As I near the end of my MA in Ed and secondary mathematics credential program, en route to becoming a high school math teacher, I continue to be amazed at the dysfunctional state of our nation’s educational system. As a result of mandates from on high, many from well-intentioned but misguided bureaucrats, our country continues to wander off-course. These educrats, confident they can legislate and codify the latest edufad, deceptively cloak their missives in descriptions such as “No Child Left Behind,” or “Race to the Top.” So, driven incessantly by people who have little to no knowledge of today’s schools, classrooms, or students, and little to no awareness of what truly works or does not work in our diverse communities, we careen towards the cliffs, feet firmly on the accelerator, eyes glued to the instrument panel, instead of looking at the road, and the “road closed ahead” sign looming in the distance.
This is not a new phenomenon. Ever since the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” our educational system has repeatedly contorted itself in attempts to comply with a myriad of mandates meant to improve. Yet, none of these achieved the desired results. Furthermore, as the largest student segment in our nation’s public school systems increasingly shifts to students of color of low socioeconomic status, funding per student decreases most for those communities, along with their standardized test scores. Unless, and until, our educrats wake up to the deleterious impacts of poverty on our nation, we will continue to struggle educating students who may not see the need to learn in the first place, or if so, feel too discouraged since they are so far behind more privileged students.
When will sanity prevail and the true reasons for our decline in academic achievement be addressed? When will we stop our mind numbing, narrow-minded, overzealous adherence to standardized testing, which only benefits the testing industry and their financiers? When will poverty be recognized as the primary contributor to our national decline in educational achievement? When will we stop villifying our nation’s teachers, principals, curricula, and pedagogy? When will President Obama see that those who seek to gain financially from Duncan’s policies like RttT, i3, and The Blueprint cloak themselves in the guise of ed reform, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, eager to feast on the billions in the public coffers? When will we enable teachers to succeed, instead of overburdening them to fail?
While I am committing the rest of my life to education, I hope that I am able to be a voice, and force, in affecting changes in the profession, shining a light on the lunacy of policies, plans, and programs that do more to hinder our nation’s progress than help. Common sense needs to prevail more so than common standards, or we will regulate and standardize ourselves into the annals of history as a nation that overly relied on centralized planning, with its concomitant, colossal failings. Instead, our educrats persist in promoting their blind obsession with data, beholden to simplistic accountability models that miss the nuances of reality, and seemingly unaware that those closest to the parameters being measured are best able to diagnose and troubleshoot the problems, as long as they are supported with adequate resources, of all kinds.