Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cony High Students: Learnin’? We don’t need no stinkin’ learnin’!

You’ll recall, of course, that reactions statewide to DOE’s issuance of grades a few months ago for Maine’s public schools elicited all sorts of reactions.  Most notably, shrieks of horror, a near epidemic of the vapors, gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands.

Followed by the usual suspects seeing to it that the story had no legs, so that our famously short public memories would come into play, and we’d get back to having the very best schools, at least here in Cape Brunswick, where everything is above average, which is why people move here.

(We need not remind you that virtually no one ever tells us why people leave our fair town, which is what creates the market supply for those true believers to move here.)

Here and there across the state, though, some folks took the bull by the tail and faced the situation.  A case in point is the student body of Cony High School in Augusta, which decided to grade their school themselves.  You can read the story here.

The article makes an important point:

In general, the state's letter grades for high schools were based on standardized test scores, proficiency and growth, as measured by the Maine High School Assessments, as well as graduation rates.

That is, the DOE used measurements of academic achievement and progress in that regard.  The students, on the other hand, given no real alternative, decided to grade their school on everything but academics.

Which raises the important question of to what purpose do we fund government schools with our taxes.  The report we linked you to the other day talks about the need to “treat student achievement as an unrivaled priority.”

We have written till we’re blue in the face about how everyone has an advocate except for the children, and how we never ever hear the school department discuss student achievement as a priority.

In a similar vein, the report ends with this compelling paragraph (emphasis ours):

Improved student achievement and the best interests of “the children” are always the nominal goals but the results speak for themselves. Pay, benefits, and facilities go up—but not test scores. School board elections are mostly focused on what education’s internal stakeholders want, not what the public wants for the next generation. The net effect is continuing cultural, social, political, and economic decline facilitated by educational surrender.

We write to forward you a commentary responding to the Cony High Student effort.  It was written by Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst), and appears on the MaineWire at this link:

It is a frank and compelling response to the feel-good distractions forwarded by the Cony students and their ‘advisors.’  We especially enjoy this passage:

These kids are in for a rude awakening. After graduation, they will find that grading yourself isn’t an option in the job market, or in higher education. And your employer won’t much care about the wonderful relationship you had with the staff at Cony, or the great sports programs, or how good you feel about tolerance and diversity. Your bubbly self-esteem won’t trump your lack of basic skills when you emerge from the cocoon at Cony. Even if you have tons of musical talent, nobody will be impressed with your crooning of the Sam Cooke R&B classic:

Don’t know much about history

Don’t know much biology

Don’t know much about a science book

Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you

And I know that if you love me too

What a wonderful world this would be

Predictably, and sadly, Augusta area legislators, from Rep. Lockman’s own party, no less, were quick to label his column “intimidating, mean-spirited and inappropriate.”

With this kind of apologetics from our elected betters, who clearly don’t want to face reality because it may ruffle some feathers, the prosecution rests, having provided evidence of where official priorities lie.  And the primary thesis of the Education Consumers Foundation report is confirmed yet again.

Is it any wonder we can’t get anywhere in turning things around?  Why is it no one in authority cares about ‘the children?’  We mean really cares, not just mouths the words.

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