Sunday, April 18, 2010

US Education: More Adventures in Missing the Point

I read a very disturbing article this week in the Salt Lake Tribune.  It seems the Federal Government is going to offer Utah money in exchange for changes to be made in up to 60 of our lowest scoring schools.  Though my school did not make the list, I am sure we were pretty close.  What the Feds want in exchange for the money is either:
  • Replace the principals and half their teachers.
  • Convert into charter schools.
  • Close their doors. 
  • Replace the principal and improve the school through curriculum reform, training for educators, extending learning time and other strategies.
The running theme here is that the key factor driving these student scores is the school.  I have stated this before in previous articles, but if the variable in the equation of student progress were the schools, then we should be seeing a more random distribution of successful and failing schools across socio/economic/location lines.  Yet it is very easy to predict under what socio/econoic/location circumstances schools will be successful... and under which they will not.

Nevertheless our nation's leaders, and many of the constituents they serve, seem determined to punish teachers for choosing to teach in the wrong place.

My daughter is in the sixth grade. From her earliest ages, she has been read to, had rich life experiences, a good diet, regular bed times, and protection from experiences she is not cognitively and emotionally ready for. Compare that to many of the sixth graders I teach who have very limited exposure to rich vocabulary and educational experience, who stay up till all hours tending to themselves, who have been watching violent and sexual movies since they were infants, and whose diet is primarily provided by Frito-Lay. To think that, on the whole, these two sets of life experiences will produce equal academic results is blindly idealistic. Yet, our nation seems determined to punish the principals and teachers of these inner city schools for not magically compensating for the different circumstances of these children.

However, my more immediate question is : Here in Utah, which would our legislature prefer?  To see  ANOTHER swipe taken at our public schools?  Or the chance to take up the "posture" of Utah thumbing their nose at the Federal Government?

Both good choices from their vantage I am sure.


Don said...

Amen, sir! You are correct in your assessment.

C. L. Hanson said...

I know what you mean. The US public education system has some very serious problems, and it's very difficult to even begin to solve them when there's so much hostility these days to anything done for the common good.

I wrote a post about it here: Still segregated after all these years: Jonathan Kozol's "The Shame of the Nation".

Related Posts with Thumbnails