EDUCATIONAL SHELL GAMES

August 18, 2010

Movies from the 1930’s often show the “con game” where the con man has three peanut shells and one pea. The con man is matched up against someone trying to pick the correct shell the pea is under. A great con man is a manipulator and juggler of psychology, motivation, and odds. He knows the pigeon cannot win. The art of the con is keeping the pigeon and the crowd in the game, thinking they can win until they eventually lose. Educational shell games are set up the same way with the added bonus of the con men believing they are helping the pigeons win.

The Charter School concept is an educational shell game. Charter Schools  are the hidden pea under the shell. If you go to Charter Schools, then the gold will come your way. The idea is that Charter Schools will solve our education problem.

Charter Schools are a crooked shell game. They play the game with all the rules slanted their way. Charter schools pick  and choose who attends their schools. Only students that make a commitment to the school and themselves are allowed to attend. Students that fail to maintain this commitment and motivation are dismissed from the school.

Public schools cannot select who they want to teach. Public schools are required to teach whomever shows up. Therefore, when muggers, robbers, stalkers, and other categories of juvenile delinquents are released early from detention centers, they end up in public schools. The removal or expulsion of disruptive and dangerous students enrolled in public schools is a long and difficult process.

Years ago, Austin High School went on a campaign to expel disruptive and dangerous students from the school. Community leaders and politicians quietly and discretely asked the school not to expel so many students. An epidemic of break-ins, robberies, and vandalism were occurring in the neighborhood. Expelled students with too much time and opportunity were creating a serious problem for hard-working families. Austin H.S. cut the number of expulsions to the minimum.

Charter schools, magnet schools, etc. are set up to be successful. They are promoted as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Everyone associated with these charter schools goes around high-fiving each other and patting each other on the back. All those associated with this charter school sham should take a second look at themselves. The heart and soul of teaching and saving America is the battle in low-performing inner city schools. Two years of teaching in tough schools would drive charter school teachers away from the profession. Real teachers fight the battle in old schools,with limited resources. They use their own money and time to reach as many students as possible. Every day they worry or cry about the ones they can not reach. They suffer further the indignity of being labeled low- performing by grading systems that do not test for real learning or teaching.

Testing is another pea in the shell game. Pass the test and you are high-performing. All schools have to do is pass the test and all of our educational problems will be solved. The gold will come when we have high test results.

We should ask some questions before playing this educational shell game.

How come they keep changing the name of the state mandated tests? In Texas , we have had TAAS, TAKS, TAGS titles for tests.

The first year I taught I was excited because our students had improved so dramatically. The test scores had gone up in every area. The dean of instruction quickly tempered my excitement. He told me the principal had opted out to take the easy Metropolitan Achievement Test. The dean said there were different levels of difficulty to the same test. The principal decided how he was going to explain the test results. Either test results were lower because the test was harder this year or test results are higher because of exceptionally hard work by students,teachers, and administrators.

The constant improvement in schools and districts tests scores and rankings for the past 20 years can not be rationally explained without changing the name of the test. By changing the name of the test are we playing an educational shell game?

Why are colleges saying students are less prepared for college? Why has the time new college students need to be in remedial classes increased over the years? Why do we have these trends in colleges when test scores and the number of exceptional and recognized schools has been going up decade after decade? Why do we put such faith in these tests when there has been no clinical studies to determine if these tests really test what they are suppose to test? Where are the tests to check how well prepared students are for life? Teachers teach the whole student. Teachers teach the rules and values of civilized society. Without the rules, ethics, philosophy social behavior, courtesy, respect for others, desire to learn, will to win, and teamwork taught by teachers and coaches, I believe our democratic society would have disappeared long ago.

How does the increasing number of dropouts and lower graduation percentages correlate with 20 years of improved test scores and higher school rankings? Hello!!! Are we looking at a bunch of educational shell games?

All this shuffling of peas in the educational shell game. These fixes will not solve our educational problems. The key to solving educational problems is establishing well-disciplined schools. Charter schools establish discipline by selective enrollment, picking students that have made a commitment, and dismissing students that do not fit into the mold. Public schools will be as successful as charter schools when discipline is established in our public schools.

One final thought, Professor Steven Unwin informs me that the word “education” has  Greek roots. In Greek, education also means “to lead out of.” Therefore, teaching is more than passing tests. Teaching is also leading students out of poverty, out of ignorance, and out of the darkness of despair to the light of hope.

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One Response to “EDUCATIONAL SHELL GAMES”

  1. pat torrefranca said

    George,
    you can be such great help to many of the problematic high school kids. i wish you were back in the classrooms again, with those kids who can benefit from your patience and caring attitude. that’s where you’ll have thebiggest impact on their lives.
    Peace and all good –
    patsy

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