Saturday, March 27, 2021

Many schools are failing to even educate children to a minimally acceptable level. No child should be trapped in a failing school.

by Rod Williams - I am the proud grandfather of a grandson that just amazes me with how fast he is learning and all he knows.  I get to see him about once a week now that my daughter and her husband have moved back to the Nashville area from living in New Orleans.  He is only two years old and knows colors; body parts; can name all the animals; knows the alphabet and not by just by rote in order - he knows all the letters and can name them as you point to them; knows seasons; can name the emotion expressed by pictures of children showing emotions of sad, happy, excited, or angry; fruits and vegetables; and so much more.  Maybe I am prejudice because he is my grandson but he is super smart.  It is not all my proud granddaddy prejudice, however; he is performing many task ahead of established benchmarks for his age group.

The most recent impressive thing he has done is he showed me he knows the month of the birthday of all of the important people in his life. He has a  book with the each month of the year named and represented on the front cover.  My daughter asked him, what months is momma's birthday?  He pointed to the month and named it.  What month is daddy's birthday?  Again, he did it.  She asked him his birthday month and my birthday and his other grandparents birthday months.  He could name most of the months but for those he could not name, he still knew which person's birthday was in which month. I am sure he does not yet grasp the meaning of months and maybe not birthdays,  nevertheless, that is impressive. My daughter said she had only done that exercise with him one time.

As much as I am impressed by what he knows, I am impressed by how excited he is to show you what he knows and how proud of himself he is for knowing.  He is excited by learning!  He delights in it. When I go visit I ask him if he wants me to read to him and he will go get a book and snuggle or get in my lap and as we read, I will ask him questions about the pictures and he delights in knowing the color or animal or thing or action represented.

I hope that he is not robbed of this joy of learning.  So often that happens. I can help with financial resources so his parents have alternatives to the standard public school.  So, many people, unfortunately,  don't have that choice. 

There are lots of reasons why public schools fail. I don't think it is due to lack of funding. My view is that they fail the exceptionally advanced child because of a concern with equity.  So much attention is paid to advancing the underprivileged child that less attention is paid to the the advanced child. There is a concern with leveling. 

The child like my grandson who had two parents who engage him all of the time, who do not let him watch TV, who is let to watch and help his mom cook, who has lots of books and is read to and constantly has things explained and named has an advantaged over the child with a single-mother who herself may be an uneducated high school dropout who may be on welfare and who may have time at home with her child but does not herself value books and just raises her child the way others in her social network raise their child.  Or, the mother may work but the child is in daycare where he gets little attention and stimulation.  Call this "white privilege" or  "class privilege" or something else but the child of smart parents have an advantage. Life is not fair and you don't get to choose your parents.  The solutions however is not to bring down the smart child so the underprivileged child can catch up. 

In an ideal world, every child would have a chance to reach his full potential.  Unlike the children in Lake Wobegon, all children cannot be above average, however.  It is difficult to change the home environment, but society should not be content with only raising as many children as we can to only a minimum level of learning. Children need the right to excel and not only the children of the better off.  Also, and maybe more disturbing, we should not be content that a child who was excelling and was above average and had an excitement of leaning gets that joy of learning squashed. 

Unfortunately, we are not even educating children to an acceptable minimal level. Only one-third of children in Tennessee Schools can read at grade level. During the pandemic, that number got even worse.  That is unacceptable.  No child should be trapped in a failing school. 

In this interview, Shaka Mitchell of the American Federation for Children discusses school choice in Tennessee. He also reveals who is trying to stop educational choice in our state and what you can do to take action. If you care about your children, grandchildren or Tennessee's future, you need to watch this.

Shaka Mitchell leads AFC's campaign to increase educational choice across Tennessee, most recently as a Rocket Ship Education Regional Director. He was responsible for the planning, growth and success of Rocket Ship's network of high-quality elementary charter schools in Nashville and Memphis. Rocket Ship currently serves 1,200 students in Nashville. 

Mitchell began his career in education as the Associate Director of Policy and Planning at the Washington D.C. based Center for Education Reform. He then led outreach efforts at the Institute for Justice, a Constitutional law firm based in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to joining Rocket Ship, Mitchell was the Director of External Affairs for Lead Public Schools, a network of Public Charter Schools founded in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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