Poverty correlates directly with low test scores, poor academic performance and classroom management problems. Schools with high percentages of children receiving free or reduce lunch have low test scores and poor academic performance.
Teachers are being singled out as the cause of low test scores and poor academic performance. Reduced school budgets are being blamed as the cause of poor academic performance. Unions are labeled as a cause of teachers not being incentivized to improve test scores and academic performance.
Schools provide transportation, breakfast and lunch, health care services, special education services and counseling. The staff includes school nurses, librarians, school counselors, school psychologists, occupational therapists, speech pathologist, and special education services.
The services schools provide are overwhelmed by poverty. Public schools can not perform their intended service to society when society delivers children living in poverty to the school.
The guardians of society are failing in their ethical obligations and allowing an unjust commercial system to leave millions of Americans in poverty.
The growth of poverty in America impacts all of us, however public schools are being blamed for the consequences of poverty.
No matter how you define poverty, the number of people in America in poverty has increased over time. Children in poverty have inadequate nutrition and lack access to health care. Over time, children in poverty become adults with health problems. The consequences of poverty increase the cost of health care for everyone.
The growth of poverty in America impacts all of us. The standards movement, the charter movement, NCLB and all the other anti-pubic school initiatives all claim to want to improve the outcomes for the lowest performing students by holding schools and teachers accountable. In fact their interventions in the system push change in the wrong direction. Inequity is increasing as a few students are moved to private, charter and for-profit schools and the majority, the remaining students, get fewer education resources and live in the same poverty conditions.
The public schools are being blamed for the consequences of poverty. Poverty is the primary reason why students do not do well in public school. Why isn't there a change to the economic system to decrease the number of children in poverty? That would decrease inequity in education outcomes, improve nutrition and improve health care for children.
All systems, everywhere have levels and flows. These are the only two concepts needed to understand why systems work the way they do (Forrester, 1996).
We were taught in school to accumulate knowledge and skills in order to get a job. We define learning as the accumulation of knowledge. We test every child at every grade level to measure their accumulated knowledge. We teach people how to do things so they have a skill in order to get a job.
Public education teaches people what is important to know. Students learn skills so that they know how to do things. Students are tested on what they know and the skills for how to use what they know. System Dynamics (SD) enables us to understand why systems work they way they do.
Public education involves a way of thinking, learning and communicating that focuses on the past up to the present. Science, math, reading and writing are all focused on knowledge (what) and skills (how) that have been codified into a curriculum. In public education students learn about the past up to the present.
Life is moving fast. We need a way to think, learn and communicate about the future. The current public school system does not meet that need.
Sustainability education and environmental literacy are focused on students learning more and more about how to do more things. By conforming to the way the current public education system focuses on what and how, we are asking students to accumulate more and more knowledge about the recent past. We are asking students to accumulate more and more skills about how things were done in the recent past.
System dynamics is a tool to think, learn and communicate about the future. (Richmond 2010) With SD, learning is about why systems work they way they do. What is needed to model a system is accumulated just in time to use in a model. The knowledge needed about how the parts of a system are related is accumulated just in time to use them in a model. The understanding needed about why feedback loops in systems tell a story is accumulated just in time to use them in a model.
SD enables us to understand why systems work they way they do. Politicians and decision makers need to know why systems work the way they do so that they can craft policies that are successful in the future. Policy makers need informed citizens who know why systems work they way they do.
Why do policymakers choose policies that fail? A policy response is rational for decision makers who fail to account for the feedback structure of a system. Only by considering the full feedback structure is the ineffectiveness of a policy revealed. By learning why feedback affects system behavior, small system dynamics models have a crucial role to play in policy making. (Ghaffarzadegan, 2012)
Policy makers fall prey to the “Pull my finger” joke. They develop a policy that responds to correlations, trends and events believing that they understand the cause like when the finger pull and the sound are close together in space and time. The irony of public policy making is that, without understanding system feedback, what happened in the past will be made worse by a policy response.
Without SD, public education is teaching students to look to the past to make decisions about the future. The public school system is walking backwards into the future.
The public school system is the primary obstacle to students using SD. The entrenched paradigms are the foundation for education institutions that teach what and how from K12 through university doctorate programs. Educators and students are evaluated based on what they know and how to use what they know. SD enables us to understand why systems work they way they do.
System dynamics is a tool to think, learn and communicate in a new way so that educators engage student’s mental models. When mental models rely on “Pull my finger” thinking a person is not going to understand feedback. To use SD requires a new way of thinking: Think about levels and flows connected in feedback loops within a closed boundary.
To use SD requires a new definition of learning: Learning is improving the quality of our mental models.(Richmond 2010) The current public school system does not attempt to improve the quality of student’s mental models.
To use SD requires a new way of communicating: Communicate about why your model works using feedback loops. This is where qualitative tools like causal loop diagrams and behavior-over-time graphs are used and useful.
Jay Forrester is the founder of System Dynamics. He has said for many years that with the right guidance “students must create their own models and learn from trial and error.” In this way dynamic modeling is learning by doing. “I believe that immersion in such active learning can change mental models.” (Forrester 2009)
Why System Dynamics? System Dynamics enables us to understand why systems work they way they do in order to prepare for the future.
Richmond, Barry. "Introduction: The Thinking in Systems Thinking- Eight Critical Skills." Ed. Joy Richmond. Tracing Connections: Voices of Systems Thinkers. Lebanon, NH: ISEE Systems, 2010. 3-21. Print.