I would also appreciate a bit of understanding for today's blog. Last Friday, I teased a post that was going to compare illusionists to teachers. That post is laid out on paper and ready to be written. Over the weekend though, a story in my local newspaper really struck a nerve. After conferring with my editor (me) I am going to address it instead.
My question today is what type of education do children deserve? This question has tugged at me for a while. This leads me to the article in the newspaper that had to do with the Wade County school district in Raleigh, North Carolina and its plan to move toward neighborhood schools. Of course, there is a public outcry like in a lot of cases where a major change is being made. Both sides of the aisle have their strong supporters and neither side wants to give an inch.
I can certainly see why neighborhood schools makes sense. Obviously, parents could be more involved in the school and there would be a huge savings in the cost of busing. There is also a dirty little point to be made as well. In many schools, if you were to eliminate the lower economic families by sending them back to their neighborhoods- test scores would most likely shoot up immediately at those schools. That would make certain principals, teachers, and remaining kids look very good.
The argument against neighborhood schools is equally as compelling. Some people would claim that diversity of race and cultures is a good thing. Neighborhood schools would eliminate that in many areas. Another point is we had neighborhood schools as late as the 1960's. How did that work out for us? Finally, if we went to neighborhood schools, some schools in hard hit economic areas would most likely fail miserably. What would we do then?
If you are someone who has read my blog for a while, you know that I really advocate working with your children and relying as little as possible on the school system. The argument over neighborhood schools is the latest reason. We had these same debates and many others 11 years ago when I started teaching. Despite any changes that were made, not much has helped when you compare the data.
For what it is worth, the first school I taught in (Portland Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky) was a neighborhood school and it was a nice place to work. We had our share of problems (academically) but we made strides and improved test scores every year I was there. After I left, the principal I worked for retired. A new principal was brought in and (from what I can see) has done some great work including improving the test scores. The improvements may not be enough in the eyes of some people though. Being that I worked there and know the neighborhood, I would say the school should be proud its accomplishments.
As far as whether I think there should be neighborhood schools; here's the truth. Neighborhood schools are a great idea but there is a huge drawback. The drawback is I doubt if they will work in many areas. Let me explain.
In order for neighborhood schools to work in my opinion, there has to be an understanding that there will be areas where poverty, discipline, and overall culture will be at an all time low. These area would have to be inundated with the brightest educational minds the district could muster. The student- teacher ratio would have to be extremely low (6:1 would be ideal). There would have to be at least 2 full time assistants for every class. Teachers would have to have a 25% pay increase over their peers at higher performing schools (based on educational rank and seniority) directly hired by the principal. Because of the lack of overall space and to keep the ratios low, two full time teachers would most likely have to team teach in every room. It is very possible two full time security guards would be needed in each school as well. Even if all these ideas were to happen, it would take years to see tangible results because the kids are that far behind. In short, this is simply not going to happen.
Before any of these ideas could be implemented, one more thing would be needed as well- cooperation. I am talking about the teachers, principals, unions, school boards, local and state government, and, of course, parents. If it is one thing I have seen over the years, these groups have their own agendas and getting along with each other is not one of them. It is sad but true.
So what kind of education do children deserve? That's not a question any school can answer (unless you want to hear the standby answer- students deserve the best education possible). Rather this is a question only you, the parent, can answer. Here's my advice for what it's worth. Your job should be to let the talking heads fight, beat each other up, and get little accomplished. These people are good at it and have been mastering the art for many years. The names may change but the results generally stay the same.
I understand you can debate me on this by citing your tax dollars for instance. I understand your concerns should be heard as well. I also understand your voice is important. But, what I understand the most is that time is ticking when it comes to your kids. I've made my decisions concerning my children and have been very pleased with the results. My hope is for you to be equally happy with the educational progress of your kids.
In the meantime, I want you to continue working diligently with your kids on their reading and math especially. Take an active interest in your child's report cards and focus on your kids areas of weakness. It is also a good idea to form support groups with other parents and have study nights. (Ever heard the saying it takes a village to raise a child) The point is the more you take control of your kids future, the less you have to worry about what a school is going to do.
Usually, my blog posts are more light-hearted or have a humorous twist. The truth is that debates such as neighborhood schools angers me because I think of the kids I used to teach. Most are not receiving a good education today (though I bet their teachers are working hard) and I wish there was more I could do.
This Wednesday will be the long awaited behavior blog called Competing for Mama. I will lay out some insights and the opinions may surprise you.