Saturday, November 04, 2006

B.O.C.E.S. Blather

They're after our wallets again! BOCES plans $38 million expansion and renovation. The BOCES Behemoth will expand even further, moving alternative-ed programs from Utica to New Hartford along with the special-ed program. There are several problems with this.

1) The taxpayers are going to pay BOCES to do the job that they have already paid the local districts to do. Many in our local school districts are salivating at the chance of ridding themselves of their "alt-ed" and "special-ed" (a/k/a "problem") students, and BOCES is only too willing to grow itself at more taxpayer expense to meet the demand. The problem is that the demand for "alt-ed" and "special-ed" services is largely self-created. The local districts long-ago abandoned instructional methods that were proven to be effective at educating large numbers of students efficiently.

2) Students will be discouraged from pursuing vocational education because the perception that BOCES is the place for "dummies" will be strengthened. That characterization is one we heard from a student 30 years ago. It is unclear why the perception developed, but it is suspected that subtle elitism by college-educated teachers might have been involved: that students who were not "college material" (like the teacher) were mistakenly presumed to be more amenable to learning a trade. The perception is still there today. It is one that educators are well aware of and claim that they want to change. However, what they say and what they do seem to be the opposite when looking at this consolidation plan that turns BOCES into a concentration camp.

3) The plan will do little to meet the regional demand for capable tradespeople . The whole point in having a system of public education is to ensure that society is capable of maintaining itself. Skilled tradespeople are needed locally, and their earnings can be as much as their college-educated peers.
While it is hoped that the special-ed and alternative-ed students who will participate will be successful, it does not seem realistic to think that the BOCES' plan will make any material dent in satisfying the demand. Given the demand, given the earnings, and given the general paucity of other good paying jobs, it does not make sense that more students are not taking up trades -- unless they are being discouraged from doing so. We think that is what is happening.

The consolidation plan appears to be driven more by educators' and bureaucrats' interests than the students' and society's needs.

Society needs knowledgeable tradespeople. Learning a trade should not be at the expense of learning academics. Putting students on a bus and transporting them across town in the middle of the school day is time away from academics. If BOCES were focused on meeting students' and society's needs, it would be consolidating in Utica adjacent to or in Proctor High School because that is where the greatest demand for Voc-Ed services exists. Relocating to Proctor will enable more students to integrate Vocational and Academic learning without giving up one for the other.

No comments: