Governor Snyder moved control of low-performing schools from the direction of the State School Board to a budgetary department, which is directly under his own control. The School Board has responded, claiming the move by the governor violates Michigan’s Constitution.
As an educator, it is unnerving to think of why a former accountant feels he is better suited for school reform than an independent state wide elected board that employs professionals who have made education their lives.
The point of school boards is to connect communities to the education of students, whether it be the parents of students or vested individuals without enrolled students of their own.
Over 100 years ago, John Dewey wrote in The School and Society that “All waste is due to isolation.” Dewey was focused on the waste of the mind, which occurs from a lack of organization between the levels of education and the connections to societal life. Snyder moving control from the board to his own direction has created a top down approach, which will only lead to more isolation among those interested in improving schools.
The nature of a school and the realities of school reform demand a consideration of all factors. Factors that may affect the home life of the student, factors that may affect the language development of the student, or factors that may affect the practicality of day to day education cannot be ignored.
It is a fallacy to assume that low test scores simply demand a degradation of the faculty or staff in any school.
It also means that it may not suggest transforming the school to a charter or ripping the school from its local district for a state reform district. These are some of the actions that could be taken if the lowest performing 5 percent of schools do not meet deemed improvement under Snyder’s direct control.
A better action would be to use the society to develop solutions, not to seize control. Ideas are easier formed into solutions when all factors of the issue are thought of in advance of implementation. The only way to do this with school reform is to involve all parties democratically rather than a top down czar approach as that governor has acted upon. Further, too much of school reform has not garnered teachers as a source for reform.
The power to change schools for the better is vested in teachers.
It is the teachers that work with the students every day. The teachers are the ones that speak with parents though phone, email, and face to face. They know parental and student challenges, concerns, and realities because their passion lives through them every day of the year. It is the teacher that is the link between school and society that Dewey wrote about so many years ago. The teacher is in the best professional position to understand the dynamic factors that impact the education of students.
The governor and others must realize that school reform is a transformation of society, not simply an organizational challenge. A school board should be in control of all schools in the state to prevent the isolation that starves the advancement of young minds.