Here’s the solution. It first appeared in the TABs near Boston years ago. Then, in educationnews.org in 2011 and now in Medium.com.
Crazy? For sure but what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk!
The radical way to fix public schools!
If we are really serious about fixing/improving/rebuilding public schools, there is one way to do just that! It is the single, quickest, and most sure-fired way to improve our schools. It’s common sense, really. But it probably won’t or can’t happen.
A lot is on the line. Without radical change, we just tinker on the edges of reform, afraid to confront various realities and stakeholders. But education should be about providing necessary learning opportunities to the next generation, not about today’s interest groups.
Ready for that one way?
Close all private schools.
Admittedly, a most radical step that is politically unfeasible and probably unconstitutional. I know, I know….. But hear me out on this one! This step will force all students (the very rich, the very poor, the smart, the average, the disabled, the at-risk, and everyone in between) into public schools, creating overwhelming pressure to fix them at last. Imagine CEOs in New York City, Silicon Valley, Detroit, and Houston and Senators, Representatives, and Presidents — all sending their children to the public school! Parents, no longer able to vote with their feet out of the publics, will just have to push for radical reform. Only in that way, schools will matter for everyone — not just for other people’s children.
Here are several wonderful examples of the new vision:
Education will focus on teaching all children where they are and taking them where they need to be. We will no longer focus solely on closing gaps for students without basic skills — but will focus on closing gaps for all students, including those at the top of their class who need challenges. We will bring back vocational programs, academically advanced programs — whatever all students need.
Regarding school discipline, students who disrupt classes and violate school rules will be educated in alternative programs without costly litigation that ties the hands of schools, adds disrespect for educators, and damages opportunities for all students. We will become more savvy about drop out prevention and discipline policies. Everyone outside the chattering classes knows that these behavioral issues are the elephant in the public school room. Disruption and time away from learning are key reasons that parents opt out and choose home or private schooling. Parents want their children to learn — not to waste time. Parents want teachers to teach — not face endless distractions. With everyone in the same space, we will finally have to get honest about this.
Teachers will no longer be scorned. As a former teacher, I find the current climate painful. We will rebuild trust between schools and families. With basic respect and trust, reform efforts will no longer flounder. We will treat educators as the experts they are. In my experience, most of them are good enough. Some are brilliant. We will honor their profession, whether through higher pay, creative training and mentoring, quick and efficient removal of the few who are not up to par, paperwork burden relief, even an apple for the teacher sometimes!
We will allow only bureaucratic requirements that directly improve teaching and learning, and will trash all others.
We will demand that parents play their part. Schools cannot educate children alone. Parents must be positive partners to help their children and support the schools. We will change laws that do the opposite, that treat parents as consumers of services and passive participants in improving outcomes. Some laws even require parents to advocate for children against the schools! How does that build a positive school community? It needs to end. We will see that parents help children with schoolwork, feed and clothe children appropriately, and put them to bed on time at night. Common sense will return to center stage.
Enough said. You get the idea. Before long, policies for the good of all children will return to public education. Schools will again be not just for other people’s children.
As an optimist, I predict that within a year, our schools will work far better, even in the inner cities–kids will learn, discipline will be appropriate, teachers will have time to teach, and the sun will shine upon us all.
Too radical? Probably. But think about a system that is designed for everyone children.
Originally published at www.educationnews.org on September 22, 2011.
Miriam Kurtzig Freedman
Medium member since Nov 2018
Miriam K. Freedman, is an attorney and author. She wrote her seventh book, Special Education 2.0, to help support excellent public schools for all students.