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Nancy Bailey's Education Website: Stuck on the Merry-Go-Round of Bad Ed. Policy for 40 Years!

Can you imagine never being able to jump off a Merry Go Round? The fight over education policy is like that. It involves the same worn-out problems that could have been addressed years ago if Americans truly got behind their democratic public schools.

The middle class and the poor, Democrats and Republicans, who understand the public schools they want, are ignored by the wealthy oligarchs and politicians, pretend experts, who recycle the same tired policy initiatives no matter how often Americans say they’re unwanted!

They don’t see or acknowledge that 40 years of their school reforms fail and are unnecessary.

Here are the tiring problems.

The Arts. How many public schools have vibrant arts programs? The arts are critical for all children. Every public school should offer drawing, painting, dance, drama, music, and courses that emphasize creative discovery. Viable career options exist in art and music.

Careers. How many children are introduced to corporate careers early? Virginia’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin has pushed Lab Schools (charter schools) into that state, focusing on creating workers for industry in preschool through grade 12. Students deserve time to learn and discover what they want to do in the future.

Charter Schools. Ray Budde and AFT union president Albert Shanker initially considered charters involving educators running public schools—real teachers. The New York Times reported that Shanker wanted charters to draw upon their expertise to create high-performing educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools could learn (Kahlenberg and Potter, 2014). How much school funding has been wasted on charter schools that lack transparency and accountability and are run by unqualified individuals?

Choice. Telling parents that they should get to choose their child’s school is a scam. Prestigious schools and even most parochial schools will choose who gets into their schools. Also, remember vouchers that were initially intended for the poor and children with disabilities? Now, vouchers are peddled for the wealthy whose children are already in prestigious private schools.

Classroom Resources. To see teachers begging for resources and school districts purchasing programs without teacher feedback is outrageous.

Class Size. We’ve known for years that smaller class sizes benefit children, especially K-3rd grade, when children are learning to read. For safety purposes, all schools should provide students with at least one class where they are welcomed and well-known to a teacher or staff, like a homeroom. Children with disabilities in inclusive classes also deserve a smaller class where they can get the assistance they need.

Curriculum. For years, the emphasis has been on reading and math, and elementary students often get short-changed on science, geography, history, the arts, and civics.

Data. How much data is collected on children indiscriminately, with or without parental permission? Who’s using this data? Parents should ensure they understand the kinds of assessments and online programs their children face in school. Data is likely being collected about about discipline, health, academic performance, attendance, student interests, and college and career goals.

Poverty. To expect children who are poor, hungry, and even homeless to do well in school, to focus on improving test scores, is cruel if there’s little effort to improve those circumstances.

Professional Teachers. Students deserve well-prepared teachers. For years, there’s been an attempt to reduce or eliminate real teachers and replace them with less qualified Teach for America recruits or alternative teachers with lesser qualifications. There’s also concern that teachers will be replaced with online instruction.

Race. During the 1980s, some public schools made progress in bringing children together and addressing integration, but that seems to have mostly ended. While America’s students are more diverse, they are also more segregated. It’s hard to find any attempts to improve this. Charter schools and choice make it worse.

Reading. Using reading to reframe how children are instructed, pushing teachers aside, shortchanges children from rich literacy experiences. Watch as more unproven online programs invade the classroom.

Recess. Alarm bells should have gone off when misguided politicians began tampering with something so simple and critical: a free break several times a day for children doing academic work in school. Denying children this is cruel, even abusive, and the longer Americans pretend it’s o.k., the worse it is for society.

Religion. Many religions exist in this country. The beauty of America is that we can all worship (or not) the way we choose. Our schools recognize this through the Separation of Church and State, and children are welcome to public schools regardless of their religion. They can pray quietly and have after-school religious programs, but they cannot and shouldn’t coerced to adopt other students or be coerced to become another student’s faith.

School Facilities. Schools still exist with poor HVAC systems, no heat in winter, too hot in summer, and 70-year-old schools in Philadelphia had to close last year due to asbestos! And what are those newly built schools like? Are they teacher friendly, or built with Chromebooks in mind?

School Libraries. It makes no sense to expect children to learn to read and do well in school and think that it’s okay to eliminate school libraries and librarians, yet many libraries, especially in poor schools, have been eliminated, and qualified librarians have been fired.

Special Education. While many students are identified as having disabilities, a special education teacher shortage has been rampant for years. Yet, according to Artiles (2021), fewer investments are being made in special education preparation programs, researchers, and teacher education faculty, which would lead to better-prepared special education teachers.

Standardized Tests. Some testing is necessary to know where students stand, but most of this can be done by teacher assessments and far fewer high stakes standardized tests. There has also never been proof that Common Core State Standards are developmentally appropriate or the only exclusive standards and evidence this has harmed education. Testing has consistently been manipulated to frame schools and teachers as failing.

Technology. The OECD found that when children frequently used computers in the classroom they had worse learning outcomes. Technology can be a helpful supplement, but it’s overrated, and cyber schools will not provide children with what they need to be productive citizens.

Third-grade retention. There’s clear educational research about the harm of holding students back and socially promoting children when they have difficulties in school (Jimerson, 2014). Many solutions exist to assist children who are not working at grade level and help them not experience humiliation due to grade retention, especially because of a high-stakes test.

If only corporations and certain politicians weren’t so powerful, and Americans could correct the above with a renewed focus on democratic public education for all America’s children


Kahlenberg, R.D. and Potter, H. (2014, Aug. 30). The original charter school vision. The New York Times, Retrieval from… .

Jimerson, S. R. (2001). Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research: Implications for Practice in the 21st Century. School Psychology Review30(3), 420–437.


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Nancy Bailey

Nancy Bailey was a teacher in the area of special education for many years, and has a PhD in educational leadership from Florida State University. She has authore...