I am unabashedly pro-reform, and proud of it. The public schools in the U.S. are headed in the wrong direction and must be redirected to a new course. The evidence is clear that things have gone unquestionably wrong. Failing schools, increasing drop out rates, a badly deteriorating infrastructure, and demoralized teachers are all indicators that we need to look at the policies and procedures that have led to these declines, stop them, and turn things around.
Here is the data-based reform required to improve our public schools.
1. Stop the standards-based curriculum mandates. We have been doing this for more than 10 years and no one can argue that things haven’t gotten steadily worse. More schools are judged as failing every year. Replace the current one-size-fits-all model with the research-based protocol of meeting individual needs and helping each child reach their full potential in a whole-child approach to education.
2. Decrease the overemphasis on a narrow range of curricular goals, unproven high-stakes testing, increasing class sizes, and underfunding school programs. Instead, expand the curriculum to include interest areas of all students, provide multiple forms of assessment designed to help each student grow both in areas of strength and weakness. We must replace the rote learning required by the current emphasis on testing and instead include problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking in our arsenal of instructional techniques. Further, we must provide assistance in meeting curricular demands and help each student monitor their progress toward their own goals.
3. Current efforts are designed to cut school funding, both by direct budget cuts and by pulling money away from local school board control and hand it over to private interests to run charter schools, provide vouchers to private schools, and bring under-trained staff in to local schools to replace experienced teachers. The outcome of this combined money drain has been to concentrate the hardest to solve problems in schools serving primarily minorities and the poor and to provide these schools with an ever-declining revenue stream. The result is deteriorating facilities, lack of up-to-date books and other instructional resources, and large class sizes. Our reform efforts must be directed to ending the corporate takeover of school functions by ending the use of public dollars to fund charter schools, vouchers, and privately run teacher replacement programs. The dollars saved must be returned to the control of local school communities. Further reform efforts are needed to identify revenue streams that will ensure the maintenance and replacement of outmoded school facilities.
4. Current school policies have resulted in a workforce that is badly demoralized. Teacher bashing through the use of unproven “accountability” measures, school closings and the resulting teacher layoffs and firings, legislative efforts to end teacher bargaining rights, increasing class sizes, top-down control of both curriculum and instruction, and efforts to replace experienced teachers with short-term, unproven neophytes all must stop. Reform efforts must be made to reverse these disturbing trends and rebuild a professional teacher presence in our schools. Lower class sizes, reliance on the professional judgment of trained staff, and school supported professional development are all steps that must be taken to improve teacher morale.
What is outlined here is just a sample of what must be done to turn around the failed, top-down efforts to operate our public schools. It is time to end the experiment on children being perpetrated by the U.S. Department of Education. It is time to take back our local schools and institute REAL reform. Join us in this effort to turn around an attempt to steal our children’s future. http://dumpduncan.org