The largest active volcano on Earth erupted Monday. Mauna Loa is one of at least three large ‘shield volcanos’ that overlap one another on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea and Kilauea – which erupted in 2018 – are…
When We Don’t Prioritize Children, American Schools Suffer
Despite most American students being back in the physical classroom this year, school staffing shortages remain a huge and persistent problem across the country.
How did the staffing shortages become such a large problem, and what does it say about the greater value Americans place on the education system?
George Theoharis is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Inclusive Elementary/Early Childhood Education at Syracuse University. He has extensive experience as a principal and teacher. His research specialties include equity, social justice, diversity, inclusion, urban education, and school reform.
“First, we have to recognize this as rhetoric and bravado about ‘doing what’s best for our children’ and keeping schools open because it is ‘best for our most vulnerable children.’ During COVID, and over multiple decades as a nation, we have consistently not prioritized our nation’s children. We allow millions of children to suffer the effects of poverty and hunger; we allow millions to receive subpar healthcare; we have implemented school reforms (high stake testing, narrowing the curriculum, etc.) that have made too many schools not the kind of places we need for our children. If we actually prioritized our children’s schoolings, we would have kept the nation shut down the first summer of the pandemic in order to open schools in the fall of 2020.
“Second, we need to see teacher shortages in the context of a 40-year education policy context that has labeled schools as failing and educators as the problem. We have adopted non-sensical, anti-science, punitive education policies of testing, labeling schools as failing, adopting “teacher proof” curriculums, tying teacher evaluations to standardized tests. These have resulted in less art and music for many students, less science and social studies for most elementary students, a narrowed and less inspiring curriculum for most of our most vulnerable students, greater racial and economic segregation, and a profession seen as the problem. We cannot be surprised that this has led to a steady decline in people going into the field of teaching. Now, we have had two years of COVID on top of that. The first month or so when schools shut down in 2020 there was a swell of appreciation for teachers and schools, but that is long gone. We have asked teachers to accomplish great feats of changing with each new COVID protocol: connecting with students remotely, pivoting to teach online and at the same time in-person, working in classrooms and buildings that have historically bad ventilation, caring for the academic, social, and emotional needs of children who are going through trauma of a pandemic – all while worrying about their own communities, families, and health.
“We chose not to prioritize children and we have chosen not to prioritize the profession of teaching. These choices are coming home to roost and our children, and our most vulnerable communities, are and will continue to pay the price.”
To request interviews or get more information please contact Daryl Lovell, Media Relations Manager, at email@example.com or 315.380.0206