For twenty years, the testing and standards movement has failed to help move the needle in terms of academic achievement in our K-12 schools. The charter school movement and the privatization of schools has also failed to improve student scores, while siphoning off valuable school funding from regular public schools. If we want to improve schools right now, we must acknowledge our failures in reform, acknowledge our larger failures in the country that hold schools back, and turn to basic strategies for improving all schools so that our potential as the greatest country on earth can be realized.
Poverty, Misogyny, Racism, Real Estate
Poverty is the single most visible failure of the country. In our resource-heavy nation we allow so many parents and children to live in an insecure way, meal to meal, house to homelessness. Half of all school-age children now suffer from poverty and this causes them to view learning as a distant second priority. The second most visible failure is misogyny—the unequal pay, unequal work, and unequal acknowledgement of the incredible role of women in our society is a two-hundred-year-old failure. In schools, women make up 78% of the workforces but they are under paid and disregarded as decision makers. Racism, the idea that we are not equal and we should not get an equal opportunity is the third most visible failure in our society that allows people to look down on others for no other reason then their skin color, heritage, immigration status, and any number of other silly reasons. The fourth most visible failure is real estate because where you live determines a lot about your opportunity needs, your access to a quality school, etc.
Acknowledgement of these failures and resolve to address them would help us to realize that schools could be the solution towards improving the basic conditions our country faces. Most important to realize is that our society needs to provide every student with food, health, and emotional well-being in order to improve learning. Schools are the perfect place to host these protective factors for our students as they are located in every community of need. Teachers are responding to these societal needs by designing a school that educates the whole child’s needs and this improvement should be shared with everyone in the community. Society could use teachers as the bell weather informants of what our society needs to do to respond to the decaying conditions in poverty, misogyny, racism, and real estate.
For example, imagine a poor community that suddenly gets a well resourced school. Parents become excited and start talking about their community with pride. As other parents hear of the changes, they want to move in. As the hope returns that a better life could be had, education could lead the way for other productive conversations and actions. So the improvements for all schools would be to fully fund what they are expected to do, increase teacher salaries so they don’t have to work a second job, and welcome all parents in to get additional social services. If we can get all students to become healthier, and support them in coming to school so they feel like they belong there, they will begin to play in safety again, and begin to engage in real learning.