Take 5 Minutes for Civil Rights Today

You may have seen the following in your social media feeds:

ACTION ALERT: Through the Federal Register, the U.S. Dept. of Education is receiving comments on why it’s important to preserve and expand the Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The Obama Administration published this request for comments on December 30, 2016 and it is essential that we flood Secretary DeVos with comments that explain why this data collection is essential for enforcing civil rights statutes and helping to protect all students. 
Comments are due on Tuesday, February 28. Please click HERE to comment.
All you have to say is: “The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) provides much-needed transparency and information on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. This data helps the U.S. Department of Education achieve its mission of ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for all students. Secretary DeVos must preserve, expand, and publicly share the results of the CRDC.”
Copy and paste on Facebook, but do not share.
This is a real thing.
Here’s some background:
The CRDC collects a variety of information including student enrollment and educational programs and services, most of which is disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability. The CRDC is a longstanding and important aspect of the ED Office for Civil Rights (OCR) overall strategy for administering and enforcing the civil rights statutes for which it is responsible. Information collected by the CRDC is also used by other ED offices as well as policymakers and researchers outside of ED.
These data range from enrollment numbers to math course offerings to instances of reported bullying. And, for the first time ever, OCR is including school internet access as a  component of healthy civil rights:
2. Access to Internet While many school districts have used the internet to enhance educational opportunities, there have been concerns that schools and school districts do not have equitable access to high-speed internet. This equity concern occurs at both among and within school districts. For the 2017–18 CRDC, OCR is proposing to collect new information regarding internet access:  Amount of school bandwidth in Megabit per second [see Attachment A-2, page 69 (Data Group 1014)] Do many school districts already collect (or could they easily obtain) school bandwidth data that would allow OCR to determine the existence and scope of any such access disparity? Are there other data about connectivity that OCR should consider collecting to gauge access disparity?
The comments you make, published to the Federal Register, require agency staff to respond to the significant issues raised in comments:

How can I use the Federal Register to affect Federal rulemaking?

Federal agencies are required to publish notices of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register to enable citizens to participate in the decision making process of the Government. This notice and comment procedure is simple.

  1. A proposed rule published in the Federal Register notifies the public of a pending regulation.
  2. Any person or organization may comment on it directly, either in writing, or orally at a hearing. Many agencies also accept comments online or via e-mail. The comment period varies, but it usually is 30, 60, or 90 days. For each notice, the Federal Register gives detailed instructions on how, when, and where a viewpoint may be expressed. In addition, agencies must list the name and telephone number of a person to contact for further information.
  3. When agencies publish final regulations in the Federal Register, they must address the significant issues raised in comments and discuss any changes made in response to them. Agencies also may use the notice and comment process to stay in contact with constituents and to solicit their views on various policy and program issues.

If you are someone like me who cares deeply about civil rights, then please take the five minutes to tell the Department of ED why knowing who is in our schools and how they are treated is still important information for our country.

Instead of a Teachers’ Declaration of Independence…

Dunlap Broadside [Declaration of Independence]


“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we’re alone.” 
― Mitch Albom

I was thinking yesterday about declarations. Specifically, those of independence. The urge was strong to write here about the need for a Teachers’ Declaration of Independence. It would be a bold document staking our claim and our beliefs in the sanctity and sovereignty of our classrooms and schools.

“These are places of learning,” it would shout in some in a powerful font, “and they will not incur invasions by outside influences or sayers of nay.” It would be a beauty to behold, and also, it would not be true.

We do not need a Teachers’ Declaration of Independence. We are not independent operators. Watching the sometimes evolving, sometime devolving situation in Philadelphia’s public schools, seeing the requirements placed on teachers exiting the university system, and watching as schools attempt to provide the best productivity possible under current and proposed FCC e-rate regulations all point to the idea that what happens in our schools and our classrooms is independent of nothing.

The above factors and myriad more are constantly raining down on all schools and teachers no matter their constitutions or pedagogies. We are interdependent on so many systems that to state otherwise would be a foolhardy foolhardy fallacy.

Instead, perhaps today is the perfect opportunity to wonder about what happens after the bounce of independence, when we look around and realize that we are enmeshed in the lives and workings of those around us.

When I work with schools and districts, this is a sentiment I try to engender first. “I will say some things, give some examples that you will like, and would love to try in your setting. Your gut, though, will have a ‘yeah but’ moment. You will think, ‘Yeah, that’s great, but here’s why it won’t work where I am…'”

The key to these moments is realizing we are interdependent operators and to shift the thinking to, “Yeah, that sounds great, and here’s how I would approach it given the nuances of where I work.”

This is interdependent thinking, and it opens the doors to what we see and understand as possible. It also moves toward building a way of thinking about students and co-workers that realizes the interdependent systems at play in their lives.

In my English classroom, students would come in for what I thought was going to be a great lesson, the looks on their faces and the words in their mouths would sometimes tell me that their thoughts were elsewhere. A physics project was bearing down on them and they were stressed and worried about meeting deadlines and understanding material.

By seeing things interdependently, I adjusted my plans. Would 20 minutes to discuss and work through physics be helpful to their abilities to focus on what we were doing in our classroom? Invariably, yes.

It was an approach that alleviated stress, helped pave the way for success elsewhere and set up our relationship as one that was responsive to needs and caring about how they were operating in the system we called school.

This is to say nothing about how what students left when they walked through the school’s doors was interdependently linked to whatever we asked, challenged, or hoped of them in our 8 hours together.

A declaration of independence is a beautiful thing. It allows for the understanding of individuals as individuals. A declaration of interdependence helps to frame one individual as connected to the individuals around him and to larger networks of individuals a state, a country, a world away. Surely, there’s room in the world for such thinking.

Would you marry the Internet again?

When I’m playing “What if?” and I come up with this scenario, I imagine someone tripping over a chord and the entire country making that cartoony power-down sound.

As you’ve likely heard, the Internet’s broken on the west side of Africa. Something called SEACOM went down and that was that.

It’s not quite what you’d like to have happen when you’re on Day 1 of a week of workshops about technology in education. If you’re minutes away from leading a session signing 25 teachers up for their first-ever e-mail accounts, it’s certainly not the news you’d like to get.

We’re not even going to consider the implications if the country in which you happen to be staying is hosting one of the most highly watched sporting events in the world.

Anyway, someone tripped over a cord up north and brrroooooooooo. 🙁

The session I was supposed to lead at the end of the day became the second session of the day – sans my google docs-stored notes.

You roll with it.

I gave the scenario a few posts ago of tech leaders from around a state showing up to a conference and losing connectivity.

Now, imagine a few countries lost that connectivity. Imagine the Eastern Seaboard of the United States broke their connection. Chaos, right?

Here, we’re moving on and teaching Photo Story 3 and discussing how to get communities surrounding schools with computer labs to take ownership of those resources.


The Internet’s broken and no one has set fire to a single car. I want to run into the computer lab and scream, “Don’t you understand what’s happening?! Don’t you get there’s no way to talk about it on Facebook?!”

Yes, I’m convinced the connectedness and access the Internet affords will exponentially provide South Africa educational opportunities educators and learners have no access to now. I have no doubts.

I wouldn’t be spending more than a month here if I weren’t certain.

Access will make things better.

I wonder, though, if access will become the dependence seen across the U.S.

If we had the Internet to do over again, would we?

Not the same

The Gist:

  • The issues are not the same.
  • We’re not all in this together.
  • Thinking it’s the same is wrong.
  • Have different conversations.

The Whole Story:

Tuesday, we ended Day 2 with an Elluminate session connecting the e-Personnel here in Eastern Cape with folks back in the States attending ISTE.

Thanks to Steve Hargadon for hooking us with the Elluminate connection. And thanks to Monika Hardy for joining in and talking about the work she’s doing with classrooms around the world.

It was quite the day.

Just before we were ready to reconvene following lunch, we lost connectivity. Here’s what’s funny, connectivity wasn’t an issue for the first few sessions. We were talking about backward design and working with adult learners and workshop design components. Computers were necessary, but not Internet.

After lunch, Google Docs was on the docket. (Geez, I’m witty.)

Then…it wasn’t.

As near as we can figure, some moderate winds in the area blew a telecom cable loose down the road. Telecommunications from here to Port Elizabeth were down.

There’s a dangerous trap to being here. Similarities can seduce. In an attempt to connect to the environment, to seem a part of rather than apart from, my mind went to “We have so much in common.”

That is the visible.

The invisible is not the same.

During the Elluminate session, a guest said, “I have a feeling we’re not so different.”

We may not be, but our situations are.

Picture a training for all the district technology coordinators for your state. Now, picture the Internet going down due to moderate winds.

What’s the reaction?

Would they sit as though nothing had happened?

We’re talking district-level folks as well as the heads of technology integration for the state.

My guess would be a series of hardy “harumphs.”

Here, there was no surprise.

Not the same.

What if your state was pushing to get every school connected to the Internet? What if several districts said no because they didn’t have electricity and then argued further that they didn’t want to get a generator to power connectivity because they knew the reliability of the generator would likely play havoc with or destroy the equipment if they had it?

Is that happening where you are?

This is me out on a limb saying, likely no.

What’s more, the local press would probably be on the story in hours.

Not the same.

What if the telecom provider your district contracted with honored the legally-required 50 percent e-rate for connectivity, but treated your school as a third-class consumer, arguing that the American satellite they contracted with to get their connectivity didn’t give them a 50 percent reduction for their account? And, no one did anything.

Again, the press, the parents, the district, all stakeholders would be on the line looking for answers.

Here, scenarios 1 and 2 above are such a part of life that snubbery by an international corporation seems par for the course.

Not the same.

I’ve more time to think on this over the next few weeks.

For those of you at ISTE this week, look at your programs. Where are the sessions about building connectivity across the world?

Where are the conversations about the importance of everyone’s voice?

Are we doing so greatly if we’re leaving so many behind?

Does having a “connected” classroom in North America matter when only 25.6 percent of the world’s population has access to the Internet?

When we talk of having our students collaborate with students around the world, do we celebrate the success AND tell the story of the road their partner countries had to walk to find access?

If information is currency and the haves and the have nots are finding themselves more and more separated, we’re fooling ourselves if we think it won’t lead to great troubles down the road.

What are you doing?