Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hartford's Reform

In an attempt to fix a failing inner-city school district, Hartford, CT has begun to make serious changes in its approach to education. The most serious question we can ask is to what extent will these reforms truly affect students' academic outcomes.
The Hartford Courant reports that:
  • The trend in high school reform throughout the nation is to break up large, comprehensive high schools into small academies so teachers can get to know students well and collaborate on individuals.
  • But teachers — even those excited about reform — are upset about his plan to make them reapply for their jobs.
  • District officials are under pressure to improve achievement, but they say it's tricky to find a pace that affords a comfort level to parents, teachers and students.
  • The idea of distinct academies doesn't appeal to everyone.

First, I applaud Hartford Public Schools for their efforts at reform. Some struggling school districts remain content to flounder well below the rest of the world in order to satisfy long-standing practices and teachers unwilling to admit that their school is a failure.

Yet, I can't stop from wondering when education reform will truly make a difference. From programs like Direct Instruction to small academies, every theorists out their claims success on a whole scale level. Unfortunately, I don't believe them all; much like I don't believe the baseball players who admit to steroid use "One time, so I could recover from an injury."

Like fixing the baseball scandal, education reform will not truly work unless honest happens at all levels. In some low performing schools, teachers admit to culpability. In others, districts admit to poor prioritization. But nowhere do we find parents taking any part in accepting blame. Instead, they point fingers at the government, the district, the school, the teachers and everyone else but themselves.

If we want our low performing schools to perform, we must be willing to call out the parents. Schools do not perform poorly. Students do. Schools are not responsible for monitoring homework. Schools are not responsible for keeping a child's bedtime.

Parents have the responsibility to read to their children when the child is young. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children social etiqutte. Parents have the responsibility to not choose their own selfish desires above the needs of their children. And when the public, the government, and everyone else concerned about education begin to address the initial cause of student failure, then I will listen to school reform theory.


At 2:41 PM , Blogger Mrs. C said...

As a parent AND a taxpayer, I've got to tell you that this is *such* crap that parents are the ones responsible for failure in public schools. You have the kid for eight hours a day. Do we really NEED homework?

If I'm the parent and you are the educator I have designated for my child that year, my job is to make sure the child is fed and rested (granted), but YOUR job is to educate him. If you can't do that in all the time you are in possession of my child, YOU have a problem.

I homeschool two of my younger children and they have, within five months, completed an entire academic year. They were able to do this for six hours per day, five days a week. They were able to do this despite my having NO training and also despite the fact that the younger of the two children came directly from a "special needs" preschool and has now been enrolled in our second grade homeschool. And I am reasonably comparing apples-to-apples because I am using the public school math curriculum and have used the district's curriculum guidelines to tell whether my children were "on track" with others.

They are able to do this work not because of my superior teaching abilities or their intellect, but because I am ACTIVELY teaching the children during those hours. I can't imagine having possession of a child for eight hours daily and then STILL depend on the parents to do homework, dinner, after-school activities, doctor appointments and ... oh, yeah. Earning money and maintaining a household.

Either teachers are supposed to be the professionals or they're not. I'm looking around and seeing a lot of failure and it sure isn't ALL the parents' fault. I have no problem with your saying there are some supremely bad parents out there... because that's true.

What on earth kind of solution would get into the family life and ensure that parents give their children enough sleep, etc.? This sounds a bit... intrusive, don't you think??

At 11:39 AM , Blogger Mrs. C said...

I'm so glad I checked back to see if any responses were posted for me, but they didn't make much sense LOL!

I think you've been spammed. :]

At 1:41 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Mrs. C,
I've removed the SPAM! I need more information before I can respond. You say your two children are homeschooled--that means a student to teacher ration of 2-1.
Additionally, should your student behave poorly, you can send him to time out or discipline in a way that fits your family's needs.
I'd also bet that you read to your students when they were children, and that you put your students to bed at a reasonable time. Based on the fact that you are homeschooling, and apprantely successful at it, you are putting your students/children ahead of your selfish desires.
So, we aren't really comparing apples to apples.


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