Education: Some Changes Needed by Glenn Williams

 Not all is lost concerning public education.  Many politicians have a proclivity for throwing  the baby out with the bath water.  This seems as wasteful as constructing beautiful buildings only to replace them after a few decades.  The rest of the world repairs rather than replace.  Couldn’t we do the same, especially at a time when our country is broke? 

Here are some thoughts for repair:

No Child Left Behind
This is a politician’s idea for self promotion.  It is hurting our schools. Since it is vastly underfunded, it is doomed from the start.  Further, it mandates more testing.  Such tests are highly  unreliable in measuring achievement and in measuring teacher competency.  Like SAT’s, PEP tests, et. al. force teachers to teach for the test.  This forces students to memorize data which  is largely useless and is soon forgotten.

 Goals of Education
Isn’t the real purpose of education to inspire intellectual curiosity, to learn to think and analyze, to inculcate love of learning, and to learn how to find answers?

 Backbone
Many administrators and school board members are deathly afraid of public opinion.  Teachers who correctly discipline students are often reversed by administrators and/or school board members succumbing to parental pressure real or perceived.  When this happens two things occur:  (1) The student learns defiance of authority and (2) The teacher learns that students dictate the rules.  Equally bizarre is that the presence of guns and knives are kept hidden from the community and the faculty out of fear of negative publicity.

 Tracking
Placing students in classes geared to their ability has lost favor to arguments that students’ social needs are paramount.  At the same time politicians lament that we are falling behind other nations.  No wonder.  When a class is comprised of all levels of competency, the teacher is forced to teach to the “middle”.  The really bright students may be bored or used to help teach the other students.  These students aren’t paid to teach and are being deprived of the challenging programs they need.  Further, mainstreaming has placed very disruptive students in classes, thus making teaching very difficult.  In the grades Gifted and Talented programs aren’t mandatory so at budget crunch time they are often discarded.

Advanced Placement-  Many schools allow equal access to all students regardless of their ability.  Where this occurs the teacher must lower standards to the detriment of the majority.

Regents- the difficulty of most Regents exams has been lowered in response to state mandates to have all students take these tests.

 The Issue of Tenure
Tenure was created to provide academic freedom for teachers who sometimes have to cover controversial subjects and ideas.  It was also established to prevent whimsical termination.  It does not guarantee a teacher’s job.  It makes termination over personality differences with administrators more difficult.  A tenured teacher can be terminated for many reasons including immoral conduct, for refusing to obey directives, incompetence, neglect of duty, conviction of a crime, fraud or misrepresentation substantial non-compliance of school laws, etc.  

 Assessment of Professionals
When Eisenhower brought his generals together before the Normandy invasion, he placed a piece of rope on the conference table.  When he pushed the rope if piled up in a heap.  When he pulled it, the rope followed.  The same is true of teachers and all people.  They must be led and concomitantly be allowed to lead.  When politicians blame teachers for failed schools they created an aura of failure and depression.

Teachers went into the profession because they like children and were idealistic in believing they could make a difference.  Pay was not the motivator.  If allowed and encouraged to seek the proper educational goals for their students,  new positivism would
emerge.

For those who shouldn’t teach they should either be improved or weeded out.

 Merit Pay
The concept seems exciting and logical.  The only problem is that it creates dissension and discouragement.  Too many administrators award it based on friendship, not performance.  Even where an administrator can judge competency of factors other than test results, the pool of merit money is generally inadequate to reward all deserving teachers every year, hence another area for disappointment.  Merit pay has been tried in countless school districts and ultimately discarded as counterproductive.

 Publicizing Teachers’ Salaries
Whereas it cannot be denied that the public has a right to know, it is demeaning to these public servants.  Car repair charges range between $75-90.00 per hour. Teachers start around $25.00 per hour.  Which requires more education and which is more important?  Further, administrators salaries are rarely published.

Education: Some Changes Needed

Teachers Unions
Teachers unions negotiate salaries and working conditions and handle contract disputes for teachers.  They do not dictate school policy.

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