Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"We need to stop paying lip service to public education, and start holding communities, administrators, teachers, parents and students accountable. We will prepare the next generation for success in college and the workforce, ensuring that American children lead the world once again in creativity and achievement." - Barack Obama

7:45 AM

Gerado enters 11th grade English late. Smirking with surliness, he tosses down his backpack with practiced nonchalance before whipping out a nub of a pencil. An instant later he starts talking.

"Gerado," the teacher asks, "could you please stop talking?"

"Why don't you stop talking?" he snaps.

"Gerado, please don't give me attitude."

"You're the one giving me attitude." he snarls, cursing her under his breath.

"Gerado, please step outside."

"This is bullshit!" he cries out, leaving in a huff. The teacher gives him a minute to cool off, but when she exits to check on him, he's gone.

"Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act--preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, & holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap." - George W. Bush

8:10 AM

I'm outside, looking for Gerado, when I stumble across a student wandering the courtyard. He's a round faced kid with a wisp of a goatee, wearing pants cut off at the knees. I don't know him by name, but I recognize him from my home room class.

"Why aren't you in class?" I ask perfunctorily.

"I'm feeling sick, Mister." he replies. "My stomach hurts."

"Why aren't you at the nurse?"

"I was, but sometimes I just come out here and walk around."

"Who is your first period teacher?" I ask.

"I don't know."

"It's March, how can you not know?"

The kid shrugs. "I've been sick a lot."

I escort him back to the nurse.

"We have made education a high priority, focusing on standards, accountability and choice in public schools, and on making a college education available to every American." - Bill Clinton

9:15 AM

During 2nd period I co-teach world history. The teacher asks her students to get out their books to take notes.

There are about 30 kids in the class. Only twenty take out their books.

I make the rounds, asking kids why they didn't bring their books.

"I left it at home."
"I didn't know we'd need it today."
"My locker is jammed, so I can't get it."

I stop before one of my students. He's bright, but lackadaisical. "Why didn't you bring your book?"

"I don't know, I left it at home."

"Why don't you leave the books in your locker?"

"I forgot the combination, so when I asked for a new one they wanted to charge me a dollar, and that's like a rip off."

My irritation is masked behind a facade of unflappable indifference. "Why not carry them?"

"Carry them? Those books are heavy!"

"We're on a block system. You only have two academic classes."

"C'mon, mister! Carry books? That would make me look like a nerd!"

"We will insist on high standards and accountability because we believe that every school should teach and every child can learn." - H.W. Bush

11:00 AM

Special Ed has been called out for a meeting with our administrators. They want to know why more of our students haven't been "mainstreamed" into General Ed, and why more Special Ed students aren't graduating. We promise to do a better job tracking students and keep tabs on their present levels of performance.

Speaking of performance, only one in five of the General Ed students at our school tests at advanced or proficient.

No one mentions that Special Ed fits right in with the other 80% of the school who test from somewhere below grade level to beneath the Earth's crust.

That would be impolite.

No one mentions that only 55% of our student population graduates high school, or the droves of them that drop out of community college after one semester.

That would be rude.

Clearly what we need to do is let parents decide where to send their children to school, break up the teacher's unions, allow for more state mandated testing, send more money for books and technology, put teachers through a more rigorous training process, allow charter's to take over, encourage more diversity, make students wear uniforms, reinstate school prayer, and make sure parents are fully involved in their children's education.

I could tell you that none of those are going to work, but I won't.

Because that would be rude.

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