Education needs real world solutions

Below is my response to a critic in the Folio. A couple weeks back they printed a piece of mine advocating for real world solutions. -cpg

Mr. Egan might be surprised but I actually agree with him on
several points. College by far is the best option. People who graduate have
more opportunities and over a lifetime make about a million more dollars. I
also do see the value of higher math and sciences as they open up a whole new
world and develop critical thinking skills, though I also think art and music,
classes that are being cut for more math and science, do too. Where Mr. Egan
and in fact most of our education leaders differ is I live in the real world
and they live in some fantasy world where they think if they wish it really
hard then every kid will go to college and be a doctor or an engineer. Well
friends it “aint” going to happen.
Look at No Child Left Behind. It said by 2014 all our students
would be proficient in reading and math. Well how has that worked out? If you
answered not so well then you have been paying attention. To give you some
scale, in Florida we graduate about 70% of our kids and of those that go to
college 60% have to take remedial classes. Heck half our high school kids in
the city don’t do math or read on grade level.
We can no longer cross our fingers and wish upon rainbows
that every kid is going to get it and go to college because while we have been
doing so to many kids have graduated ill prepared for anything. No, we need
real world solutions to our real world problems. That’s not giving up on kids,
that’s giving many a chance they haven’t had, that’s what I want for them, a
chance. We don’t have the students we might wish we did, we have the students we do and we should plan accordingly.
I however can see where some of our disconnect comes from.
Mr. Egan has spent his career working in the districts crown jewels, the magnet
schools, while I have been working in the neighborhood schools and some of the
toughest the district has. He gets to see children excited about learning and I
get to see kids that to them school doesn’t have much meaning to them or their
families. I have spent my career working with kids who we should throw parades
for if they graduate and get a job with room for some advancement, where Mr.
Egan works at schools where if one doesn’t go to college that is the exception.
Mr. Egan might not like to admit it but we have a two tiered education system
here in Jacksonville, the magnet schools verses the neighborhood schools and in
the neighborhood schools because of our everyone is going to go to college
mantra we have done many students a disservice.    
I would also disagree that I am a one-note samba. For years
I wrote about how tying principals evaluations to suspensions and referrals was
a recipe to destroy discipline and not support teachers. The school board
recently ended it. I also have written among many other things about how our
teachers are forced to teach to the test, how we need wrap around services at
some schools and mandatory summer school for some kids. All changes the board
and new super have made or initiated.
Mr. Egan, I admire your idealism, however many of our
children need you to join me in the real world where the solutions are.
Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

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