There have been several articles from a variety of sources in the past month about how ‘the newest things’ in education, which have been held up as the perfect solution for the last few years, are starting to fray around the edges and some are even crashing in on themselves.
The New Orleans school system has been shoved in the face of every teacher for years. Their scores went up, they have this neighborhood and that level of poverty and look what they did…which came with the implied ‘what is wrong with you that you can’t?’ Or worse, ‘we should just make every school into a charter since clearly they are making it work’
No, they’re not.
This article is about a school the students expelled (by 2008 the district expelled students at 10x the national average) go to. Due to changes in the expulsion process the rates have dropped but suspensions are still three times the state average. The district suspended 61,000 children last year with 8,000 of them for more than two months. The school has also had, they think but apparently aren’t sure, 14 students killed in their three years. In all these reports, children who drop out of school at 16 aren’t counted but if you look hard enough you can find the data that reports the number of dropouts has risen and it was already high. There’s also the fact that a disproportionate amount of children affected have some kind of special needs diagnoses or mental health issues.
Think it’s bad reporting, or that it’s based on stories nobody has researched? Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center report Access Denied but be ready to be upset, it’s a disturbing collection of data and first hand reports which leave you wanting to do something…but what?
There is no magic panacea. You need money (children who are cold, hungry, homeless, live in fear, and or suffer from illness aren’t learning they are trying to make it through the day) you need a support system (teachers can do a lot but they need a community of people who have the appropriate skills and resources available to help the children) and you need teachers who want to teach for their entire career. We cannot keep denying the children with the greatest need the best teachers we can get for them. We cannot keep putting year after year of their education in the hands of untried, unaccomplished, unprepared people who don’t really want to work with them.
Time to focus on what’s really best for the kids, their families, the businesses who want educated workers, and the country as a whole and stop trying to fix things that aren’t helping solve the problem. Time to stop and think.