By Peg Mathis
The following article was originally posted by Peg Mathis on her blog and copied on Near North now with her permission. http://pegmathis.com/
"Please know that these are my thoughts and do not represent the Newaygo Public School District, the Board of Education and/or any specific employee group. These are my thoughts and they have not been endorsed by anyone."
School safety has been on the forefront of everyone’s mind both before and since the events of the last school shooting in Florida in February, 2018. Our country has become so divided that it appears almost impossible to have any civil discourse about gun control. So while the rest of the country is arguing about guns, let’s implement some ideas sooner rather than later.
Give schools the proper support and resources to have at least one counselor and/or school social worker and/or behavioral specialist in every school building. We have kids in our schools that are hurting. We have kids in our schools that come from poverty. We have kids in our schools that have fractured families. Help us help them! Quit trying to cut corners on K-12 education spending and give us the funds to deal with the mental health issues in our schools.
The main question I’m asked when I propose any solution like this is “How do we pay for it?” School employees are very frustrated with the amount of standardized testing, and let’s face it – standardized tests have a sole purpose of making schools look bad. The data from the tests doesn’t come back to us in a timely fashion. We aren’t allowed to see what is on the test, and/or students don’t know what questions they got wrong in a timely fashion. It has been a moving target for several years, and most educators know that this is by design and for political gain. This high stakes testing mania is wrong and it is hurting our kids.
What we spend in Michigan on testing could be reallocated to help schools with paying for the support positions I mentioned earlier. I ran a google search (I know this is not very scientific) to try to determine M-Step costs. I found an article from 2015 that stated, “It’s expected that the state will pay about $103.7 million in a three year deal for M-Step.” At the risk of sounding too “social-media-ish,” let that sink in for a minute.
We spend millions to “test” kids so people in Lansing and at the federal level can implement “accountability” measures. Does it really matter how kids do on a test if we aren’t given the proper resources to continue to keep them safe? Moreover, there is absolutely no correlation between performance on a test and future success in life. Don’t believe me? Ask any of our graduates who work in skilled trades, serve in the military, and/or attended college. No graduate is defined by a test score. Are we raising test-takers or good citizens who are mentally stable and can contribute in society? I know which one I prefer.
School safety is a challenging issue. Some want to argue about guns and gun control. We know that parents do not raise perfect kids and these imperfect humans in our schools need social-emotional help as well as academic help. Policy-makers – please stop arguing and do something. Give schools the resources to help kids. If the excuse is there is no money to do so, then take some funds from the student assessment budget and reduce the high-stakes testing obsession.
Perhaps I have offered too simple of solutions to complex problems. In fact, I know solutions need to be broad and address wide-ranging concerns. But at least I’ve offered something. It’s tiring listening to people offer solutions that have no idea what happens in schools. We need to help our kids!
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