By Sheryl Goldstein
FRAMINGHAM – The past six months are a complete blur to many parents who have children attending school in grades K-12.
Many, if not all will say that it was a disorderly mess with very little online learning; a lack of structure, an abundance of playing video games, snap chatting, tic tocking, sleeping, snacking, and more tic tocking.
It should be no surprise that most children’s academic skills have stalled or regressed over the past six months due to the lack of proper direct instruction; In addition, if your child has learning issues, then they have possibly regressed further.
As you can imagine, the unexpected upheaval of a regular routine this Spring has negative consequences for students this Fall.
Since we are not starting school in a typical fashion, how are our teachers going to properly assess appropriate levels of every students ability going into the school year? The suggested guidelines put out by DESE alone are going to force many of our great educators in the Commonwealth to consider leaving public school systems in search of smaller, greener and less stressful pastures.
If we have learned anything the past few months is that there is now more of a reason to embrace a school choice model. If a parent wants to keep their child home and homeschool then that should be their choice. If they want to send their child to a private school that should be their choice as well, no questions asked, no shaming, no retaliation.
As is, the recent disruption and uncertainty with school schedules and teaching methods has many families seeking alternative environments such as “learning pods” and certified educators to facilitate them. With that, socialization and education will come with none of the political distraction, and lack of control typically found in public education models.
The dollar amount allocated to each student should follow the student and go directly towards their education (e.g., homeschool programs, and private and parochial instruction appropriate for the student). Homeschool programs can be tailored to fit a family’s growing need; such as discovering a student works better in smaller groups or maybe that religious based or special needs instruction would be beneficial.
The choice should be yours. If one is adamant about keeping their student in public school (for their own reasons) the money should then be allocated to the public school system. This will guarantee every student gets what the family feels they need versus what the school district wants for the student (which isn’t always in the best interest of the child).
School choice also gives the public school systems a chance to be competitive. If public school systems are eager to continue to receive public funds, they should consider being more aggressive with their approach to learning. What is the rationale for parents to keep their child in a failing public school system if there are other choices around which could be better suited for the family and learner?
A free and appropriate public education is not what it used to be, and sadly may never be the way many remember it from just six months ago.
We are in tough times, working with more students and fewer resources.
Our school systems are strapped for cash, maxed out for space, and our teachers are stressed with the amount of work they have to do with so many students and so little time.
Administrative policy drives decisions on behalf of the teachers and students (for example, remote teaching from an empty classroom) which is forcing our educational system to plummet with poor morale. In turn we will lose quality instructors to bad choices made by those who haven’t even set foot in the classroom.
The choices should be about the quality, safety and appropriateness of instruction for our learners. This is about our teachers. This is about our children. This is about their future and the path we are paving for them.
Sheryl L. Goldstein is a District 3 resident, a Disability Commissioner, and a Founding Member of the Chris Walsh Center for Families and Educators of Metrowest