Monthly Archives: February 2014
“I don’t like it when wealthy children are treated to one kind of education and the rest are treated to something different. It makes me suspect the children of the lower and middle classes are probably getting a rotten deal…” ~Kathreen Harrison
Perhaps it’s found some utility here, too, as I look closely at RSU 50’s Mission and Purpose statements.
I hope you will do the same! Revise them… Revise my revisions, too, if you like — I can take it:) In the end, these statements should well reflect your own core beliefs.
To that end, the Visions Committee invited attendees to their Public Forum to offer revisions, and I will pass along any suggestions you make here. Here’s my own!
I love language…. Language matters, and words spark associations and frame the issue for the reader. Has anyone read, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant” by George Lakoff? (You just thought of an elephant, didn’t you? Well, the book will tell you why….).
RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)
“Provide “Create” an equitable, challenging, engaging and personalized student Student-centered education system, which fosters cultivates, or nurtures excitement a passion for learning that prepares as each student prepares for citizenship, local, national and global, college, and careers. and global citizenship.”
Anyway, in my own view, “provide” suggest passivity suggesting that there is a “receiver” or “consumer”…. …how about “create”; there is more room for students, families and communities. I would put citizenship first, and of course include local as well as global.
RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)
advocate for uphold sustainable student-centered educational policies, and build mutually-beneficial, strong community relationships, supported by effective school leadership, challenging rich curriculum, proven instructional practices, expert, professional educators and diverse individualized, student-centered learning models provided in and cultivate a culture of respect between students, teachers and communities in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”
I probably would have put “expert professional educators” closer to the top. I don’t mean to suggest that teachers do not need to use “proven instructional practices” — teaching is a profession, and it has been said that there is no “…recipe for being a great teacher”. It stands to reason that a great teacher practices his/or her art well.
RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)
1) “We believe students
success are our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”
2) “We believe that it is the responsibility of each school to provide
s a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences. This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership. “
3) “We believe
success full human potential, or “best bloom” is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations. This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”
None of these represent a more stark divergence from current policy than number one, and it is my fervent hope that it is intended to rebuke, and not simply obscure, the behavior of the RSU 50 Administration and Board in response to respectful, public, and constructively critical civic engagement on the part of students. Citizenship lies at the heart of public education, and respect for the pupil is paramount. Last Spring, the only reference made by the Board to a student surveymonkey petition, hand-delivered to the Superintendent besides “We never saw it!” was, “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway!”. As student “Letters to the Editor” have been, by all accounts, almost punatively received, “Timbered Classrooms” is proud to provide a safe space for everyone. We also welcome a change of heart on the part of policymakers.
On to number 2: “..preserving the unique character of our communities” is wonderful for everyone. It is also, sadly, substantively impossible under the looming threat of liquidation of Katahdin; the impact of which on the “unique character of ITS communities” are as resonating as they are costly. (Even if we at “Timbered Classrooms” were not so fortunate to have an impressive depth of educational expertise among our readers, the Superintendent’s refreshing, yet surprising candor about his intentions here is hard to refute.) I hope policymakers will honor this second one, and consider scenarios that not only make sense, but are popular with our readers; keep K-12 on both sides, and consider merging the two buildings on the Katahdin side if necessary. Invest optimally and equitably in every child in every school.
O.K. Number 3: What? I crossed out “success”? Who can be against “success”? Don’t worry! I’m not anti-success here, but it is a bit of loaded word. What does “success” mean? Is it a child’s potential as an educated person? A truly educated person is surely “college and career ready”, but does this work in reverse?
I would like to add one word, and I don’t care where: Excellence. Its absence struck me…. Surely there is room? As it isn’t necessarily about money, and small schools enjoy an advantage here. Excellence, its lifelong pursuit and its joy.
Many thanks to the Visions Committee for taking written revisions, though I am a bit late on my homework!
To be fair, the switch to Standards-Based Education, and the Common Core does treat poor children as though they were rich in one aspect: they have to pay handsomely. With towns and the State slashing even the most vital areas, where do we find the resources? Our thanks to Kathreen Harrison for this spot-on piece:
“I don’t like it when wealthy children are treated to one kind of education and the rest are treated to something different. It makes me suspect the children of the lower and middle classes are probably getting a rotten deal. Here’s how three of these private schools introduce their schools to prospective parents. Note that while these extracts are admittedly brief, when I browsed the websites I found no mention at all of either standards-based education or the Common Core.”
“…we need to refrain from burdening our teachers with ever-increasing rules and regulations. Our focus should be on attracting and training top students to the teaching profession, candidates who find fulfillment in exploring their intellectual and artistic passions with young minds. To attract these students we need to give teachers conditions in which they will thrive: abundant time for thinking, planning and collaborating with their colleagues; salaries that compete with those of pharmacists, lawyers, and engineers; respect from administrators and the public; freedom to do the best work of which they are capable.
The Common Core is not the answer. If it were, the schools for training the future elite would be embracing it, and they are not. Instead they are heavily promoting intellectually and artistically rich communities. All students deserve schools like these.
Read the full, and thought-provoking post here:
Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education
…a question that cries out for an answer. Many thanks to Kathreen Harrison for posing it, and outlining what so many of us may not know about what requirements entail:
Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education.
“…The Maine Legislature passed LD 1422 in 2012. This is the law that mandates that schools transition to a standards-based education system. The transition does not come cheap. One superintendent estimated the total costs involved in standards-based education were at least approximately $60,000 per year; another district administrator said they had spent roughly $500,000 on professional development regarding standards-based education implementation. Yet the state decreased its financial contribution to education just at the time it passed this expensive mandate. The intent is for the local taxpayer to pay more……”
Many thanks to “COMMON CORE” for this. While reading it, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “When reformers speak of the education of their OWN children, do they sound like THIS?” Read on, and you’ll see what I mean:
“It costs money to educate beyond minimal workforce training. In this 2013 document put out by the NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy) we learn that it’s not important under Common Core to have high educational standards in high school; it’s seen as a waste of time to educate the high school graduates past Algebra II. They’re pushing for an emphasis on the lowest common denominator, while deceptively marketing Common Core as a push for “rigorous” academics.
Read these Common Core proponents’ lips: “Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”
This post is an introduction to many issues included in this simple question: “What Is Common Core?”
Parents and retired teachers, it is up to us to stop this thing. Teachers who are currently teaching, or principals, or others who work in the education sales industry dare not speak up too loudly or risk losing their jobs.
This post aims to be as unmistakably direct and clear and documented as possible. I will add questions and answers to this page, so please visit again. Feel free to use it in any way you like without asking permission.
DO THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS IMPROVE K-12 EDUCATION?
No one knows. They are an unpiloted experiment. Time will tell. But people who are financially invested in Common Core say yes to the question, while people who aren’t financially interested, and who study and analyze the Common Core standards, say no.
Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University emeritus…
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“…One of the more disturbingly repeated words one hears in school these days is “rigor.” Teachers need to demand rigor. Students must display rigor. Lessons must be built on rigor. There need be rigor all over the place. Just as the experimental Common Core State Standards are suddenly absolutely essential for our kids to be “college and career ready”, so too must teachers and students approach the sacred Core with ceaseless rigor. If not, the mantra goes, how in the world will they ever compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy?
Personally, I am appalled by the use of such a word in schools, no less now, in fact, than when I first encountered it at least 1000 usages ago. Consider its various meanings:
a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
2: a tremor caused by a chill
3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
4: strict precision : exactness
5a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness
b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli
c : rigor mortis…”
As in all campaigns in which fear and brainwashing are essential components, corporate education reform is highly is dependent on and makes great use of repetition. As such, teachers across America have been forced to read, listen to, and at times regurgitate the same language — never our own — endlessly to please the current education overlords who, being non educators, are radically different from those who came before them.
And I assure you the current overlords are not easily pleased. Consider Commissioner John King or Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — not to mention those like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, from whom people like King and Duncan receive their orders.
One of the more disturbingly repeated words one hears in school these days is “rigor.” Teachers need to demand rigor. Students must display rigor. Lessons must be built on rigor. There need be rigor all over the place…
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“As you grow up in this world, you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.” ~David Coleman, Common Core Architect, and Psycho…..
I am a photographer, a hobby farmer, a child advocate and a mother of 3 elementary-aged children. This is my middle child in the photo … she is 7 and is in 2nd grade. My kindergartner and my 4th grader were already finished with their homework and had left the table. I had brought my camera in to work on my white balance skills while shooting in low light as I had a session the next morning to prep for.
After checking her work, I had found 2 math problems were incorrect. I tried to help her understand where she went wrong through her process but I don’t understand it myself and was not much help.
I told her to forget about it and we’d try again tomorrow but she became very upset that she could not get the answer and kept trying and trying to fix it. She is hard on herself as she very much wants to excel in school and not be pulled for extra help all of the time. I was talking to her and clicking my camera as I changed settings … it’s something that is very common in our household … and that is when I caught this image.
Please know that 5 minutes later I had convinced her to leave the homework behind and go snuggle with her dad on the couch and watch some Olympics coverage. She is not neglected. She was not abused or left alone to cry. And this photo was not staged.”
To leave a message directly to Kelly or her daughter please go here to her photography page: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=714460471932456&set=a.307999755911865.78066.207805025931339&type=1&theater
“If the Common Core was applied to airline pilots…..”
“The best reason to give a child a good school. . .is so that child will have a happy childhood, and not so that it will help IBM in competing with Sony. . . There is something ethically embarrassing about resting a national agenda on the basis of sheer greed”
– Jonathan Kozol
The following article was written 12 years ago! To read the predictions surrounding corporate education reform in their eerie entirety, follow the link:
As we settle in, pen in hand, piles of dog-eared, crinkled seed catalogues at our feet…. Enjoy two apt analogies for the teaching profession:
….and another, originally written for NCLB and adapted to the CCSSI…
A teacher is the best person to evaluate a student, period. They know them, they know the character of each incoming class– and they ARE different, just as each individual is different. Some classes go very smooth, others struggle. Even as the year progresses you find that certain topics engage them more, or are better or not so better understood.
My analogy is the teacher as a gardener. You start out with a solid plan to grow tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. Each with an allotted space and anticipated production. So many variables out of your control are already in place: the weather (which changes every year), the soil makeup with yearly variances, pests of all sorts, new diseases, hail, and freezing, but you have the motivation and determination to do the best with what you have.
However as the season progresses, you notice that the tomatoes are coming along very nicely, but the carrots are a little sub-par. So after intimate examination along with your experience, you tweak the soil so you can at least get some reasonable carrot harvest. At the end of the season, you have some good crops, and some so-so. But what you have done is maximized the potential for each crop in a very dynamic system through your OWN daily interaction, one in which you don’t just “set it and forget it”. (The next season you start all over again, but you can’t just repeat what you did this year, because the variables will again change.)
So now you have all of your produce in a neat pile, and proud of yourself for all of the hard work, but already you reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and you start getting prepared for next year.
Now comes along some tool in a suit and clipboard and she says “I’m the (Common Core)!, …your carrots are 12.3 pounds short! and those tomatoes aren’t perfectly spherical and 3 inches in diameter. What? There’s no pineapples? Wrong Wrong Wrong! You are supposed to produce exactly 40 pounds of each product we specify, no more, no less, and you can’t grow anything from seeds not sold by us. So we are going to pay you less than the market rate. Also we are going to reduce the size of your plot because you can’t produce; obviously it’s your fault.” Then she sends you a bill for assessing you.
The (Common Core) is a Trojan horse. The intent is to break one of the last bastions of union organization by forcing a rigid system on something that needs flexibility and freedom. The setup for failure is obvious. With failure you can impose punishment. The mindset behind the Common Core is identical production, like in a factory. All work should be done by unquestioning and unpaid robots, doing the same motion repeatedly, making unliving plastic items of no use. The classroom is an organic system, which needs constant care and attention, best left to the gardener.
If you were there — read on! I welcome additions/corrections in the “Comments” section; if not — read on! It is not too late to let the Committee know how YOU envision the future of education here.
Table discussions revolved around changes in the community and the economy in addition to schools, and a gallery of post-it notes illustrated the feelings; the values of the people present. Just before adjourning, we were given copies of draft Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Core Beliefs on which to scribble suggestions. Here they are! Any suggestions YOU make to revise them will be shared with the committee…..
RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)
“Provide an equitable, challenging, and personalized student education system, which fosters an excitement for learning that prepares each student for college, careers and global citizenship.”
RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)
“Develop and advocate for sustainable educational policies, effective school leadership, challenging curriculum, proven instructional practices, and diverse student-centered learning models provided in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”
RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)
1) “We believe student success is our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”
2) “We believe each school provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences. This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership. ”
3) “We believe success is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations. This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”
“*Core beliefs will be reviewed based on the work provided tonight. Please feel free to add comments as well.”
The emphasis on that last bit is my own. The Committee will be revising the above statements based on what they hear from YOU. The next meeting date is, as yet, unavailable, but when I find out I’ll post it. It doesn’t matter how you choose to contact the Committee — either directly, or, of course, if you want to post here I will see that they have it…. But please, get in touch. Have your say.
What a timely, and pitch-perfect piece by “Rethinking Education”‘s Kathreen Harrison! See you Monday night at 6 at Katahdin Elementary School…..
“…Some school district leaders and boards prefer to make decisions privately. They do not invite either educators or taxpayers to contribute in meaningful ways to decisions that need to be made. The result is often misunderstandings, botched decision-making, and a culture of mistrust.
School district leaders and boards should take care to create a culture of openness. If people feel shut out they will not support decisions that are made. Board policies should create pathways for hearing from constituents. Superintendents should listen carefully to the voices of administrators, teachers, and parents. Administrators should work hard to create as much open, focused dialogue as possible among the members of their staffs.
A culture of openness brings out the best in everyone, and ultimately this benefits the students.”
Read the full post here:
I am posting the “Before” and “After” budgets sans analysis because, well, many heads are better than one. …..and, I confess, all of them are better than mine.
So, without further ado…!
Please share your thoughts and expertise with us in the Comments section!
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken
School Consolidation plays into our clear, simple assumptions…..
“Lose your school. Lose your community.
School administrative districts were no more than a scam and a few people have finally figured out that it would be nice to keep the control and the tax dollars in town. Oh, it would also be nice to keep the kids in town. But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight. There’s too much money at stake. And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”
~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”
“Timbered Classrooms” has been devoting this week to the issue of School Consolidation, as the RSU makes high-stakes decisions in this area. Please come out to the public forum on February 10, @6:00pm in the KES Cafeteria. These decisions are too important to make without you!
“A wave of research from around the country shows that consolidation does not improve schools or lead to better academic results. Spending on education does not go down; indeed, budgets often balloon with increased transportation costs and more administrators to run enlarged districts. Consolidation leads to schools closing and to bigger schools, with less parental involvement and community participation. And, in many parts of the United States, it has led to children on unconscionable bus rides lasting several hours a day.”
Elaine McArdle “Together We Won’t”
The Boston Sunday Globe March 8, 2009 p. C3
A concise, thoughtful statewide assessment of how Maine’s RSU Law has performed relative to its goals of Efficiency, Equity and Quality, along with his recommendations to improve the lot of Maine schoolchildren.
What would YOUR “report card” for RSU #50 look like?
~ Are schools in RSU 50 really…
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Taking leave from our focus on School Consolidation for a moment, this articulates the most disturbing aspects of Corporate Education Reform; the CC$$I…. Many of us have not only noticed that Bill Gates, Obama, et. al. send their children to schools that do not align to the inhuman, soul-less Common Core. (Private schools advertise themselves as an “escape” from it!) But also that what elite parents expect could be emulated in our own schools. The Common Core is expensive, and designed more to fill the coffers of corporations than serve children. CC authors fear equity, and do not believe in it.~The Hidden Agenda of Corporate Ed Reform~
Here’s the hidden “story” many of us have observed, that the Reformers are trying to suppress. During the 1980s and 1990s US educational researchers and teachers figured out how to help all children succeed. Professional educators were becoming highly innovative, we understood the importance of joy, curiosity, flow and creativity– how the brain learns and constructs knowledge, how to motivate all students and how to help them develop their skills.
We were part of a learner-centered revolution in education, where “lifelong learning” and a “love of learning” were the guiding lights of our profession. Magic was happening and by the end of the 1990s the power elites became aware of our success and it might threaten them if educators continued moving in the direction we were going.
So then they did three things- First, they looked at what worked and made sure their kids got that kind of education in elite private schools. Next, they invested in profit-making charter schools and education software to make money by implementing some of the principles we developed. And finally, they started to set up all these standards and testing schemes (NCLB, RTT and Common Core) to shut down the successful learning that had been happening in public schools.
Why? Because they don’t want us giving away a quality education for free. They want to control it, limit its distribution and sell it. They fear a world where all kids (regardless of race or social class) would be able to compete equally with their children. They’re afraid of what would happen if America’s public schools became breeding grounds for greater liberty, creativity, skill development, critical thinking and equality.
The Art of Learning
Related: The video the corporate reformers do *not* want you to see, a 1993 ABC News Report on “The New American Revolution in Learning.” They focus on motivation, multiple intelligences, flow, research on how the brain works, the trouble with standardized testing. Shows all the great learner-centered reforms the powers that be have been trying to shut down in US public schools…
“I have always been opposed to school consolidation although the fact that it costs more money was not my initial reason. I would be glad to elaborate for anyone who is interested. It wipes out a community. I voted against St. George going in with Thomaston when the vote first came up — as most of my neighbors now wish they had done. In a few letters to the editor, we see Baldacci blamed for school consolidation. And that is ok because blaming Clinton or Obama or Baldacci for even a bad apple crop is taken for granted in Maine. But although Baldacci’s misguided school policy certainly entitles him to a good share of the present SAD situation in Maine, Baldacci was only about three years old when my town St. George was suckered in.”
It is my pleasure to announce we have received a grant from the Cole Transportation Museum. The museum has offered us a wonderful opportunity to help infuse new life into our music program by donating 21 brand-new instruments to the Katahdin Music Program. These instruments will go to any and all students who would like to play in the band for grades 5-12. In return for the instruments, the Cole Transportation Museum is asking us to take our students on a field trip to the museum and play at one of their events each year for the next 5 years.
At this time, there are about 20 students in our high school band, and this donation of 21 instruments will create some great musical opportunity for students at all grade levels. We have set a meeting time for February 6th at 2:45 where the folks from the museum would like to come see our school and meet the students, parents, and community members who will be benefiting from this program. The Cole Transportation Museum does a lot of great things all over the state and they are very interested in meeting our community and the people they help. We urge anyone who would like to attend this meeting to come and show your thanks and support. Attendance for band members is mandatory. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 356-4218.
Katahdin Middle/High School”
See you there!
“Lose your school. Lose your community. School administrative districts were no more than a scam and a few people have finally figured out that it would be nice to keep the control and the tax dollars in town. Oh, it would also be nice to keep the kids in town. But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight. There’s too much money at stake. And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”
~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”
“Corporate America and the construction industry are continually promoting the parallels in education and raising hens: cram them into a huge building, feed them all the same, and every single one of them will come out exactly suited for their purpose.
Thousands of Maine people have seen the results of consolidation and are working to extricate themselves from the mess. Not only did taxes go up to pay for the mess, small towns lost their sense of community, lost their voice in the educational process and were continually steamrolled by larger towns that had more members on the Board.”
~The Humble Farmer
See you there!
To that end, “Timbered Classrooms” has a flyer to share with you — please print, share, distribute….. ..make paper airplanes.. Whatever:)
The more the merrier (and certainly better for kids and taxpayers.)
There is the above JPEG of course, but here is a PDF as well, if you prefer:
Thank you for your support!
The decisions facing the RSU are high-stakes, and defy our assumptions. “Timbered Classrooms” is focused, for the moment on the issue of consolidation. “Understanding of the world is the best defense against the ravages of it.”… (Who said that? ..anyone remember?)
“There can be no greater blow to the integrity of a community than the loss of its school or the loss of control of its school — which always means loss of control of its children. The breakdown of discipline and academic standards in the schools can only originate in, and can only cause, the breakdown of community life. The public school, separated from the community by busing, (for whatever reason), government control, consolidation and other “advances”, has become a no-man’s land, a place existing only in reference to itself and to a theoretical “tomorrow’s world”. Neither teachers nor students feel themselves answerable to the community, for the school does not exist to serve the community. “
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“…a century of consolidation has already produced most of the efficiencies obtainable. Indeed, in the largest jurisdictions, efficiencies have likely been exceeded—that is, some consolidation has produced diseconomies of scale that reduce efficiency. In such cases, deconsolidation is more likely to yield benefits than consolidation. Moreover, contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. For example, policymakers may believe “We’ll save money if we reduce the number of superintendents by consolidating districts;” however, larger districts need—and usually hire—more mid-level administrators. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs….”
Read the full study here:
“Another dramatic problem facing rural education is the issue of consolidation of schools. From Arkansas to West Virginia to Maine, small rural schools are closing in order to merge into regional schools. The assumption is that closing small schools and busing students to regional schools not only presents efficiencies of scale and cost-savings, but also provides more opportunities, including a broader curriculum with more Advanced Placement classes, for example. But many rural educators see consolidation as a disaster: Since schools are often the heart of small communities, there are devastating social implications when they are closed, including that parents and town leaders lose control and interest. Transportation becomes an enormous hurdle, literally removing access to schools, and students are forced to travel great distances to get to school. They can’t attend extracurricular activities and sports, nor can their parents easily support them.
While at the Ed School, Tompkins studied the issue of consolidation and started off as a proponent. But, in 1972, after evaluating the data, she published a critical paper, Economy, Efficiency, Equality: The Myths of Rural School Consolidation (later expanded into a book cowritten with colleagues). Since then, her opposition has only grown.
“My research still holds up,” says Tompkins. “Bigger is not better, smaller is not cheaper, and rural people are not too dumb to run their schools. Those are the three myths that undergird school consolidation. It hasn’t saved a lot of money; it just hasn’t lived up to its billing.” She adds, “I do think people believe there are efficiencies and economies, but nobody goes in to look afterward to figure out, were there any savings? There’s almost no research on that.” Perhaps the best data, she says, comes from a series of articles published in 2002 in the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, which found that despite the state spending $1 billion on consolidation and closing more than 300 schools since 1990, no hard savings were achieved, there were more administrators than before, and the promise of more and better courses was never met.
The push for rural consolidation is all the stranger given the movement in urban areas toward smaller schools, including charter schools, so that classroom sizes are smaller and there is more accountability among students, parents, and administrators. “Our general view is, the more adults you have in positions of influence like school boards and planning committees, the more adults engaged in learning about and understanding public education, the better off you are,” says Tompkins. “And the centralizing kinds of strategies really undermine the community support for learning.”
Adds Tieken, “Schools are very much a part of the identity, the meeting place, the heart and soul of a community. If you ask them, ‘What if you lose your school?’ they say, ‘We lose our identity.’” Some of this concern is economically related, in that the loss of a school can cause people to move and businesses to shut down.”
Read the article in its entirety, here: