I have a love-hate relationship with public education. I love that it’s free for everyone, but hate that it is limited for everyone. It can only do so much. I love that it has protections for students with disabilities, but then we put them into a one size fits all curriculum. I love that public education has the potential to raise children out of poverty, and I hate that we end up funneling poor students into one school. The cycle of promise, then failure, and then patting each other on the backs again until the next failure, is the abuse cycle. And public education loves its abusive relationship with teachers and students.
The abuser cycle occurs like this:
The abuser does something hurtful. The victim points out the problem (or the abuser notices). Then the abuser says lots of flowery promises until the the victim relaxes. And then the cycle starts over.
Public education loves to roll out new goals, new teaching techniques, new tests, new standards, new administration, new policies, new school report systems, new data collections systems, and on and on. And all of these new things come with the promise to help students achieve more! But do they?
Our abuser loves to place new ideas as bandaids to problems. Meanwhile, SAT scores haven’t changed at all over the last 40 years. Nothing we have implemented has improved them. Reading scores for 4th grades have not noticeably changed since at least 1992. Nor have there been major changes in our percentage of high school graduates. Yet the fixes and promises continue without any real change.
(What also hasn’t changed is that wealth is still one of the greatest predictors of college attendance and academic achievement.)
Since the abuser continues to do its song and dance, identifying the abuser is confusing for families and professionals a like. Why aren’t things changing? Why can’t teachers just help my child? Why isn’t my student succeeding? Why can’t schools manage their money better?
So how do we break the cycle?
As in real life, the only way to break the cycle is to completely leave or the abuser must identify that they are the problem. And therapy. Lots of therapy.
We need our administrators, superintendents, and policy makers to realize that the institution is the problem. We don’t need more standards, goals, or reading strategies (because none of them have been powerful enough to effect long term data), our country needs to realize that the system its self needs to change.
And I don’t mean pushing a new curriculum or standard. I mean change the way we think about public education. What is its responsibility in our society?
To help everyone realize the institution is the problem, we need to elect policy makers who care about our students. We need to talk about the issues with our friends, our families, and to school leadership. We need to contact our current policy makers.
The next step is therapy.
Then the work starts! Change is hard. But it can happen. And it happens by rethinking everything. Attending therapy is the next step for change. Therapy for the public education institution includes going to school board meetings, voting in local elections, being involved in local meetings, going to PTA meetings, attending state education meetings, and speaking with school leadership.
We need to encourage our administrators to allow teachers to teach with their own personal strengths. We need to encourage teachers to have more time to plan and organize within the school day. Of course more money for salaries is also necessary if we want to encourage teacher retention.
We need to be REAL about the effect poverty has on education. It’s HUGE. Read any of my previous articles that ties into any research. The institution needs to stop blaming teachers/curriculum/standards for non-proficient students that are caused from a society that is not addressing poverty. And we need to advocate for that within our school systems. Because pushing crazy standards, goals, and curriculums is not going to fix the actual problem. That’s just a bandaid.
We also need address the real problem that parents are not taking responsibility for their children’s education. Parents need to step up to the plate and make sure their child is ready for school, has materials, did their homework, is reading, etc.
Change can happen. We can do it if we all work together to help form realistic expectations, encourage change within schools, take responsibility for our own child’s education, encourage leaders to address poverty, and enable teachers to actually reach students.