- by Blaine Helwig
In Title 1 Schools, Facts are Stubborn Things
When I was in college, my statics and dynamic professor proposed a no homework versus a double homework wager to his students. He stated that he could predict the exact score of the upcoming Texas and Oklahoma college football game before it even started. Of course, my classmates and I readily agreed to his terms since it is impossible to know the future outcome of any event. Much to our surprise, he precisely provided the exact score of the Red River Rivalry football game before it started: 0 to 0. Suckered we were. True to his word, we received the double homework assignment.
Many charter and traditional public schools' first day of school begins next week in central Texas. Like my college professor forty years ago, I can accurately predict – before the first day of school – the academic annual school academic performance of the vast majority of the thousands and thousands of Title 1 elementary schools a year from now. However, this time, it is not a sucker wager as it was in my college class 40 years ago. It is a relatively easy prediction to make because facts are stubborn things.
This country’s second President – John Adams – is historically attributed with the quote, “facts are stubborn things.” It is a powerful statement, and it means that whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
So, what is the evidence of my bold and confident prediction on Title 1 school academic performance a year from now? Well, that is relatively easy to answer in but two general observations. First, a thorough understanding of the public school system and secondly, a solid grasp of the human behavior of the administrators and educational advocates that manage and influence the operations of this country’s Title 1 elementary schools.
Of course, my two general observations are not sufficient in justifying my prediction. So, let me be more specific on the facts and evidence of my Title 1 school performance prophecy prior to unveiling it at the end of this blog. The four points listed below provide a more detailed basis of my prediction.
I successfully worked in the public school system for the last quarter century in many different capacities as a Title 1 and non-Title 1 classroom teacher, campus and central office administrator as well as an educational consultant. I toiled for years in the trenches to thoroughly understand the daily operations of the schools and how they are managed.
As Isaac Newton's First Law clearly states, “an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.” It has been my personal and professional experience after walking the face of the earth for nearly sixty years, that the vast number of human run organizations and especially, public schools, invariably follow the same Newtonian pattern. I see no external changes in the foreseeable future for the public school system to deviate from its current course of action.
Small and large public school districts in this country are managed and influenced by a very small group of people. High and medium income parents do not press for change since their children attend public schools that offer a relatively high quality education. In short, their kids are doing well. Low-income parents experience chronic monthly financial constraints that monopolize their time, and generally speaking, they are not informed and do not adeptly navigate complicated governmental systems, as do their affluent peers. Consequently, public school curriculum and pedagogy is heavily influenced and dictated by education professors, advocates and central office administrators. A small educator corps that is stricken with groupthink – who are all too often ideologically based in their philosophical thinking, and not pragmatically and analytically student outcome driven.
School administrators and teachers ultimately desire positive change for their students. However, they must battle this small group of educational ideologues whose ideas have never translated into realized Title 1 change over the last seven decades, despite their self-anointed pronouncement of punditry on the subject. Second, Title 1 campus educators must realize that their students possess both academic literacy and numeracy gaps that can be directly addressed and remedied. These academic gaps must be rectified or the school adopted grade level curriculum will not function as intended since its fundamental design assumes students do not possess prior grade level academic gaps. Unfortunately, for campus educators and the children of poverty attending the Title 1 elementary schools, eliminating the achievement gap is not an overwhelming task. This feat is repeatedly accomplished by a select number of Title 1 elementary schools every school year, but the aforementioned ideologue pundits conveniently ignore them because it does not adhere to their fantastical educational vision. Hence, the Newtonian public school motions continue the next school year unimpeded by an external corrective force.
Now, after providing those four stubborn facts, it is time to reveal my Title 1 elementary school performance prediction for the end of the school year next May – prior to first day of school.
I predict with absolute certitude based on the nearly 70 years of chronic low performance that the vast majority of Title 1 elementary public schools will perform precisely as they did the year before – a zero sum “game.” More to the point, if the Title 1 elementary school performed well last school year, it will score approximately the same as it did the previous year – barring major state policy, personnel or curriculum implementation changes. If the school performed poorly the last school year, expect the same repeat performance next May – unless the principal opts to fill academic numeracy and literacy gaps.
Unless a Title 1 principal rebels against the status quo ideologues and closes the academic numeracy and literacy gaps, the adopted curriculum will not be effective. Otherwise and tragically, the result is that the educational hopes and dreams of so many children of poverty will be lost, for yet another school year.
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