Public Education Reform

I call myself a Public Education supporter. I advocate, I lobby, I educate myself on the issues. Public education benefits our society, well beyond our own kids. I truly want it to succeed. (This post used to say 5, but thanks to readers contacting me, I’m adding two.)

I hear these same stories, day in, day out. My guess is that this post will generate some angry email toward me. I’m ok with that. It needed to be said. These ideas weren’t just one parent, one time. It’s over and over and over. It’s an established and accepted pattern.

It’s all across the nation. Large city schools, small rural ones. Charter schools, traditional public schools…doesn’t matter. Parents are dealing with this every place you look.

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If we truly want our schools to succeed, we need to stop allowing these things to happen. It’s time to demand change.

7 things schools need to stop doing

Schools Need to Stop Doing These 7 Things.

Ignoring School Climate Issues.

In the past 10 years, I have seen the following 3 issues skyrocket:

  1. Children unable to cope at school, to the point that the parent has to be called to come get them.
  2. Kids holding it together at school, but completely empty and spent, with nothing left to give, once they get home. This manifests itself in different ways from tantrums and meltdowns to withdrawing socially.
  3. School Refusal.

If you truly care about kids, and I think you do–otherwise you wouldn’t get into public education, you wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the intolerable school climate issues that have erupted over the past several years.

Suspending kids.

Especially the really young ones. Every single day, I hear about 5 and 6-year-olds being suspended. Suspensions have no redeeming qualities. None. Zip. Nada. They are solely punitive in nature.

And even for older kids, there is a ton of research out there that says that it only makes the situation worse.

When a school suspends a child I can discern a few things. One is that the school culture is reactive, not proactive. Also, you’re out of options or not open to new ideas. Or, really open to helping that child. Because suspensions don’t help. You know this, so why does it keep happening?

Public Behavior Performance Charts

I don’t care if it’s clothespins or red/yellow/green light. Whatever format it is, destroy it today.

Imagine if school administrators wanted to hang public behavior performance charts in the schools’ main offices, for all to see. Teachers’ Unions would lose their goddamned minds.

Stop it. Today.

Awards for Attendance

These have really got to go. Just a bad idea all around.

First, they give kids the message that you get awards just for showing up. Given how many people in society are annoyed by our “Everyone gets a trophy!” mentality, I’m surprised that more are not bothered by this.

Second, it encourages kids to go to school when they really should stay home. We don’t need germs and the flu spread around.

Lastly, it sends a subtle message that being absent is not good. Some kids get sick. They shouldn’t be made to feel inferior for that. Particularly kids who are disabled or chronically ill.

Rethink your homework practices.

Guess what? Most homework does nothing. Yep, again, another idea that has a whole lot of “well we’ve always done it” and not much else.

Any administrator worth their weight in salt would eliminate this for the younger grades in their district. I’m all for having kids do activities outside of school that boosts learning. Filling out worksheets when you’re 6 ain’t it!

Adopting meaningless bullying policies.

“We don’t tolerate bullying” is the most overused and meaningless mantra out there. I don’t know if schools cannot find a method that works or what, but what is going on right now is not working.

Day in, day out I hear the same stories over and over from parents. And, as a Special Education Advocate, I work with parents whose kids are almost definitely going to be bullied at some point in their life. For families like mine, it’s a matter of when not if.

We know how detrimental this is to a child’s well being, their education and so on. Let’s do more than develop hollow policies and meaningless assemblies for kids. Each and every school district in the country should form a task force or committee devoted to this. They should research what programs and policies are working elsewhere in the country and implement them.

Gaslighting and Bullying IEP parents.

Hey schools, guess what? We know that you don’t have enough money to educate our kids. Any of them, really. But especially the special education students.

We know this, you know this, our legislators know this. So why are you taking it out on us? Why are you not taking it up with your unions, your professional associations, and your legislators? Why are you coming after parents and not them?

We’re in this together. We need you. Our kids are not welcome any place else, so we’re not going anywhere. You have to deal with us, so maybe we could try staying positive instead of so contentious. How about taking a pause when a parent asks you for something, instead of going right into defensive mode and saying “no!” without digging deeper? We’re not always wrong. We’re not always asking for too much, or more than what our kids need.

Are you aware that most disabled kids are facing the same exact outcomes as their disabled peers from 1975 when IDEA was enacted? They are. Look at the employment rates, the college enrollment rates, high school, and college graduation rates. Outcomes have not improved in almost 50 years.

Some of us have to fight our insurance companies, our employers, fight for our kids’ lives. And then we have to turn around and fight the school too? Does it really have to be this way?

We’re tired. You’re tired. We’re all sick of this, aren’t we? Schools have more power in these relationships, so why not use it for good? Why not decide today, right here, right now…that you’re going to improve the climate in your space around IEPs? None of us can control the behaviors of others. But we can start with us.

Zero tolerance policies.

They don’t work. They’re a dumb idea and they were a knee jerk reaction to Columbine in the mid-1990s. Most importantly, they have a devastating effect on kids with IEPs. It’s time to end them.

We all want our schools to be a safe, nurturing place where kids can learn, meet friends, be accepted and grow. For too many kids, that’s not happening.

So how did we get here?

It’s time for change. (and yes, that’s now 8 things! but I’m not changing the graphic again)

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