The state DoE has failed. We must transform it, too.

You should read this whole story from The Ledger this morning about the possible closure of five Polk schools. Key passages.

Five middle schools face being closed in the 2017-18 school year unless the Polk County School District comes up with an improvement plan the Florida State Board of Education will approve…

The department deemed Denison, Kathleen, Lake Alfred-Addair, Shelley S. Boone and Westwood Middle schools as being in need of turnaround plans because of their consecutive low grades…

“If we don’t do what they expect of us, five schools will be closed and 4,000 students will be displaced,” Fields said.

I received an email from a teacher at Boone yesterday noting that it had 7 principals in the 10 years he’s worked there. The state grading system is designed to create instability and stigma for schools that serve poor and minority populations. It’s designed to create stigma and instability among the men and women who have chosen to teach at a stigmatized school, which is the hardest single job, by far, in education.

The state DoE has hounded Boone and schools like it with malfunctioning measurement for nearly 20 years, forcing endless leadership turnover. That is why instability defines many of stigmatized schools that serve poor children. I’m sure there are many things our school district leadership and teachers could have done better in the last 10 years. But I don’t lay the core of this at their feet. And I don’t have any real alternative to offer to what the district is doing now to answer DoE’s extortion.

What you must understand is that the state Board of Education DOES NOT CARE what happens to those kids. They do not come from politically powerful families. They are nothing more than pawns in DoE’s ideology. It is indifferent to those 4,000 lives. Those of us who do care, who live here, will be left, as always, to pick up the pieces.

“They’re either going to get better or they’re going to get closed.” — is not the voice of a responsible person. But it is the voice of a DoE board member. It’s not the voice of anyone who has actually thought about how education and human interaction works. It is the voice of a person indifferent to consequences of his power on human beings.

Indeed, the state DoE has been on this kick for nearly two decades now. If its ideological, anti-human approach to educating and developing children worked, wouldn’t we not have to worry about D and F schools? Yet, here are we are. Still. On its own horrid terms, DoE has failed. We should seize our schools back from it.

Alas, this is not something I can fix immediately upon election. It’s a larger political problem. Until state voters recognize the bureaucratic, unaccountable state Department of Education as a net harm to Florida’s education experience, this will continue. In a coming post, I’ll write about some of my suggestions for building alternative measurements and evaluation criteria not designed to harm.

2 thoughts on “The state DoE has failed. We must transform it, too.

  1. Preach! My spouse is also a teacher at Boone. She works so hard for these kids, mostly minority kids from disadvantaged families, some of whom arrive at school without having had breakfast and looking to get their one decent meal for the day at school. A larger portion of these kids at these lower income schools have families for whom education is not a priority so the support is not there for many. Discipline problems are also higher. Yet, like so many of the teachers at her school, my wife loves these kids. As do administrators and staff. These people are doing yeoman’s work, but as you pointed out, the people in the ivory tower at the DoE have never met them, never sat in one of their classes, never talked to the students or their parents, and obviously never attempted to understand the problems facing them. But as you said, what would be the political gain in that?

  2. In addition to reading The Ledger article, I encourage everyone to watch the 7/21/16 State Board of Education Meeting Part 2, starting at the 45-minute mark. This was a complete train wreck that the newspaper article could not fully capture. I do not know if the communities of Polk County fully grasps the seriousness of this situation.

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