Safe Harbor



 by Christopher Paslay


You made “safe harbor,” you half-wit of a teacher,

you grunt, you nincompoop, you mule.  You made it

by the skin of your teeth, teeth we’ll wait another year

to punch down your throat.


You can thank the former president, George W.—

that gray-haired Texas stooge,

and that Margaret Spellings woman, who never taught

a day in her life, but who was “a mother of school-aged children.”

She was investigated for academic fraud, asleep at the switch

on student loans.  Nonetheless, her reform gives us

the power to fire, to overhaul, to turn you to stone. 


You made safe harbor, so we’re not going to blow you to bits,

firebomb your classroom like Dresden, boil the water

in the yellow bucket you use to wash your boards. 

We’re not going to reduce your erasers to ash.        

What about your students?  You think our reforms

are failing them?  You hear them crying-out

in their anger, their disenchantment, their fear?  Are they

panicking, huddled under their wooden desks?            

You must be mistaken. Our data

shows otherwise.       

You made safe harbor, mister.

Congratulations.  You and your deadbeat colleagues

can keep your jobs.


Cutting the Drop-Out Rate: A Plan That Makes Sense

Here is an excerpt from an interesting story recently published in the New York Times by Winnie Hu: 


Governor Jon S. Corzine and state officials announced a yearlong multiagency initiative to boost the state’s graduation rates.  Called the New Jersey High School Graduation Campaign, it will be led not by the state’s Department of Education, but by the state attorney general’s office, with funds from businesses like Verizon and Prudential, among others . . . .


Wow!  Businesses getting involved in children’s educations!


. . . As Governor Corzine put it in a news release, “the aim is to ensure that kids are headed in the right direction and not falling into the trap of a life of crime. Staying in school is one of our best crime prevention tools, and it requires the collaborative efforts of all of us to make it happen.” . . .


A collaborative effort from everyone!


. . . New Jersey’s campaign is part of a national effort to reduce dropout rates by America’s Promise Alliance, a Washington-based children’s advocacy group founded by Colin L. Powell in 1997. Since April, the group has awarded grants of $25,000 to 14 states, including New Jersey and New York, to hold summits to develop communitywide plans for reducing dropout rates. The group’s goal is to have summits in all 50 states by 2010.


Communitywide plans!  Let me say it again: COMMUNITY!


Colleen Wilber, a spokeswoman for the alliance, said that dropouts are more than just a problem for schools, because those students are more likely to become a burden to society — ending up in jail, on welfare rolls or without any health insurance. According to the group’s research, dropouts from the class of 2007 will cost the nation more than $320 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetime.


“We think that solving the dropout crisis is going to take the entire community,” she said. “Not only is it important to have the schools and the parents, but it’s also critically important for the business community, the faith community and the nonprofit groups to be there.”


Businesses!  The church!  Nonprofits!


Creighton Drury, an assistant attorney general who is overseeing the campaign, said that at least four regional meetings would be convened for school, community and business leaders to brainstorm about specific strategies for keeping students in school. For instance, he said, they will focus on reducing truancy by tapping into community resources to provide mentors or support programs, among other things.


Mr. Drury said the campaign would culminate in a statewide summit next October to promote the most effective practices, and to recommend educational policies to raise graduation rates. “We want to make sure that we’re getting input and ideas from everyone so that this can be a true community and comprehensive effort,” he said. “Raising awareness is the first step to addressing the problem.”


Raising awareness! A comprehensive effort!


William Firestone, an education professor at Rutgers University, said that community leaders could bring more financial resources to a school, run after-school programs that provide tutoring and develop skills, and promote stronger family ties. “There’s a lot of evidence that family support is critical to success in schools,” he said.


Evidence that family support is critical to success in schools!


No wonder New Jersey has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation (only 2 percent of the high school population dropped out in 2007 according to the NJ Dept. of Ed.).   Maybe Governor Corzine can give Margaret Spellings a call, and show her how it’s really done.


Sounds to me like Corzine and the state of NJ have their heads screwed on straight.  This is a breath of fresh air–a nice break from the typical teacher bashing that goes on so often in America.  Maybe Barack Obama will appoint Colin Powell as his Secretary of Education, and Powell can expand his Promise Alliance and continue to get communities more involved in children’s educations.

U.S. Secretary of Ed. Plans to Humiliate Schools with High Drop-Out Rates

by Christopher Paslay


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has a new plan to cut drop-out rates in America: Publicly humiliate high schools with poor graduation rates by placing them in the spotlight.  She plans to do this by forcing states to use a uniform reporting system to track drop-outs, graduates and transfers (this will allow states to better compare rates and thus hang poor performers out to dry).  She will also use No Child Left Behind to raise the goals for graduation rates in the 2012 school year, and penalize schools who don’t meet these goals by firing principals and forcing them to pay out of pocket for extra tutoring (if only the drop-out rate could be fixed by more tutoring!).


The power of the spotlight is what’s important about No Child Left Behind,” Spellings said.  “We haven’t really tracked high school accountability, and this is a giant step toward doing that.”


Spellings vision is interesting indeed.  Hold the school accountable for students dropping-out, not the child or the parents.  I wonder how this is supposed to work?  Are we going to make every public high school a boarding school so teachers can keep 24 hour tabs on wayward teenagers and eliminate truancy?  Are we going to send out the National Guard on camouflage trucks every morning to yank disillusioned students out of bed, hose them down and haul them off to school? 


Are we supposed to use mental telepathy like Carrie White from that Stephen King novel?  Wiggle our noses and make students show up for class?  Tap out feet and make them get off drugs, put down their cell phones and iPods and come into the building all smiles, motivated and ready to learn?


These new requirements initiated by Margaret Spellings are further proof that her grasp of public education in America is tragically limited.  It’s one thing to hold schools accountable for the content being taught inside classrooms (such as English and Math), but it’s another thing to hold teachers and principals accountable for the values a student is suppose to be learning at home—their desire to take advantage of a free public education.


Everyday hard working educators across America do their best to offer students a top notch education.  And how does Spellings thank us?  By threatening to publicly humiliate schools because unappreciative teenagers from dysfunctional families throw their educations out the window.   


Spellings and her logic are as broken as our nation’s drop-outs.  Let’s just hope President Elect Barack Obama has more sense when it comes to schooling America’s children.