Sunday, October 09, 2005

Educational Policy and the Democrats --

By Bryan Nelson From: Democrats Table

This blog is about what democrat's should do to take control of the debate on public education, but there is good stuff here for all of us. Public schooling is for all and we all need to take the debate away from those that would destroy public education in the name of reform.

The Democrats need a real policy, and real rationale and a real counter argument to the conservatives around our public education system...

...The conservatives, have demanded some 'public school reforms' that simply don't address the issue of improving the process of educating children. At the same time, the Democrats have done one of two things. Immediately sound like they are members of the NEA or they have complained about conservatives ideas, without providing specific ideas to counteract those they so despise.

In the end, the conservatives have been leading the conservation on public schools for far too long, and we now end up with awful things like NCLB and a growing outcry for vouchers.

We must take this issue back, not only because we believe in public education (the conservatives do not), but because it is critical for our future in this country.

Several steps need to be implemented in order to bring the issue back into our camp. Step one is to de-mythify the conservatives message that 'business' practices can improve education. There are two parts to our public school educational process. The part, and most critical to the mission part, is to educate children. The second part, is the 'business of running the system'. In the first part there are no business plans, there are educational work plans. In the second part, there are business plans to assure fiscal solvency.

When I see, merit pay, come up time and time again (apparently Mitt Romney has this 'new idea), it simply reflects the confusion out there regarding business practices and the educational process. In regards to merit pay, I was in an educational entity that attempted it 20 years ago, and it failed miserably. Why? Because the process of working with the individual needs of children, who come into the system with varying educational needs, who learn at different rates, who require different teaching methods cannot be so quantified as to determine who deserves 'merit' and who does not. And that is for a classroom of 'typically' developing childern. Throw in your special needs, low-income, and ESL students, and I can assure you it is impossible to define, in quantifiable terms, who should receive 'merit' pay.

So the myth, that somehow we can apply the business technique of 'merit pay' aka bonuses or commissions, is simply wrong. It will not work, because the process of education is not a business process...

... Regarding the entire issue of vouchers, it simply is a method to further errode the funding base for public education...Vouchers have been argued to enhance 'competition' between private and public schools so that the 'winner' will get the funding, either through the public funding going directly to the public school or the public funding going to the private school via vouchers, if they are the 'winner of the compitition'. Again, what competition? The differences between public and private schools is a myth.

Private schools are not tasked with educating every student in society. Private schools are selective and self-selecting on the part of the parents. They can exclude any student/family they choose. They can hire based on their criteria, and not adhere to EEOC rules. They can create a more narrowly defined curricula, than can the public schools. To even suggest that there is a legitimate competition between public and private schools is to compare the competition between public libraries and private bookstores. They both have books, but the scope of the mission is very different...

...Some public schools have primarily serve upper middle class children that come to school armed with a mulititude of experiences, a strong language base and a basic level of pre-academic readiness skills. While other schools serve a lower-economic class of children, who through no fault of their own, or their family's, come with few experiences, a less than adequate language base and less overall readiness skills.

I can assure you - the field is not level. I assure you, that even though both schools are serving all who walk through the door, to compare them and then make them 'compete' is rediculous. Then factor in private schools, that select who they can and won't serve and you really have a silly 'competive' situation.

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