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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Education needs real world solutions

Below is my response to a critic in the Folio. A couple weeks back they printed a piece of mine advocating for real world solutions. -cpg

Mr. Egan might be surprised but I actually agree with him on several points. College by far is the best option. People who graduate have more opportunities and over a lifetime make about a million more dollars. I also do see the value of higher math and sciences as they open up a whole new world and develop critical thinking skills, though I also think art and music, classes that are being cut for more math and science, do too. Where Mr. Egan and in fact most of our education leaders differ is I live in the real world and they live in some fantasy world where they think if they wish it really hard then every kid will go to college and be a doctor or an engineer. Well friends it “aint” going to happen.

Look at No Child Left Behind. It said by 2014 all our students would be proficient in reading and math. Well how has that worked out? If you answered not so well then you have been paying attention. To give you some scale, in Florida we graduate about 70% of our kids and of those that go to college 60% have to take remedial classes. Heck half our high school kids in the city don’t do math or read on grade level.

We can no longer cross our fingers and wish upon rainbows that every kid is going to get it and go to college because while we have been doing so to many kids have graduated ill prepared for anything. No, we need real world solutions to our real world problems. That’s not giving up on kids, that’s giving many a chance they haven’t had, that’s what I want for them, a chance. We don't have the students we might wish we did, we have the students we do and we should plan accordingly.

I however can see where some of our disconnect comes from. Mr. Egan has spent his career working in the districts crown jewels, the magnet schools, while I have been working in the neighborhood schools and some of the toughest the district has. He gets to see children excited about learning and I get to see kids that to them school doesn’t have much meaning to them or their families. I have spent my career working with kids who we should throw parades for if they graduate and get a job with room for some advancement, where Mr. Egan works at schools where if one doesn’t go to college that is the exception. Mr. Egan might not like to admit it but we have a two tiered education system here in Jacksonville, the magnet schools verses the neighborhood schools and in the neighborhood schools because of our everyone is going to go to college mantra we have done many students a disservice.    

I would also disagree that I am a one-note samba. For years I wrote about how tying principals evaluations to suspensions and referrals was a recipe to destroy discipline and not support teachers. The school board recently ended it. I also have written among many other things about how our teachers are forced to teach to the test, how we need wrap around services at some schools and mandatory summer school for some kids. All changes the board and new super have made or initiated.

Mr. Egan, I admire your idealism, however many of our children need you to join me in the real world where the solutions are.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

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