Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

The Real Problem With Public Education And How We Can Fix It (I Think)

bandaid-sidewalk

Wow. The weight of that title is now sinking into my brain… Am I really qualified to delve into this subject?

Well…maybe. The following is more of a summation of things I tend to agree with rather than things that are original in any way.

The Exodus.

Teachers are getting fed up and leaving the profession. They are even quitting their jobs via YouTube.

I don’t blame them… Teachers are under-appreciated, underpaid and not given enough support. They are asked to do more with less every year…and it just keeps getting worse.

So why is public education in such a downward spiral?

The Assumptions.

Some think it is because of policies like…

…differentiation (which is just a fancy word for throwing students of all academic levels into a single class to preserve the precious self-esteem of those at lower levels), do not care to realize that in the effort of preserving the pride of the few they cripple the education of all.

Rather than having to prepare to teach a single class (which is difficult enough), a teacher is given several classes thrown into one and is expected to determine the level of each student and then to create lessons tailored to each student. While this might sound like a wonderful idea to some, the reality is that teachers have neither the time nor the resources to meet these demands. So rather than having the somewhat customized education that students used to receive when divided into classes by ability, the more-able and less-able are educated at the level of the average, so that the less-able are still left behind and the more-able are brought down to average.

“Policies” such as differentiation (which is not a policy but a framework) should not be to blame as the author of this piece suggests. Proclaiming this myth (that it is only a ploy to build up students self-esteem) as one of the reasons why the teaching profession has gone awry is not only false but undermines over a decades worth of research that indicates it increases the achievement of all learners. See this article: http://nrichconsulting.com.s130784.gridserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Leader-handout.pdf

There are SO many other reasons why public education is in shambles…that have nothing to do with what gets characterized as the enemy (Common Core. Differentiated Instruction. Universal Design for Learning. “Letting” Students with special needs in general education classrooms. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Free Lunch. Lack of prayer in schools. Lack of spanking… I could go on and on).

Still others think that the problem is simply a matter of the quality of our teachers.

…there are more than a few teachers who shouldn’t be teaching. Just ask their peers. In survey after survey, teachers themselves say that not all of their colleagues should be teaching and that some have tenure who shouldn’t. The data bear this out, too. It’s clear that some teachers are substantially more effective than others. They should be celebrated and learned from. But a small subset of them are startlingly bad, and they should be doing something else for a living.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/20/blame-game-lets-talk-honestly-about-bad-teachers/#ixzz2i2YKtPUF

The Real Problem.

Here are some reasons why we are in the mess that we are. Namely that educational decisions are not made at the local level (who knows best what should happen at their school…the local staff or the state/federal government). As a culture we value celebrity over an honest day’s work (we ask for little buy-in from our students and families). Our communities are disintegrating  because of the lack of family and parental involvement in school. We try and regulate the quality of teachers by “pay for performance” instead of doing the hard work at the front end by not letting incompetence roll through teacher training. And we are underfunded because there are little or no checks on how school districts spend their money on resources other than salaries for teachers. On top of all of this…the expectation that high-stakes testing will raise the achievement of our students but NOT produce more instances of cheating is laughable (especially when tying salary to how well teacher’s student do on standardized tests).

As you can see…the real problem is robust. It is a juggernaut of  rules and regulations that even Charles Xavier would not be able to reform (see what I did there comic nerds?).

Okay…so what are some solutions.

Fix It!

We have let go of local control of our school districts…we need to get it back. I love the statement on Diane Ravitch’s website about taking education reform in your own hands…

What we need to improve education in this country is a strong, highly respected education profession; a rich curriculum in the arts and sciences, available in every school for every child; assessments that gauge what students know and can do, instead of mindless test prepping for bubble tests. And a government that is prepared to change the economic and social conditions that interfere with children’s readiness to learn. We need high-quality early childhood education. We need parent education programs. We need social workers and guidance counselors in the school. Children need physical education every day. And schools should have classes small enough for students to get the attention they need when they need it.

We cannot improve education by quick fixes. We will not fix education by turning public schools over to entrepreneurs. We will not improve it by driving out experienced professionals and replacing them with enthusiastic amateurs. We will not make our schools better by closing them and firing teachers and entire staffs. No high-performing nation in the world follows such strategies. We cannot be satisfied with the status quo, which is not good enough for our children, nor can we satisfied with the Bush-Obama-Duncan “reforms” that have never been proven to work anywhere.

As this excellent piece from the Atlantic suggests…there is a public education revolution coming. Will we be ready to take action?

Thanks for your time and attention.

This post drew heavily from this source: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-coming-revolution-in-public-education/275163/

Photo Credit: frasercgraham

 

 

 

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Tim Villegas

Founder and Curator-At-Large at Think Inclusive
Tim Villegas has worked in the field of special education and with people with disabilities for over ten years. Tim has turned his passion for blogging and promoting ideas about inclusive schools and communities into his own website, thinkinclusive.us. He believes that we can create a bridge between educators, parents, and advocates (including self-advocates) to promote ideas, innovation and inspiration to change our world to be more accepting and value each and every human being. Tim lives with his fetching wife and three adorable children in Marietta, GA.

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