Tuesday, December 1, 2015

0 Confessions of a Public School Parent

The Boston Compact, Charter School legislation, possible school closures and the Mayor who left ALL Boston's children behind once he took the oath of office. School, citizen groups, weird City of Boston "partner" events, reaching out to others in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York - all places being decimated by education reform, reading articles and digging into data on DESE and other sites. This is what my spare time - time when I could relax or do something totally selfish with - essentially revolves around or something similar for the past 23 years. 

Confession: my youngest is now in high school and I feel like I have failed my children. I failed them by allowing those who won't even put their own children into a public school to determine how my children would be educated. I failed them by not pushing back more against their use as guinea pigs in the edu-experiments that have encompassed the past 20 years of public education in my beloved city. I have failed them by allowing them to be nothing more than data-points to those who swore their focus was the children of Boston and ensuring they would receive the best education. I failed them by not screaming louder or opting them out of the insane MCAS sooner. All of these things are how I also feel I have failed ALL of our Boston students. 

To my children: I'm sorry. I loved school, okay - not the early hours, but when I went to Boston Public Schools, despite what was written about how horrible our education was, I got an amazing education. An education that, contrary to the popular myth pushed by education reformers, actually taught me how to ask questions, research, think critically, write everything from a resume, correspondence, legal documents, this blog and read for knowledge as well as enjoyment. My education gave me the drive to continue as a scholar throughout my life. This is what I want for all of you - the children I gave birth to and those that may not even know me, for school to be a place where you love to learn, even if you don't like the hours. 

Grades are subjective and standardized tests are just standards others have decided on or the "norm", well, my kids are not and never will be the "norm" so their scores on these tests mean almost nothing to me. In my opinion, the true success of a school and district is not how many of the students can pass a single test measure, but how many of the students that they educated not only go on to have successful lives, but continue to spend their life learning and never stop. 

Despite my feeling of failure, or maybe because of it, I will continue to fight against those who see our students as nothing but a data-point or dollar sign. Right now, that includes elected officials like Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker and many others who seem to be paying off campaign debts by selling off our students' (and the city's) futures. And they are backed by big money and corporations hiding behind the foundations and groups that are purportedly non-profit: Gates, Walton, Broad, Democrats for Education Reform, Families for Excellent Schools, Stand for Children. Gates has already funded the Boston Compact through the Boston Schools Fund and the Boston Compact folks are in talks with the Walton Family Foundation for more funding. All of these organizations have the objective of opening more charter schools as one of their primary missions. And yes, I have been tweeting about all of these concerns and questions to all of them.

There are many concerns surrounding the Boston Compact, not the least of which is the lack of transparency and lack of any of the true stakeholders being part of the group. If you want to learn a bit more you should really read Public School Mama's blog and the links in her posts!

Call me crazy - rightfully so, because who else but a crazy person would believe that one voice or a small group of voices can indeed make a difference? I'll own my craziness because despite everything, I also know I have succeeded in some ways because I see it throughout BPS and my children do have the desire to continue learning. I didn't do it alone, and every day I am thankful to the staff and educators, and yes, BPS district personnel, City Councilors and Mayor Menino, and most of all the awesome students, parents and groups that helped ensure that my children became lifelong learners. 

We still have a lot of work to do, but luckily I know there are many community members, parents, students, families, educators and groups who are also fighting to ensure that every student truly receives the best education we can give them and to light the spark necessary to continue their learning for the rest of their lives. I may also be a dreamer, but I truly believe we can accomplish our goals. So, to the many parents, students, families and community members feeling fatigue or, like myself, feeling like you may have failed your students, I thank you for fighting on despite the constant barrage of education reform initiatives and compacts designed to decimate public school districts. 

If you want to learn more about the current issues many are concerned about such as what the Boston Compact, Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker's education proposals could mean for Boston I hope you will join me tomorrow evening, Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at the District B-2 Police Station 2400 Washington St, Roxbury, MA 02119 (Dudley Square).

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare. 


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