School Pushouts: A Plague of Hopelessness Perpetrated by Zombie Schools

Mar 22, 2012 by

This book, published, 2012, is a comprehensive coverage of the problems and solutions for Americas children and youth. A very well written attempt to .”tell all, fix all” One thing I so appreciated was the cover to cover acknowledgement of the researched resources, page after page. I readily noticed the research from Dr.Martin Haberman , Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, UWM,(1932-2012). Dr Haberman would have been so pleased to know that you recognized his research in your publication. Dr. Fusco replied,” “It took me five years to finish the book. Unlike my first book on school corruption where I had to dig, dig, dig, for information, the available research for this book was overwhelming. What took so much time was to wade through all of the available research, find what was appropriate, edit, and them assemble the information.”

School PUSHOUTS should be required reading for every educator in America. Considering the statistics we read about every day , I think Dr. Fusco has captured answers to the ” silent tragedies”; 7,200 dropouts daily, and 80% of the prison inmates are school dropouts! “School for children in poverty is a matter of life and death”, so quoted by Dr.Haberman. If you believe that as well, it would change everything we do for the children and youth of America! The last line in his 511 page book by Dr. Fusco ,he stated,” It can change, it must change. But only time will tell if the courage and resolve to do so will dominate the educational landscape”.

I wish him well! Delia Stafford

Dr. Armand A. Fusco
Retired School Superintendent

About his book

School Pushouts: A Plague of Hopelessness Perpetrated by Zombie Schools
ISBN 9781105244704

  1. With all of the topics and issues that you could have written about, what prompted you to write about the dropout problem?

There were several reasons. First, the topic is really an expansion of my first book, School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust (2005). The book exposed the pervasive corruption that has existed for decades (and still does) in the public schools, but it is has been hidden from the radar screen by the educational establishment–no agency, foundation, blog, etc. tracks school corruption. In contrast to the denial of corruption, the dropout problem regularly appears on the educational radar screen insofar as rhetoric is concerned. However, the lack of action does not match the titanic rhetoric. Corruption (deceit and cheating, waste and mismanagement of resources, and fraud and stealing) betray the children, families and taxpayers. The dropout problem is corruption because it manifests itself in cheating and deceitful practices of all kinds and it is the very best example of waste and mismanagement of human resources (children and staff). I could not think of a better example than the dropout problem to illustrate how the educational establishment and the policymakers betray children.

Consider the fact that with all of the popular reforms none address the need to recover dropouts as just one example; they are the disposable and forgotten children destined to be harvested by the prison plantations. Second, I really got tired and frustrated reading and hearing that in order to alleviate this problem, it requires more and more dollars; the reality is that more school dollars have been expended every year for decades. Unfortunately, the dollars are squandered on unproductive staffing, programs, services and practices. On top of the money issue is the excuse that poverty is the major problem contributing to the dropout problem; what no one has an answer for is how can more money solve this problem—it simply does not compute? More dollars for schools does cannot and does not erase poverty. Third, I did not come across any books that really documented this problem in totality to see the horrific picture, as well as, all of the various factors that contribute to the dropout plague of hopelessness. Fourth, it was obvious that there were some success stories of turning failing schools around and reducing the dropout rate that defied all of the excuses.

  1. Why do you believe that the dropout problem is the most serious socio-economic problem facing the nation

The primary reason given for the dropout problem is the loss of lifetime income; the reality is dropouts could care less about the loss of income and, therefore, it is not a major problem for society except for lost taxes. What should be emphasized as the impact on society is that once a student drops out, the odds are substantial that they will resort to criminal activities in order to survive. Most are then harvested by the criminal justice system and the eventual prison plantations keeping many adults employed. Estimates vary on the percentage of inmates who are dropouts, but they range from 66% to 80%. In Connecticut, my home state that is rich in resources, 80% are dropouts. To add fodder to the problem, there is an 80% recidivism rate. This reality is incredible to fathom; even worse, nothing is done about it with rare exception. The crimes they commit impact every community, not just the inner cities, as well as their families. The cost simply can’t be estimated, but it is safe to assume it is staggering compared with providing effective and meaningful education.

  1. Do you believe that poverty is the main reason causing students to dropout and why failing schools seem impervious to improvement?

Absolutely not, but this is the reason given by the educational establishment time and time again as to why achievement and schools cannot improve. But there is a fallacy to this argument that doesn’t appear on the educational radar screen. How it is that when performance pay—thirty pieces of silver— is given as an incentive that within as little as one-year achievement is increased even though no changes were made in the socio-economic conditions plaguing the school? Furthermore, there are ample success strategies and successful stories of schools that were turned around in the same socio-economic environment where failing schools continue to exist. In other words, schools can make a difference even in the face of extreme poverty, but most choose not to do so. The culture of the school, the leadership of the school, and the dedication of teachers, even without a lot of support mechanisms, make the difference. Part of the dedication of my book is to those unsung heroes in education, although rare, who defy all of the excuses and are successful in teaching these children.

  1. Why do you think that failing schools, dropout factories, and Zombie schools are allowed to exist?

The brutal and undeniable truth is that politics trump children along with greed; the problem persists because it employs many, many adults. Children are the pawns that are used to benefit adults professionally, personally, financially, and/or politically. There simply is no other valid explanation as to why failing schools, dropout factories, and Zombie schools are allowed to exist year after year with more and more funding while they continue to fail so many of our precious children. This is further demonstrated by the fact that state departments of education seldom take aggressive action to take over failing schools when, in fact, the Constitution makes education a state responsibility and not a local responsibility. Added to this is a quote from the book that says it all: Simply stated black male students can achieve high outcomes; the tragedy is most states and districts choose not to do so. How can educators and policymakers choose to do so is beyond my ability to comprehend.

It is also my belief that there is a conspiracy at work; I can’t prove it, logic does, but it can be disproved. What would happen if more than a million dropouts were educated and dumped onto the job market? Add up more than a million a year for 30 years or more—over 30 million more job seekers. Where would they be absorbed? Unions do not want an excess of labor and this potential added pool would certainly cause an excess. Furthermore, unions want union jobs to be passed on to their children; they do not want to see minorities taking over the union jobs. If my conspiracy theory is false, the unions can disprove it by simply pressuring their democratic legislators that they have a strong hold on because of the money they contribute to their campaigns to legislate fixes in these Zombie schools. Money talks and they have plenty of it to support candidates for office. If they did it, I would be glad to apologize for my conspiracy theory. As one example of their power and purpose, a parent trigger reform was proposed for Connecticut, but the American Federation of Teachers squashed it so that failing schools could continue their Zombie practices– keep them dumb and on the farm.

  1. If there were only one recommendation that you could make to substantially reduce dropouts and fix failing schools, what would it be?

The solution is incredibly simple, does not require more dollars, and can be implemented immediately by any teacher, school or school district—teach literacy (‘reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic plus technology) in all classes. It has been done to fix failing schools and other schools that boast about the number of graduates who go on to post secondary education but where most do not succeed. The percentage of students who must take remedial classes and the small percentage of those who graduate are testament to the fact that the schools have failed them. Just as one example, in Connecticut only 12% graduate from two-year colleges even after 3 years with remedial help. What a waste of human resources! One state got it right in legislating a reform agenda—it’s all about literacy,.

  1. Will the various popular reform agendas (changing tenure, certification, evaluation, establishing charters, expanding preschool, instituting smaller class size, etc.) be effective in improving the achievement landscape of the public schools, reduce the dropout rate and fix failing schools?

Before answering, my first caveat of education must be appreciated: a school and school district will do anything and everything including deceitful and cheating practices to make itself look good. With that in mind, despite some reports of purported success with these reforms, the fact is that nationally achievement has remained flat since about 1980. What more needs to be said? However, changes in tenure have not been shown to improve student outcomes and results, neither has tightened certification standards, nor have changes in evaluation improved results—the research is just not evident to become fixated on these type of reforms. Smaller class sizes has been totally debunked by actual results from California and Florida that mandated smaller class sizes costing billions of dollars; their own evaluations demonstrated that no results could be attributed to smaller class sizes. A further reality is that from about 1960, there was one student for every 27 employees and today it is one student for every 8 employees with most being teachers added for small class sizes. Yet, achievement has remained flat. In other words, billions of dollars have been wasted for unproductive staffing, as well as, the increased cost of adding new buildings.

  1. Since the book is based on considerable research, what in your mind stands out as “revelations” despite your 35 years in education?

There are three quotes that really stunned me.

  • Miseducation is the most powerful example of cruel and unusual punishment; it’s exacted on children innocent of any crime.

Where is the ACLU to defend these children? Where is the equivalent organization such as ASPCA (prevention of cruelty to animals) to care for the dropouts—the result of “puppy mill” education; and where is there an organization to accept $19 a month to care for these disposable children? Abuse a pet and every effort is made to hold the person accountable; abuse a child through miseducation, and the silence is absolutely deafening nor is there a plan (similar to ASPCA) to prevent such cruelty to children. Put in this light—pets are more precious than children—this is a stunning revelation for anyone who cares about children.

  • Districts give credit for students who fail standardized tests on the expectation that students someday will pass.

I found this practice to be absolutely shocking and incredible that such psychic predictions are now part of the educational landscape. Since you cannot teach without certification, I assume that there is a certification requirement for those who make such learned predictions—sorry for the pun. This psychic phenomenon does not do any favors to students, their families or society. How educators can accept this practice and state it so openly and plainly is beyond my educational logic to understand.

  • It’s interesting to note that despite the growing support by minority parents for charters, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil-rights groups collectively condemn charter schools.

This was really a stunner for me. Of all the groups, I would have thought these organizations would promote anything and everything to get their children out of the bondage of failing schools; apparently not so. If they had a successful plan to fix failing schools and recover dropouts, I could probably understand their position. This is where I believe politics comes into play. In D.C. the successful voucher program was squashed, supported by these organizations, and the fight was led by one of the most liberal of all democrats at the time—Ted Kennedy. He felt that it would take away funds needed by the failing public schools and dropout factories to keep operating their Zombie schools. These leagues are known to support the democratic party and vice-versa, and I assume they believe as Kennedy did. Or is there a more sinister reason—keep them dumb and on the farm? It’s interesting to note that the black and Hispanic leaders do not converge on local scenes unless there is a racial issue involved—never to call attention to fix Zombie schools. So the funding argument to keep failing schools funded to continue their failing ways does not have any logic, but this is not new to public education—don’t confuse the issues with the facts.

What is also part of this scene is that I could not find any of their religious leaders who stand out demanding an end to failing schools and provide help and assistance for dropouts. They, like the Catholic church, can establish their own school system or charters, but it has not happened. It just seems so strange that those who should be concerned about these throwaway children do not seem to be; if they are not concerned, why should society be concerned?

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