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Isues in Ed, Thank you (long)


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Jul 12 2003 - 20:36:50 PDT

Dear List,

I originally wrote this on July 4th, just when the Getty went down. I was
thinking about Independence day and what it means. I'm going to cut and
paste from my original message.

I want to thank all of you who answered my question about the important
issues in education. Your answers were very important for me, since almost
everybody I tried to contact locally let me down. When I presented your
ideas to my class, I reminded them that we have to think outside our small
worlds. I live and work in a pretty privileged area and sometimes we forget
our issues can be a little less critical compared to some areas of the
country. Perhaps the most eye-opening statement I presented was from the
person that wrote to me:
> . I teach in a district that is primarly Native
> American Lakota Sioux. We are also the third poorest county in the States.
> We have a lot of poverty and all the educational problems that can go with
> it including a 70% High School drop out rate. Our district has gone through
> a modernization process in which progressive thinking has embraced whole
> language and current best practices in teaching. All this effort has now
> been put on a hold so we can attempt to meet the new testing mandates. If
> mandates cannot be meet, the schools are face with budget cuts, which we
> felt a 20% cut this coming year
Nobody where I live can imagine a 70% drop out rate.

The results of my survey were predictable. The number one issue is money and
funding, followed by standardized testing and the implications of No Child
Left Behind. The costs and demands of Special Ed are a major concern where I
am, but did not show up as frequently in the comments you sent to me. The
next biggest issue is teacher training-
> . We are not always getting the best and the brightest kids to go into
> education.We need to find a way to keep them.
The remaining comments were about parents, student apathy, and the
structuring of the school day. There was also some concern for respecting
teachers as professionals who know their job and know what to do.

I tend to think a bit more futuristically. I am interested in how
technology can really serve us. Just one example. Have you ever looked at
the multitude of filing cabinets that keep student records? What a
wasteland. How often do those records get really looked at unless there is
problem? What if those records were put into a program that you could easily
pull up as a file? What if, say you are a third grade teacher, and you pull
up a file on Johnny Jones and Johnny's second teacher says Johnny really
excelled at solving such and such a problem in this way, but has
difficulties with... Or take it another step. What if a program could be
developed for each child that truly addresses their needs. Drill exercises
could be designed to their individual needs and they go through it and
through it until they "get" it. That would take care of the standardized
test for requirements and the teacher time could be spent on creative and
critical thinking. We have barely touched the surface of the implications
of technology - let's use it for more than research and surfing.
I am also very interested in brain research and the fact that we may be on
the verge of some very significant discoveries about learning and how
learning is accomplished. Last week I read an article in the NY Times about
applying electro-magnetic "shocks" to the brain that caused significant
increases in cognition. Who knows what the result will be? We may all be
walking around with caps on with the "impulse " to places that we hardly
ever go to. Who knows?

As far as NCLB goes, sometimes I think So what if it all falls apart? I
understand the politics and the stupidity of this act, but here we are in
2003 scrambling and scared about the outcome in 2014. What may happen in 10
years? What may be discovered? Maybe instead of acting scared, we should
just act. Maybe it is time we did some serious looking at what we do and not
look back or try to 'maintain" but look forward. If I look at NCLB in the
most optimistic way I can, at least it is making us stop and consider some
practices and try to consider how those practices can be improved. There is
no "same old, same old" anymore.
If the founding fathers read NCLB they would cringe and as a matter of fact
Bush may be cringing himself. We need to be developing truly innovative
and creative ways to meet educational needs. I guess my biggest concern, my
biggest issue in education is the lack of creative thinking. (I'll
paraphrase what someone wrote to me) Kids go to school because they have to.
And that's how they view it. Nothing says they have to cooperate in the
process. Teachers teach and kids resist. We need to think about WHY they
want to go to school. School has become a necessary evil rather than a
joyful pursuit.
When I think about NCLB, I think there are a lot more of us around than them
(whoever the them are that wrote this thing). A couple of states have said
to the feds - we don't care about your money, we are not going along with
this. We need the courage to say this is stupid instead of going along.
Think like the founding fathers -- analyze it, defend it/reject it, consider
all the implications
Since I first wrote this on July 4th I continue to be very worried about the
doom and gloom enveloping all of us in the education business. I sometimes
feel like the factory worker who has been told the plant in moving to
Mexico. I don't know what will become of it all, but am optimistic that
wiser minds will prevail.
Thanks again to all of you that helped me with my survey. You are good