Sunday, October 28, 2007

Part of the Solution

Racine Unified interim superintendent Jack Parker and interim CFO David Hazen collaborated on a commentary in today's JT entitled "Racine Unified faces immense challenges." In it they ask for "supporters and critics to come together and help" and to be "part of the solution." How to help they didn't say.

I think I can best help by offering a dissenting opinion.

Hazen and Parker contend that the success of Unified is essential to our community. "Whether you live in the city, the district, or the county, the success of RUSD and your future are tied together." And "Indeed, the future prosperity of the community, the county, and the region rests to an important degree on the success of RUSD." And "For the community to thrive, RUSD's success has to be a priority for everyone." Even County Executive Bill McReynolds apparently stated, "explicitly" that "student success in RUSD is essential to the long term social and economic viability of the county."

Few would argue the importance of a quality education, and I am not among them. Education ranks right up there with food in importance to our society. But I don't know anyone who would suggest that McDonalds is essential for the viability of our county, or that success of Piggly Wiggly and your future are tied together, or that the future prosperity the community rests on the success of Pick'N Save. Food is essential. McDonalds, Piggly Wiggly, and Pick'N Save are not.


Likewise, education is essential while RUSD is not. It doesn't matter what entity educates the children in our community, be it parents in a home school, RUSD, charter schools, or private schools. What matters is that the entity that attempts to educate our children succeeds in doing so. If that can be RUSD, fine. If RUSD is not up to the task, perhaps we need to look to other educational establishments.

This is the mistake made by Dave Hazen, Jack Parker and countless others in our community. They assume that RUSD must be the critical educational institutional around. Presently, it is, to the detriment of our community, because so many of our children are being undereducated there. Rather than flailing endlessly to fix a broken school system, perhaps it is time to look outside that system. We should do this for the children.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

For all the years that I have lived in Racine, and heard Conservatives say that RUSD is 'broken', I have never heard an explanation as to what the 'broken' is.

From my vantage point, as a lifelong Racine resident, I see poverty, unemployment, low-wage jobs, segregation, ingrained racism and 'classism', as the cause of most of what ails Racine.

Heck, if you worked for Johnson Wax or Case, got a profit sharing check or great wage/salary, everything has alwayd been great!

However, from MY side of the tracks, it has always been whitey town...and I AM white!

Denis Navratil said...

Abysmal test scores, truancy problems, high dropout rates etc... are among the symptoms of a broken school system. Sorry if I am unable to offer an exact definition.

Certainly RUSD has some difficult social situations to contend with, such as those you mentioned.

Too often these problems are used as a handy excuse to mask the failures of RUSD.

Is Unified improving the raw material, if you will, or are they simply holding on to it for several years until their time is up?

Or to put it another way, could another school setting do a better job than Unified in teaching disadvantaged children?

I think we at least should consider that possibility.

Concerned for Caledonia said...

Denis -
So, what are your thoughts about the Village of Caledonia study about the related costs of breaking away from RUSD?

Is the creation of a village-wide school district a pro-active approach towards educational improvement? Or will it just leave RUSD in that much worse shape?

And while it will require a referendum (and I know how you love referendums! (sp)), is this something that the village fathers should be pursuing in your opinion?

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Caledonia.
They should go one step further and make their new district 100% choice, and include transportatio vouchers. I bet Oak Creek & Franklin school districts would love to get $10,000 per Caledonia child.

Denis Navratil said...

CforC, if I lived in Caledonia I would support breaking away from Unified. So I would support the study idea. Breaking away from Unified might leave Unified in worse shape, but as I see it, sometimes you might have to hit rock bottom before you realize that you have a problem.

I believe that education will improve only when parents have choices beyond the public school system. As such, I like anon #2's idea very much. I can't think of a compelling reason why Caledonia shouldn't go 100% choice, unless the teachers union/legislators have made it illegal.

Anonymous said...

Taking it one step further, Caledonia can sell back to RUSD the Caledonia taxpayers portion of the buildings & land.
Caledonia need only be a small handful of administrators passing out vouchers. The school children can go to RUSD or whatever other school wants to compete for them. No need for CSD to have their own school buildings.

Anonymous said...

and where would students go for the right to a free, quality education?

I know countless former public school students who have acheived success despite the stereotypes and negative perceptions of public schools.

Test scores have been historically documented as an unproven measurement of academic success for a myraid of reasons. Truant students don't prevent students who aren't truant from learning. Those are all excuses Denis, excuses to undo with a right to a free education and funnel kids to a over-priced, un-diverse, tunnel-visioned, privatized educational system whose bottom line is about profits and not educating.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon asks: "and where would students go for the right to a free, quality education?"

Where do they go now for a free, quality education? Public education is not free, nor is it quality in most cases.

Private schools seek profits, says anon. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Every private school in the Racine area is a not for profit entity.

Anonymous said...

anon you got owned

Anonymous said...

Non-profits don't seek income? What planet are you living on, obviously not the same planet earth everyone else lives on. "Surplus" is the fancy word for profit in the "not-for-profit" world.

I'm still curious as to how truancy inhibits non-truant students education?

How do dropouts effect students who graduate?

How do dropouts effect students who graduate at the top of their class?

Again, excuses Denis.

Blind faith in all private schools is being just as naive as the blanket stereotypes of the public school system.

Denis Navratil said...

anon asks:

"I'm still curious as to how truancy inhibits non-truant students education?"

And "How do dropouts effect students who graduate?"

And "How do dropouts effect students who graduate at the top of their class?"

Please reread my points so far anon. Did I write that truants inhibit the education of non-truants? Did I write that dropouts effect graduating students? Did I write that dropouts affect top students?

Answer: No, no and no.

So why do you attribute those arguments to me? This is what is called a straw man argument. Make up a false claim by your opponent and then refute it, or in your case, ridicule it. This is a dishonest debating technique.

What I did write anon is that truancy and high rates of dropouts are indicators of a broken school system.

Please attempt to refute the arguments I do make rather than the ones you wished I had made. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The definition of a "broken" school system is subjective, the same argument could be had for the private schools you throw so much blind faith into. Are their problems in public schools, of course, are private schools un-problematic, of course not. To think private schools don't have problems is completely naive and downright stupid.

Is a symptom of a broken system thousands of students who graduate every year to educational, athletic and employment opportunities?

These students are also a part of this "broken" system you speak of so why have you excluded them?

Denis Navratil said...

Anon states: "To think private schools don't have problems is completely naive and downright stupid."

I tried to teach you anon about the fallacious "straw man" technique, and what do you do?

You do it again, coupled with another weak rhetorical device, the ad hominem attack (ie. personal attack).

You see anon, I have never written, stated, or thought that private schools are problem free.

Why not debate me anon rather than some fictitious, imaginary version of me that you have concocted in your head?

Could it be that you have no answer to coherent logical points of view that refute your indefensible and hopelessly utopian world view?

Anonymous said...

Denis states "why not debate me anon"...

Debating involves two people, i'm still waiting for that other person. The person who will actually answer my questions instead of dancing around them.

Since you finally understand that private education is not problem free, i'd like to know what are these private school problems in your opinion.

Also, in your opinion, since their are so many successful students in the broken public school system, how can the system be broke for some students and work extremely well for others?

pariah jeep said...

To 6:38 Anonymous:

Your attempts at condescension are especially amusing in light of your poor grammar, spelling errors and incomplete sentences. Do you consider yourself someone for whom the school system has “worked”?

Denis Navratil said...

Anon, the point of this blog entry is not to discuss the problems at private schools. It was to consider the question of whether RUSD is essential to our community, or is quality schooling essential to our community via the full range of education options, of which RUSD is but one. If you wish to engage readers on problems at private schools, I suggest starting your own blog. But on this blog, I bring up the subjects, and readers and contributors are urged to discuss that subject.

Anonymous said...

Sir,
Do you have any friends that teach in RUSD? Or are you writing from stereo-typical beliefs?

If anyone has the intelligence to understand the problems of teaching in a public school setting, that person would understand the pernicious effect that a consumeristic society, a greed driven society, and a manipulative corporate/advertizing society, have upon the developement of our nations children.

If you can't comprehend that, then you probably want jack-booted police to beat the poor down with a club; like on COPS, and other insideously bigotted programs...

concrete katie said...

Randy Bangs has just resigned as a RUSD board member for personal reasons. He has been such a voice of sanity.

I don't think these big monopolies such as RUSD and the All Saints megahospital result in the most equitable or cost effective (for individuals and taxpapers) solutions. Racine needs a tech school and a trade school and more competition, not less. Caledonia is simply expressing dissatisfaction by examining withdrawing. I don't know if it makes sense but I certainly understand that RUSD isn't perfect.

Conscious Thought said...

Well the King has spoken Anon! There shall be no dissenting opinions, identification of problems, or questioning of any kind that maybe harmful to the "free" thinking King's philosophies.

The king will "debate" with like minded individuals only, dissenting thoughts will be banished to someone else's blog! Although he will allow you to create your own.

Your Highness, As you mentioned, this blog was about considering whether.."quality schooling is essential to our community via the full range of education options, of which RUSD is but one"...Correct me if i'm wrong but private schools are one of these education options.

Should we not do due diligence in determining the best options for our children's education? Should we not look at current or potential problems with all of these available options?

Or should we just relent to the advice of Your Highness to "not to discuss the problems at private schools" as he'd like.

Makes me wonder if Lord Navratil really encourages educational options for all students, or is just a well-compensated lobbyist for Prairie school.

Denis Navratil said...

CTW, the question is whether RUSD is essential to our community. Are you going to answer that question? Now if we all agree that RUSD is substandard and or not critical to our community, then I suppose we could move on to consider the alternatives. Is that what you are saying CTW, that we can do without RUSD and that we should now consider the alternatives? If so, great.

Anon, I have several aquaintances that work in RUSD. Can one write about RUSD even if one does not have friends at RUSD, or is it automatically stereotypical? Do the statistics about test results and truancy vary according to the number of friends you have at RUSD? The rest of your post does not merit a response. Remember the straw man?

Anonymous said...

Obviously you understasd nothing about society and its effect on education. I taught in catholic schools, and I know principals, teachers, and superintendents of both public and private schools.

I can say with certainty, you do not know what you are talking about.

Try reading Jonathon Kozol, or John Taylor Gatto, to get a clue.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a Curriculum Director 10 years ago at RUSD. A local, he had the opportunity, in his job, to create working relatioships between Racine business, schools, and citizens. Know what? He got frustrated and left. Why? My perception was because the business leaders and citizen taxpayer groups, and other local entities involved with the future of the betterment of RUSD were not able to work together for a bright future!

Racine lost this good man at RUSD, (to a bigger and better job in a larger district, BTW), not because RUSD was bad, but the racine community lcontinued to let down the children of racine!

Not can you say racism and bigotry?

Denis Navratil said...

To the contrary anon 9:38, I do know something about "society and its effect on education." Rather than just assume, why not ask me, I will tell you. I have a masters degree in school social work from Loyola University in Chicago. I worked for three years in schools for behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively impaired students, in and around Chicago. So I do know something about the subject, from personal experience, literature, etc.... I have read Kozols "Savage Inequality" book and was not impressed. It was a hopelessly partisan book as I recall, though I did read it several years ago. What was it again that you can say with certainty?

Denis Navratil said...

To anon 9:51: So somebody you know quits his/her job out of a frustration that was caused, per your perception, by business leaders and taxpayer groups who wouldn't "work together for a bright future" .... and this is evidence of bigotry and racism?

As long as we are talking about perceptions, mine is that too many people accuse others (or society) of racism and bigotry without providing even a shred of evidence.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you can only percieve YOUR point of view.

How do YOU account for the class divide in America?

Blame the victim of structural issues ?

I don't see you working in the field today, however. My friends are still in the trenches.

Caledonication said...

I taught at a private school a few years back and I LOVE the show COPS. Too bad it's mostly repeats.

Anonymous said...

COPOS vilifies the poor as idiots and troubled folk...the entertainment of folks who think that they are better than those on COPS...

Caledonication said...

COPS vilifies no one. It merely presents idiots being idiots. Does COPS make those idiots do stupid things and break the law? Nope. Poor? I don't believe the lawyer passed out behind the wheel of his BMW, with a bag of cocaine on his lap was necessarily "poor". Also, I don't just "think" I am better than a common criminal. I am better than a common criminal. Entertaining? Absolutely. Us "good guys" like to see the "bad guys" get their's once in awhile. Next, you'll probably start pontificating about how these "poor, troubled folk" are all victims. Spare me.

aniels said...

Ahhh Denis, As i stated in our other discussion i am new to your blog. Though this post has been most entertaining for me. I have really only skimmed the comments so excuse me if this has been covered. From what I am reading you dont seem to be a fan of public education... I am a bit stymied at what you are proposing.
You want to commodify education? Why stop there, we should commodify familial relations.

You (one or I) could have a contract with your wife, pay her in accord to "duties" Of course this could be reversed if the wife is the "breadwinner". everything would be stipulated, even education....sorry i was just remembering my Richard Posner.

I am surprised that you feel dissent is the only solution here. This community collaboration is your chance to have some ownership in the situation.
I am a product of RUSD. Next time you are walking downtown, that's right follow 20 all the way down, make that move back east of Green Bay Rd. Have a look up at the north face of the museum.