A teacher in California writes:
I am just about finished with your book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, and as a public high school teacher of 22 years, I would like to thank you for your eloquent defense of public education. My wife is also a public school teacher, and we have made it a point to send our two sons to our neighborhood public schools. This means that as teachers and parents we have been eyewitnesses to the injustices that are being done to public schools in the name of “reform.”
A particularly egregious story comes from our sons’ elementary school, Toyon Elementary, in San Jose, California. The school was designated Program Improvement under the terms of NCLB some years ago, and struggled hard to escape the designation. This is not an easy thing to do: the school where I teach is also laboring under the PI designation (and stigma), and my experience suggests that it’s a bit like quicksand: the more you struggle to get out, the more you get sucked in.
Still, through hard work and determination and no small amount of heroism on the part of its teachers, Toyon Elementary managed to escape the quicksand of Program Improvement a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful thing to see. We likely disagree on this, but I believe that the shortcomings in NCLB are no mere design flaws, but in fact a very conscious attempt to destroy the public schools. So to see a school actually beat the devil that is NCLB was for us a sight to behold.
But soon after the school got out of PI, we received a letter informing us that Toyon was now designated “Low Performing,” under the terms of Race to the Top. It seems that the effort of some in our state to qualify for Race to the Top funds–particularly state senator Gloria Romero–had given us and our children whole new categories under which to be called “failures.”
So there you have it: public schools in this era are not even allowed to take satisfaction in their success–especially success as defined by their adversaries. Since its true goal is annihilation of the public schools, the beast of reform will not countenance even the slightest defeat; in such an emergency, it will merely change the rules and declare victory.