Sunday, March 23, 2008

The First Step Is To Admit You Have A Problem

To soothe the bruised egos of educators and children in lackluster schools, Massachusetts officials are now pushing for kinder, gentler euphemisms for failure.

Instead of calling these schools "underperforming," the Board of Education is considering labeling them as "Commonwealth priority," to avoid poisoning teacher and student morale.

Schools in the direst straits, now known as "chronically underperforming," would get the more urgent but still vague label of "priority one."

Coming up with cute euphemisms for your problem doesn't count.

It takes the 17-year-old student member of the board to cut through the crap and become the voice of reason crying out from the wilderness:

"Why are we spending time on this?," said the 17-year-old. "I don't want to tiptoe around the issue. I'm not concerned about what title we give these schools. Let's work on fixing them."


Truth to power.

9 comments:

Pomoprophet said...

doesnt that silly student know that political correctness is the highest virture? We're not supposed to educate students, just make them FEEL like they're educated!

neko said...

It reminds me of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

It takes a young man to point out to everybody else that the Emperor is naked.

Ronnie said...

That was like the time when we spent so much time on the ESLER's and made them so complicated no one will ever remember them. We spent hours and made a worthless set of buzzwords worse. When do you need to have them used again, this year or next?

allen (from Michigan) said...

> Coming up with cute euphemisms for your problem doesn't count.

If you insist on the assumption that the public education system is first an education system and then public but the action of the school board points to the opposite conclusion; the public education system is first public, i.e. political, and then educational.

The 17 year-old member, being politically naive, doesn't understand that making substantive changes is difficult, burdensome and inevitably invites political resistance and turmoil. A name-change provides the appearance of change, of responding to a problem, without the baggage associated with performing the function for which you were elected.

That assumes that a name-change isn't substantive and there are certainly instance in which the choice of name is substantive. You might be willing to be seen driving an Impala but how much less likely would you be to buy the same car if it were named "Cow"? Appearance does matter and perception is important.

Besides, in the article we see that "a handful of superintendents from across the state complained that the label underperforming unfairly casts blame on educators". Should the political body that oversees public education in Massachusetts ignore the complaints of officials as important in public education as superintendents? You'd certainly have to give them a hearing since an issue that's important enough to them can't be dismissed out of hand. The elected officials, not education professionals generally, would certainly give some weight to the concerns of group of high-ranking education professionals.

I'm not so much trying to defend the name-change as worthwhile as I'm trying to point out that this is exactly the sort of thing that's inevitable if you have a school board, i.e. a political body, in charge of education.

Darren said...

Ronnie, good call. I think the "visit" is next week.

Allen, you've correctly pointed out how it *is*. Doesn't make it right, and we shouldn't accept crap just because that's what we currently get.

Here in California, plenty of educational constituencies fought our State Board of Education over our content area standards. The Board heard them, then implemented the standards anyway--and it was the right call.

Sometimes, leadership--which I *do* expect from elected officials, even though I'm so often disappointed--requires us to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.

Ms Bart said...

I'm a Massachusetts resident who doesn't have children. I hate how the school system's spend! I'm going to call my state legislator later today to suggest that my school district use 'falha' for underperforming. (It's the word 'fail' in Portugeuse and my town's school system are being stretched to the limits with illegal Brazilian immigrants.)

So much time, energy and money are being spent on make 'failures' into 'opportunities'. Why don't we just fix the problems?

Ellen K said...

It's part of the same mentality of appeasing parents with every kid getting a trophy. I teach high school art and every year when the district show rolls around, there are teachers who want the show to be non-juried. I can see that for elementary shows, maybe even sixth grade middle school shows, but the kids that are in high school that are entering are supposedly heading for art related majors in college. Having a juried show gives them an unbiased assessment of their talent, or lack thereof. I don't know how those kids in non-judgmental types of competitions (LOL....where people don't compete)are going to survive the often brutal freshman level critiques given by art professors. I've been there, I've done that, I've seen teachers that made boys cry. But there's always some element that wants everyone to win. Sorry, life's not like that.

Polski3 said...

I heard an interesting bit yesterday on the John and Ken Show, on radio station KFI outta LA......a guy who did a study of other educational systems and why they are getting ahead.....something about Two Million wasted minutes in young peoples lives in the US when compared to their peers in other nations. He said, (Robert somebody, I haven't googles Two Million Minutes yet), pointed out that in places like China and India, the results of a lack of education hit you in the face everytime you leave your home, and that parents were better advocates in their children's education.

Mister Teacher said...

This is very interesting, because it just so happens that I currently work at a "Yellow Lilly" school, which only last year was classified "Metallic Sheen."
Our principal has been making threats all year long about how we can't afford to let our test scores drop even one point, otherwise we will be rerated the dreaded "Jelly Dinosaur."