School Success: Are our schools really failing? 2012.04.18

Written by David Green.

There’s something odd about our perception of American schools. The overriding sentiment is that they’re failing and our students are falling behind. Yet, when someone is asked about their own local school, the opinion is generally that things are mostly all right.

But if most everyone’s local school is doing well for the most part, then the American education system must be doing all right, also. One follows the other. People know their local school by their own experience; they know about the national crisis only when national media tells them that it exists.

Reporter Paul Fahri of the Washington Post decided to take a closer look at the “failing schools” concept that’s so prevalent in the U.S. media. Fahri wondered if our nation’s schools have truly worsened or if media coverage only makes it appear that way.

The concept of “failing schools” is nothing new, Fahri says. It’s been a repetitive theme in publications for decades. In fact, he says, you could look back 200 years and find writings about the inadequacies of U.S. education. One hundred years ago, there were complaints about how schools were failing to produce citizens capable of filling factory jobs. There’s always a crisis in education.

Fahri isn’t about to suggest that all schools are doing well or that all teachers are skilled educators, but he isn’t finding large-scale failure. In fact, on average things are getting better rather than worse in many measures.

Of course there are children who are failing, and they’re often from families that are poor and broken up. Many have learning deficits and physical challenges. The poverty rate of children in America is 22 percent—one in five students—and that’s going to lead to certain educational outcomes.

That’s not a notion that people want to hear, Fahri says, because that goes way beyond the school system and points to the inequities of our society. Poverty and class, he says, are the greatest variable in educational achievement, and economic disparity continues to grow.

Certainly there’s room for improvement in every school, but that doesn’t lead to the conclusion of a failing educational system that continues to fall behind. Reform and merit pay and more charter schools aren’t the answer to what ails our local schools. A simple lack of funding is what’s leading to more and more cuts and a repetitive reduction in services.

Poorer students often have the deck stacked against them when it comes to success in school. Perhaps the same could be said about the school itself. As funding falls to such low levels, many districts are forced to trim far too much. Morenci, for example, is to pare down an additional $600,000 in costs next week, following enormous cuts over recent recent years.

If there’s a crisis in education, it’s not because teachers are failing; it’s because there’s no longer enough money to hire an adequate teaching staff.

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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