The plan in question talks about the goals the FSBE wants to achieve by 2018 – five or six school years from now, depending on how you count it. Under this plan, they want 90% of Asian students and 88% of white students to be reading at or above grade level by 2018. They also want 92% of Asian students and 86% of whites to be proficient at math. The goal for Hispanics is 81% reading at level and 80% being proficient at math. The goal for blacks is 74% reading at level and 74% being proficient at math.
This is truly wrong to me, and I’m not even talking about race. Why in the world can’t schools shoot for 100% across the board? This is basically setting out with the intent of failing. It’s ridiculous. The school system should be working hard to make sure that every single kid. . . 100%. . . meets the requirements set for them. And if they don’t, then they need remedial teaching, new study aids, whatever. It is simply unacceptable to me to start from the premise that the school system will be happy if two in ten kids fails. When you allow failure, you get failure.
Now, I understand why schools do this. They have decided that a lot of education is beyond their control because the parents are to blame. I don’t accept that. The schools have these kids typically six or seven hours a day, five days a week. That is more than the parents see them, and it’s more than enough time to educate them, no matter what is going on at home. The problem here is the methodology, not some outside influence which can’t be overcome. The problem is that the schools still stick with this one-size-fits all approach which says that all kids learn the same. They need to realize that different kids need different approaches. Every employer knows this. That’s why you motivate your people differently and why you set different rules for them. Teachers need to start seeing kids as customers, evaluating their needs, and tailoring plans to get them to their individual goals.
Now lets talk about race. I understand why the FSBE assigned different percentages based on race. This is because performance remains disparate at the moment. In other words, blacks currently do worse that whites, hence the assumption is that black kids start at some disadvantage which sets them back. Thus, they set different achievement levels in the hopes of presenting “a realistic goal.” But as I just discussed, this is setting out to fail and that’s unacceptable. If some kids start further behind, then you just need to work harder to get those kids up to speed. Mechanics can’t say, “well, that car’s brakes were worse than the other’s, so an 80% improvement is good enough for that car.” No, they need to fix everything to the same level.
Think about the business world. Assume you have several homebuilders who are using defective construction methods which result in homes with lots of defects. You are an inspector. Does it make sense to throw up your hands and say, “well, the builders have differing levels of skill, so I need to accept differing levels of defects?” Hardly. You still demand 100% defect-free homes. Yet, substitute “student” for “homebuilder” and suddenly it becomes acceptable to allow different levels of defects? Why?
Moreover, let’s get to the elephant in the room here. The school board is basically saying that black parents are no good. It is saying that black kids start out at a disadvantage because of their parents which makes them 30% harder to teach than white kids or Asian kids. So why is no one focusing on this? In other words, if black parents really are setting their kids up to fail, as seems to be implicit in the school board’s assumption, then why is no one talking about re-educating those parents?
Again, think about our homebuilders (parents). Assume you are a developer who needs to hire a builder. If you know that their construction methods result in defects that reduce the value of the homes around 20%-30%, does it make sense to hire these builders and just plan to keep fixing the defects, or does it make more sense to demand that they address their construction methods and stop the defects before they form? Of course you would try to fix the problem at its source, you’d be stupid not to! Yet, in the world of education, no one is talking about fixing the construction methods, i.e. the parents. If minority children are indeed starting school with a handicap as teachers suggest, then why is everyone utterly refusing to talk about the issue of improving the parenting skills of minorities?
There is no reason any school district should not be trying to get 100% of kids to level. And if minority kids are 20%-30% damaged by their parents, then we need to address that. Those parents need to be re-educated or their kids needs to be put into special programs where they can be trained to overcome the problems created by their parents. The last thing we should do is declare that it is fine for kids to fail.
As an aside, I’m going to put together an education article soon because one thing few people realize is that by and large, despite all the nay saying, the American education system is one of the best in the world – and some parts are THE best.