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THOMPSON: It Doesn’t Fly and It Doesn’t Soar

Bs It may be apocryphal but it’s my understanding that a Yiddish term for b.s. translates literally as "it doesn’t fly and it doesn’t soar."

On one hand, "reformers" seek to fix and speed up the assembly line that is public education by raising standards so that all graduates meet world class standards. But as Robert Balfanz has shown, troubled students who fall off the assembly line can not be expected to take advantage of the wide array of programs funded by NCLB and put themselves back on the conveyor belt. For that to happen, caring adults must guide, motivate, reassure, and sometimes give a loving kick in the pants to students who do not know how to read for comprehension or to be students. That may not require more hours of traditional classroom instruction, but it does require more hours in community schools where their socio-emotional needs are addressed and students can be integrated into a broader community full of opportunities, ideas, and relationships.

The conventional wisdom under NCLB is that with continuous assessment, accountability, and high expectations, our most vulnerable students will fly up and soar back onto the conveyor belt. Rather than use the miracles of the digital age to find lost students, to communicate with them, and to diagnose their learning problems, "reforms" concentrate on data-driven tools for shaming educators. Predictably, educators respond with Cover Your Rear End policies. By now, many have lost sight of the law's original, albeit unfocused, goal. Is the purpose of educational reform the dramatic improvement of a k-12 system that is "good nuff" but flawed, destroying unions so that market-driven solutions can take over another part of the public sector, or helping our most vulnerable children? Regardless, the message we adults have sent to many of those childen roughly translates into "go to Hell and bake bagels." - John Thompson


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