Lean education

The goal of lean education isn’t teaching or learning; it’s creating lean workplaces where teachers are stretched to their limits so that students can receive the minimum support necessary to produce satisfactory test scores. [emphasis added]

–“Lean Production: Inside the Real War on Public Education” by Will Johnson in Jacobin

I went to a PTA meeting last night.

First, the music teacher, who is also the school’s union captain reminded us that the teachers have been working for 3 years without a contract, and there’s no new contract in sight. Tomorrow, he’s supposed to vote on criteria for teacher evaluations but the mayor and governor have not agreed on what those criteria should be. If they can’t decide, our school system loses $250 million in funding.

Second, the principal, who has been working for 15 months on expanding the school from an elementary to a K-8 program, said that the expansion looks like it won’t happen. Yes, the DOE’s department of new schools approved their application. Yes, the DOE’s buildings department located a space and approved it for the new program. But now, the next level of DOE paper-pushers say they don’t want to expand a program like ours–an all inclusion setting funded partially by special education spending and partially by general education spending.

Their decision is related to the special education reforms that came in August, which force all kids with IEPs to attend their community schools, even if those schools can’t meet the mandates on the IEPs. The DOE has said the reform allows kids to be in the least restrictive environment. In reality, the reforms are a way to save money by cutting back on therapists, differentiated teaching and the small classes needed for some special needs kids. It’s lean production for special education.

Third, as I read the article in Jacobin handed out by the music teacher and listened to the principal talk about the DOE’s numbing, frustrating bureaucracy, I remembered touring special ed private schools just a few months ago. Spit-shined floors. Glowing lockers. Hushed halls. Class sizes of 12. Specialists and a gym and a two-story library.

The DOE has no problem paying for the $50,000-a-year educations of kids whose parents can afford lawyers, advocates and the cash to front tuition while they sue. And yet the DOE consistently denies or delays basic IEP services to kids who can’t afford a $50,000 down payment. And now they want to save money by refusing to pay for an expansion of a special ed school that would meet the needs of hundreds of kids and lessen middle school crowding for hundreds more.

The DOE pisses me off. They are the kind of agency that creates disillusionment, or encourages political action.


2 Responses to “Lean education”

  1. 1 www.sirjohn.us January 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I understand your frustrations, and it is why I home school my son, Mark. He now speaks three languages fluently, knows what is going on around the world, and can out perform most computer programers worldwide. Yes, he is 14, and I push him hard, but the world is a changing place and one he has to be ready for.
    You are a very caring mom, good for you!

    • 2 Stacy Boyd January 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Sounds like you’re doing a great job. We thought about home schooling, but it isn’t right for our situation. My kid responds best when he can copy peers, and he needs a lot of special help I don’t know how to give. I just have to keep advocating for him as best I can.

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I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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