Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not WHY, But For Whom I March...

On July 30th I will join thousands of teachers, parents and citizens concerned with the future of our public education system in Washington D.C. for the Save Our Schools March. Although I would rather be spending that sure to be beautiful July weekend relaxing at home, poolside with my family, I feel as though I MUST participate and take a stand.

What worries me most is the number of reform measures that claim to be the path to better schools. What I have not seen is convincing evidence that any of these measures is the answer. In the push for one-size-fits-all reform, what I have seen is millions of education dollars being diverted to private, for-profit ventures that claim to have the answer. No Child Left Behind demands that ALL students will achieve. Admirable yes, but it does not leave room for the devastating effects of poverty on our most vulnerable students. The U.S. Department of Education predicts that by these standards over 80% of our public schools will be labeled as failing this fall . Punitive policies that close schools or convert public schools to charters who do not play by the same rules only further ignore some of the roots of underachievement.

In my last post I began to tell you very simply the answer to Why I March. Today I begin with not why I March but instead about just a few of the many I March For. Since I am using the names of actual students I have taught either this year or in the past, I am only using their first initial to protect their privacy.

I March for K****** – who spent the last three weeks of her time in our class living in a drug rehab center with her mother before disappearing from our system.

I March for T****** – who, after being rescued from foster care by her aunt, was denied admission to the charter school where her cousins attended because it was after the state funding count day. (Public schools accept students even when there is no money attached to them.)

I March for C**** – a high achieving student from a stable home who becomes so stressed out during our quarterly benchmark tests that he puts his head down and cries.

I March for B****** – a visually impaired first grade student who is currently mainstreamed but faced with class sizes of over 30 next year will likely need a much more restrictive environment.

I March for Sh***** – a student with cognitive difficulties who cannot get the special education evaluation she needs because resources are stretched beyond their limits. She will need to repeat first grade – AGAIN due to a “no social promotion” policy.

I March for I**** – a boy with health issues that cause him to sleep through class every day even after getting a full night’s sleep, but not enough insurance to get proper medical care.

I March for A** - an emotionally impaired kindergartener who was pushed out of his charter school when the teachers couldn’t deal with his behavior problems.

I March for L**** - who lived with his mother and brother in their tiny pick-up truck all winter. His mother would bring his clothes to school to wash in our bathroom sink.

I March for Z**** - an Arabic speaking kindergartner with very little English who was required to take the same standardized test as her native English speaking classmates because her family had been in the country for two years.

I March for C******* - a student who comes to school hungry because their family has no refrigerator to keep food at home. She is often tired because they have no beds and she and her sister take turns sleeping on the couch at night.

I March for T** who recently dropped out of high school when his vocational classes were eliminated due to budget cuts.

I March for students who have a revolving door of substitute teachers every fall while they wait for a permanent teacher to be assigned to their classes.

I March for teachers who spend the first week of school sitting on the floor of the Human Resource Department waiting to receive their teaching assignment.

I March for former students who this fall will be attending their 3rd school in as many years due to repeated school closings.

I March for parents who have repeatedly experienced their neighborhood schools closing and never regain their feeling of community that characterize effective schools.

I March for communities that are in constant upheaval, never sure if the “gem” they’ve found, or in many cases helped create, will exist a year from now.

I March for the millions of children whose names I will never know that will not receive an education with a rich curriculum including art and music that I had as a child in public schools.

During the school year 2009 – 2010 nearly 49 million children attended public k-12 schools, 1.6 million in Michigan.

Do you know someone worth marching for?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I March - Part 1

Everyone has a cause. Some have many. In case you haven't guessed mine is education. I believe in quality public education for ALL children - yours, mine and ones who I will never meet. Whether you choose to send your child to public or private school is your choice and I respect all your reasons for doing so. However, public education is one of the things that has made this country great. If we deny a quality education to others, for whatever economic or political reasons, we will hurt our own chances of a great future and a future for our children. Upset that the 7-11 clerk can't make the proper change? Imagine our future when most of the available workforce is uneducated?

I post many links to articles about education issues. I hope that you have read a few. I have spent most of my adult life apolitical but I feel I cannot remain quiet and passive. I am watching our education system go down the drain in the name of "reform". Many people are using their money power to influence policies that I believe will damage our system. Will it be permanent, I hope not. But for the children who are in school today, tomorrow and next year, there are no second chances to get it right.

You may not agree with my position. I respect that. But please don't let your disagreement be out of ignorance or complacency. Read and watch. Issues like high stakes testing, merit pay, and charter schools all sound good on the surface. What sane person can disagree with slogans like "No Child Left Behind", "Race to the Top", "Teach for America", "Students First"...etc? Seriously would you name your reform - "Slash State Budgets By Using Only New Teachers"? Read up and be informed. If you want to know more, and don't know where to look - ask. I will be happy to direct you to information on BOTH sides of the issues. But please don't be apathetic. Many bad things happen when people are not paying attention. Schools need improvement, this is true. Change takes time. Don't be fooled by reforms that promise miracles.