Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Education is about kids, right?

Governor Carcieri pointed to six things he has accomplished or is working on to improve our schools 1. In the past year new standards have been instituted for reading and math in grades three through eight. 2.I initiated with the Department of Education the establishment of minimum standards of achievement for high school graduation. 3.We passed legislation requiring higher standards for teacher certification and professional expertise. 4.Moving forward, I have called for developing teams of specialists in math and reading to assist the school districts with teacher training. 5.I'm very enthused about beginning a new principal training and mentoring program to provide the future leadership for our schools. 6.The Board of Regents has proposed a longer school day for some districts. This will provide more class time for students and more professional development time for teachers. So to summarize he's working on three standards related issues, three staff development issues, and one administrative issue(longer school days). I have some serious problems with this. From the numerous reading I have done on education reform, I see very little of this: community-to-school relationship building, and in the case of Providence relationship creating. I like this analogy. The governor is basically telling a basketball player: I'm increasing the amount of points you should earn, I'm hiring someone to train your coach to coach you better, and practice is going to be longer. If you don't look at the needs of the basketball player, raising standards, helping his coach, or working him harder are going to amount to very small, if not negligible increase in his performance. And it really is about performance isn't it? The governor said it's about the kids...but what of these issues seems kid-driven? Which of these seem like they were produced with the help of kids? None to me. What's lost in all of this is the fact that education is as much culture related as anything. In communities where excellence is expected, excellence is done. In those same communities, instead of the principal saying "we don't have money to fix the roof" you and I will have a referendum on the ballot asking if we will support a bond-issue to repair the roof at such-and-such highschool. Until we build that type of culture in Providence, the improvements will be minor and most children will continue to get lost in the shuffle. I commend the governor on his initiatives, but the human element is sorely lacking.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the Rhode Island schools, especially the Providence ones, are in abysmal conditions. Basically, the only way to raise money for education is to raise taxes; this seems to be the most viable solution. Unfortunately, no one wants to increase taxes.

Another solution would be the equal (or need-based, actually) distribution of funding via a unified school district. If Los Angeles, which is the size of Rhode Island, can have one school district, so can we.

What do you think? Is there a better way?

1/21/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

One school district is an interesting idea. I can see the need and reasoning in LA, but not in RI as we have 39 different municipalities, none beholden to the others. Creating a schemata that would 'fairly' distribute education funds would be a nightmare.

The General Assembly has assembled (hehe) a commission to look at ways we can fund education differently than the current system.

But I really don't believe that funding is the biggest problem.

I think the biggest problem we have is the curriculum not matching the needs of the student. We have a large immigrant population in Providence...the school should address that in tangible ways not just ESL classes. We need more culture classes that help acclimate, not assimilate, children to US Society.

Couple that with more peer evaluation/conjunction and you can begin to build a culture of learning, which is almost like a curse-phrase in Providence.

Standards a cool, more money is great, but in order to sustain major behavioral change, in this case better prepared students, you must produce a mindset change within the school system itself from admins to students.

1/22/2005 08:52:00 AM  

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