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October 24, 2011

School reform players, politics: A view from the left

Editor’s note: This piece was submitted by Angela Engel, the author of the book, “Seeds of Tomorrow; Solutions for Improving our Children’s Education” and the director of Uniting4Kids a new national non-profit promoting quality neighborhood schools through parent, teacher and student leadership.

National interests are investing heavily in Colorado’s school board races. The players are many, the politics ugly, and the possibilities well…

The Players

Stand for Children established a Colorado Chapter in 2010 in order to push legislation that tied teacher evaluations to test scores. Their investors include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and New Profit Inc. – a “national venture philanthropy fund.”

Democrats for Education Reform, DFER, is a newer organization that promotes charter schools, alternative certification training, and performance pay, and in addition promote mayoral control.

ACE Scholarships originated in Colorado in 2000. ACE members made significant campaign contributions to the Douglas County school board responsible for directing private dollars away from some of the most high-performing public schools in the state. Several other funders have also joined the ranks, and the one thing they all have in common are trustees and board members with corporate connections and very deep pockets.

The Politics

So why are corporate executives and wealthy entrepreneurs suddenly interested in public education? Because they like to make money and recent education reforms along with “new tax credits” and Education Management Organizations, EMO’s, have provided ample opportunity to make a dollar. Here’s how they do it:

September 27, 2011

Public education: A space of possibility

This article was written by Katie Salen, a professor in the  College of Digital Media at Chicago’sDePaul University. Salen is also executive director of the Institute of Play. She spoke at the Sept. 27 “What Matters and What Counts” discussion series breakfast.

When I tell people about the two middle schools I have helped to open, Quest to Learn and ChicagoQuest — schools based on principles of game design and play—the typical first response is, “No way.”

“How is it possible,” they ask, “to design a public school to meet all the state assessment requirements and support 21st century skills like empathy, collaborative problem solving, design thinking, and creativity? There must be rules and requirements that get in your way. How do you find teachers with the right kinds of expertise? How do you support technology integration? How do you cover all that content without teaching to the test?”

While none of these questions come with simple answers I often respond, by drawing on my own background as a game designer. Game designers approach rules much as players do: As constraints to be challenged, pushed against and creatively reconfigured.