Public ed advocates should consider a new approach

A recommendation from Scott Milder, President and CEO, Friends of Texas Public Schools

Improving public education, or “fixing our failing schools”, as the critics and self-proclaimed education reform experts like to condemn, has been and will continue to be at the very top of the list of political issues. The 2013 Legislative Session has yet to begin, but the political machine is already racing to pass whatever its latest agendas are for public education. As ambassadors for Texas public schools and the profession, we should adopt a new approach. In fact, I recommend this be our standard message henceforth when engaging in discussion or debate about strengthening public education. We are not doing any good for our students or those who work in our schools by conceding that our schools are failing, which is essentially what we are doing when we engage in this education reform debate without first acknowledging our achievements.

FOLLOW THIS SCRIPT WHEN ENGAGED IN REFORM DISCUSSION

“First thing we can do to strengthen (NOT REFORM) our public schools in Texas is to recognize educators for their incredible achievements, particularly over the last 10 years. No one wants our students to excel more than those of us who work in our schools, but it is getting more and more difficult against the rhetoric and mean-spirited criticism that consumes the debate about fixing our public schools. You all are so focused on improving test scores that you are beating down the caring, dedicated professionals who pour their hearts and souls into our students. As a professional educator and on behalf of all educators, I resent the insinuation that we are failures. Our schools are better today than ever before and our students are achieving at higher levels than ever before.

“What can we do to improve? I’ll tell you what we can do. Change your approach. Try lifting the spirits of those working in our schools rather than beating them over the head and demanding improvement. You can’t say we love our teachers and we support our teachers, then condemn their work! It’s hypocrisy at its finest and it is insulting.

“I bet you didn’t know…

  • Exit-level science scores during the TAKS era rose from 47% passing in 2003 to 91% passing in 2011
  • Exit-level math scores during the TAKS era rose from 44% passing in 2003 to 90% passing in 2011
  • Exit-level social studies scores during the TAKS era rose from 78% passing in 2003 to 99% passing in 2011
  • Exit-level English scores during the TAKS era rose from 61% passing in 2003 to 95% passing in 2011
  • More than 92 percent of the 319,588 students in the Class of 2011 either graduated in four years or continued high school for a fifth year.
  • Texas students in every major ethnic group significantly outscored their peers nationally on the 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test
  • Only 3 pennies of every education dollar are spent on central administration in this state
  • 61 cents of every education dollar is spent on teacher salaries, curriculum, instructional materials, and instructional classroom aides.
  • Only 3 pennies of every education dollar are allocated for all extracurricular activities, including football
  • More than 99% of Texas teachers are considered Highly Qualified as defined by No Child Left Behind

“All of this data is sourced on the Friends of Texas Public Schools website and is the official data released by the State.

“Now, let’s talk about how we can achieve even more.”

END OF SCRIPT

– Scott Milder

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