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 . . .

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Money Moves No Minds



Why Teach For America Works – Michelle Rhee

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

In the Fall, this year and every year, in this nation talk turns to Education.  The President of the United States delivers a speech to students.  Articles appear in the news.  Television broadcasts beckon us to think about our Education Nation.  In 2010, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, did what many thought novel.  He donated $100 million dollars to Newark City Schools.  Some were skeptical of his motives.  More rejoiced.  Certainly with abundant cash in the coffers, change would come to the nations schools, or at least to the chosen educational institutions.  However,  it might not.

Even Michele Rhee, Chancellor of Education, Washington District of Columbia and numerous others who may not always agree with most Teachers have doubts when talk of real transformation in education abound. Geoffrey Canada also has voiced concerns.  The two are amongst the masses who have observed, that money does not necessarily move minds nay, academic agendas.

For years, Educators and learners articulated disbelief and discontent with educational doctrines. Reform, while a popular reframe, rarely bears fruit.  The prideful profess solutions. Philanthropic folks throw money at educational endeavors.  Yet, just as was reported in regards to the endowment awarded to the Newark, New Jersey schools,  ” We can’t speculate too much at this point.”  Specifics are often too-welled defined or not defined at all.

A person briefed on the Newark plans said. “O)n issues like expansion of charter schools, rigorous testing and rewarding teachers and administrators whose students succeed their [Mayor Booker, Governor Christie and Mister Zuckerberg] vision is very much in step”  In other words, what has been the unsuccessful conventional-wisdom-way will be the strategy going forward.

Once again, persons with authority and funds forget.  What we learn in our homes and in our schools becomes who we are.  Adults [and peers] are mentors. Persons who we perceive as authorities and authority figures have power, the power to influence our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Disagree or agree, what our friends discover and experience informs us as well.  At any and every age, we absorb and acquire knowledge.  This greatness is known as awareness.  However, the quality of the insights gained might be questioned.  Our comprehension shades our future.  The past is our foundation.  The present can be a gift or it can be proof that “all that glitters is not gold” Today, in America, indeed, worldwide we must consider what we have created beginning in childhood for our experiences and the emotional effect of these will follow us forever.

Please ponder.  None of us has a singular interpretation or emotional response to what we encounter. There is no standard soul.  This notion is one that the boyish-billionaire, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could understand. After all his life experience personifies this truth.  Moreover, one might think that policymakers, such as Mayor Booker, Governor Christie. would realize this.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, students, Teachers see the veracity. These persons feel it.  Particularly those immersed, if not paralyzed by a flawed system do not need to assess the statistics the people in power peruse. It is their life.

While Administrators might denounce the appraisal, dollars will do the deed, at times, they too focus on the “finer” financial narrow realities.  

Those imprisoned in a system void of inspiration, creativity, curiosity, do more than sense the damage done when rankings are more prized than people, pupils.  Student react to the wrong that is standards; it negates their existence.  That is why so many pupils and Professors ultimately leave our nation’s schools.  Yet, those outside the classrooms notice nothing.

“Mature” Americans move on, pour money on a problem that cash cannot correct.  As evidence, $100 million dollars donated to city schools is set to stress, again, that Educators teach to tests.  Gift the Instructors and institution that can produce “results.”

No money is spent on a subject worthy of research.  “Adults” might evaluate the topic that speaks to individual identities.  Perchance, were powerbrokers and prominent people to study their own personal past, then possibly they would acknowledge and act on the concept, each of us are, as schools must be, our own unique entity.

References for Reform and Realities of Education in this Nation . . .

One Nation Left Behind



“One Nation Left Behind” Campaign

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Without a good education, children are left behind.  Americans understand this.  Yet, most do not acknowledge, in the United States, very few young persons receive quality instruction.  American children do not learn to think critically, creatively, or comprehensively in comparison to those in other countries.  Even students enrolled in excellent schools do not excel as children elsewhere do.  Internationally, the information published in a 2002, United Nations Children’s Fund, [UNICEF] study exposed a frightening truth; America pupils and schools receive poor grades when student performance and instruction are assessed.  Today, the American education system remains at risk.  As a recent report reinforces, today as we observe our offspring, we must consider the necessity of change.  It is time to make Tough Choices (in these) Tough Times.  This nation, left behind, must commit to teach our children well.

As adolescents, an individual who was not taught to analyze autonomously may do well.  As an adult, this same person will struggle to survive in the workforce.  While he or she may do well in school, as adults, people learn there is more to life than test taking.  Once out in the world, each of us receives the lesson rarely taught in the classroom, or at least one that is not taught as well.  Without the habit of hale and hearty intellectual activity, opportunities to expand in life are few.  A diploma deficiency can also make daily doings difficult.  Service jobs, which require little creative, innovative, and imagintive thought, will be all that is available to one who learned only how to prepare for and take tests.  

Accountability, while a noble concept, when calculated with abundant disregard for intellectual curiosity, quells a society’s greatest need.  The future is found in our youth.  Sadly, in recent years we, as a country have counted on tallies to tell us whether our children have learned.  In today’s schools our young acquire some, selective knowledge.  Teens and tots have mastered the methods necessary to improve Math, Science, and reading scores.  At least, the little ones have worked to secure these skills.  

In classrooms throughout the country, our offspring memorize and mechanically mouth the “facts” our ancestors discovered long ago.  Very few are instructed to think beyond what others in the past believed were the boundaries.  Unlike ancients who questioned accepted theories such as the Earth is flat, our progeny are trained to consent to a construct that may not be correct.  In America, people are so confident that what is currently considered the truth is accurate; we do not encourage our children to explore.

Moms, Dads, mentors, and the policymakers, who tell educators what to teach, confine children to rooms where dictums are delivered.  The statements, “Answer the question,”  “Do not ask why,” and “Do not turn the page” dominates the current curriculum.  “Silent.  Test in progress,” is a sign that hangs from many a door in educational institutions.  Pupils are told to mark a Scantron™ or bubble the circle in completely.  The only query frequently heard in American schools is, “Do you have a number 2 pencil?”

Boredom sets in amongst students whose minds crave creative activity.  Disheartened and dejected, millions of potentially scholarly pupils, dropout.  Intellectually, emotionally, and physically our offspring have dropped out in droves since No Child Left Behind was introduced in this nation’s schools.  However, this program is but an extension of a trend put in place by politicians who wish to embrace the popular notion, people must be held responsible.  Teachers, learners, and school Administrators need to document the acquisition of knowledge.

In today’s society, the focus is more on scores, tallies, totals, than it is on the child.  Hence, examinations are used to make high stake decisions.  In America, an evaluation administered on any given day in the life of a little one, determines whether a student is an achiever, or ultimately a failure.  A child’s school career can be crushed hours after he was told his parents would divorce, her father passed, or someone he or she loves is seriously ill.  

The statistics show that in the more than seven years that this policy has been law we have seen that a “high-stakes accountability system has a direct impact on the severity of the dropout problem.”  

The “original” premise behind the No Child Left Behind program or any plan that dictates a child must quash curiosity in favor of existing “factual” documentation is “Schools and students held accountable to these measures [standardized, high-stakes, test-based accountability] will automatically increase educational output.”  However, in a report titled, “Avoidable Losses: High-Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis,” researchers reveal . . .

The reality is far different.  The findings of this study show that the accountability system itself is complicit in the very losses it claims to reverse.  The losses are avoidable, but not while this accountability system governs schools.

Perhaps, the possibility of better days and an improved instructional methodology is the reason educators have rallied ’round the Republican Convention and rolled out an unprecedented proclamation. America is One Nation Left Behind.  A nonprofit alliance “dedicated to increasing the dialogue about the state of public education in the United States” hopes to garner the attention of gadabouts, Convention goers, and government officials.  

Strong American Schools or representatives of this organization, also participated in the activities in Denver during the Democratic National Convention.  They understand politicians in each Party were, are, and will be responsible for reform, or the lack of change in the nation’s curriculum.

While sensitive to the source of the No Child Left Behind program the Grand Old Party President, George W. Bush, seasoned educators and experts in instruction are aware, Democrats also helped to hand down the decree that has destroyed American schools.  A bipartisan commitment to calculations over curiosity closed the doors to many an American mind.

That said, perchance, aware of the support for standardized educational plans amongst Republicans, this organization led by Roy Romer, a former Colorado Governor and Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Schools, chose this week to prominently share what they believe must be an essential message in a Presidential election year.  

Strong American Schools, the group behind the ED in ’08 campaign to boost debate about education in the presidential campaign, has a full-page ad in this morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press that bluntly says, “Our schools are failing.”

The ad, in the newspaper’s special news section on the Republican National Convention, displays a ranking of national flags showing the United States as 21st in the world in science. (The fine print cites several assessments, including two from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.)

“The countries with the best schools attract the best jobs,” the ad says.  “If jobs move to countries like Finland and South Korea, your child’s opportunities dry up. And so does our economy.”

Although, most Americans claim the economy is the most important issue, in the first Presidential political debates, not one of the aspirants who wished to sit in the Oval Office mentioned education reform.  Those who vied for the presidency did not think it vital to speak of our students, or the American school system.  Citizens, perhaps trained to be apathetic, did not voice what must be a deep-seated source of distress if the United States is to grow truly successful children.  Curriculums must encourage  critical thought.

In the initial televised Democratic and Republican conversations with Americans, there was no mention of what citizens do not wish to consider.   In education, America is not number one.  This country is ranked at 21.  Internationally, in twenty other countries a higher percentage of students graduate from High School.  Seventy percent of eight-graders do not read at grade level.  Ninety-three percent of Middle School Science instructors are not trained in the discipline they teach.  The United States is the only developed nation to have a zero percentage increase in the number of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees awarded.

What those who wish to give birth to a strong America believe is, if America is to thrive, as a community, we must act on our awareness.  Children must be encouraged to think for themselves.  Elders must place education first if this country is to be number one, two, or even three.  Indeed, where the United States ranks on a scale is not nearly as significant as what we teach our children.

If this society is to succeed, Americans must embrace education for the Seventh Generation.  Each of us must prepare our progeny to be critical, creative, and curious thinkers.

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.

~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American Author, Editor and Printer.

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.

~ Carl Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) American Psychologist

Education, properly understood, is that which teaches discernment.

~ Joseph Roux (1725-1793) French Cartographer and Hydrographer


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School Supplies and Sources . . .