Public education isn’t doomed. Here’s how to save it.

Another View — Diane Sekula: Public education isn’t doomed. Here’s how to save it.
By DIANE SEKULA

I’ve said it before, but I think that it’s worth saying again. If you are going to have public schools, then you need for schools to be held accountable to the public for their spending, curriculum and all related activities. Anything less is unacceptable. What we have now is unacceptable.

What we have now is a focus on teacher and student accountability, but a lack of focus on accountability in regard to spending and curriculum.

To be sure, teachers need to be held accountable for their work with students, and students need to be held accountable for their own educational attainment. I would argue that there are better ways of doing this than what is now being done, but that it is a necessary evil. For the time being, however, we cannot afford to be hyper focused on teacher and student accountability. This myopic focus has allowed the problems associated with a lack of accountability in other areas to proliferate.

In terms of curriculum, we are saddled with the hastily put together Common Core state standards that were forced upon states through President Obama’s Race to the Top grant program. The standards are, without argument, often developmentally inappropriate and are not nearly as stringent as the old Massachusetts state standards; which although abandoned in favor of Common Core, are still widely regarded as being the best standards in the country.

This initiative has, in fact, been such a failure that it has been regarded as a “third wheel” by the Democratic Party, which urged its members to stay away from any discussion of it. Where is the accountability for this?

Why is it that although the standards have not been proven to have any positive impact on the academic development of our children, any move to rescind the standards is met with complete and absolute resistance, the kind of resistance only afforded to a very few in this country? Could it be because the amount of money to be made by textbook companies, data mining companies, and online learning programs that promise to personalize and somehow magically eliminate the so called achievement gap is in the billions of dollars? Or could it be that the ideologues bright with the abstractions they gleaned from their professors at their Ivy League institutions are certain that the country would be better off with a planned economy that includes early career tracking; oft referred to as a talent pipeline, like that promoted by self proclaimed education experts such as Marc Tucker who proposed such a system; with its distinct similarities with the systems found in Germany and other Eastern European countries in his now infamous, “Dear Hillary” letter?

Or could it be that the money-making schemers and the ideologues are one and the same, tossing aside our children for a cause or a few dollars?

In addition to her past support of charter schools, Hillary Clinton’s husband and the Clinton Foundation have ties to for-profit education institutions and have accepted money from monied charter school supporters like Eli Broad. Likewise, Donald Trump is a known charter school supporter.

What is the problem with charter schools? Some are good. Many, however, are not. In addition to the myriad of high profile scandals where charter schools have been criticized for taking only high performing students or subscribing to draconian testing and disciplinary policies in areas with a high population of minority students, the problem with charter schools, with their appointed instead of elected school boards, is that they are held even less accountable to the public.

The average American child spends approximately six hours per day in school. That’s six hours of time where they are susceptible to the whims of the politicians and money movers who snake their way into schools through policies, grants, promises and handshakes with the upper echelon of government and union officials. We do indeed need public school accountability, but not the kind that we have now.

Given the current political climate in this country, one has to wonder what will become of public education and the future of this country whose public schools, while imperfect, with their lingering problems and imperfect scores, have in fact produced unprecedented numbers of doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, authors, playwrights and, more importantly, thinkers.

Diane Sekula is a former public school teacher, most recently at Cawley Middle School in Hooksett.
– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/Another-View-Diane-Sekula-Public-education-isnt-doomed-Heres-how-to-save-it-08092016#sthash.MEm5rrTg.dpuf

Author: Diane Sekula

Teaching is hard. Teaching under current conditions is next to impossible. I started this blog as a way of sharing information and to help me process through what has happened to our public schools; our children, our country. After teaching for two years in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, I came back to America, eyes wide open; grateful for my experiences and even more grateful for the opportunities provided to me as an American. Presented with a scholarship and the opportunity to further my education as a teacher, I jumped at my first teaching job in the city of Randolph, Massachusetts. For most teachers, their first year is their most difficult. For me, that first year was, by far, one of the best. It was a great environment for a young teacher, the support provided to through my mentors, both formal and informal was far better than what more recent new teachers can imagine. The little tricks of the trade they taught me were invaluable, but what really blew me away was their wit and sense of humor. I wanted to be like them, at the end of my career, teaching with energy and rolling my eyes with a smile on my face. After taking some time off to be with my newborn, I eventually found myself teaching in my husband's hometown of San Antonio, TX. That was a learning experience for me. Lacking southern charm and unfamiliar with the school culture, I was put into a state of shock. It was all about the test. Teachers were told that they'd lose their teaching license for failing to comply with test security measures and offered rewards for high test scores. There was a lot of pressure and teaching wasn't a whole lot of fun. Failing in more ways than one to acclimate to the culture, I returned to New England. I landed a teaching job in a small town just outside of Manchester, New Hampshire. Some of my coworkers were a bit prickly in the beginning, but I acclimated and things were mostly fine for a while. But, as things go for teachers nowadays, things slowly changed. It was if a vice was tightening around me. There was more testing, more looking at scores, more pressure. Teaching wasn't as fun anymore. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was very uneasy about the way things were going. One blustery day, finding a rare moment to myself, I decided to swing by the mall. Not being a big shopper, but having a weakness for sweaters, I decided it couldn't hurt to try the store that I had earlier decided I was too old for. That seemingly simple decision was a game changer. Focusing on a rack of sardine-packed sweaters, I was a bit startled to hear my name. "Mrs. Sekula!", called a former student of mine. Sometimes they drive me nuts, but at the end of the day, I loved teaching and loved my students; especially ones like this. Not only was she a very intelligent young girl, but she was respectful, hardworking and helpful; the type of kid you just know would do well. Now a high school student, she went on to tell me that she wanted to go to college to be a teacher. I was thrilled! Who better could you get? She would be a great teacher. My honeymoon teacher moment lasted all of about fifteen minutes. Thoughts racing in my mind, I got back to my car, turned it on, and that's when reality hit me. I did not want my student going into teaching the way things were. She's too smart to be teaching to a test. She's so much more than that as a teacher. That's when I started searching for answers. Why was it that there was ever increasing pressure to teach to a test? To label students? To hook them up to computers? To label schools and teachers as failures? This blog contains some of my own writing, but also a lot of information that I've found, or have been given by other very dedicated teachers, parents and researchers. Strength in numbers; if you have anything that you would like to contribute, by all means please send it to me.

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