Its Time for Schools and Communities to Step Up

Education Week posted a great article about the history of state interventions with struggling schools.
Original article is here.

One statement in particular stood out:

“States have a better record of performing “triage” during emergencies than in building the foundation for educational improvements, writes the author of the report, William J. Slotnick. And they’re not particularly good at building the capacity of local communities to sustain the academic changes they make.”

As a former educator in a major urban public school system, I couldn’t agree more.  However, I believe this statement only scratches the surface of the issue at hand.

My experience has been that state governments and school systems are ineffective at building the foundation for educational improvements because they are unwilling to engage their communities in tough love.  Millions of dollars are poured into school systems: building infrastructure, training teachers, writing and re-writing curricula, re-training teachers and administrators on the hot new research-based strategies that weren’t available the month before, and so on, and so on.  Meanwhile, too many of our students are walking through multiple gang territories to get to school, struggle with parents who tell them in no uncertain terms that its okay to disrespect their teachers if the teachers “disrespect” them (the NERVE of some teachers who actually enforce school rules!), and who bear witness to drug abuse, violence, fractured families, and more.  Why would a student care about studying or removing his/her hat in a school building if s/he’s HUNGRY?  When a student spends the night texting about a fellow student who was shot in the head, and e-mails the pic s/he took of him with a hole in his head and blood everywhere, then spends the next morning eating a bag of potato chips and calling that breakfast, s/he couldn’t care less how well-trained the teachers are.

Until states are willing to spend millions of dollars fixing the problems that exist in the communities outside our schools, then we will continue to witness failing school systems.  And until schools are willing to face their communities and hold them accountable for slowing the progress of their own students, then nothing will change.  The Education Week article hints at the solution:

“They (states) can also use school sites as hubs to promote community and grassroots involvement in turning around schools. In Newark, N.J., the site of a major state intervention, 9,200 parents became involved in school site planning, Slotnick says.”

I will put forth the argument here and now that school sites MUST become hubs of the community.  They must not only promote community and grassroots involvement in schools, they must provide training and grassroots involvement in our COMMUNITIES and in our HOMES.  Dr. Cosby went into our communities and challenged us to RAISE our children, and not rely on teachers to do so.  Schools must issue the same challenge.  They must then provide communities with the help and resources that they need.  School buildings must become more than groups of classrooms.  They must become community centers for change.

Until that day, states will keep spending money, and schools will keep spinning their wheels….

What are YOUR thoughts on this?

Broadcast your inner Champion!


2 Responses to "Its Time for Schools and Communities to Step Up"

  • Kaili Fleischman says:

    I agree with your argument, and have written many research papers addressing this very issue. One paper in particular states,

    “The most important aspect that needs to be addressed are the social ills that are affecting the quality of education for poorer students. One solution is to make a range of social services available to children from low-income families, and coordinate those services with the student’s school program. America has the most unequal distribution of income of any industrialized nation. If the problems posed by student’s poverty are not dealt with, it may be nearly impossible for schools to educate the students to world-class standards. The state cannot eliminate student’s poverty, but it can take steps to alleviate its affects on student’s capacity to learn.”

    To go even further my observation is, that the spirit of excellence and competition is lacking in 90% of public schools (and that does not cost). Schools, parents, and the community do not share in the significance of prioritizing education first. Not just making education first, but mastering education and its pursuits. We are lacking as a society because what come before education? The economy, job creation, and profit. If mastering our children’s education came first then our society would raise “the cream crop”. America would be further sought out internationally for our talents. This would ultimately bring economic growth and stability, and America would have a more competitively edged workforce and a more intelligent society as a whole.

    In my opinion, educating ones child should be seen as a race against time. A parent has a few short years to make their child the best and brightest the world may ever see. Children need to be taught what it means to be winner, what education means from their perspective, and how being competitive will separate them from being first place or second place. My child is four, and he already knows he is a gentleman, the world is his, he is a winner, and he is the best. His self esteem will nurture his need to learn and perform at a higher level. I see results in how he behaves and responds at home and in the classroom! Now balancing his baby checkbook has been more of a challenge.


  • Valarie Walker says:

    As an educator in the inner city public school system, it is troubling for me to witness the educational deprivation of our schools and hear and read about improvements without factoring in the social and environmental factors which send children to school unprepared. If we continue to blame each other, particularly the teachers, and not recognize the devastating impact of crime, drugs, and violence and the “gateway strategies” for the prison industry, we are simply kidding ourselves.

    As much as some may have found his comments to be offensive, Bill Cosby was absolutely on point. It is time for the parents to take control of their children and their schools in the proactive manner that helped establish this nation, and build with teachers and administrators. Parents MUST become actively engaged in their children’s education and recognize that not doing so is extremely damaging to a child’s academic success. Society expects teachers to meet high standards. It is far time for parents to meet even higher standards. Parents MUST be held accountable.

    We need everyone who cares about education to get involved. Failing schools can not improve without all the stakeholders taking an effective role in the process of improvement and accountability in the outcome. Schools have always had the means to improve, but an improvement system that lacks support, IN ALL ITS FORMS, is being set up to fail.

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