Dear United States of America,
Your educational system is in dire need of attention. Yeah, yeah. I know you’ve got some crises abroad to address, and I know election season is here, and I definitely know that there are some extremely pressing domestic issues you have to attend to–trust me, I get it; however, your educational system is on life support, and only you can save it.
Yeah, I think I will try appealing to your ego, first. America, F yeah! Here to save, the mother F’n day, yeah! I know the movie “Team America” was making fun of the fact that you feel the need to save every country that ever existed ever, but I thought the movie’s most well-known musical number would remind you of a crucial fact-you are a superpower. You save lives, America! You take care of children far and wide, you fights extremist terrorists, you provide experimental drugs to Ebola-ridden Africa. Please commence patting yourself on the back. I’ll wait…
Alright, now that your ego has been sufficiently inflated, let’s get down to business; or better yet, let’s get down to education. People all throughout your history have fought for education. Education for blacks. Education for women. Education for kids with disabilities. You have a rich history of people pushing for equal, accessible education for all. Clearly, education is desirable and valuable. So, why don’t you care about it anymore? Your educational system is collapsing in on itself and you have been standing around with your thumb up your butt. What gives?!
As an educator in your dying system, let me shed some light upon the issues, and offer some solutions. Issue: numbers have become more important than the actual student. Solution: start taking a more holistic approach to education, an approach where you are addressing all the needs of a student and not just the part of them that produces great test scores that make your schools look better.
Issue: college is pushed upon all kids Solution: start giving kids options! Inform them about trade schools/vocational schools. Better yet, require high schools to offer vocational programs for students. Also, don’t make kids feel like social pariahs for not pursuing college. College is not for everyone, and that is o.k. I repeat–that is O.K.
Issue: Special Education gets the shaft Solution: Where do I start? Hold schools highly accountable for the money they receive for each student that receives Special Education services. Use that money to create programs for the Special Education students, and not just for the low-functioning Special Ed. students, either. Hold schools highly accountable for the implementation of IEPs. Create solid self-contained programs for your students with emotional disabilities and for your students with learning disabilities. Sometimes a kid just need to be in a smaller class where they can get the attention and support they need. Unburden your Special Education teachers of copious amounts of paperwork by hiring more Special Education teachers! Spread the wealth! You try keeping up with numerous IEPs, FBAs, BIPs, point sheets, data sheets,etc., AND preparing lesson plans for NINE different subjects while dealing with kids having emotional break downs (which has been my job for the past two years). Better yet, try keeping up with all the aforementioned paperwork, pushing into 4-6 different teachers’ classes to support Special Ed. students, co-planning with those 4-6 different teachers, AND having to write IEPs for kids you don’t actually support in any classes; this is called support facilitation at my school, and it is insane. I could go on with Special Education solutions, but I’ll digress.
Issue: people making policies aren’t educators. Solution: start consulting educators regarding what is best for your students; after all, teachers are the ones on the front lines, witnessing first hand the effects of well-intentioned, ill-designed educational policies. Also, policy-makers should have to sit in classrooms, observe, talk to teachers and students, and really get a feel for public schools. They have no idea what public schools are like. None.
My dearest America, while there are far more issues than the ones listed above, the ones listed above are nearest and dearest to my heart. I sincerely hope this letter will open your eyes to the troubling issues plaguing your educational system. I sincerely hope this letter will encourage you to take education reform off the back burner. Most of all, I sincerely hope this letter will help you realize that those who need to be saved by you the most are those within your own borders–your children.