Thursday, April 01, 2010

Business Take Over

I've been wracking my brain trying to pinpoint the time education stopped being about education and started being about business and I cannot pin point any time, so I am guessing the change must have been so gradual, so slow in taking place that it just slipped in, past everyone who knows anything about education.

I'm old. I started teaching in 1973. I just squeezed in to the field before Tier I went away to make room for Tier II. Here comes the old lady part, the reminiscing about days of old and remembering how much better they were.

Back then, I taught in probably one of the worst schools in the city, Julia Richman HS. I didn't realize how bad it was until schools started closing in the early 80's and this was one of the first ones to go. Even back then, general and commercial diplomas were a thing of the past, but there were standards. Kids passed certain courses and if I remember correctly, there was a difference between a regents diploma and a non regents one. Kids who weren't college bound took courses in arithmetic, pre-algebra and business math. We taught what the kids needed to learn to survive in life. We had a college bound program for kids who needed that little bit of extra help to succeed. The kids in the basic arithmetic classes had other classes along side and we always tried to move them ahead. Our AP, (not a likable person), was a brilliant teacher and a very concerned educator. She always taught the bottom level classes and looked for ways to move the kids to a higher level. But, she also knew that some kids could never get past where they were and looked for other ways to help them succeed.

Some time, in the mid 70's RCTs (regents competency exams) were introduced. These exams required basic competence in math, reading and writing. While not as difficult as the regents exams, they did require the student to know quite a bit to be able to pass. No calculators were permitted on the math exams. I remember marking the writing exams and seeing the kids had to write a business letter and a persuasive essay. Many kids had trouble doing this and standards were lowered and the state decided to do away with these exams and have everyone take the regents. When regents exams proved too difficult, they made the exams easier to pass. Still, with all of this, there was no talk of statistics and teachers not doing their jobs.

Somewhere in between all of this, in the beginning of the twenty first century, everyone is realizing that education has no easy fix. Education, they say, should be run like a business. Goals have to be met and if the goals are not met, teachers have to be fired and schools have to be closed. Principals are nervous for they know if they don't get the kids to graduate, they will be walking the unemployment line.

Principals, even the ones who want to do the right thing for education can't. They are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If they don't offer credit recovery boot camp and those useless extended day classes, they won't graduate enough kids. And, if they don't graduate enough kids, they will be out of work. There only option is to go with the flow, education be damned.

So now I am back to the beginning. How did this all come about? And, more importantly, what are we going to do to take back education and put it in the hands of the educators?


NYC Educator said...

I don't agree everyone realizes education has no easy fix--I'd argue that those who wish to treat it as a business are, in fact, proposing an easy fix. I agree, of course, that it won't be successful.

Anonymous said...

What is most upsetting is the depth of mean-spiritedness that is pervading society, and much of it is directed at us as educators, and not such youthful ones at that. I keep hearing the refrain "You have the summers off" from millionaire lawyers. Wow, so now I earn a little more than $100,000!! That's after an entire career and a lot of required education to get to top salary. Our teaching successes and experiences mean nothing to the new "leadership". It actually scares me to see how the government is dictating what education is and isn't. I hope this house of cards comes down soon, but we already see the effects of ridiculous reading and writing programs that don't teach the kids much and the kids "learn" from one another. So much is laughable, but this is a social experiment that is dumbing people down at a very young age and robbing them of the dimensions of thought and creativity that used to be part of the curriculum before education was boiled down to numbers and "grades". Then of course there are the hyped up "programs" that don't work in the end but are shoved down teachers' throats, and are detrimental to efficient learning of basics that have to be learned before anything else. This educational system ignores the stages of child development; that's how stupid the "leaders" are. You can't ignore the fact that more abstract thought begins to evolve at a certain age. So much is educationally unsound, including the number of hours kids have to sit and be bored to death with an opportunity to have a gym period only once or twice a week. Educators and kids end up getting the short and accountable end of the stick.

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

We have a unique situation at our school: The principal jumped ship a couple of weeks ago. One of the eighth-grade teachers was immediately appointed acting principal--and he's gotten more done in two weeks than the "real" principal accomplished from August to March! (Example: Last week two new computer labs were established in the school.) I wish the governing board would forget about hiring another principal and just let us teachers run the school. I think we could do a great job!

mathman42 said...

The teachers should have to interview candidates for principal and vote. If more than one candidate they would have to state their case with a dog and pony show.