Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. MLK Day Celebration Tomorrow (Jan 21) is NOT Cancelled
2. New Accountability Measurements
3. On Tolerance
1) MLK Day Celebration Tomorrow (Jan 21) is NOT Cancelled
Thanks to the hard-working staff at Ramapo HS, tomorrow’s event will happen as planned, despite today’s snow and ice storms.
Monday, January 21st at Ramapo High School from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Honor the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with us at our Unity Celebration!
Our 2019 Theme: The African Diaspora, Resistance Through Music and Poetry
Keynote Speaker: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, New York Times Bestselling Author of ‘Friday Black’
Master of Ceremonies: Jim Fyfe, East Ramapo Color Guard
Poster and Poetry Contest for all 1st – 12th grade students in Rockland County. 1 poem and 1 poster entry per grade will win a prize. Winners announced at event.
This event is presented by the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center in collaboration with The East Ramapo Central School District and Gordon Center for Black Culture and Arts
2) New Accountability Measurements
NYSED (the state education department) has released new accountability determinations based on the new Federal law ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which replaces the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) law.
These measurements are important because it is hard to get an objective review of something as complicated as education and as big as a school district, or even a single school.
There are many anecdotes and reports of individuals or groups of students who are doing well or poorly, but very few objective measures of the quality of education in our district, or any district as a whole.
The state measurements are better than nothing, but they are inconsistent and incomplete. Even under the old NCLB law, tests, which were the main tool used to evaluate, changed from year to year.
Even so, objective measures that look at the fate of every student are absolutely essential. It is important to look at the members of the football team and admire the athletic prowess of our children, or the members of the chess club, or the band. These are all important parts of any educational system. However, producing a few talented individuals is not the mission of a public school district. The mission is to make sure that every single child grows to their full potential, participating in the economic, civic and intellectual life of the community.
The character of the school system is not the only factor that impacts the achievement of the students. However, school systems are by definition change agents. Their mission is not to advance the status quo. If other economic or social conditions are impacting the children, for instance the cycle of poverty, it’s the obligation of the school system to understand and address these other forces so that the children will overcome.
Measurements of the quality of education in East Ramapo have become a political football. That means people will try to twist the meaning of the measurements to advance their political agenda.
The control of the East Ramapo schools has been in the hands of the nonpublic school users for over a decade now. The political conflict arises from this breaking of one of the central tenets of democracy “governance with the consent of the governed”. The conflict has a racial dimension, because almost all of the nonpublic community that controls public education are white, and almost all of the families that use the public schools are not. The conflict has a religious dimension, because those who control the public schools have been found to have been diverting funds to religious schools.
There’s also a strong desire by everyone in the community to see our children doing better. It’s important for the children to have a positive outlook on their education. It’s important to celebrate their victories.
The NCLB law was described by many as overly punitive. It was overly focused on high stakes testing. The new ESSA law attempts to be more helpful and more comprehensive. Because of their different goals and methods, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.
Under the old law, East Ramapo was a “Focus District”, under the new law it is a “Target District”. Under the old law, some elementary and middle schools have been designated “focus” or “in need of improvement”. Under the new law all the elementary and middle schools are designated “in good standing”.
These changes to the nomenclature should not be interpreted as indicating that there has been some kind of quantum leap in measured performance of the schools or the students. It should also not be interpreted to say there has been a decline. They are different because they measure different things, or because they’re measuring the same thing in a different way. You would not measure an orange by its crispness or an apple by being easy to peel.
The majority of the evidence available today seems to indicate that the school system is making small year over year improvements. This is not surprising, considering all the attention and assistance from the state education department and millions of dollars of increased state aid.
However, the new state measurement system is much less rigid and looks at factors such as improvement with more weight than the old system which focused on absolute measures. At the end of the day, “in good standing” is not equivalent to success at the mission of the school district. It also does nothing to address the underlying political and social conflicts which extend beyond the school doors.
Now’s the time for all stakeholders – students, teachers, parents and the wider community to come to a better understanding of what is happening and what is not happening in the schools. We can celebrate successes while addressing problems such as bullying, poverty, and racial disparities in education. There is hope that with a new government in New York State there will be an increase in state aid to our district. We need to expect that every child in our district will have equal opportunity and similar outcomes to children in neighboring districts. We need for our district not to forget the most vulnerable. We need for all residents to feel that they have a voice in the process.
3) On Tolerance
There was a time when there was a state religion. People who held different belief or no belief were treated as criminals.
Starting about two or three hundred years ago, the idea of tolerance became more or less popular. Holding beliefs other than the official state belief became more or less decriminalized.
Under this new arrangement, it soon became obvious that having an official state religion was incompatible with achieving the popular goal of tolerance.
Tolerance was originally extended only to some of the various sects of the Christian faith. Over time it expanded to include other religions, more or less.
The impact of the concept of tolerance is that within certain spheres people can live their lives more or less the same as their neighbors regardless of their religious belief system or lack thereof. This is similar to and connected to increasing ability of people to live their lives regardless of their race or gender or sexual orientation.
There has always been a paradoxical element within the concept of tolerance, that is the problem of being tolerant of those who are intolerant. This is perhaps most commonly seen in current events in the complaints of some religious sects who are asking that their intolerance of sexual orientation be tolerated, and claiming persecution if it is not.
Multiculturalism also presents problems for tolerance. Accepting that other groups’ beliefs are equally valid can be viewed as an existential threat to in-group members. Viewing others’ beliefs as inferior invariably leads to viewing other people as inferior.
Given how far tolerance has been an improvement on “western civilization”, it’s important that it be recognized and promoted. States should not treat people differently based on their belief system, or lack thereof, just as they should not treat people differently based on the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or their gender.
The challenge for the advancement of tolerance in today’s world is not only to expand the number of states which officially treat people the same regardless of their belief system, or lack thereof. Much of today’s discrimination is not state discrimination. Freedom of conscience can’t fill your belly if you’ve been denied an education, or a job. It can be poor consolation when you are ostracized socially. For this reason, there are still many who suffer in the closet. There are still more who close their minds in unspoken fear, who don’t even allow themselves to imagine what it would be like to think differently.
Societies that adopt tolerance have great advantages socially and economically. People know they’re better off when their free, and they can see the economic advantage of other people being better off as well. This explains why tolerance has been so popular. Whether reactionary forces or inherent paradoxes will slow or stop the expansion of tolerance is not known. It’s possible that other concepts such as reciprocity will eventually replace tolerance. In the meanwhile, some of us have the freedom to speak on the topic and organize and effect change.