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 . . .

businesscard.aspx

Race To the Top Leaves Children Behind



Collaborative Planning

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

While many muse as a culture we cannot continue “Waiting for Superman” to transform our schools, others expect our Teachers to be Supermen or Superwomen.  Some say private school Educators are superior.  Only the Instructors employed in public educational institutions are flawed.  There seems to be agreement in our society; these Teachers cannot take the lead.   The system, critics cry, out must change.  Philanthropists proclaim they are here to save the day.  Privatization is the only way to work through what has been a woeful failure.  No, Administrators and the current Administration avow; Teachers are the problem.  We must assess their performance and pay Educators accordingly.

Still other experts defend the trend; student test scores will determine success.

So it goes.  Lessons are now taught only as they apply to standardized examinations.  The ways in which pupils learn best is not a consideration.  Creativity, critical thought, a policy that cultivates curiosity, all are null and void.  There is no place for these in American schools, at least not in the public institutions.

Perchance, private industry can or will create some semblance of these Charter School classrooms.  The thought is a well-paid pedagogical professional, a person who has never truly worked with pupils will produce the desired results.  This strident “suit” will enforce effective policies.  Thus, the drama begins.  It builds daily in schools throughout the nation.

A Principal, Head Master, or Educational authority stands in front of a Teachers and states, “Let’s begin today’s collaborative planning meeting with successes and challenges.  Who would like to volunteer some successes? You are all required to volunteer successes.”

A mentor moves the conversation forward.  “My students are not understanding verse structure. We have been working on it for three days….”

The Administrator retorts, “That is not a success. You need to mention a success for this week.”

In response the Instructor explains.  “There have not been any this week. Today is Tuesday and Monday was a holiday.”

Delighted, the Director declares.  “See, it was not hard to find a success. Stop being so negative and we can get more done. Does anyone have a challenge to volunteer?”

The convoluted cycle continues.  Listen closely.  Everything you need to know about what propels school reform today: is outlined in this dialogue.  The absurd obsession with assessment, schedules, and data has brought rigidity to our nations classrooms and curriculums.  Instruction and an authentic internalization of  information are impossible.

Yet, all appears impressive.  The statistics look good, skewed as the numbers are . . . and look at the dollars we have poured into [inadequate] education.

Surely, school reform 2010 will be a certain success.  This country will Race to the Top.  The question is will Administrators and the Administration realize that once again, every child and all that connects a student to a curriculum has been left behind.

References, Resources, Sources for School Reform  . . .

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


OnNtnLftBhnd

School Supplies and Sources . . .

School Shootings; Standards Kill Students and Society



The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  The Whole Child

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Each moment we live never was before and will never be again.

And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France.

What we should be teaching them is what they are.

We should be saying: “Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel.

You are unique.

In all the world, there is no other child exactly like you.

In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another child exactly like you.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.

You have the capacity for anything.  

Yes, you are a marvel.”


~ Pablo Casals [Cello player, Conductor 1876 – 1973]

School shootings are in the news.  Throughout America, adults express concern.  Are the children safe when in a classroom.  Repeated rounds of ammunition affirm, they are not.  Some say times have changed.  There seems to be a consensus; we must secure our campuses,  Solutions are standard.  Society must protect the young.  Few think it possible to prevent another occurrence or attack. Let us examine the whole situation, the whole of our children.  Perchance, the problem is not as it appears.

People presumed all was well or hoped it was.  Individuals were reassured.  It was quiet.  However, the silence was broken thrice in recent days.  Correction; a forth shooter sprang out before people could take a breath.  Three dead in Louisiana campus shooting.  Student Shot During Gym at Tennessee School.  Student Wounded in Southern California Junior High.   Northern Illinois University [NIU] Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness.  Theories abound.  Why are school shooting so prevalent?

Some say class size is the cause.  As a society, we see the effect of too many students served by too few teachers.  No single educator can connect well with each of the tens or hundreds of student they are expected to serve.  Experts argue, children are healthier when placed in smaller classes.  Judith Kafka, an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy, History, and Leadership at Baruch College, in New York City, writes It’s Guns, Not School Size.  Perchance it is neither, either, each, and much more.  

Americans recognize there is much to consider.  Legislators propose, school employees carry concealed weapons.  Some instructors already do.

High school English teacher Shirley Katz insists she needs to take her pistol with her to work because she fears her ex-husband could show up and try to harm her.  She’s also worried about a Columbine-style attack.

Katz is not alone.  Another instructor chose to protect herself regardless of District policies.  In a Washington Post editorial the statement is made . . . There are no reliable figures, but it’s a safe guess that in many or most of these instances, the guns were owned by the students’ parents.”  This may not always be so.  Other pupils’ Mom’s or Dads may own an arsenal, or a young person may have discovered other connections.  Cyberspace can be good source for guns.  We cannot be certain.  What we do know is, guns kill, and weaponry is easily and infinitely available.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for workers in the United States after motor vehicle crashes (1). Every week, on average, 20 workers are killed, and 18,000 are assaulted (2). It is only in the last decade, however, that violence against workers has become widely recognized as an occupational health problem.

In a discussion on the topic, of guns in the workplace, Researcher and Co-author of the University of North Carolina Study, Homicide on the Job: Workplace and Community Determinants, Doctor Dana Loomis offered . . .

“[T]here was a nearly seven-fold increase in the risk of a worker being killed in workplaces that allowed guns and other weapons.” . . .

“We don’t know employers’ reasons for allowing workers to have guns on the job, but the belief that firearms offer protection against crime is obviously a possible motive.” . . .

“However, our data suggest that, like residents of households with guns, who are more likely to be victims of homicide, workers in places where the employer allows guns have a greater chance of being killed at work.”

As a nation, it is important to realize we are part of a global community.  Worldwide guns kill one-thousand people each day.  An International Action Network on Small Arms report states, “640 million guns are in circulation across the world and there are enough weapons to equip one in every 10 people.”  So, while we can argue whether students have access or not, perhaps the more important question is why a child might pick up a revolver.  What motivates or frustrates a little one or a young adult to take aim and shoot.

While conjecture continues, authentic answers have been few.  Solutions were tried; none were true.  In classrooms throughout America, teachers remain on guard.  Educators await the moment when a crash will be heard within the classroom.  Instructors trust the sound would be more than a book slammed on a desk.  Instructors know that a bang in the hallways or a blast from the science lab may not be an innocent incident.  Pupils understand this as well.  While all may appear playful, pupils seem to be joyful and learning, the troubled few may actually be the majority of the student population.  It is difficult to discern who might break first, last, or not at all.

Throughout the nation, educators engage each scholar, or attempt to, within the constraints of the curriculum.  Tim, an awkward adolescent, quivered, quaked, grunted, groaned when in the classroom.  This active lad moaned, lashed out, and laughed when he worked with his teachers.  Tim shook with joy, stumbled clumsily, stood straight, and then flopped to the floor.  The strange boy could focus; however, rarely on a prescribed lesson.  Educators labeled Tim a failure.  Even in “special” sessions, this energetic, enthusiastic young man seemed unable to learn.  There was a time when Tim was occupied and eager; however, that passed to quickly.

Elsewhere, an instructor is aware of the student in the front row.  This little lass is painfully shy.  Emma rarely participates in class.  She is plainly submissive.  On reflection, the instructor, friends, and family realized they never considered how distressed the girl was.  No one thought she would cut herself. Now, they wonder why.  

Asa was sometimes rowdy, understandably so.  He was starved for love and attention.  No matter how or what he tried, he did not receive kindness, only admonishments.  Soon Asa settled for scorn.  If people showed contempt for him, well, at least they knew he was alive.  The fourteen-year old just wanted to be acknowledged.  Asa hurt inside.  The pain poured out.  “He did seem angry. He was always angry in the face but he had no reason.”  Finally, the teen could hold his hurt no longer.  He cried out, “I cannot stand to live this way.”  Then, he ended it all.

“I thought they were joking.  I never took it seriously,” she said.  The young lads were fascinated by the infamous.  A massacre might appeal to those that crave retribution, reprisal, punishment, or some sort of popularity.  This form of expression might only be as a shout.  We cannot be certain.  Perchance, we could inquire.  The boys, Bradley, William, and Shawn, might tell us what they feel and why.  However, would busy parents, policy wonks, educators and Administrators all of whom are impressed by numbers, choose to listen if they ever dared to ask?

There are times when the opportunity to speak is gone forever.  A young boy or girl is taken from us too soon.  Countless roam the streets for without a quality education there is little left to do.  A few are institutionalized; others are medicated, imprisoned by the despair that overwhelms their minds.  Some rather die than endure the pain they feel here on Earth.  Sadly, we can no longer invite the girls over for tea.  The time to engage with a lovely lad or two will not come again.  Heads hang low as neighbors contemplate the loss of another young life to drugs, prescribed and preferred,  drink, or death.  

Words of woe pass between the people that knew him or her.  “She was barely a woman.”  “He had not yet reached the age of consent.  “They took their last breath not long after being born.”  “One more suicide in a statistical log.”  “We do not even know her name or his.  All we have is the evidence.”  There are scant clues to inform us; why might a child take their own life?

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others.  Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide.  Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 82% of the deaths were males and 18% were females.

While the discrepancy seems vast, there is still great cause for alarm.  At one time, girls were more likely to attempt the act.  Now, they frequently succeed.  In September 2007, we learned young women can conceive of, and achieve, what will end a life.

The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can’t fully explain . . . The biggest increase – about 76 percent – was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low, fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

Our children are in pain and Americans ponder how can we protect the young [from themselves or from us.]  Each day, parents, and educators look into the face of the future and see what they or we refuse to recognize: anxiety, apprehension, depression, and even a twisted delight for what might be bothersome.  Some teens, and yes, even elementary age children have tendencies that, if consciously noticed, would be reason for concern.  Yet, there was and is no time for such “petty” pondering.  

Moms and Dads are occupied at work.  Instructors prepare to teach to the many tests.  Administrators assess an agenda that will bring more funds to their schools.  Districts implement programs that politicians think wise.  Pedagogy is not the principle concern in America; nor are the pupils.

Grades dominate in the grind known as school.  Class rankings are recorded for posterity.  Test tallies tell the tale of success.  Permanent files are kept.  A little person will be evaluated on their performance in the classroom, in the community.  The good child receives a gold star; the best school is granted gold as well.  Cash fills the coffers of an institution that appears accountable.  The construct that states, as a society adults must teach to the Whole Child is but a blip in a vast universe of significant interests.  Only a few in the field of education follow theories laid out in The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action.

To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient;

to the playground supervisor, a first baseman;

to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic.

At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists,

but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them.


~ From the 1930 report of the White House Conference on Children and Youth

In our culture, people have priorities.  For each of us our main concern is personal.  Too often, we forget, our children determine the quality of our future.  Parents, Principals, and policy-makers invest in the immediate much to the dismay and degradation of the Seventh Generation and their progeny.

For countless careered Moms, Dads, prominence is far more important than personal passion.  Parents do what they can to ensure their child is enrolled in the best schools.  They drive hither and yon.  After-school lessons are scheduled for every hour of the day.  Families grab some food, fast, then they ready for bed.  Moms and Dads ask, “Is your homework complete?”  Parents do not inquire; “How are you?”  “What do you feel?”  “May I help?”  Mothers and fathers do not ask for the answer does not matter to those who expect children will do as they have always done, grin and bear it.  “Don’t you dare cry or sigh” is the common contention.

Teachers and Playground Supervisors may not wish to surrender a perceived dominance.  Classroom control and an organized playing field are essential if children are to learn or throw a good pitch.  For a Doctor, diagnosis is the challenge.  Few think of the emotional fractures in a child’s life.  The visible is far more viable to those with a job to do.

Besides, it seems that the young are resilient.  Elders believe that tots do not experience lasting pain, and if they do the offspring will not remember, or be harmed, nor act on the duress they encounter.  Children go through phases; nothing is permanent, or so the adults wish to believe.  

The smallest persons in society smile.  They endure; however, many hurt deeply.  Each face tells a unique story.  Rarely do we consider the distinctive existence of individual beings.  We do not ask of an individual child’s experiences, the effects of these, or the emotions each event in a young life evokes.  The current curriculum requires accountability; it demands instructors avoid the nuances.  What makes a child tick is of little consequence.  As long as he or she can perform on a test, that is all that counts.

At times, the system will make allowances for those in need of remedial classes.  A child may be defined as “special.”  Sadly, this determination furthers separates a student from classmates and often from his or her self.  Tim was one of these.

Any individual singled out, accepted as standard, or told he or she is superior will react to the identification.  Each label has its own externally imposed expectation.  Children try to aspire to what they are told they must achieve.  They go along to get along, or they resign themselves to defeat.  Even those thought to be successful by all in their community frequently feel they fail miserably.  

It is no wonder our young people seek solace in drugs, drink, sex, or death.  Our offspring, fighting to survive, to soar, to score on a test, or place well on a High School exit or college entrance exam, frequently feel dead inside.  Occasionally a child will kill others, or them selves.  Most, merely maintain a presence, as did Seung Hui Cho for a time.

Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003. But there is no mention of him in that yearbook, not so much as a senior picture.   The high school, which opened in 2000, is stocked with high achievers. Newsweek magazine once ranked it among the 50 best public high schools in America.  

Its football team won the state championship the year Cho graduated. But with 1,600 students then, Cho was the odd boy who never spoke, former classmates recalled. He joined the science club but just sat there.  He carried around an instrument that earned him the name “Trombone Boy.”

School officials went to some lengths to encourage students to interact.  They put round tables in the lunchroom so no one would feel left out.  The “Westfield Welcomers” club formed to help wallflowers and outcasts fit in.  But none of it seemed to work for the lonely, acne-plagued boy in glasses who was so quiet that some wondered whether he could speak at all.

Some sociologist would say Seung Hui Cho fits the profile of a mass murderer.  Were we as a nation prepared to recognize and work with the hurt being in our midst the potential killer, we might have looked at Seung Hui Cho and seen the signs.  However, indications implied after the fact, the act, are less obvious when encountered in a moment.  Indeed, at times, if not always, the invisible inspires an individual to do as he or she does.  

Pain is not painted on a face; nor does a person always scream out when they need help.  Most of us are taught to take care ourselves.  Yet, few of us know how to do this adequately.  Perhaps, those that lash out believe they are doing what they need to do to release the pressure.

In America, little “big boys” learn not to cry.   A sweet lass is told to look pretty.  Tears are unattractive.  In this country, independence is ideal.  Adults teach the children not to be too needy.  “No one wants to hear your troubles.”  When asked ‘How are you,’ answer, ‘I am fine.’  Then, move on, or pretend to.  ‘Do not expect too much.’  ‘Get good grades.’  ‘Make lots of money.’ In a competitive society, that is all that counts.

Some students do as is standard quite well.  Steven Kazmierczak did.  Steven was an outstanding student.  He was engaging, polite, and industrious.  The friendly fellow had a bright future in the field of criminal justice.  Steve, as he preferred to be called, graduated from college in 2007.  The scholar continued his studies in graduate school.  Since early adolescence, the lad was intent on helping society.  Hence, he majored in sociology as an undergraduate.  After he completed his preliminary coursework, Steven went on to pursue a Masters degree in the School of Social Work.  This gracious gent had a girlfriend.  Steve was anything but a loner, haunted with obvious hurts.

On the Northern Illinois University campus, Steven P. Kazmierczak was considered a gentle, hard-working student, who was honored two years ago with a dean’s award for his sociology work.?? Professors who taught him said it was hard to imagine he was the same person authorities identified as the gunman in Thursday’s classroom shootings.

“I knew Steve both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. I have had him in my home. I knew him as a warm, sensitive, very bright student,” said Professor Kristen Myers in an e-mail. “I never would believe that he could do this. I know that when these horrible things happen, everyone searches for roots to explain it. Here, I’m afraid I don’t have any.”

Steven Kazmierczak was an excellent student.  A former classmate called Kazmierczak “probably the best student in the class.”  Another student spoke of how helpful Steven was.  Stephanie Delhotal, 22, a former sociology undergraduate student said Kazmierczak worked as a teaching assistant in her statistics lab only a year prior.?? “I learned most of what I knew from him,” said Delhotal.  Stephanie Delhotal, who is now a professional Social Worker, offered, “He was very nice and very friendly . . . he was so into statistics. I just took him to be a computer nerd.”

Delhotal did not know him before the course, but saw him in the lab as many as three times a week during the semester, she said.?? “I was completely shocked. I just keep thinking back about how easy he was to talk to,” she said. “He had a dry sense of humor.”

However, humor and academic achievement do not necessarily bring joy.  Instruction that focuses on formulas, figures, facts, and scientific findings do little to give rise to a healthy human being, and perhaps that is the problem yet to be broached in the classroom, or even in our homes.  In educational institutions, instructors are required to attend to the parts.  Teachers and Administrators address perceive accountability.  As a nation, we ignore the whole.  Countrywide, we do not ask who a child might be.

Instruction begins when you, the teacher,

learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand

. . .  what he learns and the way he understands it.
?

~ Soren Kierkegaard


For the most part, curriculums are designed to pour information into a pupil, as though a human being were an empty vessel ready to fill.  If we are to truly educate our progeny, we must redefine instruction.  We need to create a culture that helps children to authentically acquire knowledge, not grades.

Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.

~ Alfie Kohn [American Lecturer, Author, Educator]

The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action attempts to do this.  

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.

This promise is contrary to the current standard initiated with the advent and implementation of No Child Left Behind.  On paper, at first blush, the newer educational program appears sound.  The policy advances practices and philosophies that have existed in society for centuries.  The populace has long endorsed gentle interpretations of “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”  Hence, in schools strategies that are thought to serve accountability were easily adopted.

Transforming the Federal Role in Education So That No Child is Left Behind

The Policy

The Administration’s education reform agenda is comprised of the following key components . . .

Closing the Achievement Gap:
  • Accountability and High Standards.
  • States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards.

    ‘Good, good, that sounds good,’ say parents, Principals, and policy makers.  All are interested in education and each wants to make certain our children receive quality instruction.  High expectations and verification are vital.  Administrators must answer for the programs the public pays for.  No one can blame the student if the school does not do as deemed necessary.  Americans believe we must reward achievement and punish those who fail.  As we age, most of us forget, in order to succeed, we must learn from our errors.  Most adults avoid the subject of task analysis.  In education, many accept the end justifies the means.  Teachers are trained to teach to the test.  Students are tutored in how to best pass an examination.  If perchance, each or either fails, the government mandates, there will be repercussions.  One consequence is so subtle it often goes unnoticed.

    Dropout rates slowly increase.  Low-achievers, in frustration, leave school behind.  Thus, the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap is achieved.  School ratings increase, authentic education decreases.

    A recent

    study of Texas public school accountability system,
    the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act, establishes that, the longer the high stakes testing program are in use, the worse the outcome.  Children already made less important than the curriculum by this mandate are further reduced in significance.  As could have been expected, instructional personnel begin to view students not as children to educate, but as potential liabilities.  A pupil accomplished in test-taking is seen as an asset; high scores raise a school’s performance indicators, advance the careers of educators, and help to grow the funds a school receives.

    The research also indicates that Principals frequently play with pupils’ lives in order to further their professional prominence.  A child will not be allowed to advance a grade if he or she is deemed at-risk.  If a student’s grade on the exam will potentially threaten the schools status, arrangements are made.  Most students retained in this manner give up on themselves and on school.  Just as educators punish a less than perfect child, the system penalizes a struggling school.

    • States must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement. . . .
    • Consequences for Schools that Fail to Educate Disadvantaged Students.  Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for disadvantaged students will first receive assistance, and then come under corrective action if they still fail to make progress.  

      If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, disadvantaged students may use Title I funds to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school, or receive supplemental educational services from a provider of choice.

    Therein lies the problem.  When an educational institution or a child does not perform “properly,” they are punished.  Punitive actions so not help better a school or a student.  Studies show punitive practices hurt a society or and the instructional staff.

    Dear reader, you may recall in your own life the times when you acted in a manner that was considered disruptive, destructive, or without regard for others.  If you were confined to your room, restricted from doing what brought you pleasure, ridiculed, or severely reprimanded you may have reacted poorly.  Resentment readies an individual for further rebellion.  Logic tell us, if a child or an adult is to learn or improve, they must be given an opportunity to reflect.  Humans acquire wisdom when others trust the learner can grow.  Reciprocal reverence, empathy is the best educator.  

    However, logic rarely rules when people are reactive.  Parent, Principals, and educators are after all, only human.  When frustrated with what they fear they cannot control, people of any age penalize those who do not perform as desired.  Rebukes realize no rewards.

    Why Punishment Does Not Work


    The research literature gives clear guidelines about the ineffectiveness of punishment as the only correction procedure for children’s misbehavior. Yelling, shaming, scolding, and corporal punishment backfire and create a mind set in the child where he misbehaves more. Some children do worse when words like “never,” “don t,” “should not,” and “It’s not okay” are used during correction. There are many negative side effects associated with being punished:
    • Punishment for aggression may stop the behavior temporarily, but may further stimulate aggressive behavior.
    • The child may stop the punished behavior but may increase another aggressive behavior.
    • Punishment may serve as a model for aggression. Children imitate what they see adults do.
    • The punished behavior may stop only in the presence of the adult and increase in other settings.
    • The child may strike back at the punishing adult or displace his anger at someone else.
    • Frequent punishment may cause some children to withdraw and regress.
    • Angry children who do not fear authority may become more angry and focus on revenge.
    • The child may feel shame and harbor thoughts of lowered self- esteem (I’m a bad person. I’m mean.)
    • Punishment merely suppresses the response but does not teach the child what to do.

    In the short term, punishment may be effective in suppressing negative behavior when the punisher is present, but it does not teach the child positive ways to act. Punishing techniques that make the child feel bad about himself may make him act out more!

    Remember Asa.  This child felt besieged, plagued, punished for being the person he was.  This young man received ample ridicule.  He was constantly punished; his presence alone was enough to bring an onslaught of attacks.  Classmates called him Jack Black.  The label referred to the vociferous, chubby, long-haired actor in the movie “School of Rock.”

    Asa could be shrill.  His appearance alone might have been classified as a cry for attention.  His hair was unkempt.  Histrionic accoutrements graced his neck, his nails, and his abdomen.  Asa adorned his fingernails with black polish.  Around his neck, he wore a dog.  A faded rock concert tee-shirt covered his chest.  A trench coat completed the composition.

    Asa often felt as though he was tormented, teased, taunted, and mocked.  The troubled lad felt victim to frequent slights.  He believed others belittled him, beguiled him.  He was deceived and ill received.  Asa Coon felt misunderstood, and he craved as all creatures do, love, not loathing.  In frustration, Asa Coon characteristically lashed out.  He was not merely a quirky lad; he was quick to anger.

    This was the Asa who always seemed to be in fights at school.  This was the Asa who slapped around his mother. This was the Asa who talked about suicide.

    And it was this Asa, authorities say, who walked into SuccessTech Academy Wednesday with a satchel full of guns and ammunition and opened fire on teachers and students. . .

    What apparently pushed Asa’s troubled young mind over the edge was an argument with classmates about the existence of God.  It happened a few days ago in reading class.

    Asa said he didn’t believe in God and didn’t respect God.

    Another kid disagreed. . . .

    After school, the two kids fought.  Asa took a beating.  Both were suspended.

    “I’m going to get you,” he warned his tormentor.  “I will get you.”

    Indeed, he did.  Asa attempted to take revenge on those he believed wronged him.  A professional, Professor Jack Levin, Northeastern University, Criminology, offered a worthy assessment of the situation.  Perhaps, the lesson Americans need to learn is often lost.  What truly occurs within our offspring is left behind as our children are today.

    There are always missed signals.  The problem is that they only become clear after the fact.  Hindsight is 20/20, and after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs.  Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters.  Many of these shooters hate school or they like Marilyn Manson or they black — they use Gothic clothing.  They’re rebellious.  The best predictor we have is previous violence, and in this case Asa definitely had that in his background, but my point is this, we ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he’s troubled, not because he’s troublesome.

    On rare occasions, a child has an opportunity to authentically connect to an adult, a curriculum, life, and lessons that are given and received with love.  After Tim  met Barbara M. Stock, he became one, among the exceptions.  At the time, the two encountered each other, Barbara held a brand new doctorate degree in Psychology and education.  The young scholar was proud the knowledge she accumulated.  Upon reflection, she states, she was “full of” herself.  Shortly after she received her Ph.D., Stock and her husband moved to a small quaint town.  Jobs were few, opportunities fragile.  

    Advised by a receptionist in the Special Education Department of the local school district, Barbara Stock pursued a practical possibility.  Perchance, she could find a job within the BRAT program.  Curious and anxious to impress, Doctor Stock inquired.

    I asked the mothers, “What does BRAT mean?” The mothers gave me how-stupid-are-you looks. “BRAT,” one mother said. ” ‘Brat…’ That’s what the school people call our kids.” It wasn’t an acronym for Behavioral…Remediation …Anything.

    As Stock observed the students, she realized her mission. A lone lad came into view.  Tim was awkward, assertive, and jubilant, all at once.  He was energetic and alien in his approach to life. After a short time, Tim’s mother noticed Doctor Stock and her stare.  The parent introduced herself to the professional person in her presence. “Mom” whispered to Barbara Stock, Tim was eight years of age and had learned nothing in this half-day program. Tim’s mother wanted an afternoon tutor for her son.  She hoped that if someone special would invest in her child, one-on-one, the odd boy would excel.  There might be hope.  Stock pondered the possibility.

    Confident I could perform brilliantly, I agreed to tutor Tim. I saw this as a great opportunity: I could use the newest techniques of behavioral reinforcement and multi-sensory stimulation to teach Tim. Then I would write an article or even a book on my achievement. I’d dreamt of one day having my own school; this would give me the credentials. I’d already accumulated all sorts of learning devices-sandpaper letters, Cuisenaire rods, a balance beam. I arranged a child-size table and two chairs in our finished basement and created an inviting “learning space.” I was ready and willing to begin my major project: The Teaching of Tim.

    Weeks went by; months moved quickly.  Tortured tutor, who loved her young teacher, Tim, Barbara M. Stock, learned what most educators are reluctant to admit.  

    Tim surprised me. He excelled, though not from any lesson I planned.

    Frustrated and bewildered with the accredited approaches that proved futile, Stock embraced what was more real.  She engaged the child in a manner that allowed Tim to be Tim.

    Gradually, I had to let go of my analytical, intellectual approach. I taught Tim best on his terms, seizing the opportunities he enjoyed and encouraging him to be practical, playful, and protective.

    Although I’d wanted to give up on Tim many times out of personal frustration, I felt truly sad when I had to say goodbye to him. I had no data, no article, no book to publish. Tim could pay attention longer, express himself better, and manage his frustration more often.  But his gains were infinitesimal, impossible to measure.  I felt like a total failure.

    Tim’s mother and I became friends and to her I confessed my defeat. She saw the situation differently. “He looks forward to seeing you.  He smiles,” she said.  “With you he’s not a ‘brat.’  These are gifts beyond measure.”

    As we said goodbye, Tim hugged me.  His mother laughed out loud.  “That’s a first, and probably not listed on any test.”

    Tim’s Mom was sensitive to the whole of her child.  She observed his trials and tribulations with great care.  The concerned parent [or teacher] can recognize triumphs.  Tests do not.

    Barbara M. Stock with all her prominence, prestige, and post-graduate expertise was helped to understand what typically remains undetected.  Erudition is not necessarily visible to those who know not what they see.  

    Indeed, the manner in which each of us internalizes instruction differs.  We need only consider Emma, Asa, Bradley, William, Shawn, Tim, or ourselves to realize one size, one test, cannot fit all.  Standardize assessments do not allow for nuance.  Pedagogical practices, no matter how philosophically profound, may not be as effective as “real” life lessons are.  When individuals, teacher and student, parent and pupil, administrators and instructors, interact with authenticity, each senses they are accepted and admired.  People learn when they treasure the tutorial.

    Empathy is the best educator.  Punishment or mechanical methodology, presumed to be a practical, do not reward a spirit starved for insights.  Meaningful and appreciative acknowledgements nurture a mind, heart, body, and soul.  A healthy child is whole.  His or her education is balanced.  When a child is reactive, a distraction, or destructive, elders must acknowledge the little one is pleading for assistance.  ‘Teach me,’ he or she shouts.  If adults are to abet, they must realize penalties alienate.  Praise produces desirable results.

    What Does Work


    The research shows that praise for appropriate behavior, reasoning, giving consequences, withholding privileges, time out and teaching the appropriate social skills do help a frustrated child make better behavioral choices.

    The child who misbehaves constantly needs to hear correction statements phrased in positive language to implant alternative ways of thinking and acting in his developing value system. Telling the child with behavior problems what not to do often guarantees that he will go and do it! Instead, tell him what to do and help him to feel good just thinking about acting in positive ways. Give a choice between two alternatives.

    Teaching social skills gives a process of correcting the inappropriate behavior instead of suppressing it through punishment. Social skills training offers a more humane way of giving children tools to deal with conflict so that they can take care of themselves. Learning social skills helps children reduce aggressive and violent behavior. Teaching the prosocial skills helps all of us. When children learn and use positive reciprocal ways of interacting with each other, this adds to peace in our world.

    Processing Cues To Say After Conflict


    What you say to an aggressive child will determine the likelihood of his decreasing the inappropriate behavior the next time. To break into the child’s negative thinking patterns, process what happened and what could be different next time in a non- threatening way. The research shows that people are most ripe for change after a situation of high emotional arousal. Being corrected is generally a high arousal situation so the child should be ripe for new learning. You have a golden opportunity to help your child make the commitment to change by using this teaching approach.

    If you can get to the child’s vulnerability and sense of fair play after a situation of conflict, you can help him make changes. Show the child the consequences of his actions on others. Whenever possible, give him a choice. Ask him to make a value judgment on what he did. Give him solid information on how he could react in positive ways.  Always leave him feeling good about himself with hope for the future.

    Few of the questions posed on examinations reward a learner.  Results are not immediate.  What a child is asked to assesses is often not real or personally relevant to a young person.  In America today, on tests, in the classroom, and even in some homes, children are not required to think critically.  Nor are they given the opportunity to imagine, innovate, or invent.  Conventional wisdom dominates the curriculum, and students fall further and further behind.  Sadly, we often look at our best students and see automatons.  However, they are more.

    Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton,

    who does not know or understand himself,

    and the only  person that he knows is the person he is supposed to be,

    whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech,

    whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter,

    and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain.

    Two statements may be said concerning this individual.

    One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality, which may seem to be incurable.

    At the same time it may be said of him,

    he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon the earth.


    ~ Erich Fromm [Observer of Humankind, Psychologist and Author]


    Might we begin to embrace our children and their sweet souls.  Let us no longer scold students when they struggle to grasp the essence of a standard test question.  We need not drug those whose attention span is short.  Let us, educators, and parents engage each child individually.  If perchance, we listen to what the children tell us about them selves, if we see each student as a whole child, we might learn how to best teach them.

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

    ~ R. M. Hutchins [American Educator, Author, The University of Utopia and The Learning Society, Board Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica]


    Perhaps adults can take a lesson from life.  Each of the school shooting show us, our offspring are in pain.  Medications will not cure what ails the young.  Restrictions placed on guns, or access to other objects, will not make our schools safer.  More of the same and stricter standards will only serve to deaden minds that wish to soar.  That is the paradox.  Americans send their children to school to learn; then they squelch the possibility.  May we teach the offspring well and allow them to tell us what they need as a whole child.

    “To teach is to learn twice.”

    ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]


    In this country today, citizens are reminded that Math, Science, and Reading, the basics are essential.  Students study so that they might pass tests in these subject areas.  Teachers teach techniques that ensure success on examinations.  Facts fill the air in American classrooms.  Some scholars survive , others hope to die.

    In this nation, we forget.  There is so much more to life than Math, and more to Algebra than a correct answer.  As Mister Kupfer, a High School mentor tells his students, a correct solution does not authenticate that a student understands the process.  A problem requires more than a guesstimate, or memorization of a formula.  Mathematician Kupfer states, if a pupil cannot work through a problem, twenty years after he or she saw it in class, then they never truly learned how to solve the equation.

    Science is not as simple as a law declared absolute.  Theories also abound.  Curious souls search beyond what they know to be true and discover what is yet to be part of a standard curriculum.  A student motivated to think, rather than realize a score on a test, might take a quantum leap.  A student, trained to think as a scientist might, will not simply accept a static answer.  Analysis is not wrong; it is just not encouraged when the course of study is guided by multiple choice tests.

    Reading requires more than regurgitation of the words printed in a booklet.  Bubbles darkened in on a page, and preparation for tests do not a satisfy a sincere student.  Our children are asking to learn.  They crave a caring connection.  Let us bring education back into our homes and our schools.  May we teach our offspring well and wholly.  The  youth are our future; may we give them a strong foundation.  Research, Reflection, and reverence, these are the three R’s, the basics.

    Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.  

    ~ Albert Einstein

    Schools, Standards, Sources . . .

    Dropout Nation; Communities Can Cure The Silent Student Epidemic

    DrpOtNtn

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Eva was young, full of life, eager to learn.  She was enthusiastic.  These traits were attractive to all the youthful men in her High School class.  Many courted the vibrant lass.  Eric won her attention.  Each was looking for love.  Throughout their lives, these adolescents felt less than connected to their respective families.  School was a social forum, a place where it was possible to relate to peers, if not the curriculum.  Perhaps, that is why, at such a tender age Eric and Eva mistakenly thought lust, the chemical energy experienced during their every exchange, was deeper than a mere physical desire.  The two embraced and baby made three.  

    At fifteen years-of- age, Eva felt forced to dropout of school.  As a committed Mom, she decided she must attend to her baby.  With the birth of a child, Eric too concluded he had a greater mission than school.  He must devote his life to his offspring.  In a moment of lovemaking, the lives of many changed.  Eva and Eric started a family; that entity became their future.  

    The couple is among the seven thousand [7,000] High School students who drop out each day.  Every year the silent epidemic expands.  The number of students that leave the school system is equivalent to the population of Philadelphia.  The large number of dropouts affects our nation’s neighborhoods.  If we are to slow, or stop the cycle, we must drastically change what we do in our schools.  As an individual and as a community, we must show we care.  

    Some organizations have already become involved.  Communities In Schools works to help our youth stay in school and prepare for life.  However, one alliance cannot go it alone.  We must share resources.  However, first, we need to recognize the crisis, evaluate what seems endemic.  The tale of Eva and Eric is telling.

    Early adult responsibilities. An individual’s nonschool experiences also have been found to impact dropout.  When adolescents are forced to take on adult responsibilities, it decreases their likelihood of staying in school until graduation.  Possible responsibilities range from becoming a teen parent (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002; Rumberger, 2001), having to take a job to help out his or her family (Jordan, Lara, & McPartland, 1994), or having to care for siblings (Rosenthal, 1998).  Combining school with working at a job more than 20 hours a week significantly increases the likelihood that a student will leave school before graduating (Barro & Kolstad, 1987; Goldschmidt & Wang, 1999; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    Josh was a strapping young man.  He was bright; however, not brilliant.  His parents provided for him as best they could.  Nonetheless, Josh felt overwhelmed.  He often thought his Mom needed him too much.  Dad was emotionally detached.  Physically, the father tried to be there for his son Joshua.  However, he did not know how to be a good parent.  He had never seen one; nor had he experienced the unconditional love of his own mother or father.  

    While Josh felt close to his parents, he also desperately wanted to get away from their clutches.  At school, recruiters filled the halls.  These military men and women were friendly.  They strolled about campus with grace and refinement.  For such young folks, these uniformed soldiers were truly quite sophisticated.  The smiles of these servicemen and women gleamed, just as brass buttons on their gear did.  The troops that circulated throughout the school grounds wore patent leather shoes that reflected the sunlight.  Each time Josh saw the glow from the footwear dance in the air, he felt the force of fate touch him.  

    Josh looked up to the troops he knew.  They treated him a as brother, a friend.  Josh felt these fellows and gals genuinely cared.

    Ultimately, Josh was drawn in, or he was released from the obligations, the resignation, he experienced at home.  The young man saw the military as a way out and a way into a family different from his own.  Josh wanted to belong, to be a part of something, not needed, but wanted.  He joined the Armed forces before he graduated from High School.  

    Joshua believed he could not stand one more moment in his parents’ home.  He never really liked school.  He was bored, detached, and looking for something.  The Marines, Army, or Navy would surely provide the expectant adolescent lad with adventure, a sense of belonging, a job, and funds for a college education, if later, he determined that was what he wanted.  Once in the military, Josh was certain his mother and father could no longer decide what was right for him.  Josh is as one of three adolescents that do not graduate from High School.

    Family dynamics. Some studies have found a link between family processes and relationships and graduation.  The quality of early caregiving and mother-child relationships was found in one study to be significantly linked to dropout (Jimerson et al., 2000).

    Grace was a giving girl.  She was the child of immigrant parents.  Her mother and father worked multiple low-wage jobs for as long as she could remember.  Without adequate language skills, it was difficult for her parents to secure a professional position.  The family, much as they tried, was never truly stable.  They appeared solvent.  However, the cost of this façade was great.  The youthful Grace sacrificed herself daily.  She was mother to her less mature siblings.  She was father as well.  Grace was the family caretaker; yet, no one seemed interested; nor was anyone available to care for Grace.

    Grace rose each morning before dawn.  She scrambled around the house, prepared breakfast for the other brood; then, made the beds, and helped her brothers and sisters dress.  Before Grace scooted the children out the door, she forged signatures on school permission slips.  After, the children were off to class, Grace gathered her own books together, threw some snacks into a backpack, and hustled herself off to the bus.  She too attended classes.  Grace was a student.

    As Grace aged, she tired.  By the time she reached her sophomore year in High School, she was exhausted.  Grace hoped that soon this cycle would end.  Her sisters and brothers were getting older.  Perchance they would be able to care for themselves, and Grace could dedicate herself to her studies.  However, that was not her parents’ plan.

    As Grace entered her junior year her parents proposed, now that she was of age, she could help financially support the family.  

    Years of sweat and toil paid off.  Mamma and Papa were able to purchase a small business.  The demands of entrepreneurship were vast.  The store must be manned.  Supplies purchased.  Books must be kept.  Community and customer relations were a priority if the shop was to succeed.  Grace was now expected to watch over the younger siblings, continue with her schooling, care for her personal needs, and take on the responsibilities of a job.  Her family depended on her.  Grace, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually was drained.  Something had to go.  It would be Grace herself.  The teenage girl dropped out of High School.  If she could not have an education, at least she had family.

    Background characteristics. A student’s family background and home experience exert a powerful influence over educational outcomes, including dropping out of school.  One of the most consistent family background factors found to impact dropout has been socioeconomic status (SES), whether measured through parental education, income, or occupational level (Alexander et al. 2001; Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Cairns et al., 1989; Lehr et al., 2004; Rumberger, 2001; Schargel, 2004; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).  Youth in non-English-speaking homes have been found to be more likely to drop out (Rosenthal, 1998; Rumberger, 2001).

    “High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed than those who graduate.”  Many  of those that leave a formal education behind will never have a job.  Fortunately, Grace will not be among those.  For every four state prison inmates nationwide three failed to earn a high school diploma.  High school dropouts are three times more likely than high school graduates to become poor in the span of a year.  Eddy might find himself in one or all of these categories.  

    Eddy is a passionate young man, since birth, he wanted to experience everything.  He had a thirst for knowledge.  Eddy is likable.  He is fun.  This chap is animated and he desired to do it all.  At the age of five Eddy began to imbibe with his Dad.  His father may or may not have been classified as an alcoholic, for he could and did hold his liquor.  Eddy learned to handle his booze as well; he had to.  Time with Daddy was important to the youngster.  To be with his father physically [and emotionally] he needed to do as Papa had done.  

    By the age of twelve, Eddy found drugs . . . in Dad’s car.  The father, for all his life, felt the pressure of being a Black man in America.  No matter the job, this dark skinned man, was met with discrimination.  Eddy’s male role model never felt as though others could get past the color of his skin; therefore, he believed he would never be able to succeed as he yearned to do.  The pressure was great.  The desire to escape was greater.  

    Eddy admired his Dad.  He did not fully grasp the elder man’s struggles.  Eddy only wished to do as his father did.  Not long after his first “high” Eddy realized he was hooked.  His habit was costly; attendance in school and failing grades were among the debts Eddy incurred.  The teen faltered in school.  He was a slave to his drugs and to his supplier.  

    John, a gent from a good family resided in an affluent neighborhood, was of quality stock.  Jonathon’s parents were professionals, respected in the community.  John’s Dad had connections in the corporate world; his mother was a physician.  The two met in law school.  Generations of Jonathon’s family were high achievers.  The progeny of such prominent persons was expected to do no less than the dynasty that preceded them.  

    A casual observer would never know that Jonathan was out of control.  He wore elegant clothing, drove a new and sporty car; cash fell from his pockets.  John, just as Eddy did drugs.  Unlike Eddy, this wealthy wheeler-dealer sold medications, legal, illegal, and lethal quantities of narcotics.  His “business” was profitable.  John had no reason to attend school.  He was doing well without an education.  Jonathon never imagined that he might be corporally caged.  Only opiates, pills, uppers, downers, and dope incarcerated John and perhaps Eddy.  Substance abuse and attitudes associated with these activities are common among potential dropouts.

    High-risk attitudes, values, and behaviors.

    Children and adolescents may also have general attitudes and behaviors that increase the likelihood that they will not graduate.  Early antisocial behavior, such as violence, substance use, or trouble with the law, has been linked in a number of studies to dropping out of school (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    A life of crime is common among High School dropouts.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, In 1997, more than 64 percent of inmates housed in state and federal prisons, as well as in local jails, had not graduated from high school.  Drugs were not the only reason for criminal activity.  Poverty exasperates all situations.  Burglary, robbery, assault, battery, looting, loitering, each is likely when a person is poor, out of sorts and without hope.  If America were to invest in its children’s education, authentically, the juvenile would become an autonomous adult and 1.92 billion dollars would be saved for every 50 thousand children rescued from the streets.

    Much as we might marvel at the woes of High Schoolers, we must accept that the problems begin long before our young enter secondary school.  If a young person is left behind, or held back a grade, one time, an estimated 72 percent will inevitably drop out before they complete their High School education.  If held back twice, 100 percent will drop out.

    Dropping out of school is related to a variety of factors that can be classified in four areas or domains: individual, family, school, and community factors . . .
    • There is no single risk factor that can be used to accurately predict who is at risk of dropping out.
    • The accuracy of dropout predictions increases when combinations of multiple risk factors are considered.
    • Dropouts are not a homogeneous group.  Many subgroups of students can be identified based on when risk factors emerge, the combinations of risk factors experienced, and how the factors influence them.
    • Students who drop out often cite factors across multiple domains and there are complex interactions among risk factors.
    • Dropping out of school is often the result of a long process of disengagement that may begin before a child enters school.
    • Dropping out is often described as a process, not an event, with factors building and compounding over time.

    No matter the person, or the occurrence, nothing happens in an isolation.  The decision to dropout of school does not materialize in a moment.  A student does not exit the educational system on a whim.  As we assess the supposed facts and the figures as they pertain to High School dropouts, we must accept and acknowledge the reason students leave school cannot be simply stated.  The truth is dropout rates are high regardless of socio-economic status.

    In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly 1 out of 3 public high school students won’t graduate, not just in [chose a “pleasantly unremarkable” town] but around the nation.  For Latinos and African Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50%.  Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.

    There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels.  They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15% to 20%.  The dispute is difficult to referee, particularly in the wake of decades of lax accounting by states and schools.

    But the majority of analysts and lawmakers have come to this consensus: the numbers have remained unchecked at approximately 30% through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored.

    In a nation known to be the world’s superpower, children suffer and have for  scores of years.  Millions endure in families that do not meet their needs.  Then they enter a school system inadequate to prepare them for a life better than the one  their parents had.

    That’s starting to change.  During his most recent State of the Union address, President George W. Bush promised more resources to help children stay in school, and Democrats promptly attacked him for lacking a specific plan.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has trained its moneyed eye on the problem, funding “The Silent Epidemic,” a study issued in March that has gained widespread attention both in Washington and in statehouses around the country.

    The attention comes against a backdrop of rising peril for dropouts.  If their grandparents’ generation could find a blue-collar niche and prosper, the latest group is immediately relegated to the most punishing sector of the economy, where whatever low-wage jobs haven’t yet moved overseas are increasingly filled by even lower-wage immigrants.  Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.

    We may be able to identify the problem for one individual or another.  However, if we are to create change, we must do more than recognize the ills of society or the difficulties within a given home.  In a recent edition of Time Magazine, Journalist Nathan Thornburgh studied the students enrolled in Shelbyville High School, 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Indiana, and those that were no longer registered for classes, although they were of age.  Thornburgh writes of a population ready to recognize and resolve a crisis.

    Identifying the problem is just the first step. The next moves are being made by towns like Shelbyville, where a loose coalition of community leaders and school administrators have, for the first time, placed dropout prevention at the top of the agenda.  Now they are gamely trying to identify why kids are leaving and looking for ways to reverse the tide.  

    At the request of a former principal, a local factory promised to stop tempting dropouts with jobs.  Superintendent David Adams is scouting vacant storefronts for a place to put a new alternative high school.  And Shelbyville’s Republican state representative, Luke Messer, sponsored a bill, signed into law by the Governor two weeks ago, that will give students alternatives to traditional high school while imposing tough penalties on those who try to leave early without getting permission from the school district or a judge.

    However, punitive measures might not be the answer.  Many of the children that choose to leave campus have been threatened before.  School bullies can cause a child to flee and seek sanctuary elsewhere.  Yet, for more adolescents the bigger browbeater was at home, and would be part of their lives even after they exited the educational system.  Perchance, for most of the pupils no one would punish them more severely than they did themselves.  The heart of a person that fears they failed feels much pain.  Perhaps, a child that believes they can never be their best brings great sorrow to self.

    Thirty-five percent said that “failing in school” was a major factor for dropping out; three out of ten said they could not keep up with schoolwork; and 43 percent said they missed too many days of school and could not catch up.

    Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling.  Many of these students likely fell behind in elementary and middle school and could not make up the necessary ground.  They reported that additional supports in high school that would have made a difference (such as tutoring or after school help) were not there.

    Thirty-two percent were required to repeat a grade before dropping out and twenty-nine percent expressed significant doubts that they could have met their high school’s requirements for graduation even if they had put in the necessary effort.  The most academically challenged students were the most likely to report that their schools were not doing enough to help students when they had trouble learning and to express doubt about whether they would have worked harder if more had been expected of them.

    Sadly, a student in distress often acts outs and does not speak of what truly troubles them.  For decades, schools worked to push pupils out if they did not perform as expected.  This trend is accelerated under No Child Left Behind.  The Bush Administrations is happy to fund schools with high achievers.  Educational institutions unable to statistically verify that pupils learn well, or more accurately test well receive less tax dollars.  A school that ranks poorly may be subject to more severe actions.  Thus, schools are encouraged to releases non-performers.  A learning institution benefits if the number of “good” students is high.  

    For scholars bored with rote and mechanical methods of instruction, an invitation to exit campus permanently may be welcome.  Early in life, without much guidance to help an adolescent reflect on the future, a jaded student might simply feel relieved at the prospect of a presumed perpetual freedom.

    Rachel was among those pupils pushed out.  As are most intelligent individuals, Rachel was chatty.  In class, she was often told to be more considerate of others.  Teachers reminded her that her classmates were there to learn.  The implication was Rachel had no desire to develop her skills and intellectual capacity.  This was not true.  The regal in appearance Rachel yearned for knowledge.  For her, it seemed she acquired more information when she was away from school.  She certainly had more fun.

    The rebellious Rachel could be confrontational.  She was a troubled teen from a tumultuous home.  Each day she encountered another trauma.  Her parents placed her life in turmoil.  Mom yelled.  Dad hit.  The other children in her family cried.  There was much chaos in the sanctuary of her domicile.  At school, the girl did not feel cherished or treasured; she was only a bit safer.  Still, even in this setting Rachel was unwanted.

    The instructor knew that Rachel skipped class; she roamed the streets.  Friends drove her to all the sites she had yet to see.  Those a little older than Rachel were able to travel further in their automobiles.  Acquaintances took her to worlds where she could discover and explore.  A few of her pals already dropped out.  Others cut class with Rachel.  The teachers and the school Administrators were truly fine with Rachel’s absence.  Her presence was a distraction and disruption.  

    Rachel had accumulated so many tardies.  She was gone from class more often more than she appeared.  Her grades, well, there is no accounting for the taste of an “F”.  Over time, Rachel became bored with a life less than focused.  She returned to school and inquired how might she get back on track.

    A Vice Principal, the person usually responsible for pupils with behavioral problems asked Rachel if she might not wish to leave the system permanently.  After all, poor Rachel had fallen so far behind.  She obviously was not happy in school.  Perhaps it would be best for her if she just quit.  Had she thought of applying for emancipation from her parents.  Perchance that would relieve the pressure and the young woman could get on with her life.  Rachel was ripe for change.  She failed at being a student and in her mind, through no fault of her own, she botched up family life.  Hence, Rachel dropped out.

    Currently, Rachel is older and wiser.  However, she still fears she cannot succeed.  She did acquire a GED [General Educational Development] certificate.  Therefore, she was able to secure a decent, though not great job.  She married, has a wonderful husband and exceptional children.  Yet, she remains unfulfilled.  Rachel would like to enter college.  She wants to set an example for her offspring.  However, her history haunts her.  This intelligent woman, without much of a formal education, fears she cannot succeed in a University.  Rachel feels foolish enough.  The grown woman has no desire to look idiotic in front of youthful scholars.  To  appear as a dunce in the company of professors is not what she craves.  Rachel stays where she is and where she was.  She has little hope.

    A once rebellious woman is now resigned.  Rachel is content; yet, she wonders what would her life have like if only someone stopped and paid attention to her, as a person.  Rachel’s circumstance is not unusual.  

    Researchers call students like [Rachel] “pushouts,” not dropouts.  Shelbyville High’s new principal, Tom Zobel, says he’s familiar with the mind-set.  “Ten years ago,” he says, “if we had a problem student, the plan was, ‘O.K., let’s figure out how to get rid of this kid.’  Now we have to get them help.”

    These words echo in the minds of educators aware of the need for Federal funds.  No Child Left Behind leaves little leeway.  In the present, as in the past some state . . .

    [Ca]n educators really be faulted for the calculation, however cold, that certain kids are an unwise investment of their limited energies and resources?  That question quickly leads to the much thornier issues of class and clout that shape the dropout crisis.

    The national statistics on the topic are blunt: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest.  And in Shelbyville, nearly every dropout I met voiced a similar complaint: teachers and principals treat the “rich kids” better.  “The rich kids always knew how to be good kids,” says Sarah in a more nuanced version of the same refrain.  “So I guess it’s natural the schools wanted to work with them more than with the rest of us.”  The poor kids, though, are exactly the ones who need the extra investment.

    Granted, the underprivileged among us are more likely to dropout or be pushed out and aside.  Characteristically those of little means are treated cruelly by a system that rather not know they exist.  Nonetheless, they do and in creasing numbers. The volume of dropouts and pushouts increases in the inner city and in the suburbs.  Our children are troubled; yet, we consider them as trouble.

    No one notices the distress a teen feels.  Few listen to their pleas.  Rarely are the impoverished authentically counted.  Perhaps that is why Americans did not realize the extent of this catastrophe.  Now, we might recognize the disaster.  We have become a Dropout Nation.

    Schools nationwide never imagined the calamity was as widespread as it is.  While throughout the country the populace clamors for accountability and the White House sets standards, the criterion used to establish dropout rates differs from District to District and even from school to school.  Frequently, formulas used to calculate who completed all their coursework and when are manipulated to ensure that schools will secure funds.  At times, the numbers are juggled solely to appease the citizenry.

    For years, Shelbyville [as was true in other schools] had been comforted by its self-reported–and wildly inaccurate–graduation rate of up to 98%.  The school district arrived at that number by using a commonly accepted statistical feint, counting any dropout who promises to take the GED test later on as a graduating student.

    The GED trick is only one of many deployed by state and local governments around the country to disguise the real dropout rates.  Houston, for example, had its notorious “leaver codes”–dozens of excuses, such as pregnancy and military service, that were often applied to students who were later reclassified as dropouts by outside auditors.

    The Federal Government has been similarly deceptive, producing rosy graduation-rate estimates–usually between 85% and 90%–by relying only on a couple of questions buried deep within the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.  The survey asks whether respondents have a diploma or GED.  Critics say the census count severely underreports dropout numbers, in part because it doesn’t include transients or prisoners, populations with a high proportion of dropouts.

    It is evident that not all is as it appears.  In 2001, Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, published a study titled High School Graduation Rates in the United States.  His research examined the stratum of arithmetical adroitness associated with commencement statistics.  As Greene pondered the raw education data, he began to appreciate that he could not answer the question often asked.  What percentage of students receives a high school diploma?  The response is, it depends.  After closer scrutiny, even Greene admitted he needed to revise his report.  

    The report’s main findings are the following:
    • The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%.  For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.
    • Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 54% of students graduating, followed by Nevada, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
    • Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate with 93%, followed by North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
    • Wisconsin had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 40%, followed by Minnesota, Georgia, and Tennessee.  Georgia had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students with 32%, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in seven states and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in eight states for which data were available.
    • The highest rate of graduation among African-American students was 71% in West Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey.  The highest rate of graduation among Latino students was 82% in Montana, followed by Louisiana, Maryland, and Hawaii.
    • Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia.  Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia’s Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.
    • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds a national high school completion rate of 86% for the class of 1998.  The discrepancy between the NCES’ finding and this report’s finding of a 71% rate is largely caused by NCES’ counting of General Educational Development (GED) graduates and others with alternative credentials as high school graduates, and by its reliance on a methodology that is likely to undercount dropouts.

    Overwhelmed by the predicament, you dear reader might ask what are we to do.  I believe we must cultivate relationships.  I have long advocated that human interaction is the greatest instructor; empathy is the best educator.  If we wish to encourage our offspring, we must engage them authentically.  If they are to believe in themselves, they must trust to their core that we believe in them.

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.

     ~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]


    In March 2006, a report sponsored by the Civic Enterprises in Association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, experts examined what they call, The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Researchers John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison realized what dropouts and pushouts have long known.  If a child is to be motivated, if they are to truly learn, and become autonomous critical thinkers they need attention and assistance.  A caring mentor makes all the difference.

    A survey of former students revealed the children understood what would have helped them to stay in school.  Indeed, those that floundered were intelligent enough to communicate what they needed then.  Now, with thanks to this more honest examination they had an opportunity to share.  If society and schools are to save the youth of America, we must . . .

    • Improve instruction, and access to supports, for struggling students: Four out of five (81 percent) wanted better teachers and three fourths wanted smaller classes with more  individualized instruction.  More than half (55 percent) felt that more needed to be done to help students who had problems learning, and 70 percent believed more tutoring, summer school and extra time with teachers would have improved their chances of graduating.
    • Build a school climate that fosters academics:

      Seven in ten favored increasing supervision in school and more than three in five (62 percent) felt more classroom discipline was necessary.  More than half (57 percent) felt their schools did not do enough to help students feel safe from violence.  Seven in ten (71 percent) said their schools did not do enough to make school interesting.
    • Ensure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school: While two-thirds (65 percent) said there was a staff member or teacher who cared about their success, only 56 percent said they could go to a staff person for school problems and just two-fifths (41 percent) had someone in school to talk to about personal problems.  More than three out of five (62 percent) said their school needed to do more to help students with problems outside of class.  Seven in ten favored more parental involvement.
    • Improve the communication between parents and schools: Seventy-one percent of young people surveyed felt that one of the keys to keeping students in school was to have better communication between the parents and the school, and increasing parental involvement in their child’s education.  Less than half said their school contacted their parents or themselves when they were absent (47 percent) or when they dropped out (48 percent).

    In truth, we must all care for the children.  Elders must be intimately involved in the lives of our progeny.  If schools continue to be a source of statistics and a corral for our children, we serve no one, young or old.  Indeed, we hurt ourselves if we harm our offspring or hinder their growth.  

    Sarah knows of pain.  She was a happy child, a brilliant girl.  For all her life, Sarah defined “scholar.”  In her sophomore year in High School, her teachers noticed a change.  Although Sarah attended classes regularly and was still friendly, this talkative teen seemed extremely disinterested.  Sarah was distracted; yet, no one at school knew why.  

    In her junior year, a new instructor entered the lovely young lady’s life.  This educator, Miss Adams sat with the students as they worked.  She developed a relationship with each pupil.  The teacher personalized lessons.  Miss Adams understood.  Students [people] are authentically engaged when they relate to the subject, when information is personally relevant.  This instructor also trusted that adolescents truly yearn to learn.

    Sarah felt safe when with Miss Adams.  One day as the two sat at a table, Sarah reveled that her father committed suicide the year before.  He shot himself in the head, in front of this tender teen.  “The police do not clean up after such an incident; the family does,” Sarah said.  Miss Adams listened intently as Sarah shared her story.  Later, the educator was able to enlighten other teachers and counselors.  Everyone was touched.  They never knew.  

    Belatedly, the school community reached out to the sorrowful Sarah.  Slowly, this young teen worked through her worries, with a little help from those that cared.  That was everyone.  The sadness is, in a school [or society] where statistics rule, much is lost, mostly the students, our young people, the next generation.  Teens dropout, or are pushed out.  We all suffer when we do not attend to more than roll sheets and rank.

    Next time you walk past the school in your neighborhood, please listen for more than the noise.  See more than your tax dollars going to waste.  Invest in the littlest individuals more fully.  Embrace education, it is more than facts, figures, formulas, or failed students or teachers.

    References, Resources, Sources for Student Support . . .

    A Climate of Fear Permeates; Morton High School Students Protest



    Climate of Fear

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    “The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression.
    Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism
    [terrorism, nationalism, or compassionate Conservatism.] 
    It’s far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.”

    ~ Adlai Stevenson.  1952 [Governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate]

    It was a quiet day in America; yet, the feeling of fear was palpable.  Oceans away, in Baghdad, the air was filled with the smell of napalm.  Frightened, as the young contemplated their future, seventy some courageous and committed students filed into the Morton West High School cafeteria in Berwyn, Illinois.  Trepidation for their lives, and the lives of friends, family, and those innocent Iraqi citizens they never met prompted these pupils to take action.  The young and eligible enlistees protested the war in Iraq.

    Years earlier, dissent against this unjust battle was unthinkable.  The Twin Towers fell.  The Pentagon was hit.  Other buildings were threatened and the nation panicked.  America could not comprehend there might be blood shed on the tranquil shores of their homeland.  Citizens were willing to do anything to ensure no more lives would be lost in the land of their birth.  If it meant countrymen must sacrifice their freedoms, so be it.  Immediately, Congress was called into session.  Bills were passed and liberties lost.  America was attacked; and thus, we were at war.

    Theories were bantered about.  Osama Bin Laden, the enemy behind the assault, was in Afghanistan.  Terrorists were within our country.  Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The thousands killed on September 11, 2001 were just the beginning.  Certainly, we must know as a continent, North America is no longer safe.  Air travel has opened all borders.  Trains, boats, and planes were no longer means of transport.  These are potential missiles.

    Acquiescent, the American public believed they were not safe.  Yet, fearful as the people were they knew this country must come together and show its strength.  At ground zero a crowd stood and chanted, “USA, USA!”  The Commander-In-Chief took the bull by the horn or the bullhorn and calmed the throng.  He said . . .

    “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.  And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,”

    It was then that the former friendly fellow, the man that had failed in most all of his business ventures, the son of a President whose success was said to be tied to his name, appeared decisive.  The President, placed into the Oval Office by the Supreme Court, not by the people, became the protector.  From the moment Bush stood on the mound of rumble and raised his voice, Americans followed his lead. 

    George W. Bush led his Secretary of State astray.  Colin Powell addressed the United Nations with what Bush and Vice President Cheney knew was not “solid” intelligence.  The Commander prompted his Cabinet to lie to Congress.  The President’s pal and Attorney General told a nation the Rules of the Geneva Convention are quaint.  Our leader authorized torture.  He trolled telephones.  President Bush took us to the airport and asked us to take our shoes off.  He read our library records and convinced us there was reason to forfeit our rights.  The President of the United States played on our fears and we accepted his truths.  Americans became apathetic and perhaps pathetic.

    However, just as in years past, when an unpopular war was sold to the American public, when a threat [then communism, now terrorism] loomed large in the minds of those told to fear the youth responded,  Morton High School’s young scholars decided they must speak out.  They entered the dining hall, a nook in the cranny of a huge building, a place where pupils often feel, or felt able to break from bureaucracy.  For students, the canteen is considered a safety zone.  Every high school has one, a place where pupils can relax, chat, gather, and forget the fears that flank them in the halls, and stalls of academia. 

    Yet, on this day, November first, All Saints Day, and a national day of peace, the lunchroom furnished no refuge.  Apprehensive Administrators swooped down on the young scholars as they exercised their democratic right to free speech.  Frightened school officials did just as a petrified President had done.  Under the guise of informed authority, the Superintendent and Principal imposed retaliatory measures. 

    As is often true in a climate of fear, the terrified meet the terrified, and the trouble begins.  When filled with fear a person in a powerful position does not wish to show his or her weakness.  Thus, they adopt a punitive posture to appear in control; George W. Bush, Superintendent  Ben Nowakowski , you decide.

    The Berwyn School District bureaucrats selectively singled two-dozen students for expulsion.  [Might these individuals be as those sent to Guantanamo Bay Prison, or off to Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries with poor human rights records, for interrogation.]  Morton West, Morton High School District 201 Superintendent Nowakowski told parents, pupils involved in the protest that are seventeen years or older would also face police charges.  [Ah, those of a certain age may be as the persons of Middle Eastern descent.  People in power think it just to profile agitators.]  High achievers, athletes, and those whose parent are well connected were exempt from the more severe penalties.  [Frequent fliers, white businessmen, and little old ladies . . .perhaps these persons are above reproach.]  Indeed, school officials telephoned many prominent Moms and Dads and warned them.  Take your child home.  Be sure your son or daughter returns to class.  Cease or dismiss.

    The injustice was obvious; even mothers and fathers were distressed.  Parents questioned School Board members and Administrators.  They asked, what have we as a people become when we suppress speech, suspend dialogue, and arrest those that assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.  Perhaps, after all these years of war and Weapons of Mass Destruction that never were, the adults realize they too must question authority.

    Parents and students say that penalties were too harsh — and unfairly dispensed — for some of those involved in the protest.  More than a dozen parents at the meeting in the Morton East auditorium told the board that students who play varsity athletics or have a high grade point average were given less stringent penalties.

    Maniotis said her daughter Barbara, a junior at the high school, participated in the protest but was given a 5-day suspension and does not face expulsion because she is an honor student with a 4.5 GPA.  Other students received 10-day suspensions with the possibility of expulsion.

    “She did the same thing they did,” Maniotis said.  “This entire incident is outrageous.  The school missed out on a wonderful teachable moment.  Instead, they cracked down on them right away and turned it into a punitive situation.” 

    Parents have said they want their children reinstated and the penalties removed from their records.

    However, the Board and the Superintendent chose to exert its power.  The community gathered thousands of signatures in support of the students.  Parents, neighbors, concerned citizens met with authorities and stated, the punishment  for protestors is too harsh.  Those in power argued the point.  School authorities might have said, “We do not torture.”  Waterboarding, while repugnant, is just in “real life” situations.

    School officials also sent a letter to the parents of all the school’s students calling the protest “gross disobedience” and reminding parents that any disruption to the educational process could lead to expulsion. 

    Disobedience and dissention must be deterred.  There can be no distractions.  Our mission is clear.  If we are to accomplish our goal, all threats must be eliminated.  Presidents and Principals, Secretary’s of State and Defense and Superintendents remind us, we have reasons to fear.  This is the “age of terror.”

    Americans know by now, as we accept our telephones are tapped, any time we question authority we are in insubordination.  Countrymen chuckle on reflection as they ponder, I almost got sent to Guantanamo. We are anxious regardless of what is real, for in truth, reality is perception.  As long as we perceive a threat, there is one, and those in power will act in accordance.  Innocents will be sent to [Guantanamo Bay] prison without due process.

    Morton High school Principal, Mister Lucas was fretful despite of what occurred or did not.  The protesters, pupils were extremely peaceful.  They did as they were told to do.  Law enforcement officers observed all went well.  Nevertheless, fear flourished amongst Administrators.

    [S]everal students said the protesters, whose numbers had dwindled to about 25, obeyed the administration’s request to move from a high-traffic area in the cafeteria to a less-crowded hall near the principal’s office.  There, they intertwined arms, sang along to an acoustic guitar and talked about how the war was affecting the world, said Matt Heffernan, a junior who took part.

    “We agreed to move to another side of the building,” Matt said.  “We also made a deal that if we moved there, there would be no disciplinary action taken upon us.”

    Matt said the group had been told that the most severe punishment would be a Saturday detention for cutting class that day.

    Police officers were on the scene, and Berwyn’s police chief, William Kushner, said no arrests were made.  “It was all very peaceful and orderly,” he said.

    But at the end of the school day, Matt said, Dr. Nowakowski gave the remaining protesters disciplinary notices stating that they had engaged in mob action, that they were suspended for 10 days and that they faced expulsion.

    The sense of being actively involved in the community and in the civic process is weighty and can be woeful.  As a Morton High School student stated; upon reflection he had “feelings of confidence – of a job well done.”  However, faced with expulsion he also embraced anxiety “and fright, because my whole educational future is at risk.”

    Education for American students is at risk whether they protest the war or not.  As the battles in the Middle East intensify, our youngest citizens watch expectantly.  Currently, they are not forced to take up arms; yet, the cost of an advanced degree, the expense of living on your own, salaries, or more accurately, practically speaking, minimum wages threaten the security of a young mind.  Military recruiters know this, as does the Administration, local and Federal.  Armed Forces representatives maximize on the fear and the White House blesses such actions.

    The practice began just after America surrendered itself to permanent apprehension.  The Twin Towers fell and so too did the Bill of Rights.  The Constitution was set aside in favor of the Patriot Act.  The Commander-In-Chief of the United States, George W. Bush proposed we leave no child behind.  In the spirit of bipartisanship, Mister Bush garnered support for a initiative that would change the lives of young Americans forever.  The “Education” President signed the measure and a new military force was born.

    Sharon Shea-Keneally, principal of Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vermont, was shocked when she received a letter in May from military recruiters demanding a list of all her students, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.  The school invites recruiters to participate in career days and job fairs, but like most school districts, it keeps student information strictly confidential.  “We don’t give out a list of names of our kids to anybody,” says Shea-Keneally, “not to colleges, churches, employers — nobody.”

    But when Shea-Keneally insisted on an explanation, she was in for an even bigger surprise: The recruiters cited the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s sweeping new education law passed earlier this year.  There, buried deep within the law’s 670 pages, is a provision requiring public secondary schools to provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student — or face a cutoff of all federal aid.

    “I was very surprised the requirement was attached to an education law,” says Shea-Keneally.  “I did not see the link.”

    The military complained this year that up to 15 percent of the nation’s high schools are “problem schools” for recruiters.  In 1999, the Pentagon says, recruiters were denied access to schools on 19,228 occasions.  Rep. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who sponsored the new recruitment requirement, says such schools “demonstrated an anti-military attitude that I thought was offensive.”

    Slights or the restricted right of entry seemed odious to pro-war Congressman Vitter, a man too young to have fought in a foreign battle.  Attitudes such as his may helped build a system of recruitment that expanded our military defense.  Prior to the initiative that allowed military representatives to sell their schpeel to High School students interest and investment in America’s youth was not equally distributed.  Nor is it now.  The difference is, under current law, military recruiters can more easily find men and women willing to enlist.  With thanks to No Child Left Behind the armed forces can focus on those most in need.  That is best.  After all, the affluent have opportunities that ensure economic and academic success.  The rich are less likely to enlist.

    [I]t appears that the affluent are not encouraging their children and peers to join the war effort on the battlefield.

    The writer of the Post-Gazette article, Jack Kelly, explored this question in his story that ran on Aug. 11. Kelly wrote of a Marine recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, who went to an affluent suburb outside of Pittsburgh to follow up with a young man who had expressed interest in enlisting. He pulled up to a house with American flags displayed in the yard.  The mother came to the door in an American flag T-shirt and openly declared her support for the troops.

    But she made it clear that her support only went so far.

    “Military service isn’t for our son,” she told Rivera.  “It isn’t for our kind of people.”

    The kinds of people that are targeted are poor or lower Middle Class.  Plebeian families will sacrifice their progeny disproportionately.  Morton West High School in Berwyn, is nestled in a working-class suburb just west of Chicago.  Soldiers dressed in uniform, don sparkly metals, and wear shined shoes as they stroll the halls of this blue-collar neighborhood school campus.  They smile and sweet-talk eager teens.  Recruiters befriend students and promise them a bright future if they enlist.  In part, this helped to provide perspective for the pupils and prompted the protest.

    Disabled Gulf War veteran Cesar Ruvalcaba, dressed in his military uniform, chose to lash out at military recruiters allowed to roam the halls of the school.

    “Shame on the administrators who think receiving military money from recruiters is more important than the education of their students,” he told the board. “I am 100 percent disabled, and I learned the hard way that education, not carrying a machine gun, is the key to success. It’s those people who are pro-war who would never drop everything and go fight for the red, white, and blue. These kids should receive extra credit for speaking up, not expulsion.”

    Morton High School students are not alone.  After years of subjection, some schools are fighting back.  Administrators have decisively stood up for their students.  Principals refuse to be part of the Bush regime or relegate academics to expulsion.  Principals ask whether funds from No Child Left Behind provisions are worth the cost, the lost of freedom.

    Rift over recruiting at public high schools
    A Seattle high school bars military solicitation, touching off debate over Iraq war and free speech.
    By Dean Paton
    The Christian Science Monitor
    May 18, 2005

    Seattle – While most Parent Teacher Student Association meetings might center on finding funding for better math books or the best way to chaperon a school dance, a recent meeting here at Garfield High School grappled with something much larger – the war in Iraq.

    The school is perhaps one of the first in the nation to debate and vote against military recruiting on high school campuses – a topic already simmering at the college level . . .

    High schools are struggling with a similar issue as the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools receiving federal funding must release the names of its students to recruiters. Some feel that’s an invasion of privacy prompted by a war effort that has largely divided the American public. Others say barring recruiters is an infringement of free speech – and a snub to the military, particularly in a time of war.

    Garfield High School took a decisive step last week with a vote of 25 to 5 to adopt a resolution that says “public schools are not a place for military recruiters.”

    All this comes as recruiters struggle to meet enlistment goals.

    Perchance, Americans no longer wish to live a life in fear.  Our countrymen finally decided to vote for change.  However, it did not come.  Now the children take up the cause.  Perhaps they will be more successful.  With the support of their parents, the impossible may be probable.  Indeed, it is, slightly.

    Last evening, the Superintendent of Berwyn Schools released a statement.  [On the same day some troops are slated to return home to American shores, not because the President heard the people say exit Iraq, but because, physically, they could no longer remain in battle] suspended students could and would return to class.  School records will not reflect, peaceful rebellions as a dishonorable reason for discharge.  Although Administrative faces are saved, it is important to consider that this is a step.  We may move closer to educational experiences and further from a culture of fear.  One can hope.

    I offer the link for your perusal.  Please read the Superintendent’s proclamation.  Please share your thoughts, quietly.  Remember class is in session.  Recruiters may still be listening and the Bush regime remains in office.

  • Administration Rules on Students Suspended Following Nov. 1 Disruption of School Day.

    As you, dear reader, breathe deeply and ponder the protestors’ plight, might I submit, alls is not well; nor did this situation truly end well.  Granted, the students will be reinstated.  Those that wish to pursue a military career will, and those that do not, will not.  However, there is more to this story.  Power plays; those that instill fear, fear not.  Even when we think the Authorities care; they are concerned, and will no longer abuse, use or manipulate, we discover they continue to do as they have done.

    Eight million veterans got their education thanks to the World War II GI Bill, which covered tuition, fees, and books, and gave veterans a living stipend while they were in school.  A 1988 Congressional study proved that every dollar spent on educational benefits under the original GI Bill added seven dollars to the national economy in terms of productivity, consumer spending and tax revenue.

    Unfortunately, the current educational benefits offered to veterans are far lower than the original GI Bill.  In fact, they cover only 60-70% of the average cost of four years at a public college or university, or less than two years at a typical private college.  Our veterans deserve better.

    A new GI [Government Issue] Bill is being crafted in Congress.  However, Americans have reason to think this too shall not pass.  If we the voters learn from the Morton High School students and state what we think, perhaps, veterans will have the chance they were promised . . . that is if they live to return home.

    Let s fear no more.  Americans cannot sit silent.  If you wish to communicate to your Congress Person, please do.  The time is now.
    Help Veterans Continue their Education.

    Sources of Fear; Culture of Care. . .

  • US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq. By Andrew Buncombe.  Independent Digital. August 10, 2003
  • President tours New York devastation, Bush promises terrorists will get message soon.  Cable News Network. September 14, 2001 Posted: 11:21 p.m.
  • Bush’s Lap Dogs: What Happened to DC’s Watchdogs? By Tom Dickinson.  Rolling Stone. October 31, 2007
  • George W. Bush. The Nation.
  • Terror Suspect Alleges Torture, Detainee Says U.S. Sent Him to Egypt Before Guantanamo.  By Dana Priest and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post.
    Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A01

  • pdf Terror Suspect Alleges Torture, Detainee Says U.S. Sent Him to Egypt Before Guantanamo.  By Dana Priest and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post. Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A01
  • Support Morton West HS Anti-War Students. Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice.
  • Bush defends interrogation practices: ‘We do not torture’. By Richard Benedetto.  USA today. November 7, 2005
  • Waterboarding Mukasey. By Sidney Blumenthal.  The Guardian. November 2, 2007
  • Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People . The White House. September 20, 2001
  • Reasons to Fear U.S. By Noam Chomsky.  The Toronto Star.  September 7, 2003
  • I almost got sent to Guantanamo, By Steven D. Levitt. Freakenomics.  The New York Times. July 14, 2005
  • U.S. to Send 5 Detainees Home From Guantanamo, Australian, Four Britons Allege Abuse.  By Carol D. Leonnig and Glenn Frankel.  Washington Post. Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf U.S. to Send 5 Detainees Home From Guantanamo, Australian, Four Britons Allege Abuse.  By Carol D. Leonnig and Glenn Frankel.  Washington Post. Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A01
  • Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. Secretary Colin L. Powell.  February 5, 2003
  • Powell: Some Iraq testimony not ‘solid’. Cable News Network. Saturday, April 3, 2004
  • Students Call Protest Punishment Too Harsh, By Crystal Yednak.  The New York Times. November 7, 2007
  • pdf Students Call Protest Punishment Too Harsh, By Crystal Yednak.  The New York Times. November 7, 2007
  • The Bill of Rights. Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution
  • Rift over recruiting at public high schools A Seattle high school bars military solicitation, touching off debate over Iraq war and free speech.  By Dean Paton .  The Christian Science Monitor May 18, 2005
  • Parents, activists rip school board, Officials overreacted to protest, they say.  By Joseph Ruzich.  Chicago Tribune. November 9, 2007
  • No Child Unrecruited.  By David Goodman.  Mother Jones. November/December 2002
  • Nowakowski Statement on the Student Protest Disruption at Morton West.  Morton High School District 201.
  • Military’s Recruiting Troubles Extend to Affluent War Supporters By Terry M. Neal.  Washington Post.  Monday, August 22, 2005; 8:00 AM
  • Parent-trap snares recruiters,  The tune changes at some homes when they hear ‘sign here.’  By Jack Kelly.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Thursday, August 11, 2005
  • “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address.  History Matters.
  • Exit Exams, High School Dropouts; Cause and Effect

    DrpOut

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    In California, students are crushed by the weight of exit exams.  Some feel defeated.  After numerous failures on test after test, pupils presume, rather than make another attempt, it is best to just dropout.  In 2006, 24,000 high school seniors dropped out, about 10,000 more than just four years earlier.

  • Please also peruse Dropout Nation; Communities Can Cure The Silent Student Epidemic.   The causes and effects of “dropping out” are explored in greater detail in that treatise.
  • Nationwide, the number of dropouts is staggering; however, in states that require the ever-popular exit exams the rate rises steadily.

    HighSchool Exit Exams Linked to Higher Dropout Rates, Researchers Find

    By David Glenn

    Since 1979, a growing number of states have required high school students to pass exit examinations before they can receive diplomas.  For nearly as long, scholars and policy makers have debated whether such exams do more harm than good.

    Proponents of exit exams say they improve learning and future employment by giving both students and school districts better incentives to succeed.  Skeptics say the exams needlessly prevent students who have otherwise completed all their course work from receiving diplomas.  They also warn that the exams could prompt some students to drop out of high school as early as the 10th or 11th grade, if they think they will fail the tests.

    The latest battleground over the issue is California . . .

    Now two teams of scholars have written papers that support the more harm than good thesis.  In a recent working paper, Thomas S. Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College, and Brian A. Jacob, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University, reported that students in states with relatively easy exit exams are roughly 4 percent more likely to drop out of high school than similar students in states with no exams.  In states with relatively difficult exit exams, students are 5.5 percent more likely to drop out than their counterparts in states with no exams.

    The effects are stronger among African American men, Mr. Dee and Mr. Jacob found.  In states with easy exit exams, black male students are 5.2 percent more likely to drop out of high school than their counterparts in states with no exit exams.  In states with more rigorous exit exams, they are 7.3 percent more likely to drop out than are their counterparts in states with no exit exams.

    Those that struggle to do well yet miss the mark by a point, two, or twenty must not be college material, or so a disheartened adolescent is led to believe.  Tens of thousands of distraught pupils give up on themselves just as their elders have done.  Young academics that do not measure up on exit exams often conclude they are misfits; they do not seem to fit in a society that demands they meet agreed upon standards, as senseless and biased as these standards might be.

    The force of mandated exams looms large over the heads of want-to-be High School graduates.  Beginning in the sophomore year, young academics are required to test for graduation.  Examinations focus on math, English, and algebra skills.  Formulaic solutions are featured.  There is no need to think deeply when faced with standardized Scantron™ answer forms.  Indeed, if a learner ruminates intensely they may be penalized.  Time is of the utmost importance.  Those that administer the exam remind test-takers you either know the correct answer or you do not.  If uncertain move on.  Your overall score matters most.

    Critical thought can consume minutes, hours, days, and months.  High School curriculums have no time for such an exercise.  Analysis is not crucial if a pupil wishes to advance.  A learner is considered capable if they are able to choose the correct bubble and completely blacken the circle.  Results are recorded for posterity.  Granted, pupils have multiple chances to pass the mandated multiple-choice examinations.  However, if a student cannot deliver after six attempts, they are done. They have “failed”

    Policymakers presume they have given pupils an equal  chance.  They think it irrelevant that the assessment rarely relates to the life of a student or the lessons received in class.  It matters not that individual learning styles are ignored or that a learners language skills are not considered.  When the school determines it is apt, a student is placed in a room and told “Perform.”  

    Administrators’ demand or command excellence.  The date, or the dilemmas that teens cope with daily is not averaged into the grade.  What occurred on that day, at that time, in that year, or within the institution are not considered applicable in calculations.  When it is convenient for the school, students must achieve.  

    Reach for the gold star.  Grab the brass ring.  Success will be yours.  Pencils down.  Pooh!  Failed again.

    Confronted with a curriculum that does not meet the needs of the student population, or of a particular pupil, many young scholars are overwhelmed with fear.  Apprehension alone is enough to affect achievement.  Language barriers also boggle a mind.  

    For a 16-year-old, Iris Padilla’s resume looks pretty good: Not only is she already a senior close to completing all the credits needed to graduate from Richmond High, she’s president of a Latin American culture club and is active in political and religious clubs at school.  Next year, Iris wants to go to college and study psychology.

    But Richmond High might not let her graduate this spring.

    That’s because Iris hasn’t passed the exit exam, and she has only one more chance before graduation day to tackle the two-day test, on March 21-22.

    Iris is one of 73,270 California high school seniors in the same pickle — unable to fulfill a new state law requiring students to pass a test of basic English, math, and algebra to graduate.  That’s 1 in 5 members of the state’s Class of 2006, says the state Department of Education.

    More than half of those who still need to pass — 40,002 students — are like Iris: They don’t speak much English.

    Iris Padilla is a superior student.  Any college would welcome a young woman so dedicated to her education, and to her community.  Perchance, in an institution of higher learning faculty and facilitators understand that, typically it takes seven years to acquire fluency in a foreign language.  A University may give Iris Padilla the opportunity to truly acquire English language skills.  However,, we may never know, for the young woman may not have the chance to apply to one of the many ivory towers, although she has prepared to do so all of her life.

    Iris is a  disciplined scholar as are most in her precarious situation.  The vast majority of teenagers that cannot pass the exit examinations have hopes, dreams, and drive.  

    Her school day begins at 7:30 a.m. with an exit-exam prep class in math.  Then it’s on to geometry, economics, computer graphics, world history, and an English-language class.  She is passing them all.  After school, Iris attends another prep class for the English portion of the test.

    Her teacher, Isidora Martinez-McAfee, has been teaching English to newcomers in the same classroom for 30 years and has seen most of them graduate, and many go on to college.

    “Some have become dentists, hygienists, nurses, psychologists, teachers,” said Martinez-McAfee.

    But now, she fears, students like Iris will stagnate.

    With one month left to go before her final shot at passing the exit exam, Iris still finds an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem on the practice test impenetrable, and word problems in math as clear as Greek.

    Does that mean Iris should be barred from walking across the graduation stage with her classmates, or that she should receive an empty envelope when theirs contains a diploma?

    State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, who wrote the exit exam law in 1999 while a state senator, calls it “immoral” to award diplomas to students who can’t pass the test.

    Time, narrowly-focused-dogmatic-dictatorial bureaucrats, and those that profit from the policies these legislators devise are not on the side of students such as Iris.  American-born Iris Padilla [and others] is punished upon her return to the homeland.  Iris Padilla, for most of her life lived with her Grandmother in Mexico.  She came back to her mother’s home only months before she shared her story with Journalist Nanette Asimov.  Iris may not receive a diploma.  Dependant on the District, she too may be defined as a dropout.  The dropout crisis is, in many ways, contrived.

    To complicate matters, dropout rates do not simply or directly translate to an accurate graduation rate.  Multiple methods and definitions can result in what appears to be conflicting information.  For example, it is possible to have a low rate of dropout based on event or status calculations, and to have a low rate of graduation as well.  The formula and parameters (e.g., age, grade, accountability period) used to determine the rate must be carefully considered and explained . . .

    A focus on measuring graduation rates is conceptually linked to recent increased emphasis on the importance of promoting student engagement to enhance school completion.  However, due to lack of standardized definitions and methods for computing dropout rates and graduation rates, interpretation must be carefully considered.  Until a standard procedure is established and used across districts, states, and national reporting agencies, reports of dropout and graduation rates can be interpreted accurately only when accompanied by explanations of how the numbers were derived.

    Rarely are the numbers reflective of what occurs within a school, a District, or a  State.  While elders stress accountability for students, they, themselves are not held to a rigid standard.  It behooves an educational facility to filter out those that lower the ranking.  No Child Left Behind laws put Administrators in a position to choose.  Punish the student or punish the school.  Most prefer to penalize the youngster.

    Administrators might justify such an act.  After all, America needs an unskilled labor force.  Those without a high school diploma can fill those slots.  Besides, once out of the system they have one more opportunity to take the exit exam.  Thus, there is no reason to worry if students dropout.

    If a pupil cannot pass the exam after five tries while enrolled, then financially, it is better for the institution if that student is no longer counted in the final tally.  Federal officials will not fund underperforming schools.  Sanctions are progressively more punitive each year.  Hence, a school benefits when those registered are able to do well on standardized tests.

    Affluent parents pour millions into test preparation classes.  Online training is also available; however, that too costs money.  Some schools also supplement schedules to accommodate students in need of more guidance.  This helps those that have access to such assistance.  However, sadly many students do not have this luxury.

    A young person that receives no one-on-one instruction at home or at school often feels lost and fears stating this aloud.  Peers can be cruel.  Yet, if parents are absent, away at a one job or another, children are left to fend for themselves.  The economically poor child is poorer still.  A Mom or Dad working multiple jobs cannot give a child the attention instruction demands.  An underprivileged parent is frequently of meager means because they are undereducated.  The two characteristics collide and all in close proximity feel the impact.

    Based on the most careful calculation of graduation rates and the longest time span, this study concluded that exit exams, and particularly the more difficult exams, did reduce high school completion rates by about 2.1 percentage points.  Furthermore, the negative effects of exams were larger in states with high rates of poverty and with more racially and ethically diverse student populations.  This conclusion reinforces results from other studies indicating that test score results and passing rates vary substantially by race, ethnicity and income.

    Young persons without the tools, left alone at home, must rely on teachers to teach them.  Most educators are preoccupied, too many pupils, too many tests.  Thus, a frustrated teenager flits and flitters.  Angst filters through the mind and body of an eager scholar stressed to the limit.  Trepidation coupled with confusion does more than merely aggravate an academic.  Aspiring adolescents in California conclude, it is better to give up, dropout, and forfeit a diploma.

    California Exit Exam Boosts Dropout Numbers

    By Juliet Williams

    Associated Press

    November 8, 2007

    Sacramento, Calif. (AP) – The number of California high school dropouts spiked in 2006, the first year seniors were required to pass an exit exam to graduate, according to a report presented Wednesday to the state Board of Education.

    The analysis found that 24,000 high school seniors dropped out in 2006, about 10,000 more than just four years earlier.

    The information could give ammunition to lawmakers and others who have criticized the exam, as well as those who have lobbied for alternative assessments.

     

    Currently, politicians and policymakers decide how we might evaluate learning.  These persons are rarely if ever trained professional teachers.  Nor do most recall life as a student.  Superintendents, Commissioners, community leaders ignore or forget what they once knew.  Intelligence and knowledge are fluid.  Statistical calculations are fixed.

    A child develops; wisdom expands.  Under stress, growth is stunted; intelligence wanes.  We struggle to access acumen when placed in a situation that breeds anxiety.

    Children learn well when they are not forced fed.  So too do adults.  Contemplate the myriad of facts you gathered quickly.  When a topic was of interest to you personally, you seized the vital statistics with vigor.  Consider the data you forgot over the years.  Records memorized only to recite back on a test, soon fade from memory.  

    The wonks may want us to believe that instructors can teach to a test and children will learn.  However, when we study, what has no meaning for more than a moment, we internalize little if any of what was placed before us.

    Insight is accrued slowly.  Erudition is a process.  A portfolio of work demonstrates the evolution known as scholarship.  Experts in education understand this.

    The firm that prepared the report, Human Resources Research Organization of Alexandria, Va., made several recommendations to the board, including a suggestion that California explore other ways for high school seniors to demonstrate proficiency.  In Massachusetts and Washington State, for example, students can be judged on a portfolio of their high school work.

    However, in most other regions  enlightenment is delayed.  Emissaries and executives look on from outside the classroom.  They decide what is best for those in schools.  When the voices within educational system dissent, the sound they make is often muffled.  At times, there is a small victory.  Overall, little changes.

    Exit Exam Challenged!

    POOR Magazine Youth intern who didn’t pass the Exit Exam reviews the legal challenges that were recently decided on.

    Antonio William/PNN Youth in Media?

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    “How can they talk about us standing on corners, using drugs, we are hard-working students trying to get an education,” a Latina Richmond High School Student wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke into the corporate media lens.  She was speaking outside a school board hearing in April on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

    Earlier this month two major legal challenges to the CAHSEE were heard and adjudicated on in California courts.  The first one: Liliana Valenzuela, et al v. Jack O’Connell, which was fought by attorneys Arturo Gonzalez and Chris Young from Morrison and Foerster on the basis of the educational, due process and equal protection rights afforded to students under the California Constitution.  We won this one.  Alameda County Judge Robert Freedman decided on Friday May 11th to delay diploma denial for the class of 2006.

    When issuing the injunction, Freedman said he was swayed by Gonzalez’s argument that low-income of color students, English language learners in particular attend low-performing schools that do not prepare them adequately for the test.

    Of the 46,700 seniors who have failed the test, 20,600 are designated as limited English learners and 28,300 are very lo-income.  I am one of those 28,300 students.

    Progress is slow, be it in learning, or in policy making.  We accept and expect adult practices to be measured.  As a culture, we believe that change must calculated.  The pace need be unhurried and deliberate.  However, in the area of education, we want assessments to be completed without delay.  The process quick and is dirty.  Children are damaged by the experience.  Still, the need to be saturated with statistics is honored and gratified.

    We have all heard the ancient axiom that discredits educators.  It seems the general public, Boards, Judges, and legislators believe anyone can do what most dare not, enter a classroom full of twenty, thirty, or forty unique, excited, expectant young persons and make a significant difference.  The accepted adage is,  ‘Those that cannot teach.’  Thus, educators have no power to determine the curriculum.  Teachers are trained to oversee tests.  That is the way their superiors like it.

    Jack O’Connell, superintendent of public instruction, has consistently opposed such an [alternative] option.

    Exit exams remain a requisite for High school graduation.  The practice is profitable for publishers and other adult professionals, [not for pupils.]  Mega millions are spent on improving evaluative systems.  

    Hidden Costs Present Challenges

    The costs are considerable for a state, as well as individual school districts, to put in place a high school exit exam and help students meet the standards required by the test.  For example, it costs Indiana, a state with an exit exam of average difficulty, $557 per student to maintain the state’s current level of performance on the exam, according to the Center on Education Policy.

    The argument is that if a student is well prepared the cost of remediation will be reduced.  However, there is no need for further instruction after graduation if a child is taught well initially.  Society invests little in schools in poorer neighborhoods, less on quality teachers for impoverished pupils, and even less on the students that sit in inadequate classrooms, and it shows.  Pupils trapped in an inner city ghetto help us to see the stark differentiation between the best of conditions and the worse.  Without well-educated parents to supplement a child’s education at home, the outcome for a student is dire.  Impoverished students suffer the consequences of their birth and station.

    The report’s findings validate the argument that the test is hardest on students who do not have access to good schools or good teachers, said Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates.  That applies mostly to poor and minority students, she said . . .

    The report also highlights California’s persistent achievement gap and found an even more worrisome problem: Students who are black, Hispanic, poor or learning English did even worse when they were in schools with high concentrations of similar students.

    The disparity between the haves and “have-nots” is daunting.  The separation between the socio-economic classes is broad and widens.  As we assess dropout rates, we can see that city school students are far more likely to drop than suburban scholars are.

    Perhaps, exit exams have a purpose, albeit financial.  Institutions gain when students are encouraged to forfeit a diploma.  If those that struggle to pass the required assessment dropout, the percentage that graduate appears higher.  The books are “legitimately” cooked.  

    Thus, the accountability standards designated by No Child Left Behind are achieved.  Conveniently, children left behind fill the ranks of the lower caste.  American society remains stable; the status quo is preserved.  The haves are served and the have-nots continue to dream the impossible.  

    We may think we are comfortable as long as we, and our progeny, graduate.  However, there are repercussions, not only for the children, but also for society as a whole.  When a nation breeds a poor population, we give rise to generational poverty, people in need of assistance.  This can burden a community, as well as bring about greater resentment, rebellion, and ultimately to increased societal ills, physical, emotional, intellectual.  Welfare is but a singular, isolated, and the smallest consequence of poverty.  

    The community, as a whole, suffers when we do not care for each other. Wages fall.  There is less opportunity to work.  Physical and mental well-beings are threatened.  Poverty is a shared load. It taxes individuals, institutions, and neighborhoods.  The effects of impoverishment may be more evident among the young.  Sadly, the weakest among us, from birth, are lumped together in underperforming schools.  Through them, we might better diagnosis what affects us all.

    [T]he vast majority of underachieving students are concentrated in such [poor] schools [with minority populations.]

    Most students are able to pass the exam in time for graduation, although critics note that as graduation day approaches more students drop out of school and stop being counted.

    Poor and minority students help to remind us what occurs when we ignore or deny sound pedagogical principles.  Children must be taught and tested in a manner that mirrors the way they learn.  The acquisition of knowledge internalized occurs over time.  Elucidation occurs when we meet people where they live.  Attention to learning modalities matters.

    If a pupil acquires best information when active, we must provide them with opportunities to produce.  Then, we can evaluate the product.  Educators must recall the maxim, “Practice makes perfect.'”  One project completed does not equate to scholarship.  The process, the progression affirms full comprehension.  When an individual has a foundation, they are able to create anew.  That is excellence.

    If a child acquires knowledge aurally, that option must also be available.  Appraisals for such a child need to also accommodate this learning modality.  Once more, a young person cannot be accurately evaluated on one occasion.  We each are a mixture of moments.  Any of us may excel in the morning and fade in the afternoon, or vice versa.  We cannot be sure what a day will bring.  We can be certain that if we evaluate a pupil frequently, if a young academic is challenged to grow at their own pace, in a manner that meets their needs ultimately, they will do well.

    Again, a collection of work helps us to understand how a child performs in various conditions.  No one of us is ever the same in every moment.  We may do well with a good night’s rest, with sufficient food in our belly, and if we have had ample and exceptional opportunities to associate ourselves with the material.  However, even all these advantages will not compensate for what occurs on any given day.  Word of a parents’ divorce, a death in the family, or just dread can doom a thinker to failure.

    We all have feelings.  Perchance we, as a society, might realize our emotions often lead us to defeat.  Great angst felt at the prospect of a test, one that could shape our future and cause us to fail.  Indeed, it probably will.

    There’s no doubt that today students are under intense pressure to perform academically, but at what cost?  The Institute of HeartMath® (www.heartmath.org) and Claremont Graduate University (www.cgu.edu) released a new study that depicts the high levels of anxiety students are shouldering due to the pressure to excel intellectually.  Nearly two-thirds of the high school students who participated in the study reported being affected by test anxiety.  The study underscores the detrimental impact of test anxiety on academic performance.  Based on their findings, researchers say that students’ high levels of anxiety may jeopardize NCLB assessment validity and could be compromising testing results.

    HeartMath researchers explain that feelings of anxiety drive up the level of “noise” or mental static to such a pitch that it overloads the circuits in the brain needed for paying attention, learning, focusing, and remembering.

    Dr. Rollin McCraty, lead researcher on the study and director of research for the Institute of HeartMath, says, “When students are anxious about their test performance, their brain doesn’t function efficiently.  They can look at a test question and literally not see certain words, become confused, or miss the meaning of a question.  They can even miss seeing entire questions on the page.”

    Hence, I plead.  Policymakers, please understand, if we continue to assess our offspring in manners that befuddle them, threaten their sense of self, and serve only to generate a statistical base, we will alienate those we depend on most, our children.  The young are our future.  Do we really wish to throw them out of the schools and onto the streets?  I hope not.  

    Some may see the poorest among us a disposable, dispensable, or expendable.  They are not.  Those that consider their children a priority and lessen the worth of the poor have yet to do the math.  Compassion aside, we all pay the price for poverty.  

    A community is the sum total of the parts.  If the elite do not invest in the education of impoverished youth, the cost incurred by all will be high.  An unskilled, under-educated laborer is less likely to be secure in their employment.  Wages for manual and menial work is low.  Transitions affect economic stability.  Uneducated employees may not have adequate health care.  Bargaining for benefits is easier when you have an education to stand on.  The shared cost of medical services alone takes a toll on the rates we each pay.  Increased crime is a possibility we must consider.  The effects of emotions expand.  No one can predict with certainly what will become of our High School dropouts.  

    I invite educators and parents alike to advocate for the youth of America.  Put yourself in the place of your progeny.  Please do not be punitive and pedantic.  Provide for our pupils.  Bequeath them equal opportunities to progress over time in a manner that matches who they are.  Let us not endorse artificial proofs of learning.  May we empathize and embrace young minds while they are still in school.  Policymakers, please drop in to our schools and experience the devastation exit exams reap before our children drop out.

    Schools Days, Rigid Rules, and References . . .

  • Dropout Nation: What’s Wrong With America’s High Schools? By Nathan Thornburgh.  Time Magazine. Sunday, April 09, 2006
  • pdf Dropout Nation: What’s Wrong With America’s High Schools? By Nathan Thornburgh.  Time Magazine. Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006
  • High-School Exit Exams Boom, but Students Still May Be Unready for College. The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 6, 2007
  • High School Exit Exams Linked to Higher Dropout Rates, Researchers Find By David Glenn. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006
  • Exit exam a test of determination, Language barrier adds unfair burden, critics say of requirement.  By Nanette Asimov.  San Francisco Chronicle. SF Gate. Monday, February 27, 2006
  • New analysis finds serious flaws in recommendations for high school exit exams.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association. 2007
  • How are Dropout Rates Measured? What are Associated Issues? National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).
  • The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning, The Concept of Being At-Risk.  The Art and Science of Teaching with Technology®
  • Poverty and Community. A New Discussion for the New Millenium. By Jeff Faux.  Economic Policy institute. May 1, 1998
  • Exit Exam Challenged! POOR Magazine Youth intern who didn’t pass the Exit Exam reviews the legal challenges that were recently decided on.  By Antonio William.  PNN Youth in Media.  Poor Magazine. Wednesday, May 24, 2006;
  • Learning Modalities: Pathways to Effective Learning, By Dr. Patricia Hutinger.  Public Brocasting Services Teachers.
  • New Study Raises Concerns about Current Test-Taking Requirements. The Institute of HeartMath® and Claremont Graduate University.
  • Exit exam eludes some, By Fermin Leal, Erica Perez, and Sam Miller.  The Orange County Register. November 28, 2006
  • Overview of Second Language Acquisition.  Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. 2003
  • High school dropouts earn far less money, By Ben Feller.  Boston Globe. September 12, 2006
  • Unemployment level of college grads surpasses that of high-school dropouts. Economic Policy Institute. 2004

  • Education In America; Danger Stranger – Not The Monster You Imagine

    copyright © 2007 Judith Moriarty

    There are pockets of people, and the shadow people you meet along life’s way, who are baffled and confused, as to why people today (family members – neighbors – local politicians etc) seem so disinterested, apathetic, or downright complacent, concerning world affairs?  Many people today cannot name the branches of government, discuss the workings of our monetary system (Federal Reserve), the labor movement, the robber barons, the reasons for the various wars (throughout history), the civil rights era, the constitution, nor the details of the various trade agreements (not discussed or debated in Congress) and how these agreements, are systematically bringing about the ruination of our country and causing (globally) a mass exodus of people from the land of their birth to strange lands and cultures. Forget trying to have a conversation on the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the Bilderbergers, CFR, or the various economic summits (deciding the real business of the world).

    Serious issues, such as the genetic altering of crops, sterilizing of seeds, our massive debt (growing by the minute), our great trade deficit (imported junk), our decaying schools, our imploding infra-structure, autism, echoing factories, outsourcing of steel, textiles, information technology, manufacturing, absence of an energy policy, H-1B visa workers (others) replacing American workers, our medical crisis, the privatization of the commons, etc —all these and more, are never discussed in the media,  or by those hoping to catch (already decided) the golden ring for the presidency!

    Instead, the people are subjected to the buffoonery and nonsensical round the clock reporting; on the antics of dysfunctional sports stars, starlets, newspaper ads, car chases, OJ’s Rolex watch, murders, immigration riots, demands for more billions for war, or the locker room, slap stick of Foggy Bottom politicians, embroiled in name calling, or the ethics of a toe tapping bathroom perversion!  If it all becomes too much, there’s 500 TV channels that will numb the mind into a fantasy world of sports, car races, sitcoms, prison lock-ups, wrestle mania, or loud mouth hirelings screaming their scripted abuses at each other or guests!

    Caught up in a whirlwind of flags, ribbons, parades, elephants, jackasses, of red – white – and boo; the herd is manipulated into believing that a moneyed candidate (red or blue) will save them from their dreary, fearful, tumultuous, indentured servitude – to the machine.  Surely this candidate will deliver us from war, from poverty, from emergency room medical care, from illiterate kids, from rising fuel prices, from shuttered mill towns, bankrupt farms, moldy homes, and broken levees?  And each time – the disappointment grows more burdensome.  The power brokers of global business are not to be found in Foggy Bottom.  They (politicians) are mere props, though better cared for than the masses, but in reality, powerless to effect change on a global scale.  They are nothing more than mere middle management beholden to the moneychangers who support them in their cradle to grave elections.

    Perhaps the apathy, and the anger, from friends and family – when confronted with reality, comes from the fact, that people have been dutifully conditioned (programmed) these many decades through public education and TV – devolving  into a servile, sniffling, whining, obedient herd of workers and consumers?  They are nameless – non-persons, units, human resources, cattle, acceptable risks, collateral damage, victims, queers, illegal immigrants, activists, soldiers, heroes, prisoners, etc, all numbered!  I’m nobody, who are you, are you nobody too?  Systematically, social engineering, over these past decades, (schooling – TV programming) has everyone compartmentalized and labeled.  This is no mistake – only today it’s more  blatant and accelerated. 

    School used to be an oasis of fun, creativity, learning, discovery, and encouragement by teachers (not change agents).

    A child’s ‘career’ is mapped out today, by those who have little to no idea (or training) in guiding a child’s future!  Plus, it’s none of their business!  My youngest son came home (4.0 grade average) and informed me that he’d been told that he was best suited to become a ‘plumber or a postman’.  Now there’s nothing wrong with either of these careers  – if that’s what one chooses!  NOBODY has the right to choose a career for a naive, vulnerable child (whose parents may be inattentive to school programming).  I didn’t happen to be that mother leaving my child’s future in the hands of strangers!

    At age 21 – I presented my son with the gift of a postal jacket that I’d found in a thrift store when he received his first Master’s degree from Yale.  Even then he wasn’t sure about his career path!  It is the fault of parents that this nonsense is going on in schools.  Children are being terrorized by invading police (with dogs), explicit (indescribable) sex education, group think, Ritalin (other psychotropic drugs), testing in place of teaching, zero tolerance etc.  Why are children unable to read or do math upon graduation?  Why are they quitting school?  Why can’t they write a coherent essay upon graduation, find a word in the dictionary, read literature, or count change?  Maybe because there’s been a deliberate plot to dumb down America’s children?

    Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teacher’s Association in 1909, “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the pleasures of a liberal education and fit them to perform specific manual tasks”.

    Clinical  psychologist Bruce E. Levine wrote in 2001 (Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society) ” I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant behavior disorder.  I suggested that perhaps the boy didn’t have a disease, but was just bored.  His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me.  However, she added, ‘They told us at the state conference that our job is to  get them ready for the work world – that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world’.”

    From The Memory Hole – Russ Kick, 2006 “It’s no secret that the US educational system doesn’t do a very good job.  Studies show that America’s school kids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation.  We hear shocking statistics about the % of high-school seniors who can’t find the U.S. on an unmarked map of the world.  Fingers are pointed at overcrowded classrooms, lack of funding, teachers who can’t pass competency tests etc.  These are secondary problems.  Even if they were cleared up, schools would still suck.  Why?  Because they were designed to!”

    “In 1888, the Senate Committee on Education was getting jittery about the localized, non-standardized, non-mandatory form of education that was actually teaching children to read at advanced levels, to comprehend history, and, egads, to think for themselves.  The committee’s report stated, ‘We believe that education is one of the principle causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes’.  By the turn of the century, America’s new educrats were pushing a new form of schooling with a new mission (and it wasn’t to teach).  The famous philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote in 1897: ‘Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth.'”

    “In his 1905 dissertation for Columbia Teacher’s College, Elwood Cubberly – the future Dean of Education at Stanford, wrote that schools should be factories ‘in which raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products – manufactured like nails, and the specifications for manufacturing will come from government and industry.’  The next year, the Rockefeller Education Board, which funded the creation of numerous public schools issued a statement: ‘In our dreams people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.  We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science.  We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets, or men of letters.  We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply.'”

    “H.H Goddard a major architect of standardized testing wrote in his book, Human Efficiency, that government schooling was about ‘the perfect organization of the hive’.  In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could THINK for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate articulately.  We were to become good worker drones, with a razor thin slice of the population – mainly the children of the captains of industry and government – to rise to the level (private schooling) where they could continue running things.”

    John Taylor Gatto, former New York City school teacher (30 years) and  school  teacher of the  year  tells us in his book, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling  — ” I had more than enough reason to think of our schools with their long term, cell-block- style forced confinement of both students and teachers, as virtual factories of childishness.  Is it possible that President Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we would ‘leave no child behind’?  Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure not one of them ever really grows up?”

    “Many well known Americans never went through the twelve year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right.  George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln?  Someone taught them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever graduated from a secondary school.  Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn’t go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, inventors, captains of industry, writers and scholars.”

    “H.L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury – April 1924 that the aim of education is not – ‘to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The aim is simply to reduce as man individuals as possible to the same level to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality'”

    “Alexander Inglis’s 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of the underclasses.  Divide children by subject, by age, grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.  The integrating function.  This might be called ‘the conformity function’, because its intention is to make children as alike as possible.  People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force (or military force, JM) “

    “Once their social role has been ‘diagnosed’, children are sorted by role and trained so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further.  So much for making kids their personal best.  Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement and other punishment – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior.

    People need to wake up to the fact that their children are being destroyed – robbed of their potential in these laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands.  They don’t want thinkers and leaders!  They don’t want artists – writers – poets.  Mandatory education serves children only incidentally.  Genius is as common as dirt – if David Farragut could take command of a British war-ship as a pre-teen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of 12, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself too a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there’s no telling what today’s children could do.”  John Taylor Gatto see: The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

    Zero Tolerance: Why parents would acquiesce to their children being treated as criminals, defies all rational reasoning!  Again – this is nothing more than forcing obedience and compliance (group think) and fear of authority (really mind control).  These ridiculous rules sent forth from some educational mausoleum in Washington – by hirelings, are an effective way of controlling both children and their parents.  Like those in our culture who have defined deviancy downward, school bureaucrats are able to use these rules to create new categories of deviants who must be cured by the state if they are to function in corporate society (a thinking drone – an individual drone is a dangerous drone).

    Zero tolerance is another example (such as the humiliation and herding at airports) of the state’s violence against decent and law-abiding people.  School bureaucrats (themselves mindless drones – just following orders) are making children who are no threat to anyone – suddenly thinking of themselves as deviant and potentially violent and in need of ‘drugs’ or re-education by the proper authorities.  This is all (madness) something out of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’.  Kafka’s main character (never fear your child will never have this as a book report assignment) , who was on trial was never made aware of his offense, but ultimately sees himself as guilty.

    The Wigget factory or the military?  What career will be ‘chosen’ for your ‘human resource’ (oops child)?  The No Child Left Behind Act guarantees recruiters the right to private contact information for all secondary school students, so that students may be contacted at home.  Schools refusing to participate are cut off from funding!  Did you know – did school administrators make you (the parent) aware that your child can opt out?  See: Students and Recruiting. American Friends Service Committee.

    The Truth About Ritalin: Your child’s permanent record will have him/her labeled, and thus in future years,  ineligible for some careers he/she may choose!  Most Ritalin prescribed is for children in the U.S. – and cures nothing!  It is unimaginable that any parent would permit a drug to be administered to their child under the guise of him/her being learning disabled or hyperactive without doing their homework as to the DANGERS!

    MORE compliance – obedience to authority (fear) behavior modification:  Armed Men Terrorize School – think about it.  Your child should feel safe, secure, and protected in school – not TERRORIZED with the approval of staff!  Unbelievable!  Your Congressman voted this as acceptable (not in private schools!)

    The newest move is opening mental health (imagine) clinics in schools to diagnose and drug more children!  Soon all will be labeled mentally handicapped!

    Finally – for all parents, grandparents and those who care about the health of our children (remember they only have us to protect them!)  The E-Files will give you all the information you need as to what’s happening in our nation’s schools!  People comparison shop for a car – search for months for that perfect home – etc, yet leave the care of their most precious treasure (their child) to strangers.  And now pre-school age!!  It’s felt that a child needs to be ‘indoctrinated’ at the earliest age possible – and parents buy right into this nonsense!  My children never went to nursery school or kindergarten.  Instead, they learned to fish, splash in puddles, climb mountains, visit zoos, explore, play and, enjoy being a child!!  They didn’t start school till age seven (when I decided they were ready) and were reading at the 12th grade level by third grade!!

    A dumb population, is a controlled shuffling work force, (canon fodder) for corporate hucksters – living lavishly (destroying the planet) off the labors of others, with their spoiled offspring educated to take their place!  The fault dear Brutus – lies in a people who allowed this to happen. 

    References . . .

  • The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher, By John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991.  © Copyright 1991 by Whole Earth Review & John Taylor Gatto. All Rights Reserved
  • Students and Recruiting. American Friends Service Committee.
  • ?Drugging kids and school violence. By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld.  National Alliance against Mandated Mental Health Screening & Psychiatric Drugging of Children.
  • Armed Men Terrorize School. By Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones.  ?Prison Planet.com.  Wednesday, November 1, 2006
  • Screening America’s School Children for Suicide, Violence and Mental Illness.  TeenScreen.
  • The Truth About Education is Here. The E-Files
  • Education Defined . . . Policy Or Pupils Passionately Pursuing Personal Growth?


    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    As American educators and members of Congress contemplate the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind, I feel a need to share an exposé written long before the program’s inception.  More than a decade ago, I yearned to discuss what I considered a crisis in the classroom.  It seemed to me, in America, we did not advance authentic learning.  Recitation of facts, figures, and formulas passed for wisdom.  Overtime, in my opinion, school policies and practices worsened. 

    More and more our culture embraced an archaic idea.  Statistical accounts passed for the acquisition of knowledge.  Presumed experts in education, or public policy makers, recorded the results of a test or two and proclaimed a pupil proficient.  If the majority of students in a specific school are evaluated as excellent, then the presumption was, professional educators in that facility were worthy of more money.  Each assessment was judged a milestone, rather than a moment in time on the path of progression.

    As adults, we busily documented the details in a futile attempt to validate what we, as children  recognized as invalid.  When we were young, we were sensitive to the veracity, a cold, the flu, too little sleep, a divorce in the family, or a death affected our performance.

    Our earlier endeavors to verify learning led us farther away from authentic assessments.  Portfolio reviews became less probable as mature minds sought solace in numbers. 

    Thus, it was not surprising, in 2001, Americans embraced the emblematic enigma, No Child Left Behind.

    Today, I would like to share what was a sad situation before George W. Bush entered the national educational scene, in hopes that we will consider what occurs when creativity and curiosity are void in our schools.

    This exposé was published in 2005.  However, it was written in the 1990s.  It appears in the Education Resources Information Center database. 

    As you peruse and ponder, please recall at the time of this writing No Child Left Behind was yet to be born.  However, standardized tests already saturated the system.  The pump was primed.  Principals and the public were prepared.  Teachers taught to the tests.  Pupils were nothing more than name, rank, and grade.

    I invite your reflection.  I offer . . .

    Education Defined . . . Policy Or Pupils Passionately Pursuing Personal Growth?

    copyright © 2005 Betsy L. Angert

    Everywhere we turn there is talk of education, educating all students equally, leaving no student behind, setting standards, creating charter schools, teaching the basics and yet, for me, the most basic of pedagogical principles, the one that brings the best in education is lost.  For me, this basic pedagogical principle is advancing the love of learning.

    When, why, where, and how did we as educators lose the practice of this principle?  When, why, where, and how did we as a society lose our focus, leaving the love of learning behind?  I believe we lost the love of learning when we chose to be a mere measure of standard and to saturate our schools in naive and narrow standards.  Who made this choice?  We did!  We as a society, as administrators, as educators, as parents, and as individual persons chose to set and settle a standard.  We are still setting and settling for simplistic standards. 

    We settle for being standard, sub-standard, superior to the standard, yet, still the measure is standard.  We accentuate the normal, what was normal, is normal, and what will be normal, while we squelch what can be beyond normal.  We measure the means, the methods, and the medium scores.  We function in and focus on a world that weighs through “norms.”  We speak of Authentic Assessment, Portfolio Review, of attending to and advancing individual Learning Styles.  Then, we consider the time, the money, and the masses.  We express how overwhelming the situation seems and ultimately, we choose to settle for what was or what is standard.  For me, this choice creates a great loss for our children, the greatest loss.

    Yet, we chose and continue to choose to lose our love of learning.  We chose and are continuing to choose to ignore innovation, imagination, insight, and curiosity; instead, we do what is easy.  We make excuses; we blame, we justify, rationalize, and intellectualize.  We rather do what is convenient, comfortable and what we can quantify quickly.  We want to grasp a sense of “reality” rather than grow what we do not yet know.  We chose and continue to choose to focus on “doing” and “having” rather than on being.  We chose and continue to choose to believe in impossibilities rather than create possibilities.  We subjugate the soaring of our souls and subdue our desires and dreams.  We opt for shortsighted standards in our own lives’ and by extension, in the lives’ of our children.  We teach our children the legacy, and they, in turn, will teach their children as they were taught.  The cycle will continue, unless . . .

    I am offering my ideas on “unless,” sharing some thoughts, my theory, and a short story to illustrate my beliefs on learning.  I am writing to those that teach, to those that set the “standards,” and those that postulate pedagogical policies.  I am writing to educators, and that includes all of us, those that teach professionally, as parents, or as persons that are there, exchanging and engaging with others. 

    My “unless” proposes a shift of standards; I propose that we shift to a convention of caring.  I propose creating a considerate, collaborative, and creative connection between a pupil, a purpose, a philosophy, pedagogy, and passionate pursuits.  I propose abandoning the standard of rote, routine, regimented, and rehearsed systems and creating curriculums grounded in love.  I propose and believe that we learn when we love.  We learn from those we love.  We may love people that are powerful, passionate, or even punitive!  There are many types of teachers.  Knowingly or not, we are all teachers.  Simultaneously, we are all students.  We are each, forever learning.  Lacking awareness, we will learn what our teachers teach, even if their methods evoke madness.  As Will Rodgers suggests, “If you teach a lesson of meanness to a human or a critter, don’t be surprised if they learn it.”

    Pupils are people.  Human beings are complex, a growing essence.  They evolve through experience not simple exchanges.  To truly learn is to acquire authentic wisdom; beings must do more than receive material, memorize, recite, and recall.  Realizing greater understanding comes when we cultivate and motivate a love of learning.  People, pupils will learn what they love, from those that they love.  The lessons that they love the most, those that are offered through loving relationships, will last a lifetime.  In order to truly teach, educators, parents, administrators, and society, must “touch” students’ minds through their hearts.  We must meet our pupils where they live and ask them to teach us of them selves.  We must listen, learn, and choose to grow greater from what our students teach us.  We must collaborate with our students.

    Pupils may experience what they believe and feel as profound problems.  Parents may be a puzzle.  Friendships may feel futile.  Sensing their self worth may seem a struggle.  Learners may feel troubled, ill, ignorant, hurt, or happy.  Each of these emotions will effect their performance.  In the course of the day, particularly in the classroom imagination, innovation, and investigation are invisible entities.  Interestingly enough, the energy we are able to observe is far less powerful than the force of our feelings.  Often and especially for most students, expressing emotions seems an empty effort.  Teachers treat these as excuses.  Educators rarely dare to delve into these unobservable areas.

    The most formidable force in the classroom is the satisfaction of the instructor.  The instructors’ satisfaction seems to be our foremost concern.  A teacher will infer and intuit a pupil’s level of learning and then give the student a grade, “A” through “F.”  Educators [parents or administrators] grade pupils on how well we perceive that they grasp the information that we [believe we] are teaching.  We etch these classifications in stone or at least in a pupil’s “permanent record.”  This method is the standard modus operandi in most school districts, in the majority of schools, for nearly all teachers, in both public and private educational institutions. 

    Once you label me, you negate me.
      ~ Soren Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher]

    We desire, expect, or presume that a student can and will learn on our schedule.  We believe that once we teach the techniques, provide the tools, offer the concepts a student can simply choose to learn it or not.  I believe that nothing is “just that simple.”  Think back on the time, energy, and effort it took us to learn those things we truly love.  When we learned to ride a bicycle, we started small; we began with a tricycle.  We gained confidence.  We loved our newfound freedom, the freedom to move about and to be.  The more we grew [learned], the more we wanted to grow [learn].  We wanted to achieve greater feats.  Then we went on to training wheels.  We may have fallen; we did have fear, but oh, the power of dreams.  Balance was the benefit of effort, energy, and emotion.  It was not a simple or magical moment.  We did not desire to ride a two-wheeler and then, immediately “just do it!”  We learned, we grew, and we passionately pursued our personal growth.

    As adults, we seem to forget our feelings, especially those we experience as students.  Even a born scholar struggles to master novel material.  Instead of remembering our pain, our fear, or our hesitation, we do what was done to us, what has always been done, and what we now deem ‘works for us.’  I ask, “Did the tried and true truly work well for us when we were students?”  I suspect that at any age we can relate to the following experience.

    You have a test to take.  The subject may be math; it may be science, English, or even history.  There are so many facts, figures, and formulas to remember.  You gather all your notes; your corrected homework assignments, your books, and you cram your brain with information.  You create flash cards.  You memorize answers to any possible question, to every probable query.  You recite the facts that you recall.  You ask family members to quiz you.  You call your classmates to ensure that you have all the particulars.  You sleep on your books hoping the knowledge will filter in through osmosis.  You wake early and review your books again.  You read your notes as you walk, drive, or ride to school.

    You receive the exam, and wham; you realize that you know all the answers.  You do well.  An “A+” is your grade!  Then 5 minutes later, five hours later, five days later, five months later, or especially and even 5 years later, you know none of this information.  You did not learn it for a lifetime, but memorized it for a moment, only a minute, or two, maybe longer, yet not for a lifetime.

    Interestingly enough, I have asked many people, teachers, students, friends, family, and even acquaintances and still I have yet to met a single person that cannot relate to this experience.  We teach by rote; we expect students to learn by rote.  Rote is only a routine; doing rote can and often does become habit.  Our habits continue.  Rote does not advance wisdom.  Wisdom is the wealth that evolves when we chose to be curious and aware.  We as a society become easily entrenched in our habits.  We are comfortable with what was and what comes. 

    Habits are to the soul what the veins and arteries are to the blood, the courses in which it moves.
      ~ Horace Bushnell [American 1802 – 1876, Father of American Religious Liberalism, Yale Law School, Author of Reform against Nature]

    In defining ourselves, we may think that we are our habits.  Many believe that what they do is their nature.  People do not tend to consider that what we do is what we learn.  Typically, we learn most of what we do when we are so young we do not recall or realize that we are learning.  We begin learning while in the womb.  We learn what to be and what to think, say, feel, and do.  As we age, as we socialize, we learn to present ourselves as what we do.

    When we discuss ourselves, we offer what we do as though this is who we are.  Our career, our circumstances, and our condition pose as our nature.  These are actually our choices.  They are rarely conscious.  Habits are convenient.  Habits come easily.  We move in manners that are casual and comfortable.  We learn [our habits] from those we love.  We learn our lessons well.  Families, friends, and familiarity teach us how to move through life.  We are all learning, always.  Learning is a constant in living.  The life we live seems so natural.  We believe that we “just do it.”

    We, as a society prefer that learning be swift and sweet.  We establish structures that are short, simplistic, and standardized.  We seek safe solutions.  Advertisers know this.  They rely on our desire for effortless answers.  Marketing professionals and the companies they represent bank on us by the billions. 

    Among the multitudes of marketers, Nike? saturated our minds with a belief that we can “Just do it.”  Nike Vice President of Marketing, Bob Wood acknowledged a cynicism in the earlier “Just do it” advertising attitude.  In January 1, 1998, Nike? introduced an inspirational new campaign entitled, “I can.”  “I Can,” “reflects the deep emotional connection that people have with sports in feeling good and setting personal goals.”  Sue Levin, Women’s Brand Director discusses the inspirational theme of “I Can.”  Sue Levin states, “When athletes become larger than life, sometimes we take for granted what it took [for] them to get there.  What gets lost in all the cynicism is the incredible power and emotion that sports creates.  Emotion, power and ambition are the things we all need more of, not less.”  In 1998 even Nike? realized that no one could simply “Just do it.” 

    Sadly, in my mind, we as educators “Just do it,” with little awareness for what we are creating.  We teach; we often teach, just as we were taught taking learning for granted.  Professional educators, from elementary school instructors to professors, policy makers, parents, persons in any profession, and actually, all of us, in every population express the cynicism of “just do it!” in word and deed.  We may mistakenly believe, or more accurately, we may unknowingly believe that the methods that helped us to learn will be beneficial to others.  I believe that it is vital to realize that what is best for one individual may be injurious for another.  The past permeates our present.  The past is powerful; it is part of our present, and until we consciously choose to know and to use what we know to change, the past will be our future.

    For me, doing as was done before is not learning, it is merely mirroring or mimicking, doing, saying, thinking and sadly, sometimes being as expected, as instructed, or as is standard.  Rote realizes little learning, at least not the learning that lasts a lifetime.  I believe that learning is more than rote routines or rehearsed reviews.  I believe that learning is looking, listening, challenging, and choosing to explore beyond what is known.  I believe that learning evolves through curiosity, choosing challenges, and caring to discover what is not yet known.

    Previously, presently, and probably some time soon, we will lecture, provide analogies, offer exercises, and test.  Instructors teach the techniques, the standards and the formulas, and then expect their students to understand.  Scholars train students to state the facts, do the drills, practice the process, and then promise that the pupils will progress.  We may teach to the test.  Educators may devise an examination that reviews the text.  Teachers ask little of their learners.  Memorize what the mentor says, retain what you read, acquire the information as though it is a possession and present it to the tutor as if it is a gift and yours to give.  Advancing in schools is just that simple and we just do it.  I propose that genuine learning is not a simple task, but a labor of love.

    I believe that the type of learning that lasts a lifetime and empowers us evolves through empathetic exchanges.  When someone gives credence to “who” we are, when another person believes in us, we are able to achieve beyond our own belief.

    The mind is no match with the heart in persuasion; constitutionally is no match for compassion.
      ~ Everett M. Dirksen [Senate Minority Leader 1959 – 1969]

    Who we are is an interesting exploration.  We know to ask our youth “what do you want to be” not what do you want to have or to do and yet we teach them to do and to have.  I find this curious.  It seems that in the classroom and in much of life, we define a person by their cuteness, career, and circumstances, by their ethnicity, race, or religion.  These standards, just as those used in testing and grading, exist only on the surface.  We deem their intellect to be commendable or worthy of condemnation.  We make determinations; we classify, stereotype.  Often, we create self-fulfilling prophecies.  We label students.  We track their progress.  We think, say, and do all of this in the name of caring.

    Society claims to care for each and every learner.  Every member of society seems to agree that we want our youth to succeed.  Parents, public and private institutions, policies, and professionals stress success.  The school districts, the state, and the nation set static standards to in an attempt to validate that we are concerned with growth and learning.  Then, we continue to train, teach, and test to static set of standards.  We state one mission and then stress another.  We maintain our means, methods, and manners.  Learners must prove their worth and who they are on standardized tests we set before them.  Yet, I ask, who among us is standard?  Who learns or grows simply or in a standard manner.

    Society, scientist, and sage stress or suggest sensitivity to our students, and yet pupils must perform as planned, and on the educator’s schedule.  Schools and scholars may teach to modalities, but test to codes.  We do not offer interviews for audio verbal learners or an innovative, inventive project for the kinesthetic pupil.  We do not ask students to evaluate their errors and submit their work continuously, until they the learner feels satisfied that he, she, or they have learned and achieved success.  Currently, in many if not most of our classrooms, “success” is a set standard, a grade, granted to those that do, say, and think, as they are told.

    Instructors assess pupils on their visible performance.  Teachers examine the tests, the assignments, and the attitude of the student.  Might we truly share with and care about the individual?  A student may have great physical support, but little emotional assistance.  A learner may have a well-trained memory, but may not know how to think.  Teachers attempt to teach thinking skills through customary tactics.  Instructors show, then tell, and expect students to absorb the wisdom.  I offer this thought; thinking is not a possession to acquire, but a state of being.  I cannot give you wisdom in the way I might give you gold.  Beliefs build.  Just as flowers, people bud, they blossom and bloom with nurturing and love.

    In today’s classrooms, boardrooms, and beyond, there is [little or rare or] no consideration for the person that thinks beyond what they are taught or told to think.  There is ample shunning for a curious concern.  Students that have the mind of a true scientist, which differs from a technician, know that knowledge is not fixed; answers are not simply correct or wrong.  Students that stretch and seek greater wisdom than a simple right or wrong answer, those learners that look beyond the surface receive criticism for being “overly analytical.”  In truth, these aware students challenge the convention; their active desire to learn creates chaos in the classroom and, or in the community.

    I believe and experience, as do many when asked to truly reflect on their own life experiences, that society does not seek to satisfy the innate human desire to grow.  Educators, administrators, and the community do not care to meet the true needs of our population.  Meeting the truest needs of our students is too costly, not easy, and initially it does not seem as efficient as what is standard.  Time is tangible and therefore tantamount to the cost in the minds of many.  We do not work for or with unique individual people [or pupils].  In each and every field, even in the field of education, our concern is only with the common populous or with popular philosophies, not with the profound or the power one creates when they are passionately pursuing personal growth, when they are empowered.

    What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
      ~ Samuel Johnson [English Writer 1709-1784, Producer of Dictionary of the English Language, Contributor to Gentlemen’s Magazine]

    The popular and the profitable govern.  Again, I offer Nike? to illustrate what often is.  Nike? too chose to subjugate the “emotion, power, and ambitions that inspire personal pursuits.”  Nike? chose to retain the “Just do it” slogan and to supplement this saying with the “I can” maxim.  Now, years later, we rarely if ever witness the inspirational “I can!”  The cynicism and simplistic “Just do it” survives.  Habits indeed are challenges to change! 

    I wonder and I ask of our habits, those of our students’ and of our selves.  If our habit is to strive only for a set and surface standard of excellence, might it be a challenge to be and believe beyond this shallow sense?  If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we stop ourselves.  It is safer to set and settle for simple standards such, as the sky is our limit?  Possibly, it once was and then we explored and traveled beyond the sky, into space.

    We can and do, sadly, at times, create what we believe.  Self-fulfilling prophecies are abounding.  Might we be limiting our own learning, our teaching, our growth, and the growth of our pupils because of our standard belief?  What might our students and our selves be and what might we choose to believe and then create?

    We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
    ~ Shakespeare: Hamlet, IV, c. 1601

    Do we believe in our students more than we believe in the current standards of operation?  Do believe in practices that subvert a student’s [a persons’] desire to passionately pursue personal growth?  Do we care for the career path that enables the best of consumption or do we care to create a curriculum that creates a love of learning?  Do we care more about policy or pupils?

    Where pupils [people] are concerned, it is a challenge to care about oneself, to believe in oneself, when others do not seem to care about or for you.  When others do not believe that you can go beyond what is now the best, you are less likely to do so.  It is a challenge for our students’ to care about themselves, when it seems that we do not act as though we care about them, about their concerns, about whom they are within, or when we do not seem to believe in them.  When it seems that teachers, administrators, parents, and society only care about the grades, what is a pupil left to pursue. 

    The intention of this paper is to advance awareness for the power of personal relationships.  When someone truly believes in us, cares about us as individuals, then we are more able to believe in ourselves.  I believe as Morrie Schwartz, former professor at Brandeis University proposes, “Love always wins.”  For me winning equates to growing and the journey that brings us to being our best.  For me, winning is not the product of a competition, winning is not a state; instead it is an ever-evolving evolution.  I believe that winning is learning, growing, glowing from within.  Winning for me is a misnomer; it is not a beginning and certainly not an end.  Winning is a mere moment.  Growing continues, moment by moment.  I believe that the strong grow continually and are eternally successful.

    There are times that students, teachers, or anyone may appear to be successful and strong.  Any of us may believe we are the best at what we do.  Yet, we do what we know, what comes easily.  Innately, we crave a challenge; however, we may lack the confidence to create a greater journey.  Many, take the path that most others also travel.  It may seem safe though secretly we sense that it is far less gratifying.

    We can choose to grow, but it is easier to strut-our-stuff, the stuff we already have and know.  We all have skills, talents, and we can settle into these or we can explore and be beyond the standard.

    Practice of Pedagogy

    I offer this story in hopes that any of us may remember, reflect, and realize what might more authentically be “Excellence in Education.”  The following is an actual incident that occurred while I was teaching Drawing and Painting at a High School in California.  This story is not exclusively an “art education” experience.  I have taught and have been a student in many disciples.  For me, all learning, throughout life shares similar characteristics; the greatest of these is human action and interaction.  I share this story as a epic simile.

    The year could be any year, the students any students, situations are not exactly the same, but always similar.  For most of the students at this High School, Art was a requirement, not an elective.  Thus, many of them felt forced to take this class, to fulfill their mandatory Fine Arts credit.  Students expressed that creating art was for the “talented” and they assured me; they were not.  I think talent is an evolution, resulting from encouraging experiences. 

    Many students said that for them, Drawing/Painting was irrelevant; it held little appeal.  Midway through the semester a transfer student named Phil joined our class.  Students felt Phil was talented, but just as the others; he preferred to do what he did well.  Phil’s was comfortable doing what came easily.  Art classes had always been an easy “A” for him, requiring minimal thought or effort.  It quickly became clear to Phil that in this class, learning, growing, and gaining greater knowledge were required.  Improving, and expanding one’s awareness, wisdom, and acquiring skills is what I encourage, express, and expect. 

    I feel the need to interject here my own conflict with the word “expect” or “expectations.”  My expectations are not an etched rubric, platitude, precept, or a particularly prescribed edict.  My only expectation is of personal growth.  I expect and encourage a growth that energizes the pupil, the person, and one that cannot be calculated or considered by an outsider.  I accept that we are all a work in progress and life affords us an opportunity to create a living portfolio.  Productions, revisions, student critiques, reflective interviews, and student journals actively demonstrate what learners’ learn.  To some, it seems like “a lot of work.”  Some students expressed discontent.  Phil was among these.  He confronted me stating, “You expect too much.”

    Phil questioned why he needed to expand his skills and knowledge.  Why did he need to explore?  In comparison to other students, Phil was great; his work was amidst the best, possibly even better than the best.  In teaching, I do not suggest comparisons.  Phil recognized that for me, he and his work were unique and stood alone.  Another person’s work is his or her own.  I compare Phil’s work to Phil’s other endeavors and not to the efforts of others.  He stated that he was satisfied with his skills and abilities.  Phil, knowingly, was choosing not to learn, or to grow. 

    I considered this decision limiting.  Phil’s given skills were fine, however, I believe grades are a reflection of growth.  The idea of going beyond what he knew was scary for Phil.  Phil was reluctant to approach what was unfamiliar.  People profess and pretend to have no fears, yet, I wonder is there anyone that truly does not fear the unknown.  The unknown may be failure, and again, I wonder, might it be greater success.

    I felt and feel Phil is similar to all of us in that we can and seem to think, say, do, feel, and be what comes easily.  We can see success as an action that is “Just that simple.”  We may believe that we can “Just do it” and we will “obtain” success or at least a surface sense of it.  However, to be better than we imagine, that takes time, inner strength, support, and energy.  I believe that being better than we might imagine is what we will be when we passionately pursue personal growth.

    In my interactions with Phil, as in my interactions with all others, I chose to consistently discuss and demonstrate my trust and belief in him.  Only he can choose to believe in himself, however, I wanted him to be certain through my words and deeds that I did believe in him. 

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.
      ~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]

    Actions and interactions with Phil were expressions of what I accept and strive to live.  The student and I must develop and maintain a solid relationship; it is essential for [mutual] greater growth and authentic learning.  Supportive, sharing and understanding must be consistent.  The connection evolves through continual exchanges.  Exchanges that engage, involve, evolve, and advance meaning in one’s life and, once experienced feel essential. 

    As I engaged in my personal pedagogy, exchanging authentically with Phil, and then again, upon reflection, I realized that I felt and feel great empathy for his fear of the unknown.  We can all question our own ability to cope successfully with a challenge.  I believed in Phil’s depth and quality.  I did not question that greater growth was possible for him.  He could choose to create achievable goals.  Goals are reachable!  He could realize and did, his dreams.  I knew, I know and believe that we all can be what we want to be.  Sadly, we are each our own worse critic.  Believing we can be what we want to be can be a challenge.  Being the best may seem impossible.

    Every noble work is first impossible.
      ~ Thomas Carlyle

    Years ago some considered my circumstances impossible.  I broke my arm badly.  There were numerous fractures in my arm; there were breaks in every direction.  I knew I needed help in healing.  I needed more than a wish, a prayer or a dream; I needed to believe in me.  I decided to buy the inspirational gift my mother gave me as a child, a classic book, The Little Engine That Could.  When I re-read it, I was not surprised to discover that my memory of what my mother had read to me as a child, was not the same as it actually appears.  My mother changed the ending, creating a more encouraging message.  I endeavor to share and live what my mother gave to me.  My mother recited, “I think I can.  I think I can.  I know I can.  I can!” 

    Whether we consider ourselves teachers or students, we will forever be both, simultaneously.  I believe it is vital to consider that we are all Don Quixote; we dream the impossible dream.  We all need and crave a supportive, patient, gentle, trusting soul that believes we can be what we want to be.

    Collaboratively and Collectively, We grew.

    Be it with Phil or another, I am less concerned with students liking me than I am with them liking themselves.  I respect Phil for questioning my expectations.  I encourage “real” questions, concerns and discussions of these.  I believe that learning is possible and intrinsically motivating when one understands why it is important to them.  For me, dialogue and the exchanging of ideas are opportunities.  When a student initially resents a request for doing what may seem difficult, he/she is, at least, thinking.  When thinking through challenges, a creative ethos evolves.  Later, he, she, we can look back and laugh at our own stubborn, scary processing. 

    For me, there is humor in how strongly we can challenge another’s belief in us, as did Phil.  He realized his accomplishments.  He appreciated my true belief in him and his abilities.  Phil initially, considered my belief that grades are a reflection of growth unfair.  He may have also questioned my belief in him as being unfair; nonetheless, as he began to expect more of himself and of me, and to accept.  He grew.  Sharing Phil’s discovery and acknowledgment of his own quality and his respect for himself was an honor.

    Once Phil explored new horizons, he found them exciting and openly told me how much he enjoyed his new knowledge and abilities.  He enthusiastically shared that he realized his ability to see more.  Though the world had not changed, his perception of it had.  His awareness grew in academics and in the arts.  He seemed excited by what he now noticed and appeared stimulated and motivated.  A more confident sense of self was emerging.  Phil became interested in increasing his own skills and awareness.  Phil’s energy extended to others.  He was motivated and motivated others.

    Phil heard from other students that I would not be returning to teach at this High School the following semester.  One day, while checking on Phil’s progress, I saw that he looked upset.  I asked what was wrong.  He shared what he heard and then asked if this was true.  Was I leaving?  When I told him that it was, he groaned and complained.  I asked, why was he was complaining?  He had told me that I expect “too much.”  He said, “That was before.”  He said that he realized how much he could and would learn in my class and that he looked forward to learning more.  I was pleased and astounded by his sincere admission.  When teaching there are many moments that remind me of how much I enjoy facilitating learning, being a teacher!

    I believe and experience that we all can make a difference in the lives of those we touch.  We each effect and affect others.  The process is never ending.  Empathy is truly the greatest educator.  When we are sensitive to our own limited sense of self then we are able to accept that people need people to achieve more than they might ever imagine is possible.  It is exhilarating to share, care, and grow [separately and together.]  I enjoy partaking in this process.  Students teach.  An aware educator learns how to teach to individuals, learns to relate materials in a manner that is more meaningful, real, and relevant to the unique person that he or she is supporting.  Each student, each person, each entity has its own style.  It is essential that an instructor identify an essence.  We all desire to be important, acknowledged, and appreciated. I believe we learn when we love, when we feel loved, when we share lessons with love.  Empathy is the best educator.

    There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than there is for food.
      ~ Mother Teresa

    For many educators, it may not seem possible to create a relationship where we listen, hear, respond, and collaboratively learn with each individual student.  There are too many pupils, too many parents, too many projects and too little time!  There is curriculum to write, lessons to teach, and grades to gather.  “There is just too much to do and not enough time in a day.”  We focus on what students do, on what we do.  What we do, what they do, is of little depth and lesser quality than who we each are.  If we choose to consider whom the student is as a unique individual, if we show that, we genuinely care, if we consistently connect, discipline problems are next to null.  The paper work that these problems generate is nonexistent.  The telephone calls, the daily contracts are no longer necessary.  If a teacher and student are working together as trusted colleagues, each loving the process and the progress, then they are engaged in learning, listening, and looking for answers, rather than attention.

    He, who adds not to learning, diminishes it.
      ~ The Talmud

    I, as a teacher learn from my students.  This is true whether I am instructing in the arts, the sciences, or in the social sciences.  In all that I teach, I, as a learner look to my teachers, the students.  Just as we are more than what we do, people do not exist in a single role.  I am never solely a teacher or a student.  My relationships are reciprocal.  I learned from Phil.  He taught me who he was, what he needed and wanted.  At times, I learned these through his expressions and by observing what he was reluctant to pursue or explore.  Phil taught me how to teach him.  His being expanded my awareness.  I was his teacher and I was his student.  He was my teacher and he was my student.  The relationship was one of reciprocal reverence and respect.

    The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.
      ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    People/pupils, just as Phil did teach me who they are.  Phil, as all persons/students, shows and tells me how they learn.  They, we all offer what we think, how we feel, and what interests us.  If only others, or I, as a teacher, as a student choose to be sensitive to what those in my life, in my classroom, are teaching me.  I will learn.  I believe that everyone does learn; every one does teach.  My students and I can learn and teach if I, if we choose to. 

    Here I am including a summary of my personal philosophy and pedagogy.  Please consider this.  Please know and trust that if you would want to discuss this I am open to the opportunity.  I ask that we advance our pupils not only from grade to grade; I ask that we advance their passionate pursuit of personal growth.

    My Attitude and Approach to Teaching is to Appreciate and be Aware.
    Experience teaches me that when we Believe and Trust that Learning is Effortless and Pleasurable.  It Is!

  • Knowledge is power, I believe that knowing is empowering!
  • Without a belief in oneself, school can be an overwhelming challenge. 
  • When we believe in our ability, our goals increase.
  • Discuss awareness for all that we are, and all that surrounds us, offer the why, where, what, how, and when! 
  • Build awareness of interrelationships between the course of study and all other subjects. 
  • Assist pupils in realizing that all is relevant to their personal interests. 
  • The reward of teaching is assisting others to be aware, share, and grow.

    Intrinsic Motivation is invigorating!

  • When learning is intrinsically motivated, the rewards are deeper and lasting. 
  • External rewards, extrinsic motivation, may assist in the appearance of learning; often the depth is short term. 
  • Production is greater when it is personally gratifying.
  • Experiences effect what we expect.
  • When educators empathetically create affirming experiences, students will believe learning is pleasurable!

    My Idea of Ideal and The Intention Behind a Desire to Educate is . . .

  • Schools and teachers providing the knowledge necessary for students to gain greater understandings.
  • Students and teachers continually learning how to complete desired tasks, as though they are labors of love. 
  • Instructors finding ways to assist students in developing a sense of personal satisfaction.
  • Educators choosing to provide the affirming attention they too crave. 
  • Learning being personally relevant for the students otherwise studying is uninteresting and burdensome. 
  • Students can realize that information is there for the asking and the taking if educators share the substance.
  • Instructors informing and showing students how easy it is and joyous it is to retrieve volumes of guidance. 
  • Learning is an excellent experience . . . “when we know better, we do better!” states Maya Angelou
  • Students able to believe they can learn anything they choose to, trusting that others believe in them.

    A Style of Caring and Sharing is Strength.

  • Maintain a strong belief in students!  Build a strong reciprocal relationship between students and self.
  • Build trust.  Self-respect coupled with reverence for others serves learning and achievements.
  • Know, Honor, Act on the knowledge that learning is a process acquired through reflections and sharing.
  • Offer extensive responses, open opportunities for exchanging ideas.  Revisions are part of the process.
  • Remain flexible, open, and available, exchanging ideas, respecting, listening, learning, and collaborating.
  • Accept that growth is not simple; it occurs over time, not in a lesson [s], nor is it evident in a test.
  • Discuss and Promote Awareness of the students.  Be sensitive to the individual Learning Style and person.
  • Endeavor to reach the visual, audio, kinesthetic learners effectively, while focusing on human interaction.
  • Discuss reasoning and expectations for each lesson.
  • Encourage students to express their position.  Listen and exchange. 
  • Create an encouraging environment for investigating and internalizing information.  Believe!
  • Share students’ successes with others, fellow students, fellow teachers, parents, staff, and community.

    Role as a Teacher

  • Teacher/student must develop and maintain a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
  • Structure learning/studying so that it is interesting and enjoyable.
  • Teacher is a tool, collaborating, assisting in the development of students’ securing self-worth.
  • Recognize the students [who they are as individuals, how they learn, and their work.]
  • Be consistent!  Consistency is the key to effective teaching.
  • Be patient, progress is a process!
  • Engage, Encourage, and Empathize!  Empathy is the best educator!
  • Enjoy the growth, energy, and greater growth!

    “To teach is to learn twice.”
      ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

  • No Child Left Behind Leaves Children Behind


    HEY YOU – help leave no child behind, really!

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    A parent profoundly effected by property taxes and academic programs that teach to tests, decided to speak about a societal dilemma that has long haunted Americans.  A mother or father enlisted the help of their very bright son.  He or she enrolled the child in the political process and submitted a question for state and national politicians.  Perhaps, only a youngster can truly speak to the issues that effect our future.  Perchance, the sweet face of child can melt hearts hardened by budgets, years of chasing the almighty dollar, and no sense [cents?]  Leonard Hornbach says to Presidential hopefuls and the Governor of Florida, Hey you, help leave no child behind, really!

    In 1991, scholar, Jonathan Kozal spoke of the paradox in Savage Inequalities.  Kozal pointed to the enigma that permeated our culture then, and does so today, perhaps to a greater degree.  No Child Left Behind rather than elevate the discussion, deepened the divide.  Citizens do not wish to dole out dollars to support their communities.  In this civilized age, cash flow is tight.  Poor Americans and even the affluent, are less able or willing to fund schools, libraries, and other public services, although they work harder today than their parents and grandparents might have in years past.  Costs are high.  Quality is low and steadily declines as American citizens refuse to finance public schools. 

    Students and the services provided to them are squeezed out.  As we squash the schools, we smother the life spirit inborn of our young.  The poorest among us suffer more than those whose parents ultimately place them in a private school.  More than a decade ago, the situation in schools was dire.  Jonathan Kozol documented.

    In Illinois, as elsewhere in America, local funds for education raised from property taxes are supplemented by state contributions and by federal funds, although the federal contribution is extremely small, constituting only 6 percent of total school expenditures.  State contributions represent approximately half of local school expenditures in the United States; although intended to make up for local wealth disparities, they have seldom been sufficient to achieve this goal.  Total yearly spending-local funds combined with state assistance and the small amount that comes from Washington-ranges today in Illinois from $2,100 on a child in the poorest district to above $10,000 in the richest.  The system, writes John Coons, a professor of law at Berkeley University, “bears the appearance of calculated unfairness. “

    There is a belief advanced today, and in some cases by conservative black authors, that poor children and particularly black children should not be allowed to hear too much about these matters.  If they learn how much less they are getting than rich children, we are told, this knowledge may induce them to regard themselves as “victims,” and such “victim-thinking,” it is argued, may then undermine their capability to profit from whatever opportunities may actually exist.  But this is a matter of psychology-or strategy-and not reality.  The matter, in any case, is academic since most adolescents in the poorest neighborhoods learn very soon that they are getting less than children in the wealthier school districts.  They see suburban schools on television and they see them when they travel for athletic competitions.  It is a waste of time to worry whether we should tell them something they could tell to us.  About injustice, most poor children in America cannot be fooled.

    Children, of course, don’t understand at first that they are being cheated.  They come to school with a degree of faith and optimism, and they often seem to thrive during the first few years.  It is sometimes not until the third grade that their teachers start to see the warning signs of failure.  By the fourth grade, many children see it too.

    “These kids are aware of their failures,” says a fourth grade teacher in Chicago.  “Some of them act like the game’s already over.”

    By fifth or sixth grade, many children demonstrate their loss of faith by staying out of school.  The director of a social service agency in Chicago’s Humboldt Park estimates that 10 percent of the 12- and 13-year-old children that he sees are out of school for all but one or two days every two weeks.  The route from truancy to full-fledged dropout status is direct and swift.  Reverend Charles Kyle, a professor at Loyola University, believes that 10 percent of students in Chicago drop out prior to their high school years, usually after seventh or eighth grade-an estimate that I have also heard from several teachers.  This would put the city’s actual dropout rate, the Chicago Tribune estimates, at “close to 60 per cent.”

    Today, the dropout rate is off the charts.  As No Child Left Behind caters to those that calculate cash flow, as we attend to facts and figures whilst we forget the children, New Figures Show High Dropout Rate. According to the Washington Post, Federal Officials Say Problem Is Worst For Urban Schools, Minority Males.  Indeed, reluctantly, Federal officials admit many dropouts are not even included in the records.

    The statistics paint a dire portrait: Seventy percent of students nationwide earned diplomas in four years as of 2003, the latest data available nationally, a much lower rate than that reported by the vast majority of school systems. According to the database, Washington area graduation rates ranged from 94 percent in Loudoun and Falls Church to a low of 59 percent in the District, with most other systems falling in the 60s, 70s, and low 80s.

    Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the data show that half of the nation’s dropouts come from a small group of largely urban “dropout factories,” high schools “where graduation is a 50-50 shot or worse.”  She scolded state and local education officials for masking the problem by publishing inflated graduation rates based on bad math.

    “We are finally moving from a state of denial to a state of acknowledgment,” she said, speaking in Washington at a summit titled America’s Silent Epidemic. “It’s hard to believe such a pervasive problem has remained in the shadows for so long.”

    Most states, including Virginia, Maryland, and the District, continue to report graduation rates by a method that, while accepted by the federal government, has been rejected by much of the academic community and was roundly criticized yesterday by federal officials. They estimate the graduation rate based on the number of students known to have dropped out.  The problem is, few public high schools track every student who drops out.

    “In some states,” Spellings said, “a student is counted as a dropout only if he registers as a dropout.  That’s unlikely.”

    The First Lady, Laura Bush, a former teacher herself, and a concerned citizen helped to unveil an online database.  In her introduction, she included a promise from the government that the index would provide parents across much of the nation, ‘the first accurate appraisal of how many students graduate from high school on time in each school system.’

    The publication of the new national database, compiled by the trade journal Education Week, signals a sweeping change in how graduates are counted. The site tabulates graduation data for school systems based on simple attrition, tracking the dwindling size of a high school class from the fall of freshman year to graduation day.

    Bush, in a lunchtime speech, urged the nation’s parents to consult the database and “find out if your community has a dropout problem.”

    However, as we assess the numbers we must acknowledge that schools are not able to educate, motivate, or inspire our children.  We are barely able to meet with our young persons.  Too often children do not attend classes.  If their bodies are placed in a seat, their minds may still be miles and miles away.  If school is boring, and teachers teach only to the test, children will seek knowledge in other venues.

    As a culture, we know this.  Yet, characteristically, we do nothing to change this.  In fact, we have increased the dullness factor.  We focus on tests and forfeit instruction.  We evaluate the physical exit of students during the juvenile years.

    The summit marks a growing national sense that high schools are facing a dropout crisis.  The extent of the problem — only two students in three graduate with their class — has been clear for years within the education community but not among members of the general public, who, according to surveys, believe that nearly 90 percent of students graduate from high school.

    Speakers stressed that dropout rates are particularly high among black and Hispanic students, especially males.

    Prince George’s County schools reported a 90 percent graduation rate for 2003. The new database shows a graduation rate of 67 percent for that system. More than half of the dropouts, it shows, never make it to the 10th grade.

    The physical presence of pupils in a classroom may lessen in high school.  However, mentally, children often turn away, fall from grace in kindergarten.

    How Bush education law has changed our schools
    By Greg Toppo,
    USA Today
    January 8, 2007

    The walls are speaking these days at Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia, and they’re talking about test scores.

    Post-It notes with children’s names tell the story of how, in just five years, a federal law with a funny name has changed school for everyone. “We spend most of our days talking about or looking at data,” principal Barbara Adderley says.

    Test scores run her week.

    She meets with kindergarten teachers on Monday, first-grade teachers on Tuesday and so on. The meetings begin with a look at each teacher’s “assessment wall,” filled with color-coded Post-Its representing each pupil and whether he or she is making steady progress in basic skills. Once students master a skill, the Post-Its move up the wall.

    “If they don’t move, then we have to talk about what’s happening,” Adderley says.

    What’s driving the talk?  President Bush’s landmark education law, dubbed No Child Left Behind.

    A cornerstone of Bush’s domestic agenda and one of his few truly bipartisan successes, it took what was once a fairly low-key funding vehicle (it was known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act before Bush borrowed the catchy name from the Children’s Defense Fund) and turned it into a vast – and contentious – book of federal mandates.

    The rules, the regulations further exacerbate the dilemma in America.  Emotionally, intellectually, students separate themselves from school in the elementary years.  We do not speak of this often; nor do we wish to notice.  However, if we reflect on our own education, we know this to be true.

    When we address the dropout rate of adolescents, as though this is the sole source of societal ills, or if we think the crisis occurs in the schools transpires in teen years, then we miss much.  We have waited too long.  There is ample reason the young disconnect.  Adults are disengaged.  They teach the children well.

    In this nation, in Florida, as in all other regions, schools are strapped.  The public does not wish to spend the time or money to correct a curriculum that might easily be changed.  The population wants proof their hard earned greenbacks will see profits, even if the asset in nothing more than a piece of paper, a diploma that affirms, my child graduated.

    Thus, policymakers work to establish standards in an attempt to prove the meager investments in education are well spent.  Legislators present plans.  Laws are passed in hopes of ensuring No Child Is Left Behind.  Administrators implement these flawed programs.  Ultimately, children suffer, as do the parents as they experience dreams deferred.

    What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?

    ~ Langston Hughes

    When I was a child, I dreamt of greatness.  Adults often asked, what do you want to be when you grow up?  I imagined myself engaged in meaningful missions.  I longed to be a scholar, an academic, and a learned professor.  I envisioned I would gather knowledge and share the wisdom. I trusted as I taught, I would learn.  Even in my earliest years, I accepted life is an ever-expansive evolution.  I never imagined that I would enroll in school only to memorize the mechanics.  Sadly, in school, dreams are frequently deferred.

    Once enrolled in a formal educational setting, I discovered erudition differed from my expectation.  As a toddler, I was encouraged to be curious and creative.  My questions were answered.  People in my life thought my inquisitive mind was magnificent.  My desire to discover was embraced.  As I aged, this did not change.  Mom and Dad delighted as we traveled down the path of knowledge together.  Then there was school. 

    In educational institutions, authentic thought was discouraged.  Test taking was promoted; the significance of an exam far exceeded the importance of a pupil.  Nonetheless, I did not lose hope.  My dream did not die.  In my heart, inspired by my parents, and a teacher or two I continued to believe.

    I studied on.  Often, I wondered whether my work was in vein. 

    I yearned to inspire those that want to learn.  I welcomed the wisdom of students.  I understand that those I teach, teach me more.  Yet, as the years went by, and the schools became more strident, as students spoke of how they struggle to succeed as defined by standards, I realized I could not; nor could others ever fully  validate the invisible process of learning through test scores.

    I recognized the anguish in children’s expressions.  I felt my own angst.  The young knew, as do I.  Rote is ridiculous.  Mechanical memorization and scores on a test do not reap success.

    Each day as I entered a classroom I saw smart students wince at the prospect of another meaningless exam.  I observed the average pupil pass with little enthusiasm.  I understood to my core the curriculum, as mandated by politicians, did little to interest, inspire, or invite scholarship. 

    I wondered, as does little Leonard, how often and why do we leave our children behind? 

    George W. Bush devised a program with a stated intent.  America must close the achievement gap and Leave No Child Behind.  Yet, the chasm expands and many children cannot succeed as they might.  Perchance we must consider the dynamics that cause such failures.

    In Leonard Hornbach’s home state of Florida, citizens are outraged.  Property taxes are too high.  An older population does not wish to fund the schools.  Playground fences are filled with billboards.  Businesses supplement education budgets.  An economy that serves the needs of tourist has but a modest concern for children. 

    Thus, the Governor, Charlie Crist calms fears by advocating property tax cuts.  He does, as Americans do.  He seeks facts to support their every decision and forgets that we cannot decide what is best if we only assess the dollars and cents.  While it is true, financial ventures require greater scrutiny.  Figures and formulas must be offered.  Data must demonstrate there is a need to spend the big bucks.  We can and will measure.  However, the acquisition of knowledge cannot be calculated as other commodities might be.  The slow and random process of learning is not mechanical.  It is personal. 

    As Leonard’s parents pose . . .

    Kids can’t vote, but you better believe they care and their futures are riding on the 2008 election . . . From the mouth of babes comes wisdom.

    For the upcoming presidential debate, this youngster demands answers from the potential Presidential candidates as well as you, the viewers who vote! Should we continue to accept just getting by and meeting the minimum standards in public education or demand more for ALL children? 

    Leave the ridiculous test taking curriculum behind and demand we move on to higher education! Your vote counts so deeply consider the educational plans of the 2008 presidential candidates as all our futures are really at stake.  At what cost has No Child Left Behind unconstitutionally continued in America?

    If society cannot gauge scholarly success, that does not mean there is none.  The invisible quality known as knowledge will not be visible on a given date, and available in a particular moment, so that we, the elders might assess it on the day school administrators test. 

    Americans, we cannot think it wise to etch test scores in stone.  A school or a student population survives or dies based on the results of a single examination.

    Might we consider, too often adults, particularly those who are childless, or whose offspring have grown, do not wish to invest in our future.  Children are a costly expense.  Many think the community cannot and should not bear the educational burden.  Families ought to furnish what their children need.

    People frequently forget, our neighbors are our family.  We share space.  What effects one will effect us all.  “Our” progeny when not prepared to thrive, flounder.

    Young people who drop out of high school are unlikely to have the minimum skills and credentials necessary to function in today’s increasingly complex society and technological workplace. The completion of high school is required for accessing post-secondary education and is a minimum requirement for most jobs.  High school dropouts are more likely than high school completers to be unemployed. 

    Additionally, a high school diploma leads to higher income and occupational status.  Interestingly, however, many youth who drop out of high school eventually earn a diploma or a GED. One study found that 63 percent of students who dropped out had earned a diploma or GED within eight years of the year they should have originally graduated.

    Studies have found that young adults with low education and skill levels are more likely to live in poverty and to receive government assistance.  High school dropouts are likely to stay on public assistance longer than those with at least a high school degree. Further, high school dropouts are more likely to become involved in crime.

    Crime increases when curiosity and creativity decrease.  Schools, or more accurately students, do not survive when taxes and tests design the curriculum. 

    Statistics do not demonstrate success.  A pupil may pass a test after days of rigorous memorization.  However, an hour after an examination, material that was not considered relevant fades from the mind. 

    Perchance we must teach the children, not merely test them.  Let us not leave active minds behind.

    Sources, Students, the Sadness . .

  • CNN/YouTube debate questions: Which ones will make the cut?  Cable News Network.
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Savage Inequalities. By Jonathan Kozal.  1991
  • Savage Inequalities, Other People’s Children: North Lawndale and the South Side of Chicago.  By Jonathan Kozol
  • New Figures Show High Dropout Rate, Federal Officials Say Problem Is Worst For Urban Schools, Minority Males.  By Daniel de Vise. 
    Washington Post.
    Thursday, May 10, 2007; A06

  • pdf New Figures Show High Dropout Rate, Federal Officials Say Problem Is Worst For Urban Schools, Minority Males.  By Daniel de Vise. 
    Washington Post.
    Thursday, May 10, 2007; A06

  • How Bush education law has changed our schools. By Greg Toppo. USA Today January 8, 2007
  • High School Dropout Rates. Child Trends Data Bank.
  • Can One Size Fit All. Stacy Feldman, October 29, 2004