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Indignant Lesson #14: How to Improve Public Schools

September 10, 2013

Diane Ravitch, the world’s most renowned educational expert, recently offered the next Mayor of NYC her ideas for improving the city’s public schools. Though the article was NYC-centric, Ravitch’s suggestions are applicable everywhere, and her message should be heard by all districts seeking actual academic improvement within their schools.

The Indignant Teacher has modified the article for Boston, and encourages all Boston readers help ensure this message reaches our next Mayor:                                                                ******************************************************************************************************************

Dr Diane Ravitch:

“By real change, I mean a new vision for education. I mean a shift away from the failed policies of the past decade that have turned our public schools into testing factories.

Today, our schools are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on testing and test preparation that should be spent instead on reducing class size, enriching the curriculum, and giving extra help to the students who need it.

This is what I hope the new mayor will do:

Restructure the school system into local school districts where parents can find someone to answer their questions; where elementary schools feed into middle schools, and middle schools feed into high schools. Public schools build community; the city has spent 10 years tearing communities apart. This must end.

Create a ladder of leadership, in which teachers work for at least six to eight years before they can become assistant principals. Assistant principals should serve for a minimum of five years before they are eligible to become principal. Principals should be experienced and wise.

Insist that every school offer a full curriculum to all children, with math and science, the arts, history, civics, foreign language and daily physical education.

Provide dedicated funding for the arts in all schools.

In buildings that house three, four, five or six separate “schools,” consider recombining them into a single school under a single principal to avoid the waste of having multiple principals.

Stop closing schools.

If a school has low scores, send in a team of experienced educators to find out what needs to improve: More bilingual teachers? Tutors? More help for students with disabilities? Smaller classes?  The mayor should be dedicated to improving schools, not closing them.

Proclaim a moratorium on new charter schools.

Stop putting charter schools into public school space. Charter schools have outside funding from philanthropists and Wall Street. Let them lease or buy their own space.

Make prekindergarten available to all children whose parents cannot afford it.

Guarantee that every school has a library with a trained librarian, plus the guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers students need.”

Boston is not only known for its title of being the oldest pubic school district in the country, but also for it’s decades-long, consistently superior national academic achievement…the City’s schoolchildren are, even more impressively, comparable to their top-ranked international peers in Finland, Japan, and elsewhere. As our students go back to school now, entering their first full week, they are forced to endure yet another year spent not as “engaged learners”, but rather as guinea pigs in ‘The Great Corporate Reform Experiment’. Surely they’ll find themselves spinning the wheel full throttle now, though, between the “No Excuses” policy and the imminence of PARCC…and the longer they keep Racing, the surer they are to suffer it’s consequence(s), & the more severe and pervasive they will also be.

We are, as a district, in a unique position that affords us the opportunity to take our schools and lead them in a much different direction, paving the way for school systems across the country to follow. To be successful, we should point ourselves in that direction now, not by testing more often and closing public schools, but by strengthening them, making schools places of authentic and meaningful learning, where teachers are well-prepared and respected, and where principals are revered  as master teachers.                 ******************************************************************************************************************

The Indignant Teacher understands that tonight marks the candidate’s forum on education at the Boston Teachers Union hall. She hopes her former union reps realize that the key to ensuring optimal success for our schools lies not in asking questions about the unique candidate platforms, but rather it can only be realized by accurately informing the group about corporate reform, and by sharing messages like the one posted above. If this doesn’t happen at tonight’s forum, she will continue to seek ways to make sure it otherwise does – ideally well in time before our next Mayor takes Office in a couple of months.

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