I ran into a great teacher the other day. As we talked, she told me that she was excited to be offered a teaching job from public school number one. She went on to say how wonderful things were at this school. She had almost any resource she could want, the students – great, the parents – so supportive… I was happy for her, but also sad. I was sad because another public school had lost such a good teacher to public school number one.
Public school number one is a “wealthy” school. This school has a small percentage of low-income students. Diversity is almost non-existent. The school has few minorities with a student population of over 90% white. The PTO at this school provides teachers with many additional education resources and also support. In this school there are many experienced, master teachers. If students are struggling, some parents will seek additional resources to help their child such as paying for tutors… Many homes have internet and computers. Test scores are good at this school. Parents from other public schools apply to have their children be a part of this school. Teachers at public school number one love having their children attend this school with them.
In public school number two we see a much different scenario. This school is far from “wealthy”. It has a high percentage of low-income students. Diversity is obvious with many minority students. Staff members help with PTO duties and events. Teachers question the number of fundraisers given to their students as families struggle for basic necessities. In this school, you will find caring teachers, but many will have less experience than public school number one. If students struggle, the school does all that it can to provide supports for children so parents do not have to seek additional services. Many homes do not have internet. Though the school provides chromebooks for students, teachers cannot give homework or projects that involve internet access. Though teachers and students are working hard, test scores at this school are not so good. Teachers have to deal with many “trauma” situations. Few parents from other public schools apply to send their children to this school. Most teachers in this school send their own children elsewhere even though they could have their children attend with them.
These public schools exist in our own neighborhoods. Thinking about it, this just doesn’t seem right to me. I wonder if this is what was desired when the public school system was established. I think the goal was for every child to have access to an education. We have that, but do we give ALL children access to a QUALITY education with QUALITY environments?
Our way of providing a quality education to all students is to provide standards and testing and silly requirements of teachers such as doing an externship. How can we even compare test results from public school number one to public school number two (including growth statistics)? Instead of fixing the system, we focus on testing, blame teachers for failure, try to get rid of older teachers – it doesn’t matter if they are good or even excellent… We give our teachers little room for creativity or passion. We give teachers scripts and tell them exactly what to say and do. We hand them classroom schedules already developed by someone else. Even if the test scores improve, I wonder if the end result is worth it. For a student who passes the test does not guarantee us that he/she will be a productive member of society who strives to make our neighborhoods and our world better places.
What do we do if we value ALL children? What do we do if we desire to put children first? My team’s response was to create York Academy of Discovery. Though you may not agree with this response – it is our desire to make a difference in what we see happening with our education system. People along the way fight and belittle our chosen response. And of course, ours is not the only way. What will your response be? How will you help our children? How can we make our public schools better and more equitable? Our team believes in and loves public schools, our kids and grandchildren attend these schools. But having public school number one and public school number two – this is wrong; it is unacceptable and needs to be changed. What is your response? (Yes – Red for Ed is a good start.)