When it comes to improving the nation’s failing public schools (and not every public school is failing), solutions are “a dime a dozen.” With solutions proliferating across the nation, that ends up being a pretty sizeable chunk of change.
Then, too, research studies examining how to improve the nation’s failing schools don’t cost “a dime a dozen.” No, they’re a veritable cottage industry, one carrying a high price tag. “That adds up to some real dollars,” the late-Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-IL) was fond of saying.
With all of that money spent and so many of the nation’s schools continuing to fail their students, The Motley Monk would suggest once again introducing one of the foundational principles of Catholic education—the “grammar of Catholic education”—namely, “parents are the first and best teachers of their children” into discourse about school reform.
The Motley Monk was delighted to read a Washington Post article detailing where parents are attempting to do just that.
Taking advantage of a 2010 California “trigger law,” parents in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto have petitioned to take over an elementary school. Backed by Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles organization funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Walton Family Foundation, parents like Cynthia Ramirez and Doreen Diaz organized their efforts
We just decided we needed to do something for our children. If we don’t stand up and speak for them, their future is lost.
The parents’ wish list includes:
- a DTE principal who has full control over hiring, firing, curriculum, and spending;
- every teacher to possess a master’s degree;
- a full-time librarian and among other things; and,
- preschool classes, a longer school day, a computer lab, and clean, and working restrooms.
Diaz’s daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary (DTE).
The 666 children attending DTE are mostly Black and Latino, with nearly every student qualifying for the federal definition of “poor.” DTE lacks a full-time nurse, guidance counselor, and psychologist. DTE has had three principals in the past five years.
- nearly 25% of students were suspended in 2011, nearly two times the district average;
- two-thirds of students failed the state reading exam;
- more than half of the students were not proficient in math; and,
- ~80%failed the science exam.
DTE has not met state standards for six years. Scores on state-mandated tests place DTE in the bottom 10% of California’s schools.
No doubt, DTE is a “failing” school.
Of course, there are critics of the takeover plan and their arguments are predictable:
- The complex challenge of educating young people may be entrusted to people who may be unprepared to meet it.
- Parents are circumventing the elected school board.
- Operators of charter schools want to take over the school to line their pockets with money that should be used to educate the students.
The Motley Monk’s favorite criticism was voiced by a group of parents who are opposed to the trigger. Backed financially by the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, one of these parents who has two children attending DTE, Lori Yaun, said:
We all agree we’d like to see some improvements, but would you rather blow everything up, start from scratch and hope for better? That doesn’t sound very good to me.
Judging from the facts of the past 5 years and the President of the Adelanto Teachers Union, LaNita M. Dominique, Ms. Yaun better not hold her breath waiting for “some improvements” to appear. According to Ms. Dominique:
We have a great school district, serve great kids that live in a great community.
Authentic school reform comes down to a battle of principles.
Are parents the first and best educators of their children and educators delegated by parents to assist in the education of their children?
Or, are educators delegates of the states who tell parents what and how their children are to learn?
To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link: