senator. Then, go to the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies Public Affairs Committee website to sign up for updates and to participate in one thing per month to promote social studies education. Finally, spread the word that we need a better stated of social studies education in Connecticut. Our democracy depends on it.

For your reference:
Office of the Secretary of the State
State of Connecticut
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone: (860) 509-6200
Twitter: @SOTSMerrill

CRELI 2013 Project Descriptions

Here is a description of all of the student projects in the students own words. They did a great job creating projects that honor and sustain diversity.

Balloon Madness

Based on reflection and discussion, we decided to alter the day’s schedule and end the program today with a team/class builder.  This was especially helpful after today.  Many of the project teams are feeling the pressure of student-centered learning and a deadline.  In this activity, the students join hands and work as a team to keep balloons adrift.  The teams start with one balloon and then we add more and more until it is just madness.  We were fortunate enough for some just-graduated alumni (2013) to stop by and participate.



For those looking for the progress that the students made, see the slideshow below.  Today, we took the reigns off of the teams a bit.  In the morning, we pulled the student leaders out and let the teams work on their own.  Although these rising freshmen and sophomores experienced a little anxiety at first, they rose to the occasion and were able to make really great progress.  For the teams that were more autonomous, we removed all of the scaffolding and set them to work on their own.  The student leaders that were assigned to the groups were transitioned into special projects.  One student became an overall project manager that worked with students to set goals to complete their projects.  Another pair of students were charged with helping the teams develop their public presentations.  Groups that continued to struggle received either the same supports or more support depending on their need.



And the Building Begins

This slideshow features students working in their teams to create their products that honor and sustain diversity. For any groups that were building and painting things, the first major step was cutting and priming the wood. Some groups are creating videos and others are doing more arts and crafts type projects. Overall, the students were really excited to start working on their projects. This is really clear in the pictures from today.

CRELI “Get to Know You” Bingo

Using a bingo card featuring get to know you questions, the scholars, student leaders, and educators spent some time in the shade getting to know one another. With prompts such as “Has been to a foreign country” and “Has a pet,” participants asked each other questions, engaged in conversation and learned something about each other. Listening and getting to know people from various backgrounds is one way to honor diversity.

“Forlorn Soldier”

This music video was created as a part of my capstone project. It is a time lapse of the Forlorn Soldier move with an original song called, “Forlorn Soldier,” as performed by Tom Callinan, Connecticut’s first state troubadour. The July 19, 2013 event was sponsored by the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission’s series of programs honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The monument featured in this video is a brownstone figure of a Union soldier and was created by James G. Batterson in Hartford, CT. The location of the monument at of the time of video is 119 Airport Road, Hartford, CT. Videography and editing by Tony Roy. Created on July 21, 2013.

CRELI Team Project Promotion

CRELI Team Project Promotion

In this photo, a rising Sophomore and a rising Freshman are creating a banner to recruit people to tell their story on video as a way to honor and sustain diversity. They will collect a variety of personal accounts to highlight the diverse backgrounds represented in CRELI and CT River Academy.

CRELI Expert Lessons

In the second day of the CRELI program, we had experts teach lessons to the scholars related to the group roles. We had a person come in from CT Humanities to teach the Reporters about marketing and using social media to reach an intended audience. We had a local artist come in to work with the Creative Directors on texture, form, and beautification. We were also fortunate to have a person come in to work with the Stewards to develop their project managerial skills. The video above features Bryan Ribas’ group of engineers working with Google SketchUp. Working together, these four group members will create something that honors and sustains diversity.

CRELI Day One Name Game


Students are completing a team builder game to introduce themselves and have some fun.  The first day of the CRELI program included get to know you games, tie dyeing, and team builders.