Reading education news, a reader asks, “Is all hope lost?”

A reader sent me a note, to which I sent a long reply. Concerned after reading in the AJC about all the problems in education lately, she asked a perfectly sane question: Is all hope lost?

I am sharing both her note and my reply as I thought this was a topic that could lead to some fruitful discussion.

Her note first:

I have been following the AJC’s articles about the APS scandal, then the FAMU tragedy, and there are always reports about charter schools in the news. I do not have children yet, but I clearly remember my elementary public school days (I transferred to a private school in sixth grade and graduated from there as well). While I’m quite sure I was unaware of the politics of education back then, I fail to understand now why public school education is so complicated to figure out.

My question, Maureen, is why is educating our children so difficult?

I’m the first to admit that my grasp of politics is tenuous at best. But I fail to understand why dozens and dozens of minds smarter than mine cannot figure it out, either. Especially if they all come together and all want what is best for children and the future of America, maybe even the world.

I’m afraid people are getting dumber by the day. I’m afraid of where we’ll be in another five to ten years when my future children start school; in 20 years when they’ve graduated, and in 30 or 50 years when they’ve produced children of their own and those children are well under way in the education system of this country.

Maureen, is all hope lost?

And here is my response:

I don’t think that the challenge is education, per se, but educating all kids, which was never a goal in the past.

Every state expected and accepted high dropout rates. Those dropouts could find work in mills and construction in the South and in factories in the North and Midwest. High schools, in fact, tracked kids academically, assigning only middle-class kids to the college tracks. It didn’t seem a crime as those lower-track students could still land jobs in steel mills and earn enough to support a family.

What has changed now is the job market.

Those kids who were ignored in the past — typically poor kids, no matter what their skin color — do not have jobs waiting for them if they drop out. So there is now a national commitment — perhaps unrealistic according to some people — to make sure every high schooler meets minimum academic standards. And we are going to test them to make sure.

There has also been a push to expose more kids to rigorous courses. So, even kids taking the so-called vo-tech track now take much tougher science and math. And it makes sense as factory manuals at chemical plants are as complex as college math textbooks, so kids have to have higher literacy and better math and science skills. Automation means that kids have to understand computer coding, which is math-driven.

So, is all hope lost? No, but I am not sure we, a nation, are willing to do what we need to do to close the achievement gap, which divides most acutely on income lines. My kids in middle school are taking math and science that I either never saw in a classroom or only saw once I reached high school.

To be ready for that level of material at age 11, kids have to have great reading skills, which are not hard to come by if your parents started reading to you when you were an infant and you grew up surrounded by books.

The first six years of children’s lives set the arc for their future academic success. If those six years are not spent in academic-rich environments — ideally in the home but, if not, in a great preschool — then the catch-up is costly. And I don’t think we are ready to pay that cost.

Kids of college graduates will, for the most part, do well in school because their parents believe in the importance of education and have embraced that in their own lives. And their parents will do what they can to live in communities with great schools. And there are many great schools in Atlanta.

But the schools in which most of the kids do not come from homes with a commitment to or history of academic excellence remain the challenge. How do you get the best teachers to agree to teach the most difficult and demanding students? How do you counter the anti-education messages those kids may be getting at home or in their neighborhoods? How do you keep them on track when they have no other supports?

I think those kids are the ones who are in trouble. And I am not sure that middle-class America has the political will to do what is necessary as it could be costly. I don’t think people want to deny these kids what they need; nervous middle-class parents are simply focused on their own kids and it is hard to see past their deepening concerns over getting their kids into good colleges, affording the tuition and then hoping their kids get a job in this lousy job market.

But I remain hopeful as I see pockets of excellence in many poor schools. Not enough. Not yet. But I think we are years ahead of where we were a generation ago when these kids and those schools were invisible. Now, we see them; we just aren’t sure how best to help them.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

64 comments Add your comment

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

December 15th, 2011
10:29 am

With the current “administrations” that exist in APS, Fulton, Clayton, Dekalb and still exist to this day, the answer is a resounding YES! All hope is lost.

liberalefty

December 15th, 2011
10:49 am

don’t you “experts” know that good students usually come from good homes who value education. you can put all the great teachers you want to in a ghetto school and the results will be the same; underachieving, undisciplined, ghetto kids who see no value in education. but don’t blame them entirely because theyre just victims having of ignorant uneducated parents

Don't Tread

December 15th, 2011
10:49 am

“But the schools in which most of the kids do not come from homes with a commitment to or history of academic excellence remain the challenge.”

And there’s the meat in the message.

The parents don’t care; their peers glorify the thug lifestyle and vilify educational achievement. This mentality is quickly becoming the majority, and no amount of money, testing, great teaching, or anything else is going to help it.

Tony

December 15th, 2011
10:50 am

Hope is not lost! Public education provides more opportunities and better outcomes for students now than ever before. Nay sayers are quick to find the flaws they perceive and highlight only those points. The truth is that there are many excellent schools in our state and the rest of the United States that get overlooked because everyone is looking for the worst news to tell.

Our teachers are better equipped today to teach children to read, learn mathematics and science, and use technology than any previous generation of teachers. These teachers are dedicated, go above and beyond the call of duty, and support children’s learning with a host strategies. You will find them working after school, before school, and during their off days to make sure their students have the very best opportunities for learning.

The sad reality is that politics, big business and hot-air radio hosts have tried to capitalize on a few issues that are really irrelevant to improving schools. You will hear people talk about teacher quality, unions, and international ratings as if these are the keys necessary to improve our children’s success. Unfortunately, these things only distract us from the true work we need to do. Communities need to band together to raise expectations of students, support their schools, and motivate children to want to learn.

Hopefully, enough parents and community members will rise up to support our children and help us move away from the pointless testing craze that has taken hold of our politicians.

Pluto

December 15th, 2011
10:56 am

After years of the futility of NCLB, data indicates that half of the country will never meet the established standards. What a shocker! Well there’s a couple of directions we could go. First, pour more money into the existing obsolete model we have adopted for “edutaining” our young folks. This seems to be the preferred alternative because we can always lower the standards and continue to fool everyone that all is well. Perhaps instead of preserving the status quo, we can try some bold initiatives to get out of the ditch we find ourselves. Why does my child have to attend a certain school in a given area and why does the government have to transport them?

Jennifer Falk

December 15th, 2011
11:02 am

Very well written – by both of you.

Sandy Springs Parent

December 15th, 2011
11:13 am

Here is the dirty little truth, that the Rich parents are paying private tutors to make up for the poor teachers. Having the tutors do their children’s projects. Well what happens when you can’t afford the private tutors. I said something and was told that maybe my child wasn’t cut out for this public school. That we are more rigourous, that we don’t inflate grades like other public schools. No you have poor teachers, so the rich parents go hire tutors. Then their children learn the stuff any ways. But the middle class families that can not afford a tutor 3 times a week for a Physics class at $150 a week, are screwed.

Another thing were this whole change with the Hope Scholarship is the unfair advantage given first to private schools who are all making sure that their graduates have a 3.8 GPA. Then the variance of some public schools is all over the box. Some schools are undulely harsh at handing out grades, and grade students low, while others give out over inflated A’s. It makes you want to scream as a parent when your kid is stuck at one where thay want to give the low grades and give not opportunity for extra credit or bonus points yet you know every other school is doing it.

Pluto

December 15th, 2011
11:26 am

@ Sandy Springs Parent … It didn’t take long for irrationality to be thrown into the mix. The so-called RICH use their resources to their advantage and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am by no means RICH but I do not begrudge those who are. I have worked for several RICH people and they treated me fine. The fairness you speak of does not exist because that is a subjective straw man. Fair is where the sell funnel cakes in October. I teach physics and have done so for some time. The kids needing tutoring usually distract themselves with iPhones/Pods or other electronic devices. Those engaged generally do just fine. So have a Merry Christmas and get down off your 99% horse.

V for Vendetta

December 15th, 2011
11:41 am

“To be ready for that level of material at age 11, kids have to have great reading skills, which are not hard to come by if your parents started reading to you when you were an infant and you grew up surrounded by books.”

Maureen,

Excellent point. However, is this really a big mystery? Why does this seem to be a persisting problem in the lower class? Reading = success is not a secret, yet the lower classes seem unable to remedy this problem despite the existence of libraries and myriad places at which to obtain used books. One could say that it is part of the parents lack of education and/or the culture at large.

But then, how is that our fault? And whose is it?

V for Vendetta

December 15th, 2011
11:42 am

Sandy Springs Parent,

Why do you HATE the rich? Pluto is correct. Your argument amounts to a hill of beans.

Discouraged

December 15th, 2011
11:55 am

I don’t know the answer, I wish I did, but I have a pretty good idea of what is NOT the answer, and that is leaving it to the “Educrats” to solve it, the answer is NOT governmental “Early Learning Centers” the answer is NOT dividing the students into ethnic groups, the answer is NOT throwing more money on the problems. The answer will have something to do with our communities deciding what kind of schools and education they want, whether it’s public, vouchers, charters, or whatever. In communities where there are more students with “disadvantaged” backgrounds, the communities are going to have to get involved, push out the politicians, the Educrats, and volunteer to tutor, mentor, hold them accountable to the same standards, (NOT determined by educational bureaucrats), and invest in those students, and accept the fact, that no matter how hard you try, there will be parents and students who simply don’t care. Let them go. Education isn’t about learning anymore. It’s about “global positioning”, “standardization of mediocrity” and States and local School Boards bellying up to the public trough for grant money coming out of our pockets.

Digger

December 15th, 2011
11:55 am

Beverly Fraud

December 15th, 2011
11:57 am

It’s hard not to think the education system is fundamentally FUBAR at this point, due to systemic dysfunction and lack of integrity among those who hold power.

Rod Paige-A man of integrity?
Beverly Hall-A woman of integrity?
Arne Duncan-(Who twice came to APS to prop up Hall politically, during the cheating scandal) A man of integrity?
Crawford Lewis-A man of integrity?
Michelle Rhee-(Built her career based on “gains” she made as a teacher, gains she could NOT substantiate when they were called into question) A woman of integrity?

Finally this, from Maureen

“So, is all hope lost? No, but I am not sure we, a nation, are willing to do what we need to do to close the achievement gap, which divides most acutely on income lines.”

We aren’t. What we ARE willing to do is put a DISPROPORTIONATE amount of energy and effort into the game called “blame the teacher” while giving LIP SERVICE to other factors.

Why? Because educrats can threaten teacher’s economic well-being, but can’t (won’t really) hold parent accountable, and politicians can curry favor by PANDERING to parents (voters) instead of passing laws that would hold parents accountable for THEIR part.

A sure fire recipe for FUBAR if there ever was one.

mem

December 15th, 2011
12:13 pm

It’s no the money family has, but their commitment to education. Parents need to be engaged in their children’s learning. If the parents don’t care it’s hard for the student to remain motivated.

It’s a crying shame that refugee kids come here with parents who do menial work and don’t speak english, but their children learn the language and excel, beyond the broader population. The people come from a place where the privileged get an education and they have seen how the educated get everything, so they know what’s important. They attend teacher conferences, with their children as translators. How many native speaking parents even bother to go inside their schools? This country is headed in the direction of the countries these people came from. and it’s not a good thing.

Ronin

December 15th, 2011
12:20 pm

Maureen, good analysis.

@Tony: your comment: The sad reality is that politics, big business and hot-air radio hosts have tried to capitalize on a few issues that are really irrelevant to improving schools******* What are the “issues” that you are referring to?

Beverly Fraud

December 15th, 2011
12:21 pm

When two parents show up for a PTA meeting, yet two days later HUNDREDS show up for a youth league football function, you start to see that it’s not JUST “ineffective teaching”

IF you are willing to see it, something educrats and politicians are willing to turn a blind eye to, because it serves their needs to do so.

V for Vendetta

December 15th, 2011
12:22 pm

mem,

Last year, I had a student teacher from Bosnia. She was working through her Masters at Agnes Scott. She had come over when she was very young as a refugee. Her family had nothing, and her dad had passed away.

But she had a will to work. That’s all it took. She looked with contempt on my “disadvantaged” students who got free lunches and other such government handouts. I don’t blame her one bit; they disgust me, too. She chastised them for their laziness and lack of effort. She was shocked by their indifference and complete lack of personal accountability.

Welcome to America, the land of excuses for the “have nots.”

TruthBe

December 15th, 2011
12:30 pm

Atlanta School Systems will not improve until they get rid of all this diversity crap and corruption. The City of Atlanta has been run into the ground with all of these Corrupt Black Democrat Politicans for almost 40 years now.. Replace it with leadership based on skills, proformance, character, successful winning additudes, TRUE higher grade points averages. And to do what’s best for the students not what’s best for the teachers unions.

kjfd

December 15th, 2011
12:38 pm

HOPE will not be lost until the next legislative session

Ken

December 15th, 2011
12:40 pm

My grandson attends a Christian school. Excellent teachers, parents and children learn. Parents and enenviorment mean a lot.

Roy

December 15th, 2011
12:43 pm

Ken

December 15th, 2011
12:40 pm
My grandson attends a Christian school. Excellent teachers, parents and children learn. Parents and enenviorment mean a lot.

and teachers work for less pay and benifits and there is no union. don’t know if one has anything to do with the other?

Ken

December 15th, 2011
1:03 pm

Roy, money isn’t everything to some. I figured that out late iin life.

Proud Teacher

December 15th, 2011
1:14 pm

Uh, TruthBe, not nice there. Stereotyping is not good for students and citizens in general.

Obviously, you are not a teacher. The teachers’ union have not worked for the teachers benefit at all. Whenever ridiculous mandates are issued for students, it is never good for the school as a whole.

Roy

December 15th, 2011
1:16 pm

ken – i agree with you

Prophet

December 15th, 2011
1:17 pm

All hope is not lost…

Read the book of Revelation, have no fear

peace this Christmas

oldtimer

December 15th, 2011
1:20 pm

Not even the best teaching..and I have worked with some of the best…can make up for bad parenting and lack of interest in school. Somewhere inside the child they must determine they want to be better and then things will begin to change. One of my favorite conversations was with a Fulbright scholar from Ghana, teaching at a local college. He just did not “get” American students and their lack of interest in learning.

V for Vendetta

December 15th, 2011
1:21 pm

Prophet,

Feel free to speed up the process for yourself. We won’t mind.

TruthBe

December 15th, 2011
1:32 pm

Proud Teacher, It’s the TRUTH. Not stereotyping. Only the best teachers should be hired and have checks and balances. Not quotas. Teachers Unions have become Liberal Democrat mouthpieces for the advancement of their agendas. They threw the students out with the bath water decades ago.

Swede Atlanta

December 15th, 2011
2:50 pm

Ref Truthbe @ 1:32

I don’t have any children and have not been faced with making decisions about public versus private education. I know that I went to public schools in another state in the western U.S. that had union teachers. I received an excellent education and have outperformed many other students both in terms of so-called aptitude tests (SAT, ACT, LSAT, etc) as well as class performance and placement that attended very expensive private schools or non-union public schools.

I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back. I recognize student performance is affected by various factors including the level of student interest and engagement, parental and community involvement, home life, social factors such as level of discourse, bullying, etc. as well as overall teacher qualifications and performance.

The point being that being in a school with union teachers used to be a benefit to students (higher salaries and benefits, etc.) or at least not a detriment. I don’t know if the common wisdom that union schools underperform non-union schools is supported by indepdendent analysis.

A few pointers on capitalization and word usage in your post. “Teachers” is a plural subject but in your usage it is an adjective that modifies the subject “unions”.Unions is not part of a proper noun or noun usage. So that sentence should begin Teachers’ unions….. furher Liberal is not a formal noun and should not be capitalized. Democrat is a noun and not an adjective. So that part of your sentence should have read …have become liberal Democratic mouhpieces. A much better construction would have been….Teachers’ unions have become mouhtpieces for the advancement of the liberal Democratic agenda.

Proud Teacher

December 15th, 2011
2:51 pm

As a liberal Democrat, I don’t agree with your assessment. It does seem that George Bush, your Republican president,initiated NCLB. I agree, only the best teachers should be hired, but they should not be burdened with ridiculous mandates such as AYP, NCLB, etc.

Ole Guy

December 15th, 2011
2:52 pm

Tony, it’s always good to read optimistic views such as the ones you have expounded upon. However, the nasty ole pitchfork of reality seems to always throw caution into any-and-all positive outlooks. True, there are many good things in education land, but this does not alleviate the need to get aggressive in bringing back, into the circus, the ole way. NUMBER ONE: teachers need to be lord and master of their classrooms…no if; butts, or crappin’around. TWO: if parents wish to support the existing educational dogma, fine…if not, they need to GET THE HELL OUTA THE WAY.

That’s it, Ton. We can bask in the goodstuff, but we must not ignore the things which need to be addressed.

Joy in Teaching

December 15th, 2011
3:23 pm

Teachers are not allowed to do what is best for students.

Teachers are told (by federal politicians) that all students must be on grade level, but we are forced to spend so much time on standardized testing that doesn’t actually mean much that there is little time to actually teach.

Teachers are told (by state politicians) that they need to do all they can to improve student achievement, but must make do with fewer supplies and resources.

Teachers are told (by the press) that schools are worthless and dangerous, that students are stupid, and that teachers need to do their job better, even though they are given little if any productive comments. They are also quick to bash teachers publically, while very little emphasis is placed on the student’s role in their own education.

Teachers are told (by employers) that our students are inept , do not have a decent work ethic, and have few employable skills even though funding for Vocational education has been steadily eroding for years.

Teachers are told (by school boards) that they need to use xyz in Learning Focused strategies with students, even though those particular strategies may not work with all students.

Teachers are told (by school administrators) that students need to make academic gains, but teachers had better not hurt student’s self esteem or there will be a law suit.

Teachers are told (by parents) that their child has always had problems with reading, but that is the school’s problem. Oh yes…and teachers had better not hold their child back, either, even though they may need to be retained. They had also better not try to put them in a remedial class, either, as that may hurt their child’s self esteem.

The student is told that they need to pass classes and pass standardized tests or they won’t go to the next grade. They figure out pretty quickly that no one is going to hold them back, so why bother? The same goes for behaviour.

Pluto

December 15th, 2011
3:28 pm

@ Proud Liberal Teacher … NCLB was fully supported by the likes of Ted Kennedy and George Miller as well President Bush. Another example of good legislative intent run amok by the legislative process. Yet we want to keep throwing crap against a wall until we can find some that sticks. I think the states need to assume the burden of direction and abolish the DOE. We have set back the education system in this country years due to political favortism and need to turn things around before it is too late.

Prof

December 15th, 2011
3:30 pm

Say it all together now—–THERE ARE NO TEACHERS’ UNIONS IN GEORGIA!! Our Constitution prohibits them.

And, “TruthBe,” when Atlanta’s schools and political structure were predominantly white, they were pretty bad places for the black folks who lived here. Quite a bit of corruption under the white politicians too. “Diversity” means black and white (and yellow, brown, and red) all TOGETHER.

Prof

December 15th, 2011
3:58 pm

@ Swede Atlanta. Just to enlighten you about American political nastinesses: the word “Democrat” used as an adjective is an insulting, pejorative word for “Democratic,” usually used by conservative Republicans to imply that their political rivals do not belong to a genuine political party. George W. Bush often used the word thus.

joe

December 15th, 2011
4:04 pm

More and more we hear about public educators filling the heads of their students with rhetoric that the government will always be there for them…AKA, depend on the government for your survival. However, the days of the free lunch are over simply because we cannot afford to pay everything for everyone.

Until public school teachers start putting an emphasis on personal responsibility, I’d say all hope is about lost.

Ole Guy

December 15th, 2011
4:09 pm

Prof, once again, your words invite…no, BEG…retort. Our Constitution (state/fed…it really makes little difference in terms of governance), at one time or another prohibited one thing or another. They call em Amendments to the Constitution…I needn’t review history to illustrate the point that the Constitution is not a cast-in-bronze instrument. The blaring issue is really quite simple: Georgia teachers need a union; they need a collective voice within their profession if only to gain/regain control of their chosen careers. It is no mystery that teachers’ collective handsare tied by the strictures of political correctness, and legislative mis-direction. In order for the institution, known as public education, to survive, thrive and start producing generations prepared to take on responsible roles within society, BIG CHANGES are needed. We’ve seen that government leaderships are completely incapable of initiating meaningful change; these changes must “germinate, grow, and blosom” from the educational grass roots/ from within the teacher corps. It is up to the teacher corps to determine how best to get the mechanisms of real change rolling. I simply see no other alternatives, short of hope, good thoughts, and ample applications of foo foo dust.

Thus far, concerning the myriad issues within this fine education blog, many views…many fine views… have been expressed. However, the bottom-line results have not spoken well for all the time/money/resources expended thus far. With all-too-many kids “majoring in remedials”, failing to graduate on time, if at all, and the generally crappy decline in basic moral structure (as evidenced by the “who would you like to rape?” issue recently introduced within this blog), it is painfully evident that drastic change must come, and it must come from within the “educational trenches”/ the teacher corps.

Throughout the passage of time, we have seen many (once-considered) cast-in-bronze issues completely reversed. While there may be, within the teacher corps, a desire to not rock any “political/professional boats”, I am quite certain there exists a hushed/unspoken desire for drastic change.

Once Again

December 15th, 2011
4:10 pm

The way the government is printing money and not doing anything about spending or waste, the entire economic system of the US will collapse, taking down the dollar and destroying every last vestige of parasitic government apparatus. When that happens, everyone will have to put it all back togther again in a sustainable fashion. This will mean hopefully a new beginning for education in this country and hopefully a flourishing of private folks creating wonderful educational opportunities out of the rubble that will benefit everyone and deliver a far superior product at a much lower cost.

As for the current system – yeah, I would give up all hope.

williebkind

December 15th, 2011
4:40 pm

I do not believe you can educate a high percentage of kids to a government standard. All it takes is one parent/person to complain it is discriminatory, separation of church and state, or “I will have to take time up with my kids and I have to work” and the government will then start passing regulations benefitting “THOSE” people and education will go down the drain. It is a simple solution! Make education voluntary! Do you send your kids to school because it is a law?

CTPAT

December 15th, 2011
4:42 pm

As long as we make it easy on people to be unproductive and non-working when they are no longer in school through long-term social benefits (or unlimited trust funds), there’s little incentive for many people to see and value education and hard work as a way towards a better life. I believe strongly in helping people down on their luck, but I don’t agree with 30+ years on welfare. Give students (and their parents) a reason for them to do well in school and see what changes transpire.

Prof

December 15th, 2011
4:47 pm

@Ole Guy. I don’t think you quite understand my point about teachers’ unions.

I SUPPORT THEM. My mother was a high school teacher in New York who proudly belonged to the NEA (National Educators Association). When her school tried to fire her the year before she retired, the union members came out in force and saw that this did not happen. I think that a Georgia branch of the NEA is badly needed, and would help to prevent the administrative bungles and high-handed arrogance that have become so familiar to Georgia’s teachers, especially in metro Atlanta.

BUT it is against the Ga. Constitution. Let people amend it–fine. It would be a great deal of hard work and any teachers involved probably would face retaliation…but I agree it’s needed.

However, bloggers here keep complaining about our “teachers unions” as if they’ve caused all of our educational problems, when we don’t even have them!

Jerry Eads

December 15th, 2011
4:56 pm

Enter your comments here

Prof

December 15th, 2011
4:57 pm

P.S. @ Ole Guy. And before you ask why I don’t militate to start a chapter of the National Education Association (sorry I got the title wrong, Mother), it is for K-12 educators, including teachers, principals, part-time and contingency faculty—but not college/University professors.

Wow

December 15th, 2011
5:02 pm

All hope was lost when the teachers stopped using castor oil and dunce caps to discipline the horrid little monsters who start food fights, spitwad fights, and swirly-fests on the school proper. Then the innocent students get the blame because the fatheaded schoolmarms believe the guilty ones when they lie about what happens after an incident. I spent most of my reform school years in detention or the principle’s office, and I din’t never do nuthin, man. But I got the blame for the carnage that always happened around me, man.

Aw, I don’t wanna talk about it.

Really amazed

December 15th, 2011
5:02 pm

@Sandy Springs parent, the reputable priivate schools do not have all children making a 3.8. because they DON’T grade inflate like the local public high schools. Get your facts straight!!! I almost moved my child out of private for grade inflate at the local public high school he would be attending to boost his gpa. I figured I’d rather him learn then be dumbed down with the rest of Georgia!!!!

Mike Honcho Himself

December 15th, 2011
5:13 pm

CPAT — Great point. I agree 100%.

AJinCobb

December 15th, 2011
5:53 pm

Excellent summary of the situation, Maureen. It’s frustrating that many bloggers don’t seem to grasp the central point that schools today are tasked with educating the population that dropped out in the “good old days,” and educating them to college entrance standards, no less.

Many people seem to hearken back to those good old days, thinking that schools seemed more orderly and students more successful a few decades ago because the standards were higher, the discipline stricter, the curricula or the teachers better, and we just need to get back to those good old-time ways and standards. But in the good old days, it was much easier to have high standards, happy teachers and successful students when all the problem students quit or were kicked out of school. Because of this, I don’t think the examples of the past offer much in the way of solutions for today’s struggling schools.

I live in one of those middle-class suburban areas of the north metro where the schools continue to graduate well-educated students without a lot of turmoil, because the families are pretty much uniformly well educated, with middle-class values and resources. Only recently was it clearly pointed out to me on this blog that I live in a “pocket of sanity” and, in the opinion of the most avid bloggers, I should just stop pointing out that my local schools are pretty good schools, because this blog (at least, the comments section) is NOT, in the opinion of the most avid bloggers, about the pockets of good schools. It’s about the big problems in the troubled schools and corrupt systems, particularly DCSS and APS.

You’re right that we middle-class parents are very focused on our own kids, and getting them through K-12 and a good college. The reports from the chaotic zones around us don’t lend much hope that the problems are solvable. Apparently, corruption and indifference are rife, and there’s no consensus on realistic ideas for turning around the attitudes of the population that doesn’t want to be educated.

oldtimer

December 15th, 2011
5:57 pm

Prof….there are no unions in GA..correct…teachers have no collective bargaining rights, but NEA dues arevery expensive andpart of the money goes to the Democratic Party..with no say so on your part. They send untold amount of advertising to you…..So ya it is kind of like a union. PAGE is mostly better. I have been members of both.

oldtimer

December 15th, 2011
6:00 pm

Also, to give hope….I have taught in some pretty bleak schools. Some kids just have a spark and it grows. Some have a wonderful mom trying to do her best..or maybe dad, not likely, and bless them there are many Grandparents who, after growing up in segregation, still really know the true value of an education. I taught around metro Atlanta for years…now that I am retired, I still thank God everyday for the small blessings I found in the bleakest of areas.

V for Vendetta

December 15th, 2011
6:55 pm

We don’t need a union.

As a teacher–and I’m in a tiny minority here–I would OPPOSE a union in GA. Unions are little more than gangs that use mob tactics to achieve their aims–which are often self serving and undeserved. Look at what unions did to the Big Three. Well done there.