Dear President Obama and Nation:
Here we are well into the 21st century, and through the â€œRace To The Topâ€ legislation we are about to spend more good money after bad tweaking a centuries old model for education instead of doing the real work of looking at where we are and where we have come from. What other models are there that have a track record of success? Should we look at what schools could be and perhaps should be, and doing what’s best for our students and our country? Should we be trying as many models as we can to learn what works NOW instead of what worked before and during the industrial revolution?
It seems to me we owe it to our children, and the future of our country to ask the tough questions and do our best to develop the best education system possible, instead of patching up a system that has been in place since the American Revolution.
Are the assessments we are using the best? Are they actually very poor? Just what we have so let’s use those?Â If they are not the best, why are we racing to get to their top? Why not develop quality assessments first, that actual people that are education experts agree are appropriate? Same with the standards. Do the standards actually make sense? I mean really â€¦ do you/we know? Should we look at the standards from the countries that score the highest in the world and learn from them? Maybe before we spend 5 billion dollars â€œracing to the topâ€ we should spend some time and money making sure the race has the best goal possible? Otherwise how will we know if we are really â€œat the top?â€
â€œData drivenâ€ decisions can be very powerful. If good, meaningful data is used that is based on well crafted, sensical standards that are grounded on what is actually important and achievable by students (All students? Most students? Some students?). Can all students do as well as all other students in every subject? If not, do the standards reflect that? Does making every child take a college prep curriculum regardless of their abilities in certain subjects best? It seems it is exclusionary at best and purposely setting schools and children up for failure at worst.
If our schools are basically still following a design from well over 100 years ago, is it time to re-visit that design? It seems like we have done that in business, health and every other field. Would you want to go to a hospital designed 100 years ago that has been been barley updated? Wouldn’t now be a good time to do that before we hold people accountable and spend billions of dollars?
Stating that we understand that children of poverty lacking proper nutrition, healthcare and support are destined for failure in school. And therefore we are attempting to pass healthcare legislation, without tying the access to healthcare, nutrition and support to when we can hold schools and teachers accountable, is at best disingenuous. If students are destined for failure without those pieces, and they are not in place yet, how can we legitimately hold schools and teachers accountable?
What percentage of the â€œblameâ€ for America’s educational failings is the teachers’ and schools’ fault? 100%? 90%? 80% â€¦ 10% ? Do we really know? What else contributes to our educational failings? Are we holding them accountable too? Or are we addressing issues that hold students back? Are we taking these other contributing factors into account before we hold schools, teachers and students accountable? Wouldn’t that make sense?
Is one of the issues that holds our schools back that maybe there is little to no consensus on what schools are for anymore?
Why is it that in national polls schools are thought to be doing poorly, but when parents are asked about their child’s school the polls come out on the positive side? Does that demonstrate the results of negative media coverage shaping a general belief that schools are doing poorly but my own experience is that my children’s school is doing OK?
If one of the guiding principles behind â€œRace To The Topâ€ is â€œinnovating our schools,â€ wouldn’t it be key to promote REAL innovation? Currently RTTT only supports a certain very narrow range of school model that relies on only standardized test scores to drive and assess student learning and success (and again are those test valid? The best tests?). Is that REAL innovation? Is it a model with a long term consistent record of achievement for ALL students? Do these schools that we are using as models accept and take as many students with special education needs and behavior issues as the public schools they are being compared to? If not, then how is that a proven track record? Again, shouldn’t we be looking at all kinds of models that perhaps lead us to many successful models?
Why is it that those that are pushing the specific charter school model don’t send their own children to the schools they promote as being superior models of educational achievement? Is sending children to a school that severely narrows the curriculum for its students really better for them? Who says so? Are they really correct? Have we effectively discussed and studied the ramifications of that policy? How many would send their own children to those schools? Or are these schools only good enough for THOSE students? Isn’t that a form of apartheid?
I’m just asking.
Learning is messy!