Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who's in charge?

So the SSA saga continues. This morning's City Paper contains only two items of note.

One of them regards the use of a tactic that is routinely used when the standard representative option is perceived to have failed one side and they are not satisfied with losing. That tactic being to take their case to the courts. Inconviently:

Rich Haglund, general counsel for the state Board of Education, said it is unlikely that MPASS could pursue legal action based on the state Board of Education’s guidelines [to include parental input] because it is not considered a mandate.
I'd be surprised if that actually stops them though (see update below). I am concerned about the extortion factor and how sturdy the BOE backbone is. We shall see Tuesday who is actually running this school system.

The other item is this quote from PAC President Julie Lamb:
“... I felt like the committee is definitely for standard school attire,” Lamb said, “They’re principals and they know what they want in their buildings.
Let's go over that line again with the assumption that Ms. Lamb's assessment is true. These are principals charged with the safety and education of MNPS children. If they want SSA because in their best judgment after a year of study and discussion it will enhance their mission of keeping children safe and educating them well--what are the compelling reasons for vetoing their best judgment? There are none.

It has become clear though that some parents and their children value self-expression more than the experienced judgment of the principals on this committee. They would, essentially, demand that their child's school secede from the public school system and be autonomous entities. Of course, many of them have already seceded from the public system via the magnet schools. I'm glad their children have been afforded this option. But here's another example of how our educational castes are splintering the system.

These few parents seem to think that the lack of the right kind of evidence for something equals its inability to be part of the solution.

And what gets completely lost in this push to meet the demands of a few vocal parents and their children is that these schools are owned by the public not them. This system is paid for by the public. It is accountable to the public. The school board members voting on this are accountable to the public, paid by the public and need to keep in mind that making a few parents happy may very well result in making a lot of already frustrated voters and taxpayers even more resolute in their belief that what they want is of no matter. And when that MNPS budget hits the Metro Council and those councilmen must vote on the appropriation--who do you think they're going to listen to? Will it be a few parents who are unwilling to cooperate with the system in its effort to make improvements or voters and taxpayers who are weary of demands on their wallet without any say in the process?

From my point of view SSA is a small price to pay for the goodwill of the community that could pay off at budget time and even bigger dividends if these experienced principals are right and SSA does enhance safety and education.


UPDATE: Ashley Crownover posted a correction to the tone of the City Paper article on the MPASS e-list saying it wasn't the intention of the organizers of MPASS to pursue legal action but that if the vote was for SSA it would be reasonable examine whether the rules had been followed.

9 comments:

Laura said...

Kay, Let's be clear. I value my principal's judgment highly. She is FABULOUS. But two things:
* There is no evidence that SSA has ANY IMPACT on student behavior, performance or attendance. Period.
* Given that, it makes no sense for a committee composed of principals from other schools to dictate what my child should wear every day, based on their "feelings." Feelings don't make reality.

Part of education [in the larger sense] is teaching children how to dress and act appropriately in various situations. The current Metro dress code does that -- when enforced, and even allows any school that wishes to adopt SSA on its own.

I certainly will not apologize for believing that learning to freely express yourself and share your ideas -- through words, clothing, sports, dance, research -- is to reach the pinnacle of what it means to be an educated person.

Kay Brooks said...

But there is evidence that SSA has a positive impact. The testimony of these principals utilizing SSA is evidence. You may not agree with their testimony but it is evidence.

Yes, part of education is teaching children how to dress and act appropriately. I was in a meeting this morning where Dr. Tonya Hutchinson said that very thing. We just disagree on how that is done.

I can see how much easier it will be for staff to enforce the dress code when it's a clear as SSA. Tucked or not--at least---at least everyone will be fully covered and easily identified as belonging or not.

Thanks for your comments.

Laura said...

Ah, forgive me. I'll be clearer this time: There is no empirical data to support implementing SSA.

While anecdotal evidence says that some school administrators and community members prefer it, we have no proof that it will have positive impact on the school system.

Saying that it will -- believing it with your whole heart -- fails to make it so.

dlwnoid said...

If you just want testimony on SSA, then I can give some. In the past I have taught at schools with and without uniforms (none in metro.) The last school I taught in had uniforms and I never saw worse behavior anywhere. There were fights with broken bottles and baseball bats on the playground, there were sexual assults in coat closets, there were parents who didn't know what grade their child was in, there were 6th graders that couldn't read. I could go on and on. Do I think these things were caused by uniforms? No more so than I think good behavior is caused by them. As for principals in metro, some of them do not want this or feel a need for it at their school, so why should it be forced on those who are against it when there is no scientific proof it works and there is some proof it does not.

Wendy said...

Diane,

Where and when did you teach at the school with uniforms? What were the uniforms? Was it a private or public school? What was the school like before the uniforms?

Wendy

Wendy said...

Laura,

Would it change your opinion of SSA if your principal said they were for SSA?

Wendy

Fritz Waco said...

I'm wondering: how it is, Ms. Brooks, that you find yourself fit to decide what does and does not count as evidence? Do you have an advanced degree in sociology? Or any advanced degree in research at all? Spend as little as a week in any research methods class, and you'll learn that an anecdote does not constitute meaningful evidence. Your claims to the contrary, the statistical worth of a few principals' testimony is zero.

How ironic it is that you should call yourself an advocate for education, yet demonstrate such great contempt for the rigorous processes that underwrite formal academic inquiry.

Moreover, your assertion that this issue is primarily about "self-expression" is stunningly simplistic. This is about many things, but as evidence of School Board bias and other related misdeeds continues to grow, "self-expression," however important, finds itself--alas!-- sinking precipitously lower and lower on the list.

Finally, this blather about "secessionist" parents would be merely histrionic if it were coming from someone who actually had children in the public school system. But since it comes from one who chose to educate her children at home, it is instead ludicrous. Secessionist parents, you say? Pot, meet kettle.

Laura said...

Wendy,
Not one bit. In fact, no one's opinion matters to me on this -- there is research data saying that SSA doesn't make a difference. I think it's needless hassle for school officials to enforce a policy that has already been proven to have no impact.
Laura

Nashteach said...

...Lamb said, “They’re principals and they know what they want in their buildings." Let's go over that line again with the assumption that Ms. Lamb's assessment is true. These are principals charged with the safety and education of MNPS children. If they want SSA because in their best judgment after a year of study and discussion it will enhance their mission of keeping children safe and educating them well--what are the compelling reasons for vetoing their best judgment?

Okay, let's go over that line again:
"They’re principals and they know what they want in their buildings." I know at least five principals who do not think SSA is best for their buildings. What are the compelling reasons for vetoing their best judgment?