"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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Share the Responsibility

Read this article...then come back and take the quiz.

Charter schools’ failed promise

QUIZ

1. The Ohio charter school law was established by
A. district superintendents
B. educators
C. legislators
D. students
2. The article didn't list, but implied who the responsible parties are for improving the "Big 8" urban school districts performance. They are:
A. legislators
B. students
C. educators
D. parents
E. all of the above
3. On the whole, how are the charter schools in this article performing?
A. Better than public schools.
B. Worse than public schools.
C. Approximately the same as public schools.
If you answered C to all three questions give yourself a perfect score for comprehension.

It's simple, really. Legislators, most or all of whom haven't worked in a public school since they were students (assuming they actually went to and worked at public schools), decided that charter schools were the answer to the low achievement of the "Big 8" Ohio urban districts. Educators were given sole responsibility for improving schools. This is the status quo pattern in American public education today: The "reformers" -- legislators, millionaires and billionaires, edupreneurs, and their underlings and mouthpieces -- are responsible for making the rules about public education. Educators are responsible for student performance based on those rules.
Fed up with persistently poor student results in Ohio’s eight largest urban school districts, Republican state legislators enacted a law in 1997 allowing charter schools to locate exclusively within the boundaries of the “Big 8” systems.

Sixteen years later, charters statewide performed almost exactly the same on most measures of student achievement as the urban schools they were meant to reform, results released under a revamped Ohio report-card system show. And when it comes to graduating seniors after four years of high school, the Big 8 performed better.

...But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.
I'm going to take a chance and make a wild assumption that those schools which performed the lowest also had the highest levels of poverty among their students, which means that schools are, once again, charged with the responsibility of single-handedly raising test scores and overcoming the effects of poverty on students and their families.

Has the entire country swallowed a vat-full of stupid? This series of events has been repeated across the country over and over again and no one seems to notice that it doesn't work.

Let me spell it out for you, America...

1. Charter schools (or other privately run schools) won't solve all the problems facing public education.
2. Holding educators solely responsible for student achievement is, at this point, insane. School districts, schools and educators can't do it alone. Public policy must reflect a commitment to ending poverty, unemployment, and lack of health care.
3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

I want to say that one again...louder.

3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

You can't make children learn just by raising or changing "standards," increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.

Here are some ideas for legislators -- Ohio and elsewhere...

1. Spend as much time on solving the issues surrounding poverty (homelessness, mental health problems, health care, unemployment, etc.) as you do campaigning or listening to lobbyists.
2. Make sure that every child in your state has adequate food, health care, housing and safety.
3. Fully fund classrooms, and not just your state's test and punish program.
4. Let teachers teach.

And here's another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind...
Legislators, other politicians, and policy makers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.
If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America's public school system would become the envy of the world.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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