Monday, March 08, 2010

How to Fix Public Schools
How's that for opening a huge can of worms? The news is filled with No Child Left Behind, Rhode Island teachers being fired, California teachers having to fight for their jobs, Race to the Top, and others bits of educational information smattered across the headlines, bashing anyone and everyone involved in education.
I will wholeheartedly agree public education in our country is in need of reform. We are failing an entire generation of young people, as we toss around rhetoric about who is at fault and how we ought to fix the problems. These are the kids plodding their way through our halls, forgotten in the larger shuffle of fault.
Many people think firing all the teachers is the solution. Let's just clean out the deadwood. OK, fine.. sure. There are many teachers who do not do their job effectively, teachers who show up for June, July and August, a paycheck, an insurance card, and a secure position. They may or may not like kids, their subject matter or for that matter, have little real desire to teach.
But there are many others who dedicate their lives to being wonderful caring role models for their students. These are the uncelebrated heros. They give freely of their time and resources to make the lives of their students better.
Sometimes test scores proclaim teachers from both these groups as successes, but just as often, they are touted as failures.
To those outside the classroom, a test score speak volumes. Can't anyone TEACH a kid to learn? Can't you just get them through the stuff you are supposed to teach? If you do, then automatically those magical test scores will soar!
Wait a minute.... whoa... slow down....
Not so easy in the real world with real kids....
What about a little responsibility on parents and students, themselves as well? We have kids with chronic absenteeism, missing more than a third of the school year. How I am supposed to educate that child in 9 months worth of material in 6 months? She is already lacking basic skills when she comes to me, from the past how many ever years of being in school 2/3 of the time, and now, I am supposed to catch her up on all that lacking, PLUS bequeath her with my 9 months worth of learning, all in 6 months time?
That's like telling Joe Average on the line at GM, "Here's a whole line of chassis coming along but down the line ahead of you, they forgot to put in the transmissions and engines, but you have to, working only 6 hour shifts, get those cars ready to ship out in working order, getting your doors installed like always. OH, and by the way, while you try to get those transmissions and engines in along with your doors, make sure you are watching those other 25 beside those."
Kids today are electronics pros. Any given student in my class can tell you the latest X-Box game or Wii, or whatever, the ins and outs of how to win, where to buy it cheapest. They are experts on cell phones and computers, Facebook and texting. But they have never read a newspaper, or watched the evening news. They know who Hugh Hefner is, but not Martin Luther King, Jr. They know the names of all the casinos in Vegas, but have no idea where Iraq or Afghanistan, or even Texas and Florida, are. They can circumnavigate the best of filters to find pornography, but can't be bothered to type a journal entry about North Africa. They have tatoos and piercings in middle school, but can't afford a calculator, pencil or paper for class.
So the solution for improving education does not lie entirely with teachers and the school. It is a systemic problem in society as a whole. Until education is a priority for parents and students, the school has limited control over how to make it all better.
Here it is... my plan:
#1 Hold teachers accountable for teaching what they ought to be teaching.
#2 Hold adminstrators accountable for making sure teachers teach what they ought to be teaching.
#3 Hold students accountable for learning what they ought to be learning.
#4 Hold parents accountable for making sure students learn what they ought to be learning.
It sounds simple and it is simple. If teachers teach what they should, and adminstrators have the power to do something about it when they don't, the education piece is soundly in place. If students put forth effort to learn, and parents make sure their child is IN SCHOOL, doing the work assigned, and putting in the necessary time outside of class to be successful, there you go, educational reform, SUCCESS!
The last component of success is enforcement. What happens when someone doesn't fulfill their part of the bargain? Fire teachers, fire adminstrators, hold back kids until they master the material, and if parents do not parent, then remove the child from the home. It's a system of balances, pure and simple. If everyone along the way contributes his equal share of solving the problem, there will no longer BE a problem!
(Am I being sarcastic? maybe just a tad.... but how much worse can it?)

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