Bullying now Constitutionally Mandated in North Carolina

Bullying is now legally mandated in North Carolina. With the passage of the State’s Amendment One creating a constitutional ban on marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman, the people of North Carolina have added their state to the list of those successfully creating a legal protection of bullying.

I’m borrowing my definition of bullying here. Let me be more specific:

…bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

It’s a bit specific, I grant you, but I take bullying fairly seriously. So, as it turns out, does the North Carolina Legislature. They were the ones who crafted and approved the language above as law in 2009 as part of Senate Bill 526 or “The Anti-Bullying Law.” The law works to keep students safe in North Carolina schools and makes illegal those acts within school walls that would have students feel less-than because of who they are or are perceived to be.

Students and teachers in North Carolina are not allowed to bully students and teachers.

That is the job of the electorate.

If you think Amendment One doesn’t qualify as bullying as defined by state law, you’re wrong. If you think Amendment One doesn’t “Create or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits” (again, their words, not mine), you’re wrong. If you think LGBT students across North Carolina didn’t wake up feeling their entire state had joined their classmates, community members, and even families in thinking there was something wrong with their fundamental identities, you’re wrong. If you think that this measure doesn’t add to the desperation, hopelessness, and shame many students wrongly feel they must suffer through alone, you’re dangerously wrong.

Amendment One and other measures like it are publicly-sanctioned, legally sani-wrapped bullying.

Opposite-sex marriage in North Carolina may have been better protected this morning, but the children of the state were not.

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What do you mean when you ask if it scales?

No idea has much chance of surviving in the intellectual marketplace these days if it cannot prove its muster in the face of one question:

But can it scale?

It frustrates me to no end. While I appreciate the market and capitalistic underpinnings that lead to the question, I appreciate a good idea much more.

Problems require nuance and sophistication in their solutions. Elements of those solutions may be replicable or scalable, but the solutions themselves must connect to the people and contexts of a particular instance of problem. Student mobility in one city may look like mobility in another city, but it may be the result of a wholly separate set of causes. The solutions will have some elements in common, but they will not be the same.

I’m interested in whether or not I can see and borrow pieces of the solutions I need in the answers you’ve found. If 95% of what you’re doing would solve my problem, implimenting your solution wholesale prevents me from serving my community as fully as I could. What’s more, it let’s me solve a problem without thinking and without questioning deeply what should and can be done.

Scaling a solution runs the danger of reducing thought.

Earlier this semester I found better language for answering the question of whether an idea scales. From professors Mark Moore and Archon Fung, I came to define scale as follows:

Scale is…

…the number of people affected.
…the geographic spread across jurisdictions.
…the critical mass reached in population segment.
…the size of impact on individuals affected.
…the scope and durability of individual impact.
…the sustainability of effort over time.
…the total individuals and assets engaged.

If all we’re trying to accomplish is scaling in the form of the first definition, we’re paying attention to the number of people, but not being mindful of the actual people.

Does this mean I’ll need to change my twitter handle?

For the first time in a long time, I’m nervous.

Stepping in front of a classroom for the first time nine years ago didn’t frighten me. My teacher training at Illinois State prepared me for that.

Stepping foot on the Harvard Ed School campus as a student this year didn’t worry me. Learning as a teacher and student at Science Leadership for four years prepared me for that.

Next year is a bit different.

I’m going west (young man) to Boulder, CO where I’ll be one of the newest doctoral students at the University of Colorado – Boulder in their Educational Foundations Policy and Practice Ph.D. program.

While everything up to this point prepared me to complete the application and ostensibly to complete the program, joining the program also means stepping out of my depth.

Under the G.I. Bill, my grandfather completed his master’s degree when he left the army decades ago, and my mom completed hers a couple years ago. Making the move to complete my M.Ed. this year meant following in their footsteps. It was learning from the lead of two of the most impactful role models I’ve ever had. I wasn’t encouraged by the fact teachers around me had completed their master’s. It was that this was something my family has done. We do this.

The doctorate lives in a different space in my head. While I’ve encountered and befriended countless Ph.D’s, it’s not something my family has done. I didn’t realize, until I received my admission notice and was faced with the decision, how much my family and lineage weigh on my perception of what I can (and should) do.

I’m going.

In the end, it came down the chance to study a topic about which I’m passionate at a world-class institution dedicated to interdisciplinary studies with a social justice bent versus moving safely in the spaces I know.

Part of me is scared.

I could fail. I’ve no family history toward which I can nod and say, “This is something we do.”

I’m moving halfway across the country. I’m committing to the formal life of a student. I’m saying this is the work to which I am dedicating my life for the next few years. Pieces of it feel more selfish than teaching. Most of it is much less immediate than the daily workings of the classroom. But it’s something about which I’m curious and something I know to be important. It’s a chance to make a difference in a different way.

Because of this – and because it’s important to lean in to the things that scare us – I’m going.

And, I guess, if you keep reading, you’re going too.

What’s the barrier between gov’t. agencies and civic engagement via social media?

“We do agree agencies aren’t doing the best job of engaging on these networks yet,” wrote Dash in an e-mail to techPresident in response to some questions about lessons learned from the Expert Labs experience. “One key finding we’ve focused on in our final reports is that the division between communications/outreach arms of agencies, which typically manage social networking accounts, and the policy making groups within agencies, which actually impact the decisions being made, is a pretty significant barrier to public participation.”

via Expert Labs: Putting The ‘Public’ Into Public Policy Wasn’t Easy | TechPresident.

Are PARCC, SBAC, and Common Core State Standards Initiatives the DOE’s SuperPAC?

It’s a surprise to me to find myself writing in agreement with something coming out of the Pioneer Institute, but their “The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers” is the first comprehensive piece of scholarship I’ve found that examines the legal nuance of the RtTT effort and compares it to both the letter and the spirit of federal law. The entire white paper (by Robert S. Eitel and Kent D. Talbert with contributions from Williamson M. Evers) is worth a read.

I realize not everyone has the free time to sit and consume a white paper, so I’ll highlight some salient points:

With only minor exceptions, the General Education Provisions Act (“GEPA”), the Department of Education Organization Act (“DEOA”), and the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (“NCLB”), ban federal departments and agencies from directing, supervising, or
controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.

And while RtTT and NCLB waivers don’t explicitly direct, supervise, or control curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials; it’s hard to imagine either isn’t attempting to do so using the levers of financial aid or reprieves from NCLB sanctions.

Eitel, Talbert, and Evers point out:

Thus, rather than permitting state and local authorities to use standards and assessments that uniquely fit a given state as required by the  ESEA, the Race to the Top Assessment Program requires each state in the consortium to use common standards across the respective states of the consortium. The result is that the Race to the Top Assessment Program moves states away from standards and assessments unique to a given state and into a new system of common standards and assessments across the consortia states.

Again, this isn’t the expressed purpose of these moves, but it does appear to be the desired effect.

Regarding the PARCC and SBAC consortia established to draw up RtTT-required assessments, the authors write:

These PARCC and SBAC supplemental funding materials, together with recent actions taken by the Department concerning ESEA waiver
requirements, have placed the agency on a road that will certainly cause it to cross the line of statutory prohibitions against federal direction, supervision or control of curriculum and instructional materials – upsetting the federal system.

…adding…

With conditions that mimic important elements of Race to the Top’s ingredients, the Conditional NCLB Waiver Plan will result in the  Department leveraging the states into a de facto long-term national system of curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials, notwithstanding the absence of legal authority in the ESEA.

The conceit of the argument is that the Department of Ed has implemented these programs and made money available to those who applied. What, specifically, groups like PARCC, SBAC, and CCSSI do with that money after it’s passed on is out of DOE control. If they want to implement a national curriculum, national standards, and national assessments, well bully for them. If each of those pieces happens to be exactly in line with what the DOE would like to see happen but is banned by federal law from doing, all the better.

The result is an education policy SuperPAC that acts in the grey area of the law – aligned with the letter, but in clear opposition of the spirit.

My annotated version of the white paper is here.

What if we built syllabi like this?

The community over at reddit got a little steamed (understandably) in the wake of SOPA and PIPA.

Not being keen on waiting for the next wave of censorship-inspiring legislation, they decided to write the the bill that was more representative of the people. They wrote are writing it together, online, collaboratively. The first version of the bill was an open google doc where any visitor had editing privileges. Now in v2, the doc is restricted to commenting. (I assume this is to get the doc to a submittable place.)

Even if you don’t have time to read the entire bill, the comments on the definitions section, alone, help show how such a shift in the drafting mindset can inspire greater creation.

I’m starting to think about how scholarship and literature could benefit from this process. What if novelists started using this approach and then took the work offline after the commenting period. Would the increased public “ownership” drive sales?

What if a city council decided to put every matter to their constituents for open comment?

What if, on the first day of class, teachers shared a google doc with their students and said, “Let’s write our expectations for this space?” What if every assignment had a student review period before it was launched?

Interesting.