SOS Rebuilds the American Dream Through Education
By Betsy L. Angert
Save Our Schools [SOS] is an organization devoted to fair and equitable education for all. We work to preserve and transform public education. We are a venue for active, people-powered, grassroots education innovation. In cyberspace and in communities throughout this country we advance solutions that bring learning back to our children, education back to public school classrooms, and policy decisions back to the students, teachers, and parents.
SOS is dedicated to finding a better, more balanced, path for education reform in this country. In that spirit, we propose The Equitable Education Policy Path. We establish that public education must be an American priority. Education is a basic civil and human right. Every child has the right to attend a high quality public school.
The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.”
-Jane Addams [Public Philosopher, Sociologist, Author]
Our initiative was born out of an overwhelming awareness that today, and for the last several decades, students and teachers have been increasingly reduced to data-points. Humans are no longer given the opportunity to learn for more than the mere moments required to memorize facts and formulas for a battery of tests.
Schools have been “restructured.” Bureaucratic business models have been adopted, imposed, and anointed as “Real Education Reforms.” As a Nation, we abandoned “The Great Society” program; which acknowledged that when a culture allows poverty to flourish, failure follows. Instead of addressing what prevents true learning, Americans favored quick-fix agendas, such “No Child Left Behind.”
Standardized lessons were put in place. One-Size-Fits-All High-Stakes Testing policies were employed. Curricula, void of substance and sustenance, were fed to students whose bellies were empty. Standards are now the norm in our schools. Test scores are deemed a sign of success or reflect a dearth of achievement.
For decades now, students who perform poorly on examinations are punished, as are their teachers. Today, these same learners, educators, and institutions are told, starved as you are, it is time To Race To The Top!
Do policymakers not realize that without food or funds to sustain them, massive breakdowns are inevitable? There is ample evidence.
Young bodies need attention if they are to grow healthy, happy, and strong. Food first. Motion and Emotional Stability too. Each nourishes a soul. Test scores? Anecdotal and empirical research reveals, these bring about little learning and increase the level of stress.
Clinicians acknowledge the long and short-term effects of tests and/or distress.
Equal access to excellent and equitably funded schools, superior, well-trained teachers, and curricula that offers opportunities for critical and creative thought, will begin to grow our children’s minds. Play too is a phenomenal educator. Children learn when they see facts within meaningful contexts, invent their own ideas and problems, explore, solve problems, and share their solutions.
Presidents, Philanthropists, and the policymakers, each of whom embraces Corporate Education Reforms, which establish business-efficiency-models, miss the obvious – performance measures the pressure to perform do not further education.
The Obama Administration, through Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reported in 2011, 82 percent of American schools are failing. The Center on Education Policy studied the numbers and asserts the claim is “overstated.” In 2011 their estimate shows 48 percent are failing. This is up from the 39% percent calculated in 2010. That number too was the highest recorded since George W. Bush established No Child Left Behind.
Fortunately, there is agreement. The law is broken. Waivers are issued. However, the one aspect of the NCLB policy and the more punitive Race To the Top that remains strong and stable is the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. That is the problem. High-stakes testing serves no one well, that is with the exception of publisher profiteers.
The young and their elders do not learn quickly. Solutions too take time and energy. The thought that we might eradicate the achievement gap or poverty in a week of exams is anachronistic. Still, there is reason to believe we can we can rebuild the American education system. Let us renew our belief in the commonweal. Let us again advance democratic principles in education policy and practices. It is time for true change.
It is in this spirit that Save Our Schools puts forth, the People’s Education objective. Through sound people-centered policies and actions such as Seminars, Webinars, Town Hall Meetings, Rallies, Protests, and Marches Save Our Schools works tirelessly to effectuate change. We address the issues of import in education. Topics include and are not limited to, Early Childhood Education, Curriculum [Creation and Use of Curricula,] Accountability and Authentic Assessments, Racial and Socioeconomic Integration, Student Voices, Equitable Funding, Parent and Community Involvement, and Labor.
REBUILD THE AMERICAN DREM THROUGH EDUCATION
1. INVEST IN AMERICA’S CHILDREN.. Preserve and transform public education. Keep public education strong. Hire, not fire teachers. Rebuild our crumbling classrooms.
2. INVEST IN PUBLIC EDUCATION.. We must provide universal access to early childhood education, make school funding equitable, invest in high-quality teachers, and build safe, well-equipped school buildings for our students. A high-quality education system, from preschool to vocational training and affordable higher education, is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now.
3. FUND SCHOOLS EQUITABLY.. We must invest in American innovation. American needs to provide the funds to pay for quality resources and teachers regardless of the socio-economic status of a community. Twenty-First Century technologies need to be made available to impoverished children, as well as the wealthy and those of middle-means. We must provide our children with the latest and greatest tools, and ensure that education is inspirational. Imaginative minds crave a challenge.
4. OFFER PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE.. Education is the foundation that establishes a safe and stable society. Unemployment rates among Americans who never went to college are double those who have a postsecondary education. By 2018, an estimated 63 percent of all new U.S. jobs will require workers with an education beyond high school. Let us adequately and equally prepare our young, and establish affordable institutions of higher learning.
5. ENSURE EQUAL EDUCATION FOR AL Keep our schools equal. Current court decisions strengthen the deleterious divide. We must ensure that physical, mental, and emotional challenges do not hinder access to quality education. Non-English language speakers and children whose second language is English cannot be shut out from our schools. Funding inequities must be remediated
6. PROVIDE AGE APPROPRIATE EDUCATION.. Learning is a process. Children develop in time when challenged to explore constructs that are meaningful to them. Increasingly, 3 to 5 year olds are required to perform academically at a level once deemed appropriate for 1st – 3rd graders. The result is our young experience more rote “learning,” less direct play and hands-on experiences that lay the foundations for later academic success.
7. RETURN TO FAIRER/BALANCED, INSTRUCTION AND ASSESSMENT. End, high-stakes testing used to evaluate students, teachers, and schools. Adopt Authentic Assessments, Portfolio Reviews, Student Journals and Interviews. Abandon the quick-fix, one-size-fits-agendas of No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top that have established failure as the norm in our schools.
8. PUT THE PUBLIC BACK IN THE LEAD. The people make all our schools better. Parents and students are profoundly aware of what aids learning. Teachers, trained experts in education, are there in the classroom and are in-tune. Rely on the people; they will rebuild the education dream.
9. STRENGTHEN DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION FOR ALL. We need equal education – a system in which money doesn’t buy policy, a curriculum plan, or secure a contract for services rendered to public schools. We must ban anonymous political influence, posed as philanthropy, and end the corporate endowments that misshape education. The doors in D.C. cannot be open to entrepreneurs and closed to the people. Immigrants and their children want to join in our democracy. The challenged child and children of lesser means cannot be scorned in a democratic country. Each deserves his or her right to dream. . http://owl.li/eCZ6a
Together, we must rebuild our education dream and reinvest in our young and their schooling. We have a civil and human rights crisis, not an education crisis, and we must begin to solve it now.
Please Join Save Our Schools [SOS]! Help us work to preserve and transform public education. Let us end policies that promote separate and unequal, and for all time ensure that public education is not influenced by or operated as a for-profit industry. Let us restore pedagogical principles and prescribe practices that return learning to our classrooms. Let us not fail our youth, while labeling them “failures.” It is time to honor humans and the Whole Child. Now, and in the future, let us Rebuild the American Dream Through Equal, Equitable, and Excellent Education For All.
and to think critically. Intelligence plus character –
that is the goal of true education.
~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963 March on Washington
Betsy L. Angert is an Educator, Author, and an active learner. She advocates for Empathy and Education and Save Our Schools.