Monday, November 28, 2016

We've Gotten Ourselves Into This Mess, It's About Time We Get Ourselves Out

I've intentionally given myself a few days before I commented on Donald Trump's selection of a new Secretary of Education.  Many people, especially those associated with public schools, were very concerned when he met with Michelle Rhee before Thanksgiving to presumably discuss the position.  What many of us in education did not expect is that he would actually bypass Rhee, and select Betsy Devos, a staunch supporter of vouchers and school choice, and someone, if you were to question their experience as an educator, you would actually struggle to come up with what question to ask.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we as public schools got ourselves into this mess.  For years, we were the only show in town.  Play by our rules and if you didn't like it you could pay tuition somewhere else.  If not, too bad.  There was virtually no competition, thus no real reason to go out of our way to promote the positive things happening in our schools or to have acceptable customer service.  Then that all changed.  Charter schools, vouchers, and open enrollment brought a capitalistic mentality into education, a real life survival of the fittest. 

Here's the thing.  It's up to us to get ourselves out of this mess, and I hate to break it to you, but it is not going to be a quick fix.  I am not just talking about public schools either.  Charters schools have been branded by many as a waste of taxpayer money with little to show in terms of student growth.  I'm talking to you too.  Your school doesn't fit the stereotype of being a bad school?  THEN IT IS TIME TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE. We need to change our actions as well as our stories.  We cannot neglect customer service in our schools.  It is actually an easy thing to correct.  We need to improve what we are doing instructionally.  Finally, we need to change the perception of our schools by sharing the positive stories.  Not bragging about our school.  Brag about the accomplishments of your students and staff.  It is time to share those stories.

Our President-elect, Donald Trump said the following when talking about school choice:
"Their parents will choose the finest school.  They will attend that school."
Is that your school?  Is your school the best choice available?  Many people aren't sure.  It's time to change the narrative and let them know.

Ryan McLane is a principal in Ohio and the co-author of Your School Rocks...So Tell People.

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