Public education has moved too far away from whole child and developmentally appropriate practices. The shift over the past decade-plus has been towards an endless pursuit and analysis of data that serves less humane motivations. This data, generally gathered through standardized assessments and representing student acquisition of discrete skills, is far too valued in the “how should we educate children” wake left behind the education reform and accountability movement from over a decade ago. Enrichment is the best way to shift the endeavor and focus back on the actual learners and their needs.
So what can we do?
Some of this long drive to Data-Town is beyond the control of classroom teachers and public schools. Through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) there are funds tied to efforts to “closing gaps” and accountability through data collection. States, my supposed teacher-union stronghold of N.Y. included, have had to develop plans for collecting statistically normed data for purpose of comparison, ranking, tracking of progress, and accountability.
Now I like data and I crave information. Accountability, though, is a double-edged sword, and for a long, long, long time the only edge discussed is the one that cuts schools, educators, and in the end, students. Statistics I don’t like so much. I call it dishonest math for gentle liars, but I can understand why some choose to reach for numbers instead of truths and hug spreadsheets instead of children. I have little respect for it all, but it’s a fun thing to do with numbers if you’re not hurting people and it’s a low fence and a light lift. You get to avoid the hard truths.
My main issue, which I think could be largely resolved through enrichment, is that government agencies charged with oversight in a human endeavor like education continuously preach a caring message while perpetually falling back on that sterile and inhumane numbers-driven accountability bottom line.
Take, for example, the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative meant to close and “eliminate opportunity gaps” for boys and young men of color, and all students.”:
From p.7 of the 2020 revised NYSED ESSA plan
It’s easy to see that these are sequential goals, from entering school to a productive post-education life. The “Grow up in safe communities…” at the end is a sweet and hopeful goal.
But what about the first goal: “Enter school ready to learn”. Why is the Board of Regents, the body regulating public education, weighing in on what happens before students even arrive to participate in the public education they are regulating? What control do they have over what happens to students before they even arrive for day one of their public education?
“Ready to learn” happens at home and they know it. They know it, you know it, I know it…It happens in the community before they enter school. Otherwise, they enter not ready.
I need to gather my thoughts for part II. I’ll be getting more into enrichment when we get there.