The current head of the Department of Education for the United States is a woman by the name of Betsy DeVos. She is an individual that was appointed to her position by the President of the United States. She comes from a wealthy background with little to no knowledge of actual public education. Her push right now is for school choice and education freedom. She is pushing for students to have the freedom to choose where they want to go to school to have the best, most rich education. It is at this point I must stop and ask, if students are not getting that type of education at their public schools, then why are we not looking at providing those opportunities at the local public school level? The simplest answer is because public education is held to strict policies and mandates that “other” schools are not.
You see, in public education, schools must show and prove student growth. Schools must “make the grade.” This “grade” comes from standardized tests. Here in Idaho, they are called the ISATs; Idaho Standardized Achievement Tests. Every student must take this test and show considerable growth. You may ask what considerable growth means, and to be honest, I don’t even understand the number system they use to determine this. Students are leveled using a Below Basic, Basic, and Proficient scale. These scores are based on a bunch of statistics and math that would put Common Core to shame. In all honesty, the ideology behind it makes very little sense to even me.
Anyway, back to the problem. Public schools are held to these standards due to federal policies and mandates; other schools have many more liberties and freedoms in this area. This is why other schools are much more popular. They are allowed to do out of the box thinking, creative learning, hands-on skills, experiential learning, have more focus on the arts, and many other crucial content that the public school has had to leave behind due to said mandates and policies. You see, public school gets a bad rap because of everything it must follow and succumb to from the federal government.
Betsy DeVos wants students to be able to learn in an environment that works best for them. But instead of changing the policies and mandates on public schools so that classrooms can become more versatile, creative, and out of the box, her fix is to encourage students to leave public schools and go to private and charter institutions that do not have to follow the same policies and mandates as public schools. In the long run, public schools are still stuck in the same rut, making no positive movement forward in the sense of creativity with more freedoms and liberties, and students who cannot afford to move or change schools are not given the same opportunities as the students who decide to choose where they want to go.
One of the great things about Mountain Home is the amount of classes that are offered to students that promote positive engagement in spite of the system. Myself and another colleague researched and promoted Project Based Learning in the district and student engagement skyrocketed. Teachers around the district do their best to incorporate the content that has been forgotten over time. Teachers know the research and know what's best to engage students. In our district, we have some incredible teachers that try hard to think outside of the box and create an engaging learning environment that keeps students attention. They promote personalize education to provide a learning environment that is student centered and fits the needs of the students.
Our education system should be for the student, first and foremost. If the head of the entire education system is encouraging students to leave public schools to find learning environments that best suit them, then there is a major problem that she is choosing to avoid. Public schools should have the same freedoms and liberties as other institutions. The standardized tests should be thrown out and never revisited. Schools should have the freedom to meet students where they are at and not be forced to show “considerable” growth. Students should be given the freedom to learn and explore and be creative in the public school environment. Words like curriculum should be removed from education vocabulary and replaced with meaningful, insightful, student centered, real-world learning. Our students should have the same learning environments in public schools that are offered in other places. Students should be happy to go to public school knowing that their learning environment fits them.