After posting on another website what I wrote below, I began to think about what I had written and decided to take it a step further. To follow is my post in response to a statement made about a school losing its’ entire staff due to low performance on test scores:
Firing the entire staff of a school is no solution. Anyone who thinks that it is doesn’t understand how children are a reflection of their socioeconomic environment. Add to the mix an overcrowded classroom, possible learning disabilities that have not been discovered, situations at home that might cause emotional instability, and one heroic teacher who is doing their best to teach what they can.
The teachers who decide to work at these lower performing schools do it because they feel that they can make a difference. To fire them is the most absurd and wasteful action that one can take. If they can, these highly motivated and dedicated teachers will leave the public school system and not look back. Not as long as this destructive policy is in place.
The next step that the reformers want to take is to hire Teach for America recruits who are fresh out of college and ready to do a two year stint in these schools. You can pay them less and they won’t be joining the union. The worst aspect of this is twofold. First, these recruits usually have no background in teaching or education and secondly, they’re not in it for the long haul. Most of them will leave after their two year contract is up and go do whatever it is that they had planned to do with a bit more on their resume. This creates churn in a school and instability for the students. If you know children at all you know that they function best in a stable environment. Many students develop a trusting relationship with their teachers who become informal advisers or mentors for these students and develop relationships that last through the course of the student’s career in that school. With TFA recruits, none of that can happen.
This is what the ed reformers want, basically test factories where our children are taught to memorize, not to challenge or think critically and the brunt of all of this is on the lower, working and middle classes who can’t afford private school.
Those students who can attend private schools have the opportunity to develop an understanding of a subject beyond an answer on a test. They are challenged to go farther, synthesize information and develop critical thinking skills, something that students who are constantly coached to answer simple test questions would not have the opportunity to do.
In public school you have overcrowded conditions and a teacher who is to get his or her students to pass a test or be fired. What do you think that teacher is going to do? That teacher is going to focus on the test. It’s a narrow focus but that’s all someone can do if they want to keep their jobs in this brave new world of education reform.
Taking this a step further, I see two distinct groups of individuals coming out of our schools. The students who attend a private school or are homeschooled where skills are developed in terms of thinking, creativity and reasoning and students coming through public schools where there is little opportunity for that sort of development to occur.
Then, you have a group of people who become the leaders, the artists, the brilliant diagnostician and scientists, the architects and visionary engineers coming out of private school that foster reflective and critical thinking. The other group that graduates from these brave new world public schools becomes the workers, the individuals who won’t question but will just do.
I understand that we need people with different interests and skills for a society to survive and flourish but to have this pre-determined and so clearly demarcated by where you are educated is not what our country is supposed to be about. Our public schools were established so that all children would have equal footing and have the opportunity to succeed. Our public schools, if this Race to the Top/NCLB continues, will simply become test taking factories that produce individuals who have become very good at taking a multiple choice test and not much more.