8 Things the U.S. Must Do Now to Save Public Education
“I hate reading.”
I’d rather walk across burning coal than to hear these words from the mouth of a student in my classroom. For 14 years, I nurtured and facilitated learning in a classroom where 100% of my students made tremendous growth in reading, numeracy, and social skills. That all changed last year when I was provided with a reading script and asked not to vary from it for 90 minutes daily for the entire year. I watched my students whither and my soul ached as their reader spirits were crushed under the weight of our district’s million dollar curriculum adoption. Everyday, I begged four and five-year-olds to sit up and listen, stop going to sleep, take part, and focus. I made an ass of myself as I oohed and ahhed, jumped around with feigned excitement, and pretended that I was in love with every tiny piece of a lesson that popped up on my enormous touch screen computer—where these babes were forced to focus on and off for over 90 minutes a day. And what was the return on my efforts? “I hate reading.”
Can I change it up? “No, the program must be run with fidelity.” I was told.
Some of the content is way over their heads; some is way below; and all it is dull. Can we make adjustments to the groupings? “No, you must catch them up during the lesson. Do the lesson in order. Don’t vary from the script.”
This is just one example of where our public school system has gone awry in the United States. No Child Left Behind, ESSA, and follow-up state legislations built to comply with it has made a mess. Somewhere along the road, we got off track and forgot that we are nurturing young Americans to be great citizens; to love learning; and to become the heroes of the future. That path veered into a mucky, tangled web of bureaucracy, blind subordination, and cold implementation of terrible curriculum. Terrible curriculum hocked by curriculum publishers worried about making bank and caring little about the outcomes for young children. Over $620 billion dollars was spent on curriculum in the U.S. in 2012-13. Meanwhile, the past three times I opened a new classroom, I was given the following budgets for materials: $0; $250; $0. In other words, American school districts are pouring millions of dollars into curriculum and “programs,” while the experts who were trained and hired to facilitate learning for children—classroom teachers— are ordered to apply faulty curriculum and provided with few resources to supplement it.
In 2015, I returned to public schools from a 3-year hiatus where I had trained educators on developmentally appropriate practice and co-managed a private Pre-K through 12th grade school for a year. Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings as I undertook my first year back in public schools under a newly adopted reading curriculum. My daily thought and conversation with other educators was simply, “How did we fall so far back in such a short amount of time?”
Recently, an administrator and I were having a conversation about student learning. Knowing that I have a passion for mining best international practices and advocating for developmentally appropriate practice, she took a jab at one of my common references for proper implementation and teacher trust. Her numb, cold statement that “America just doesn’t have the culture to be Finland,” stunned me. An African-American principal in the United States of America: taught, trained, and disciplined to be hopeless and conform? How did this country go from rebellion to blind corruption in just 400 years? From revolution to cold social order in just 250 years? From abandonment of archaic slavery and segregation to hopeless conformity in just 62 years?
For every corrupt, hopeless politician and administrator out there; there are hundreds of us who still hold onto hope. There is something we can do to change the tide. As administrators, leaders, politicians, parents, and citizens: we have the power to see changes come to pass.
Here are just a few of my many thoughts on education reform in the 21st Century:
1. DUMP STIGMA: ACCEPT CLASS, RACE, ETHNIC, SEXUAL, & EMOTIONAL/MENTAL DIVERSITY
When asked, most Americans will affirm the belief that skin pigment, income, heritage, sexuality, nor health are indicators of a person’s worth. Yet to an onlooker, one would believe that America is the home of the racist, land of the haters. Maybe it’s the nightly news featuring presidential candidates who call a quarter of the country, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it”—willing to tear a country apart all for the sake of a win. Perhaps it’s that human nature seduces us into honing into our fear and “fight or flight” instinct; causing us 8 Things the U.S. Must Do Now to Save Public Education | Huffington Post: