Carruolo II: Pensive Philosophy or Excuse Making?
For his part, Caruolo emphasizes cooperation among all groups — teachers, parents, students and the community — as the critical ingredient for school improvement.
“Everyone will have to make compromises on everything but this: having a system we are all proud of, and a system that works for children,” he said.
“I’ve never seen a turnaround in anything with an alienated work force,” Caruolo said. “And from my viewpoint, I don’t see a lot of talk about poverty and homelessness and family disruptions in the education dialogue, right now.”
Carruolo is correct: for a variety of reasons (often related to the effects of government social policy), families are different than they were 20 years ago. Single-parent families or two working parents are far more prevalent and parental involvement in schools has declined. This affects all the kids in a classroom as teachers have to spend more time catching up. However, I don’t know of any education reformer who discounts the role that poverty and family play in education. For example, as Commissioner Gist has traveled the state, she’s explained the components that comprise the new school funding formula:
Ms. Gist said that [the new funding formula has a] built in…“core instructional amount,” which creates a per-pupil spending base of $8,333. Another 40 percent ($3,333) is funded for each student receiving free or reduced lunch, an indication of additional funding needs since it costs more to teach a student living in poverty.
Sure sounds like someone who recognizes that poverty affects education, doesn’t it?
As for the alienated workforce? Reform skeptics are very good at pointing at all of these outside reasons–excuses–for why reform can’t work or is just too hard, too unrealistic, to implement. Yet, instead of looking at new ways to deal with these changing external dynamics, they double-down on the same, old industrial model of schooling. Why? Because even if it has proven inadequate to the task of educating today’s kids–especially the poor and disadvantaged–the old system has turned out pretty beneficial for the adults who operate in it. The “alienation” they feel–stoked by hyperbole spouting union leaders–stems directly from the fact that they view reform as an “attack” on themselves and, too often, their own bottom line.