Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Wrong School Policies for Hard Times

These are hard times in the USA. According to the latest report, 51% of jobs pay $30,000 a year or less. Homelessness is growing in most US cities and families are living doubled and tripled up all over the nation even though foreclosures have left millions of homes empty. Young couples find it hard to purchase a home and many older workers and senior citizens live in fear of losing theirs.
Young people are feeling the pinch. There is a heroin epidemic sweeping through small town and rural America and gang issues plague many urban areas. Gentrification has intensified racial profiling and police monitoring of low income youth. For some young people, avoiding violence, whether in their homes or in the streets is a daily challenge; for others, looking at what is happening to the adults around them, the future looks extremely grim.
In circumstances like this, where so many young peope live with stress and danger and worry, you would think it would be national policy to make schools suportive and nurturing places. There would be push for smaller class sizes, more counselors, time for excercise, sports and the arts. Multiple paths to graduation would be developed and vocational and technical programs created for those who are not ready or able to go straight to college Teachers who love, comfort and inspire their students would be valued; and special incentives created to encourage teachers to stay in their jobs for a long time and teach in the communities they live in .
instead, policy makers are doing the exact opposite. They are deluging schools with tests.. They are raising class sizes and cutting sports and arts programs to make room for the testing and test prep they insist must be the core of the school experience. They are slashing vociational and technical programs, insisting all students master a common curriculum, raising graduation requirements,. and in all too many schools, subjecting students to punitive discipline
And while all this is happening to students, they are using test based evaluations and almost daily observations to force teachers to commit educatonal malpractice by neglecting relationship buiilding for test prep and forcing students into a one-size all approach to learning. And to clear the way for this mechanical teaching style, which Reformers without irony call "rigorous," they are doing everything in their power to drive out the best veteran teachers, the ones who have committed their lives to guiding and nurturing students.
Students who need encouragement get tests.
Students who need counseling get tests.
Students who need exercise get tests.
And Students who need teachers to love and inspire them get teachers who test them and bark orders at them
Given the direction our economy is heading in and the social tensions this is creating, the dominant approach to Teaching and Learning our elites are imposing is Cruel, Destructive and Dangerous.
I hope we have enough sense to change course; but until we do, it is our duty to resist this insanity by any means necessary.