There is currently a bill on its way to the Governor’s desk in Michigan to require 3rd graders to pass a literacy test in order to move on to the 4th grade. On the surface, that sounds like something you can get behind. We want to make sure that kids can read, what could be bad about that?
Well, in Michigan, where the State went to court to prove it has no responsibility for quality education and won, you want to look just a little below the surface. Indeed it would be wonderful if we were supporting children to read and advance. But there is nothing in the bill that allows for that. All there is is the punitive step to hold you back. That’s like saying we won’t license you to drive until you can pass the test (sounds wise) and then not allowing you to see the information that you will be tested on (not so much).
We have to realize that supporting quality teachers (the exact opposite of the recent efforts of the State and the Michigan Department of Education) is the only way to get kids to where they need to be. Let’s take a quick guess at where this guideline will have the most impact? Quick, look up in the UP where poverty is spread out over great distances. Then take a look at urban areas where too many schools are already in the hands of privateers and emergency mangers looking to destroy futures. Because the new law allows parents to petition the state on individual cases, parents of low achieving children in wealthy districts will move on anyway. Who gets punished? The poor kids again. Why? Because we still choose to see poverty as a crime as opposed to a condition.
We need to ask more of people who are currently pretending to be in a leadership position. We need processes and direction and collaboration and money to move kids forward, not a ruler to smack hands with. You can’t complain that children of poverty are unprepared for the world of work if they never have the opportunity to get better.
And just as a final note, if you are reading this and are feeling defensive because you do a good job with your kids and wonder why people are attacking you, stop it, you missed the point, this isn’t about you. But if you remain silent, it could become about you.