Since No Child Left Behind began its reign of error a decade ago, the American public has slowly but surely changed its understanding and expectations of schools.
We have come to think that every school must “make” every student proficient, and if it cannot, then the school is a “failing” school.
We have come to look on schools as “failing” if they enroll large numbers of students who don’t perform well on standardized tests, regardless of their personal circumstances, their language ability, or their disability.
We have come to believe that teachers alone can bring every student to high test scores. And if we don’t believe this is possible, we are accused of defending the status quo or not caring about students or not believing they can succeed.
In pursuit of impossible goals, goals that no nation in the world has reached, we have come to accept (with glee, if you are a corporate reformer, or with resignation, if you are informed by reality) that schools must close and staff must be fired en masse in pursuit of that evanescent goal of “turnaround” from failure to success.
And here is the latest small and barely noticed episode in the continuing assault on common sense and public education.
The Los Angeles Times reported that students and parents demonstrated to protest the planned layoff of at least of the staff at Manual Arts High School. This school has been run for four years by a private group called L.A.’s Promise.
It is no longer unusual to see students and parents protesting the mass dismissal of teachers, so they will be ignored. That’s the new normal.
What is odd here is that L.A.’s Promise laid off about 40% of the staff last year. 50% last year, 40% this year.
It seems that this organization will just keep firing teachers until they finally get a staff that knows how to raise test scores and graduation rates higher and higher.
Such punitive actions display a singular lack of capacity on the part of leadership to build and support a stable staff.
Such heavy-handed measures surely demoralize whoever is left.
We have become so accustomed to mass firings and school closings that we have lost our outrage, even our ability to care.
Another school reconstituted, another school closed, more teachers fired. Ho-hum.
That’s the new normal. That is what is called education reform today.
So normal are such crude and punitive measures that the events at Manual Arts High School didn’t even merit a real story in the Los Angeles Times. It was posted in a blog.
Destroying public schools is called reform. Mass firings of staff are called reform.
It’s the New Normal.
Don’t accept it. Don’t avert your eyes. It’s not supposed to be this way.
Schools need a stable staff. Schools need continuity. Schools need to be caring and supportive communities.
Schools need to be learning organizations, not a place with a turnstile for teachers, administrators and students.
Don’t lose your own values. What is happening today is wrong. It is not education reform. It is wrong.
It does not benefit children. It does not improve education. It is wrong.