Why The Business Model Is Not Right for Children

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Tuesday, 9 April 2013 at 09:25

one of my schools is looking at outsourcing to a “business model” in which students who would traditionally be sent to the alternative education program because of discipline issues would now be “outsourced” to a company that has their ‘business centers’ in strip malls in which kids sit in front of computers for 4-5 hours a day while supervised by a teacher who also acts as school nurse, receptionist, custodian, etc.  there are no security guards or resource officers, as the salespeople from the company said they “never” have discipline problems.  in just this year alone, at the school which now holds the alternative program, we have had many arrests for things like aggravated assault, stealing, bringing drugs with and without intention to sell, sexual harassment…i could go on but it is just listing very poor choices that these children make/made.  i really can’t see how being in front of a computer will deter behaviors.  especially with the limited supervision of one or two staff members who may have a college degree and it may or may not be in education.  if they truly never have discipline issues, we must be doing something wrong because we have had to arrest many of our kids while at school for the types of activities i mentioned above.  

the salespeople touted that the kids would “feel like they are walking into an office building” and no attendance would be taken as it is not needed.   i guess once these kids are put into a business setting they immediately start attending “work” every day.   we have in place now a very strict attendance policy and some still skip school.  in fact, many do not care about the consequences they get now,  so, they will miraculously start going to “work-school” everyday when they skip our program now???   i don’t think so.  but…would anything else be expected from a for-profit program that treats children as if they are “consumers” or “customers?”

no meals will be provided.  the majority of these kids are on free and reduced lunch now and our meals at school might be the only ones they get that day.  what about kids who are in the special education program?  ones that may not be able to read the words on the computer screen or sit in front of a computer and guide themselves.  i have one child with such a severe reading disability that he is reading on a 2nd grade level in 9th grade.  and he will be successful working solely on a computer???  how will iep’s be followed? who is going to do the 3 crisis interventions i did this year for kids who were very seriously contemplating suicide (one even brought a straight edge razor blade to school)?  had the school not done a back pack search, as they do everyday with all kids, the razor blade would likely not have been found and we’d be dealing with a whole other situation.  what about counseling the girl who was hallucinating and seeing things?  what about the community service program all our kids must participate in?  is computer-based learning really best for kids who can’t even be motivated to sit in class and do class work or learn from actual, human teachers?  there are some kids that would thrive in self-directed, computer-based program.  from my experience in our alternative program, the majority of the kids there can’t even sit at a computer for a class period, much less hours and would certainly not thrive in that type of situation.  i feel this is setting them up for failure.  i won’t even go into the fact that this program is considered “private” which means no test scores have to be reported.  so, does that mean these “at-risk” kids who may not add to the increase (and may actually contribute to a decrease) in test scores don’t count?  that seems like the message being sent.

as i said, when the salespeople from this company spoke to the board, they really emphasized the fact that this program was a “business setting” and kids would feel like they are “walking into an office to work.”  but wait, they have all their lives to work and will spend the majority of it doing just that.  why do they need to start “working” in middle or high school?  the reason the that the teachers that are now teaching at the alternative school are so effective in helping these kids is based on the personal connection and truly individualized education they give.  not sure how the kids are going to get that from a computer screen.

the school board votes on this program this week.  i hope they realize that saving some money now will only lead to more issues later that  we, as a society will have to pay.  by this, i mean that while some of our kids go on to never get in trouble again, the majority are already heavily involved with gangs, have long school discipline records, and most have been arrested as juveniles many times (we have had kids that were charged with assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and battery, rape, sexual assault/harassment,  carjacking and kidnapping, just to name a few).  we already know recidivism rate for these kids is high.  without exposure to those who show a true interest in these children and truly care about giving them the best education possible instead of hiding them away in a strip mall behind a computer, these kids will surely get the message that they don’t matter.  and recidivism will decrease?  i don’t think so.  and, when these “business people” get out into the real world, we likely will pay, via taxes, when they are in jail or in and out of the judicial system.  

school is NOT a business.  schools should not model themselves after businesses nor think of students as workers or customers.  while the ins and outs of the school system and such things as budgets and maintenance are business issues, the individual schools should be kept out of this model.  kids are kids.  they have their whole lives to work.  i fear without the alternative program as it is now (in an actual school with actual teachers as well as counselors, psychologists, and social workers), we will be seeing many, many more kids choose a path they may not live to see through.  or, they may see it through bars or from the grave.  we all know the statistics…

Why The Business Model Is Not Right for Children.


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