January 2, 2024
Nancy Bailey: Saving Public Schools: 23 Issues (At Least) to Ponder for 2024
Nancy Bailey offers a list of items to keep our eyes on in the new year. Reposted with permission.
Happy New Year! Caring for others shines through during the holidays. So, everyone has had time to think about the importance of public education and how we care about all of America’s children.
Ten years ago, I wrote a book called Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reclaim Public Education. So, how’s it going?
Here are questions and concerns about public schools going into 2024. We need to discuss these issues. Feel free to add to the list. Your opinions and ideas are valuable. I welcome debate and will listen to those I disagree with if the conversation is respectful.
It’s a Presidential election year. Will candidates address the importance of public schools? Will the new year bring a leader who will finally set the stage for better public education for all students? Or will they permit corporate reform to end public schooling for good?
Will there be a renewed focus in the curriculum on child development, or will expectations continue to be age-inappropriate? In other words, will students continue to be pushed to grow up too quickly to meet the harmful and misconstrued message of A Nation at Risk?
Will public school administrators finally offer supervised but unstructured recess, along with geography and more, creating a balanced learning environment?
Are struggling public schools getting extra government funding to bring the arts back with qualified art teachers?
Isn’t it time to reevaluate the controversial 2010 Common Core State Standards? One can’t say students are doing poorly or that schools need to improve without considering CCSS.
It’s also time to address the problematic effects of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Claiming, as some do, that teachers and schools are failing without looking at the cause and effect of these policies on education is a strange omission.
Why is there still little effort to end high-stakes standardized tests, even for the youngest students?
There’s still concern the tests aren’t developmentally appropriate. Are students set up to fail to make teachers and schools look bad, opening the door to school privatization?
Why are so many personal questions asked on SEL tests? Who gets access to this information, and what are they using it for?
Are career and technical education (CTE) programs related to student needs and interests, or are corporations taking over schools for workers they need, steering students to their programs?
If students have trauma and mental illness, shouldn’t consideration be given to the high level of stress involving schools and the impact of school reforms? Isn’t there a need to make learning more enjoyable?
When will the blame of teachers and public schools surrounding Covid, an unusual disease few understood, be put to rest? Educators must protect children and their families.
Teachers, in their unique positions, worked hard sometimes in poor classroom conditions to do what they believed was right for students. And they’ve worked hard to lift students since that bad time.
Are educators considering the individualized reading needs of children, or are all students getting the same one-size-fits-all programming through commercialized programs?
Which reading programs stand to profit from the new Science of Reading state mandates? Who’s watching how these programs are selected? How many are online and could replace teachers? Where’s the proof that these programs work?
Teachers need to understand how to teach reading. Are universities signing on to commercial programs without focusing on the pedagogy of reading instruction?
Kindergartners are expected to read now by first grade. If they aren’t reading by this time, are they considered learning disabled? It’s time to bring back kindergarten and make it developmentally sound.
How many children with reading disabilities are in inclusion classes, and would a resource class with individual and small group instruction also be helpful?
Will every public school have a well-stocked school library where children can access the reading material they need and a fully qualified school librarian? We know this positively impacts how students do in school.
10. School Boards
Are school boards listening to those who elect them, or are they being manipulated, even appointed, by wealthy outsiders with an anti-public school agenda, like Houston?
How many education leaders have education credentials? Are these positions continuing to be corrupted by wealthy donors wanting to end public schooling?
Will school boards work closely with educators, parents, and the community to choose a history curriculum that reflects the best understanding of our past?
What are school boards doing to bring conservative and liberal parents together regarding book banning? How are public school districts working to bring children together so that students learn to embrace differences and like one another?
Are educational research studies legitimate, independent, and scholarly peer-reviewed without bias or driven by think tanks and corporations with ponies in the show?
Along with this, will this be the year school districts work to reduce class size to manageable levels, critical to helping students with disabilities do well, for student safety so teachers can better learn about students, and also for helping children in the earlier grades learn to read?
The benefits in K-3rd grade are especially understood.
13. School Safety
What innovations will we have to create safer schools? Will we finally see changes to gun laws to make all of us safer?
How are public schools reaching out to parents? Are parents working to get involved in public schools to support teachers and to learn about their needs?
Where’s the PTA? How are they helping to bring parents and teachers together, especially on the tough, controversial issues?
Who’s working on getting free dental and health care coverage for young children, and assisting students who are in devasting situations like being homeless or facing hunger?
Children will not do well in school if their basic needs aren’t met.
Are school districts using the teacher shortage to place unqualified individuals, without credentials, in the classroom?
Why the emphasis on tutors? Tutors can be helpful, but qualified teachers are what students will always need to learn best.
The Kappan reported (read beyond the headline in the link) that many parents are pleased with public schools, so why isn’t the positive side of this discussed more? Shouldn’t there be more attention focused on teachers and the great work they do?
Can we end all nonprofit and for-profit charter schools, and convert the successful ones to schools held accountable within school districts, like alternative schools for educators to run, like Ray Budde’s original plan?
How much money has been lost to disreputable charter schools? Will 2024 be the year those who’ve stolen from public education are held accountable?
Will there be better scrutiny of vouchers and educational savings accounts? Will prestigious private schools open their doors to poor children with vouchers? Will parents no longer be allowed to purchase frivolous items with tax dollars?
Will online programs like Amplify and iReady be held accountable? Will school districts evaluate these programs, or will more students sit for longer hours in front of questionable programs on screens?
Why are corporations, select politicians, and think tanks, often with those who know little about public schools, allowed to determine how those schools should run and what programs they need?
What kind of new school buildings are being built, and do they reflect the needs of teachers, or are they designed to end teaching with technology? How are the HVAC systems?
23. Special Education
How much money is spent on special education? Do parents want to drop the use of the term special education? How does one create an individual educational plan (IEP) if all students must master the same one-size-fits-all standards?