Sunday at 10 am, Becky Martinez, an instructional coach at Denver’s Bruce Randolph School, will take the stage at Rockefeller Center in New York City as a participant in a national Teacher Town Hall, hosted by NBC’s Brian Williams and covered live by the network.
This will be her second year participating in the event, and it comes fresh off her first visit to the White House, where she was named a Champion of Change for her work at Bruce Randolph.
Martinez says she knows she will be asked about DPS’s new metrics for measuring teacher effectiveness, but she says such questions beg a more important question:
“I have my own question for teachers, leaders, and policymakers participating in the summit. Before the rest of the nation begins designing and launching new ways to measure teacher effectiveness, what exactly is it that our public education system should be effective at accomplishing?” she asks.
What she says impoverished students need as much as academic achievement, are the skills to advocate for themselves in a world that is tilted against the poor–and especially against poor people of color.
“What do I think our public education system should be effective at accomplishing? I think our students deserve a system that effectively prepares them for college and a 21st century job, but also gives our impoverished students from historically oppressed and marginalized families the advocacy and diplomatic communication skills they need to become peaceful activists navigating the power dynamics and conflicts that impede their access to opportunity. Before this is possible, however, we must recognize that the importance of the latter is not inherently in the minds of the teachers, school leaders, and policymakers who grew up without needing these skills.
Until we find a way to effectively teach our most struggling students both of the aforementioned skill sets, we will continue to watch their frustrations escalate into destructive and often violent efforts to retaliate against an unfair world. We cannot make the world fair, but we can teach students drowning in the most unfair of circumstances how to peacefully navigate the injustices impacting their lives.”
She says that while test scores and academic success is important, so is helping kids to gain self confidence and the sense that they can create a good life for themselves–and that, she says, is hard to measure in a standardized test.
When designing our education systems and curricula, we must consider the entire scope of students’ lives: the skills they need in academics, as well as the skills needed by our most vulnerable students to conquer the violence, oppression, and marginalization that impede success for even the most academically proficient among them.
Martinez is featured on the White House’s Champions of Change web site, where we found this video of her talking about what it means to empower a young person to find their place in the world.
Martinez was invited to the White House earlier this year to meet with educational advisers. She says going to the White House and participating in events like the Town Hall help her in her job of helping other teachers do their best.
She is also a teacher fellow at the Hope Street Group, a non-profit dedicated to helping people create opportunity for people who traditionally have had little.
From the Hope Street web site:
In an Opportunity Economy, all people have fair access to markets for jobs, homes, and capital; all children have educational opportunities that allow them to fully realize their potential; and government burdens are lifted – especially for those who are just beginning to develop their earning power and build their savings. In an Opportunity Economy, people are encouraged to take risks and invest in themselves. As a result, small businesses thrive, large businesses have a workforce that is prepared to maintain their competitive edge in the global economy, and the number of families able to join the ranks of the middle class swells in size.
“At Hope Street, we try to figure out what impedes people from economic opportunity, and we’ve found two of the biggest things are education and health care. In education, having effective teachers is the biggest step toward kids having opportunities to succeed in life,” she said.
If the primary goal of schools is to get kids ready for college, Martinez said there is a fundamental disconnect with kids who are in the country without legal documentation and also with other kids who think they can’t afford college.
“Kids need academic skills. Being able to read and write well and to speak confidently can impact their success right now, whether they go to college or not,” she says.