Friday, July 4, 2008

Stupider and stupider

Over time, I might post many past pieces on our local high school situation. Lord knows I have a stockpile. I hold a minority view on the state of education in this country. I contend that it succeeds despite concerted attempts to make it fail. The only evidence I have or need that such is the case is the relative tranquility that embodies our places. If education were the abject failure being put forth by various concern groups and think tanks, we'd be fighting for survival on a daily basis.

There are countless debates, discussions, lectures and symposiums on the state of education in America. Mostly they are sweeping overviews of statistics, studies, compiled data and anecdotal evidence. Everybody is looking for a one-size-fits-all approach to codify, homogenize and pasteurize learning for national distribution, installation and consumption. That's just how we roll.

Guess what? It hasn't worked and never will. So elsewhere there are countless debates, discussions, lectures and symposiums on why our system is so totally and completely hopeless.

I try not to engage in discussions of education above a local level. Education, despite wishes to the contrary, is not a system conducive to standardization. Success in education is not a mathematical formula. It's not a recipe that can be mimeographed, replicated and produced for mass consumption.

The problems of HS District 209 in Proviso Township, Illinois are different from the problems in any other district because of uncontrollable variables. They might not be unique, but they are in no way universal. Because of this, attempts to "fix" its problems by applying surefire solutions that worked somewhere else are doomed to fail. Here, in a nutshell, is why.

There is not another district like 209. Almost everything about it is different. If you find another district with the same buildings, in the same configuration offering the same curriculum to the same size population, they are still as different as night and day. The variables include but are not limited to, teachers, students, administrators, boards of education, weather patterns, geo-stationary positioning, elevation, air quality, proximity to outside resources and influences, attendance rates, reading levels, achievement levels, mobility rates, traffic patterns, sound patterns, acoustics, tax rates, state-funding, federal-funding, crime-rates, infrastructure, what happened locally today, yesterday, everything that has happened locally for the last 100 years and what will happen locally into eternity. There just isn't a formula capable of factoring for such unknowns.

I tend to use District 209 because it is a prime example of extremes. It's also my local "option" so its foibles are apparent from casual observation. That it resides at the bottom of performance lists doesn't begin to define it. Given the claims of its overseers, the numbers it posts are nothing short of miraculous.

Within it's walls and classrooms, if one is to believe the claims, "typical" students who enter as "freshmen" with 5th grade reading levels are transformed in 4 years into students performing on the low end of "proficiency", yet still proficient enough to earn a high school diploma. For that alone, the teachers in the district deserve recognition and accolades, right? Well, they do from me, but that ignores the larger problems of the district.

The biggest of which is that its students are NOT a reflection of the communities it disserves.
You can't blame the feeder districts for Proviso Students' performance, because by and large its students are not a representative product of the feeder schools. Their student body represents the graduates of the feeder system without other options and a mobile faction of the region's residents for whom Proviso is a better option than their current local one. (Which is a very scary thought).

That's the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. In 20 years, I've been unable to get it above a whisper. 20 years of neighbors who vanish into the greener pastures of "good" high school districts. 20 years of churn within the 10 communities saddled to this failed institution.
20 years of grade school reloading, community uncertainty and instability. 20 years of circling the drain? It was going on for another 20 years before my awareness. Will likely be going on forever. It's impossible to sustain a "movement" when each year lops off another class of 8th grade graduates and their families.

It's an interesting predicament, to say the least.


Anonymous said...

Dude, love your writing, but what the phook IS the problem(s) with the district you speak of?

I don't get what the issues are . . . . and if the reader can't get the issues, they can't buy into your posits . . .

What are the issues that concern you in this district?

Anonymous said...

If we don't get on the "collective" behinds of the elementary schools and work with them to improve what they produce, then what?

Rehctaw said...

The product produced by said feeder districts in NOT inferior. It mirrors the product of most elementary schools covering the typical achievement spectrum; below average to exceptional.

What happens after they graduate is that any student who is borderline average to above average goes elsewhere for high school due to the repellant nature of District 209 high schools. Anyone with legs or wheels who cares about their child's education and has the means to go elsewhere never enters 209's equation and/or decision making process.

The "creaming" that has populated the newly minted MAGNET high school has allowed a chosen few to escape the remedially challenged main campuses, but the AVERAGE students still have no viable in-district options.

It's still a free country. The students cannot be forced to attend Proviso if they make other arrangements. What remains to matriculate into and occupy your place of employment are those STUCK with it, those who don't care, those who think it will miraculously improve and those who believe it can't possibly be as bad as it is.

It can't be "fixed" without the rest of the class. The rest of the class will not return, so you're left to do the best you can with the remainders. Some of them get it and do okay. The rest become statistics.

Anonymous said...

You got to school with the life you have . . .

My parent's sent us out there, in SE Asia, and in USA.

It was up to us to learn, and we were bookworms, each and all three of us . . .

The play ground, now THAT's where the real shit was learnt, and where we always got hurt . . .

Yeah, I guess we was lucky, from my older sis born in '49 (late) to m younger bro born in '56, we all got a decent elementary ed (sis and me had K-3 overseas), and a decidedly CA and AMERICAN Junior High, High School, and access all three of us, to the best university systems in the world thru the 70's. . . I only did Junior College in the 70's, and man, I had GREAT opportunities . . .

But now, the crown jewel of affordable education in CA is long gone . . . . and I say, dawg help anyone raising kids in this crap . . . . I got nuthin . . .

A Sad Harumph

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I DID the CA Dream Ed '88-92 at CSUS. Good stuff, great teachers, may progressive as all GET out, too. I was lucky.

My honey did the business dept . . . guess who's makin the better money in our lives . .*G*

But the CA dream and the CA education system is long gone . . . sad.