- In numerous rural and suburban public K-12 systems and their bubbles, the public education enclave seems virtually oblivious to being challenged, covering their eyes and ears. One explanation for the denial may be that one of the reform mission objectives seems other-worldly — it would involve replacing almost 100,000 US public schools with privatized versions, and absorbing almost 3.5MM teachers, where there are presently few competently managed and successful takeovers of public K-12 systems.
- Most public schools, in turn, are acquiescing to respond to every test demand, even sacrificing teachers to discredited testing and VAM models to not offend the reformers and jeopardize funding. Simultaneously, most public education administrators can’t surface the courage to address the simplest question: Why do all of those folks hate us?
- Present organization of US public schools is over 100 years old, but has never been challenged, or allowed challenge, though behavioral concepts of organization have undergone major change and refinement.
- Hunkered down in this milieu are public school boards, an electorate, and even our press, who rarely see their own system as a problem (it’s always the other community’s system, and ours is just fine thank you), and are frequently too intimidated or trusting to demand system transparency and accountability.
- The so-called corporate reform movement, the authors of standardized tests and VAM teacher assessment, still lack credible research validating that standardized testing. Yet the back room psychometricians in those firms are becoming the de facto arbiters of what constitutes K-12 knowledge in public schools. That is frightening, not because there may not be reasonable knowledge awareness in that expertise, or even because the function is motivated by greed and control, but because the education system is essentially in danger of outsourcing without adequate quality assurance their basic stock in trade as an institution, and as professionals.
- Appearing in this week’s mail was a nationally promulgated and passionate assault on the Common Core Standards — the highly indignant basis, that they are the product of an overreaching Federal initiative. Except the actual title of the process that developed these alleged standards is CCSSI, standing for “common core state standards initiative.” Its own web site aggressively, even sarcastically, proclaims that the standards have absolutely nothing to do with the US Department of Education, or any other Federal initiative. Adding to the bizarre assault, the standards’ contents were overseen by a committee of some of the least impressive and highly parochial educational resources in the US. To introduce even more weirdness, public K-12 is gobbling them up, when the educational values being represented are proximate to ones being expressed by some of those trying to torpedo public K-12.
- Our collegiate schools of education, watching a Wendy Kopp and her “Teach for America” reap millions of dollars for advocating bypassing those same schools for our K-12 teachers, stay hunkered down and have shown even less visible awareness and defensive vitality than our public school bureaucracies.
- Lastly, repetitive studies dating even before the onset of this century and NCLB, have asserted and demonstrated evidence that virtually nothing in public K-12 education tactics that can be reformed can materially change the learning of children lacking stable families, or socioeconomically challenged, or culturally challenged, or experiencing unattended physical or psychological challenges, short of changing those familial, socioeconomic, cultural, and health basics.
On the other side of the skirmish line, a part of our public K-12 infrastructure and leadership is still living in a past century, self-righteous, resistant to learning innovation, many inadequately trained for the 21st century’s knowledge and technology explosion, and either retreating into denial of the conflict, or willing to cheat and prostitute themselves to sustain control.
The US system of public school board oversight has its own challenges, either intimidated by system administration, or sycophant to an enclave that elected them, but regularly resistant to transparency and input. Many boards enter their terms nobly, and with high aspirations, but are quickly subjected to conflicting local values and wants. In many communities despite our states’ low bar for candidacy, well educated candidates are elected, but still enter that service as educational neophytes. What comes to dominate is risk aversion and concern with routine; versus properly vetting administrative hires, reducing K-12 school costs and resisting new levy solutions, modernizing budgeting and planning models, brainstorming how to increase learning productivity, lassoing out-of-control system bureaucrats, and putting learning objectives ahead of safe choices?
Just appearing on the horizon, one factor that may change the game is a product of the 2012 election, not its outcome, but the grass roots processes it innovated, now virtually daily expanding and applied to citizens’ capacities to be directly heard. The Internet and social media have exploded the capacity to acquire within days and even hours, millions of virtual public signatures petitioning for redress of perceived wrongs, whether in governments or the private sector. As person-on-the-street awareness of the public K-12 wars finally increases one game changer may be their direct entry into the fray.
At the opposite end of a continuum, it may take a top down political solution to end conflict, and restore American public education and K-12 stability and progress.
The Founders and Constitution did not factually and overtly dedicate public education control to the states, but simply had no basis for projecting learning for national parameters never envisioned, and that the process would need some central values and checks and balances. It will infuriate our K-12 privatization and local control radicals, and it may not be the ultimate prescription for an entrepreneurial America, but any remediation of an untenable and unsustainable K-12 future, as being currently railroaded, may have to come from Constitutional change to allow more Federal integration and control of parts of our full K-12 education system.