Hello Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors (wherever you are),
As you know, my name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board, District 3. I am sure that you have many questions for me. I am here is answer any questions that you have. Please feel free to ask me about my views of education, my beliefs about learning, or anything else you want to know about me. I will give you a straight answer even if I think it isn’t the answer you want to here. To start, here is a little bit about me.
• I was born in Melbourne, Florida in 1969.
• I have lived in Indialantic, Florida, Melbourne, Florida, Tampa, Florida, Palm Bay, Florida, Merritt Island, Florida, Brookings, South Dakota, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Sycamore, Illinois, and now Evans, Georgia.
• I have a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from South Dakota State University, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University Central Florida.
• I have been a high school English teacher, a high school program coordinator, and a college professor.
• Outside of education, I have been a dishwasher, a farm manager, worked in a library, a gas station clerk, worked at a lakeside resort doing whatever needed to be done, and an editor.
• Politically, I am liberal. But, this is a non-partisan race and I am about improving education.
• I have two daughters that are 16 and 18.
• I was married for 22 years (together 27). She died of liver and kidney failure in March 2015.
• I have found a wonderful new person in my life.
• I am a writer and musician.
• I listen to all types of music. My favorites are metal and punk. My least favorites are rap and country (although I do listen to both from time to time).
• My favorite book is Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. My favorite popular book is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
• I love the Beat poets and the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance.
• My favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen.
• I am Buddhist.
• I am a vegetarian. It is mostly just for health reasons. I am trying to get in shape.
• I love fishing, but rarely do it.
• I used to play and coach soccer. More than 25 years of experience.
There is a lot more, but that is a start. Let me know what you want to know.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It has been a while since an update. The main reason for the delay has been my job as a faculty member in the College of Education and Augusta University. I have been teaching two different classes that are closely related. The subject? Place-based education. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this term, place-based education is an educational idea in which the content of the classroom is based on the community and local issues. Instead of studying the rainforest in elementary school, study the Georgia forest. Study local history, economics, literature, art, biology, chemistry, agriculture and business. Get community leaders and businesses involved in the schools. Teach students to cherish the community, the people, and the environment.
For those who might question this vision, what is it that we want our children to know and to be able to do? Do we want students to know history or think like a historian? If we want them to read, does it matter what they read? Why not read something that has context? Beowulf? Separated by time and culture and language? Use local literature.
A popular argument against this idea is that if you only learn about what is local, what if you move? Learning about where you live is transferrable. If you know where to look, what to look for, and how to find things, you can live anywhere. However, learning about where you live also causes students to appreciate where they live. In turn, there is less violence, less vandalism, and a greater since of community. Volunteerism goes up. People help each other. And, communities tend to thrive.
Now, there are three issues here. It isn’t about only teaching what is local. I am not advocating abandoning what we do in schools. I am talking about enhancing and making education relevant. Second, what about standards? There is ample research suggesting that teaching just to standards limits education. Getting the students interested in what they are learning does more toward improving test scores than the drill and kill that we do now. Finally, what about tradition? We all know we learn in school. The problem is that this doesn’t really change. As things advance in science, math, literature, historical knowledge, business, music, art, and technology, our schools are not following along. We still insist on teaching the same things that the generations past learned. We are locked into a curriculum that doesn’t move forward. That is okay. How many times in your life have you been crippled by not knowing Shakespeare, the date of a war, or endoplasmic reticulum (wow…I spelled that right on the first try). Yes, if you are an English major, a historian, or a biologist, that is important. But, for everyone? By making education locally relevant, to learn the subjects in the context of place, education comes alive.
In schools, we need to create thinkers, historians, writers, musicians, farmers, graphic designers, mathematicians, and scientists. We need our schools to teach skills that will allow students to do things, not just know things. We need teachers to have the freedom to teach creativity and critical thinking over characters, numbers, and places. We need forward thinking schools and not schools that are stuck in the past.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board—District 3. The election date is May 22, 2018. I urge you to vote. I prefer you to vote for me, but most importantly, be a part of the process of democracy.
PS—I would appreciate any support you can give to my campaign. I am finding that even the smallest things (website support, advertising, etc.) quickly add up. If everyone were able to give $10, I would be set for now. I have been looking into the costs of yard signs and other campaign items (buttons, pens, shirts) and they are expensive.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It has been a few weeks since I have posted. I felt like I was overdoing it a bit with posts and requests for support. But, with the election less than a year away I believe that you need and deserve to know me as I want to know you. So, I am going to post more regularly about issues in education, my views, things about me, and issues that I think we should be discussing.
I have been giving a lot of thought to the conversations that have been going on about guns, race, sexuality, health care, taxes, religion, travel, Russia, obstruction, political parties, and ideologies. The rhetoric is brutal, violent, and dismissive. People from both sides are using any information that they find online as evidence of their side. With this inundation of information, it is important to be able to sift through mess and formulate an idea of what is really going on.
Here is the problem. Information is persuasive. The information doesn’t have to be correct, true, or reliable. But, if it fits someone’s worldview, it holds weight. With sites like Occupy Democrats, Infowars, Breitbart, U.S. Uncut, Red State, and Addicting Info all using sensationalism and confirmation bias to further strengthen beliefs, it isn’t surprising that we are getting more and more fractured as a society. In addition, there are bloggers out there that write with seeming facts, but are just opinion pieces that do the same. Even the legitimate media has bias (Huffington Post and Fox News) that does the same.
I read news from across the spectrum. On my Sirius XM radio, I have the BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN saved as sources. When a story comes up, I listen to each to hear the different perspectives. I subscribe to the Economist and Time for print media. I gather information from the New York Times and Washington Post. I go online to read the National Review and The Guardian.
What does this mean to me? As a candidate for the Columbia County School Board I want to push students toward being critical thinkers. I want our children to be able to gather information, evaluate that information, weigh the validity of information, and come to conclusions based on rationality and the ability to discern what is real by the accumulation of knowledge.
However, this isn’t only about news and politics. This same skill set can be applied to literature, science, history, and any other content area. Being able to process and use information is an essential skill that we all need.
Democracy isn’t easy. Democracy requires effort. Democracy requires people to understand the world around them and to be able to not be bullied into believing a single world view. Democracy requires people to be able to think for themselves and not be blinded by anger, hate, bigotry, or fear. This goes on both sides of the spectrum.
As someone that has devoted his life to education and to the education of all members of our society (from high school to grad school), we need to strip away the mandates and assessments that are crippling critical and creative thinking. Yes, many individual teachers do a great job in individual classrooms, but the system is set up for a conformity of thought, compliance, and regurgitative knowledge. As we move forward, society needs to be able to think. Students need to develop a love for reading. Students need to be challenged to think critically. Students need to be creative problem solvers.
With all of that in mind, as a school board member and lifelong advocate for education, I want to help create a school district that is not shackled by assessments and test prep and the standardization of thought. I support the expansion programs that challenge students to think critically and creatively.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the School Board of Columbia County, Georgia.
With the exception of one year, I have been a students or teacher my entire life. I have been a public school student, earned three degrees, taught overseas, been a public school teacher and program coordinator, and have 10 years of experience in higher education as a faculty member in education. One thing that has grown for me throughout my life in education is that we need an education that focuses on critical and creative thinking for all students.
There are many people that think our education system is a failure. They cite the numbers where students aren’t able to read or do math. Test scores are published and schools are admonished for failure. The question is, what do these scores mean? What is this culture of testing and assessment doing to education?
I argue that these tests are only singular measure rooted in time and place. They do not represent the year or years of learning that have occurred. The public demands accountability for schools, but in doing so has reduced education to a system of standards, assessments and scores. Many teachable moments are lost due to intense focus on the “success” of these tests. Students are not individuals; they are numbers and scores.
Schools are not a failure. Could they be better? Of course. But, so could medicine, law, construction, retail, hospitality and any other profession. Diane Ravitch notes that the failure of our school system is a myth perpetuated by textbook companies and politicians to create a need for profit and control. Students graduating from schools are doing great things. Science, technology, engineering, literature, music….they are all progressing. Innovations are happening. We are creating new and great things.
However, I believe that schools are declining because of assessment. Education has been refocused onto testable knowledge, not critical and creative thinking. Are schools in a state of complete disarray? Not at all. But, we can do better. Our schools and school systems are being shackled by testing Movements to cut funding and move it into the private sector (vouchers, charter school corporations) and dismantling are deteriorating the structure of the public education system. Cuts to the arts, special education, and CTAE (career, technical, and agricultural engineering) are reframing the narrative of a public education for all.
This is why I am running for the school board. I have 21 years of experience as a professional educator. I have been a public school teacher, program coordinator, teacher educator, and professor of advanced educational studies. Columbia County Schools are known for being some of the best in the state. Much of this is due to the test scores. We can make Columbia County Schools not only high in the rankings, but renowned for innovative curriculum and teaching, creative programs, forward thinking teachers, and educators with an eye for progress.
Here is what I want to do:
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board. If you would like to support my campaign and the education of our children (and I think you do), please consider donating at http://gofundme.com/kemp4ccboe/.
In educational circles, there is term coined, “Best Practices.” Best practices are taught in virtually every teacher education program. Teach for America uses them. There are books, papers, professional learning days, and conference strands on best practices. Best practices are point of order for the education and training of teachers.
The term makes sense. Why wouldn’t we want to do what is best for the practice for teaching? However, this term is a misnomer. Best practices and the best practices for the middle. They are the techniques that work for the students that hover near the middle of the first standard deviation. They influence the ‘most’ people. Perhaps that is the term we should use. The most practices.
With the exception of some specialty programs in urban education, best practices are actually the best practices for the majority, suburban culture. In fact, teacher education is geared toward the majority, suburban culture. Yes, there are classes on special education and multicultural education. But, these are add-ons. They are taught as additional to the curriculum of how to teach.
Education is about all students. While best practices help with certain skills, the goal of our educational system should be to give equal opportunity to all students. We need to focus on urban education. We need to focus on rural education. We need to focus on education for critical thinking. We need to focus on education for creativity. And yes, we need to focus on the majority, suburban culture. But, not just the middle.
Right now teachers, administrators and district level leaders have their hands tied by testing. They focus on best practices so make the most people score well on the tests. Life is about more than tests. Life is about more than speaking to the majority. Life is about developing the skills and knowledge to be able to think.
The other day I was privy to a conversation with some administrators in a local school district (not Columbia County) in which the topic was school improvement. Understand, I have my own personal views about how to improve schools which I have introduced previously and will continue to do so. However, this conversation stunned me. While the goal was change and improvement, the entire focus was how to do it within the notion of standards, the system, and assessment.
I understand why. This is where we are in education. What we do is mandated. The goal is to master national and state created standards. At the same time, the mantra is about critical and creative thinking. In my opinion, this creates and incompatible system.
Why you may ask? Schools are judged on test scores. They can be state scores, SAT/ACT scores, Milestones tests or reading batteries. The goal of education is to measure. However, critical and creative thinking are more difficult to measure. How do you measure inspiration? How do you measure creative problem solving? How do you measure and true understanding of society? Because of the reductionist view of education, deconstructing knowledge into measureable elements, schools are paralyzed into a relatively singular notion of success.
Administrators have become educational managers. According to Stever Robbins of Entrepreneur Magazine, “Leaders are the heart of a business. The essence of leadership means inspiring a group to come together for a common goal. Leaders motivate, console and work with people to keep them bonded and eager to move forward. That means setting a direction, communicating it to everyone who will listen (and probably many who won't) and keeping people psyched when times get tough. Managers are the brains of a business. They establish systems, create rules and operating procedures, and put into place incentive programs and the like. Management, however, is about the business, not the people; the people are important as a way of getting the job done.”
Administrators should be curriculum leaders and instructional leaders. As a curriculum leader, they should help teachers create learning opportunities. They should rely on the teachers’ expertise is designing experiences that a filled with opportunities for critical and creative thinking. As instructional leaders, administrators should push teachers to be innovative in their methods, utilize technology as a tool for learning (not as the learning), and create learning situations that push students to expand their understandings of the world.
Until we think of learning as an ongoing process that can’t always be measured, learning will continue to stagnate. Therefore, I argue that by reducing the influence of assessments, scores, and measurement of students, we can allow our educational leaders to lead, not just manage the system.
Please excuse any typos.
In a recent post, in which I espoused a penchant for experiential and place-based education, an online conversation swerved to charter schools, standardized testing and Pearson, private education, and the SAT/ACT. Instead of trying to respond as a series of posts, I decided to attack them all in one long post. So, here it goes.
As far as charter schools go, I am not a fan. I know that as a person running for the School Board in Columbia County (where there is a new charter school opening) this might not be the most popular opinion. However, in Columbia County, it is a done deal. Therefore, I give my support to the school that is opening. My biggest issue is the way charter schools have been implemented. Sometimes they are run by charter school organizations. These are for-profit organizations that are trying to make money with public funds. If they fail, they were still paid. While that only applies to 13% of charter schools, the others are funded publicly. When a charter school opens, they are funded with resources from the district in which they reside. Extra money is not added. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (this name is a misnomer…charter schools are public), this is a selling point. It doesn’t cost the state any more. However, it does dilute the money in the district. Another selling point in the “innovations” that charter schools can offer. Again, according to the NAPCS, these include:
My point is that why not do this at public schools?
The second point was testing and Pearson Education. Right now, the curriculum in our schools is being controlled by the textbook corporations. They need to sell textbooks. They want to make profits. So, a system of testing was created (if you look at who wrote the common core it is mostly people at the College Board) that requires books to make students pass. They make schools tied to pre-purchased programs and canned curriculum. Sometimes the tests are updated. New materials. Sometimes the rules changes. New materials. Schools become secondary to textbook profits.
The third point, private education, is completely different. That is a personal choice. There are some private schools that are amazing. Others limit education for religious reasons. The biggest issue is equity. Private schools have to be paid for. That immediately leaves out a huge part of the population. I know there are scholarships, but even then, they are limited. Again, why not use those things in public schools.
Finally, the SAT/ACT. Another money making scheme. Test prep. Test costs. School courses. Prep books. All of these things to help people reach for the golden goose.
So, what does all of this mean? The quest for profit is killing education. I am not saying that people don’t have a right to make a profit. But, right now, the mighty dollar is controlling the content, the delivery, and structure of our education system. When I first started teaching, I was in the Republic of the Marshall Islands teaching English as a second language in a native school on the island of Majuro. We had a ditto machine. We had 23, fifteen-year-old textbooks. Half the year we didn’t have plumbing. A lot of the time we didn’t have electricity. You know I what I did? I taught. I learned to teach by teaching. Myself and a colleague (my dear friend, Vasemaca Savu) started a national speech competition. We started a handwritten school newspaper. And the students learned. We had little money. As teachers, we were creative. We were thoughtful.
I am a proponent of letting teachers teach. Let administrators be educational leaders, not bookkeepers. Let counselors counsel and not administer tests. Education should be about critical and creative thinking. But, it should also be about critical and creating teaching.
Addendum: I would like to stand corrected about some of the assumptions that I made based on charter schools being funded by districts. If the state sets the charter, the state pays. Thank you, Michael Berg.
Our educational system is rooted in tradition. The prototypical classroom setup, with the teacher at the front, and rows of students in the room can be traced back to the Jesuit classrooms of the 1500s. As a collector of antique grammar and literature books, you would be surprised how similar textbooks are from the early 1800s (with the exception of new writers). In fact, much of what we teach on school is based on tradition. I am not saying that these traditions are important, but there is so much more to the world.
Because of this, I am a staunch believer in experiential and place-based education. Experiential education is an educational theory that the best learning comes from doing things. Along the same lines, place-based education is a theory that stems from the belief that you should learn based on where you live. Combined, this teaches students to not only learn the skills that are intended, but learn the skills in the context of the community, life, and practicality.
As a professor at Augusta University, I teach two classes on place-based education. In one of these classes I always make the following argument. It seems that in every elementary school there is a unit on the tropical rain forest. In this unit, students learn about animals, the layers of the forest, and the ecosystem.
My point? Why not go outside? We have forests. There are layers. There are animals. And we have ecosystems. Instead of learning about the forest in as an idea, let students touch trees, feel the dirt, see the sun shining through the layers of forest. Things can be measured, counted, and surveyed. Students can write about it. Students can learn the history of the area or create environmental art.
Too often we limit our classroom to the classroom. Our classroom should be the world.
So, I have been trying to think of criticisms of me running for the school board. First, I think the idea of a school board being made up of members of the community is important. Schools are a reflection of the community in many ways. In turn, members of a school board should reflect the socio-economic, cultural, and social diversity of an area. However, too often, schools boards to not contain educators. In fact, according to the National School Board Association, 73% of school board members are not educators. In addition, 69% describe themselves and moderate or conservative.
Back to my original point. I am an educator (11 year classroom teacher, M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from South Dakota State University and Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida, and current professor of education and Augusta University), and although an independent, a liberal. I think that both of these are important to the schools of Columbia County. First, I think that my background in education will serve the district well, Second, I won't let my politics interfere with what is best for the students of Columbia County. The school board is made up of five people that vote on issues. Therefore, one voice will only enhance the conversation.
If you look across the professions, doctors are on medical boards. Lawyers are in the Bar Association. Perhaps it is time that professional educators are on the school board.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the School Board of Columbia County.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe that testing is destroying the very nature of public education. While in my previous post I noted standardized testing, other tests, quizzes, test review, and the use of study guides is creating an education of assessment and not an education of ideas. Each year, less and less new information is offered to students. In fact, school are basically the same as they ever have been, but with less new content.
In addition, many of the changes and mandates in our educational system don’t make sense. We are asking students that are younger and younger to do things they are not ready to do. We want them to read younger. We want them to do more advanced math at a younger age. Things that used to be the norm for the 5th grade are now done in 2nd grade. And what suffers? The children.
To make sure everyone is reading younger, doing more advanced math, and ‘being on grade level’ we have cut art programs, music programs, and recess. What happened to the days when kindergarten was about learning to get along? Socialization? Now the day is pack with 70 minutes blocks of reading instruction. Stations with math manipulatives.
Don’t get me wrong. These things are important. But at the expense of art? Coloring? Clay? Music? Dance? Recess? Physical Education?
If we want future generations to be critical and creative thinkers, we must not just focus on academics. We must focus on the mind and body. Knowledge and culture. Math and Music. Academics and art.
As a former public school teacher, current education professor, and parent of two daughters in our public schools, I have come to have a few realizations about school counselors. Here is what they do:
According to ASCA, "School counselors are certified/licensed educators with a minimum of a master's degree in school counseling, making them uniquely qualified to address all students' academic, career, and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating, and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success."
This is a draft.
As a professional educator, it has come to my attention through practice and study that our education system is in a bad state. Before you get irate, this isn't about teachers. This isn't about schools. This isn't about administrators. And, yet, it is. This is about testing.
Testing has become the end all of education. According to a student by the American Federation of Teachers (2013), student can spend from 20-50 hours testing per year in some grades. In addition, another 60-110 hours are spent on test preparation. And that is not the worst of it.
Because districts, schools, administrators, and teachers a judged on the test scores, these assessments become the sole focus of the education system. Critical and creative thought are smothered by bubble sheets and short answered responses.
As a school board member, I would work to make tests less important. Let our schools be celebrated for creating stimulating learning environments, implementing innovative ideas, and promoting critical thinking and creative endeavors. Let the schools of Columbia County be know for helping students become successful in life and not just successful on tests.
Did you know that according to the Governance in Accountability Era booklet about school boards, it notes that only about 27% of school board members are educators. My own research (from my Master's degree) found that being an educator includes things like being a teacher, and administrator, a substitute, or the president of the PTO.
As an educator, I would bring my experience and knowledge about education to Columbia County. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on my Facebook page or at email@example.com.
Democracy isn't easy. Democracy requires work. As a member of a democracy, you must stay informed on both sides of an issue. Most importantly, you should be active. I am not speaking about just voting, although this is important. I mean that we should all be a part of the conversation.
And that is why I am working on being on the Columbia County School Board. I want to make a difference.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.