Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Fear of the "Unknown"

"Eyes Wide Open" says:

Forthright, bravo for recognizing a shortcoming to this area. The inability to recognize and embrace change is a tradition of the Delta that would be better given up. I freely admit that I am not a native Deltan, but that does not make me blind to the problems of this town. The state of education I blame strictly on the above mentioned plague. Had the families of those who started streaming into private schools embraced the desegregation of schools instead of backing themselves into a corner, things with Greenville Public Schools would have been different.

The area would have gone through the natural process instead of holing up and keeping their tradition going. By turning the private and public schools into "ours" and "theirs", no changes for the better have been accomplished and only room for them to get worse over the passing years has been left. I hear so many people complaining about paying for private school tuition, but most of their parents (the generations of Deltans Ten Cent so proudly refers to) are those who share the responsibility for the poor educational system in the area. Their lack of challenging the system and want of keeping their kids where it is still mostly white was in essence the beginning of the downturn.

So call yourself a Deltan proudly if you choose, there are a lot of traditions here to be proud of. But recognizing one's weakness is the only way to get stronger; pride greater than the knowledge that we all have those weaknesses will surely lead to one's downfall.

Anonymous responds...

To Eyes Wide Open:

As you stated, you are not a native Deltan. Did you move here before or after 1970? That was the year that the public schools began busing students across town and effectively ended the neighborhood schools. Yes, many parents put their children in private schools. The total white population was over 30% in the city at that time, a little greater than what it is now. But the current students at the private schools largely come from outside the city of Greenville, so their effect on a return to the public schools would be diluted and minimal at best.

To blame the "failure" of the public schools on white families gives way too much credit to one race over the other, and is a back-sided insult to the blacks in the GPSD---and to the whites who stayed. My family was among them. Have you made a similar choice for your children? Are you willing to sacrifice your child's education to support your cause? I wasn't. And there are weak links in every segment of society, but there are some very, very fine community-minded citizens who support the private and parochial schools, yet are actively and visibly giving their time and resources to making Greenville a better place, without regard to the color of anyone's skin.

Look at the OpEd page in tonight's DDT. There's a column by the editor of the Greenwood Commonwealth, titled "The Familiar Ring of Futility." In his comments about a 2008 report from a Task Force to Revitalize the Delta, he states: "It's well known that the 18-county Delta region has traditionally had some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. As a group, the jobless figure hovers around 10 percent, at least two points higher than the state average. Jobless figures, though, are based on the numbers of people who are actively looking for employment. They don't take into account those who, for whatever reason, have no interest in finding a job.

In the Delta, that represents a startling 49 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 64, compared to just 29 percent statewide. There is no easy way to gloss over that. Put bluntly, there are an awful lot of able-bodied Delta residents who would rather get by, however meager the existence, on public assistance than report to a job every day." Now, the private schools don't have a big problem with unmotivated children who drop out and get on the public dole. Their parents WILL NOT ALLOW IT. The problems in the public schools are home-based, and no amount of taxpayers dollars and white folks' largesse is going to change that. They have to want to help themselves. Period.

Education in the Delta is a complex issue. In the 1970's, forced integration was mandated by the Federal Government and it was a bitter pill for many parents to swallow (both black and white). The late 60's had offered "freedom of choice" in public education and very little changed in the demographic make up of most Delta schools. Some interpreted this as a sign that neither race wanted to change the status quo and thumbed their noses at the integrationists.

Undaunted by the "will of the people" the government decided to "mix it up" and in the fall of 1970, Greenville was a wash of yellow school buses rushing to and from places unknown to most of the riders. The only activity moving faster than the yellow buses was the speed at which private schools were being built. Overnight, schools sprung up in churches, hotels, downtown buildings and funds were quickly raised to "cement" these symbols of free choice.

Yes, now everyone had a choice... parents and teachers alike. If you were white, you could choose the comfort and security of the "known" and simply follow your class, or classmates to a new location. If you were black, you probably had little choice except to ride the yellow bird in hopes that it was taking you to a better place. Black or white, it was a most confusing year for the children who understood very little of why their lives were being "up-ended".

So, did forced integration work or did the "will of the people" over-ride the good intentions of our government? It is still hard to tell. White flight certainly preserved the status quo of education for most white citizens. Black students had only to gain by inheriting better facilities and more educational opportunities... so who lost?

We all did. As Forrest Gump so aptly noted, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get".... (unless you try it.)

Forthright

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some of the private schools in the area are staffed with certified and qualified teachers; others are not. Can you really afford to hire great teachers when you have such a small number of students in each grade -- I understand one local school is down to only 3 kids in an elementary grade. Does anyone have ACT scors broken down by schools in the area? If there is a web site to compare these ACT scores by school, I think a lot of the private schools would realize they are not as "smart" as they believe.

Anonymous said...

I come from a family of teachers though none are currently in this area. I myself am a product of public schools, private schools, home school, and a BA from a state college some years back.

First I would caution that we not fall in the same trap as the "No Child Left Behind" program. Many schools have varying numbers of students of varying backgrounds. Most notably those that transfer from schools where classes are not conducted in English. I highly agree that our nation needs nation wide standards to chalk up schools against. But these standards need to take true consideration of all these aspects. What ends up happening is schools in upscale neighborhoods that demographically don't have the lagging students get benefits heaped on their already successful programs. Meanwhile schools that have bit of a tougher crowd to work with keep getting shaken in up in hopes that new staff will make a change. In truth this can sometimes cause hard working teachers to be sent packing ... and in any case all of the highly certified teachers run for higher ground ... that is, a position where there job isn't always on the line for reasons out of their control.

So saying all of this to say that the ACT results may be interesting but they have to be fully interpreted with other data lest we fall into the same trap as NCLB.

Do public schools attract better teachers? Actually, in my opinion, yes. All of the teaching members of my family teach in public schools. A brother of mine is a teacher and also very active with several churches in the area. They continually offer him teaching positions in their schools. He, however, snubs these requests and sticks to his public school post. Overall the pay, benefits, and classroom support is still superior in every respect, for him.

From my own experience I would say that my public school teachers were on average far more experienced and professional individuals that the private. The private scene has a way of attracting a lot of spare time types that are free to step in and out of the position unlike the career minded public school. That, or young teachers that are getting their start and think that working for a private school will be easier than the public.

The actual learning experience? Well I actually have to hand that one to the private schools. I suspect that it really gets back to that the parents are spending their hard earned cash and thus 1. The private school teachers have to please and answer to the parents much more regularly. 2 The classroom is free of the students whose parents don't give a flip and thus the students can be treated a bit harsher and held to tougher standards. I was surely challenged a lot more in private school. That said, some of my young teachers were actually quite verbally abusive and I think I was far more inspired to study and impressed by my public school teachers. They seemed to take much more joy in the subjects they were teaching and had a professional attitude in their teaching.

Of course I am speaking in averages and generalizations here. For example I'm sure that in large cities the private school teachers are quite well paid. But probably my experience and those of the teachers in my family speak well for communities with the size and situation of Greenville.

Jennifer Jones-BHM Restoration Project Chairman said...

Changing of this subject line, I would like everyone to know and be aware of the continued progress of the Bobby Henry Memorial Pool Restoration Project and the Carl Small Town/MSU Grant that we/Greenville were recently awarded.

The CMTC web sites:

http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=2154

http://smalltown.sarc.msstate.edu/

The excitement begins this upcoming weekend of the 11th and 12th of January.

The staff and students, of MSU/CSTC, arrive to begin the first steps to the restoration designs of the pool,the projected doming of the pool, the planned Carousel/Fairyland Park wading pool, the proposal for the Buster Brown Community Center, and the plans for the community, overall.

In order to qualify for this grant, we, as a community, are required to invest Greenville in exchange. That means through pride for our community, cooperation, participation and monetary or physical contributions for the thousands and thousands awarded, from this MSU/CSTC grant.

No doubt, we will have fund raising events and call outs for assistance, to cover this investment needed, to our Community/Civic Leaders and the citizens of Greenville. Greenville is counting on all of you, to help in any way that you can!

The rewards to come in exchange for our investments are awesomely immeasurable! This project will lead to qualifying for more grant awards and recognitions. The CSTC will assist us in obtaining additional millions in these grants, with their actions, begining next weekend.

These are exciting and amazing times for our City and our Citizens.

Hopefully, we will also show gratitude to this group for both their award monies and efforts to help our community. We should roll out the red carpet of "Welcome" to the MSU/CSTC group, this weekend and in the upcoming months of their hard work.

Let's show our best, positve Greenvillian side!

For more information or to join us in support of the good times to come, through committees, donations, particiaption, etc., all are encouraged and welcome.

Please contact me at:

Bobby Henry Memorial Pool Restoration Project
Mrs. Jennifer Moffett Jones
Pool Committee Chairman
Grant researcher
662-335-3096 or 662-820-5500
jj3096@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself, but I would imagine that reasons for teaching in specific environments are as unique as the individuals. For myself, I have taught (and am currently teaching) in the private sector, although I have worked with the public school students on a contractural basis. The pay in the public schools is obviously much better than what I receive as an employee in the private school, but what I lose in salary, health insurance, and retirement benefits is gained in parental/administrative support, physical safety, freedom from NCLB red tape, and long-term student/teacher relationships. And as a parent who is a 70's product of the GPSD yet chose to send her children to a private school, I have seen how all of the above benefitted my own children. The teachers who teach in the private schools largely are there by choice, and it's sometimes a difficult choice to make when weighing financial options. I know plenty of other teachers who found it necessary to return to the public schools (and their State benefits) or find other employment altogether due to personal circumstances such as divorce. But not a one of them would say the work environment is preferable to the one they left. In my estimation, the best thing that the private and parochial school systems have going for them is the unbelievable parental support system. And that may go back to the fact that parents in that situation are more aware of the price tag of private education, but also because these parents expect results and profits from their investments.

Anonymous said...

I am the parent of public school kids. I was a private school graduate myself, but felt strongly that public school was the better choice for my own children. That being said, I am not implying that public school is the best choice for all. However, I can tell you that I am just as concerned and as involved as any private school parent...my kids just happen to attend public school. I don't believe for one minute that the students my college sophomore are sitting beside today are any better prepared than he is. To each his own, but don't automoatically assume that public school grads and parents are second class - Just another view point on this very complicated issue!

Anonymous said...

And in response to the posted comment above: that just reinforces my belief that motivation for student success begins at home. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the Greenville Public Schools, or at least as viewed in my involvement. There are pockets of success there, such as at Carrie Stern and Weddington (and earlier at Akin), but it seems that just as one school achieves some success, the central office decides to shake things up and remove the effective principal/teacher/format to try to repeat that success elsewhere. And the school flounders again. This is not unique to GPSD, but happens frequently. You don't see that kind of turnover at most of the private schools.

One observation: while several of our local elementary schools report high levels of student achievement, what happens between 6th and 7th grade to negatively alter that pattern of behavior? Besides hormones, I mean? Every middle school has that issue to deal with! But what support system (besides the aforementioned parental involvement) is lacking at that stage?

Anonymous said...

Where is the problem with school success on the state test? Every child in public school must take the MCT. It is not an easy test, and it's quite lengthy. The test is standardized, meaning everyone takes the same test. NCLB needs to take a hard look at the resources that are given to the schools to use. Why? Because we teachers have been told that even students that recieve special servies (Johnny is in the 5th grade but reads on a 2nd grade level. He goes to a special teacher to recieve help in math, reading and language every day. On his weekly tests, he is read the questions and the answer choices) will take the test on grade level (so Johnny will be taking a 5th grade test even though he reads on the 2nd grade level). Is this fair? NO! Why is this happening to us? Because our schools are not where other schools are in the NATION. We must make our students better citizens through education. Ok. Fine. Let's do just that. But, I, as a teacher, need more updated technology, better books, more resources at the tip of my finger, less paperwork (yes, everything we do to help our "Johnnys" in the classroom is written down, dated, scored, discussed, analyzed 5 times) and let me get down to the business of teaching.