Wednesday, August 03, 2005

To the Citizens of Cleveland,

I understand.

You voted your wallets. $200/year makes a huge dent in the budget when you are struggling to pay the utilities, when the prices for everything from gasoline to cereal are on the rise. There is no economic savior on Cleveland's horizon either. Companies are moving out. Big employers are closing their doors.
As the old saying goes, "You can't squeeze blood from a turnip."

I understand.

Some voters were angry. They felt purposely neglected, so they responded...with a vengeance.

So I ask: Now what?
What do you want the schools to do?

You have a voice. You used it yesterday. You said "no".
Now keep talking. Tell us why.
Vent, rant, fume,...Then take a breath and begin the conversation.
"Now what?"
What are Clevelanders going to do about educating the children of this city? If you aren't willing to be a part of the solution, there will be no solution.


Shannon said...

Reading your earlier post on the large numbers of kids who drop out because school is "too boring" and they don't feel they're learning anything struck a chord with me. I felt exactly the same way for years. (Dropping out wasn't an option, my suburbanite parents would have locked me in a cage and poked me with sharp sticks. But you'd better believe I got out of there as fast as I could, graduating half a year early).

If someone had asked me, at the time, how to improve my school experience, making it more challenging would have ranked near the top. I was bored!

What do I want the schools to do? I think we need to recognize that not everyone will (or wants to) go to college. We need to extend vocational training and school-sponsored job internships (think "apprentice system")...take the bored kids out and encourage them to do something that may lead to a lifelong career choice. Added bonus: local businesses getting some unpaid help, while being able to pitch in to the school problem. (I would have worked 40 hours a week at the art museum when I was in high school just to do it, for example).

Voting down the levy was an act of anger for many, and you're right, you can't squeeze blood from a turnip. But I think a lot of voters feel they are getting no value for money. They refuse to send their kids to the public school (I live in West Park, aka Catholic School Central), and don't want to pay even more taxes on top of tuition.

If only the school funding system could be reformed! I would seriously like to see the state move to an equalized funding system where each kid is worth X amount. Not 11K in Beachwood and 3K in Cleveland, or whatever the differentials are... Set an amount per kid, and let them attend whatever school they want, or can get into. Let parents spend it on private school, or public school, or magnet school or...

I think the parents in my area would be much more receptive to paying higher taxes if they knew they'd be getting something concrete for that money!

And if schools have to compete for kids, well...they're going to put a little extra effort in, aren't they? Heck, let them solicit sponsorship for special programs above and beyond the money they're getting per kid. If School X had a killer foreign languages department, sponsored by Berlitz (crazy example, but you get the idea) I'd have done whatever it took to get there and attend. Don't limit it by residency. Make it statewide. You live in Berea but want to go to school in Medina for some reason? Right on, go. Eliminate the localized school buses and give everyone RTA passes.

There are so many things that COULD be done, but probably won't...and this is why the levies will keep on getting voted down.

Jeff Hess said...

Shalom MaryBeth,

I think there is a deeper problem with students. In my limited experience it is not that students aren't challenged. We all can make our own challenges regardless of what occurs in the classroom.

I think the deeper issue is that we have students who feel an entitlement to stimulation and entertainment independent of their own efforts.

This reaches much further than schools alone can address, but schools and, by association, society are the victims of this feeling of entitlement.


Jeff Hess

marybeth said...

Reality check.
Yes, Americans have raised a crop of kids who feel entitled to entertainment. This attitude crosses all economic demographics. If secondary teachers stubbornly refuse to accept the fact that we are indeed competing with a culture of television and video games, if we continue to attempt to educate using only one learning modality, lecture and memorization, we will never gain the attention of today's students. We will fail to educate them.

Yes, the optimum student is self-motivated, creates her own challenges, and values the opportunity for learning, regardless of the delivery method. I challenge anyone to find those kids in any public school today. I guarantee the percentage of the student body fitting that description will be small indeed.

In the meantime, to fulfill our obligation to educate ALL the public's children, we need to find new ways to challenge them. We are teaching a new generation. They have been raised in a very different world than the one we grew up in.
When the old methods don't work because the culture has changed, do we simply say "Too bad." and watch these kids walk out the school door and out to the street? We can wring our hands and blame society, or we can challenge ourselves to find new ways keep them interested and keep them in school.

The alternative is very frightening. Take a look at the numbers of Clevelanders who never graduated from high school. What are they doing now? Why are the rates of unemployment and poverty so high in this city?

We weren't hired to teach only the kids who are eager learners. We are hired to teach ALL of our children. Nobody said it would be easy.