The Mythology of a Good School/District

This is a reflection on the stories surrounding Measure E:

Most teachers from the generation prior to me tended to stay in a teaching position within the same district for their full career. Once they achieved tenure, the only other objective was to work ones way up the ranks, possibly to a position in the district office.  Due to the relative seclusion of both the teaching profession and the individual school districts, teachers did not have much with which to compare their profession.   Due to the stasis, a good school and district remained so for the long term due to no or limited turnover. 

At or around the mid-80’s, education began to change in ways which no one could have forseen and for good, bad or inbetween, we now live in this new education dilemma.  Women, who were mainly the K-12 teachers historically, began to realize they could work outside the classroom, even in academia. Teachers began to leave the classroom for other higher paying positions, particularly those who were the creative types and had a background in math, science or the ability to sell something.  New teachers began to be trained at an alarming rate and quality control began to, in some regards dissipate and in other areas quality improved. There was stasis no more within the system and this began a change in the profile of what a good education seemed to be – a change that we are now reaping in the 21st Century.

What were once good/great school districts, shifted as the profession shifted. This came about in some subtle ways and good/great schools and districts became case studies in what was.

The example I like to use is the following as it is the community I live in:   Alameda, where I live, is not overall uniformly a great district.  Within the last six years, some schools did not meet the State of Ca or Federal requirements for improvement and are being pre-emptively changed – Chipman Middle School is one of them. At the same time this is/was happening, a large contingent of Section 8 housing was razed and reconstructed into something ‘new’ and new, new homes were put in what would be Chipman territory.  The new new homes got a new new school called Ruby Bridges.  Interestingly, as the ambiance of poverty shifted, so to did the test scores…..not anything really noteable – in fact, no one that I know of has mentioned it as anything more than a Michelle Rhees  (over hyped score improver in DC)   anomoly (there is no data so to speak, just a perceived feeling things have changed a bit in Alameda).

Since chareter schools are able to hit the reset button when they open, test scores start from a new baseline which wipes out any of the ‘past’ history and lets everyone breathe a sigh of relief at not being on the bottom rung and maybe, just maybe there is a way out of the hole (generally something which looks like parenting and parent involvement – two things poverty stricken families do not tend to have in good supply).  The teachers at the new charter school (old Chipman) will receive all the accolades in a few years when there is a path of data to support they did indeed improve test scores. No one is sure where all the students who would be going there, went there,  are there in Grade 6 this year but it will be a new school in Grade 7 are going to be ‘disaggregrated’ but the data suddenly will change.

Mythology works best when the story is clear and easy to follow –

The term mythology can refer to either the study of myths or a body of myths. For example, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece. The term “myth” is often used colloquially to refer to a false story; however, the academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on its truth or falsity. In the study of folklore, a myth is a symbolic narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Many scholars in other fields use the term “myth” in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story. 

One of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior

 – Wikipedia

In the case of Measure E, the mythology is not clear and the story is kind of all over the place. I am not sure specifically what the ‘good’ schools are and how the district is overall due to the fact(s) which indicate there have been massive shifts in population and teachers within just the last six years while I have been here.  I am not quite sure the money is really the answer to solve the woes of AUSD as it seems there are many other factors at work/play here.

To me, the whole Measure E Syndrome is based on a mythology of what Alameda has been, how it desires to portray itself, not the reality of what is.  Yes, even the island has foreclosed houses and short sales.  Alameda, in spite of its bridges, was not able to keep the big scary banking beasts at bay.  I am not even sure who the hero(s) are any more or if they ever existed. From my perspective, Alameda seems to have forgotten how euhemerism works.

Hopefully there are enough people who will read between the lines so when the voting happens, the result is not something attributable to the Gods.

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