Don Roach: My Education Crusade Begins Today
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I’m not sure where to begin, but I know where I want to be. Today, I’m beginning an adventure that’s attempting to figure out why some of our schools are failing and what steps are necessary to ensure kids don’t get left behind.
I’m not interested in politicizing this journey by saying “unions are bad”, “teachers are lazy”, or “schools need more money”. Those are conclusions I might reach through the journey, but I’m beginning with one premise – some schools in RI are failing to prepare our children to meet the challenges they will face as adults. For instance, Central High School graduates a little over fifty percent of students according to the most recent figures I found on the InfoWorks website. That means about half the freshmen who enter Central High School this fall won’t graduate in four years. That’s hundreds of kids who will turn into adults faster than we can blink. And what will those adults do for work, how will they survive in an economy where bachelor degrees are the new high school diplomas?
Answer – they won’t and we’re kidding ourselves to think that anyone without a high school diploma can survive in the 21st century unless their extremely beautiful, have extraordinary rap/singing skills, or have the athleticism of Lebron James.
And if there are great numbers of these unskilled workers in the labor force it puts a drain on the rest of us. Many of the unskilled will be in and out of jobs, collecting unemployment in the in-between-jobs period. Others will get on welfare. These folks will have kids and the cycle continues and our government and other taxpayers will continue to pay for programs for decades versus getting things corrected at the source—school age children.
This might sound cliché but education is the key to long-term success, especially for people whose preceding generation(s) were not financially successful.
I’ve got a laundry list of action items I am going to be doing over the next several months while on my crusade.
Speak with Commissioner Gist
First up is speaking with Commisssioner Gist and posing the question to her that I’m asking myself, Why are so many children not succeeding at school and what can we do about it to ensure as few as possible get left behind?
Commissioner has taking a number of provocative steps to change the system that I wrote about recently. But, I wonder if there is a fundamental and systemic issue that is leading to unsuccessful students.
No better way to begin the crusade than to ask the state’s top education official
Speak with Students
Here’s where, dear reader, I need your help. I have contacted the Providence Student Union seeking to talk to them about education. The response I received a couple of weeks ago was that they would discuss meeting with me at a meeting held on Labor Day. Since then I have not heard back from this group.
I am very interested in speaking with this group because they have been very vocal about their dislike of the new graduation requirements Gist and team are in the process of implementing. Also, Providence has a number of schools that are failing and I would venture to guess many students who are in PSU attend these schools. I’d like to ask them exactly what I’m asking myself and Gist.
Kids have unique perspectives unencumbered by weight of experience of adults and I believe they might have some of the most creative solutions.
I’d also like to talk to some students from more successful communities and see if we can learn from those who are succeeding.
Speak with Parents
Over the past week I played around with some of the data available at InfoWorks and the Census. I looked at graduation rates, SAT scores, and income. My hypothesis was that both graduation rates and SAT scores were tied to median income – the higher the income the higher the graduation rate.
Sure enough that’s true. Try it out yourself by taking a look at census data and the information on InfoWorks. Using a simple Excel correlation formula, median income and SAT scores have a correlation number of 0.89. What does that mean? Correlation between two data sets can be -1 to 1 with -1 meaning there is no correlation and 1 being there is direct correlation. 0.89 is pretty telling that income and SAT scores are aligned.
All of this is back of the napkin math so don’t read too much into the actual numbers other than directional parental income has a direct relationship on school success. I want to ask parents in a number of communities why they believe this is the case.
Speak with Teachers
A few months ago a teacher, wrote me an e-mail with this subject line, “I challenge your ignorance Mr. Roach”. In the text he said:
If you believe you are correct, then I personally challenge you to come sit with me next year in my school and see if you can fathom just how ridiculous and financially irresponsible our state evaluation system is.
I wrote back saying that I’d like to take him up on his offer. He has never replied back. Maybe he’ll read this piece today and contact me. But readers, you should know it’s highly unlikely that you can pose an intellectual ‘dare’ to me that I won’t accept. Bear that in mind when you e-mail.
In any event, I want to speak with teachers to see if they hold the same views as this teacher and ask what steps teachers believe need to be taken to improve the educational system.
I welcome your ideas along this crusade. If you have any, please contact me at email@example.com.
Not a Flash crusade
This crusade isn’t going to take a day, a week, or a month. This project is going to take a lot of time and who knows where we’ll land. After all is said and done, I might conclude “Folks, there’s no helping the educational system in Rhode Island. Kids, good luck.” Not likely, but certainly possible. As we take this journey together, I enter it with an open mind and a commitment to seek any and all ways to make sure our children are equipped with the tools to be successful in our economy.
Don Roach is on a mission. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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