Lessons: Katrina and beginning anew.New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded , fondly known in better days for its spectacular cuisine, cool jazz, and good times, was the leading story on television news broadcasts the world over when a massive hurricane came barreling in this past August. As Katrina took its destructive path, culminating in the devastating dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. rupture of ill-prepared levee levee (lĕv`ē) [Fr.,=raised], embankment built along a river to prevent flooding by high water. Levees are the oldest and the most extensively used method of flood control. systems, the world was riveted by stories about the thousands of citizens huddled in the Superdome, in the convention center, and on a major New Orleans overpass. A combination of no food, no water, and masses of people created the perfect recipe for chaos and unmerciful, undeserved un·de·served
Not merited; unjustifiable or unfair.
unde·serv death, increasing the tribulations of an al ready largely poor, marginalized population. The world, especially the rest of America, was witnessing a living nightmare. "This cannot be," "Unbelievable," "Surreal"--these were the reactions coming to the fore. This was not a bad natural disaster flick; it was real. The devastation, shattered lives, lost dreams Lost Dreams is a game, music, and manga franchise created by Christopher Ruiz and Catherine Buñag that mainly involves a love story between a human and a demon. Japanese manga
Lost Dreams , obliterated o·blit·er·ate
tr.v. o·blit·er·at·ed, o·blit·er·at·ing, o·blit·er·ates
1. To do away with completely so as to leave no trace. See Synonyms at abolish.
2. property, and hundreds of deaths will draw a clear delineation in the annals of Louisiana CODE, OF LOUISIANA. In 1822, Peter Derbigny, Edward Livingston, and Moreau Lislet, were selected by the legislature to revise and amend the civil code, and to add to it such laws still in force as were not included therein. history with the reference point of before Katrina (BK) and after Katrina (AK).
On a larger scale, America had a wake-up call. We saw an America that many of us heretofore chose not to see or acknowledge. The most vulnerable members of society were no longer mere statistics, which sometimes have a strange way of desensitizing de·sen·si·tize
tr.v. de·sen·si·tized, de·sen·si·tiz·ing, de·sen·si·tiz·es
1. To render insensitive or less sensitive.
2. Immunology To make (an individual) nonreactive or insensitive to an antigen. us to the reality represented by the numbers. However, in an ironic twist of fate, Katrina brought voice to the voiceless. And all of America heard. The infirm INFIRM. Weak, feeble.
2. When a witness is infirm to an extent likely to destroy his life, or to prevent his attendance at the trial, his testimony de bene esge may be taken at any age. 1 P. Will. 117; see Aged witness.; Going witness. , the elderly, and countless children, mostly black, entered our living rooms, stirring a myriad of emotions along with a belated realization about the gravity of the problem. "How can this be happening in America?," we asked. From economic, sociological, engineering, theological, and multiple other perspectives, analysis of what Katrina exposed will continue for years to come. And certainly, the issue and role of education will be a huge part of the conversation.
Shortly before Katrina, in July 2005, The Times-Picayune, the leading newspaper in Louisiana, reported that nearly half of the state's youngsters reside in households with earnings below the poverty line, and that 30 percent are living in utter destitution des·ti·tu·tion
1. Extreme want of resources or the means of subsistence; complete poverty.
2. A deprivation or lack; a deficiency.
Noun 1. (Filosa, 2005). Furthermore, Orleans Parish (county), where the city of New Orleans is located, is one of the poorest civic units in the country. Many of the faces illuminated on our television sets after Katrina were those of poor children, who likely attended a poorly run public school system, further denying them a chance to play on the same-level field of opportunity, exposure, or experience with peers in other parts of Louisiana and the rest of the country.
A few days after Katrina came and left, the host of one of the local radio stations interviewed Ora Watson, Acting Superintendent of the New Orleans Public School System, asking about the status of the schools and when school would commence again in Orleans Parish. The overall devastation was so bad that the majority of the schools will likely not be open for the 2005-06 school year. While lamenting the loss, Watson also made a valiant effort to paint a positive outlook. Viewing the rebuilding process as an opportunity to begin anew, and speaking in predictable metaphorical terms, Watson suggested that a new beginning could occur with the washing away of an inadequate public school system.
I share Watson's sentiment; the Orleans Parish Public School System has an opportunity to rethink its mission and vision. There is much to consider in determining what it means to begin anew and what should be the guiding vision to make public schools in Orleans Parish more effective, particularly for those poor children who have suffered so greatly because of Katrina. Of course, within the renewing effort, Orleans Parish still falls under the rubric RUBRIC, civil law. The title or inscription of any law or statute, because the copyists formerly drew and painted the title of laws and statutes rubro colore, in red letters. Ayl. Pand. B. 1, t. 8; Diet. do Juris. h.t. of conforming to the standards set by the Louisiana education department, which includes the state's "School and District Accountability System," the cornerstone of the Louisiana Educational Reform Initiative.
School and District Accountability System
The Louisiana School and District Accountability System, which took effect in 1999 and relies heavily on what are called "School Performance Scores," meets all the federal guidelines of No Child Left Behind (NCLB NCLB No Child Left Behind (US education initiative) ). Thus, in keeping with the philosophy of NCLB, Louisiana's response to improving schools is simply about product and outcome, which, depending on the rise and fall of test scores, determines whether public education is improving and if teachers are being held accountable. Stated another way, the action of school reform unfolds as teachers are held accountable for ensuring that students do well on standardized tests, and the assumption is that when the students perform well, reform is taking place and teacher accountability is working, ultimately making schools eligible for monetary rewards.
Succinctly, the "reform" movement provoked by A Nation at Risk (1983) (produced during the Reagan Administration Noun 1. Reagan administration - the executive under President Reagan
executive - persons who administer the law ), followed by America 2000 (Bush I Administration), Goals 2000 (Clinton Administration), and now NCLB (Bush II Administration) can be characterized as a "testing" movement. As can be seen patently unfolding in the state of Louisiana, we have been so intensely focused on testing and its results that we now refer to "high-stakes" testing as the sole criterion used to assess and evaluate children and school districts.
When Orleans Parish public schools begin anew (for that matter, any school system), is it wise and developmentally appropriate for the sum total of "success" in schooling to be simply about only one form of assessment, as promoted by the Louisiana School and District Accountability System? I think not, and there are three intimately interrelated in·ter·re·late
tr. & intr.v. in·ter·re·lat·ed, in·ter·re·lat·ing, in·ter·re·lates
To place in or come into mutual relationship.
in reasons for my conclusion: the distortion of the instrument, the negative impact upon school climate, and a lack of attention to the relational aspect of schooling.
Distorting the Instrument
Clearly, the question is not about testing or the critical importance of assessment as a component in the overall education of a youngster. There is a place for standardized testing in schooling, as it is one way to derive information, assess, evaluate, and thus meet individual needs of students. Indeed, assessment is key to improving instruction and learning. However, the problem lies in the distorted utilization of these tests.
First, it is absolutely developmentally inappropriate for these tests to be virtually the only authority on how students are faring, and it is enormously flawed to use them as the final arbiter of a teacher's competency. Second, overemphasis o·ver·em·pha·size
tr. & intr.v. o·ver·em·pha·sized, o·ver·em·pha·siz·ing, o·ver·em·pha·siz·es
To place too much emphasis on or employ too much emphasis. on pre- and post-standardized testing assumes what research has already demonstrated as patently untrue; that is, all students learn the same way (Thomas & Bainbridge, 2001). Finally, the Educational Testing Service The Educational Testing Service (or ETS) is the world's largest private educational testing and measurement organization, operating on an annual budget of approximately $1.1 billion on a proforma basis in 2007. (ETS ETS Educational Testing Service (nonprofit private educational testing and measurement organization)
ETS Emergency Telecommunications Service
ETS Electronic Trading System
ETS Engineering (&) Technical Services ) and well-respected education organizations, such as the National Research Council, American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m. (APA (All Points Addressable) Refers to an array (bitmapped screen, matrix, etc.) in which all bits or cells can be individually manipulated.
APA - Application Portability Architecture ), National Education Association (NEA NEA
1. National Education Association
2. National Endowment for the Arts
NEA (US) n abbr (= National Education Association) → Verband für das Erziehungswesen ), Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI ACEI Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitor
ACEI Association for Childhood Education International
ACEI Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland ), and the American Education Research Association (AERA AERA American Educational Research Association
AERA Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association
AERA Air Emissions Risk Analysis
AERA Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia
AERA American European Racquetball Association ), repeatedly have stressed that it is a mistake to place too much emphasis on single test scores. Carter (2000) concisely sums up the point by asserting that "standardized tests, the designers always tell us, are merely a tool ... but nowadays, it seems, we are not using the tool. The tool is using us" (p. 154).
Changing Climate: Conversation and Instructional Practice
In fact, the tool has used us to the extent that, over the years, we have become quite obsessed ob·sess
v. ob·sessed, ob·sess·ing, ob·sess·es
To preoccupy the mind of excessively.
v.intr. with standardized tests, resulting in dramatic shifts in conversations among educators, elected officials, and the overall interactions at school settings. In large part, faculty meetings and professional development days are fixated fix·ate
v. fix·at·ed, fix·at·ing, fix·ates
1. To make fixed, stable, or stationary.
2. To focus one's eyes or attention on: fixate a faint object. on strategies for elevating test scores. In fact, months prior to the actual administering of the tests, teachers spend hours in rote teaching with "skilling and drilling" and thus have very little time for innovation, creativity, engaging instruction, fostering the arts, or meaningful foreign language learning. An overemphasis on this skilling and drilling is a recipe for disengaging dis·en·gage
v. dis·en·gaged, dis·en·gag·ing, dis·en·gag·es
1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles. See Synonyms at extricate.
2. children, leaving them bored, detached, and frustrated with school. In addition, many school administrators and teachers are working in fear of test scores, and the weight placed on these tests impels them to hope the lower achieving students are transferred to other schools or even, in the extreme, drop out (Merrow, 2001). Finally, because of this testing emphasis and growing fear, cheating is becoming more commonplace.
Clearly, what the testing industry is doing to the overall school climate is a travesty, creating an unhealthy environment focused on a discourse that is increasingly cold, calculated, and consumed with numbers, ratings, and scores, with the end result of objectifying children. And what is tragically lost is authentic talk about children, discovery, and excitement about learning.
Education, particularly for young primary grade students, must be about tapping into the natural cognitive development of these growing youngsters. There are multiple ways of learning and young people can be natural learners when lessons involve more than lecture, memorization, and multiple-choice or true-false tests. A schooling experience that constantly focuses on skill and drill with direct teaching instruction will eventually deplete de·plete
1. To use up something, such as a nutrient.
2. To empty something out, as the body of electrolytes. the natural enthusiasm, energy, and motivation of youngsters (Perrone, 1991).
Relational Aspect of Schooling
As a result of our distorted testing obsession and changing school climate, we are overlooking the significance of meaningfully attending to the relational aspect of schooling. We need to keep in mind that education is about entering into relationships. It is in the positive cultivation of the relationship between educator and child (and with parent/caregiver) that engaged instruction unfolds and meaningful learning takes place. These relationships are fostered when children attend a school setting where the pupil-teacher ratio is reasonable and necessary resources are available.
A caring, nurturing environment with available resources is vital, particularly for children who come to school distressed with emotional, psychological, and physical pain as a result of living in unhealthy environments and poverty. Dedicated teachers will tell us that it is not uncommon for children who come from unhealthy home environments to manifest inappropriate conduct, have a difficult time staying on task, and lack school readiness skills. Despite these difficulties, schools still have the responsibility to strategically and positively work with these youngsters who are victims of circumstances. Yet, even before Katrina, many children who attended New Orleans public schools New Orleans Public Schools is a public school district that serves all of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The school district is governed by the Orleans Parish School Board. were subjected to over-populated classrooms in old, outdated buildings with updated materials in short supply. They also suffered from the shortage of school psychologists, social workers, and other critical ancillary personnel.
Meeting students' individual needs is a time-consuming effort that takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. When working with youngsters from unfortunate circumstances, it is not a question of whether they can learn, not a question of rationalizations, and not a question of excellence, but rather a question of empathy, understanding, and discovering individual gifts and talents and entering into an authentic relationship with them in a school setting that is committed to providing adequate resources.
Both civic and religious leaders have been consistent in stating that a fundamental moral test of a just society is how its most vulnerable members are faring. On that score, Katrina has provided a window of opportunity. Among the numbers of poor people in Louisiana, many are children who attended poorly functioning schools in Orleans Parish. With the washing away of the old, Ora Watson's vision to begin anew must be clothed clothe
tr.v. clothed or clad , cloth·ing, clothes
1. To put clothes on; dress.
2. To provide clothes for.
3. To cover as if with clothing. in boldness, creativity, and innovation. She needs to first begin by seriously questioning the underlying assumptions that currently dominate the Louisiana School and District Accountability System.
A narrow-minded focus on testing will only, at best, lead us back to the status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. , and will actually further distance us from authentic renewal. Moreover, it is a serious mistake to assume that because test scores have gone up or down, we therefore have a complete picture of what schools are doing. That is too easy, too convenient, and quite inaccurate. Schooling is much too complex for such assumptions, particularly when working with the most vulnerable members of society.
In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , Ora Watson must not avoid difficult talk about what authentic renewal will entail in order to revitalize the New Orleans Public School System. And in that talk, she can begin by underscoring a vision for state-of-the-art schools where educators keenly recognize the relevance of a developmentally appropriate practice Developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP) is a perspective within early childhood education whereby a teacher or child caregiver nurtures a child's social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all practices and decisions on (1) theories of child development, (2) within classroom settings of small pupil-teacher ratios. In addition to having access to the core disciplines, all children must have meaningful opportunity to be immersed in the variety of arts and foreign language study. Moreover, assessment must include a multiplicity of instruments that allow for a balanced, more accurate perspective. Finally, Watson must emphasize that education is about nurturing and celebrating the uniqueness of every child. In short, her vision must be guided by the assumption that education is about entering into relationships.
Carter, S. (2000). God's name in vain: The wrongs and rights of religion in politics. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Basic Books.
Filosa, G. (2005). Child poverty grows in La., study shows. The Times-Picayune (St. Tammany and the Metro Area), B-1.
Merrow, J. (2001). Undermining standards. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(9), 653-659.
Perrone, V. (1991). On standardized testing. A position paper of the Association for Childhood Education International. (http://www.udel.edu/bateman/ acei/onstandard.htm)
Thomas, M. D., & Bainbridge, W. (2001). All children can learn: Facts and fallacies. Phi Delta Kappan 82(9), 660-662.
James D. Kirylo is Assistant Professor of Education, Department of Teaching and Learning, Southeastern Louisiana University Southeastern Louisiana University is a state-funded public university that is located in the city of Hammond, Louisiana. It was originally founded in 1925 by Linus A. Sims, the principal of Hammond High School, as Hammond Junior College, located in a wing of the high school , Hammond.