I don’t mean agenda in a negative fashion. I think that, as Will alludes, schools now attempt to produce citizens — but more than that — they seek to produce healthy individuals. People who are given opportunities and a level playing field, and have not only a fine education but strong character.
Really, who else is concerned with children from a governmental point of view? Civic organizations are adult-exclusive or adult-centered for the most part. Even other government bodies do little. In our state DSS is given the charge of watching children’s safety. But I think many of us have come to realize through knowledge of a case how bad things have to be before DSS seriously intervenes.
DSS is made up of great people, who get up at three in the morning to enter a home with the police to pull a young child out of an abusive, often criminal situation. But too often, by the time they intervene, it’s too late. Kids bounce around from house to house. Often barely welcomed because of the check they bring (but often, not).
In my building, we’re doing a heck of a lot more than education:
- Ensure proper nutrition, by encouraging students to take advantage of free/reduced lunch and breakfast programs. (fed law)
- Ensure good health through scoliosis screenings, updated physicals, and immunizations. (state law)
- Ensure good health by providing information on drug use and abuse, the dangers and precautions of sexual activity, and nuritional habits.(state law)
- Ensure good health by monitoring students for abrasions and incisions that indicate violence, whether from guardians or other situations. (state law)
- Ensure good health by monitoring students for signs of illicit drug or alcohol use. (state law)
- Ensure good psychological health through monitoring (yes, visually and consciously) students for signs of depression, including cutting and other self-abusive behavior. (State law)
- Ensure good psychological health by reporting any rumored or averred psychological abuse from guaridans. (state law)
- Ensure readiness to learn by chasing after and providing learning tools. I bought my own markers and copy paper all year. And will next year. Not to mention other learning tools. I have spent $80 of my own money on the day’s lesson. That’s about the day’s pay.(local budget)
- Ensure readiness to learn by monitoring for bullying among students, that can also lead to psychological concerns. (state law)
- Ensure readiness to learn by watching students for signs of an undiagnosed learning disability, and reporting any to medical staff for follow-up.
- Ensure citizenship by implicitly and explicitly including respect and diversity as positive values throughout my curriculum. (state guidelines)
- Ensure citizenship through stunts such as designated days when all curriculum work stops to focus on things like the Constitution, regardless or immediate curricular relevance. (federal law)
- Ensure citizenship by steering children away from abusive situations, and modeling proper inter-personal behavior, particularly for students from abusive homes.
- Ensure readiness to learn by exposing students to a variety of field trips, with the attendant paperwork. (local policy)
I love my students. Dearly. And not to boast, but many of them love me back. I teach eighth-graders and get about five hugs a day (always in public view). And I do this all, and it’s worth it.
But none of this is on the MCAS. None of this is easily done in the roughly 60 minutes I have per day to prepare it. I’m not complaining.
Nor am I pointing the finger at parents. Lots of great parents out there, including many great parents who make difficult situations work.
Any time a child slips through the cracks of the family structure, we pick it up. And despite the sensationalism in the yellow press (Herald, Enterprise) we do a darn good job.
But none of this gets entered into the back to basics approach, where average students are demanded to be extraordinary. None of this is factored into fond dreams of a non-existent past when students came home to two parents to help them with homework. One parent is often out of the picture, and the second works another job.
I teach middle school — I’ve had several students spend time in jail cells this year. And they didn’t pass the MCAS. And somehow, that’s my fault.
I don’t have a problem with the MCAS as concept, and have I’d say a moderate problem with its execution. But that’s for another time.