I recently passed the five-year anniversary of when I started writing my blog. What has changed? In this post, I analyze some of the issues I’ve written about over the years. Then, I thank you for your support.
Change or lack of change in education can seem dark and foreboding, but there’s a great deal of hope too. Where does one find such hope? Parents and teachers are savvy and willing to speak out about the issues affecting children and their public schools.
In poor schools across the nation, children still don’t have access to the arts. Not only is this detrimental to students but it takes a toll on the arts in society. Every student deserves access to the arts which include visual art, drawing, dance, acting, and music. The arts keep students in school and can lead to jobs in the future.
President Obama began Turnaround Arts in 2011. It is a partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. But the arts should never have been removed from public schools in the first place, and many schools still omit formal art and music classes from the curriculum. It’s not fair that only some students get the arts.
I don’t know of anything President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos do for the arts in schools.
Charter schools are another maneuver to segregate students. Creating two systems means resources are stretched and neither system works well.
We have a few elite private schools for the rich. Most charter schools for the poor stress rigor and strict compliance. Charter school managers seem to believe that poor students need strict behavioral control.
Charters divert funds from real public schools. If they close they get to keep the money! They’ve never proven to be better schools. A good example is the Achievement School District in Memphis, a group of charters which have consistently failed to produce favorable results.
This critical issue is still ignored when safety is discussed by bureaucrats. Yet lowering class size would improve academic results and provide teachers with manageable numbers of students. Teachers who know their students and the problems they face might avert catastrophes.
Private schools advertise smaller class sizes because they understand how important it is for teachers to get to know their students.
Leonie Haimson’s Class Size Matters is a clearinghouse which provides a wealth of information about the importance of reduced class size.
Common Core State Standards
Common Core is also called “Next Generation.” The assessment tied to CCSS, PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment have been dropped in many states. Fears now surround competency-based education, or personalized learning. Parents recognize that standardized tests are morphing into online, nonstop testing.
The indiscriminate misuse of student data is next to safety one of a parent’s biggest fears. To lose control of who sees your child’s information, and how that information is used, is alarming. Weakened FERPA laws add credence to these concerns. Compromising such data for advertisement and for companies to target students to do jobs in the future is concerning.
Online assessments misrepresenting a student’s personal information could be life-ruining.
Even posting a child’s progress on data walls for everyone to see should be a violation of a child’s privacy. Any information about children should be between teachers, children, parents and those responsible for helping students. There was a reason this information was once kept in a locked filing cabinet.
Early Childhood Education
Politicians still talk about the need for preschool education. Like reading, there’s a push to make children learn faster. There’s still too much testing and not enough play.
This maligned subject continues to be pushed ferociously by school reformers. The media unfortunately helps them by promoting a reading “emergency” instead of insisting on smaller class sizes and better resources for reading teachers.
My favorite post is about how wrong it is to push children to read before they’re ready. It’s still the most popular post at 85k likes so readers must agree with me. We need to make reading the joyful activity it is, and help those students who struggle, with reading curriculums that work!
There’s been some improvement here. More children get at least one break during the school day. But it’s not enough. Elementary students deserve several breaks without micromanaging by adults. There’s evidence to show recess helps children focus better on school work.
These breaks should not be structured physical education classes through non-profit or for-profit groups. Recess should be time for children to get a respite from academics to play the way they choose. Supervision should be from afar.
Activists like Florida parent Heather Mellet and Arizonan’s for Recess and School Wellness have fought to bring back this critical part of schooling. I am especially proud to know these well-spoken parents who fight for all children, not just their own.
Middle and high school students deserve some informal chance to socialize too. All students deserve time and space to recharge.
The research has been strong against retention throughout the years, so it is nothing but draconian that states like Michigan have signed onto it. Having taught students with reading difficulties, I always question how students with learning disabilities and dyslexia can be held back. It is the state that has failed to serve these students. And it is the state that punishes them for their own mistakes when they enforce retention.
Social Emotional Learning
This sounds good at first, but the online behavioral assessment information collected on all children is unnecessary and worrisome.
School Reform: Those who now push for school reform claim they don’t like the school reforms that were put in place thirty years ago by their predecessors.
Bureaucrats like Betsy DeVos have ignored gun control, but there has also been no discussion of lowering class size and truly personalizing learning (not talking about computers) so that students feel they have someone to talk to in school. More counselors and smaller classes are real solutions that no one, thus far, considers.
We need a continuum of services and a way to extinguish harmful stigmatizing of students with disabilities, or giftedness. Parents are promised the glory of inclusion, which often turns into a nightmare. Funding stops short of assisting students to thrive in general classes which can be too large and impersonal. Smaller class sizes would be helpful.
Politicians have never wanted to fund special education. States like Texas turn this into a reality by creating policy that denies services to children. Education secretaries like Duncan and DeVos chip away at such services. But parents need to be wary of private or parochial schools. Here what to consider.
Students are still over-tested, but focus is changing to concern about data collected on students, including sensitive personal information obtained through social emotional learning assessments and nonstop online testing.
Reformers still claim there’s a teaching shortage. Maybe there is. But they do nothing to help teachers, or make the profession more attractive. Instead, they support turnaround groups like Teach for America, Teaching Fellows, and Relay Graduate School of Education.
Schools should always evolve, and technology has much to offer. But there’s no proof that technology without teachers and brick-and-mortar schools will serve students well. Ask yourselves if there’s a reason why the incredibly wealthy push this ideology on our children. I have frequently written about the threat of CBE and personalized online learning. How will this serve students? I don’t always understand Wrench in the Gears, but what I do understand is frightening. Save Maine Schools, Missouri Education Watchdog, Seattle Education the Network for Public Education and other blogs address this growing concern. Teachers are in danger of losing their jobs to machines. Children are in danger of losing their schools.
It’s amazing that anyone would believe that vouchers will work. An opinion piece in USA Today reminds us that it’s useless to compare test scores of private and public schools. Private schools are selective. Public schools serve all children.
There are many more issues. It’s always difficult to choose what topic to write about because there are so many concerns. But I continue to believe that good public schools that are democratic and open to all children is within our grasp!
I have made many friends since I started this endeavor. I began my blog after writing two books about schools and reform.
I am grateful for having been re-posted, interviewed, and mentioned by Diane Ravitch, the Badass Teachers Association, Garn Press, Curmudgucation, Seattle Education, Parents Across America, Accountabaloney, The Answer Sheet, Defending the Early Years, Living in Dialogue, Teacher in a Strange Land, The War Report on Public Education, Live Long and Prosper, The Rick Smith Show, Edutopia, Rochester SAGE – Supporting Advanced & Gifted Education, and for having my posts mentioned by Thomas Ultican, Mike Simpson, and others
Sharing thoughts about public schools and how children learn best has been especially interesting to me through comments on my posts. I may not always agree, but debate is the heart and soul of this country and I am happy my blog contributes to that.
I also want to thank the following post contributors to my blog:
- Monica Kounter
- Marcie Lipsett
- Mark Naison
- Joanne C. Simpson
- Leah K. Stewart
- David H. Rose
Many thanks also to my friends across the pond, Roger Titcombe and John Mountford.
My website is a work in progress. I try to add blogs and books and update information. If you want your work highlighted there let me know. If I missed someone or an important group remind me and I will add.
I want to especially thank all the parents and teachers who stand up for children and public schools and who have been my friends.
On with the next five years!