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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Duval's children are not getting a quality education

At a recent faculty meeting I turned to my neighbor and asked, did he (our principal) just tell us to pass everybody no matter what. She didn’t have time to answer my question because almost as if on cue, my principal with his fingers making quotation marks said, now I am not telling you to pass everybody but you need to be aware of where you are in the game. Well friends he was right and make no mistake by thinking it otherwise but education has become a game, a shell game, where we hide the pea and there is only one winner, the corporations that provide the shells. Who are the losers? Well there are many and among them teachers and children.

In case you are wondering what a shell game is it’s a pretty common game played at carneys, street fairs and on the sides of the road, you know the most reputable of spots. It’s where a dealer hides a pea under one of three shells. First he shows the player where the pea is and moves them around some so the person playing can get a feel for where it is. It seems easy at first, like say having a standardized test to see where kids are. However once the game starts and money is on the line it becomes impossible to win as the pea seems to defy logic and is never where it should be. If the dealer does it right, no degree of concentration can save the mark, that’s the sucker playing the game from being separated from his money.

This is a pretty accurate metaphor for what education has become, with children being one of the marks separated from having any chance of a productive future and tax payers who are separated from the money they send to the government for legitimate education purposes being the other. Friends we have been sold a false bill of goods from the education companies that currently drive, more so than teachers and the needs of children, what is taking place in education.

Our principal who is just the messenger by the way, though at some point somebody needs to stand up and say enough is enough what we are doing is hurting kids, was talking about how if kids failed a grade but then made gains on the standardized tests then those gains would not count for two years. What’s the point of failing somebody who will make a four on the f-cat, he asked. Well first very few kids who can make a four on the f–cat fail, though at the same time I can think of several reasons to fail them.

If a kid never comes to class but makes a four he shouldn’t be rewarded with a passing grade. Wouldn’t it be great if you could miss 20 days in a row come in one afternoon do a report and get paid for a month. Unfortunately the real world doesn’t work like that.

What about the kid who constantly acts up and doesn’t do their work but is the one in a million who can make a four, well likewise they shouldn’t be rewarded with a passing grade. I would love for my kids to be able to remember the scientific methods I spent three weeks teaching to them twenty years from now, but the more important lesson I hope they learned how to behave and how to work. These are two of the most important lessons schools should be teaching but because teachers have been handcuffed by inane policies and procedures they often don’t.

Then what about the kids who make ones on the test, and there are far more of them than those that make fours that can’t pass classes when any degree of rigor is used. They need to fail or here is a novel idea, be held back until they can master the skills they need to be successful, education shouldn’t be just about a one size fits all destination, but about the journey and kids move at different paces as well.

We push kids along until there is no longer any place to push them to (in high school). Then we scratch our heads and wonder why they aren’t successful. How about instead we make sure they have the skills they need before we pass them there. Also why does this provision even exist, could it be to encourage teachers not to fail kids?

We do these kids no favor when we push them along with consequences for their behavior or pass them with the bare minimum amount of work or substandard work done. When they enter “real” life they are in store for a “real” wakeup call, delivered by both a bucket of cold water and a ton of bricks because the real world doesn’t work like it. You don’t get along, behave, do your work or do it well; you will very quickly find yourself on the street. That however is the real world, a place that public schools don’t seek to mimic.

Employers wonder why they can’t find capable workers, colleges’ wonder why so many kids arrive without the basics and society wonders why so many young people aren’t respectful and commit so many crimes, well friends
I’ll tell you why. It’s because schools have abdicated their responsibility to prepare the next generation, with what should be their paramount duty and that is to be productive and respectful citizens. Nope friends, all we want them to be able to do now is to pass a test and one that will have very little to do with the rest of their lives then empty their seats as quickly as we can. We don’t care about rigor, we don’t care about validity, heck we don’t care about attendance, behavior or taking care of responsibilities either. All we care about is making gains on a test, which now won’t count if a kid is retained.

It’s even worse friends because we have messengers that pass the message along all too willingly. It’s like they either don’t know or don’t care that they are tearing down the very fabric of society as they do so, after all it’s all become a game to them, a game of hide the pea, sadly the pea, or a proper education in this instance is missing, and our children and our society will be paying the price for it..

I get that a decade ago having an all encompassing assessment seemed like a good idea. Who doesn’t want to know where their kid is compared to others and what they can or cannot do. It’s unfortunate that the test turned out so much more and so much worse than what it was supposed to be but what didn’t need to happen if the fact it has turned into a G*D damn Shakespearean tragedy because the powers-that-be have doggedly allowed it to continue. Like a compulsive obsessive they can’t let go of the fact these high stake tests have been perverted into monsters that are almost single handily wrecking education. Tokyo had a better chance against Godzilla than some of our kids have against the f–cat.

It has to be that they are doggedly committed to the idea right? I mean it can’t have anything to do with the fact educational testing, that’s creating, delivering and scoring assessments/standardized tests has become a several billion dollar a year business can it? Or maybe it does because the sad truth is unless you are a teacher; education has become big business and a very lucrative one that is all about delivering it’s product to customers that are choking on it. Somebody is getting way rich and sadly it’s not the teachers who were in my faculty meeting with me.

My messenger, my principal wasn’t telling me not to fail kids and neither was the administrator a few weeks back when she told her staff that more than failing ten percent of students in a particular class could jeopardize ones job or performance pay. Furthermore the system has not told teachers they can’t fail kids either, that’s definitely not what it is saying when it requires mountains of paperwork that a teacher has to do before they dare give a child, the F that they earned or when it tells us kids who fail classes will not see any gains they make count for a school or a teacher or two years. No, nobody says it, not in words anyways, it’s all done with winks and nods and finger quotation marks.

Education has become a shell game without a pea and a game that only the people who are handsomely paid for providing the shells wins. Everybody else loses.

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