If you support our students, the next generation, and a democratic public education system that we all own, it’s tough to watch the changes corporate reformers have caused in schools. They’re not the ideas that most parents and teachers support, so we wonder why they’re implemented.
Most of the problems that exist in public schools started years ago when politicians and business leaders signed on to school privatization. Parents and teachers need to take back their public schools and work towards better solutions for student learning.
- Many students have no school librarian or library. Across the country, especially in poor schools, children won’t have access to a school librarian. Some schools don’t even have a library. We know that students who have access to great libraries and librarians do better in school. It’s difficult to be a good reader without a variety of available books and reading material. Reading cannot be a priority in school without school libraries and librarians.
- Students are pushed to be more advanced than their age. Teachers recently questioned an advanced textbook for second graders. The book’s chapter centered around world trade. How many second graders do you know who are excited about world trade? Many students will fail the tests, teachers will appear to fail, and those who want to end public education will condemn students and teachers as failing.
- Teachers aren’t given the support they need to teach. Much has been written about teachers who are forced to go to online nonprofits like Donors Choose and others, to beg for materials to help them teach. School districts must fund teacher resources and materials.
- Shooting drills scare students. Children are frightened by shooting drills. Is there not a way to prepare children without such a heavy focus on violence? Who are the companies that administer these drills? How are they monitored? What are their credentials? In Indiana they shot teachers with rubber bullets! Somehow, the terrible incidence of shootings has turned into a moneymaking scheme. Adults need to sit down at the table and figure better safety measures, especially for young children.
- Kindergarten has become too advanced and age inappropriate. The notion that kindergartners should learn to read by the time they reach first grade is accepted by more parents. This is different from a few years back. Parents used to remember kindergarten as a joyful and carefree introduction to school. They understood that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top made cruel demands on children. Today, if students don’t reach academic benchmarks, goals that used to be found in first grade, they will fall behind in the new corporate school reform rat race.
- School buildings have temperature problems and are crummy. “My child came home and threw up!” one mom cried. Many teachers recognize this as an ongoing problem year-after-year. If politicians aren’t going to fund school air conditioning, don’t make students return to school in the summer! Students don’t get off to a good start in school when they are hot and uncomfortable. Many schools also don’t have good heating systems during the winter.
- Crumbling school facilities. Many school buildings are overcrowded and rundown. Some are unsafe. This is a continuous problem too. How many times has this problem been exposed? Schoolboard members complain there’s no money for fixing buildings or building new school facilities. How many trillions have we spent on wars many Americans disapprove of? Our public schools need to be a priority.
- Lead in the water can cause learning disabilities. Children should have access to clean, safe drinking water. But we continue to hear concerns about drinking water in schools and communities. How do we know whether a child’s learning disabilities are a result of lead toxins in their drinking water? Assess every school’s plumbing system in America. If lead is found, supply children with bottled water.
- The focus is on the economy, not the students. When we hear about helping students choose a career, it isn’t about what the student cares about. It’s about how the student will fit into a company with job needs. Public schools should be about student needs, what they find interesting, and how to help them find the right job they enjoy.
- How much art, music, drama, and dance do students get? When children go to schools that are all work they learn bad habits. Either they become driven to succeed at all costs, or they become bored and drop out. Today’s corporate reformers like driving students to work harder. The arts are good for all children, but for children with learning difficulties, the arts are a safety valve and might keep them in school. Students can also find jobs in the arts.
- Tougher rules. Some parents have reported zero tolerance rules. Schools seem tougher on students for minor mistakes. If you’re a school administrator or teacher who teaches students they can’t make a mistake, you’re making a huge mistake. Smaller class sizes, more counselors, special education support, and helping children with their difficulties is what’s needed.
If we expect students to do well in school, their public schools need to be welcoming places that consider each child’s needs and which are open to parent feedback. Children deserve curriculums and teachers who are given support to do their jobs.