Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nobody ever thinks of stopping to help

school days

Education reform is a controversial topic. Geographic location, income, ideology, personal experience, moral indignation and even apathy tend to rub elbows in a national cocktail party where 17 million schools of thought are fighting for their dissertations.

I suppose I'd even be laughing at a contributor's column today - which opined a longer school day wouldn't work because it's akin to putting new tires on a broken down car along side of a road - if I didn't find the rationale behind the declaration so sad.

Many folks like to say you can't solve problems by throwing money at it. And yet they worry schools are merely a breeding ground of malfeasance and mediocrity. They can't seem to make the connection between money spent doing things differently may be money well spent.

The thing we can't turn away from is that our schools are failing our children.

All of them.

Now some of you don't care what happens to the kids who are disruptive. You don't care about their home lives. You focus on the tenured teachers and the summers off. You think their lives are cushy. And worse ... that everyone is undeserving ... except babyofmine, of course.

Hard work = success.

When these folks look toward positive change, what they see is merely ridding the schools of a "negative influence." If a kid doesn't want to learn ... if his parents aren't pulling their weight in his education ... the solution is to show them the door. Don't let it hit you on the way out.

It's the easiest, most cost effective method, after all.

Thing is ... they're out there, untethered. They're not graduating.

And it's not just them. Even when our kids graduate many aren't meeting a basic standard. You can think other people's kids aren't your responsibility, and technically you'd be right, but what you fail to understand is how important it is for all students to gain a better education.

We can't afford to throw even a small percentage of our children to the wolves.

More frightening to me than just the sentiment of intolerance that is pervasive in these arguments is the unwillingness to do what is not only right but what is difficult.

Saying lengthening the school will only leave more time for the bad eggs to infect others is effectively the same as saying education itself is already obsolete.

Saying the model won't work isn't even true.

In 2006 Massachusetts experimented with lengthening the school day for 5,000 students, adding 300 hours of learning time per year. Four years later it has been declared a success and 19 public schools in nine districts are currently participating. Results have shown marked improvement in grades in English, math and science in schools where ELT was implemented. The effort has also shown improvement in teacher satisfaction, student demand, as well as an increase in community partnerships.

A broken down car at the edge of a road may be a good analogy for the state of our education. But more important than focusing on the condition of the tires is the attention paid to structural maintenance.

We can't put off the inevitable forever.


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