Reading, ‘Riting, and Public Relations
The St. Paul Public Schools announced a new campaign Wednesday morning, “One Thing I Love About St. Paul Public Schools.” Students, parents, teachers, principals, union representatives, Superintendent Valeria Silva, and Mayor Chris Coleman were all in attendance, as was a school bus wrapped by 3M in a material that allows people to write on it.
After the speeches were done, several students got to be the first to put their favorite thing about SPPS on the side of the bus.
All of which raises the question, is this what we've reduced our schools to?
The St. Paul Public Schools offer a shopping mall's worth of different elementary and secondary programs—arts schools, tech schools, language immersion schools, and so on—as well as early childhood and family support programs reaching all the way down into the earliest years of a child's life.
This is a district committed to innovation and choice not just in its rhetoric but in its actions and offerings. So why do they have to scrounge up private funds for a PR campaign?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is that the long-running campaign to undermine traditional public schools is succeeding. While families nationwide continue to grade their own children's schools favorably, they have a negative opinion of schools in general. Getting hit hardest by this are urban school districts like Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The fact that these schools can still produce strong results for their kids gets discarded. Discussing the effects of poverty on their students gets shoved aside as excuse-making, when really it's a cry for more diverse solutions than “teach harder.”
The innovation these schools engage on a regular basis gets ignored, while charter schools get placed on a pedestal well beyond their actual academic performance.
This has been years if not decades in the making, and undoing the damage will not be easy. If you do happen to have a connection to the St. Paul Public Schools, you can participate in the campaign by submitting a “One thing I love...” statement here.
More broadly, we need to push our media and our policymakers to acknowledge the real successes that are part of our traditional public schools. On top of that, we must secure more support for our traditional public schools so that they can further expand the high-quality choices they already offer.