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Failing the Test: Nine Solution Takeaways

(Photo by Pandora Young)

(Photo by Pandora Young)

Despite the trendy popularity of charter schools in some circles, their wholesale replacement of traditional public schools is unnecessary. Not only do decades of data and research show this, but in each city there are plenty of successful public schools on the other side of the tracks or highway or river. The wealthy in the United States, regardless of locality, continue to have access to quality public education. So what should all parents already be able to choose from in their existing neighborhood public schools?

High Quality Teachers. Shortages of teachers caused by district instability, difficult working conditions and low pay have enabled thousands of teachers with just five weeks of summer training (and sometimes as few as 30 hours) to enter the classrooms of primarily poor children during the past 10 years. All children need teachers in every classroom who have extensive training in classroom management and developing and delivering curriculum. 

Early Childhood Education. There are very few gold standards in the research literature, but Pre-K is one them. For Latina/os and African Americans, Pre-K has been shown to be especially promising for narrowing the disparities in readiness when kids reach kindergarten. 

See More Stories in Capital & Main’s Charter School Series

Equitable School Finance. Poverty and school finance do matter in schools, especially for immigrant students. Equitably funded schools ensure, as the U.S. Department of Education has said, that a “child’s critical opportunities are not a function of his or her ZIP code.” 

Local Accountability. Top-down accountability policies inspired by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law did not deliver on their goal to make all students academically proficient by 2014. Why? Because we need an accountability system that doesn’t stigmatize schools for students who score poorly on only one measure of success—high-stakes tests. 

Arts and Other Extracurriculars. National polls of parents show that one of the top three priorities for schools is funding for arts and other extracurriculars. The past two decades of testing and accountability policies have caused a neglect of these programs. 

Class size. California had a disastrous experience with class-size reduction because the shock to the system caused a variety of unintended consequences for teacher quality. However, research literature still solidly supports claims that smaller class sizes provide student success benefits for poor children.

Diverse Curriculum. The most recent research from Stanford University demonstrates that ethnic studies courses improve student achievement. State curriculum standards have been popular since the late 1990s. However, those standards often exclude communities of colorSince U.S. schools are now majority minority, it is important that we have curriculum that represents diverse populations.

School Desegregation. More than 60 years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools produced inherently unequal education, American schools remain remarkably segregated by race and ethnicity. We need to avoid a perpetually balkanized society. 

Ending the School to Prison Pipeline. Schools in the United States are sending droves of young black and brown students into the school-to-prison pipeline via harsh discipline policiesEducators must utilize innovative and restorative disciplinary approaches to stem this trend. 

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  • frances8

    Every school should be trauma-informed and have support for students, teachers and parents. Every school should have a nurse and a counselor on site, every single day. My son’s school has a nurse come one day a week and a counselor once a week. It’s not enough!! Children come to school with all kinds of issues – witnessing domestic or neighborhood violence, incarceration of a parent, divorce, substance abuse in the home, neglect – and more often than not, faculty and staff do not have the knowledge or training to support these children. We expect children to leave their problems at home when they walk through the school entrance. When they react in ways that are deemed “inappropriate,” the child is punished and shamed, adding to their fear and stress creating a situation in which it is almost impossible for them to learn.

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