The past days, weeks and months have provided for a great deal of rousing conversation among teachers, administrators and tutors. The topic(s) morphed from the horrors of NCLB to what is about to be released from Pandora’s Box (the nice shiny little thing which has been keeping the secrets of NCLB, charter schools, Michelle Rhee, etc. at bay…) when we are appraised of the actual disparity between proficiency and PROFICIENCY.
On my rush to work (tutoring a Japanese exchange student) I caught just an earful of news on NPR. I could not concentrate fully on the news piece and the traffic so I later went back and replayed the piece. The piece was quite short and yet the whole message was summed up in the two sentences said by Arne Duncan.
“For far too long, our school systems actually lied to children and to families and to communities,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a recent speech in Washington. And what made those lies possible, according to Duncan, was the one thing most of these state standards had in common: They were low.
I did not need time to ‘think’ through what was being said by Arne Duncan. He was not saying something new to anyone who is or was a teacher. In fact, we have been saying it for years and it fell on deaf ears while we were being scapegoated for noticing the disparity.
While the drum beat to war was starting up (actually, since before Desert Storm), Americans were fed a sweetly sour pabulum regarding their children and education. The sweet part made it go down easily for a long time. The sour is the GERD like (gastroesophageal reflux disease) bit which is going to require us to dose ourselves with some antacids.
You can love/hate Arne; You can love/hate Washington D.C. You may despise the word reform and love The Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever it is which pushes your button regarding education, you can not love/hate literacy, math and the ability to reason – these are only lovable and highly laudable ideas. It is with this love of learning, knowledge, thinking and the courage to deeply consider, reason and discuss ideas that we, society, will be able to progress.
The public is on the precipice of learning a great truth…..numbers can be made to tell all manners of untruth if stated in just the right way. Those numbers represent a large problem as it is not representative of one year, it is year over year. No matter how charter schools tried to spin the numbers, the reality is literacy and math skills have barely changed and the population on which the numbers changed is very small.
It is going to take years to get back to what was ‘lost’ in all the manipulations. The scary part to me is there are not enough hours in the day and years left for me to do nearly the amount of tutoring necessary to make a dent. Even worse – many people I know who tutor are thinking the same thing.