Way to say it, Tarrey! I'm with ya! Hard to keep going and belieiving while we see the great parts teaching and learning being diminished and taken away.
Response to Education Plans in the State of Indiana:
Whenever I read an article about the Republicans plan for education in this state, the first question that pops into my mind is, why? Why do they feel it’s necessary to allow for more charter schools? Money is tight, children are children and there are effective and not-so-effective teachers in every school everywhere. This is true in private schools, as well, just as it is true in every profession. Charter schools and private schools, except for the most well-endowed, struggle for funds for everything from their building facilities to transportation to art supplies. We have seen that most of them do not have better test scores than the public schools. The only positive to charter schools, as I see it, is that they can remain smaller, have more autonomy in their hiring and firing practices and make some independent choices as to their teaching philosophy. As we know, though, IPS also has a wide variety of programs to choose from that provide many different philosophies and sizes. I don’t get it. How many choices does a city need to have? If everyone would just go ahead and send their children to the public schools in their districts, or even in their neighborhoods (because I think that is the actual future to which we should return because of transportation costs, the need for more parent involvement and neighborhood investment in their schools), including the middle/upper classes, then we would have the mix of students that existed when I was in public school—white, black, latino, poor, middle class and rich. Everyone could work on the schools that we have, be responsive to the curriculum, the financial needs, and the community involvement to make them the best places for students to be. For obvious reasons (fear of rubbing shoulders with the poor and the brown skinned), most middle and upper class people in the center city decided to bail on the public schools and send their children to private. Now, charter schools are the less expensive answer for many of those folks, but they are not solving any of the real problems in education, only creating more.
When Tony Bennett and Mitch Daniels and any of their cronies talk about schools following a business model, I cringe. The fact that Mr. Bennett would state that schools have business practices because teachers get paid and receive health benefits is laughable. What? Teachers should NOT get paid? Should NOT receive health benefits because they are working for “government” schools (I just love that term). Schools have an element, an important element, that make them fundamentally different than a business. They have children. Children are not a “resource.” They do not turn a profit for us. They are erratic in their behavior, emotional, unpredictable and difficult in large groups. As far as I know, there are no children in the business world. They are not the centerpieces of any business propositions. Additionally, education is not about business. Education is about enrichment and learning how to be a happy and independent person in our society. It is to learn how to read, write and do some math, yes, but the best aspects of education are to help children learn how to question, analyze, construct meaning from the nonsense that surrounds us and make change. This is not the same as what business does. Business is to make money, ultimately and fundamentally a different goal than education.
I would very much like people who are making decisions about education to spend time in some teachers’ classrooms for a week at a time. I know that no one is spending the time doing that. I know that business people and politicians do not come to school, sit in a classroom of students and observe or, even better, engage in the activities in which the students are engaging. Very few people, even administrators, understand the daily life of a classroom teacher and how much stress, work and reward it is. Perhaps if more people who are making these sweeping assumptions and decisions about our schools would do that, actually spend concentrated time in classrooms, their perspectives would shift enormously. Please come to my classes. I would like to show you how we live.
Let’s return to neighborhood small schools where children can walk or be walked to school. Let’s get rid of school busses that consume much more energy than they are worth. If a family likes that neighborhood school better than this one, then they can drive their children to school. There’s some choice. But, let’s make it easier for parents to be involved and have some power in their schools. All schools do not need to be the same, and we do not need standardized tests to make sure that even the ones that are innovative and different are meeting the same timeline as other schools. Let’s let teachers track the progress of their students. We can tell what a student needs from year to year. We know if he/she needs individual help with basic skills. Let’s get more people in the schools to help students who struggle instead of punishing those schools with less funding and fewer teachers and less help for the kids. Charter schools and private schools do not do a better job with that either, especially when they are strapped, too. Let’s all throw our booty into the same pot and work together to make our schools effective, safe, fun and focused on kids, not business.
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