Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my beginning a blog. This morning, as I was thinking about all I’ve learned over the last 8 years, I reread some old posts and thought about the reasons I wanted a web presence in the first place. My purpose in starting and continuing this blog was and is to provide myself an outlet for the frustrations of teaching and learning under an increasingly damaging set of rules. I had (and still have) no plan for this blog in terms of longevity. I just want to have a place to vent about things such as…
THE DAMAGING RULES – NCLB, RttT, CCSS
The rules began with No Child Left Behind…and have since spread to Race to the Top, and the Common Core. Locally the rules have been amended by the Daniels/Bennett/Pence plan for education in Indiana which mirrors the national rules. Indiana’s plan includes
- transferring public money from public schools to privately run charter schools and to parochial schools through vouchers
- stripping teachers of due process and reducing teachers’ collective bargaining rights
- complaining about all the “bad” teachers in our schools, while at the same time lowering the standards for entrance into the teaching profession
Local school boards get less and less of their district’s tax money back from the state — a big chunk of the money now comes in the form of increased costs for tests and test prep materials. They are under more restrictions dealing with the working relationships with teachers, the establishment of school curricula, and the adoption of assessment tools. Local school boards are also now obligated to use those tests to assign grades to schools and evaluate teachers.
“School Choice” apparently doesn’t include public education.
Nationally the attack on public education has been bipartisan. In Indiana it has been led by Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Mike Pence, Bob Behning, and Daniel Elsener. They have been supported by their colleagues in the state legislature and the state board of education (and now in Governor Pence’s expensive duplicate Department of Education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation).
It’s ironic that the removal of local control of education should be led by Republicans, who so frequently decry the intrusion of “government” into our local lives. It’s disheartening that both Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation are buying into the corporate line. “Educational leaders” are no longer educators, but instead are billionaires and their mouthpieces like Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Rupert Murdoch and the biggest cheerleader for the school corporatization/privatization movement in the country, Arne Duncan. None of today’s loudest voices touting the “School Reform Party” line have ever taught in any of America’s public schools. They do, however, control a huge chunk of America’s money.
PLACING PUBLIC BLAME
For the last several decades, the movement to end public education has called all the shots nationally and locally, giving less and less input to those people who actually work with students every day. When those misguided state and national plans for public education fail, the local schools and teachers are blamed.
Publicly, the “reformers” expect teachers, as Bill Moyers put it,
…to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. [emphasis added]
Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there’s a “crisis” in education – especially in the public schools. That’s only true insofar as schools reflect the world around them. The crisis is in our society and since no one takes responsibility for our nation’s enormous inequities, it is blamed on public schools and public school teachers.
REAL ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
We are obsessed with testing and insist that schools are “accountable” to the greater society. Where, however, is society’s accountability? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind in order to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t (or won’t) accept their responsibility for the “hard bigotry of urban failure?”
There are achievement gaps in our society, but they are not in schools. The real achievement gaps are:
- the gap between what our leaders say they will do and what they do
- the gap between what we as a society value, and what we are willing to spend to get it
- the gap between what we’re willing to spend to “promote democracy” around the world and what we’re willing to spend to equalize our democracy at home
I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?
Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!
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.