Know How To Improve Your Schools?

Sure you do!

And you are correct in assuming that you have the right to help improve your schools. We all do. But think for a moment.

Can you see all the obstacles that will trip you up —impede your progress— as you strive to improve your public schools?

Improve schools while doing no harm.

Improve schools while doing no harm.

Imagine your community having schools that met all the children’s needs. Imagine how much easier life would be if we could guarantee quality education for all your children. And shouldn’t our public schools improve in a way that does no harm?

What’s the problem?

Short answer: Because laws cement in place our guiding principles, the school reform philosophy behind No Child Left Behind slowed improvement. Think about it, did the law improve your school? Or, have our schools improved slowly but surely because of the efforts of the people in them and supporting them?

The barrier?

Where laws direct us to go, so goes the money. Is this what parents desire? Is this what teachers need? So, what did we get?

No Child Left Behind, and now its revision called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has teachers and parents pushing children to make standards, testing, and accountability systems “work.” Here’s why so-called education reforms have NOT worked:

  1. Setting standards continues to be the laws first step. This means the money is spent on rewriting standards and not on the resources to have “kids ready to learn.”
  2. Higher test scores don’t mean a better education. Test scores do not define a great education nor does test-directed teaching focus resources on having “teachers ready to teach.”
  3. Accountability cannot reasonably be based on test scores (outcome-based) without first addressing the learning conditions (“materials to do the job”) under which we are asking teachers to teach and students to learn.
This formula for success simply needs the right catalyst.

This formula for success simply needs the right catalyst.

TO MAKE PROGRESS IN THE U.S. —on multiple political fronts including education— the country needs you to do what you can when you can.

“Young powerfully reminds us that we, America’s citizens, are the ultimate source of political power and public policy in our democracy.  We, the people, need to learn about what ‘reform’ policies have been imposed, what’s wrong with them, and how they need to be changed.” Gary Ratner, Director of Citizens for Effective Schools

Embrace Solutions! Imagine,…What If...

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.45.38 AMThe Only Political Influence More Powerful than Money is We the People.

13 thoughts on “Know How To Improve Your Schools?

  1. “+Material to do the job” is not required. this part should be “=Well educated young adults”. Unless those materials speak of the most basics such as buildings, paper & pencils. Materials help make an education easier to do, better and faster they do make it a good one.

    • In addition to what Victoria pointed out, I would like to add that materials DO make a difference, and for some students are crucial. If we were all auditory learners, then we wouldn’t need materials, we could just listen to lectures. Unfortunately, one with even a rudimentary understanding of neurobiology knows this isn’t the case. Sorry to disappoint you Albert, but materials far more extensive than basic facilities, paper, and pencils are essential to ensure the equality in education we strive for…and there is a body of research on learning to support this claim.

  2. Thank you for commenting.

    Yes, “Materials to do the job” does refer to basic “tools” – buildings included. In poorer communities like the one I live in, my kids schools back in the mid to late 90’s did not have any air conditioning or even fans to go around – this is a desert region. It was so hot in the old two story buildings, the kids just laid over their desks sweating. My daughter got so hot once it made her vomit and there were too few drinking fountains so teachers stood over them limiting the time they could drink (and they couldn’t have drinks in class?). They would return home on those days showing the dark circles of dehydration. Plus there was the usual – no school books to take home and no science equipment provided in elementary – so little to no science (teacher dependent – luck!).

    The chalk board that I wrote the formula on was too small to add the other half of the equation. I like how you see it ending. In my book I ended it with

    = Equal Opportunity for Education

    The full array of basics, well done, was all I expected. I consider that a fair shot at life. My kids were always going to be fine; we filled in the gaps as best we could. It’s the others I saw that society will pay a larger price for because of not having educated them well – only because what the kids needed wasn’t provided. Equal opportunity matters.

    • We are all in this together. Good to hear that you have a concern for all kids, a commons issue–this equity question. Money does not equal a good education but without a basic level of funding, the quality will not be there on a consistent basis. The USA is one of the few nations that do not Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, shared with the New York Times, “The vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.” The current additional funds needed to do the high stakes testing is most disturbing to me. I am AGAHST, an Angry Grandparent Against High Stakes Testing!

  3. have just finished reading your excellent articles “Thirty Years Adrift on an Ocean of Reforms.” They truly resonated with me.

    I was an elementary teacher and administrator from 1966 until 2007 with a couple of years off in the middle. I spent a total of 39 ye3ars in the profession. I was also a personal friend of Gerald Bracey, whom you quote a couple of times.

    You state that the school system you attended was mediocre. You mention that the commission that wrote “A Nation at Risk” found four areas in need of improvement: content, expectations, time, and teaching. I would like to suggest an area of need that I have never seen mentioned in articles such as yours or in any other highly critical articles about education that permeate the media and the political atmosphere of recent decades.

    The men and women serving as school administrators, from the level of Assistant Principal to the level of Superintendent, in my experience, do not possess the level of commitment, ability, achievement, or intelligence needed to prevent mediocrity from being pervasive in public education.

    William Deresiewicz has written the following in his book, “Excellent Sheep.”
    “The contemporary meritocracy…in all its glory is presiding over an era of unprecedented national decline…” “Its ethos is in fact, by definition, one of self-advancement: not duty or responsibility, not character or even leadership, but individual aggrandizement, a single-minded focus on the self and its success.” “And yet the meritocracy believes in its own… superior virtue. That’s what ‘merit” means, after all.” “…we might imagine in its place – ‘intelligence or aptitude,’ even excellence or achievement.”

    This would describe very well many of the administrators I knew during my years in the profession and I am certain a case could be made that most educators in public schools are there primarily to better themselves rather than to facilitate the building of an excellent system of public schools. Most are like recent Democratic Presidential candidates (Gore, Kerry, Clinton, and Obama), very ambitious but lacking any purpose beyond getting nominated and elected. Administrators view success as getting and keeping administrative positions not as doing the job or bettering the profession.

    • To do all that you mention here, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 needs to be repealed and replaced with an Act similar in substance and character to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

      • YES! When I was writing my book about school reform and how it invaded and devastated the lowest-income schools in our district, it dawned upon me one day that the money first set aside to “help” our poorest students has now been fully hi-jacked by TEST companies.

  4. Do you remember, Vicki? When we went to Albion High School all the Blacks would sit in the back of the room and melt crayons on the radiator. Hahaha!

    • I don’t recall that and with the last name of Young and alphabetical seating, I was usually in the back of the room myself….It takes more than a comment I find offensive to make me block it.

      We need an open discussion in this country about race, class, and education. Powerful civil rights groups have done children of all races a huge disservice by pushing the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.

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