Politicians are Sucking the Life Out of Our Education System

 

This summer has given me time to think a lot about this profession called teaching.  I have learned very quickly how politics surrounds the education industry and can suck the life right out of it.  This became evident to me back when I first started teaching in San Diego in 2001.  I think I learned my lessons sooner than most because I worked in a Title I school right when NCLB had launched and right after Alan Bersin and his regime took over our district. When you work in a Title I school, everything is learned and implemented at lightning speed.  The need to catch up students, who are deemed behind academically, is the main driving force that you will be measured by so you better perform, or else.  Teachers’ needs and humanity take a back seat because this is high stakes, high performance, data driven piece of  machinery fueled by high doses of political testosterone. I had no idea what I was getting into and I was completely unaware of how politics played into so much of what was going on in education.

What is sad about the fact that our education system is shadowed by a corrupt political system is that so many lives are harmed.  School children are pressured into performing on high stakes tests, which makes their learning environment tense. Teachers are held to the fire for their students’ performance on those constantly moving targets, called state tests – while also having to deal with the overwhelming needs and problems that kids face in today’s world. Administrators are the middlemen who must walk a fine line to implement the policies and tactics that the district office mandates -sometimes having to go against the various opinions of people involved. The politics surrounding education has made a mess of our education system, and our children and educators are suffering.

So, as I have been off for the summer for 8 weeks, I have been able to stand back and look at this all from a more objective perspective, and I see that much of what is going on is avoidance.  Our government is not being accountable to its most youngest citizens.  The system has chosen to sweep the true problems under the rug, while placing the blame onto the very workers who are killing themselves to reach those testing goals that seem to change with every new election cycle.

Our government would rather work teachers and administrators harder to bring up test scores of students who continue to struggle in poverty or societal ills, rather than address their needs and fix the underlying problems. Fixing the ills in society takes way too much effort and commitment…better to work the educators harder….blame them when things go wrong.

The problem is that we have been using this strategy year after year after year and it isn’t working. In fact, students’ skills keep getting weaker and weaker. What we are doing has failed and will continue to fail. We are ignoring the ills of poverty and society and it is resulting in more children who come to school with physical, mental, and emotional detriments that negatively impact their learning. Telling the teachers to work harder and work smarter does not address the problems….it masks them.

We need to put our efforts into preemptive and proactive efforts that will address the needs of our students. For example, we know that many poor mothers are more likely to have poor nutrition during pregnancy and after. Some of this can be attributed to a lack of fresh food available in their neighborhoods (food scarcity). Poor nutrition can lead to many problems: learning difficulties, behavior issues, physical problems, etc.  These all affect students in the classroom environment. If our government put money into this issue, how many problems could we avoid down the road? If our government addressed problems that affect other demographics (like drug use and overly busy parents of middle class kids), we could also avoid many problems that affect student learning and engagement in the classroom.

We are on the wrong path with this Race to the Top (RTTT) effort. We are missing the mark, again. RTTT ignores the problems in our society while creating a fear-filled environment that penalizes teachers for the test scores of their very troubled students. We need to address the underlying problems and we will see a more healthy student population which will result in improved school readiness and higher skills.

That $4 billion+ in RTTT grant money (that will be offered to only a select number of states who comply with the ridiculous requirements) could be spent on so many other things. We need to think more proactively to address the problems we are seeing in education. If we don’t, we will continue to see educators told to work harder. We will see schools opened longer and longer because we just can’t bring up the skills of students fast enough.  We should be able to accomplish today what we did with kids back years and years ago. Parents are more educated than ever before. If we cannot accomplish what we used to in a given school year, we need to listen to the educators, find out what’s really going on and then make decisions based on that. Our American politicians and wealthy businessmen (who parade themselves as philanthropists) are not the experts and are not the answer to our problems.

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One thought on “Politicians are Sucking the Life Out of Our Education System

  1. I Couldn’t have it more eloquently myself. Continuing to pretend that a school is good of the surrounding community is going to lead to an ever worsening situation in poor community. RTTT is a woefully disingenuous attempt at education reform. It addresses nothing in regards to the daily paradigms of students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Good blog piece.

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