The recent horrific events in Florida have again shown a persistent and ongoing concern regarding student safety in schools. Solutions to address those concerns are wide-ranging and run the gamut from retrofitting buildings with additional safety measures, to armed guards in schools to even arming teachers in the schools. However, the conversations demonstrate another problem that has faced schools for more than a generation.
Similar to other real or perceived crises in education, it is apparent that everyone is consulted on this important topic other than those who work within the education system itself. School safety, curricular mandates, standardized testing, funding issues all have the same missing piece: educators are not given a place at the table to help solve the issues.
If you go back over the past 60 years, whenever an issue of note comes to the education plate, teachers, administrators, or anyone from the education community are rarely consulted and included in these discussions. Whether we are talking about the demand for reform in science and math following the launch of Sputnik, which led to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the release of A Nation at Risk in 1983 which led to wide-ranging reform on both state and federal levels, or Goals 2000, which set the impossible goal of guaranteeing that all students will begin school “ready to learn” and a 90% HS graduation rate, the input of educators was non-existent to an overwhelming degree.
Even No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal law that really set the standardized testing train in motion, had little input from the field. Its own lofty goal, that all students would be proficient in reading and math by 2014, set targets that were impossible not only due to negligible educator input, but societal issues that made such a target ambitious at best, and ludicrous in its implementation.
Now we face another crisis, one that we have been dancing around for almost 20 years. Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1998, politicians and pundits have all discussed what is needed for schools to address this deadly issue, but again with little to no discussions with the practitioners in the field. In that time, no solutions have been proffered, only hand-wringing and finger pointing.
It is my sincere hope that as we continue through this process, those in the field with the experience of working with children, those who have been through the horrors of school incidents, and those who have a good understanding of the needs of children who have witnessed these incidents are called upon to share their expertise. Those skills and experiences will be vitally necessary to create the necessary changes that will have an impact. The arguments of politicians, lobby groups and the like will not have the framework necessary to make reasonable accommodations that will have the desired result.
Interim Executive Director