Tin Shop Tartan - Randolph County Alabama's Own Snarky and Surly Scot Gets All Native

Blogging from the suburbs of the Tin Shop community, Captain Plaid brings Progressivism, and a share of Quixotic angst, to the ridges and hollows of Randolph County, Alabama. Hardly a booster yet rooted here enough to fight, Plaidsters can perhaps find like cause in trying to build local solutions to global concerns. Education, environment, economy, entertainment, engagement ... Trust the Tartan!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's the model plus the funding and trash/ash!

Jim Wooten of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a favorite target of Captain Bama. He's really easy to ridicule and I find it shocking that he gets ink. I refer to him as a conservative tool and a shill rather often. His rants are often about school vouchers saving public education. While I don't outright reject some market forces as having merit, Jim's approach is often flawed in that he twists with "research" supplied by various right wing "think tanks". Getting to the point, today "The Tool" gives us some blunt language that I thought I'd share. The conclusion is wrong of course but here is today's writing, scattered and sorted, that the AJC provides,

With public school funding, no amount is ever enough.

The problem is twofold. One is funding formulas. The other is that the ash and trash of society's failings — to marry, to parent, to discipline, to socialize, to learn to speak English — are pushed to the classroom, where they are mixed and sorted, mainstreamed, in agglomerations that try the skills and patience of even the best teachers. ...

Across the state, school systems should be reconfiguring to serve children based on the needs.

It could mean, for example, that in some schools children wear uniforms, or attend year round, or are in classes six days a week, or are heavily tutored, or go afternoons and evenings, or have classes with all-male faculty or are highly structured.

Some may have certified instructors; some not. Some may be technology-heavy; some not. Some may have structured after-school activities; some not.

The key is to inform parents of what's happening in their child's school and then give them options based on their child's particular needs.

The carping by local school officials over funding formulas, and the temptation to sue for more money by those who are failing in their education responsibilities, are symptoms of a system so badly broken that it can never be fixed.

It can't be fixed because, as with global warming, projected outcomes are based on models that include thousands of assumptions and inputs. Class size, teacher quality, structure, curriculum, textbooks, instruction, home life, values, parental involvement and support, external distractions, attention span. Thousands.

So 72 percent of new money goes to adjust inputs. The reaction? It's not enough. And it comes with too many strings. ...

The goal is to inform policy-makers what it should cost per child to produce the outcome parents want and how the tab should be split.

The current system is broken beyond repair: No money will ever be enough. Failure is somebody else's fault.

That's the model we have to change.

Where to begin? First of all, Jim is correct that educators have many variables that they have no way to adjust. "Ash and trash" seems harsh yet I hear you. I'd still enjoy having you come into a classroom for a few days and then play bureaucrat to boot in seeking solutions. Jim's beloved conservatism (admittedly libertarian slanted when it works for The Tool) has taken a standards based, testing heavy emphasis and ran wild with this model. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which I like to refer to as "No Data Obsessed Bureaucrat Left Behind", is just the latest of this trend. Flexibility has become even more limited under the Bu$h approach yet Dubyah and his "Texas Miracle", more accurately the "Texas Smoke and Mirrors", has made that less possible. Plus, all the money leftists thought would flow has been pulled now. Heck of a job Bushie!

Roanoke and Randolph County systems would have to demonstrate remarkable courage to go their own way yet smaller systems have an advantage as to change. Still, old school teachers and certainly administrators and board members that have risen during these conservative times aren't likely to want to change horses. For many it is far easier to ride this one out to retirement. Change is hard, hard work. Plus, explaining this to our local "thinkers" could be a hard sale.

And Jim, global warming denial is really out of fashion. Are you fully on the payroll where even Big Oil has a hold on your leash? You really could win the sychronized shilling gold!

I'll offer that my solutions are radical to many. One thing is that we can't do this on the cheap. We also can't create real change with canned curriculums. We attempt to educate using a hundred year old model with the idea of getting a diverse society ready for an industrial economy. Few kids of today respond to being thrown in a cement block room and "taught" via transmission approaches to learning. Constructivist models are hard to carry out in that the average kid is not prepared for "thinking" in that they've been "stimulated" to the point to where they can't do this for themselves. "Content" reading? Forget about it!

Elitist perhaps to a point but the European and Asian models know you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Or continuing with the hog theme I can close with "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." Peace ... or War!