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Alum advances dialogue

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first_imgA Notre Dame graduate who now works as Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Instruction spoke Tuesday about education reform and the progress he has encouraged during his tenure. Michael Flanagan’s talk “Education Reform-Mongering: A Practitioner’s Perspective” in Carole Sandner Hall was the latest event in the Notre Dame Forum 2011-12: Reimagining School. Flanagan said the most pressing challenge for today’s educators is addressing the needs of the urban and poor. Sharing his experience of growing up in a working class family on Long Island, N.Y., he said education plays a critical role in realizing one’s potential. “I think there’s a certain point that when you see other people believe in you, it changes your whole trajectory,” Flanagan said. Flanagan said his critical point was when he had to adapt to his new environment after his family moved from Brooklyn to Long Island.  Flanagan said when a teacher informed him he would be placed in the “89er” program, he assumed it meant he was going to “be put on the short bus” because he was a troublemaker. However, he said it turned out to be the opposite ­— a program for talented eighth graders who would be given ninth grade work.  “It taught me a lesson that so much of this [education] is about expectations that you have for every child, and that almost without exception they can reach great heights if we believe in them,” Flanagan said. While it is important to believe all kids can learn, Flanagan said change cannot be conceptualized until we begin to act on an individual level.  “You have to be careful to design reforms that don’t make you feel good about all [the children, and in the process] forget to reach down to every child,” he said.  Even after 30 years as a local, regional and state superintendent, Flanagan said he continues to act on the lesson he learned early on in his career when he examined a particular district: the need to improve the quality of education is more important than what people want to hear.  “Overall, they were high achieving, but they didn’t look at individual schools,” he said. “I said that I bet we’re just like everyone else, that we’re losing women in science by high school.” When he brought his findings to public attention, the reactions were far from positive, he said.  “The headline the next day didn’t help me: ‘New superintendent comes to town, girls test scores go down,’” Flanagan said. “That and the reaction taught me a real lesson that you have to be willing to realize that change is easier said than done, that you have to confront the status quo.” Flanagan said one of his most recent pushes for reform has been to raise the “cut scores,” or the cut-off score that students have to attain on standardized tests to be considered at grade level, which encourages greater achievement in Michigan schools.  “All we did was raise the bar, and even though fewer kids could jump over that bar, we saw that they all ended up jumping higher than they did before,” he said. Flanagan said his other goals include providing free ACT testing to all Michigan students, improving reading proficiency levels, establishing tenure procedures that protect teachers and require achievement and developing ways to address the varied needs of Michigan’s children. The Notre Dame graduate said at times, critics have targeted his Catholic faith.  “I’m very concerned with determining what’s right for the kids, and I know that some of this process is painful for the adults involved,” Flanagan said. “I know that’s part of the job.” Fr. Tim Scully, director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the Center for Social Concerns, said this is due to Catholicism’s clearly defined positions on these contentious issues. “Unlike some religions, we have a social teaching, that for example, takes a position in regards to parent choice. All parents should have the opportunity to choose a decent school for their kids,” Scully said. “Because this tradition has this teaching, it implies a certain stake in the ground in debates.” Surprisingly, Flanagan said the economic downturn in Michigan helped them to enact these reforms.  “We wouldn’t get some of these reforms and innovations if we had enough money where we could just keep throwing money [at problems,]” Flanagan said. “[It’s not] that money makes no difference, but … you almost have to use it as an excuse to revamp the whole system.” Scully said Flanagan’s speech continued the Forum’s focus on broad development in education reform.  “I think Mike Flanagan is an example of a leader who has entered into a really contended field and has made a difference because of his deep empathy,” Scully said. “We hope that the people here today will leave asking questions, and at a Catholic university these questions are exactly the kind of questions that we ought to be raising.”last_img read more

Run defense, job security down in this week’s stock watch

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first_imgSyracuse (3-6, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) football hit a new low on Saturday against Boston College, falling to the Eagles, 58-27, and allowing 496 rushing yards in the process. The Orange started as well as they could’ve asked for on offense, jumping out to a 17-10 lead by the end of the first quarter. The ensuing period was one of the worst ever in the program’s history, as SU was outscored 34-3 and quickly saw the game and its season slip away. Defensive coordinator Brian Ward was fired the next day by head coach Dino Babers, who “felt a change needed to be made.” To automatically qualify for a bowl game, Syracuse must now win its final three games, which include a pair of road games and a season finale at home against No. 22 Wake Forest.Here’s whose stock is up and down after the Orange’s most recent disappointment.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn what seemed like the first week in ages that fans weren’t calling for DeVito’s head after the game, the redshirt sophomore turned in another strong performance. DeVito threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception for the fourth straight game. He’s quietly on pace for 2,767 yards and 20 touchdowns — which would both be top-five marks in Syracuse history — and looks to be past his early-season turnover struggles. A lot of blame can be placed on players and coaches on this team for Syracuse’s struggles this year, but DeVito doesn’t deserve much of it. Despite all of the issues surrounding this SU team of late, it’s been generally solid at taking care of the football. After committing 11 turnovers in the opening five games of the season, the Orange have coughed the ball up just once in the last four, which ironically have all been losses. And while Syracuse’s nation-leading 21-game takeaway streak ended last week against Florida State, a new one began versus the Eagles. Andre Cisco led the way, first forcing a fumble on BC’s Hunter Long before contributing to another forced fumble on the Eagles’ next possession, which was officially given to Trill Williams. Yikes. Syracuse’s run defense was in this same section last week after allowing Cam Akers to lead Florida State’s 241 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Somehow, the run defense got significantly worse against the Eagles, who more than doubled that yardage total and also poured on five rushing scores. Coming into the game, everyone knew what Boston College’s game plan would be: Run, run and run the ball some more. In his weekly press conference prior to the game, Dino Babers said it “would not be good” if Syracuse can’t find a way to stop AJ Dillon and David Bailey. He was right. The Orange defense, at one point this season the strength of the team, looked as lost as it has all year. Aside from its lack of contributions to stopping the run, SU’s defensive line was also non-existent in the passing game. Granted, the Eagles only threw the ball 10 times on Saturday, but Syracuse failed to reach quarterback Dennis Grosel on any of those drop backs — failing to record a sack for the second time all season. All-ACC defensive ends Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman tied for last on the team with one tackle each and both failed to register a single quarterback hit. Yes, Boston College has one of the best offensive lines in the ACC and arguably the best running back in the conference. But that’s no excuse for a no-show of a performance by SU’s defensive line.Babers had said earlier this season that “everybody’s job is in jeopardy,” and that was before two embarrassing losses to Florida State and Boston College. Changes are finally being made, as with defensive coordinator Brian Ward, who’s two years removed from being a nominee for the Broyles Award, given to the best assistant coach in the country. Additionally, true freshman running back Jawhar Jordan saw his most playing time ever and responded well, finishing with more yards than both Moe Neal and Abdul Adams. Fellow true freshman Mikel Jones also received significant playing time, making four tackles and furthering the argument for younger players to receive more snaps. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on November 4, 2019 at 10:45 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34last_img read more