Saturday, February 18, 2017

With both hands tied behind our backs: How the state contributes to the failure of public education

They want Michigan to be a top 10 state in 10 years, but what they want and what they do are out of sync.

What follows is just some of the insanity behind our governor and state legislators' efforts over time to weaken and destroy public education. I have to state it this way because if it isn't purposeful, then you have to conclude that they are all either idiots or at the very least ignorant in education policy and practice.

What they want in Michigan:

  • Every child, regardless of circumstances, to progress through K-8 in lock-step form and then graduate from high school within four years of entering fully "ready" for college and career.
  • All children, again regardless of circumstances, reading at the exact same level by the time they are 9 years old.
  • All high school students, regardless of circumstances or personal desire, completing a one-size-fits-all high school curriculum and course credits within four years of entering.
  • All teachers, regardless of circumstances, preparation or experience, performing at the same level of effectiveness producing consistent end-results as measured by tests.
  • All schools, regardless of circumstances, ranked at the top of the top-to-bottom lists despite the fact this is statistically impossible.
  • All children and parents, regardless of circumstances, able to choose any school they desire for their child despite the fact it is physically impossible to provide enough personalized options for the entire student population of the United States.
  • Year-round, balanced calendars for schools, particularly in low-achieving, high-poverty areas.
But what they do in Michigan:
  • Annually appropriate an inadequate level of funding for classrooms and children that continues to decline each year when inflation is factored in.
  • Continue to support a substantially inadequate classroom funding system where wealthier districts are provided with greater levels of funding, and funding is not based on the needs of students or communities.
  • Continue to deny that greater funding levels are needed for public schools basing their arguments on a single conservative-leaning study over fifty years old and ignoring the mountains of more recent research that supports significantly greater funding due to greater student needs and higher-level standards.
  • Refuse to relinquish education control back to communities that want to remove the one-size-fits-all mandates and provide more flexible and personal learning options for each and every student.
  • Allow for the growth of less-regulated charter schools, with the highest percentage of non-transparent, for-profit entities in the country, causing chaos and disintegration of community-based school districts that are then singled out for the resulting low achievement and potential closure.
  • Weaken the teacher and education administration professions by refusing to provide adequate funding to support competitive salaries, reducing take-home-pay by forcing greater out-of-pocket expenditures for benefits originally mandated by the state, and erosion of the ability of school districts to provide flexible on-going professional learning because of funding reductions and elimination of the 38-hour per year professional development time.
  • Restrict schools from beginning the school-year until after Labor Day despite lacking any valid, comprehensive evidence that this restriction is an economic boon that outweighs the needs of students.
  • Continue to underfund higher education placing the burden on students' backs despite the fact state policies virtually steer every child in the direction of college enrollment.
There's much more to add to both of these categories, but the point is to highlight the insanity of our state education policymaking that on the one hand wants greater outcomes, but on the other hand expects those better results despite weakening the one critical institution that will ensure all kids have an equitable chance -- public education.

And now comes Betsy DeVos in Washington who will surely pour more gasoline on the fire.