AKOM and the Solo Practitioner

There are many roles an educator can play. For years I was blessed to work at the Center School, an independent school outside of Philadelphia. During my years there, our faculty completed the Schools Attuned Generalist Course, and another teacher and I trained to become course facilitators.

The school was a perfect setting for using a neurodevelopmental lens to develop my understanding of how kids learn – a common mission, supportive colleagues, and families who were committed to finding ways to better understand how their child learned. It is not surprising that my involvement with AKOM has deepened since my initial introduction years ago.

But now I find myself in a new role – reading specialist-at-large.

As a private practitioner, I perform many duties with students in a variety of schools, including tutoring, assessment, academic coaching and advising. The tutoring relationship lends itself to demystifying students and helping them to develop and implement workable management plans. In my experience, students are hungry to better understand themselves, and appreciate the opportunity to take ownership of their learning.

But working independently also presents challenges I never faced in my years at Center School. The biggest is forging a relationship with the teachers my clients have so that they can better understand the learning needs of their (and my) students.

Over the coming weeks in this space, I will be processing out loud some of the challenges that educators face when they are providing ancillary, rather than primary support to students.

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Education and the New Administration

by Katie O’Neal

Though education was largely absent from the campaign trail, President-elect Brack Obama did not forget education completely…

A few campaign promises:

  • Add billions a year to federal education spending

    • $18 billion in new spending on preschool and K-12 programs

    • $10 billion of this amount would go to help states develop preschool programs

  • “Recruit an army of new teachers”

    • Provide scholarships to college students and professional from other fields who agree to pursue careers in teaching

    • Start a residency program to recruit 30,000 new teachers through a process that combines coursework with working closely with a current teacher

  • Reform teacher pay models

    • Finance programs to pay bonuses to teachers who act as mentors or work in hart-to-staff schools in urban and rural areas

    • Underwrite federal efforts to experiment with performance-based pay for teachers

  • Double federal funding for charter schools

    • $400 million per year to charter schools

    • Supports school choice but opposes federally financed vouches for use at private schools

  • Work to rebuild NCLB

    • Said in the past that the “goals of the law were the right ones,” particularly the goal of narrowing the achievement gaps between minority and white students, however, he believes the mandate has been drastically underfunded

    • Improve the quality of tests used – rather than focus on the results of standardized tests, Obama would like to move towards tests that measure higher-order thinking skills

In an interview with CNN in late October, Obama identified education as a top priority but ranked it 5th – after the economy, energy independence, a health-care overhaul, and tax cuts for the middle class. Indeed in the face of an economic recession, the Obama administration may have a very difficult time generating support for such ambitious education spending.

Election Results

by Katie O’Neal

Officials at all levels will be dealing with the nation’s sagging economy as they try to fix education issues.

At the state level:

  • Democrats control all of state government in 17 states

  • Republicans control all of state government in 8 states

  • Control is split between parties in the remaining states

State budgets usually allocate almost half of their spending to education. Faced with dwindling tax revenues, and in many cases budget shortfalls, officials will have to figure out which programs to cut and keep. Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, said in this economy, “You won’t see anyone come forward with anything that will cost more money…It’s a matter of playing defense now.”

At the national level:

  • Democrats hold 57 seats in the Senate while Republicans hold 40

    • 51 seats are needed for control, 60 seats are needed to be considered a “filibuster proof majority”

    • 3 states remain undecided: Alaska, Georgia, and Minnesota

  • Democrats hold 255 seats in the House while Republicans hold 175

    • 218 seats are needed for control

    • 5 seats remain undecided: California, 2 seats in Louisiana, Ohio, and Virginia

The top education issue at the national level is the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, overdue from 2007. Both chambers will be looking to the new administration for guidance on the issue.