Monday, February 02, 2015

Winning the Peace

Ed. "reform" will bite the dust.  There is no doubt in my mind.  It is only a matter of time.   The Ed. "reformers" have greater stashes of money, but they have neither the majority nor justice on their side.  

You can see a lot by looking into the past.  People will not want a system that cuts down communities in the name of a "common core."   People will not want a system that denies diversity and individual initiative.  People will not want an overly narrow definition of college and career readiness foisted upon them.  People will not want a trickle-down system that brands 70% of their children as failures.

Amid all of this, Andrew Cuomo's comments in his State of the State sounded more like an anachronism than public policy.  Yet, by tying the budget to his bizarre demands, perhaps, he hopes ed. "reform" can have its last hurrah in NY State.  I know how the history books will speak of this period.  I read them in my sleep.  Cuomo will be the man who could be bought by the campaign contributions of charters.  Moskowitz will be anything but Mother Teresa.  Bill Gates will no longer seem to be the great genius.  

So, although battles must  be waged to take down ed. "reform," I don't worry about final victory.  I worry more that after ed. "reform" is largely discredited, the harm it has done will live on.  Before new policies can succeed, the damage must be surveyed and addressed.

To begin with, the teaching profession has lost many of its most experienced teachers.  Similarly, many promising young teachers have been driven away.  Who will fill the shoes of the missing teachers?  In 1987-1988, the mode for teacher experience was fourteen years.  Today, it is just one to two years.  Today, only 50% of new teachers survive past five years in the profession.  Why the change?  In my experience, test-based ed. "reform" is the number one reason.

Next, many schools with proud old traditions, the focal points of their communities, have been closed across the country.  Jamaica High School is one of the more recent local examples.  Feel the pain from the perspective of the career teacher.  Here, Mr. Eterno has been most eloquent.  Feel the pain from the perspective of the students.  One-hundred-and-twenty-two year old Jamaica is only one of NYC's fatalities.  Schools in Chicago have been slaughtered, blitzkrieg-style.  Let's not even mention New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as the greatest thing, in Arne Duncan's mind, to hit the New Orleans education scene.

In this brave new world of ed. "reform," many African-American teachers became professional fatalities. About 7500 teachers were fired in New Orleans and, by far, most were African American.  So, you survive Hurricane Katrina, only to succumb to ed. "reform."  In the eight years, Arne Duncan ruled Chicago, he managed to fire 1300 teachers, most of them black and female.

On top of all this, it seems that the segregation of students in schools has only increased under the aegis of ed. "reform."  According to the UCLA report, NY State is the worst offender.  Charter schools have severely exacerbated the problem.  So much for "school choice," if you can choose segregation.  So much for Brown v. the Board.

And, then, there is a generation of children who have been made the guinea pigs of these failed experiments.  They are not the children of the ed. "reformers."  "Reformers" opt for a rich curriculum, filled by the arts, libraries and physical activities.  They opt out of their own test-prep peddling system.  They draw the line at the threat of their system branding their own children as casualties of the Common Core.   More than 2/3 of our children have been branded as such for two years now by NY State, much thanks to Commissioner King and Regent Tisch.

How much of this can be reversed and how quickly?  I have to believe much of it is reversible because my glass has always been a little more than half full.  But, I have to believe that it will take a sustained battle by teachers, parents and other individuals.  I am sure we will win the war against ed. "reform."  We must ensure, however, that we also win the peace.
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