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Closing Schools Is Unacceptable

Let me preface this by saying that it’s easier to look at things from the outside—in, without knowing all the decision circumstances, but closing schools as an education-correction option is ridiculous. You can’t handle education problems in the same way you would an old recipe, which requires lard—just toss it out. I may be old-fashioned enough to think that things can be fixed with creative thinking and a lot of hard work. Probably the reason I hate throwing anything out; I just enjoy getting things to work, when no one thinks they will.

Closing schools, which is happening in NYC, Newark, NJ, or firing the majority of educators, which happened in at Central Falls in Rhode Island, and elsewhere, in my opinion, are examples of giving up—and that is something we have begun to do too frequently as a culture, and in education. I just cringe at that reality TV approach to serious issues in education. It is too easy to label and shout, “Drop out factory!” and offer no solution, other than, “Close the school!”

I know that test scores and student achievement scores drive these closing events, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand why school leaders haven’t avoided that dead-end route. I know that there are many things to deal with, especially in NYC, feeding kids, and just getting them to school in the first place, but the primary learning goal shouldn’t be out of site for one second either—Students will achieve! Students will learn and learn well. The leader leads and the staff/team make it happen. If anything needs the boot, it’s most likely the leader who can’t lead in the direction of that goal. Closing a school is stupid, but changing a leader, who can’t motivate and lead, is a viable option. But please, do it way before the vehicle is heading over the cliff. Who is monitoring these things? I think a monitoring adjustment is need as well.

Again, I know that I’m not there—onsite, but it seems to me, a reasonable thing, to have leaders, who motivate staff and students in the right direction, so the simple option of closing a school never is a possibility. My question for teachers, when I hear complaining without solid suggestions, has always been, “What are you going to do about it?” And I always get great, substantial ideas and feedback. I would ask that of any school leader at the start, and continue to ask it—over and over—at every opportunity. I see nothing wrong with saying, “No ideas—no movement in the right direction—well, hit the road! We need someone, who will lead staff and students to succeed. Closing this school, and students failing to learn won’t be an option here!” I see everything wrong with getting to a place, where people are shouting in the street for closing a school; because that’s the only option they can wrap their minds around. That’s just too simple, and requires no real work, or thinking about what really should be done.

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34-year veteran educator, ed tech author, and education marketplace reporter.

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