School Daze

My lovely son received a certificate from the school district honoring his participation in the spring school play. While the document is very nice, the honoring of his taking on a “lead roll,” and yes, that is how it was spelled, is pretty symptomatic of some fundamental problems in the district. While you never want to overly generalize about an issue, like all charter schools are great or all public schools stink, it is imperative to be on top of things. Both my son’s lovely mother and I come from long lines of troublemakers, so sticking our noses in our children’s school business is second nature.

While our recently departed superintendent and the head of the public schools teachers union were both fond of saying they are “working for the children” when nothing could be further from the truth, good things do happen and I don’t regret the choices we’ve made over the years. You learn things like the self appointed crown jewel of the high schools isn’t as good as US News and World Reports says it is, but mostly you learn to stay current with what is shaking.

It used to be so you could affect change for the school, know the teaching staff, get your kid in the best possible place to learn and be one with the environment. Now, I know that sounds a little hippie-esque, but it’s how I roll. When my guys started, the magnet schools were chugging right along and doing district wide measurable good work. There were specific focused programs that had enough luster that multiple schools had waiting lists! in the city.

And then, No Child Left Behind came. Lord god, what a flawed concept. If it takes a village to raise a child, the next village over should be all over the goofs who came up with anything beyond the title for this legislation. The upshot is that law introduced a slew of evaluative testing with such frequency that instruction is getting cramped, lessened, and successful programs have gotten denuded.

While the building where all three of my kids attended from age 3 through 8th grade is still a good school, and the recent upgrade is fantastic, we should be aiming higher than Lord of the Flies with smart boards. You don’t do well on one of the metric tests, suddenly you can go from a group you’ve known all your life to the middle school version of the sweathogs.

I know, by now, you’ve probably stopped reading, if you even got beyond the title, but something that has been sticking in my craw about some of the discussions I’ve had this week. It’s like schools are almost being run by accountants. Don’t get me wrong, I think all schools should be palaces and good teachers should be making six figure salaries, but reducing individual achievements to a balance sheet mentality isn’t the way wither.


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