"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Don't Throw Your Hands Up and Walk Away

Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University (also read HERE and HERE) recently posted this on Facebook:
There is a growing consensus among both political parties that our public schools must be reformed; there is no such consensus on reducing poverty, ending draconian drug laws, dismantling the prison industrial complex, raising the minimum wage or ending "stop and frisk" policing. There is no evidence that the school reform measures being proposed will have any impact in reducing racial and economic inequality or removing the police state atmosphere in working class and poor communities. It is a diversion, a distraction, or a smokescreen for profiteering and consolidation of privilege-take your pick.
One has to wonder how much could be accomplished if Gates, Broad, Walton, Duncan, et al focused their attention on ending the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. Unfortunately, there's no profit to be made from ending poverty, improving people's lives, or saving public institutions.

Instead of thinking up ways to test kindergartners maybe the "reformers" could find ways to increase the number of students for whom a developmental early childhood education program is available.

Instead of closing public schools in city after city maybe the "reformers" could help public schools improve by providing resources instead of redirecting resources to privatizers.

Instead of shuffling students from one closing school to another thus further reducing their achievement and increasing the drop out rate, maybe the "reformers" could help provide stability to neighborhood schools with support for after school programs, day care, jobs, and community improvements.

Instead of blaming schools and teachers for "failing" maybe the "reformers" could focus on improving the social conditions which lead to failure.

The truth is, we don't have "failing schools." We have a "failing society."

How should we improve public education? Elizabeth Walters, a public school teacher in Louisiana suggests this...
It seems self-evident that one of the best ways to to improve public education would be to allocate more resources for public schools–to improve technology, to expand professional-development opportunities for teachers, to buy classroom supplies, up-to-date textbooks and all the other materials that come with a good education. Perhaps one of the best ways to improve public education would be to loosen the strictures that tie student and school evaluations to test preparation and instead to allow teachers to instruct students in the sort of project-based units supported by educational research and the sort of critical-thinking skills that cannot be measured by filling in bubbles–the sort of academic freedom that is praised in charter schools but restricted in traditional public schools.

Perhaps most importantly, one of the best ways to improve public education would be to work to alleviate those factors beyond teachers’ control that affect students’ ability to learn...unemployment, poverty, violence, crime rates, family instability, childhood hunger, access to health care.
That would be a good start.

In 2007 Candidate Barak Obama told us not to "label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next." Why are we still walking away from America's public schools?
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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