"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Haunting Question

Finally, someone is asking the right question.

Diana Jean Schemo got off to a good start following in the footsteps of Michael Winerip. In the ON EDUCATION column in the New York Times, she raises a fundamental question regarding the results and the debate over a recent DOE study on private vs. public schools:

WHEN the federal Education Department recently reported that children in private schools generally did no better than comparable students at public schools on national tests of math and reading, the findings were embraced by teachers’ unions and liberals, and dismissed by supporters of school voucher programs.

But for many educators and policy makers, the findings raised a haunting question: What if the impediments to learning run so deep that they cannot be addressed by any particular kind of school or any set of in-school reforms? What if schools are not the answer?

For those of us who follow the media's reporting of No Child Left Behind with its emphasis on accountability for teachers and schools, testing and punitive consequences, it is refreshing to see that someone in the media is reframing the debate and bringing the real, practical issues regarding the war on teachers and educators by policy makers who have failed to address the economic and social issues that are directly linked to how well children perform in school.

Let this be a hopeful sign that as NCLB comes up for reauthorization, more and more Americans will begin to understand that teachers are not the problem. It's time for everyone to take responsibility for allowing lies and propaganda to poison the discourse and distract us from the very real issues facing of economic inequality, race and poverty that have permeated our society and make the job of teachers more difficult.

“It can’t just be a burden on the schools to do away with social inequality. It has to be a burden on all of us.” -- Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy

Public policy can be a complex and confusing topic for those who don't study these issues daily, but it doesn't take a policy wonk to understand the difference between right and wrong. It takes an educated population that knows how to ask those haunting, uncomfortable questions that challenge the status quo.

Diana Jean Schemo's question should be haunting all of us.

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