It all began with the feel-good story at the end of the NBC Sunday evening news. It was about a former bus that had been gutted and transformed into a lab on wheels that takes it science to schools. To be sure, it was a feel-good story: rows of eager elementary school kids climb on the bus where scientists guide lessons. Kids get to use proper lab equipment, tools one of the lab experts said they would not get hands on until college were it not for the lab on wheels. One bus, a handful of kids at a time. Fees (though reasonable) to be paid.
This is the source of my fatigue. It is the chirpy, cheery report that basically says, "Isn't this wonderful?" NO. NO. IT. IS. NOT. NO. What it is is an indictment of the horrific lack of funding in schools. It is not just science funding (because of late there seems to be more funding for STEM). Rather it is about all the things kids today have to do without because of the gutting of education funding. No libraries. No librarians. No counselors. No nurses. The list goes on. And we have political candidates who want to do away with the Education Department thinking that somehow this will save money and make schools more local and, therefore, better. Ugh.
And there is another gutting taking place as well. I heard from a teacher recently that recess is cancelled in her school for the month of April. WHY? You know why. April is the cruelest month--it is the month of testing. So no play for kids until they all take the test. Recess gone. Libraries closed; bookcases covered over (I guess in case kids could get an answer from a book spine?). No recess. Saturday school. It guts childhood. And add into the mix here in Texas all of the computer glitches that kicked out students during the test or made their efforts basically worthless when it comes to scoring.
The adage at airports is, "If you see something, say something." But in schools saying something could get you fired. You cannot carry your cell phone lest you take a shot of the test. You sign oaths not to reveal anything. You must march up and down the aisles. You must log in who goes to the bathroom, when, and for how long. I do not know how long I would last in this kind of atmosphere. I suspect I would be one of the headlines: teacher fired after test misconduct.
This is what makes me tired. I think of the losses these kids suffer and how the media joyfully proclaims one of the band-aids as wonderful instead of calling for more funding for the schools and not for the lab on wheels. When did lab equipment become a luxury? When did books begin being counted as expendables? When did essential personnel such as nurses, counselors, and librarians become something we can do without while we spend more and more on test prep.
To add insult to injury, a new report on RtI shows is largely ineffective. Again, the fatigue sets in as I think about all the time and effort and MONIES that have been diverted into a program that, like most programmed approaches, fails to make a significant difference. I know my fatigue will fade. I will spend hours with people who are passionate about books and reading, and I will be re-energized. How I wish, though, that somehow the candidates seeking my vote would understand what needs to be done and do it. Kylene Beers has written about this on Facebook recently. She is reminding candidates about the kids. If "the children are our future," we need to put some money where our mouths are. Soon.