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Sunday, July 28, 2013

What is the Mission of Public Education? (And where does it stop?)

Reader Syd said this in a comment to Charlie's thread on Equitable School Funding:

Poverty is a real societal problem, and realistically the best place you can serve impoverished children is in a place they are mandated by law to attend. We should feed them, clothe them, doctor them, nurse them (it is different), and mentor them using schools as the center. That's not the schools mission you say? Change the mission.

I'm going to express some thoughts on this issue but please understand that they are a jumping off place for a conversation and not necessarily my opinion/belief.

1) Sentence one - that makes sense to me.  If students are not being adequately supported at home and given they are mandated to be in schools, should schools be the place to fill that void?  You'll notice I said "the place" and not that the district itself should necessarily organizing it and/or paying for it.
2) Sentence Two - what services?

Seattle Schools provides:
- food for F/RL students (breakfast and lunch) - And many teachers have expressed to me their concern for summer when they worry these children will not receive adequate food.

- health services - all 10 comprehensive high schools have a health center providing mental and physical health care.  These services are accessible for ALL students whose parents sign a release for treatment.  These are paid for via the Families and Education Levy and federal dollars for low-income students. 

-counselors - I am not sure where we are at with elementary and middle schools counselors in terms of numbers but they are there to help provide assistance with a wide variety of services especially for high-need students.

- ELL teaching for non-English speaking students

This is a federal mandate and rightly so.  As well, in Seattle there are a number of students who are older immigrant children and/or may not have been in a school before.  This is a different case than younger children who may have been in school previously.

But, I note that it seems to take much longer than I remember for younger children to come up to speed in English than in my own experience living on the Arizona-Mexico border.  How long should these services go on?  Should there be a set number of years? 

3) So what is the mission of public education?  Has it gotten taken over by testing, services, cultural competency, etc. to the point where teaching is almost secondary?  Or are we finally recognizing that there should be a "whole child" methodology where it isn't just about teaching? 

I note that on a recent News Roundup show on KUOW, one commentator was saying how great Bellevue Schools was doing with a lot more immigrant children.   Let's look the breakdown:

                              Bellevue                Seattle
Enrollment            18,500                   just under 50,000
Asian                           30%                18%
Black                             3%                18.5%
Hispanic                   10.5%                12.3%
White                        48.3%                43.4%
Two+ races                 7.9%                  5.7%
Native American           .3%                 1.2%
Pacific Islander              .2%                 19%
F/RL                          21.3%                43.2%
Special Ed                    8.9%               14.4%
ELL                              9.1%                10%

What's interesting about Bellevue is the concentration of poverty/ELL and Sped in just a few schools.  It may be where people live or Bellevue may be trying for economies of scale to provide services but it is glaring to see several schools with F/RL of 68-50% and Sped rates upward of 23% and then most of the rest of the schools are way down at 20% or below.  (I also noticed that Bellevue has a pretty even breakdown of white, Asian and Pacific Islander students in each school.) 

What I was glad to hear on KUOW was C.R. Douglas chiming in to say that Bellevue has fewer F/RL students and Sped.  As well, the people who immigrate to Bellevue are distinctly different from those who come to Seattle, both in poverty and parent level of education.  It makes for a different school district (but no one can claim that Bellevue is just a white, middle-class district today).

Should we change the mission?  Should there be a clear state/city/district distribution of duties rather than a less-than-clear and uneven level of services?  Maybe this is how the City could contribute to SPS. 

Thoughts?


42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll bite.

1.) Schools seem like the most convenient place to provide services - and they're empty most of the time.

2.) The link Uti shared on Charlie's thread had some interesting information. High quality preschool programs would be a good start. Volunteer tutoring and parent education programs offered in the evenings seem to be effective.

3.) Public education should prepare children to be productive, involved citizens with the ability to make good decisions. District administration seems to have lost track of that. They're focused exclusively on issues like equitable access and the achievement/opportunity gap. No word on the huge disservice they've done to every student with their choice of math curriculum. No hurry to replace it either.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

I think the mission of public education is to teach all children to think critically, learn how to learn new things, how to take on a challenge, and skills for the marketplace and further education. I think public education should allow opportunities for students at all levels, straight to marketplace or to elite colleges, otherwise elite colleges are only for those parents who can pay 300k for k-12 education, and that seems to me the fastest way to cement a ruler/peasant class system.

I think that's a big job. I also think poverty is a big problem here, and rising inequality and social immobility is the largest problem in our society right now. I think FRL is a great program, and is appropriately funded partly by the federal government, who I think should be taking care of the impoverished children in our schools so that the relatively poor school system can use all its meager resources on its enormous job. I think it's atrocious that we seem to have to pick between funding counselors and math teachers, but I guess since in this wa state funding world I have to pick, I pick math teachers, since not having math teachers means kids aren't getting educations, which is the job of sps. Other states don't have to make these choices-we are so underfunded. If we got back to funding basic educational levels (which includes advanced learning and arts at every school), then I think extra money could absolutely be prioritized to equalize the effects of poverty and inequality.

I agree that schools are great places to locate federal programs for needy kids.

I wish we had an income tax. Our funding levels are ridiculous. We are such a rich state, and we are going to lose all our tech jobs because we won't educate the next generation to have them.

-sleeper



Jon said...

I think the mission of public education is to educate children. This is complicated by the fact that a lot of things get in the way of educating children, not the least of which is hunger, illness, and lack of resources due to poverty, but the core mission is clear.

We are failing on that core mission. Only 45% of 10th graders in Seattle Public Schools pass standards on math. I hope everyone agrees that 90-95% of children should be passing standards on math, and all urgency should be on fixing that. A good first step would be replacing the grossly inadequate math textbooks used by this district and firing the people responsible for selecting them in the first place.

It might be worth talking about what the mission of public education should not be. Public schools should not have their primary mission be addressing economic or racial injustice, although a good education for children in poverty indirectly helps with that, because most of the people responsible for racial and economic injustice are not even in the public schools. If you attempt to make the public schools spend a lot of time teaching and talking on those issues when basic reading and math skills are still absent, not only will you not improve the problem in larger society, but also you will cause test scores to drop, ultimately hurting education and increasing economic inequality when children come out of public schools without the skills they need.

Ideally, public education would focus on giving children as many chances as it could for children to get the best education they can. At a minimum, that should mean strong reading and math skills, as those are the tools children can use to learn anything else they want to learn. In terms of addressing the problems caused by poverty, ideally, school would run year-around (no summer vacation means no summer learning loss), be available (activities, not necessarily classes) for children 8am - 6pm every day including weekends, and include free food and free clinics for all children, all of which have proven very effective against the problems caused by poverty when tried in other schools. But, if we are talking about the core mission, basic math and reading skills has to be it, and the fact that we are doing so poorly providing those right now means we are failing in our core mission.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jon, I would, in theory agree with your summation.

Where does poverty come into learning and what should public education do to mitigate its effects on that learning (so as to achieve the outcomes you desire)?

Charlie Mas said...

Jon, what if the obstacles to education are hunger, pain, or fear? How can the school fulfill its role to educate without addressing those obstacles?

For students who don't live in poverty we are approaching your target success rates while the pass rates for FRL students are thirty percentage points lower.

Jon said...

Charlie, summer learning loss alone accounts for 2/3rds of the achievement gap; most of the issue with lower pass rates for FRL would be addressed if we had year-around school. The remainder of the achievement gap has been successfully addressed at other schools with longer school hours, free food, and free clinics, as I said.

The solution to the problem is known. But, because they cost more money, people keep trying other things, most of which are distractions. The biggest of these distractions in public schools is curriculums focused on economic and racial equality at the expense of basic reading and math, which is doomed to failure, not only because hurting poor children's education worsens economic inequality, but also because the people most responsible for inequality are not even in public schools.

The core mission has to be education, not equality. The target should be basic reading and math skills, with pass rates on reading and math of 90-95% at the 10th grade. Reading and math are core tools children can use to learn anything they want, but right now many are missing those tools. We should be giving every child the basic tools of reading and math. Everything else is a distraction.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jon, please let current Board members and candidates know how you feel. If they knew they could stand firm on a very narrow mission, they might just do it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jon that the current math curriculum is completely inadequate. Parental requests for improvement are ignored and now administrators say they need to study it for two more years to align with Common Core.

At what point will SPS knuckle down and fix the math? How many more students will drop out of high school because they do not have skills to progress any further?

Melissa suggests contacting Board Members but some of us have done this for the past decade with no traction.

With better curricula SPS would attract more families and generate funds to provide additional services to all. Private schools attract wealth and more of those families might consider SPS if they had confidence in the academics.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Jon for bringing in this important variable. It was extra special when Seattle did away with summer school.

Although the studies are clear that summer learning loss occurs, it is unclear if the remedy (modified school year) works. Because one to three months are lost over the summer, the math suggests that this could be the source of two thirds of the achievement gap. However, the (admittedly the-jury's-out) results of year round schooling do not appear to erase the achievement gap by any significant measure.

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/carss_education/files/extended_day_cooper.pdf

There is clear evidence that living in the stresses of poverty have neurological effects on the brain.
Furthermore, the issues of the vocabulary gap, ways parents talk to (rather than with) their children, lack of enrichment opportunities that provide the background knowledge in reading, and poor nutrition are all correlated with low socioeconomic levels. I always note the contrast between the large number of students with asthma at high FRL compared to the schools with low FRL where I've taught (often no students with asthma). It is a literal metaphor for the effects of poverty on students, in many ways.

It would be great if summer school could be the magic pill to erase the achievement gap, but the results so far show that this issue is far more complex.

What Charlie said is correct. You can teach reading and math, but a hungry child or a homeless child will likely have a very different cognitive response to the material than one who is secure.

My own belief is that the best antidote for the effects of poverty would be for schools to have a systemic approach with the community--healthcare, quality childcare, universities, private foundations (maybe paying for summer school), etc. Some of this seems to be going on at Bailey Gatzert. Schools are always a microcosm of society, and society doesn't tend to solve problems systemically.

I'm not sure where the curriculum is all about economic and racial injustice, but maybe I'm out of the loop. My experience has been that everything except the 3 Rs is at risk of being taken out of many schools.

--enough already

Jon said...

Enough Already, that study is about modified calendars (distributing one long break into several shorter ones), not about year-around school. Modified calendars is yet another attempt to find a solution that doesn't involve spending more money, as it merely spreads the vacations across the year to avoid increasing the number of school days, doing nothing to prevent the time out of school (by increasing the length of the school year). As the study itself says, "modified calendars may simply substitute several periods of loss for one."

There may be no magic pill, but there are ways to fix the achievement gap, ways that have been shown to work. The problem is they cost more money.

Let's get back to the topic. This is supposed to be about the primary mission of public schools. The primary mission of public schools should not be to address equality. The primary mission of public schools should be to educate children. Right now, with 10th grade pass pass rates at 45%, Seattle Public Schools is failing miserably to educate children, and fixing that should be the mission and priority.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

I agree with you that a longer school year would be optimal. However, you had specifically cited summer learning loss, and the article is a response to that point.

I addressed the role of a systemic approach to schools as the antidote to the achievement gap. You had stated that: "The remainder of the achievement gap has been successfully addressed at other schools with longer school hours, free food, and free clinics, as I said." Then you tell me to get back to the topic. Nice.

The drug cocktail (integrated services, that we both agree on) has had the best results in helping to eradicate the achievement gap. My approach of including the larger community (including foundations) would take much of the financial burden off the schools alone. It also would take the excuse away from doing nothing by blaming it on a lack of funding for schools.

You can't educate students without believing they should have equality of opportunity. You can't teach students who are hungry, homeless or in trauma if you ignore their basic needs. These things are also research validated, as well as ethical.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

I think the issue we're discussing is not whether these services should be provided - it's whether they are included in the mission of our public schools.
I say no - they are the responsibility of the city/county/state/federal governments. If those entities want the school districts to provide additional services - they need to provide funds for them.

enough already - the curriculum is not all about economic and racial injustice. Those are the focus of central administration - and they are neglecting their actual responsibilities to study and discuss these issues.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

I have trouble with the 45% 10th grade pass rate statistic being used without considering the qualifier of poverty. If you remove that qualifier, our pass rates are higher than 45%. That is NOT to say we shouldn't try to do better by our students who are living with the complications that come with poverty and who, consequently may be struggling academically. We absolutely should. But it's inaccurate to use that statistic without context.

Ideally those wraparound services would be available in schools to students who need them. But, like many have pointed out, that takes funding. It also takes having invested adults who can see the need, assess the services and follow up on them continuously.

-katy.did

Anonymous said...

This is a predictably naive conversation, especially given the other similar postings. Here's the deal. The plurality of the students in SPS are impoverished. The school MUST deal with it. What is the point of public education if it doesn't deal with huge number of impoverished students, and the educational needs they have? No, the school system doesn't have to duplicate government services - but it does need to do whatever it needs to, to provide an educational environment for students living in poverty. More than 40% do. The biggest thing students are missing is support for academics from home. Most school assignments, and indeed the entirety of the school experience - generally assumes that a student gets a lot of support at home. That assumption is false. Just think of something as basic as homework. If there's nobody at home to make sure it "sinks in" or even "gets done" then that doesn't happen for FRL students. This isn't about the breakfast. Schools need to provide complete instruction, that is, it must assume NOTHING of parents. And no, Charlie has it all wrong when he says the school has to provide the "place". Schools are already available for community use as a space, and so are community centers. That misses the point. It must provide instruction that assumes nothing of the parents - because many of them have nothing left to give.

People like Lynne think schools are just for her kids. Somehow we have plenty of funding for language immersion, IB/AP programs (to sort of lure white middle class students into schools that have so far been otherwise ndesirable to them.) These programs generally have reduced class size, and certainly never the 40+ that some schools have. Science teachers wail that you can't teach secondary science with class sizes greater than 25. Guess what? No funding has been provided to those kids for that reduced class size. It's all fine and good to want the best for your 1 set of kids, but that thinking limits the purupose of public education, and for no good other reason - other than to provide relatively well off students a pretty good deal.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Children not in poverty are also suffering from poor math. The remedial rate for math in colleges is quite high and many science and math professors at the University of Washington have complained about the poor level of math preparation of incoming freshmen.

I agree that poverty influences the ability of students to learn. However, it should not be used as an excuse for the school district to postpone better curricula.

S parent

Anonymous said...

No, the schools are not responsible for fixing poverty themselves. They're also not responsible for giving us all universal healthcare, equal pay for equal work, and reducing corporate influence on our food supply chains. They are responsible for educating students- getting them to think critically and learn how to learn, teach them math and reading. They are there for Lynn's kids. And mine, and the FRL kids and everybody else's. You can't just decide that because you aren't getting one area right (sped, or impoverished students), you're going to forget abut trying for the others until that's done to everyone's specifications. You have to educate all the children. Schools alone cannot address inequality, and there will always be better prepared students, either because they have a knack for it, or their parents are rich, or maybe because their parents are poor and want to take advantage of them getting an education. Those kids deserve a pathway, not a community center that won't teach them math.

I wouldn't mind no homework in elementary, but that's what my kids have mostly had-no homework. We can try to deal with some of the effects of poverty- more instructional days (ea's study was only a meta analysis mostly of different schedules with the same low number of days), or starting school later in middle and high school helps all kids as much as having an exceptional teacher that year, and twice as much for disadvantaged kids. http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jrockoff/papers/092011_organize_jacob_rockoff_paper.pdf

I don't know about assuming nothing of parents. Many parents are always going to help their children, and I don't think we actually want to discourage that, whether or not we actually could. Instead we should support parents who cannot currently support their children in other ways- better social safety net, sure, foundational support sounds great (in theory- who? Why aren't they involved now? Doesn't this blog generally frown on foundation money, at least in education?), universal health care, making sure education is actually fully funded and does its job so that their children are not trapped by virtue of using the public schools.

-sleeper

Jon said...

Enough Already, no one is saying we should ignore basic needs. But the mission of public schools should be education, not addressing poverty.

Specifically, the measure has to be educational outcomes. That 45% pass rate in 10th grade math is dismal. We should do whatever it takes to raise that. Whatever it takes almost certainly will include changes to help with children in poverty including extended hours and other things you, I, Parent, and others said here. But, despite being forced to address issues around poverty, the mission of public schools and the goal of public schools should be education, not equality.

And, Parent, your predictably naive rant about wealthy people ignores that the source of most economic and racial equality is outside of our public schools. You aren't going to fix inequality by kicking all the middle class and rich out of public schools. In any case, public schools are for everyone, not just your kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There are always those that think they are the smartest people in the room and you can usually figure out, in any given thread, who that is. Geez, have a little measure in your tone.

Doesn't this blog generally frown on foundation money, at least in education?

Nope, and I'd like you to find where Charlie or I said that. I don't even have a problem with strings.

I DO have a problem with strings that make the endeavor too personnel heavy and take attention away from other programs.

I DO have a problem with foundations that - again - think they are always the smartest, rightest people in any room. Not truth and the varied thoughts at this blog show that. I have heard more ideas here than I ever had from the Gates Foundation. And would take the word over a parent with student in public schools over Bill Gates any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Of course the mission of education is education! Since the measures clearly indicate that students living in poverty are not learning like other students, then clearly there needs to be a change in paradigm. The problem is systemic.

Sounds like you are seeking some equality of opportunity to me.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

All the Ed deform, gates foundation, anti-Rehm etc stuff. I don't know of a lot of good educational foundations, and I wonder if anti poverty foundations typically have the same issues- solving the wrong problems. I know in my past job(domestic violence victim advocacy), the big money foundations tended to field similar accusations.

I reread mine and everyone else's comments, and as far as I can tell every single one of them appears convinced they are as smart as possible, though typically defensive after mud got slung. The idea is to come up with a sweeping philosophy of education! Sort of invites pedantry.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Just saw this informative and relevant article:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/status-and-stress/?hp

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Jon, what makes you assume anything about me? We certainly could do a lot to ameliorate the effects of poverty in schools, but we choose not to focus on that. Instead we see parents claiming all sorts of entitlements that benefit their own individual circumstances. Additionally, these same people prefer to imagine nothing else is even possible as some sort of justification. Nobody is saying that schools will fix poverty right now, or that it should duplicate services, the idea is that public education can lift the kids out of poverty in the future by providing education. But it has to actually make that a priority.

Parent

Jon said...

Melissa, that was a bad attempt at a joke, reusing "predictably naive" and "not just her kids" from Parent's comment. Sorry, didn't mean to participate in the nasty tone, just trying to get Parent to cool it (though clearly it didn't work).

Enough Already, glad we agree the mission of Seattle Public Schools is education, not fixing poverty or equality. The mission of Seattle Public Schools should be to make sure every child gets a good education. At a minimum, that should mean strong reading and math, well beyond 45% pass rates.

I don't agree with Sleeper that this is irrelevant. We are not trying to solve all of education's problems. The mission sets priorities, especially if there are objective measures of success. If the primary goal of the district was 90% pass rates in reading and math with a secondary goal of increasing average test scores, that would change what principals do, what teachers do, and how funds are budgeted. But, right now, pass rates of 50-60% are considered acceptable (or at least not urgent to fix) and every year we turn nearly half the children in our public schools into adults without the education they need to succeed.

Anonymous said...

What now? What did I say was irrelevant?

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The idea is to come up with a sweeping philosophy of education!"

No, the idea was to try to narrow and focus what it is that public education should be doing and what it can be doing.

Anonymous said...

That's semantics, though. Writing a mission statement for public education requires a philosophy of education, which may or may not be narrower than what we are currently doing. There are clearly some different philosophies of education on here(value of testing, what is "basic," what we require of students before they come in the door, what the end goal is)though my guess is each one of us would vote the same on, say, raising taxes or expanding the social safety net. I don't think you can talk a out a mission for public schools without talking about those, which is why I think everyone on here (and I would definitely balk if you were just accusing me particularly of this) sounded like an amateur speechwriter.


-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Jon, the mission of every public school is to increase pass rates. Where have you been? That's already the mission. Nobody gets any increase kudo, a master teacher designation, nor is AYP effected if average scores are improved, but kids still "fail". The fact that passing tests, is in fact, the A number 1 complaint against the whole NCLB thing. Improvement isn't measured - only "pass rates" are measured. But that also misses the point. I don't think schools are sitting around thinking... "Gee it's great that 1/2 our students are failing". Most of them are working pretty hard to get students over the hump. But, the reality is that the system doesn't support schools in this effort, because the effort requires a different way of teaching, and of funding learning.

And, by the way, where do you get the idea that 90-95% of students should really be passing the state tests? How did you come up with that particular figure? Why not 85%? Why not 60%? Clearly, we expect some people to fail the tests don't we? What kind of test would we be giving, if everybody could pass it? I mean, the test would be too easy, if everybody could pass it, right? The only real question is: How many people should fail the tests?.... and the followup question: Who should they be?

Parent

mirmac1 said...

The purpose of schools is not to create female athletes as strong as male. However, it is also not acceptable for schools to use public funds to perpetuate what was a discriminatory, inequitable situation before Title IX. I believe this applies to public education and poverty. Don't use my taxes to maintain the pernicious imbalance between the haves and have-nots. If we want a robust and prosperous society, we must do what we can to help students learn. Just like we must ensure everyone has access to healthcare. To do anything else is unworthy of the "greatest nation" on the planet.

Unknown said...

A side note: there is a mathematical error in the demographic statistics for Pacific Islanders. The number should be something closer to 0.7%, not 19% for Seattle Public Schools. This would make it add up closer to 100% not 118%.

Anonymous said...

Go parent and enough already! For more whys?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/25/the-cost-of-child-poverty-500-billion-a-year/

We are #2, just behind Romania for childhood poverty among world's wealthiest.

Ah yes, those other agencies will fix everything else while SPS fixes its math curriculum. And no more equality and social justice curriculum (can't find it on SPS website). Life's good, no?

#2sucks

Anonymous said...

Iceland and Finland are the countries with the lowest rates of child poverty. How do they do it?

Parental leave at 80% pay for 12 (Iceland) or 16 months (Sweden.)
Subsidized childcare from 12 months to seven years old.
The ability to cut your work hours by up to 25% after your parental leave is used up.

Supporting parents so they can prepare their children for academic success seems to be the key.

Lynn



Anonymous said...

Iceland and Finland don't have "gifted" programs. You would hate it Lynne. Equity is a core value.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Many countries against whom we compare ourselves have education systems where there are different paths around the time kids enter high school (or equivilent). One path is more academic, one is more apprenticeship/trade oriented. So I always wonder about these high test scores we compare ourselves to -- are we comparing ALL US students against just the academic cohort/track in Scandinavia, Europe and Asia? That's so far from apples to apples, it makes any comparison meaningless.

And many studies show that if you remove for poverty, and test comparable socio-economic groups, US tests higher than these countries to which we compare ourselves. (ex http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html )

-sps mom

Anonymous said...

Finland has test in programs for high performers, but they are language focused, rather than math and science(immersion schools). Iceland tracks, and by mid what we would consider high school sends many students off to vocational school. And nearly half drop out. It also has incredible racism problems, and definitely does not have equity as a core value, unless you mean equity for white men who have lived there for 400 years. it is an amazing place to visit and does great things for itself by way of its social safety net, but does not have a stellar educational system overall. It solves poverty both by being different than us (homogenous, small, able to just say they won't pay debts or fund a giant military) and by improving on the social safety net. Definitely not by giving up on advanced learning and community involvement in schools, hoping that would fix the effects of undue influence of big money on government and a regressive tax structure.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

How do they do it?

Finland is much smaller (population 5M) and less diverse than the US. They have a higher cost of living. Taxes are higher. The top marginal tax rate of 49% kicks in at an income around $87,000 (2012 figures).

not comparable

Syd said...

Hi!

Thanks for the chance to talk about this some more.

Reading through this reaffirms some of my thoughts on this.

One of the big ones is that we need to address these problems not only on the "whole child" level, but also on the "whole community" level. I love Jon's idea: " school would run year-around (no summer vacation means no summer learning loss), be available (activities, not necessarily classes) for children 8am - 6pm every day including weekends, and include free food and free clinics for all children." All children.

The problem I see is people thinking the pot is only so big, so we can't have both math and art, counselors and new curriculum, APP and anything else. OK yes, the pot of money SPS has is only so big. We should all be, and many of us are, working on better funding models.

However, what about working on alternatives? What about opening the schools physical plant so that other entities can offer some of the other things we know are important for every child in that central location.

What if the arts organizations worked on funding art programs in schools from 3 - 4 everyday knowing they had a place to do it. Or the Pacific Science Center (whose mission includes education) was given space on Saturdays. Or a mobile dentist visited schools on a rotation (don't laugh, this happened a Beacon Hill when my son was there pre International school..they came because of the high FRL %..but we all benefited...very convenient).

It is so important that these services be available for all children. Providing the same services for all children, means that people hoping to find the environment that suits the learning needs of their own child do not see the only possible funding for those needs as the programs they are not personally and currently benefiting from.

As I said in the original referenced post, or meant to say, it is human nature to expect benefits for our exertions. If we pay into the Social Security fund, the purpose of which is to act as a safety net for impoverished elderly citizens, we expect that we will also benefit..even if not impoverished. The benefits need to be direct and clear. It is not enough that we benefit from civic entities like libraries or transportation infrastructure, while someone else receives SNAP benefits - that to each according to his needs thing is a bit to amorphous. So, in my somewhat tortured analogy, if everyone gets Saturday activities, the chances that the funding will be cut are less.

I want to end on something I have noticed in my neighborhood. Our neighborhood school for my rising kindergarten student will be Hawthorne elementary - labeled one of the worst schools in the state. As such, for several years they have been the recipient of a fair amount of additional funds. Some really awesome things are happening - lots of "extra" services that benefit all the children. Many, many middle class parents are drawn to the school these days by those "extras." Eventually the population will change, the %FRL will decrease, the test scores will increase, and Hawthorne will no longer have the funding to provide those "extras." The school will still be at risk, there will still be FRL kids, and the possibility exists that without those extra programs neighborhood interest will decline (lots of middle income families in my neighborhood choose private/independent schools), and Hawthorne will be right back where it started. What if we could keep those "extras" at Hawthorne? What difference would that make?

Anonymous said...

Sps Mom, here's a great article comparing gifted ed across Europe. Finland does not provide ‘gifted’ education per se. All children are included in the same classroom with few exceptions. No, Finland has nothing comparable to our AL programs. Yes, there's a couple of foreign language immersion programs, private and public, in high school in Helsinki. But, there's no state definition of "giftedness" and no special track. No identification process.

Within schools, Finland offers a variety of provisions that gifted students can benefit from.[]... Schools have been encouraged to draft more individual curricula. The curricular redesign allows teaching in schools to be more differentiated. This differentiation of education is a general policy issue and therefore for all students, but it can be seen as providing an advantage for the gifted and talented pupils.

There is no testing, and all participation in any advanced learning is modest and voluntary.

We can all look at Finland. But really, it's another smallish homogenous population with like-minded people, complete with a large safety net society. That simply isn't what we find here.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Parent,

Maybe as a society we should create a larger safety net. Isn't that what we've been talking about? Tutoring, counseling, medical services and meals provided to children at school. Those are a part of that safety net.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Lynne, if we as a society don't elect to have larger safety net, which so far we haven't, then that obligation falls to the school - because it is still necessary for education. And more than 40% of students showing up to public schools need something different than what they're offered. And no, I really think very little is about the health-care or the free food. Heck, lots of the FRL students are actually obese. The problem is the education, not the availability of food.

Parent

Anonymous said...

Parent,

You can't just increase the scope of a school's mission without increasing it's funding. If we choose not to fund those services, we're telling the schools and the students those things are not our priority. I'd be happy to raise property taxes or enact an income tax to pay for these new services. Would you?

Lynn

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I just think that the system of a public education should not be stop because all of the main concern about this is towards the goods of public students to learned in a perspective way. Maybe there might be some good reason why it should stop and that was so important to know so far. Well, I could also see base on the percentage tabulation you gathered on different schools that their is something that needs to be develop as well.

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