Why Not Shut Down Public Schools That Don’t Educate the Kids?
Yesterday, I ran a column about my experience as a substitute teacher at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, MA. To be brief, I can only say that I have never encountered such a deplorable and destructive situation in any educational environment of any kind — deplorable because of the utter and complete chaos which engulfs every aspect of the school, destructive because generations of children are not being given the slightest opportunity to shape or grow their lives.
It was only after I posted the column that I learned the entire public school system in Holyoke has now been under state receivership for the last seven years. What this means is that back in 2015, the public schools in Holyoke were such a mess that the Massachusetts Department of Education had no choice but to take over running the system in an effort to end what had been the ‘chronic underperformance’ of Holyoke public schools.
What does the phrase ‘chronic underperformance’ mean?’ It means that too many students end their school years without knowing how to read or write.
According to most experts, what is referred to as ‘functional literacy,’ meaning the ability to read and write at what is necessary to hold even the most menial job, is equivalent to reading and writing at an 8th-grade level.
I didn’t experience a single moment yesterday at Holyoke High School where the atmosphere in any classroom was conducive to learning anything — reading, writing or anything else.
In one class a female student walked into the room, lay her head down on the desk, covered herself with her coat, and slept for the entire hour. She didn’t even wake up when the class session ended. And this was in the room where three paraprofessionals stood around talking to each other for the entire class period and none of them attempted to wake up this young girl, even when the other students were filing out of the room.
So, I walked over to this kid, tapped the desk until she woke up, and asked her whether she was getting any sleep at home.
To which she replied, “I always sleep here because I don’t like this class.” Note the word ‘always.’