Re: I want to cry
- Subject: Re: I want to cry
- From: Karen Canty <kscanty@PACBELL.NET>
- Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 23:26:40 -0800
- In-reply-to: <LAW2-F284oHZgzDgtZK00001032@hotmail.com>
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
I agree with you that one size fits few - regardless of what that size is.
What I admire about the people on this list is that they do feel strongly -
just as you do - about whatever it is that they feel is important for kids,
teachers, parents, whatever and are not timid about saying it. I hope you
don't feel that because someone expresses his/her opinions as strongly as
they do that they are dismissing or ignoring your arguments in any way.
It's just something I've observed about folks who care about public
education - they care and are emotional about what they care about and try
really hard to convince folks of their ideas, thoughts, etc. in whatever way
they can. I just wish we could all listen to each other, take whatever it
is we learn and look and see what works best with kids in whatever situation
they are in. We all have anecdotes and stories about what worked with us or
with our kids but that doesn't mean it will work with someone else's child -
which is why parents need to be involved in whatever way they can in their
I also wish we had more research about what actually works for kids but we
seem to be spending all kinds of money on tests and not much on any research
that proves that some program works or doesn't. Of course, then I get
frustrated because I find a lot of the time that if research proves
something that we don't agree with, we ignore the research so...
Anyway please don't cry - literally or figuratively - we are all trying to
wend our way through this mess in whatever way we can.
From: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List
Behalf Of Laura VaN
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2001 1:10 PM
Subject: I want to cry
>From: Irv Besecker <besecker@SPRYNET.COM>
>Lastly, smaller schools should be our goal--everywhere--urban and
>suburban. So should smaller classes, democratic education and >equitable
>resources. These are not exclusive, they are compatible and >desirable.
>Large suburban schools, like mine, are impersonal and >alienating
>(Columbine). The athletic programs are exclusive. When I >coached soccer,
>I had to make large cuts each year, including some >very good players. The
>players who made the team were the same rich >kids who played soccer year
>around. Our after-school activities are >dominated by the same kids.
>There are teachers on our staff that I >don't even know. It is easier for
>students to get lost in the crowd. >Why in the world would smaller schools
>make it harder to make schools >more democratic or better funded? Irv
Everytime I hear someone sing the praises of small schools (with the
implication of being to the exclusion of large schools) I want to cry. I
think small schools have much to offer them and I am not an opponent of
small schools. I wish the proponents of small schools would offer me the
same courtesy. One Size Fits Few!
I've posted several times on why I like big schools (at the secondary level
at least), and rarely get a direct response, nor (with one exception) have I
had an off-line discussion with anyone, nor do I have the sense that the
proponents of small schools care about my opinion. I suspect many of these
same people want me to be adamantly opposed to the tests, but don't care
about my opinion about small schools. Only if I agree with them do they
want my help and opinion. (I'm sure I'm overstating it - feelings are often
There is little in life in which something good cannot also be viewed in a
What is small and intimate and supportive to one is suffocating and
meddlesome to another.
My observation (and those my urban friends) is that cliques are a stronger
influence in small urban schools, and suburban schools, than in big urban
schools (Columbine was not an urban school!), and if you aren't the kind of
kid that can fit in to the existing cliques, life can be very lonely.
What is alienating to one student is the freedom to find oneself without
being analyzed to another.
Some people not only want to be lost in a crowd - they thrive.
One Size Fits Few!
Not all large schools place athletics and athletes in the role of Columbine.
The large school my child attends has boasted world-class & Olympic
athletes - and yet my son (a born athlete-NOT) is having a very good, if
sometimes tough, experience with sports. One Size Fits Few.
Large schools give children with interests outside the norm an opportunity
to take courses, join clubs & sports teams, that a small school couldn't
afford to offer. Certainly this could be somewhat solved by offering
special interest small schools - school of arts, school of technology, - but
this is a trade-off, not a solution - segregating those with unique
interests and talents as well as limiting the course offerings. Schools
could combine resources for after-school activities (clubs & sports) but I
suspect the rate of participation would be proportionately less (not an
argument against, simply a comment on the predicted cost) because of
logistical problems to be solved.
I noted that one of Deb Meier's big arguments for small schools was the
ability of staff to organize for change. I would note that small schools
also reduce the impact and power of parents, even when the school is
committed to the involvement of parents. I suspect this is for several
reasons. The closer and more cohesive the staff, the harder it is for an
outsider to have influence - and no matter how generous the attitude of the
school and staff towards parents, parents don't work with the teachers
everyday, nor live on a daily basis with the problems of schools, nor have
the myriad of formal and informal encounters (over the years!) that
influence people and action. Parents are there on a transitory basis
(except for the mother with 5 kids who will likely be at the school longer
than many teachers, most of us are there are for 4-8 years(1-3 kids), not
near the ability to form relationships and trust and respect that teachers
who work together for 5-20 years have). Further, my experience has been that
at the secondary level, there is active participation of about 1-2% of the
parents. When looking for secondary schools during "School Selection" I
went to several PTSA meetings. At the school with 200 students there were
about 2 active parents. At the school with 1000+ students there were about
a dozen parents. At the school with 2000+ students, there were about two
dozen parents. I don't know much about the school with 1000 students, but I
know the parents at the school with 2000 students are more influential in
the school than the school with 200 students. There simply isn't a critical
mass of parents to do those things that translate into action (talk,
complain, compare notes, gather enough data to see patterns, know when
someone else feels like you do so you aren't afraid to bring things up,
discuss philosophy and goals, all from a parental viewpoint, etc. etc.).
This isn't to suggest the small schools intend to close out parents - it
simply reflects the reality of numbers and social groups.
I suspect that if we ever got the place were small schools were the norm,
and large schools rare, the vulnerabilities and disadvantages of small
schools would be as apparent as it is for large schools. You pays your
money and takes your choice. One Size Fits Few.
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