A Declaration of Devotion

11647261_10153134009193020_1077395906_nAre Americans ready to declare their devotion to ensuring that the public education system continues to exist and prosper? We have rallied to support our troops, but, failed to consistently support our public schools. We have questioned why we always have money for war, but, we have not demanded the same for education.

Have we ever made a declaration of devotion to a national goal for public education? In the 1960’s, Francis (Frank) Keppel, the architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act wrote something similar to what follows here, but his words were never heard nationwide.

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A  Declaration of Devotion to Educational Excellence

We the People of the United States, in Order “to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunity in this Nation’s elementary and secondary schools” will act in accordance with the principles and practices that will guide and support our efforts to ensure excellent education for all.

Our goal is to achieve and maintain an education system that offers maximum opportunities for all students to learn while holding the highest expectations for the individual pupil and all those that are responsible for supporting students. This system will continuously strive to improve public educations’ role in serving the needs of our free, fair, and democratic republic.

To accomplish our goal, the expectation set for the system is that all those governing, employed by, and voluntarily supporting our public schools will function based on mutual respect for each other and all stakeholders in an effort to earn and maintain the trust of the People.

We Recognize that it is in the best interest of the nation to assure equal opportunity to be educated to the fullest of an individual’s potential and that goal can best be realized by maintaining a strong and effective public education system.

  Action   Provide equitable and adequate resources with the knowledge, guidance, and oversight to use those resources wisely to solve problems.

We Recognize that to improve means we must consistently and accurately assess current conditions of our schools based on appropriate data that aligns with our national goals.

  Action   Establish a report card for the nation that uses indicators of what the public deems important and make the findings know in an annual State of the Nation’s Schools with corresponding State of Our State schools reports.

We Recognize that to ensure the strengthening and improvement of local schools requires a strong and capable Department of Education nationally and in every state.

 → Action Reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. Department of Education to its original purposes, identify the states seen as chronically low-performing, and support the training of those state department personnel in effective school improvement processes.

We Support community organizing efforts to engage parents and the community in youth support activities, programs, and their schools.

Action → Enlist the Cooperative Extension Service to educate and train volunteers, disseminate proven practices, and assist in coordinating efforts to use locally available resources more efficiently and effectively.

We Support research, development, and diffusion of effective practices.

Action →  Invest in our existing public institutions of higher education focusing on improving teacher, counselor, and leader education; and reinvest, reclaim, and refocus the function of regional education laboratories to maintain integrity, relevance, and responsiveness in research aimed at seeking solutions for communities’ education problems; and establish the outreach and extension of research findings to ensure their use in educational improvement practices.

We Support those schools that have been identified as chronically low-performing by providing federal emergency assistance, immediately, in cooperation with state and local education agencies.

Action  Provide a federal support team (also called “success teams”) to help facilitate school and community members in a guided improvement process.

We will:

  • maintain local responsibility shared through the democratic governing of schools,
  • depend on state accountability with shared knowledge of measurable results and costs,
  • and, rely on federal oversight, guidance, and support through the practices of the U.S. Department of Education and through responsive and responsible federal policy set by Congress and the President of the United States.

Federal education law must be written with the understanding that effective execution of the law depends on local education personnel with public participation and support. In order for all who wish to assist their schools in fulfilling the promise of maximum educational opportunities with the highest expectations, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act must be reduced, simplified, and made to once again address the needs of the educationally deprived children of this nation.

(This is a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient 2nd edition © 2012 Victoria M. Young)

I hope all of you will take the time this July 4th holiday to reflect on what is important in your lives and crucial to the life of this nation.

Happy Independence Day, America!

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Double Standard

670085Some say it is a matter of black and white. Some say it is a matter of rich and poor. Some say the double standard in educational opportunity goes both ways — racial and socioeconomic.

“The nation is clearly no longer content with mediocrity, with just ‘getting by.’ It is demanding excellent education for all. Quality education has come to imply integration, for a white child taught in isolation is a deprived child. It implies an end to the double standard in education, a double standard that gives high-quality schooling to students in exclusive suburbs and inferior schooling to children in slums, that gives preference to some states over others.” —Francis (Frank) Keppel, architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

In the battle for access to quality learning opportunities, discrimination runs the gamut.

As this young man explains in Academic Imperialism

“Less conspicuous is the soft bigotry of educational ‘norming,’ that operates on the false binary of achievement and its diametric opposite of under-achievement….

When fourth-grade reading scores are paramount to forecasting prison matriculates, the social fabric is not only torn but also seismic shifted from protecting vulnerable members of our society, ….

If the idyllic version of community-centric schools is an expression of social inclusion of knowledge, then youth incarceration represents the symbiotic underside of social exclusion.”

How is it we have not found the will to address the issues so poetically articulated here?

“To follow historical trends, colonization is a magician that erases student identities and self-interest without the reciprocal chains of transcontinental slavery. It’s legacy still lives in today’s standards of high achievement…

The subtext of colonization is always ownership and representation. Whose veritable voice continues to echo throughout history but fails to reach the curriculum that serves its offspring? This is the soft bigotry of hidden curriculum.”

Very plainly stated, in The Crucial Voice,…Now would be a good time to consider the view of M. R. Olneck that, in addition to inputs and outputs, ‘two other concepts may serve as the basis for judgments about equal opportunity: representation and participation.’ We must have ‘participation in the process to have our ideas about what successful schooling is and how it should be judged represented . . .. In the absence of equal representation and participation, unequal outcomes are likely to persist since the terms of success are dictated by dominant groups’ (Gamoran, A., and D. A. Long. Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, December, 2006, p17).

IS it unreasonable to expect representation and participation in deciding how to judge equality of opportunity in our schools? This isn’t just about tests. This is about people deciding what success looks like for children. It isn’t all measurable.

And when it is clearly recognized that standardized tests don’t measure the quality of education and that tests are biased, why don’t we demand representation and participation when it comes to deciding what constituents student success and equal opportunity?

Is it ignorance, stupidity, apathy, self-imposed blindness, self-absorption? … I don’t know bobby-scott-bobby-scott-the-promise-of-equal-educational-opportunity… but obviously, offering quality learning opportunities to all K-12 children has not been a national priority. People always think it should be easy, just do what Finland did. Well, their first step was to make improving the quality of education a national priority.

In 1991, researchers acknowledged that this very issue of consensus would be a problem for America. But we never discussed or acknowledged it to be a problem. The only thing on this list that we have

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

addressed is data and really went overboard with it!

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s look at the BIGGEST double standard in our education reform process — federal education law.

We people have been taught that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Both Congress and President Obama need to be called-out on this one! Do they not know what the aim, purposes, and reasons for the titles of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were? Their ignorance of this law is no excuse for perpetuating the pretense of reform set by No Child Left Behind and its “accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

There is a fix for ignorance; it’s called education.

But maybe I’m wrong; maybe it isn’t ignorance that has kept them beating the test-based “reform” drum. If it isn’t ignorance that has set the nation on the wrong path, what is it? Political ideology? Putting politics ahead of children’s needs?

Is it the pretense of reform set by free-market competition?

When competition for dollars splits us into groups each groping for a share of the pie, we lose sight of the real meaning of fairness. Each time we set up a public school education “program” that is not strictly aimed at meeting individual children’s needs, we are setting up a practice that will potentially discriminate. In these ways, we become divided in the quest for quality learning opportunities for all children in America.

“Equality, in the American sense of the word, is not an end but a beginning. It means that, so far as the state can do it, all children shall start in the race of life on an even line. The chief agency for this purpose is the public school system.”—Edwin E. Slosson

In the past, some have seen the need for the public school system to offer equal opportunity. Some do now. So how is it we have not ended the double standard in education? Should we call it a double standard? Should we call it inequality? Should we call it discrimination?

How about soft bigotry?

How about calling your Senator before the July 7th vote on the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) and simply telling them to vote NO. Their version only continues the mindset that we obtain quality education for all through “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” After following that belief for 13 years, we know it isn’t true.

It’s time we demand they go back to the original law for guidance. It’s time to demand they #GetESEAright !

If this nation cares about poverty-stricken children getting a fair shot, this law is one avenue through which to do it. But neither the House Student Success Act nor the Senate Every Child Achieves Act has the original aim in mind.

Update: the wrong aim continues under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Unequal Access

Unequal access to quality education is what used to define the Great American Education “Reform” War. It was a civil rights issue. So now, let’s redefine the sides in those terms — give all of America’s children equal opportunity, or not.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision that went into law on May 17, 1954, stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” That is a truth. At the time the issue was clearly a racial one – the law ended legal segregation of public schools based on color.

The truth stated in law, then, still stands today — “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” And that tendency will always exist. But as James S. Coleman pointed out, inequality exists within schools also. So we must recognize the barriers to equality in our schools and classrooms and fully address those problems directly as well as the inequality between communities.

So what can I say to convince you that federal education law exists because it was the next necessary step in the march towards equal opportunity for children?

Over a decade after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was written because it was recognized that where poverty exists families and communities are less able to offer the quality of education that richer communities can do for their children. Separate facilities are inherently unequal. Without assistance and support, disadvantaged schools are less likely to offer quality learning opportunities.

The chief architect of ESEA, Francis Keppel, felt that equality in education would only become reality when we provide quality education in all our schools. Simple, not easy. Federal law could help but the final solutions can only happen in schools themselves. For the children’s sake, it is in our schools where the barriers to equality must be recognized.

Keppel went on to write The Necessary Revolution in American Education. He meant a “quality revolution.”

If education is the civil rights issue of our time — like many continue to say — and we know that quality matters, what barriers must we overcome to finish this fight? Children across America deserve better. There is nothing acceptable about inaction when we know there are better policies and practices that we can follow.

For the nation’s sake, we must change the test-based accountability education law — No Child Left Behind (NCLB)— because it is now a barrier; it is nothing like the anti-poverty, quality-based, federal investment in equality that the 1965 ESEA law was.

Take a step back 60 years, then a step forward to 1965. Ask every one of your federal and state representatives and candidates to do the same. Consider the Three R’s. Roll back, Review,and Reaffirm a commitment to quality and equality. Ask your representatives to do the same.

What will it take?

What will it take?

Every decade, every year, that policy makers drag their feet on NCLB is a sign that they don’t care that children are being denied access to quality education.

The proof is their inaction.

The Little Engine That Could

I think we can.

I think we can.

I think we can; I know we can. The question is, will we?

We can move from test and punishment “reforms” — the No Child Left Behind prescription — to policies and practices that concentrate on helping schools improve.

To do so:

“American education, that great engine of the democracy, does not drive itself. It must be guided, not by one but by many, into a future of incalculable promise.” Francis Keppel, 1966, pg. 163 of The Necessary Revolution in American Education