One of the big catch phrases in education is ” silver bullets.” Everyone is in search of silver bullets to solve problems in the educational battlefield. One group is looking for the silver bullet for the dropout problem. Another group is looking for the silver bullet for the bullying problem. Other groups are looking for silver bullets in the areas of student achievement, school budget shortfalls, teacher retention, etc. There appears to be silver bullets out there, somewhere, on the educational battlefield, that will solve our educational problems.

Some groups believe they have found the silver bullets that have the power to transform education. Bill Gates and the “Billionaire Boys Club” have found the silver bullet of Charter schools. Charter Schools have a nice, bright shine of silver bullets, but they have  lead cores. Generally, charter schools are artificially created success stories. High achievement, success, and good discipline is achieved by selective entry of “good students” and dismissal of “wrong” students. The Charter School Solution does not solve the problem of where are all the low-performers, discipline problems, ESL students, LEP students, special education students, etc. will go to school. If public schools disappear, the Charter Schools Solution is doomed to failure. The ‘Silver Bullet Charter School Reformers’ will discover their false solution was standing on the shoulders of hard-working, dedicated, and self-sacrificing public school teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg has found some different silver bullets. It appears all he needs is enough silver bullets to shoot all the bad teachers and union members and his educational problems will go away. Hopefully, he will have enough silver bullets for all the new “bad teachers” that appear and are created by poor test scores, bad  administrators,  lack of funding, poor school discipline systems and plans, low- performing students, or any other education problem.

President Obama and Arne Duncan have found their silver bullets in the ‘Race To The Top’ agenda and  ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB). ‘The Race To The Top’ silver bullet has at its core  testing and the belief that only the  results of  tests can be the true indicators of success or failure. Only through constant testing can true silver be discovered. Everyone and everything must be tested and a value and a consequence assigned for each result. Poor test results demands a teacher to be fired, a neighborhood school closed, or a state denied funds. High test scores justify the argument and rational behind merit pay, charter schools, privatization of schools, and federal funding of schools. NCLB is the moral lightning rod and justification behind the ‘Race To The Top.’ They believe the combining of these two programs will lead America to the educational promised land.

There is such moral smugness about these programs created by the people at the top,  who as children were never left behind.  Race To The Top allows the blame for the achievement gap to be transferred to ” bad teachers”, ” bad administrators”, and “bad schools”. The inconvenient truth is the policies and programs created by people at the top have created these problems. For decades, we have know the schools with achievement problems. They are the schools with low funding, crumbling buildings, few resources, large class sizes, and segregated student bodies.

With the transfer of blame to others, Race To The Top policy makers can come up with more top down solutions for the problems. These solutions appear to be more and more testing, firing of teachers, closing of schools, privatizing schools, and providing funds to those that buy into Race To The Top policies.

No Child Left Behind works much the same way. The thoughts and concepts behind NCLB are noble and just. The problem is that much like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign, NCLB is too simplistic and not based on reality. Nancy never had to walk home from school in a neighborhood controlled by violent gangs pushing drugs. Nancy was never in a situation where a no response could lead to a serious beating or death.

NCLB  is often used in a” bait and switch” way to transfer blame. The bait of NCLB is the truth that children have been left behind. The switch occurs as the truth is twisted to serve different agendas. The inconvenient truth, for the people at the top,  is the educational philosophies, policies, and programs created by people at the top has left half the children in America behind. The convenient truth is these same people are not held responsible for the failures of NCLB. Another convenient truth is that the parents, teachers, students, and schools that have suffered the most can now be made the scapegoats.  These scapegoat  groups should, next,  accept the blame for the problems in education.  After accepting the blame, these groups should also accept the punishments, sanctions, and new solutions presented by the people at the top.

Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind are doomed to failure. The people at the top confidently assume they have the answers to America’s educational problems. They came up with these answers without teaching , being a student, or living through any real life public school issue or situation. The elitist thinking of these programs is exposed in their solutions to educational problems. The solutions of charter schools, closing neighborhood schools, firing of “bad” teachers, etc.  are based on their school experiences.

This arrogant and elitist thinking never allows them to extend a hand down to the people that suffer the consequences of their decisions. This elitist thinking assumes that no solutions, thoughts, or educational programs could come from people living on the bottom rungs of the educational ladder. Only when the leaders at the top reach down and allow ideas, discussion, and solutions to bubble up from the bottom, will solutions to educational problems be found.

It appears everyone in education is looking for silver bullets to solve education problems. The truth is these silver bullets won’t work until you find the golden bullet. The golden bullet is fixing school discipline. America must demand good school discipline. When the school discipline problem is solved, all groups will be able to come together and work together to find and use the silver bullets.

P.S.      If you know anyone at the top, please let them know I have a discipline system and plan that will solve America’s discipline problem.

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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.

Everyone knows that we must do something to improve our schools.  There is so much yelling, screaming, and argument about public education. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students are frustrated and anxious about the safety, achievement level, and money needed for good education.

As parents, teachers, and administrators we all want the same thing. We want the best education for our children. As a discipline committee, and chairman of the discipline committee, we argued for weeks about education and the problems of our school. The first discovery made by the discipline committee was no other school problems could be solved without good school discipline. Solve the school discipline problem and problems of dropouts, attendance, bullies, and achievement disappear. Every school problem has at its core a discipline problem. If we solve the discipline problem in our schools, we will solve the money problems of our school systems. Billions of dollars are wasted on poor school discipline.

The second discovery of the discipline committee  was we needed a definition of discipline. As a committee we argued about discipline for weeks. We argued about all the problems of the school: violence, drop out rates, tardiness, bullies, poor achievement levels, etc. In truth, we were arguing about the effects of poor discipline. Our country is doing much of the same thing as the school discipline committee did at Austin High School. We all knew where we wanted to go and we all know what discipline should look like, felt like, and should be. We never solved any problems until we came up with a definition of discipline.  The definition of discipline I now use is:

discipline: a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make an individual change his/her behavior. The ultimate goal of discipline is to become self-disciplined.

Contained within this definition of discipline is the reason and solution for all our school problems. Our schools don’t have effective consequences for bad behavior. Too many students don’t change their behavior. Hard working teachers, parents, and administrators are overwhelmed with ever-increasing numbers of discipline problems. The problems of our education system is not caused by a shortage of hard-working, dedicated, and professional administrators and teachers. We, as a society, are left with arguing over the effects of bad discipline.

The second major problem in our schools is an ineffective and inefficient system of administering school discipline. The consequences that are intact in public schools now are ineffective and do little to solve the problem of discipline. School personnel are burdened with a system of office visits, paperwork, and record keeping that overwhelms everyone involved. The combining of an ineffective and inefficient school discipline system with consequences that don’t change behavior lead to Columbine-type situations.

There are thousands of schools in the U.S. with huge discipline problems. This leads to a third huge problem. A problem solving strategy of denial, blaming others, or minimizing the problem of discipline within a school. These strategies indicate a lack of success with the current discipline systems and set of consequences available to school personal.

I am starting this blog to change the way we look at school discipline. I know how to establish an effective and efficient school discipline system that combines a set of consequences, which I call Lecture and Pester, that changes student behavior and will quickly allow our schools to succeed.

Please help me in this process of changing the way we look at educational problems and how to solve these problems. I will continue to be blogging about different issues and solutions that will transform our public education system.