Ed Reform and Failure

Personally, I’d give most Ed Reform a failing grade. I’m certain that someone reading this is thinking that’s a no-brainer because I’m a teacher (and a union member). But that is not why I think reform is failing students.

That’s right, I said Ed Reform is failing students – not taxpayers, although taxpayers hold a certain stake in successful schools as do real estate agents.

As a teacher in a school where many of my students are not successful when the state assessment tools – standardized MCAS and/or MEPA testing – are applied, I am somewhat familiar with “reform”. Lately, most of the talk about reforming schools is that the teachers are incompetent or effective. I am not a statistician, but I am sure that given a group of educators some will be wildly competent, some will be competent, and some will be incompetent. The reasons why are complicated. Afterall, we are not working with widgets; we are working with humans – and humans will have human issues that are not necessarily black or white.

Now I’m not vain enough to think I have all the answers – or many times even an answer to critics who see my students are under performing. I am open to ideas and I don’t mentally toss out ideas without giving them a trial. I listen when someone thinks outside the educational box because I know I my belief system may sometimes cloud perception.

Lately what I’ve seen is some underfunded or unfunded mandate requiring one thing or another. Anyone here familiar with Reading First? I’ve been through so many different reform models that claim to be the answer to all my prayers, I can no longer keep them all straight. Honestly, does anyone really think one-size-fits-all programmed education will work for every student? Seriously?

What bothers me is know-it-all “reformers” who haven’t set foot in a public school classroom since high school graduation. They don’t have a grasp of the problem, but they do have a solution. Usually one that involves lots of cash being sent in their direction.

In order to analyze what is wrong, shouldn’t you actually know what the conditions or problem might be?Wouldn’t it be productive to know what is already in place?

So, to those who dare, you are extended an open invitation to my classroom. Come and see what is going on. Don’t make an appointment – just show up at the office and get a visitor’s badge. Someone can direct you to Room 207. And after you’ve looked at what is going on, after you’ve observed what my students have, need, and wish for, then let’s have a conversation about your ideas.

Into the frying pan…..

In Massachusetts, there is a bill before the General Court to eliminate or increase the cap on Charter Schools.  I don’t know how things go in other parts of the country, but in Massachusetts, Charter Schools pull their funding from the local budget.  The currently proposed bill lifts the cap on Charters — further privatizing public education.  The following is a letter originally written to my State Representative and State Senator, but truly, it is an open letter to those who are considering this legislation.

Charter Schools

Dear Legislator,

I am a citizen of the Commonwealth, and I am asking you NOT to support lifting caps on Charter Schools.

I am a public educator in the Lowell Public Schools. My students are a diverse group from many different native languages, they come from hard-working families and they come from families experiencing social, emotional and financial traumas.  Five of the 18 students in my classroom are identified as having special needs.  Within this diverse population, there is exciting learning taking place.  And here is one of the reasons why I CHOOSE to teach in a public school:  unlike a charter, public schools have the mission of educating every student.  Shouldn’t education be a right, a given, for our children? We do not hold lotteries to decide who is accepted into our school — we meet the students — all students, not just a selection — wherever they are and move forward.  And we are doing this important work with less and less financial resources; resources that are drained by charter schools.

Academic growth, no matter how it is measured is slowly and steadily taking place. I am proud of my school, my colleagues, and my students. They all deserve your support of public education by the defeat of this attack on public education.


Amy E. Bisson