Remember the Fallen

Historically, Memorial Day honored those who died in the Civil War. But the meaning of the words “remember the fallen” has expanded over time as more and more fell.American-Quotes-about-Memorial-Day-2015-Images-Wallpapers-Photos-300x232

Growing up in a small town where both my parents were born and raised, Memorial Day was a big deal. We all went up to the cemetery and visited the grave-sites of our family members. It was a time to remember all those who had died. Many were veterans. All were Americans who at some point in their lives had made some sacrifice, large or small, for their country. Perhaps this was true because it was a special moment in time in our country’s history.

Rosie The Riveter LogoIn those days, the members of the family that had not served directly in the military were still active on the home front working in the factories, writing letters of support to the troops, sending care packages and buying war bonds. Just history?

In this era, World War I and Korean War veterans who had given their lives still had family who remembered them. And World War II survivors, just like my father now, continued to give to support other veterans including those of the many wars that followed.

There was something that everyone could do in the cause for freedom. Has that really changed?

From our Declaration of Independence to the long and continuing march for equal treatment under the law, many have fallen in the crusade for freedom and equality. Many were not in the military.

Military might alone cannot sustain a free people. We must also fight to maintain the ideals of freedom within our own people through traditions and education.

With the United States being a unique blend of political ideologies – a representative democracy – a republic based on democratic ideals, it is a shame that politics has tainted the word “democracy”; but it has. In some political circles its use turns people off as if the speaker doesn’t understand that the U.S. is a republic. What John Dewey meant by his use of the word “democracy,” I can’t say for sure but his statement fits our needs non-the-less.

 “Democracy must be consciously promoted and transmitted to each new generation. The freedom of a democratic society enables the school to promote greater democracy and the society to improve education.”

Regrettably, we have allowed our education policies to “narrow the curriculum” and then we scratched our heads in wonder when we realized civics education has been lacking.

“With its focus on professional skills and the know-how to pass state tests, the U.S. educational system is falling down on its job to help young people become vital members of society.”  Professor William Damon

Falling down on the job — for how many generations?

The battles for freedom will be never-ending. What we should be very worried about are the Lost Generations we created. Now, they need all of us to do our part to better prepare them for the battles ahead. We need to ensure the foundations of freedom are solid for the next generations to stand upon. Make this day mean something more than a holiday.quotes-1097

On Memorial Day, which of the fallen will you choose to remember?

Because  I happened to watch the movie “Selma” last night, I’m remembering the many fallen in that battle for freedom.

Remember All the Fallen

Remember All the Fallen

Title I & ESEA Reauthorization

Does Congress and President Obama understand how Title I money was meant to be used? Looking at what they have proposed to date, it is a question in need of a good, clear answer.

A requirement in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was that a president-appointed advisory council report yearly to the president. The National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children was to review the laws’ progress with the programs and projects Title I funding supports.

In turn, the president was to report the findings to our Congress along with comments and further recommendations.489596

To do this responsibly and hold our government “accountable,” we all need to understand Title I. Title I is the touchstone of the original ESEA.

The federal formula funding was distributed for assistance of “children of low-income families.” The directive was to address the needs of “educationally deprived children,” which the architects understood would include more than just the low-income children given that the schools where the most funds would flow were “inherently unequal.” Needs are going to vary from community to community but potentially all students in schools in low-income communities are at risk for being underserved.

Title I was to address the disadvantages CHILDREN face — economically, educationally, mentally, or physically “disadvantaged”— that were being ignored, or in some cases created, by state and local agencies.

The goal of ESEA was to provide equal access to quality education — that is how “equal opportunity” was defined.

To do so, we have to recognize the barriers “disadvantaged” students and their families face in our communities, schools, and classrooms and fully address those problems directly. Title I dollars flowed to meet the needs of CHILDREN from low-income families….PERIOD. The other five titles of ESEA addressed the needs of low-income schools, communities, and states.

This is our ESEA history. In 1966, less than a year into ESEA’s implementation, President Johnson received his first report from the Council. They reviewed and summarized the programs. They gave examples including one district reporting that health examinations had been conducted for the first time showing that 45% of the children tested were anemic.

Now, how do we expect these disadvantaged children to have the same standards-based outcomes at the same time as healthy children?

As President Obama expressed in Selma,

“Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity,…”

To fulfill our duty to America’s children, effective schools must be established in every community where they do not currently exist. Understanding that those communities with the highest concentrations of poverty have children at greatest risk of being educationally underserved, their needs should be our first priority.

At President Obama’s request, we have identified the lowest performing schools throughout our land. It is our responsibility as a nation to support their improvement, as a short-term goal, while providing a long-term strategy to prevent the wide gaps in opportunities, and therefore educational achievement, that we have experienced in our past and that continue to plague our nation’s children today.

In addition to providing the best in educational opportunities to every child, now is the time for a plan that views appropriation of funds as a national strategic educational investment and expects communities to make wise use of all education resources.

And let it be acknowledged that the urgent need of children begs for some emergency measures.

Let us not lose sight of the purposes of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

* To establish equal access to quality education,

* To strengthen and improve all schools.

Here’s the beginning of an alternative a plan to what Congress currently is cooking up:

Title I – Education of Children of Low Income Families to provide formula-funded financial assistance to local education agencies in support of children from low-income families in order expand and improve community efforts to meet their learning needs.

Execution: To address learning needs requires a “needs assessment.” School staff (principals, counselors, aids, and teachers) and parents (or other adults involved in these high-needs children’s lives) will be the first to collectively identify those needs. Those identified needs will then be brought to the attention of the larger group of community stakeholders (civic, non-profit organizations, foundations and concerned individuals) to be further defined, measures for success indicators established, and existing resources in the community identified. “Gaps” in resources will be identified and brought to the attention of state education officials so that no identified need goes unaddressed. State officials will be responsible for identifying their resources and establishing indicators of their success and to continually monitor and report on their ability to meet their responsibility. Needs assessments will be done using the existing government assessment tools.

Emergency measures: Those Title I schools now designated as chronically low-performing or “priority” schools will be guided through the assessment and improvement processes with cooperative funding (“set aside” Title I money) and staff from the state and local districts with a “support team” provided through the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools identified as chronically low-performing need strong, effective, democratic leadership to take these schools through a successful school improvement process. A federal leadership program (Academy) will be

“designed to enable people who are already experienced principals and other school leaders, knowledgeable about how schools work and the special problems they face, to learn how to turn around the expectations, beliefs and practices of school stakeholders in low-performing schools. The expected focus of the Academy would be on how to improve instruction and change schools’ culture” (Ratner, The “Lead Act,” H.R. 5495/S 3469: Briefing Paper).

Accountability: Using the indicators of success as designated for targeted results through the school improvement process, the “appropriate objective measurements” will be used to judge the “effectiveness of the programs in meeting the special educational needs of educationally deprived children.” Local and state officials will have established the parameters (what and how often) of those measurements and will make those facts transparent to the community and state, respectively. An accounting of expenses and results of the uses of Title I money will be reported to federal officials for review. National monitoring of achievement gaps through the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will continue unchanged. Results of progress by the nation and cost /benefits will be reported annually to the President, Congress, and the Nation.

Currently, with ESEA reauthorization discussion being more about a “national accountability system” and “choice,” and less about disadvantaged children, I worry that we have lost our way on the march towards equal educational opportunity.

But then I remember — “WE the People” and the “highest of ideals” that were put into law in 1965 — there is hope.

[The preceding was a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient, second edition, by Victoria M. Young, © 2012]