Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Public School

I am going to assume that you all know what public school is, so I won’t toy with your time by giving a definition. :) However, I would like to post this quote from the Center for Public Education website (see sidebar link).

“The Role of Public Schools: Every day, 48 million youth walk through the doors to our public schools—that’s nearly nine in every ten school-aged children in the United States. And their numbers are growing.
Every American has a stake in making sure these young people are well prepared for life in the 21st century. Investing in public schools helps us meet our obligation to grant every child, of every race and class, an equal chance to pursue careers and goals of their choosing. Our own interests are served by public schools, too, for today’s students will determine the well being of our nation and the quality of life for all of us in the not-too-distant future.”

I taught public elementary school for 3 years. I know better than most the numerous flaws in public education; but I also know the strengths. As a former teacher I can attest that 90% of your child’s public school teachers, administrators, and staff will and do work as hard as possible to push every child to succeed (and that includes your child).

•It is free, and offers free and reduced lunch for families with low SES.
•Public education ensures that all children are given an opportunity to learn.
•Your child will be able to learn crucial social life skills. They will interact with a wide variety of students and teachers and learn how to cope with others of different opinions, SES, and races.
•In secondary education there are many extracurricular activities in which your children can participate. The teachers are also specialized in subject matter that might be beyond your ability to teach (if you are considering home school).
•You have the opportunity to be a part of PTA or of the school boards (a fabulous way to get involved in your community and help improve our country’s education).

•Inappropriate (too much) government interference.
•The world can be a daunting place and you are exposing your children to many outside influences. Your children may make wrong decisions and associate with peers that you don’t approve of.
•You may not agree with some of the teachers and be fearful of them teaching your children. It is sometimes difficult to get your child transferred to a different teacher (or another school).
•The overall culture the schools in your area (teaching methods, the hours, rules, curriculum, facilities, funds, philosophies, etc. . . ) may not be to your liking.

Final Note: I tried my best to be unbiased as I wrote this post; there are millions more pros and cons (we could be here all day). I have very strong feelings about public education and I want to work to make it better – I support public education, though I don’t always agree. I feel that this is crucial to breaking the poverty cycle, that it is a part of the American dream that you can do anything if you work hard enough, and that despite the imperfections I see on a frequent basis, public education is one of the things that will ensure that our nation isn’t swathed in ignorance. YOU as a parent have to make the difference though.

I have posted a comment from a friend. It is under my name (for privacy), but I didn’t write it. I wrote her an e-mail and asked for her thoughts before I wrote this post. The message she conveyed was succinct and in line with my feelings. She is a former educator as well and a mother; I highly respect and value her opinion.


Tannie Datwyler said...

My friend Wrote:

"Yes, my daughter will go to public school. I feel very strongly about that. The idea of free public education for everyone works at its very best when everyone participates. When you start pulling kids from the school and placing them into private school and other choices, you are weakening our public school system. Money and resources are then allotted to other areas. A nation without free public education won't be a strong nation for long. You know the saying . . . today's kids, tomorrow's leaders. I want our kids to have a chance. Leaders shouldn't just come from those whose parents have the time/resources to lobby for them.

I know so many very intelligent children whose moms and dads work two jobs each. They depend on the school system to break that cycle of poverty. It's unfortunate, but it's reality.

Yes, it's true that public education has to take ALL students. That would seem to weaken the system. In reality, it's real-world application. You can't pick and choose who lives next to you--the neighbors that you will see every single day--and, often, you can't choose who you get to work with in a job-setting either. Tolerance of others' needs and abilities strengthens the whole group and makes everyone a better person.

What about test scores? We've seen the data in our school district. At a title one school, our test scores were as high as those in more affluent neighborhoods, as high as the lab school (where your students must be on a waiting list from a very early age) and higher than the charter school (who actually has the option of not allowing specific behavior students to attend.) The key is a close knit faculty who puts children first.

Parents who want more say in their child's education need to take a more active role in public education. Work in your child's classroom. Keep in contact with teachers. I know I was far better when I knew I'd have parents, administrators and other people checking me. I understand that a child is a parent's greatest treasure. I certainly feel that way. I've had the conversation with my husband about what would happen if we moved to an area where the schools were not up to par. Would she go to private school? Would I opt for a different choice? No. I would spend more time in the classroom--ensuring the teacher that I was there to support, but also there as a check. I would lobby my neighbors to participate in the PTA and volunteer in classrooms. And I would support her learning at home. I know I am capable of that. For those who aren't, (i.e.: those working 2 and 3 jobs to get by) their children will benefit from my daughter's association (in peer groups, social groups, etc.) and from my efforts to encourage the school and classroom teacher to do a better job.

Speaking in stereotypes, when we skim the students whose parents have time/knowledge/overall resources to figure out different school settings, we skim the highest academically-performing kids right out of the classroom. Research shows us that kids learn so much from each other. That's why small group settings are the ideal. The more we skim, the lower performing our schools will be. The lower performing the classes become, the less chance there is to break the poverty cycle. The more poverty, the higher the illiteracy in our society which has a direct correlation to crime rates. A good public education system is founded on the idea that everyone is included--not just the high or the low. That is the way to strengthen our society and improve our nation."

Megan said...

I just want to say one more things about charter schools, and then comment on Tannie's post. In Utah, Charter schools cannot deny a student a spot based on behavioral problems unless they have been expelled from that charter school previously.

Tannie I love how you point out education is a way to break the poverty cycle. That is so true! I know several parents who work jobs, can't volunteer in the classroom, but still push their kids to help them have a higher paying job with it comes their turn to work.

Also, I do like the point that is made that charter schools and school vouchers do take money away from standard public schools. It's something that I wish could be changed because while I am a proponent of charter schools, my son will more than like attend a standard public school and I would like that money to be there to support his education.

Like the comment from Tannie's friend above, free public school is what makes a nation great and I hope we are able to continue to make it the best place for students to be so that they can succeed.

Forward With Fun and Faith said...

Amen to everyone's comments. Even though I am looking at home schooling seriously I believe strongly in and support public schools. I have always wanted to be that overly zealous PTA mom. SO MUCH depends on parent involvement and support! I loved the comments from your friend.

Test scores DO NOT accurately reflect the teachers/schools ability. I mean that in the sense where they may be low, not referring to “the friend comment.

If "society/government" would just give public schools proper funding, free reign, and 100% support there would be NO cap on the potential of what every child could become and accomplish through public education. Great job Tannie!

Kelly A. said...

Wow! Tannie, you and your friend have worded this so well and expressed many of my own opinions. One thing that life has taught me is that there is no "one size fits all". I feel I learned that in greater depth as a teacher, and in even greater depth as a mother. However, I am with you in saying that we need to fight to make public education better.

Tannie Datwyler said...

So, I totally forgot to put my signature on the bottom of this. I didn't do that to hide the fact that I wrote this. . . I just forgot! :)

Student at Utah State University said...

Part of me wants to consider other school types but I just can't get past the feeling that I want my kids to have the same type of school experience that I had. I had a great experience and did well. I enjoyed the extracurricular activities that public schools provide. I am having a hard time getting past that in considering other types of schooling.

Student at Utah State University said...

Sorry...this is Delia.

Student at Utah State University said...

I also have to say that I agree with your friend Tannie. What she said was really well worded. I don't believe in sheltering my children. Eventually they grow up. Trying to control their environment and all their influences rather than guiding them and teaching them to live in the world we really live in, can backfire...and usually does. Sending children to public schools doesn't mean you are not wanting to be involved in your child's education enough to home school them. I am not against Charter schools though. I also like specialty schools. Like others have said before. Nothing is one size fits all and so it is good to have options.

This is Delia again I am just logged under a different google account.

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