I consider myself an Education Reformer. Through the years I have tried to reform education from the inside out. It has not worked. What makes me so smart, nothing really? I think every teacher wants to assist students with learning to the best of their ability. At least that is my deepest desire, to assist kids that struggled to overcome their challenges. Which in turn, produces more well-rounded, self-sufficient, educated people as citizens for our county. Does this seem far-fetched?
This is my general premise as per my paper, The Mulch-Sensory Classroom (Aug. 2004):
“Each child develops sensory/motor pres kills at a very young age (e.g., auditory processing, fine and gross motor skills, visual perception, reflexes, tactile processing, sensory modulation). These bottom levels of sensory/motor development are often taken for granted because they are basic and develop automatically in the typically developing child. When we teach a student at school, the child uses these sensory/motor pres kills as a foundation for learning. Children in whom these pres kills have not fully developed find learning difficult if not impossible; they become our struggling or special-needs children. Without the appropriate developmental foundation, they cannot build the abstract thinking skills we try to teach them in school. “ Therefore, students may struggle in an educational setting and it may not be obviously apparent why the struggle exists.
So here’s my beef. Many students receive the necessary tools to overcome struggles in public education by the support of parents, teachers and interventions. There are a great number of students who do not receive additional support for whatever reason. This fact needs to change very rapidly.
Case in point, let’s examines the test scores for the high school exit exam for California. According to the California Department of Education website’s data for July of 2008, 13, 237 students took the Math portion of the California Exit Exam and 13, 373 students took the English portion of the exam. 29% of the students passed the Math and 30% passed the English portions of the test for the state. That means that 9,423 students failed the Math and 9,420 failed the English! Holy Smoke!
I cannot be the only one screaming in the wildness. Where are you? Please don’t give me the spill about more qualified teachers and incentives. In today’s, New York Times, Week in Review section on page 5 there is an advertisement from the President of America Federation of Teachers. The name of the article which is really an advertisement is called, “ What Matters Most: Words into Action”. In the ad-like article the president, Randi Kindergarten explains this problem in education, “ For too long and too often, teacher evaluation –in both design and implementation – has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving and informing teaching so as to better education all students”. She goes on to give an example from Colorado of the school board and teacher union working together. Then at the end she says that school board members, teachers, union leaders all feel the same way, they want what’s best for the kids. I felt the article was about working relationships in these difficult financial times. Maybe that needs to be the focus for the advertisement that educational higher ups and teacher unions do not need to eat each other alive so they can eventually help kids. Although our students are failing right now and I don’t want any kid to miss several years of learning because people who make a lot of money can’t get along. We are talking about kid’s futures here. Give me a break!
I’m tired of the Infomercial Education. The kind that keeps promising that magic ellixir yet, the product is just so-so. The real conversation needs to be around the individual differences of students or their learning styles and needs. Administrators, school boards, teachers and all school staff members need to be trained in how to recognize a struggling student’s needs: emotionally, developmentally and physically. They also need to know how to build or recognize curriculum for these needs and drive the curriculum based on assessment data, not a hunch or a feeling. I’m not saying that public education can fix it all and is a one-stop shop. But let’s be honest students come to school with all of these issues and as a whole we cannot ignore the numbers. Our students in this state are not making the cut. Our interventions are not making the cut. Identifying student’s needs are not based on each student’s individual differences or assessments yet blanket interventions are thrown on major problems.