January 17, 2011

Can’t Wait on Superman for our Schools

I had the opportunity to view the documentary
“Waiting for Superman” and wanted to view without
all the previous verbiages, good, bad or
indifferent so I can base on my own judgment.

The documentary “Waiting for Superman” displayed
several key points that showed validity in concerns
for public education. There are challenges; lack of
equitable funding, instructional competency of teachers,
limited technology, physical infrastructure of schools,
educational/instructional curriculums, outdated
standards, instruction of minorities and those of
multicultural backgrounds.

Geoffery Canada an educator himself proclaimed
that education is failing, but my contention is, if we
as parents first and educators second (a child’s first
teacher is their parents) allow education to fail then
we as parents have failed our children not just our
educational system.

There is more to educating young people than a
dollar amount, but the effort we put into teaching our
own children. If we can fill the stadiums at football
games at Raines, Ribault, Ed White, First Coast,
Andrew Jackson, Sandlewood and other schools then
we should be able to fill our schools with mentors,
tutors and those who will intervene to keep our children
from failing. It is inexcusable for DCPS to not have
support for its children, similar to support a football
stadium receives.
There are challenges, but despite there is still the
desire by communities to have faith in public education.
The feelings are still strong in our communities,
neighborhoods, and cities for the success of public
education. In mentioning Charter schools they do
influence public education, not as the movie would
have us to believe. This educational option exists for
parents in their choice to seek the best education for
their children. Even though one in five Charter schools
is successful, parents must participate more in the
learning of their children, where this same energy should
have been applied in the public school before the Charter
school option was even considered.

The movie depicts that public schools are bad, privately
managed charter schools are good. The proportion of
Charters that get awesome results is smaller than 17
percent nationally, but this fact is not elaborated in the
movie. In the Charter school environment parents are
expected/required to make positive contributions by
attendance and participation. This same energy and
effort should be channeled into public education
environment during their child’s learning experiences
instead of waiting for someone else to tell them or
even make them do what they should have already
been doing. It seems contradictory and hypocritical
for parents to complain about how a teacher teaches,
or their child never learns, but that same parent has
not been to a teacher/parent meeting nor monitored
their child’s behavior during the school day, but that
same parent can attend football, basketball,
baseball or other sporting events. What message does
this send to the student about the importance of taking
responsibility for ones education?

Realistically some students and parents cannot adapt
to the rigors of Charter school instructional methodologies,
and the mental discipline to focus on academic
responsibilities. The amount of time required to
study is a serious challenge claimed by some high school
students, but the ironic part is our children; including mines
can play video games for hours on end, memorize hip hop
beats and funky lyrics with precise annunciation, but claim
that they cannot learn how to read and are below grade level.
In the documentary several parents struggled financially;
in these economically challenged times how many other
parents will struggle with the financial responsibilities of a
Charter school environment if there are no vouchers,
scholarships or deferments? Waiting for “Superman” showed
five children and their families who try to win a
place in a charter school.

In Duval County alone there have been several Charter schools
in the past that claim academic successes, but these successes
are from watered down (dumb downed) curriculums, falsifying
student assessments, manipulation of student records and even
imitating successful strategies learned from public schools.
Charter schools do provide a learning alternative, but in some
cases do not give credit to public school instructional strategies
that they implement for their students. A good indication of student
success is AYP Annual Yearly Progress. The AYP is based on
several criteria for public schools, but for Charter schools this
maybe independent of each school.

Parents need to see their child’s AYP from the school to see
how their children are growing, not just based on a report card.
These criteria of success range in reading, math, and writing
assessments. Included in this is FCAT assessment, in the
elementary arena there is also FAIR assessment inclusive
to FCAT (http://www.justreadflorida.com/instrreading.asp), to
the retention or promotion of students in public schools.
In the Charter school environment if students do not/cannot adapt
to the academic requirements, they maybe released from the
school, sending them back to the very environment they are
running from. It was quite noticeable in “Waiting for Superman”
the families interviewed were supportive and involved in the
process of instruction. The reality in public education is too many
of our students of all colors may lack parental support, facing
homeless situations, living in foster care, may not have
encouragement, love or nurturing to their physical,
emotional and psychological needs.

Parents are the initial ones to model and teach their children to
value education, but that is not always the case in our public
schools. As a public school educator I cannot pick and choose
who I want to teach as in Charter schools. I’m required contractually
as well as morally, ethically, and in my spiritual being, spiritually to
teach ALL students. There is no flexibility as in Charter schools to
admit based on color, sex, ethnic background and the use of profiling
of students and families in some cases. In some cases if money is
coming from the state and going to a Charter school, if the child does
not meet the expectations and they do leave the money may stay
right there and not go where it is needed to support that child in
another academic environment.

The realization is that teachers are an important PART of a student’s
success, but not the only part. Our educators have to contend with
students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond control.
Teachers can have a great effect on students, but it would be
unwise to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage
caused by poverty, broken families and its associated burdens.
The Supermen and Superwomen in our schools are the teachers,
staff, custodians, cafeteria workers and office staff that truly care.
They are the Supermen and Superwomen who do not give up even
when exposed to the Kryptonite of inadequate resources, disrespectful
children, threats of budget cuts, parents who do not value education,
and blame teachers for their own parental shortcomings. Teachers are
exposed to the Lex Luthor’s who seek to undermine a teacher’s role to
teach, that try to blame teachers for student violence and unethical
behavior, try to make teachers go beyond their training and roles as

A teacher should not meet a student’s parental needs, what should
have been taught at home. There are REAL Supermen and Superwomen
that are seen everyday in our schools, we should not have to wait on
someone else just support those in our schools as they work to be the
best they can be as educators.
Speeches about the educational responsibilities of students and parents
should be learned when presented from our President, but the truth of the
matter is more parents need to repeat what President Obama has said
in his speech of valuing education by our young people. The President’s
”Back to School Speech” of September 14 2010 telling students they
need to take responsibility for their future and the value of a good
education. As stated; “Your life is what you make of it. And nothing,
absolutely nothing is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to
dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re
willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing
that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing.” The key is
education, not sports, dance, hip hop music, drugs, sex or other
distractions as I tell my children and young people I mentor.
Even in these economic times, “an education has never been more
important than it is today.”

Parents need to understand that they are not alone, have resources at
their disposal. If they would visit their children’s schools and not wait
for Superman, that in the case of THEIR children THEY need to be the
Superman or Superwoman they are waiting for. Taking responsibility
for their child and working with them. Parents do not have to have all
the answers, but in some cases need good questions to help their
children make it though. The quality of an education, “An education is
about more than getting into a good college” as some must learn in the
educational community. Not all of our students are going to college,
more and more want to work with their God given talents. We must not
feel that we are competing with the neighboring county, state, or
country for the most students going to college when most of them may
drop out before they are done. Parents must prepare their children to
survive with skills that allow for critical real world thinking, be able to adapt to the situations and circumstances that life will throw at them.

In conclusion;
Not to far in the past, Georgia, South Carolina and other states passed
laws not to educate slaves. This put slaves Black, White, and Indian
at deplorable conditions. Slaves understood that education offered an
opportunity to be free and risked death to learn to read and write.
The mentally was that Indians, Negros, Mulatto children and poor
Whites were heathens and incapable of learning. This thinking today
is not totally gone, but the actions and attitudes of many youth
unfortunately display their attitudes devaluing of education.
The power of learning can overcame fears and the use of education
used to develop self respect, self support and usefulness in
ones community. Frederick Douglas’s view of education, stated in the
book; The Education of the Negro, “to make the education of Negroes
so articulate with their needs as to improve their economic condition.”
These words ring true today, in order for people to improve their
economic conditions is only through education, including vocational
education. The 21st century is waiting for NO ONE, no one should be
waiting for Superman, Superwoman, Batman, Wolverine, or other
fictional characters. 2011 is upon us and will be a time of transition,
who will be left behind during graduations in June of 2011 or
walking across the stage reaching for their diploma?

No comments: