'School Improvement' (Yeah. Sure. Right...)

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School Improvement Committee

My goodness, the term, in and of itself, almost elicits awe. It has that wistful Edu-Speak quality to it, and rolls off the tongue with almost a …a…rhythm. It is my impression that many of the individuals involved with…(drum roll, please)…”School ~ Improvement ~ Committees,” view their groups as mystical, even magical, and put great unfounded faith in them. Were the word ‘religious’ allowed within the domain of public education, I would go so far as to suggest that some participants religiously act out their assigned roles, even as one would in a serious theater production.

I do so love theater; especially musical theater. It is therefore not unusual, when confronted with the theatrics and artificiality of such committees, for me to actually burst into song. Rather like this…borrowing a few lines from Evita

” Oh what a circus, oh what a show…
We’ve all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all the misery right…
And good for the country, in a roundabout way.
We’ve made the front page of all the world’s papers today…
But in the end you could not deliver.”

And these committees will never deliver. The musicians can go on home. The curtains will soon close; the ghost light dim, then be put to rest. It will be for the best. I would not even mind re-enacting my role as the Lead Player in Pippin — hoping that I might bring about a more humane ending. Without rehearsal and prompts, the nation will reel when the schools collapse.

The illusion — the Truth — behind these committees is that their Playbill does not advertise a do-able production. You may recall that the Feds now control 90% of the decisions made in public education; possibly more since the passing of the No Child Left Behind law. The FEDS are the Lead Players on these “School Destruction Committees” even as the federal government just minimally supports the schools. (See: 6.5 Cents on the Dollar)

The local groups are bit players with no lines, no creativity, no power. The committee members merely decorate a stage upon which administrators can hold auditions for Yes-People. (Of course I failed my audition! I’m surprised that you would even wonder!) Such a committee will never risk having any vote swing in any direction not predetermined and pre-approved by — local, state, federal — mandates and preferences. Teachers like myself are not welcome. A typical committee will be made up of untenured first-year teachers; star groupies who learned their lines while waiting for tenure; a social worker, a custodian; a secretary; and a couple administrators. Never expect any creative ideas, let alone any problem resolution or school improvement, from such groups. The true goals will be achieved when administrators succeed in dividing their staff and determining the boundary line between loyalty and perceived disloyalty…

…which brings to mind another song; this time from The King and I.

“Yes, your majesty. No, your majesty.
Tell us how far to go, your majesty.
Make some more decrees, your majesty.
Don’t let us up off our knees, your majesty.
Give us a kick if it please your majesty.
Give us a kick if you would, your majesty.
Oh! THAT WAS GOOD, YOUR MAJESTY!”

This lowly, subservient role is the sacrifice expected from any member wishing to be billed as a player on a School Improvement Committee.

Well, since this essay appears to have turned into a songfest, throw wide the stage curtains, let the audience view the revolting organization now hidden in the wings. We’ll close with a few more lines from Evita — using in the lowest, most dissonant notes:

“[One] has no rules, is not precise
… rarely acts the same way twice…
…always picks the easy fight…
Politics, the art of the possible.
[One] praises fools
… smothers light.
… shifts, from left to right.
Politics, the art of the possible.”

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.

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