A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 17, 2007

The GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part VI

This is where I post my own humble conclusions about what I had offered from the body of literature.  It is also where I speak in my own – admittedly not so reasoanble voice.  On this issue I come as close as I ever do to becoming an ideologue.  It is not based upon a liberal or conservative view of the world, but it is based upon a passion which I feel towards teaching children.  I have literally cried when I consider the challenges facing teachers and learners in this present day.  I also believe strongly that in this case in particular Federal intervention was needed, but was also long overdue.  I may later present the legal arguements I brought forward in an education policy class in defense of Federal actions in this traditionally state manner.  I did so from legal rulings in the past based upon Constitutional cases.

Again, my thanks to Maggie’s Notebook and Morewhat.com for posting on this topic.

Conclusion

When faced with these challenges it is understandable that many would throw up their hands in despair.  These challenges may have been exacerbated by NCLB’s requirements of each school possessing highly qualified teachers, and annually holding schools accountable for the measured academic achievement of each student. 

However, an alternate theory may be that NCLB exposed existing inequality in the public school systems across the nation.  While many would say that NCLB is a series of unfunded mandates,  a countering argument can be made; that the federal government stepped into an area that should have been addressed and funded by the states a long time ago.  Candidly, if the problems associated with the education of inner-city poor and minority children were typical of the affluent, predominately white suburbs, one can only imagine how quickly the issues regarding equity in education would have been addressed.  The inferred message that American public schools sent was, as long as the white, affluent, and middle class children of the suburbs are performing well, education is fine.  Poor children, particularly those of color, do not count in the evaluation of school performance.  Those that would refute this supposition should take a look at the lack of a coherent and cohesive policy prior to NCLB to address equity in education; look hard, none existed.

Failure to face the challenges of providing quality teachers and education in hard to staff schools is nothing more than a failure of leadership.  Rather than addressing the inherent fiscal bias, the inherent racism of public perceptions, and unlawful application of federal funding measures, administrators react to the remarkably reasonable mandate that all public schools adequately educate children in the following manner:

“I have difficulty with the standards because they’re so unattainable for so many of our students . . . We just don’t have the same kids they have on Long Island or Orchard Park.” (Superintendent, Buffalo Schools; The Buffalo News, October 21, 2002).

If a school has five subgroups (of students) and four do well, but one fails, the entire school is a failure.  We don’t think that’s fair.” (Reg Weaver, President of the NEA, Whittier Daily News, 5/24/03). 

No matter how these statements are parsed, explained, or justified, they infer prejudice based upon race and financial background.  These statements truly mean, “Some children – particularly those who are poor and are of a different color than the majority – can’t learn”. 

In our society it is a given that all can pass a road test to get a driver’s license.  It is a sad commentary that educational leaders have less confidence in a person’s ability to learn to read, write, and compute mathematics based upon their race and financial background, than they do in their ability to learn how to drive a vehicle, obey laws of operation of said vehicle, and maintain said vehicle as a part of their daily routine.  “What these “leaders” say is heard by parents – about whose kids matter, by students – about how much the educators think they can learn, and by teachers – about if they should consider or even should they try to educate these students” (Education Trust, 2006).  These “leaders” should just exit the door, and not bother coming back.  America’s students, particularly those who need leaders, deserve far better.

            While real leaders may not like some of the implications of NCLB law, it is fair to consider that fifty years ago many did not like the implications of another federal law, Brown v. Board of Education.  There are quite probably difficulties, and areas of the federal law that will require revision.  However, NCLB mandates, at the very least, accomplishes a great deal by the following: (1) Requiring states to perform their gate-keeper responsibility in monitoring minimal teacher quality: (2) Requiring states to measure student achievement by objective standards, and thereby also measure school efficacy; (3) Requiring states to compile data in a disaggregated manner to allow an understanding of various impacts that social setting, economic diversity, racial composition, and other factors have upon student achievement; (4) Promoting equity to the schools which are in most in need; and who for years have been victimized by policies which are inherently biased due to race and economic status; having the cumulative effect of de facto segregation laws, in our public schools.  

Much has occurred with regard to meeting NCLB’s mandate concerning Highly Qualified Teachers in every classroom by the end of the current school year( this was written awhile back).  Clearly, this goal has not been reached by many of the states, and what remedy may be applied by the federal government towards those states and schools in non-compliance has not been determined.  One solution, that at first appears to be obvious, may not be correct.  Simply adding funding, to increase teacher salaries, may not be the best answer.  It is not practical to expect salaries to increase the estimated 25% to 43% that research shows would be needed for many teachers to stay in their current assignment within high need schools.  Trends in education concerning factors inside the workplace, offer a good deal of hope, and may offer a local and internal solution to a problem.  Rather than the traditional approach of throwing money at a problem, which in the case of Title I has been shown to often be ineffective, schools need to investigate what they can do internally to improve their efficacy, such as happened in Milwaukee.

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1 Comment »

  1. It’s not the schools — it’s the parents! Read George Will’s article “Education 101″, where he states that a child form birth to age 19 spends only 9% of his time at school; the remaining 91% is spent at home and at other places. Furthermore, since there is NO sound research demonstrating any correlation between academic success in elementary school to future success as an adult, test scores mean very little. American schools are ‘teaching to the test” more so than ever because of NCLB. Creativity, imagination, high level critical thinking skills and great teacher inspiration has been removed from today’s curriculum, supplanted by the ubiquitous multiple choice test. It’s no wonder the rest of the world is catching up to us(and surpassing us) in every facet of life: sports, economics, work ethic, personal responsibility, etc.. We have taken these lessons and characteristics out of our educational system.

    NCLB is merely a venue to the privatization of “poorly performing” schools. Nothing more. The legisltaors realize that money doesn’t guarantee test results. If they did, they would have funded NCLB heavily. They know that only students from families with strong values and character will succeed at school. And that is NOT an economic issue; there are poor families who have strong values, spend time with their kids, monitor their homework, instill a strong work ethic in their children as well. The “poverty” issue is a cop out. You don’t need money or a college degree to make sure your child does his homework, goes to bed on time, gets to school on time every day, and the most important factor of all– reads more than s/he watches TV!

    Comment by Tom Gabriele — September 24, 2008 @ 6:44 pm | Reply


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