Why We Say Save Our Schools

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

Students Struggle to Survive…

Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

“Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

“Teach to the Tests.”

Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

Race To The Top Myths.

  • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
  • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
  • Rigor is “right.”
  • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

Race To The Top Truths.

“Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

National Standards. Low Expectations.

Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .


Students, Schools, Society; When We Pass, We Fail the Whole

Please view Visual and Musical Ode: Whole Child Education

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Educators today learn more than they teach.  However, often the lessons are as is the curriculum, limited in scope.  A Math instructor tells his tale, and again the sum of the parts do not express the “whole”.  At the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, instructor Austin Lampros received a lesson he never expected, poor, underperforming students can slide through the system more easily than a well-educated diligent instructor might.  Indeed, the circumstances of pupils are perceived as special; mentors are incidental.  This realization struck Mister Lampros as strange, or as the New York Times reported, A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a `Fail’ Becomes a `Pass.’ Ultimately, this much esteemed Math guru left his position at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan after a “disastrous year”

Lampros, like many educators are unwilling to work in New York City Schools.  However, contrary to conventional wisdom, at least in this incident, the neighborhood did not drive the dedicated instructor away.  Administrators did.  Mister Lampros demonstrated that he cared.  He showed an active concern for the young people under his tutelage.  Austin Lampros maintained scrupulous logs.  Grades, attendance, tardiness were all noted in detail. 

This former University professor holds  a Master’s degrees in both statistics and math education.  Lampros has won awards for his teaching at the college level.  However, while at the High School of Arts and Technology his every action was questioned.  The decisions of an absent student took precedence.

That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions, and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lampros’s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.

Through the intercession of Ms. Geiger, the school’s Principal, Miss Fernandez was permitted to retake the final after receiving two days of personal tutoring from another math teacher.  Even though her score of 66 still left her with a failing grade for the course as a whole by Mr. Lampros’s calculations, Ms. Geiger gave the student a passing mark, which allowed her to graduate.

This same administrator admonished the academic.  Perhaps, in an attempt to set aside the truer concerns, graduation rates must remain high.  Copious notes documenting student performance were disregarded.  The information contained in a doctor’s note was purposely distorted.  Professional opinions were declared irrelevant.  What survives is this explanation.

Colleagues of his from the school – a counselor, a programmer, several fellow teachers – corroborated key elements of his version of events.  They also describe a principal worried that the 2006 graduation rate of 72.5 percent would fall closer to 50 or 60 percent unless teachers came up with ways to pass more students.

You may recall in April 2006, the New York City School District lured “experienced” educators into the area.  The District initiated a program in hopes of attracting highly qualified math or science teachers into the inner city schools.  Prospects would receive a home grant, a down payment on an abode.  New York City schools were in crisis, and are taking action.

New York city will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to entice new math, science and special education teachers to work in the city’s most challenging schools, in one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the nation to address a chronic shortage of qualified educators in these specialties.

To be eligible for the subsidies, teachers must have at least two years’ experience. City officials said they hoped the program, to be announced by the city Education Department today, would immediately lead to the hiring of an extra 100 teachers for September and, with other recruitment efforts, ultimately help fill as many as 600 positions now held by teachers without the proper credentials.

While the program may have succeeded, ultimately, as often occurs new hires do not stay.  The system is flawed.  No matter what the initial inducement, educators will not violate their own basic values.  Mister Lampros, who may not have been among those recruited through this program, who may have been led to a New York City School merely because he was dedicated to do as he believed best stated;

“It’s almost as if you stick to your morals and your ethics, you’ll end up without a job,” Mr. Lampros said in an interview.  “I don’t think every school is like that. But in my case, it was.”

Austin Lampros elected to resign.  He returned to his home state, Michigan.  Sadly, this aspect of the story may be typical.  Many teachers leave the classroom in the first five years.  Even those eager to educate the young lose their enthusiasm when official procedures become more important than the true value of people, pupils, or instructors.

Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years
Working Conditions, Low Salaries Cited
By Lisa Lambert
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Page A07

According to a new study from the National Education Association, a teachers union, half of new U.S. teachers are likely to quit within the first five years because of poor working conditions and low salaries.

Jentis, now a stay-at-home mother of three, says that she could not make enough money teaching in Manhattan to pay for her student loans and that dealing with the school bureaucracy was too difficult.

“The kids were wonderful to be with, but the stress of everything that went with it and the low pay did not make it hard to leave,” she said. “It’s sad because you see a lot of the teachers that are young and gung-ho are ready to leave.”

Mister Lampros may be among many; much anecdotal evidence that shows his story is common.  He is also a rare one.  What is odd is that this teacher was willing to speak out.  Even in this situation, many of the participants were reluctant, or refused to speak on the record.

Ms. [Anne] Geiger, [Principal] declined to be interviewed for this column and said that federal law forbade her to speak about a specific student’s performance. But in a written reply to questions, she characterized her actions as part of a “standard procedure” of “encouraging teachers to support students’ efforts to achieve academic success.”

The mother of the errant young woman did speak.  Ignoring that her daughter was forced to repeat her senior year in High School, and dismissing that the girl was absent more than two-thirds of the days in her first semester and one third of the time in the second term.  Samantha Fernandez defended her daughter.  Mom did not mention that Indira failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes; nor did she discuss that less than half of the required assignments were turned in.  What this doting mother did say was . . .

Samantha Fernandez, Indira’s mother, spoke on her behalf.  “My daughter earned everything she got,” she said. Of Mr. Lampros, she said, “He needs to grow up and be a man.”

In response, in a telephone interview, Mister Lampros shared his recollection of a comment Missus Fernandez offered while in conference with the educator.  The distressed mother stated it was important that Indira graduate this year; she could not afford to pay if her daughter were to attend another senior prom in another senior year.

Perhaps, that is an important part of this story.  New York educators and Administrators are not alone.  They must face societal standards of acceptability.  The White House is scrutinizing dropout rates, pupil performance; parents do as well.  Numbers are vital statistics.  However, more is made of appearances than actuality.  As long as all looks fine, it is, or so we are told.

Yet, since the advent of No Child Left Behind data is used to authenticate learning and the quality of instruction.  Examination scores tell us our children are knowledgeable.  The same figures establish whether a teacher’s work is up to par.  However, this is not necessarily the case.

12-State Study Finds Falloff in Testing Gains After NCLB
By Scott J. Cech
July 31, 2007
Education Week

Since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind law, test-score improvement among 4th graders in 12 states has fallen off in reading and slowed in math, according to a new study.

The paper also cites National Assessment of Educational Progress scores reflecting a virtual halt to progress in closing racial achievement gaps in reading since the federal law was signed in 2002.

The research, which draws on data from both state tests and the federally administered NAEP, is sure to add fuel to the heated debate over the controversial law as Congress prepares to take up its reauthorization.

“Over the past four years, `No Child’ proponents have made very strong claims that this reform is raising student achievement,” said lead author Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the Policy Analysis for California Education research center based at Berkeley and Stanford University.  “In fact, after NCLB, earlier progress made by the states actually petered out.”

As we read this report and the various interpretations, we realize there were problems with our educational system before this program was initiated.  As harmful as teaching to the tests might be, this practice may only be different in the destruction it causes.  Critics claim, I include myself among these, No Child Left Behind policies force educators to identify all pupils as though they are the same.  The uniqueness of a child is dismissed. 

Self-esteem programs honor a child’s distinctiveness.  However, these strategies do not promote a need for personal accomplishment before praised is bestowed.  Children are labeled special, merely because they exist.  After reading about Indira Fernandez and the Administrators at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, many might muse that is the problem.  Research might bear this out.

Currently, experts and pedagogical professionals think the promotion of programs that advocate self-assurance above actions may be severely flawed.  Studies note, for decades, baby-boomer parents worked to provide their progeny with a sense of worth.  Post World War II Moms and Dads felt as though their parents did not acknowledge their inner value as they might have.  To ensure that their children would not suffer as they had boomers bestowed much praise on their offspring.  A young person need not do anything special to before they were defined as such.

Study finds students narcissistic.
Says trend among college youths can harm society
By David Crary,
Associated Press
February 27, 2007

New York – Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

“We need to stop endlessly repeating, ‘You’re special,’ and having children repeat that back,” said Jean Twenge, the study’s lead author and a professor at San Diego State University. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop today in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory asks for responses to such statements as, “If I ruled the world, it would be a better place,” “I think I am a special person,” and “I can live my life any way I want to.”

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ inventory scores have risen steadily since the test was introduced in 1982.  By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Narcissism can have benefits, said study co author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people “or auditioning on ‘American Idol.’ “

“Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others,” he said.

The study asserts that narcissists “are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.”

Twenge, the author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism, and favor self-promotion over helping others.

The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the “self-esteem movement” that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques” in preschool: “I am special, I am special. Look at me.”

“Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism,” Twenge said. “By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.”

Some analysts have commended today’s young people for increased commitment to volunteer work. But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such activities on college applications.

Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.

“Permissiveness seems to be a component,” he said. “A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for.”

However, for me personally narcissism is not a problem.  The appearance of what is characterized as I egotism is perhaps the effect of much that thrives in Americas educational system.

Teaching to tests rather than students is problematic.  Requiring rote memorization does not help build relationships.  Pupils engaged in projects that seem separate from their lives are torn in pieces, as are educators that are discouraged.  If a curriculum does not evoke interest, curious, critical thought, and creativity students, and teachers, suffer.  Empathy for self and others is taught.  A learner must experience, feel it, if they are to understand it. 

I theorize today’s youth, if anything, do not feel exceptional; yet they are told they are.

We honor our children with awards for attendance.  We grant them great grades if they memorize facts, figures, and formulas.  If pupils recite rote rules, they are rewarded.  If a child can recall and regurgitate on command, accolades are ample.  A child knows these are not great accomplishments.  However, it seems elders expect little more.  I postulate pupils expect more of themselves; however, they are given few opportunities to genuinely perform.

Individuals are infinitely extraordinary from the day of conception.  Nonetheless, they receive empty praise.  They may learn to rely on this; we all hunger for appreciation.  However, I have faith that our youth know these tributes are given without merit.  Perhaps, therein lies the problem.  We require our youth to do tasks.  We demonstrate our approval for these.  Yet, we do not teach our offspring to “be.”  Parents, teachers, and Principals do not help provide our youth with a sense of purpose. 

A person is more profound than what they do.  When we as individuals impact the live of another, we understand our value.  When we are part of the whole, we recognize our worth.  My eighty-nine year young cousin Alexander, when asked of what helps him know to his core he is special, shared many stories.  Each narrative focused on his relationship to others.  Alexander said, when he passes, he wants people to feel as though he “tried.”  Possibly, the path is more important than the destination.

Alexander succeeds by demonstrating his care.  Alexander’s success cannot be calculated in numbers; it is apparent in who he is.

Perchance that is the lesson we must teach.  When community service is done for a grade, or is a mandated call, then little is accomplished.  Students do not feel deeply fulfilled.  They accept that they completed the requirement.  Obligations differ from altruism.  self-sacrifice interestingly enough is its own reward. 

Current programs promote compulsory compassion.  However, in truth, authentic charitable acts cannot be authorized or mandated.  Random acts of kindness are not prerequisites for college.

If today’s youth appear narcissistic might it be because we have advanced the idea of achievement.  We etch grades in stone.  What we “do” is part of our permanent record.  Who we are often goes unnoticed, particularly in schools.

Self-esteem, respect for oneself comes from within.  No teacher or educational plan can give this to us.  Please ponder; evaluate your own experiences.  We are all our own worst critics.  If I, as a student am able to memorize a formula long enough to take a test, I still may not think myself wise or wonderful.  It matters not that I am identified as “special.”  It may seem as though I act as if nothing matters but me, however, possibly, the opposite is true. 

In discussions with those younger than I, frequently I find children, teens, young adults want to feel more whole.  They long to be part of a community, to embrace their education fully.  Adults express a similar desire.  However, opportunities in a world of standardize tests, norms and means are few.

I observe there is a ‘disconnect’, a strong sense of isolation that creates what we witness. 

Students do not feel connected to educators that attempt to fill their heads with facts.  Teachers do not think themselves allied with Administrators that supplant priorities.  Principals rarely perceive a personal need to educate the children.  Agendas must be attended to.  Parents often state they have no time to involve themselves, or they do not fully understand of what goes on in the schools.  Each places the onus on the other.

If Indira Fernandez did not perform, might we ask why?  What happens in her home, her head, or her heart is significant.  A student is not a tabla rosa anxiously awaiting the delivery of rote recitations.  Nor is an educator an automaton meant to distribute data or monitor the movements of those enrolled in their class.  Principals, if they are to be effective must do more than push papers, pass, or fail a pupil. 

In life, we each must have a purpose that is larger than ourselves.  However, current curriculum does not advance a students’ awareness for this.

Perhaps, it is time we expand our horizons.  Math is not the only subject; nor is science the one topic that nurtures a mind.  Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic cannot fully connect a child to themselves or their community.  Granted, each of these components is crucial.  However, teaching these alone will not help improve a child as a whole.

Perhaps the issue is not whether Indira passed or failed.  Nor is it helpful to blame the instructor, the Principal, or statisticians for what occurs.  Might we posit the system society embraces is flawed.  As long as we consider our children empty vessels to fill, we negate the fact that they are more than what they do.  They may be special as individuals; however, if they do not express themselves in a manner that adds meaning to their lives they will not feel exceptional. 

If we continue to educate children with little care for who they are, if we ignore what motivates them, and if we praise them while not providing them with a sense of purpose, then we, as a culture fail.  Let us introduce a concept into our curriculum that is now void.  The whole must reflect the sum of the parts.

Education, Esteem, Self, Success, and Sources . . .

  • The Whole Child. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
  • A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a `Fail’ Becomes a `Pass.’ By Samuel G. Freedman.  The New York Times. August 1, 2007
  • pdf A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a `Fail’ Becomes a `Pass.’  By Samuel G. Freedman. The New York Times. August 1, 2007
  • Schools, New York Offers Housing Subsidies, Bribing Educators By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. April 2006
  • City Will Offer Housing Subsidy to Lure Teachers, By David M. Herszenhorn New York Times. April 19, 2006.
  • pdf City Will Offer Housing Subsidy to Lure Teachers, By David M. Herszenhorn New York Times. April 19, 2006.
  • Study finds students narcissistic, Says trend among college youths can harm society. By David Crary. Associated Press.  Boston Globe. February 27, 2007
  • pdf Study finds students narcissistic, Says trend among college youths can harm society. By David Crary. Associated Press.  Boston Globe. February 27, 2007
  • Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, Working Conditions, Low Salaries Cited. By Lisa Lambert. Reuters. Washington Post.?Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Page A07
  • pdf Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, Working Conditions, Low Salaries Cited. By Lisa Lambert. Reuters. Washington Post.  Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Page A07
  • pdf 12-State Study Finds Falloff in Testing Gains After NCLB, By Scott J. Cech.  Education Week. July 31, 2007
  • The Campaign for the Education of the Whole Child. By Lisa Guisbond, with Paul Dunphy, Julia Johnson, Ruth Kaplan, Monty Neill, Marilyn Segal, Norma Shapiro and Lee Valentine.  The Alliance for the Education of the Whole Child. January 2006
  • A New Compact to Educate the Whole Child. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Children and Schools Are Left Behind. No Dentist Languish.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.
    ~ Alec Bourne [Educator]

    Two years ago, in Literacy and The Bush Legacy I penned this proposition.

    Our current President considers himself a champion in the arena of education.  He believes that his program, “No Child Left Behind,” is the shining light of his career.

    Today, George W. Bush continues on his quest towards dimming the naturally brilliant minds of our progeny minds.  The President proposes we renew the education law.

    George W. Bush thinks teaching to the test is wise.  Mister Bush  believes innovation, imagination, and invention are unnecessary in a classroom.  Students must be accountable.  Schools must teach core competencies in their curriculum.  According to the President, our children can only achieve excellence if the standards are high.  We must reward success and sanction failure.

    Nationwide, Principals and professional educators are questioning the instructional methods imposed by this Administration.  Urban schools are struggling to meet the “standards.”  Rachel B. Tompkins, President of the Rural School and Community Trust (Rural Trust) in Washington, wrote, “No one argues with the lofty goals of this legislation.  No one argues that accountability is not a good thing.  What is wrong with the No Child Left Behind Act is that its cookie-cutter approach, like many other well-meaning, one-size-fits-all education policies, will almost certainly leave rural schools, and rural children behind.”  With all the talk of what is and is not working, there is much confusion. 

    Those that do not work in the schools may feel saturated.  There is too much information, too little, and the terms are unfamiliar.  A fellow educator helped to explain the program by offering a novel perspective.  I present to you . . .

    No Dentist Left Behind

    My dentist is great!  He sends me reminders so I don’t forget checkups.

    He uses the latest techniques based on research.  He never hurts me, and I’ve got all my teeth.

    When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he’d heard about the new state program.  I knew he’d think it was great.

    “Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?”  I said.

    “No,” he said.  He didn’t seem too thrilled.  “How will they do that?”

    “It’s quite simple,” I said.  “They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist’s rating.  Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory.  That way parents will know which are the best dentists.  The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better,” I said.  “Poor dentists who don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice.”

    “That’s terrible,” he said.

    “What?  That’s not a good attitude,” I said.  “Don’t you think we should try to improve children’s dental health in this state?”

    “Sure I do,” he said, “but that’s not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry.”

    “Why not?”  I said.  “It makes perfect sense to me.”

    “Well, it’s so obvious,” he said.  “Don’t you see that dentists don’t all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can’t control?  For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods.  Many of the parents I work with don’t bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don’t get to do much preventive work.  Also, many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay.  To top it all off, so many of my clients have well water, which is untreated and has no fluoride in it.  Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?”

    “It sounds like you’re making excuses,” I said.  “I can’t believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive.  After all, you do a great job, and you needn’t fear a little accountability.”

    “I am not being defensive!” he said.  “My best patients are as good as anyone’s, my work is as good as anyone’s, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most.”

    “Don’t’ get touchy,” I said.

    “Touchy?” he said.  His face had turned red, and from the way, he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth.

    “Try furious!  In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse.  The few educated patients I have who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating is an actual measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist.  They may leave me, and I’ll be left with only the most needy patients.  And my cavity average score will get even worse.  On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?”

    “I think you are overreacting,” I said.  “‘Complaining, excuse-making and stonewalling won’t improve dental health’…I am quoting from a leading member of the DOC,” I noted.

    “What’s the DOC?” he asked.

    “It’s the Dental Oversight Committee,” I said, “a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved.”

    “Spare me,” he said, “I can’t believe this.  Reasonable people won’t buy it,” he said hopefully.

    The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, “How else would you measure good dentistry?”

    “Come watch me work,” he said.  “Observe my processes.”

    “That’s too complicated, expensive and time- consuming,” I said.  “Cavities are the bottom line, and you can’t argue with the bottom line.  It’s an absolute measure.”

    “That’s what I’m afraid my parents and prospective patients will think.  This can’t be happening,” he said despairingly.

    “Now, now,” I said, “don’t despair.  The state will help you some.”

    “How?” he asked.

    “If you receive a poor rating, they’ll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out,” I said brightly.

    “You mean,” he said, “they’ll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience?  BIG HELP!”

    “There you go again,” I said.  “You aren’t acting professionally at all.”

    “You don’t get it,” he said.  “Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score made on a test of children’s progress with no regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that.  Why would they do something so unfair to dentists?  No one would ever think of doing that to schools.”

    I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened.  “I’m going to write my representatives and senators,” he said.  “I’ll use the school analogy.  Surely they will see the point.”

    He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I, as a teacher, see in the mirror so often lately.

    By John S.  Taylor, Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County, PA, School District.

    Be a friend to a teacher and pass this on.

    Timothy Hoey Principal Nottingham Middle/Colbert Elementary

    I hope this lesson has been instructive.  Perhaps, presenting a parallel has been helpful.  There are no facts and formulas to recall.  I offer no final exam on this material.  Unlike our President, I believe learning lasts a lifetime when we relate to information.  In my experience, rote and routine rarely reap the rewards Mister Bush expects. 

    For me, effective learning evolves when we love the process.  My hope is this analysis was pure pleasure.  Please feel free to share this tale.  Teach the concept of No Child Left Behind as you will.  Your approach need not be standard.  Your pupils are likely unique.  As the President is often heard to say, “I understand.”

    References for Your Review . . .

  • “No Child Left Behind” United States Department of Education.
  • Literacy and The Bush Legacy By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.
  • Can A “One size fits All” Law Meet the Diverse Needs of Urban and Rural Schoolchildren?  National Access Network, Teachers College, Columbia University