Save Our Public School System
Privatization is not going to save our schools. Using our most "successful" schools as models for change just might.
First we need to define success in the context of our failing inner city schools, those serving our highest needs children in some of the most challenging environments ever. These schools are, indeed, failing - not because of the students, teachers, principals, parents or community. They are failing due to a deplorable lack of understanding of how we got to this point and of how social problems are fixed. It is not through applying a business model to one of the core institutions charged with building the future of our great country.
Success for our failing schools must be defined in terms far broader than test scores. Succesful schools are characterized by:
Parent and community engagement.
Empowerment at the school level.
A school culture in which everyone feels valued, cared for and safe.
High expectations for all.
Personalized learning through addressing learning styles and multiple intelligences.
A focus on strengths, not deficits.
A sense of community.
A focus on making a difference through programs such as community service.
Working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared responsibility.
Character building and a focus on social and emotional intelligences.
Giving kids the tools they need to be optimistic, responsible, productive and resourceful members of society.
This is not pie-in-the-sky thinking. This is doable and I have done it. So have many excellent schools and school leaders across America.
Fixing "broken" schools or even school systems is not easy when you are challenging the very values and structures on which they were built. American society is almost in crisis right now due to a lack of shared values about what is right and wrong for our future. We are more divided now than ever before. Now is not the time to make the gap even larger between public and private education. If we are committed to excellence in public education, then there are ways to make it happen. It starts with having the will to do so. Full scale privatization is not the answer. Offering more choice within the public system just may be. Have a look at what Edmonton Public Schools in Alberta, Canada have done to provide the highest possible quality public education for all.