During the school year, my personalized professional development consists mainly of reading blogs that are posted on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook primarily because they're shorter and with all the expectations of a school administrator, finding the time to complete a book can be a challenge. Now that it's summer, though, I thought I'd read a book that was recommended by someone I follow on Twitter. It's called, 50 Myths & Lies that Threaten America's Public Schools. (Click on the link to read an interview with the authors.)
As someone who tries to keep up with the trends in public education, I found the book to be validating as well as somewhat discouraging because there are so many misconceptions about public education and the answers provided by conservative think tanks, policy makers, or large publishing companies are not what will make a difference for our students.
My major takeaway from the book is this: our public education system is not broken. There are lots of great things happening in our public schools, but if we don't solve America's inequity problems, we will always have a large group of students who will struggle with learning. It's not their fault.
It's not enough, though, to wring our hands and justify that there will always be students who fall through the cracks or who are born into situations where struggling in school is a very realistic possibility. The question then is, "What can we do about it?" The authors of 50 Myths & Lies offer some solutions in the interview: mixed housing areas so all low-income people are not in the same area; higher taxes on the wealthy and some corporations to fund teachers, police officers, firefighters, the military, and other service positions; dual language schools; and more money in education budgets to fund quality early childhood education programs or after-school or summer enrichment and tutoring programs. These are great ideas for policy makers to consider, but I don't hold out much hope that action will be taken anytime soon.
Those of us who are in the schools do our best with what we're given. I can think of lots of ways to spend the money if we had more funding for schools, but the reality is that we shouldn't count on getting more. When the Governor and the Legislature are obligated to balance the budget, it is assumed that the extras will be cut out of the Department's request especially during lean years. So what are schools supposed to do?
That's the big question schools are grappling with, and I know that like every other school, we're not waiting. Schools don't wait; we act because we know that our school communities trust that we will do the best for our students. So despite the fact that funding is inadequate to address the needs of our individual schools, we find funding through grants or partnerships to ensure that our students continue to grow as learners. Or teachers volunteer their services because they know it will help their kids.
A book like 50 Myths & Lies that Threaten America's Public Schools does not seem to have the same impact as the movie, Waiting for Superman. John Q. Public loves to bash our public schools but they offer no viable solutions on how to "fix" our problems. Educators in public schools take the heat from the public without fighting back and continue to do our best for our students and our school communities. But maybe it is time for us to be more vocal - not necessarily to fight back against the "myths and lies" -- but to share the positive things going on in public schools today. Public schools deserve to be supported!
Follow the Hawaii Department of Education on Facebook. You'll be amazed at all the GREAT things happening in our Hawaii public schools! https://www.facebook.com/HIDepartmentofEducation