Drowning In A Rising Tide Of…




“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

Surely everyone recognizes the 5-word phrase. Some of you may have garbled the phrase on occasion — I have — into something like ‘Our schools are drowning in a rising tide of mediocrity.

But that’s not what “A Nation at Risk” said back in 1983. The report, issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, was a call to action on many levels, not an attack on schools and colleges. “Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling,” the Report states, immediately after noting that America has been “committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” (emphasis added) Schools aren’t the villain in “A Nation at Risk;” rather, they are a vehicle for solving the problem.

Suppose that report were to come out now? What sort of tide is eroding our educational foundations? “A rising tide of (fill in the blank)?”

This is a relevant question because sometime in the next few months another National Commission, this one on “Education Equity and Excellence,” will issue its report. This Commission clearly hopes to have the impact of “A Nation at Risk.”

However, the two Commissions could hardly be more different. The 1983 Commission was set up to be independent, while the current one seems to be joined at the hip to the Department of Education.

Consider: Ronald Reagan did not want a Commission to study education because he wanted to abolish the U. S. Department of Education, which had been created by the man he defeated, Jimmy Carter. So Education Secretary Terrel Bell did it on his own.

The current Commission has the blessing of the White House and the Congress.

Secretary Bell asked the President of the University of Utah, David Gardner, to chair the Commission. He knew Gardner and trusted him to oversee the selection of the Commission members. Dr. Gardner then hired Milton Goldberg as Staff Director and they selected 15 members, plus two reliable political conservatives the White House insisted on. They asked the key education associations to nominate five candidates, then chose one from each association. They ignored the teacher unions and selected that year’s Teacher of the Year as a Commissioner. Meanwhile, Secretary Bell stayed on the sidelines, cannily keeping his distance from an effort that his boss was not in favor of.

Unlike Ted Bell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan seems to have been involved from the git-go. He has spoken to the group and recently intervened to extend its deadline. His Department named the co-chairs and all 28 members, who represent every possible constituency in the education establishment: rural, urban, African American, White, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American, conservative, liberal and so on.

Rather than delicately balancing his Commission to be politically correct, Gardner, a University President, put five other people from higher education on his Commission and famously declared there would be “no litmus test” for Commission members.

Duncan has touched every base, at least once. Well, almost every base — no classroom teachers or school principals serve on Duncan’s Commission.

Gardner included out-of-the-box thinkers like Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg and Harvard physicist Gerald Holton. Duncan’s Commission is depressingly predictable, with the exception of Netflix founder Reed Hastings. Why no Tim Brown, Deborah Meier, John Seely Brown, Sal Khan, Laurene Powell, Larry Rosenstock or James Comer?

Because the “Risk” commission had no ex officio members, it had limited contact with the Department or the White House. Staff Director Milton Goldberg recalls that Secretary Bell read the 31-page draft report for the first time just one week before its release. (“Golly, it’s short,” was his initial reaction, Goldberg recalls.)

The current Commission has seven ex officio members, including Roberto Rodriguez of the White House and Martha Kanter, who is #2 in the Education Department. Not only that, it appears that the Department’s PR people are on hand at all times. No secrets, no surprises.

The earlier Commission held most of its meetings and hearings around the country. The current Commission held seven of its 12 meetings at the U. S. Department of Education, including the final five.

Given all that, it’s difficult to think of this as an ‘independent’ Commission. End of the day, it’s Arne Duncan’s Commission, established for the express purpose of finding ways to close the ‘resource gap’ in spending on education for poor kids in this country.

That’s a worthy goal, because the spending gap is huge. However, closing it won’t be easy. States are pretty much broke these days, so the money will have to come from Washington.

And that’s a problem, because no one in Washington seems to trust states or local school districts, which, after all, are responsible for the ‘savage inequalities’ in the first place. Because education is not a federal responsibility, Washington can send money and make rules but cannot send in the troops to punish misbehavior. As Michael Casserly, long-time Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools, dryly noted in the January meeting, “We haven’t really resolved this question about where state responsibility ends or where their capacity and willingness end, and where the federal government’s willingness and capacity and authority begin.”

There’s some history here. Earlier efforts to equalize spending haven’t worked all that well. The early days of Title One of ESEA saw federal dollars that were supposed to be spent on disadvantaged kids going instead to build swimming pools for suburban kids or for ‘teaching machines’ that gathered dust in locked closets. States and local districts — seemingly by instinct — took the federal money and then cut their own spending by that amount, until the feds made that illegal.

And there’s also the knotty problem of past experience with spending more on poor kids. It hasn’t produced results in Newark, NJ, or Kansas City, or anyplace else as far as I know.

More than a few of the Commissioners see the 15,000 local school boards as an impediment; they are, however, a fact of American political life. It should be noted that the Commissioner who wrote the first draft of the forthcoming report, Matt Miller, is also the author of “First, Let’s Kill All the School Boards,” which appeared in The Atlantic in January/February 2008.

Nation At Risk

It doesn't seem as if the new commission will match these efforts.

The Commission wants more preschool programs and the most qualified teachers to work in low income districts, and so on, but those are local or state decisions, and most members of the Commission — those speaking up at the meetings — do not seem to trust anyone but Washington.

So if Washington can’t just write checks to close the resource gap because it can’t control states and school districts, what does it do? Several Commissioners spoke approvingly of a more “muscular” federal governmental role in education, but it’s not clear how it would flex those muscles.

End of the day, the Commission’s big goal is to energize public opinion, just as “A Nation at Risk” did.

Read through meeting transcripts (as I have been doing) and you will find lots of discussion about how to sell the public on the big idea of what Co-Chair Edley calls a “collective responsibility to provide a meaningful opportunity for high quality education for each child.”

Shorthand for that: spend more to educate poor kids.

Slogans emerge in the discussion:
“Sharing responsibility for every child,”
“From nation at risk to nation in peril,” and
“Raise the bar and close the gap”

At one point a Department PR man took the microphone offer a suggestion. “In the communication shop, myself and Peter Cunningham, my boss, are always happy to help you guys through this process, to the extent to which you — you know, you’d like our help. But “one nation under-served” would be kind of a way that to kind of capture that, and harken back to sort of patriotic tones and kind of a unifying theme, and the fact that you know, we’re not hitting the mark we should, as a country and international competitiveness. So, I just put that out there.”

What will probably be ‘put out there’ in April will be a document designed to make us morally outraged at the unfairness of it all and, at the same time, convince us that failing to educate all children is going to doom America to second-class status in the world. Expect rhetorical questions like “Would a country that’s serious about education reform spend twice as much on wealthy kids as it does on poor kids?”

I am virtually certain that the new Report will reflect the Administration’s technocratic faith that pulling certain policy levers will produce dramatic change — despite years of evidence to the contrary. (It’s part of ‘a rising tide of predictability’ that inhabits our land, as positions harden and debate and inquiry disappear.)

The real problem is not the Constitution’s limits on the federal role in education. For all its talk of public education as ‘the civil rights issue of our time,” this Administration, like the one before it, simply does not have a powerful vision of what genuine education might be. Full of the same hubris that led to No Child Left Behind, it believes in technical solutions.

Channeling Dr. King, this might be Secretary Duncan’s version of that famous speech: “I have a dream that all children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin or the content of their character but by their scores on standardized tests.”

That’s harsh, I know, but this Commission and this Administration ought to be asking other important rhetorical questions, such as “Would a country that’s serious about education reform devote as much as 20% of classroom time to test preparation and testing?”

or: “Would a nation that believes in the potential of all children spend about $10,000 per child on schooling and then measure the results with a $15 instrument — and swear by the results produced by those cheap tests?”

or: “Would a nation that believes in education develop a ‘reform agenda’ that attacks teachers knowing that, even absent such attacks, 50% of teachers have been leaving the profession in the first five years?”

While I agree with what I expect to be the Commission’s findings (“We haven’t been serious about leveling the playing field in education”), I find it impossible to see this Commission as anything but narrowly political.

More than that, however, I think this Commission represents a missed opportunity to engage American citizens on a more fundamental issue: the education of all our children.

Suppose the Administration had been willing to ask a group of independent thinkers an honest question–and been prepared to deal with whatever answers emerged?

My question would be “Does a rising tide threaten our educational foundations and our very future today? If so, a tide of what?”

I can find evidence for the following: Avarice, regulation, indifference, hostility, testing, and irrelevance.

You can make the case that a rising tide of avarice is a threat. After all, K-12 education is a reliable pot of big bucks, almost $600 billion a year for K-12 alone. That’s why for-profit charter schools are proliferating, why Pearson and McGraw-Hill are expanding voraciously, and why tech companies are banging on the doors of desperate school boards with ‘solutions’ to sell.

Is there a rising tide of hostility, suspicion and finger-pointing? Ask almost any teacher.

The rising tide of testing hasn’t crested. With new emphasis on evaluating all teachers according to student test scores, the high water mark is nowhere in sight.

What about a rising tide of regulation, much of it coming from Washington? Ask principals in Tennessee, who now must spend multiple hours evaluating each teacher and filling in forms to satisfy the state, which is in turn satisfying the U. S. Department’s rules for “Race to the Top.”

A rising tide of irrelevance threatens the entire enterprise. I believe public education is drowning because schools have not adapted to a changed and changing world. Consider: Of the three historical justifications for school, only one applies today. I write about this at length in The Influence of Teachers.

In the past, you had to go to school because the knowledge was stored there. Today, information is everywhere, 24/7, which means that kids need to learn how to formulate questions so they can turn that flood of information into knowledge. But most of our schools are ‘answer factories’ that offer ‘regurgitation education.’

In the past, you went to school to be socialized to get along with kids from different backgrounds, race, religion and gender. Today, however, there are Apps for that. So schools and the adults in them need to help kids understand the power — and limitations — of those Apps and technology in general. After all, kids need to learn that the 14-year-old they’re texting (and sexting?) may actually be a 40 year old sicko. Our kids may be digital natives, but that doesn’t guarantee they are or will become digital citizens. Schools need to fill that vacuum.

Finally, schools back then provided custodial care so your parents could hold down jobs. We still need custodial care, but when schools provide marginal education and fail to harness technology in useful ways, they become dangerous places for some children, and boring places for others. We lose at least 1,000,000 students a year, dropouts who may be hoping to find something more relevant on the street. (And, sorry, raising the dropout age to 18 will not solve the problem.)

Are there existing models of schools that are relevant to America’s future? Can we create incentives to expand those model programs to serve 50,000,000 children and youth?

I believe the answer to both questions is ‘yes.’ But first we have to ask those questions.

Before issuing its report, the Duncan Commission would do well to re-read “A Nation at Risk,” especially the last recommendation.

“The Federal Government has the primary responsibility to identify the national interest in education. It should also help fund and support efforts to protect and promote that interest. It must provide the national leadership to ensure that the Nation’s public and private resources are marshaled to address the issues discussed in this report.” (emphasis in original)

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17 Responses to “Drowning In A Rising Tide Of…”

  1. Darren Beck 23. Feb, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    This is hard to read. American education does have problems and serious gaps. And we seem intent on expanding those gaps, not closing them. But I believe the most crucial of all the points made above are captured in one sentence (makes me guilty of garbling an entire piece): “I believe public education is drowning because schools have not adapted to a changed and changing world.” Everything before and after it all point directly back to this fact.

    So, what to do? More commissions at a cost of God knows how much by every philosophical camp presently focused on the issue of education is hopefully not on the list. There are some phenomenal approaches or models in traditional public education, public charter schools, virtual and blended programs, and private schools that can be scaled up or at least be provided with opportunities to be replicated and expanded to other places with similar demographics. It should not matter what we call the damn thing IF it actually takes care of the kids attending them and those kids are growing into citizens who are ready to take on the 21st century and beyond.

    And there lies the main problem, as I see it. Someone or some group always has an issue with this or that regarding how to go about the work of educating kids. They get tied in knots about how regulated or deregulated it all is and seem to forget that education is very basic when we strip away adult hang ups. When it gets down to rolling up sleeves and just getting the job done, we seem to lose our will to just get the job done.

    Ironically, just this morning, I watched my 8-year old, Mac, a third grader at a solid charter school, writing. When he finished, he brought his work to me. It was his expression about how frustrating bullies are and that teachers don’t help when they tell a kid they are tattling. He made numerous typos, but by and large, he did a decent job of expressing his opinion. Mac said he knew it was not really that good. I told him that if he wanted to be a really solid writer, he needed to keep writing and get feedback and to read a variety of things not just his favorite series, the Magic Treehouse books. He wrote without an assignment. He wanted to receive feedback on his work and wanted his frustration validated. As I left for work, he was writing more.

    What triggered this? I don’t know. I only know that kids will blow our minds with what they observe and how they learn. And if we listen, they will tell us and show us how to help us help them in ways standardized tests and test prep and a lack of arts in the classrooms, etc. will never indicate. Our real challenge is to be there when they need us most. The kids that don’t have that support at home are the ones I thought about on my drive. I want them to do well in school. I would love to have them be motivated to write, to read, to ask questions. My bigger issue is that I want them to have someone to write for, read with and ask questions of at home. That is the gap I fear is our undoing more than whether or not the education system is or is not what the commissions or politicians expect.

    • Andrew 29. Feb, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      I find this confusing. The line that you pull from the piece:

      “I believe public education is drowning because schools have not adapted to a changed and changing world.”

      is confusing without some context. John talks about the three justifications for school, but doesn’t say what they are and why two of them don’t apply. It is important to consider why we send kids to school, but I’m not sure how schools can adapt to the changes (unspecified) in the world. Are we just talking about technology here? If so, I find the argument totally unpersuasive. I find what Sal Kahn does with math totally NOT novel. And Dan Meyer’s constantly bemoaning the lack of good e-material is pretty demeaning to all those who have taught and learned about anything before the year 2005. Perhaps that’s not what you or John are talking about — I can’t tell.

      On the other hand, your last two sentences imply that you believe that the big issue is problems at home that end up leading to difficulty at schools. I agree. This is pretty-well confirmed by the studies that time and again find family economic success and school success tightly linked. All the yapping about education ain’t gonna fix the income gap, even though this is probably the best way to fix the education gap. Maybe if we just hired out of work parents to work in the classrooms, they would learn something and so would their kids, and the ed system could actually make a dent, albeit small, in the real problem.

  2. Leslie 23. Feb, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    ‘I have a dream’–there’s a sense of not just dream, but hope, progress, perhaps even promise. Maybe a lot of missteps and painful steps along the way, but possibility. And purposefulness.

    When David Deutsch (The Beginning of Infinity) writes about what accounts for the remarkable rates of progress and innovation at particular times and particular places, in the sciences and in society, he identifies two powerful ideas. They are characterized by the search for strong (and evidence-based) explanations that are well adapted to solving problems, and a sense of optimism– that progress toward solving problems is possible even though, or because, many experiments along the way won’t work. Evidence from those informs and strengthens the explanations, and the next experiments.

    I don’t usually read books coming out of physics, but this one crosses over easily to ideas about education and reform. What worries me is that we seem to have a lot of weak explanations right now that we hold on to despite evidence that they don’t work. They get in our way. But the rising tide of frustration, of weak optimism, may make us lose our way altogether.

  3. Crudbasher 23. Feb, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Brilliant! I’m going to read it again.

    I completely agree, the government’s usual approach to any problem is more government. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  4. Joe Beckmann 23. Feb, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Mac is a good – a very good – model. Mac wrote for himself, and shared his writing for feedback so he could reflect on both what he said and how he said it. We need more Mac’s. He did not write for a test, nor wait six months for the feedback, nor address any polysyllabic overpriced standards. He trusted his father’s advice, but would probably trust others who trusted him. And there is the failure of Duncan & Company. They trust none but those who produce aggregations of what the Mac’s respond to, primarily in formulas derived by mental mechanics. Some of that heavily filtered response may be useful – do kids go to school? do they distinguish how long the 7 years war might have been? do they know how to massage two or six digit numbers? But most of that $700,000,000 (http://to.pbs.org/e1LVvg_) cost just pays the Pearson & Co. overhead and delivers tools to tyrants and their ignorant hacks.

    In contrast to Pearson & Co., let us look for more Mac’s. I’ve had a bunch of bright students and former students this Winter who’ve turned out homeless. They’re cycling back to school this month with Spring coming on, and for something more rewarding than a friend’s couch or a girlfriend’s mother’s complaints. They are also coming back to other youth programs, where they can get some structure, some sense of stability, and renew their fragile sense of purpose. Along with another bunch who’ve outlived failing grades and are now beginning to see – as my alumni – some future through college, jobs, careers, and expression, there is reason to be hopeful. But it has remarkably little to do with Duncan, or Obama, or, God knows (double pun) Santorum or Romney. It has to do with that 1:1 trust that Mac showed, that one or another student shows with an email, a cup of coffee after a crappy job, or some hope in a meeting yet to come.

    As one of those students said in a note today, “I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with my Biology professor aka Head of the Science Department…. He should know the general or quite possibly the specifics of where – when – who – how on this bio-tech stuff. If anybody could point me in the right direction right now, it’s definitely him. I just aced my first exam with him, so now is probably the best time to encounter him (gives him the proof that I’m serious and he won’t be wasting his breath).” He’s learned to negotiate stages of trust – from acing a test to probing for options – and is determined to move in a positive direction. That’s lovely. But what is wrong with Obama? with Duncan? with the nation’s leaders that he had to ace that test before he could be trusted? He’s a great kid. He radiates positive ambition. Other kids trust him. So what’s wrong with a system that relies on aces to play the game of life?

    • john merrow 23. Feb, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      Joe, that link didn’t work. please try again….

  5. john merrow 23. Feb, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I keep thinking of more people who ought to be on that Commission: John Doerr, Howard Gardner, Marian Wright Edelman, Chris Cerf (of Between the Lions), Robert Mendenhall of Western Governors University, Lisa Delpit…. the list goes on and on.

    • Dennis Harper 23. Feb, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      I keep thinking that any commission on education that does not include K-12 principals, teachers or students can’t be taken seriously. Students alone make up 92% of a typical school’s population (the rest are mostly teachers and principals). I guess our school’s really are bad if the nation’s 55.4 million K-12 students and 6 million teachers don’t have one person who has anything to contribute to the most recent commission.

      If we must completely marginalize this group then I guess I could come up with some adult names: Alfie Kohn, Dennis Littky, and Gary Stager.

    • Ken Bernstein 25. Feb, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      yet even you don’t list a current single classroom teacher. How about at a minimum a current or former national teacher of the year? My choice would be Anthony Mullen, but he was so scarred by his year as NTOY I think he would decline.

      Certainly you have encountered enough teachers in your work that you could suggest some.

      Or perhaps ask Barnett Berry to participate, and/or have him pick one or more of the teachers in his various organizations.

      I can think of several dozen articulate teachers who deal with issues of inequity. Here’s a few I know personally – Dan Brown, Jose Vilson, Ariel Sacks

      If you want other names that should be considered for such a commission, and who would never let themselves be dictated to by the likes of communications folks in Duncan’s shop – Pedro Noguera, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody

      You want a principal, how about Carol Burris?

      Duncan’s shop is not interested in listening to people who disagree with them. Twice Duncan had conference calls with teachers, first a group of National Board Teachers, and then the organizers of Teachers Letters to Obama. Both times Duncan and his folks seemed to think the purpose of the conversation was so that they could convince the teachers. in the 2nd case, it wound up with a batch of very critical blog posts to which the Department of Education had to scramble to respond, attempting damage control.

      The practice of this Department of Education has been first to attempt to coopt, and if that doesn’t work, to marginalize. We saw that with their reactions last year to Save Our Schools.

      Here we have our Secretary of Education going and playing celebrity basketball rather than actually sitting down and talking with teachers.

      A year ago when WNET had the gathering on education in New York, when Duncan was asked what his definition of a quality teacher was he turned to his staff for assistance. I would posit that a Secretary of Education who cannot answer that question without assistance is not prepared to be in his job.

      It is hard enough for those of us who are teachers to get our voices heard. It might be nice if the Secretary of Education set an example, perhaps by following some teachers on twitter instead of some of the basketball things he follows? Perhaps by being willing to sit down ON THE RECORD with some of the teachers and principals who have attempted to get a different point of view heard?

      I won’t hold my breath. I have watched the first 3+ years of this administration on educational policy, and while we are grateful for the funds in the stimulus package and the later jobs package that preserved some teaching jobs, we are more than unhappy at the way policy is being done.

      Perhaps if the Obama campaign was not so committed to getting money from Wall Street they would not have so strongly committed to the agenda of Democrats for Education Reform and might consider that DFER has an agenda that does not necessarily have the best interest of students at its core.

  6. Joe Beckmann 23. Feb, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/companies.html

    Sorry, sometimes bitly bites.

  7. Jay Blain 24. Feb, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I think you really hit the nail on the head when you spoke of the avarice, greed, and finger-pointing. The increasing tide of standardized testing, charter schools, over the top evalutaion systems, and other profitization and privatization schemes is threatening to drown the public education system. At least as it pertains to opportunities for all students. In addition, many of these things are morale crushers to teachers, administrators, and others in the public education system.

    Thank you for the well written and thoughful piece.

  8. Shoumen Datta 24. Feb, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    There is no scholarship or erudition in the leaders. It is one reason why we are drowning in mediocrity. The quagmire of testing is to guarantee payment for education consultants. The stupidity of paperwork is designed to asphyxiate content rich subject matter classroom teachers in order to create vacancies to be filled with the shoddy and the second grade education school dropouts devoid of content knowledge. See http://wp.me/p1z8d1-3 or read my new book YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE http://dl.dropbox.com/u/25944101/BOOK/PREFACE.pdf

  9. Susan Nelson 24. Feb, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Thank you for this well-written and informative essay. My son is fortunate to have graduated from high school before the NCLB obsession with testing. I have been dismayed to see a Democratic administration embrace charters, for-profits, and so many other measures that seem designed to line the pockets and stroke the egos of big donors, with the added benefit of crushing teachers’ unions. I notice, however, that the “reformers” are not meting out the same punishments to unions that are primarily comprised of men, such as firefighters and police.

  10. Sam Wang 02. Mar, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    This is an interesting blog. However, the author maintains a mailing list that does not contain an UNSUBSCRIBE option. I believe that is illegal under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, 15 U.S.C. 7701, et seq., Public Law No. 108-187.

  11. Wanda 03. Mar, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    This article says a lot about a lot but what are the suggestions to remedy the issues covered? I am in the mode of thought that pointing out the short-comings are no longer productive, we need suggestions to remedy the problems. It says that The Commission didn’t include teachers. I,as a teacher, along with other teachers have participated in on-line webinars given by Arne Duncan where our concerns and questions were addressed. I don’t believe we have to have a person represent us if our concerns are represented. Considering who and what organizations some teachers in the spotlight represent, I’d rather our collective concerns be addressed as opposed to having a teacher represent all teachers when they have their own hidden agenda. As part of community activist organizations involving parents and community leaders across the country, our concerns included more focus on early education as well as incentives to draw exceptonal teachers to low-income communities, so when I read “The Commission” wants more preschool programs and the most qualified teachers to work in low income districts, and so on; I know those are some of the points of concern that we, the communities, wanted adressed and it has been included. This administration along with Arne Duncan has used technology and open forums to have decisions and dialogue among teachers, community leaders and educators, conversations I appreciate because I felt my opinions and concerns were listened to and addresssed. NCLB brought to the table discussions regarding test scores as a standardized method to achieve and measure success, the pendulum has been swinging over the past 3 years, with dialogue and discussion leading us into a different direction as to what qualifies as a definition for quality education.The outcome of such participation is inclusion of input from various sources and participants thaat are normally not included.. As for finding ways to balance out the amount of money spent on low income students, it’s not always dollars that need to be spend to balance out inequalities, there is a need to balance out the amount of adult time spent with students in supportive roles. Successful students have adults that support and encourage success. Money can’t buy everything, there is a need for human concern and compassion extended to children in lower-income communities. They need what some of their parents cannot or willl not provide….adult time and concern.

  12. MG 14. Mar, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    As a parent, I don’t need any more commissions. What I want schools to do is to start grouping kids by ability and be willing to move kids up if they achieve and down if the kids don’t try. I am tired of my child being assigned reading material well below grade level. Sports are leveled. Why can’t every other subject be?

    I also wouldn’t mind seeing grammar incorporated into any course where the students write. If students were routinely corrected, they might better understand what they do wrong.

    Nor do I want to be told how important involved parents are. That simply means the school wants you to show up at conferences and not ask any tough questions. Plus, you sometimes babysit kids at an event or send treats or money for teacher appreciation day. I don’t mind doing this; however, I would like more input into how rigorous the curriculum should be. There seems to be little quality control in education.

    If anyone is looking for a blueprint of what education should be, look at what the tutors of Queen Elizabeth (Henry the 8th’s daughter) were teaching her. Then start looking at the academics taught in the finest Jesuit institutions from years past. Get rid of Character Counts–it takes time away from academics. And get rid of some of the fluff employability skills like working in a group–make kids more accountable for individual work and achievement.

    Finally, send a lot of the teachers back to school. Many of them need to polish up their own writing skills and speech. This is not intended to be a criticism; but merely to suggest everyone needs to improve their skills.

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