Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Maps Are Useless Tools If You Can't Read Them

A fascinating article in this morning's NY Times, regarding the perceived success of charter schools and their actual reality. More fascinating is how this disconnect still fuels negative perception regarding public schools. You know, the schools that most of the children in this country go to on a regular basis. This quote sums up the disparity for me quite succinctly:
“It’s easy to open schools, but it’s very hard to open and sustain and to grow networks of very good schools,” said Mr. Toch, a founder of Education Sector, a research group.

The education historian Diane Ravitch offers a parallel critique. “Charters enroll 3 percent of the kids,” she said. “The system that educates 97 percent, no one’s paying any attention to.”(source)

It is my responsibility, as an administrator, and as a school committee member, to advocate for the 97%. Public schools CAN do better; it requires money to attract quality teachers, money for resources beyond the traditional textbook, and COMMITMENT from community leaders to keep their schools funded and functioning. But, this does not mean just throwing money willy-nilly at school budgets to see what sticks. School budgets that address providing quality resources to improve STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES are what's necessary here. A weak teacher can have a class size of 10, and still not affect student learning in a meaningful way, but a strong teacher, with solid pedagogical skills, classroom management, and a thorough understanding of universal design for learning--a system where you first determine what you want the students to know when they leave your classroom/grade/school, design assessments to prove mastery of those overarching goals, and THEN create instructional experiences that will teach those skills to mastery--can teach a class of 30 and achieve at a high level. All students can learn, but they all learn differently. The X factor in all student achievement is the quality of the teacher standing in front of them.

Good education is expensive; get over it, and move on from this useless argument. The consumer adage, "you get what you pay for", applies here just as strongly. The map to success is simple; figure out where you're going, find a comprehensive mapping system, a good navigator, then, plot your course and see if you reach the top. Time, energy, and resources. It doesn't get simpler than that.



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Midvale School For the Gifted

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