Comment: Having worked in the public

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Having worked in the public

Having worked in the public education system for a career, and in an inner city environment to boot, I know women like this. She is by no means atypical.

The public educations system in every inner city community that I know of is indeed broken beyond repair. Typically, conservatives point to teacher's unions as the prime culprits and demand accountability as the solution. As with most typical conservative solutions, this one largely misses the mark.

It has been my experience that, for the most part, teachers are competent and that most enter the profession enthusiastic and ready to roll. The system changes this mindset quickly. Many enthusiastic professionals figure out that they cannot be successful in the system and quickly leave it, either to a "safer" suburban district or they leave the profession completely.

This is not to say that there are not horrible teachers, and that administrators are not often hamstrung in their ability to remove them. That happens, and it is a problem, but it is peripheral to the central one, which is this - inner city public education systems in this country are largely hamstrung by state rules, and those state rules largely develop in response to federal mandates tied to state funding. Much of this is the responsibility of liberal public education advocates, sure, but much of it, and I might even argue the bulk of the current problem is the direct result of that grand conservative solution, NCLB.

Thanks to NCLB these schools have become "teach to the test" factories. Most don't understand why. It's simply a matter of survival. Well meaning conservative accountability solutions require that when students don't perform, teachers and administrators be punished. In worst case scenarios, good educators are threatened with job loss.

What few conservatives appreciate is that inner city kids come to school facing challenges that few of us can relate to. Their own parents often don't value education themselves. They are not partners with the schools in the education of their kids, they are adversaries. Kids from these backgrounds start school unprepared, miss way too many days of school, aren't encouraged to do homework.

These kids live in communities where there are few role models who achieved success through education. They look around and rationally conclude that there is nothing that school can offer them. At that point they disengage, and often drop out. Try teaching math to a kid in this mindset. Good luck. Now imagine that your job depends upon that kid passing an accountability test. Whatcha gonna do?

Inner city public schools fail because their goals are misaligned with what is important to their "customers". Preparation for higher education is the goal of all K12 schools, suburban as well as inner city, but these kids are worried not about getting into college but about what they'll be doing after high school. Inner city public schools fail because they don't - they can't as presently constituted - HELP KiDS FIGURE OUT THEIR FUTURE!

The mindset of these kids is difficult for most of us to understand, but it is rational. I have heard of kids who could easily graduate on time that fail classes on purpose, so as to be able to stay in school (and in their mother's subsidized housing) another year. Their reality is far, far different from most of ours.

John Taylor Gatto has written extensively about this, and I recommend any of his books as a great place to start for anyone interested in understanding the core of the problem.

A completely locally controlled inner city public school, released from binding state and federal mandates and led by dedicated educators can work, and in fact DO work when allowed to exist (charter schools), but this solution threatens the education establishment and will never be allowed to occur on a large scale.

Bottom line - the system is indeed horribly broken, has been for decades, conservative solutions like NCLB are making the problems worse, and until folks are willing to face reality the system will continue to deteriorate.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein