Closing the Vicious Cycle: The Chimera of the Magic Wand, Schools Alone Cannot Close the Achievement Gap

Seemingly for decades Jonathan Kozol has been the conscience of public education. For underpaid, frustrated, marginalized teachers Kozol was that voice in the wilderness – his plaints of dilapidated under financed schools resonate with those who ply their trade in the trenches.

His books are standard fare in education courses, teachers flock to his frequent appearances … and …I fear he is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

With the release of his latest book he has suddenly became the center of a maelstrom, many attacking Kozol more than his ideas. Sol Stern in the City Journal and a number of bloggers  go after Kozol, and, obliquely, his ideas.

Kozol bemoans the re-segregation of public schools  and the NCLB driven reliance on test prep and “dumbed down” education.

Unfortunately he is jousting with windmills …

Yes, we live in a segregated society – black and Hispanic inner cities and well as suburbs: segregation by class  and by race and ethnicity. The Civil Rights movement of the fifties and sixties defined many of our lives … the boycotts, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Now, a half century later, to some, the victories have been eroded.

NCLB requires testing in grades 3-8, however, in New York this is nothing new. In the pre-NCLB days test scores were published in the NYTimes – low scores had consequences. Test prep was the norm from Christmas until the tests in April.

What is so disturbing is the belief that there is a simple solution. Even the perceptive columnist, Bob Herbert has a “magic wand” solution to educational issues. Wendy Kopp, the CEO and founder of Teach for American has a $120 million budget – to place “the best and brightest” into schools for two years … does her program improve student achievement? Not according to Linda Darling-Hammond … but Wendy is the favorite of corporate America …

If you spend any time in an inner city secondary school you see teachers struggling … and you confront a resistant student body: resistant to authority, resistant to doing homework, angry and rebellious, or, just alienated. Yes, great leaders and great teachers with proper resources and external supports, can, against the odds, succeed. But most of us are ordinary human beings who do the best we can … against seemingly overwhelming circumstances.

Orlando Patterson in a NYTimes  article points to a core issue:

The circumstances that far too many African-Americans face — the lack of paternal support and discipline; the requirement that single mothers work regardless of the effect on their children’s care; the hypocritical refusal of conservative politicians to put their money where their mouths are on family values; the recourse by male youths to gangs as parental substitutes; the ghetto-fabulous culture of the streets; the lack of skills among black men for the jobs and pay they want; the hypersegregation of blacks into impoverished inner-city neighborhoods — all interact perversely with the prison system that simply makes hardened criminals of nonviolent drug offenders and spits out angry men who are unemployable, unreformable and unmarriageable, closing the vicious circle.

It is easier to fund Teach for America or attack tenure or support or oppose some reading program … it is harder to confront the inner city culture that Patterson describes and we have created.

Until we confront these issues, our schools, our nation, and our children will flounder.

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2 responses to “Closing the Vicious Cycle: The Chimera of the Magic Wand, Schools Alone Cannot Close the Achievement Gap

  1. Pingback: Closing the Vicious Cycle | Edwize

  2. KRYSTAL SERRANO’S KEYNOTE SPEECH | GED Programs

    May 08, 2007
    LOU DOBBS ON SIXTY MINUTES
    By Profesor Martin Danenberg ‘El Quijote del GED’

    Lou Dobbs was on 60 Minutes last night espousing the issues that are important to his campaign to help the middle class. He was confronted about the fact that his news telecast is full of his own opinions (I chose telecast instead of show). I have long felt that newspapers and the media should give people a chance to read different opinions without knowing who expressed those ideas. We Americans are ant-Giuliani, anti-Hillary, anti-lots of people and we should have the opportunity to absorb ideas without the personality of the person being called into question. For example, if Hillary Clinton had a plan to save us four times the amount of money that we are saving in current tax refunds or savings, wouldn’t we support her? This is what is wrong with Lou Dobbs. Someone is paying a lot of money to build him up larger than he is, but this happens in sports, Hollywood, and everywhere on the globe. If there is an abundance of one side of an issue in the news, it should be balanced by having someone else present the contrasting opinion and not Lou Dobbs.

    Here is an idea for all Lou Dobbs fans and Lou Dobbs himself. Much of his reporting is wrong about important domestic issues. Once upon a time, doctors treated most ulcers with anti-acids medications. Now they treat most ulcers with antibiotics, because a doctor proved that all doctors were wrong. Once upon a time, medical science believed that the heart does not heal itself. Now those scientists know they were wrong. Much of what all reporters are reporting falls into the ‘Once upon a time’ level of fairy tale. We can tell you the savings to your car by changing your oil according to the manufacturer’s standards and we can easily estimate the savings to the tax payer by educating people. The savings is in the billions, no hundreds of billions. Nobody has focused on the
    GED issue across our large nation, an issue that has tens of millions who are in need. This is where we have gone wrong in the last 41 years since the GED became civilianized. This is where Lou Dobbs’ reporting has gone wrong. Oh, his shows are factually correct, just as the doctors were correct in their time, but he is far off the mark.
    My fellow Americans, you have been looking for relief with your taxes for many years, but I tell you now that the greatest relief within the tax structure that exists is to invest in most of the 40 million adults who do not have a GED and keep them away from jail and extremely high costs related to jail and social services. Lou Dobbs is just another ‘bad’ leader who is helping us waste our money. All of the social service agencies at the local, state, and national level have to be reorganized and you can throw in the services provided on Native American reservations too.

    The American Teacher magazine in May 2007 pointed out that there will be 700.000 students who will drop out of school and cutting the dropout rate in half would save the American taxpayer $46 billion per year. The article goes on to cite strategies for keeping youth in school and says nothing or nada about GED. The savings mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. We can effectively cut taxes by mobilizing those who are already costing us those billions and more toward the GED, better jobs, more justice for people, higher education, better families and churches, and a stronger nation that can compete better in the global economy that people tell us about. Make the GED test free for everyone in the United States (40 million adults need a GED) and can see the investment pay off in greatly reduced taxes. I do not think that the liberal Democrats and Republicans of the 1960’s and 1970’s really did what was needed to help the American people in a revolutionary manner, but the conservatives and Republicans who have dominated American politics since then, by their collective ignorance, have made matters worse. Even though there may have been some tax relief, it could have been much greater than it is. So now is the time for liberal and conservative and Democrat and Republican to unite in investing in everyone in America. Have you heard Lou Dobbs comment on the GED issue? I wrote an article about him and sent the article to his staff. Maybe we will find out if Lou Dobbs is ‘spineless’ like journalists he has criticized. He objects to ‘fair and balanced’ journalism and insists on ‘objective’ journalism. Maybe Dobbs, Sean Hannity Brit Hume, Keith Olbermann, and Bill O’Reilly should team up and present my information to the American people. The American people deserve better than those men are giving. Raising the minimum wage will help the poor, but it will only produce moderate gains. Cutting the dropout rate is much more significant, but it will help less than one percent of the people each year. I propose cutting the dropout rate in half (350,000), but helping 400,000 more adults from 21 years of age and up to obtain the GED. Will people learn about this on the Lou Dobbs show?

    I BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE TENS OF MILLIONS WHO WATCH THE LOU DOBBS SHOW WHO EITHER NEED THE GED OR WHOSE CHILDREN OR NEIGHBORS CHILDREN NEED THE GED AND LOU DOBBS IS NOT HELPING THEM. THERE ARE EVEN A MILLION OR MORE OF THOSE PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE CLASS, TOO, WHO MUST WONDER WHY THERE IS NO HELP FOR THEIR CHILDREN AND NEIGHBORS.

    MARTIN N. DANENBERG
    7 BLAZER DRIVE
    ISLANDIA, NEW YORK 11749
    631-348-1341
    GEDHOTLINE@AOL.COM
    http://www.ahorre.com/ged
    http://www.geocities.com/gedhotline

    Profesor Martin Danenberg May 8, 2007 09:08 PM | Noticias | GED Math

    Like

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