Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What is the Role of Public Schools?

McLane Elementary Principal Andy Kasik gave a presentation at last night's meeting. It was sort of a “state of the state” for McLane.
Mr. Kasik really seems to be a sharp guy. Over and over I heard him state or imply that McLane has high expectations for their students, and it shows. Their WKCE scores are the highest in the district. If a 1% decrease in test scores shows one year, they focus on that subject the next, whether it be math or reading. He said strong classroom instruction is what works. Period. McLane also uses technology to help struggling students and challenge more advanced learners to excel.
When kids need it, they are offered “second and third doses” of math or reading, which is done using manipulatives and technology. He understands that the means of education is changing and likened it to current technology advancing beyond the use of steam engines.
I was happy to hear him mention their use of technology in the classroom. It will be the future, especially in tough economic times when staff needs to be cut or reorganized to decrease tax burdens of citizens.
Mr. Kasik told of community projects the kids worked in, and he mentioned how they are working to increase communication with parents. I have no doubt that if his school budget was cut in order to budget without a tax levy increase, he and his staff could do it.
I'll end with this. He began his presentation with the comment that “30% of McLane students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. He went on to say that the staff at McLane needs to be certain that “all the needs of students are met; that the social and emotional needs are met by the school staff. Later he asked the question, “How do we meet families' needs?”
I wonder if that is a good question. I sometimes ponder that. Yes, some kids come to school with unmet needs. That is sad for the kids and for the parents. I understand that teachers love their students and want to “be sure their needs are met”. Some may think me hardhearted for saying this, but I'll say it anyway. The calling of a school district is not to “meet all the needs of students and families”. Schools are there to provide curriculum and instruction to students and share that responsibility with the parents and guardians. (WI statute 118) When schools begin to parent, more and more parents allow them to be the parents ,and they themselves refuse to do what is expected from them. That is stated as a general rule, and if we look back just a few years we can see that trend. Government becomes the family and provider, and many allow them to do it.
Just as high expectations for students is a way to see them succeed, so it is with parents. Our schools should have high expectations for the parents. Once we get that on the right track, our school budget will get on track too. It takes a new way of thinking. Schools are there to educate, and parents are there to parent. Period.


  1. oooops, deleted before comment was allowed. This was posted by Mike: (Sorry if this is bad blogger etiquette-am still learning.)
    So, a school district should set some high expectaitions for its parents and when they do not meet them for whatever reason, then the kids are the losers. I can see it now. "Johnny your parents were supposed to read to you for the first five years of your life so that you would have a love of reading and want to read and be able to read a rudimentary level entering Kindergarten."
    But, they didn't and we are not your parents. So, we will not give you any extra help and you will have to be self motivated to become the absolute best even though you are only an elementary student.

    Really? Is that what you are alluding to? That is truly hardhearted

  2. Mike,
    The ridiculousness of your comment is so easy to see. Good teachers go the extra mile for their students, and there are many in the West Bend schools.
    Teachers teach students in school. Reading is part of that. Of course.
    Kids lose when government agencies try to be the parents. Remember the question raised by Andy, "How do we meet families' needs?" In my opinion, the problem begins when we start to ask such a question. We must remember the role of schools.
    We all tend to be lazy in one way or another. High expectations are needed for all of us!!

  3. My point was, where are you drawing the line? Do we stop doing everything we can for students or in holding high expectations for parents do we as a society say there are some services that we will not offer in schools? What are those services? Where do you draw the line?

  4. Once again, Mike, you miss the point completely. The question of how schools should meet all the needs of kids and families is a wrong question. If anything, schools should question how can they more effectively support families and encourage parents to be parents, and not attempt to make the schools responsible for raising children. Schools are there to educate. Parents are to parent. Accountability. That's it.
    The way folks look at this issue is a determining factory of whether they are liberal (rely on big government) or conservative( believe in and support individual rights, responsibilities and privacy).