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Schools Need More Reliable Research

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We welcome J. M. Myers M.D.* as our guest blogger. Here he shares his 'View from the Last Row'. Dr. Myers has spent his career working with children and families in multiple mental health and child developmental facilities in upstate New York.

Observing individual students in public school classrooms for mental health function and overall classroom function in pre schools, each for over a span of thirty-five years, has allowed me a unique perspective on our educational opportunities. As a grandson of two public school teachers, a son of two public school teachers, and the sibling and spouse of public school teachers, one might accurately conclude that I was preconditioned to be positively inclined toward what public education has offered our communities and our country. Suffice to say that it has fostered cohesion, facilitating the success of our democracy.

Research Matters

Yet we now enter a great public debate over what educational opportunity will best serve our students. Given the vast array of variables, most research has not been designed to answer this question. Obviously the research can not be conducted by those who advocate for public school education but only by those who adhere to the scientific method and the study of how to accomplish the best student outcome. In his book, "Hillbilly Elegy", J. D. Vance describes his slipping toward school failure when faced with the separation from his primary attachment figure, his grandmother, and when faced with a transfer to a new school and into the care of a drug abusing parent with rotating household paramours. What we learn is that it took years for this intellectually gifted boy to regroup and develop the skills and identity so as to utilize these gifts to pursue higher education and graduate from Yale Law School. These out of classroom variables must be accounted for in any research, since so many of them are present in the lives of our students.

Give Educators the Tools They Need

However, we have many public education advocates who refuse to entertain the question: what allows for the best educational outcome? On the NYSUT, United, March 2017, front page they state their call to "resist any attempt to destroy public education". Does it sound suspiciously like southern public school segregationists of the 1950's? Change came then from the outside through court decisions. How will change come now? We all know that there are failing classrooms and teachers -- the administrators know, the teachers down the hall know, and some parents know. Yet remarkably little is done. Resistance has carried the day, unless of course change comes from the outside. This is the great risk to public education, that those knowledgeable professionals on the inside fail to be given the tools and authority to implement serious reform or fail to exercise a leadership role once given these tools.

Reliable Research as The Guide Toward a Brighter Educational Future

The citizenry is moving to demand change. They have witnessed the resistance to change inside public education and many have moved to advocate for a market based approach, the charter school, or public financing of parochial schools. Could these options leave behind the handicapped or those children without a parent organized and alert enough to demand an alternative opportunity? These are the dangers our children face as we encounter an era where the past will not suffice and little reliable research is available to guide us toward a brighter educational future for our students.

*Dr. J.M. Myers is the brother of Ann Myers.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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