If you want some insight into the reasons for the decline of education in our country, read "Howling and other tips for educators" by retired elementary school principal Mike Schutz. You can find it here: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=701346.
Shutz maintains that the "good schools," those with high standardized test scores, "are made up of students who come from families with well-educated parents who value education." Shutz adds that schools have no control over this variable.
But schools can control other factors. Many of these factors "are intangible and not measurable by a standardized test, according to Shutz. Shutz has "no expectation that these will raise test scores. But they just might make a child's learning experience more meaningful."
Shutz believes that we need kindness in schools. We need playfulness. We need to slow down. We need to let kids be kids. We need good relationships in school. And we need to let teachers teach.
Now there is nothing obviously wrong with Shutz's suggestions. It is not what Shutz wrote that bothers me. It is what he didn't write.
I think the most important job of a principal at an underperforming school is to accept no excuses. You know, like the one Shutz and so many others offers, the one that goes like this: "We can't help it if these kids have parents that don't care about education."
Poor children and children with imperfect parents can learn. And it is the schools job to teach them. If you can't do it, let another school give it a try. Stop making excuses. And teachers who continue to make excuses should be fired. Not transferred to another school. Fired.
Shutz used to lead his school in "howling at the moon" for no apparent educational purpose. That might be fun, but our schools need more than pointless futile gestures.