Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Public Education: How do we stop being everybody's laboratory

I'm serious.  Let's take a look at the state of Delaware public education.

We will apparently try anything once, and having tried it, we will organize an interest group to promote it an insure it never dies.

We've had (or still have, sometimes the boundaries are fuzzy) standards, high-stakes standardized testing in many different incarnation, benchmarks built off of the standards, performance indicators built off the benchmarks, authentic assessment, smarter balanced assessment, nationally normed assessment, state-generated assessments that had neither reliability nor validity but could control your child's destiny, lead teachers, data coaches, PLCs, magnet schools, alternative schools, online programs, charter schools, independent private schools, catholic schools (though not as many as before), themed schools, alternative routes to certification, new graduation requirements, different graduation requirements, common core standards, Vision 2012, Vision 2015, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, character education, school choice, no snack foods in schools, schools without cafeterias, schools based on letting in only bright kids, schools based on letting in only underprivileged kids, State Superintendents, State Secretaries of Education, schools with police officers in them, schools without police officers in them. . . .

This is starting to sound like the bad clone of a Tom Gordon campaign commercial, isn't it?

And I'm sure you could add more.

Some of these programs have been imposed on us by the Feds, others we have inflicted on ourselves, and others . . . just sort of happened and nobody's taking credit/blame for them (failure is always an orphan).

Jack Markell may be uniquely qualified to become the next Secretary of Education because he comes from the only state that has literally been gullible enough to try ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in the name of public education.  If it's a fad, we've fadded.  If it's a hoax, we've been taken in.  If it produces unintended consequences, we're living with them.

And we are still, demonstrably, failing at public education in Delaware.  Not everybody, not all schools.

But we are still condemning thousands of students to a substandard education in the one state that is small enough (in terms of population) and compact enough (in terms of geography) that we ought to be able to educate every single child to his-her-its highest potential.

We used to complain about having a state that is overall smaller than many urban school districts divided into 19 different school districts.  Now we have 19 school districts and I can't count how many charter schools, and we still have some of the highest private school enrollment in the entire country.

So here's my proposition (with apologies to Jonathan Swift):  Let's declare a ten-year moratorium on large-scale innovation in our public schools, and--during that time--if a current innovation fails (like a charter school or a dance program or whatever), let's put out a standing DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate) and let what's supposed to happen to failed experiments happen.  (I'm actually calling for a little Educational Darwinism among experimental programs, aren't I?)

Then let's actually focus our resources an our attention on educating poor kids and kids with special needs for a decade, because (you know what?) middle class and upper middle class parents will find a way to get their kids educated to their specifications, especially if we make them rather than the government responsible for funding their experiments.

I will be in my bunker waiting for bombs.

3 comments:

pandora said...

No bomb throwing here. I 100% agree. That ungodly long list in your third paragraph has one thing, and only one thing, in common - Not one of those things listed (from standardized testing to Visions to RTTT) had anything to do with educating children.

But here's where I see the need for you to duck :)

"Then let's actually focus our resources an our attention on educating poor kids and kids with special needs for a decade, because (you know what?) middle class and upper middle class parents will find a way to get their kids educated to their specifications, especially if we make them rather than the government responsible for funding their experiments."

Don't worry, I'll have your back.

Anonymous said...

How about this - segregate the schools. Poor kids in these schools; special needs in these schools; regular suburbanites in these schools. Start out giving them equal funding. But for every C the regular school student gets their parents are taxed $100. D = $200 tax and F is $500 tax. The monies collected are then distributed evenly to the poor and special needs schools.

Duffy said...

Perhaps a mixed approach is better. We can use some of the schools or even classes within schools as laboratories. Don't force a one size fits all solution on everyone all the time. Rather, set up a volunteer program for students to choose their modality and track the results.