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The Other Half of the Cup – edu|FOCUS
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The Other Half of the Cup

This was originally written and posted Oct. of 2013

I don’t re-post work often, I once again find myself in a place where I need to be reminded that there is more than just platitudes behind the meaningful work we do.

The month of May with all the press, and anxiety of testing can get us frustrated as teachers. It is difficult to see the beautiful forests of education when you are being thwacked with tree branches.

It a tough job.  As the post-it on my wall reminds me “the job is bigger than you, always was, always will be.”

  • 51 million kids are going to be going to public schools this year
  • That almost 90% of the kids in the U.S. go through the public school system.
  • 47% of those kids are in the free or reduces lunch program which is the politically correct term for families that have personal knowledge of the poverty line.
  • The curriculum someone else created for us to teach in first grade has been pushed to down and is now supposed to be taught in half-day kindergarten classrooms.
  • No one in government can seem to agree on what they think we should teach and none of them seems to be smart enough to ask the teachers that might actually be able to come up with an answer.
  • The conservatives think we’re idiots that are brain washing their kids,
  • The liberals think we’re to be pitied and brainwashed like idiots.

So then I step back, and I do what I have told my students to do.  Turn off the noise, and look for some the facts

The fact is we have some serious issues in public education, and lots of people are pointing those out.

What seems to fly under the radar of people is other side of that fact list.  The fact  that we have had serious success as well.

So I am making an active choice to look at my educational glass as half full… and in need of repair

  • The dropout rate has dropped consistently over the last 40 years.
  • The literacy rate in the US is 99% for those 15 years old and above.
  • More students than ever before (21.6 million or 68%) will be going on to some kind of secondary education this September.
  • 9 of the last 12 presidents have been gone through the public school system.
  • Since 1901, 555 Nobel Prizes have been awarded.  338 of those prizes have been garnered by the U.S; more than a third of those were students from our public school system.
  • In 2013, 5 Americans won a Noble Prize, more individuals than any other country.   Four of the five came through the public school system.
  • Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Maya Angelou, Andy Warhol, Steven Spielberg, Colin powell, Alvin Ailey, and Blake Shelton, Ben Carson,  Warren buffett, Tom Brokaw, Mitch McConnell, Christ Christie, Toni Morrison, Mit Romney, Annie Liebovitz all graduated from the public school system.
  • Six of our Supreme Court justices are products of a public school education.

I am not saying the public education system is the US is perfect, I am telling you that despite the up hill battles that public schools have to fight against funding and poverty, and mandates and cynics.

We keep pushing, finding diamonds in the rough, and we keep changing the world.

Original posting on – oldbrainteacher.com  and in EDweek Oct 23, 2013

Brian Cleary
No Comments
  • North Jersey Reader
    Reply June 5, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Appreciate the optimism. Just curious, cause we see different figures re adult literacy–who conducted the study reporting 99% literacy rate for Americans age 15+ ? What criteria were used? That 99% seems hard to imagine given inner city districts’ struggles to get kids passing 11th grade tests/prodding them through alternative assessment since NCLB was passed. Thank you

  • Brian Cleary
    Reply June 8, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    The data comes from the NCES National center for Education stat. I would have to look up the criteria but generally speaking literacy is measured at about a 6th grade level.

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