Rev. Markel Hutchins on “Get Schooled” blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 15, 2015, and my response to his comments:
Rev. Hutchins: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested, ‘crimes will be committed when there is darkness but the responsible parties aren’t just those who committed the crimes but also those who created the darkness.’ ”
Mary Elizabeth: “Are you listening business leaders with your unrealistic educational goals that you have inflicted upon students and teachers, not understanding that human beings are not cars which can have a 5% production increase yearly for years on end?
You business leaders and you legislators and other politicians who are trying to turn public, not-for-profit schools into market-centered places of learning, in competition with one another often for stealthy profit motivations, must acknowledge your guilt in this darkness that has enveloped public education, to Thomas Jefferson’s horror.”
My thoughts: An educational model, not a business model, should ALWAYS exist in public schools. Children are not cars which can be upped on the assembly line increase of output by 5% every year, for all children and all teachers. That is educational insanity from the top down. And, by top, I mean Atlanta’s business leaders who put this pressure for PR marketing on the Atlanta Public Schools.
From Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, Jay Bookman’s blog post this morning, April 9, 2015: Link:
Jay Bookman: “But speaking generally, prison terms for those convicted in the cheating scandal ought to be measured in months, not in years, and perhaps in the case of low-level teachers, to time served and probation.”
Mary Elizabeth Sings: I agree. Justice with mercy.
Beyond that, I would like to comment that most of us have been programmed to see the world through human faces, either villains or heroes. But, in this case, I believe that the “villain” was over and beyond any one human being, including Dr. Beverly Hall. Today, Michelle Rhee, high-powered educational leader, has influence over Georgia’s legislator’s and over many Governors’ educational decisions.
The real culprit in this massive tragedy is in thinking that the square-peg business model will fit into the round hole of the educational model. It is impossible to do that, without ingrown corruption.
For years, I have written that standardized testing should only be used for diagnostic purposes to insure that each student be placed on his or her precise instructional level and then taught on his/her precise instructional levels throughout the twelve grades. When we use test scores to compare teachers, and schools, and schools systems with one another, and offer bonuses for “success” and firings for “failure” we have not only bastardized public education, we have prostituted it for profit. One cannot compare teachers and schools with one another because every class and school with have completely different students. Education deals with human development with all of it complexities; business deals with products sold for profit. Huge difference. This mess is the result of wrong-headed, simplistic thinking where business leaders are trying to dominate every area of our democracy.
MES: What would you recommend to determine if teachers are doing their jobs?
Observations by professional educators, and a review of test results for only her students for the year, in pretesting the same students before she begins the year, and post testing at the end of the school year, her same students on the same test, or a version of it, taking into consideration the differing IQs of students and their various individual problems or needs. That is a humanistic approach that has intellectual heft, also. And, the goal is human development not profit.
It should be taken into account that not all students are academic.
What should you do with those who are not?
In any democracy, every student who has even below average IQ (but not severely so) should be able to become literate to some degree in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies (or history) in order to enhance the society as a whole. However, students, because they will always have varied IQs and differing needs, must always be taught concepts and skills to mastery at differing RATES. That will result in students of the same grade levels – all the way through 12th grade – needing to be taught exactly where they are functioning, irrespective of their grade level demarcations. This is how we will improve public education.
In addition to that, and more on target to your question, those students who would better be served by focusing on trade skills should be taught those skills earlier in high school, and perhaps even toward the end of middle school, before they give up and drop out of school. There should be no stigma attached to this trajectory for those students. They should be given much on-the-job training throughout their high school course work, and some of the high school course work in these trade areas could be co-oped with colleges or more advanced trade schools for use after the students’ high school graduation. Btw, because rate of instruction should always be adjusted to individual students’ needs, some students realistically should take 13 years to graduate from high school with mastery of its content, and some gifted students may need only 11 years to graduate with mastery from high school.
It was the federal government, not business, that insisted on using standardized tests to evaluate success and failure.
To 4th Poster, in answer to your statement to me:
Yes, the massive standardized testing thrust in education did occur through the federal government’s impetus, under the Bush II administration of “No Child Left Behind.” The Republican Bush administration was heavily under the influence of business leaders throughout our nation. Many educators today believe that that testing was implemented to “expose” how “bad” public education is, so that capitalists and business profiteers could swoop down and make money off tax-payers dollars for education by “improving” public education. As I have often said, nothing is totally pure in life, and Bush et al may have had some pure reasons for this massive change, but don’t close your eyes to the business push he was also getting.
Btw, President Obama and his Secy. of Education, imo, lean too far toward the validity of test results and have too much faith in charter schools to come up with the “answers.” Bottom line, listen to educators themselves instead of politicians (or educators who cater to politicians like Michelle Rhee) and business men and women, like Bill Gates, well meaning though he may be. Gates is NOT an educator, and in fact, he never graduated from college (his interests were in business, not in academics).
Our mixed-economy statist system forces businesspeople to seek cozy relationships with politicians and rewards businesspeople who are good at such relationships. This has all sorts of corrupting and distorting effects on both business and government. This is one reason why we need less statism.
What you call “statism,” I call public service through government, not for profit. Nothing is pure in life. Public education must reform from within, not from without. It must never become the vehicle of stealthy profiteers. Our former Superintendent of Schools for Georgia, Dr. John Barge, knowingly lost his job in speaking this truth to power in Gov. Deal’s administration. Bravo to him!