I have often thought that lawmakers should be forced to spend a week in an educational setting—each one in a different classroom, elementary, middle, and high school—before they are permitted to pass any sort of legislation with regards to our schools. They should be forced to sit through interviews with real teachers (particularly those from low-income and inner city schools), real principals, and a handful of real students. Then, I think they should be given the tests that they are insisting that kids pass before they are permitted out of high school, the tests that determine teachers’ incomes and even continued employment, the tests that take up weeks of school time each year. After all, if the content in those tests is so important, so vital, to their lives, certainly well-educated lawmakers should be able to pass them…shouldn’t they?
This principle is even more evident in the case of virtual schools. These lawmakers are looking at minimal data from unfortunately incomplete sources. They see numbers on a piece of paper.
They do not see children.
They do not see the children who have chosen to step into a virtual classroom not because they like the idea of not having to get up for school every morning, or of being done with their schoolwork earlier, but because they are terrified of returning to school. They have been bullied; mocked; mistreated. Some of them have been bullied by well-meaning teachers. Others have been targeted by their peers. Some have been left so far behind by a traditional curriculum that they no longer have any idea what is being discussed in their classrooms every day. Others are light years ahead of their peers and bored out of their mind.
Virtual school is for these children.
It is for children who have medical problems that prohibit them from attending a regular, brick and mortar classroom every day. It is for children who have physical or mental limitations that require them to work differently from their peers. It is for “special needs” children who are perfectly capable of keeping up in a regular classroom…as long as accommodations are made.
How many legislators have ever really met these children?
How many of them have ever really spoken to children outside their own upper-middle-class, privileged backgrounds?
How many of them have any idea what actually goes on in a classroom every day?
For years, education in Tennessee has been considered “substandard,” not “up to par.” The words are tossed around. Test scores are low. Kids aren’t being taught necessary skills.
These things are not necessarily untrue—but limiting educational opportunities will not improve student success. Rather, it will decrease the possibility of success for many students who learn outside the box created by government regulation.
Want to increase legislation concerning education? Great. Spend some time in a school. Want to improve student success? Get to know the students.
Otherwise, keep out of our schools.