How do we fix our public school systems?

September 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | Leave a comment

(authored by Emily Stone)

In an article written for Education News, author, lawyer, and expert on public education law Miriam K Freedman discusses her one drastic change to fix all public schools.  According to Freedman, there is only one solution to fixing our public school system, and to her it seems like an obvious fix; to close all private schools.  While she realizes that this change is very unlikely to happen, she still provides several reasons for why this change would eliminate the problems we face within the public school systems.

The major benefit that this solution would provide is that it would force all students into the same school, giving them all the same opportunities and educational experiences.  Freedman states that

this step will force all students (the very rich, the very poor, the smart, the average, the disabled, the at-risk, and everyone in between) into public schools, creating overwhelming pressure to fix them at last.

When the families whose children are enrolled in private schools are forced into the public school system, they would have no choice but to fight for the high quality education and resources that they once had in their private schools.

Freedman also offers several more changes that would need to be made within the schools and the benefits that this type of radical change would provide for our educational system.  Her first benefit is that education will focus on teaching all children.  Instead of only closing the gap between students within the public school, they would now focus on closing the gap between all students.  The focus would basically shift from the individual groups of children, to one group as a whole. Second, Freedman believes that this solution would also fix discipline and behavior problems in the classroom.  She suggests that students who disrupt classes and disobey school rules should be removed to alternative school programs.  “Disruption and time away from learning are key reasons that parents opt out and choose home or private schooling.”  This new method, in her mind, would eliminate wasting essential teaching and learning time in the classroom, which is what parents and teachers want more of.   Third,  teachers would no longer be scorned for their classroom practices or instructional methods.  Freedman believes that we need to rebuild trust and respect between teachers, parents and administrators, and to do so, we need to respect the teacher as the expert.  Finally, and possibly most importantly, parents would be forced to play a more significant role in their child’s successful educational experiences.  “We will change laws that do the opposite, that treat parents as consumers of services and passive participants in improving outcomes, and even require some to advocate for children against the schools! We will see that parents help children with schoolwork, feed and clothe children appropriately, and put them to bed at night.”  Parents and teachers working together is an essential component for a students success, and is something that is seriously lacking in our current school systems.

When I read the end of this article, about forcing the parents to become more involved and responsible in their child’s education, I was reminded of an article that was recently in the Rochester City Newspaper.  In the article Eye On Education Part II: City school teachers, one of the major focuses was on effective teaching practices in the urban setting and how parent involvement can really help, or hurt, these efforts.  However, this isn’t always due to the fact that the parents don’t want to be actively involved.  Sometimes, they don’t know how or don’t have the resources to do so; “the teachers we talked to say most parents want to be supportive, but don’t always have the means. Transportation, language barriers, conflicting work schedules, and parents’ educational limitations are all part of the equation”.  In my opinion, this is why I don’t feel as though Freedman’s suggestion to force parents to be responsible and involved in their child’s education is necessarily going to be a realistic reform to enforce.

After reading Freedman’s article, and comparing her suggestions with the problems that exist within our own city school district, I feel as though her idea for reform is a bit too optimistic.  Even if we incorporate all types of students within one school by eliminating all private schools, those gaps between students and their learning are still going to exist.  While everyone would have equal opportunities and resources for learning, students still possess their own differences.  All students are never going to be on the same level as everyone else in their school, regardless of what is available to them.  What we really should be focusing on, rather than completely closing the gap between all students, is how we can educate each student to the best of their ability, to make them the most successful, and contributing member of society that they can be.   Also, forcing parents to be involved in their child’s education is an unrealistic option, unless we plan on somehow eliminating poverty and other problematic situations.  We can’t control a students home environment and we can’t control the resources that parents have available to them.  Therefore, forcing all parents to be equally involved, when their means of involvement are not equal themselves, is impossible.  I also disagree with Freedman’s suggestion of sending the behaviorally challenged students to alternative school programs.  I agree that behavior management distracts from learning and teaching time, but it seems wrong to completely eliminate them from the general classroom setting altogether.

Based on Freedman’s article and her suggestions for eliminating all private schools and how it would impact our public school systems, do you think it is a feasible and realistic idea?  What issues or problems do you think would stand in the way of this type of change actually being implemented?  Do you think there are any aspects that would need to be changed to make this more successful?

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