"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

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Turnaround" Brings Upheaval, Not Help

Here's another item for the omg-why-didn't-we-think-of-this-(sarcasm intended)-file. The headline in the story is, New Study Finds Current School Turnaround Policies are “More Likely to Cause Upheaval Than to Help”

Let's look at the problems with the way schools are turned around, according to the study...

1. Replacement of staff (aka "churn"): Struggling schools are difficult enough to staff. If you fire half the staff, where are you going to find replacement teachers?

2. Turn arounds are a top down decision. In Chicago, school board members didn't even attend the "We're closing your school" meetings:
...many experts consider community engagement critical for turnarounds to succeed...It is extremely important to engage those most impacted by turnaround: families, community members and teachers in targeted schools, usually in racially and socio-economically segregated areas...These groups are our biggest assets in improving education. They can help plan and implement turnaround strategies that are tailored to each school and community and they have roots in the community to ensure a reform lasts overtime.
3. Cutting budgets, raising class sizes, the schools which are left are required to do more with less:
First among the recommendations is increasing current federal and state spending for public education, particularly as it is allocated for turnaround-style reforms.“Real change requires real investment in teaching and learning,” Trujillo states. “Though closing a school and firing teachers make great headlines, the real work of educating our students is about providing all young people with engaging and supported learning environments, high-quality teachers and rich opportunities to learn and succeed.”
So instead of cutting budgets and closing schools...instead of firing teachers and principals and bringing in inexperienced beginners, research says we need to have a collaborative effort between all stakeholders -- teachers and the community -- and provide full funding to improve struggling schools. We need to support schools not close them.
Evidence shows that top-down, punitive efforts that are currently in vogue are ineffective and counterproductive. A collaborative, community-driven approach combined with significant, sustained financial investment and a focus on teaching and learning has been proven to be the better path to school improvement.
Ok, now, is anyone surprised at this? Does anyone expect anything to change?

I would love someone to prove to me that the top-down imposition of damage done to our neediest students is being done by people who are really caring, just misguided, and not by people who are just trying to suck as much money out of the public education system as they can...

I guess proof would be someone with some power (yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. President), saying something like, "Wow, that research shows that we've been doing things wrong. It's time to change."

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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