The importance of consistency in education must become a greater priority. On December 1, 2017, my school district announced possible school closings. Teachers and administrators are on edge because of anger, dread, fear, and sorrow come with being on the chopping block. During this time, many parents, activists, politicians, and community members speak on behalf of schools that are up for closure. Many speak about the positive things that are going on in their schools. Some are very emotional about what their neighborhood school means to them. Some talk about the academic progress that their students have made. It brings back unhappy memories of a couple of years ago when over 50 schools were on the chopping block including my own.
Not many speak about the lack of consistency in the students’ lives. Normally, a neighborhood school represents consistency in students’ everyday life. Many students experienced school closures in the past. Some students experience two or more school closures and how severe the transition is for a child. Now once again, the students will have another change in their educational life.
These students live in communities that are violent or economically disadvantaged. The school building is often the one place of peace or the hub of the community. If school doors keep closing where can the children go? What happens to their social-emotional well being? Closing the doors of an urban school is one more inconsistency in the students’ lives.
Decision-makers overlook consistency when it comes to a student’s academic success and social-emotional well being. Students need stability in every aspect of their lives. They need it at home and school. Then children need security with their family and living situations. Also, students need it in their place of learning. Students need to see the administrators, teachers and staff members that are a part of their lives Monday through Friday and sometimes on weekends, too. Students want to look at and be with their friends, who they’ve known for years. Therefore, they need the persons, places and things that make them a part of something great. Some program, class or person in the school may be the one thing that gives a child confidence to the best that he or she can be.
Also, parents and community members count on schools for a variety of things. Not only do schools provide educational services, but often schools serve as a source of social services. Parents know that they can come to administrators, counselors and social workers for support. Many parents have recognized the educators in a school building for years. The consistency of seeing the same faces that they can count on year after year is priceless. For example, a pre-school teacher has taught three generations of children from the same family.
Often, parents come in asking for the next generation to be under the guidance of this pre-school teacher. Parents ask her for advice and support. They know that she is consistent and an essential member of the staff and learning community. They know that she cares, teaches and nurtures their children or grandchildren. One cannot count this type of emotional connection in a metric or school quality rating report.
Consistency in the administration is essential also. If a school continually has a turnover of principals, it will not be successful. If a school has a high turnover rate for teachers, it will not be successful. Furthermore, success in schools takes years to put a stable staff in place. Consequently, a school needs sage and wise educators to not only teach the children but to help train and support new educators and staff members. Consistency helps to pass the torch to the next generation of teachers.
When the new school year begins in September 2018, thousands of students must enter a new school building. Once again, another change or transition uproots students’ lives. However, one never hears the word “consistency” come out of the mouths of politicians or board members. The words we hear are test results, metrics, contracts, pensions, underperforming, underutilized, data, data and data. Let’s start the conversation about the importance of consistency in our urban schools.
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