Whose Job Is It?
Today at Tech Camp, my friend/colleague told me her story. She is taking a serious pay cut to switch from public schools to museum education. A $14,000 pay cut. She told me she loved the kids but couldn’t deal with the crazy administrative rules that, I believe, stifle the true art of teaching. A few things really summed up her five plus years as a public school teacher, but one story stood out in her mind above the rest.
My friend was evaluated for her performance in her Kindergarten class. She was a first-year teacher at the time and had many children who hadn’t been to preschool. Twenty-eight kids and no aid. The grades of the evaluation were S for Superior and E for Excellent. My friend received all E’s so she went to her principal to ask what she could do to improve, to get all S’s. The principal told her that she needed to be using her workbooks more. She could get better control of the class if the children used the workbooks. Do we want our children doing workbooks in order to keep class control in overcrowded classrooms? Do we know who’s writing the workbooks? Informed scholars, I hope.
"The reason I've asked to speak to you is because I want people to understand how important this No Child Left Behind Act is to America and its future. And we will talk about ways to make the law better. I know some members and senators have got concerns about the law, and we're more than willing to talk about flexibility. But there is no compromise when it comes to setting high standards and measurement. You cannot compromise away the principle of saying, we expect good results, and we're going to measure to determine whether or not we've achieved those results. And when you've achieved the results that we, a society, expect, we'll give you the big embrace."
The last part of the Bush quote bothers me. “We” is our society, including the president. So that makes “you,” the scholars he’s put in place to fix what is broken with our educational system. “And when you've achieved the results that we, a society, expect, we'll give you the big embrace." This implies that American society is waiting to give those scholars a “big embrace” (cash reward?) because they will achieve high standards for all children. Personally, I do not expect that the group of Presidential scholars will fix problems that exist in public education: overcrowding, poor nutritional choices, workbook learning, millions of future American citizens in urban and rural America who see no point in graduating from high school... These are changes we need to demand and help facilitate as a community. But how do we do that?
As teachers, parents and community members, we know that children are facing serious educational problems. Many are similar to those we faced, and others are of a new brand. Educational budget cuts are imminent. Problems are becoming more expensive.
Speaking of problems, according to a report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers on the infrastructure of the United States, "The Federal government has not assessed the condition of America's schools since 1999, when it estimated that $127 billion was needed to bring facilities to good condition. Other sources have since reported a need as high as $268 billion. Despite public support of bond initiatives to provide funding for school facilities, without a clear understanding of the need, it is uncertain whether schools can meet increasing enrollment demands and the smaller class sizes mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act." What is a small class size? Twenty-eight Kindergarteners is not small, nor is thirty-one 6th graders.
We all live in communities with problems. What is our role in combating those problems? Would you want your child to spend a day in the worst public school, just to have the experience? Is a teacher’s job to merely teach the curriculum using workbooks and prescribed formulas? Is it the community’s job to sit back and hope that their local public schools are doing an ok job?
What do you think?