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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: Pennsylvania is failing Philly's schools – so, close the schools?

Students walk the halls at De Burgos Elementary School. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

by Daun Kauffman
Daun Kauffman is  North Philadelphia public school teacher. This article is posted on his blog  LucidWitness.com

December 28, 2015

The Pennsylvania Senate's effort to amend the PA School Code (H.B. 530), is part of the backroom wrangling over our state budget.

Senate amendments to the bill require the state to directly take over or close five individual schools every year. This Senate incursion into education is a textbook example of aggression and obstruction with no advance intelligence, no input, from "frontline ground troops." So politicians with uninformed philosophies push more and more state bureaucracy into sectors where the state is ignorant and, in fact, failing.

It is impossible to continue silently enduring simplistic views of learning and teaching practice (by non-practitioners) and simplistic "solution pills" to "fix" or increase learning, which instead continue generating more and more collateral damage: academic damage, systemic damage, financial damage, social damage, personal damage, and more.

Newsflash: There is no simplistic, quick fix, or someone would have done it long ago! In fact, Pennsylvania took over the School District of Philadelphia 15 years ago already! The state's record of academic decline, and their consistent record of precise underfunding of Philadelphia in particular, is a prime cause of our condition, a contrived disaster.

Ask yourself: After 15 years of state management, is the School District of Philadelphia better off today or worse off?

Now politicians want to go even further? The Senate proposes a required micro-management (or closure) from the state level of the five "worst" schools in Philadelphia.

All for the sake of negotiating a state budget?

I ask, "What secret solution does the state have?"

There are no capital programs, no curriculum programs, no books, no supplies, no teacher incentives or punishments, no longer hours, no charter business plans, and no "common core" or "standardized" testing program nor even school closings that start at the center of the learning process. Instead they all focus on the periphery.

The learners, children, are the center. Children are people. It takes highly trained, highly competent people to work with people — with 30 people, in one room, all day, every day, while facilitating learning. Whether we choose to view the truth, or adopt the pol's simplistic view of people (children and teachers) as 'widgets' will determine success and failure.

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