* Our national drop-out rate has been dramatically reduced (10%).
* Our national graduation rate has improved significantly (90%).
* Our failure rate (D’s and F’s) has significantly declined.
* Our college attendance rate is higher than ever before.
* Our ACT/SAT scores are at their highest point ever.
* Our students read higher than ever before (as measured by the NAEP test).
* Our students understand math better than ever before (as measured by the NAEP test)
* Our students are mastering more rigorous and diverse curricula than ever before.
* When comparing similar groups, our students score near or at the top of the world.
We have done all of this with:
Bigger classes and smaller funds.
Fewer teachers and more students.
More poverty, drugs, divorce and learning disabilities.
Does this sound like a failed system to you?
Does this sound like a system in need of intervention?
Does this sound like a crisis to you?
Are there students who are struggling? Yes.
Are there schools that are not meeting the needs of their students? Yes.
Can we do more? YES!
But before we seek to do more, can we at least acknowledge that the rhetoric we hear is not in fact the reality we see? Can we take a breath to say, “Job well done!” And “How can we help?”
We are so busy listening to everyone tell us what we do wrong that somewhere along the way we forgot to remind them what we do right. It’s not our system that is failed and broken, it just how we make our teachers and school communities feel.
Keep in mind, that in addition to the aforementioned successes, we transport, feed, clothe, exercise, and counsel our nation’s youth. We teach math, history and science. We address the moral questions of drugs and alcohol with the same adeptness we do Maya Angelou and Mozart. We are encouraged to create a community while challenging the individual. We provide clubs, activities, athletics and arts. We will listen with a compassionate ear and administer justice with fairness. And, we do it for less than you pay to participate in club soccer. We expect and want schools to be everything on a budget of next to nothing.
To all the “reformers” who believe that we are failing, might I suggest the following:
- Legislating higher standards does not necessarily translate to greater learning, just as more laws does not translate to less crime.
- Higher standards will result in greater failure. With increased rigor, comes increased failure. It is educational Darwinism.
- Schools are a microcosm of their communities, both in success and in failure. You can not “fix” a school without simultaneously fixing the surrounding communities. Any attempts to do so will result in short-term, and limited success.
- Money does not solve all problems, but limited funds mean limited options. Big problems require a big financial commitment.
- Private/charter schools are not the “magical” solution. They present options and choice, which are good, but they also present obstacles that limit opportunities for students who we know to be under-performing academically.
- Teacher incentives on student achievement are as ineffective as it is insulting. It encourages our best and brightest teachers to only work with the best and brightest students, which is counter-intuitive to what we know to be effective.
- At the very core of this process is a teacher and a student. False or inflammatory rhetoric that detracts or degrades either of these groups is counter-productive.
- Growth and achievement are not the same thing. Not all children will achieve all things in all curricula, but every child can grow in all things and in all curricula.
It is easy to wax poetic about the better days gone by, but when it comes to education, it is simply not true. Our best days are right now. Our best teachers are you. And, America’s brightest future is still ahead.
That is what I believe, and I stand behind it.
- reprinted with permission from Scott Lang's newsletter. Scott Lang is an inspirational speaker and an award winning band director. You can read more about him at his website: www.scottlang.net