There has never been a moment where my family or my children have fit inside the box.
I’ve talked before as to why we have chosen to send our kids to a public charter school, as opposed to our neighborhood school. And I’ve talked a million times about our family’s quirks and progressive attitude when it comes to education.
I am the product of a public school education. It never even occurred to me that we’d consider anything else for our children unless the public schools near our home were failing.
Of course the public schools in our very nice suburb of Los Angeles are nowhere near failing and they excel by every standard used to measure a typical American public school.
Unfortunately, that amazing, typical, American public school nearly sucked the life out of my then-5 year old son as he stood against a brick wall, watching the other children play at recess. His crime? Not sitting still during story time.
But this is how it went with 36 kindergarteners and one teacher. This is what you did in order to make sure everyone could fill in that bubble properly and sit still while doing it. Distractions, such as my son’s pencil twirling, was an offense worthy of punishment. A punishment that forced his tiny body to unnaturally hold in all that energy again, when it should be setting it free on the playground.
After one tearful parent-teacher conference my husband and I knew this was not the education we wanted for our son, or for our daughter who would be following in his footsteps in just a few short years. But what is a middle class family to do when they can’t afford private school and neither parent can home school?
We are not alone. Millions of parents have round peg kids being stuffed into square holes.
So when I had a chance to talk with Former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes for a few minutes this week I had a million questions, as any parent would. But I took to facebook and twitter and asked YOU what you wanted to hear and know from this administration.
Some highlights from the conference call (you can see the tweets with the hashtag #edu2012 here): the administration says they understand standardized tests are only ONE way to measure how well a child is learning, a teacher is teaching, and how a school is performing. They are working to measure in other ways.
That idea from Barnes made me very happy. To finally come up with ways to measure how the WHOLE student is learning, not just the bubble filling in, memorizing and then forgetting portion of the child.
Barnes said they aren’t talking about ditching tests all together, but also assessing critical thinking skills and supporting teachers in trying to make those assessments. Of course none of this is easy to do.
And I understand entirely. We get those STAR test results at our house and stomachs churn. But then our teachers remind us this is just ONE way they can tell if a student is learning. Just one.
And then of course there was discussion about the differences between what an Obama 2nd term would do (and what the first term has done) and what a Romney-Ryan administration would do. Let’s just say they are worlds apart. WORLDS.
President Obama has expanded Head Start, he has used savings from student loan reform to fund and expanded Pell grants. Romney/Ryan would roll all this back.
One of the questions I asked was about teachers in this country, and how we save their jobs. So many seem to have been laid off, when what we need are MORE in the classroom. The Obama administration has fought to SAVE hundreds of thousands of teacher jobs across the country, while Mitt Romney has been quoted (and his surrogates have since defended) saying he would slash funding for teachers, firefighters, and police officers.
And of course I had to ask if there was anyway Congress might be provided basic biology and sex ed courses, given the idiotic and entirely uneducated statements by Rep. Todd Akin on rape and the female reproductive system. I was glad to have gotten a chuckle from the Obama team, but also a very serious answer, reminding those of us on the call that the choice for women and families could not be more clear come November.
If you want more information on the Obama/Biden education plan you can find plenty over at BarackObama.com - and if you have any questions for the Obama/Biden team, I have been given the ok to send over a few more questions so please, ask away in the comments below and I will do my best to get you answers.