I finished watching Waiting for Superman the other night with an empty pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. As a former elementary school teacher I knew our nation’s schools were in trouble, but I had no idea how bad it really was. Watching this movie you get to see the pain on the faces of a handful of parents from all over our country, trying to avoid their neighborhood schools to make a better life for their kids. It was absolutely heart breaking.
Our public schools are failing. And it is not just the poor schools that are failing, many of the well to do suburbs also have failing schools. Almost 10 years ago, the government took action with it’s No Child Left Behind
No teacher left standing legislation. No Child Left Behind brought both democrats and republicans together to help our broken schools. There may be some good ideals within this law but the truth of the matter is you cannot truly make change in education until you rework the entire way we educate children in this country. No Child Left Behind put another layer of bandage onto a very broken system. It added a mandatory test for every school to measure the effectiveness of the law. Schools are failing these tests and so they have been marked as a “school in need of improvement”. They then have to create a plan for how they are going to get out of this status with little to no resources (and a few ineffective tenured teachers on staff). The plan that they create usually is filled with test prep work and when the students still fail they are desperate to make change. That is when they throw their school mission and philosophies out the window and purchase a “Miracle Literacy Program” aka Basal Reader. Now with these new programs any monkey can be a teacher and use the cookbooks to teach the class. Many good teachers are being driven away because their creativity and ideals are no longer valued and you are left with a broken school system with layers and layers of bandages that are not helping one bit. So now what???
The truth of the matter is that most parents cannot afford private schools. The only options other than their neighborhood school is to move, homeschool or pray that their child’s number gets pulled so that they can attend one of the few good charter schools out there. I am one of those parents. My husband was homeschooled and I survived through basal readers in the 80’s. I have taught in two amazing and progressive public schools but even they have been forced to bury their philosophies and beliefs and adopt a “Miracle Literacy Program”.
I am at a loss as a parent as to what I should do. Do I send my son to our local public school? We live in one of the top 5 wealthiest towns in our state but our school is still a “school in need of improvement”. The children are flooded with worksheets, basal readers and very little time is devoted to science and social studies. Do I seek out a charter school? We do have a few around but it would be a bit of a commute to get to them. Do I homeschool? I do worry that one child would love this option and the other would not. Do we move?? Where do we go, most of the public schools are headed down the same path of destruction. What do I do????
If money were no issue, my decision would be clear. I would send my children to a private school that was not focused on testing but rather allowing children to grow as individuals, explore their natural world and encourage their independent thinking. Maybe the answer is to start my own school……