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Getting to Excellence
What Every Educator Should Know about Consequences of Beliefs, Values, Attitudes, and Paradigms for the Reconstruction of an Academically Unacceptable Middle School
By Jr. James A. Johnson, Wilbert J. Andrews, Jay R. Cummings, Gatsy Moyé-Lavergne, Margaret Stroud
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013Circle of African American Scholars, Inc.
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The External Environment
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
But what we need is honest school improvement that acknowledges both high standards and high quality of school input. The standards movement as it is now progressing at the national and state level is half the solution to the problem. To establish the standards of output without having standards of input is a travesty. To hold children responsible for outcomes without giving the same level of sophisticated attention to guaranteeing the standards of exposure is an abandonment of the responsibility of adults for the education and socialization of children
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In this chapter a discussion of a salient dimension of the external environment in which today's educators find themselves practicing – the policy context - is presented. Critical elements of this discussion include a truncated history of the encroachment on local control of the schools and the ensuing standardized-tests-based accountability and standardized testing movement. We also pay some attention to growing efforts to push back against these movements. We conclude this chapter with perspectives of a set of scholarly informants on quality, equity, and adequacy. Our effort in this chapter is to trace the political distance traveled from education defined by the diverse beliefs, values, attitudes and paradigms specific to the New England, Middle, and Southern colonies to the current emphasis on standardized-tests-based accountability, standards, and testing as they impact or fail to impact quality, equity, and adequacy – the context in which the Willie Ray Smith, Sr. Science and Medical Technology Magnet Middle School was previously branded academically unacceptable but now academically acceptable.
In the New England States the population was predominantly Puritans who believed that people must be able to avoid the deluder Satan and that the way to do so was through reading the Bible. Therefore, the inhabitants of this area concluded that in order to save their souls, individuals had to be educated in order to learn to read their bibles. Rippa (1997) explained that the New Englanders advocated that equally important was the belief that an educated citizenry allowed for a better functioning democracy. This conviction led to the Federal Acts of 1642 and 1647 (Old Deluder Satan), which enforced compulsory education and stipulated that parents could be fined if the students of that household were not educated. The New England Colonies consisted of settlers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Settling on the coast, these individuals were economically inclined to shipping and merchant businesses.
Puritan, these persons were the most educated in the New World and believed that moral character was critical to a productive society. They believed that one must be able to avoid Satan and that reading the bible was instrumental to that. In order to read the bible, one must be educated, and thus education was a major factor for them (Rippa, 1997). They wanted everyone to be educated. The first core-curriculum school began there. Instruction was teacher led, discipline was strict, and the strategy was repetition and rote memory (Rippa, 1997). The first reading and writing schools as well as primer schools were developed in the New England Colonies (Rippa, 1997, Butler, undated).
The Federal government initially played a lesser role in the Middle Colony with its diverse cultural composition (Quakers, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Catholics and other religions). This may be attributed to their strong desire to preserve their religious freedom. The Middle Colonies include Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. The major economy in the Middle Colonies was farming. The main concern of this citizenry was the preservation of their religion more than an interest in education. There was the development of parochial schools, denominational schools and utilitarian schools for skill and trade. These states even had charity schools, but they were not well accepted because of the fear of losing their religious preference.
Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia make up the Southern Colonies. Settlers in Georgia were mostly released prisoners. Other settlers in the South were slaves, indentured servants, or rejects from the other colonies and Europe. Religion was a social activity for these people; there was no concern for educating everyone. There was more of a concern with maintaining individual social classes. It was feared that educating slaves would result in not having any of them to perform the manual labor. There were great distances between plantations. The wealthy provided private tutors for their children or sent them to school abroad (Rippa, 1997). Young ladies of the south were taught graces and the males were taught about authority.
The late 17th and early 18th centuries were characterized by implementation of Federal guidelines, similar to the Acts of 1642 and 1647. As industry grew it became more feasible to provide free schools based on taxes. The workingman's movement with it's social unrest saw more and more political involvement and participation in elections as more offices were made available to the popular election. Also the Union movement became more involved with social protest than economic protest (Rippa, 1997). At the same time the thought developed among the American born that new immigrants must be taught the naturalist mindset. Therefore, in the New England Colonies, The Massachusetts Law of 1852 made education compulsory for youth ages 6-16 (Sass, 2012).
As the economy grew and communication and transportation developed, the "Common School" emerged. Ideally, the "common school" was to be a free, publicly supported, publicly financed, and state controlled school, according to Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education -- who is considered the leader of the Common School Movement.
In an article, The Standards Movement – Past and Present (Jones, 1996), Dr. Jones reports that in 1894, a group of scholars known as the Committee of Ten called for an established academic curriculum for all high school students. He also, revealed that approximately two decades later, the "Cardinal Principles", developed by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education noted that the topics dealt with in schools should depend "chiefly upon the degree to which such topics can be related to the present life interests of the pupil" (Gagnon, 1995).
Conversations about standards and examining the quality of education in the United States have spanned these last eighty years. Although traditional course content and core subjects have endured, novel instruction techniques and reform of educational policies seek to maintain traditional achievement aims while satisfying bureaucrats and business owners. These competing goals continue to be at issue (Wheatley, 2012).
Additionally, even though the educational practices of the New England Colonies had expanded to the West, the mindset of the Southern Colonies continued to spread as well (Richards, 2008). In 1954 in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its decision of 1896, and rejected the "separate but equal" doctrine; but, changes in the South were slower in coming than in other parts of the country. Later we find the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans, including among other issues, racial segregation in schools (Lewis, Undated). This legislation led to school bus
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