The Public School Widget Factory
- Roger Waters
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) School Experience Survey is an opportunity for parents and guardians to grade the District’s performance. Included in this questionnaire are important statements such as “Reports of bullying are taken seriously at this school” and “This school encourages my child to explore different career choices.” These apply to all students and are benchmarks on which all schools deserve to be judged.
Under a section reserved for parents of students in sixth to twelfth grades, the focus turns to preparation for life after high school. Unfortunately, these statements seem to assume that all students will head off to college. If District schools are judged on a benchmark of “School staff expect my child to attend college”, will they bother to pay attention to children who have other plans? Will educators who present different paths to interested students be punished by their supervisors who judge them only on their performance in fulfilling the approved mission? Is a high school diploma nothing more than an admission card to collegiate life?
In the past, public schools had a different problem when they pushed students away from college based on their race or station in life. However, the atonement for this sin should not result in students who CHOOSE other career paths to be made to feel inferior. All students who are capable should be given an education that allows them the opportunity to continue on to college. However, a complete education should also present every student chances to explore other paths for their lives.
If the LAUSD wanted to show that all children matter, they should amend their report card so that school staff is rated not solely on advocating college attendance but expecting each child who is capable to continue their education at a college, trade school or apprenticeship program. Those who are unable or not ready to move on to higher learning should also not be ignored. Students should expect that their schools will provide job fairs along with college fairs.
The LAUSD also needs to recognize that judging schools on the statement that “staff expects my child to graduate from high school” automatically discriminates against programs that serve members of the community with moderate to severe special education needs. While the District can pretend to have a goal of 100% graduation, the fact is that there are students who will never be able to receive a high school diploma. Schools that devote resources to these students should be rewarded instead of deducting points on an ill-conceived school report card. At the very least, the District should add “or culminate from their assigned program” to the report card.
Each of the 694,096 students enrolled in schools within the boundaries of the LAUSD is an individual. If we ignore each one’s unique needs, then we fail at the task of helping each one reach their full potential. Isn’t this the purpose of public education?
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.