Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reactionary Collaboration & Reflection is Better Than None...Right?

"You cannot hold me more accountable than I hold myself responsible for the children in my charge." ~Chris Lehmann, Principal SLA, Philadelphia

This quote pops into my head every time I hear a news story about the government's and/or educational leaders' plans on how to best "reform" our public education system. Accountability cannot be the foundation of sustainable, meaningful reform. So I was shocked when I heard the news that Central Falls High School in Rhode Island fired its entire teaching faculty, effective at the end of this school year, in part to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. Yes, the whole faculty has been fired. And President Obama implied that this was a good decision!

The story on NPR's Morning Edition (below) filled me with simultaneous outrage and relief. Former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, has changed her position on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and other educational reform ideas. A former supporter, she now says that "It actually lowers standards...The problem is that when we attach high stakes to the tests...This, then corrupts the value of the measure..."

One quote by Ravitch resonates with me because I have always nurtured a collaborative environment in my classroom. True collaboration is key. Ravitch states, "Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block."

Collaboration. Hallelujah! I'm relieved that this has finally been voiced. I hope this quote is aired repeatedly and used as a focus for faculty discussions all over the country. It holds so many foundational elements to quality education. So I applaud Ms. Ravitch's reflection and growth. But the only way these ideas will become reality in our school system is when the evaluation process matches these thoughts. When will these ideas become the foundation for educational reform?

I'm enraged that this has taken so long. Why weren't the teachers, professors, educational researchers and a large number of school administrators listened to years ago when these tragic outcomes were predicted ad nauseam? The present state and federal mandates are unfortunately speeding up this path of educational destruction and we need to put on the brakes!  I vividly recall a conversation I had with my husband approximately ten years ago. He said, "I think they're trying to destroy public education. I think they're campaigning to take it down, to privatize it. I really do." And look where we are. Is it too late? Can we still turn the corner, implement collaborative, research-based, sound changes?

Our students need individualized, local attention. High stakes must go. Education is not formulaic. So will the people responsible for making educational decisions finally start to sincerely collaborate with the educational community? We're ready!

1 comment:

M. Grdinic said...

Accountability is achieved by firing the high school faculty. Interesting.

What about the accountability of the middle school and grade schools that prepared them for high school? Or the accountability of the parents of the children? Or the accountability of the students themselves?

When will we realize that education is a collaborative effort and therefore EVERYONE is accountable? It's these sort of decisions that leave me feeling completely baffled at how our system operates.