Sunday, January 6, 2013

Why no school is the best school if you can't afford an independent school

A friend recently asked what school/districts I recommend near New York City. When my boyfriend and I discussed this a few years back I rattled off numerous schools and districts like this one.  Back then my job consisted in part of supporting schools with something called the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) which honors students passions, talents, interests, abilities and learning style. My advice today is very different.

What learning looks like for the children
of the wealthy or highly educated.
Those SEM schools are gone for the most part, though some hang on by a thread with an after school program.

Priorities have changed.

Gone are the days when we saw our children as creative, unique individuals and educators as the ones who could help them discover, explore, and develop their passions.

Today our teachers and students know they are nothing more than mere datapoints who will be fed a pre-packaged, curriculum that is measured by numerous One-Size-Fits-All tests that line the pockets of publishers like Pearson, fill the egos of politicians who don't know better and hurt our children.
Penelope Trunk, a wildly successful career advisor explains it this way:
"Test-based curricula is irrefutably ineffective and bad for kids. I'm not even providing a link, because it's so widely reported. However no one can think of a better way to run such a large and diverse public school system as the one we have in the US, so test-based curricula will persist for a long time."
Trunk, who makes a living by telling people how to get the best careers possible, now homeschools her children and advises others to do the same because in the days following NCLB & RTTT, she explains that, "to receive public funding, public schools must have test-based curricula. This is true for charter schools as well. They are public schools. They need public funding." Unless this changes, our nation will have two school systems. One is where the masses go to be processed and spit out on the other end ranked, rated, and sorted into neatly packaged datapoints.
Trunk points out however, that the wealthy and powerful do not send their kids to test-based schools. Those kids go to independent private schools that function more like homeschool. And the fastest-growing group of parents taking their kids out of school are parents with a bachelor's degree and a household income in the range of $50,000 – $75,000.
All of this leads me to why I told my friend that if an independent school is not on the table, my best advice for her would be to move somewhere with a rich environment like NYC and homeschool
As long as testing is the way students, teachers, and schools are ranked it will continue to be terrible. If it wasn't, the wealthy and powerful, who are fond of testing other people's children, would be sending their own kids to these testing factories. Instead wealthy parents are putting their children in the independent schools and more and more not-so-wealthy, but educated, parents are taking their kids out of public school and homeschooling them. In New York City, which leads the nation on the testing and accountability movement, the number of homeschoolers has increased a whopping 36% in the past eight years!
I agree with Trunk's advice. If you want to do what is best for kids and you can't afford an independent school, the best you can do is to  take them out so they don't get left behind.