Saturday, February 16, 2008

How should the educated legislators fix education?

Education is one of those issues that, I think, no party has any idea on how to fix. Increasing federal spending seems to not have much of a difference in some cases (Washington, D.C.), while school vouchers are unfair, aren't enough to make a difference, and make the system worse for everyone. So where does that leave us? I am fairly young, so eventually I will have children that need to become educated, and looking at how education reform has gone (No Child Left Behind), it won't be an easy process.

I think it is here that the point needs to be made. Education may not necessarily be just a funding issue - it is also a parenting issue, a teaching issue, a middle class economy issue, etc. Also, now that our economy has changed, the current way society teaches children is obsolete - it is this that makes us less competitive, not outsourcing, it seems.

With that being said, check out an Op-Ed in yesterdays New York Times by the Republican (I want to say strategist), David Brooks. He lays out an interesting set of policy ideas, that while not all of them are good in my opinion (health care savings accounts and assuming you need to reform unions to institute merit pay), many of them take a swipe at some of the deep rooted issues of education.

I bring all of this up because the Democrats want to take away No Child Left Behind - as do I - but what are they gong to do after that? Brooks brings up middle class tax cuts, so are the democrats going to focus their replacement of Bush's tax cuts with those? Can we cut taxes? Brooks talks about strengthening Kindergarten - a very liberal idea - but this will increase spending. Lastly, how do we reform education when each state has their own system of rules and regulations?

Something needs to give, but I don't think the Democrats have a solid plan and the Republicans tend not to have a clue, so where does that leave us?

Image Source


Panhandle Poet said...

There are still communities in this country with great schools where kids get a good education in a safe environment. I live in one. I attribute it to teachers that care -- that teach for the love of it, not because they couldn't get any other job -- and to parents who care and instill a sense of discipline and a desire to achieve in their children, and to the strong presence of Christian churches that help to develop higher (and reasonably uniform) values in the general population. Throughout the Bible Belt, in smaller communities, there are many schools such as ours. Hmm, is there a pattern here?

E. R. Dunhill said...

Briefly, I think we may want to look at some options that create a little space between the administration of education and the vicissitudes of elections and annual public budgeting. I preface all of this by acknowledging that there are indeed many schools in the US that are underfunded, mismanaged, or both. However, in many cases, I see parents completely outsourcing this facet of raising their children (education) to the local school. Public schools were not designed to replace the time parents spend teaching their children. Parents must continue to commit significant time reading with and to their children, exposing them to nature and culture, and teaching values. Children fail when parents assume that someone else will do these things for them.
Politicians aren’t going to listen to voters’ complaints about education and respond by saying, “Your children are failing, because you’re not doing your jobs as parents.” Those politicians would have short careers. Instead, we see a trend of either offering to throw money at the problem, or demonizing public servants who dedicate their careers to caring for other peoples’ children in exchange for contempt and not a lot of money.
More from me later…

Sue said...

Some thoughts:
1) There is a minimum amount of funding that it is necssary to reach, but beyond that money does not necssarily bring improvement. So what is that minimum? I'm the first to say I don't know beans about school funding. I can say that what the minimum is will differ depending upon a variety of things. If you have a district that is very appealing as a place to teach in a high population area with many available candidates, then you might need a a lower minimum to bring in qualified teachers (i.e. math teachers actually certified in mathematics), than you would to attract the same level of qualified teachers to a remote rural area or an inner city area where the teaching task is more onerous and the supply is less available. On the other hand, in a populous and prosperous area, there might be more employment alternatives for the qualified. The point, is that what is a satisfactory level of funding for one community might be less so for another community. (Other factors that affect funding levels, the percent of the student population that has various types of disabilities, the need for transporation, etc., etc.). If there are problems in a school district "throwing money" won't fix them. Identifying the problems, developing a clear plan to deal with them, and targeting funding to specific problems isn't a cure all but might help.
2)The schools are being asked (and have been for the past 60 years) to deal with problems that are beyond their capabilities and sphere of influence. Family, church, business, media and other community institutions have to shoulder their responsibilities. The income and educational level of parents is a far greater determinate of educational success than anything done during school hours. Parenting is key, but that means that parents have to have the time to parent, and they have to have support systems in place to help them parent. If it takes two and a half jobs between two people to just get a roof over the head, heat during the winter, and food on the table, then there's little time for parenting. Parents also have to be educated as well. I deal with students whose parents never graduated from high school, who are illiterate, and who don't know standard English, much less speak it in their homes.
3) I don't think religion or homogeneity much to do with the success of schools. I was educated in the California public schools in the 1950's. My elementary school was in a religiously and ethnically diverse community(but not racially or economically). California schools had eliminated prayer and religion in the public schools more than a decade before I entered school. I have no doubts at all that the education I received in my working class community in California was vastly superior to the education received in the schools in my present location (Letcher County Kentucky)-- because I know I learned things in grade school, that most of my students haven't even seen by the time they get to college. Kentucky IS part of the "Bible Belt" -- so much so that the public schools post the 10 Commandments in the hallways of all the schools with perfect impunity. Prayers are said at all public functions and if anyone questions it, it isn't done openly. But poverty and drug abuse are rampant, and the schools are staffed by teachers who don't speak Standard English. I teach college students who are mostly literate, but have never read a single complete book, and don't know how to summarize in their own words the key ideas of a chapter. Their deficiencies in math and science are even greater. Few of their math teacher majored or even minored in math, and the majority of their science teachers are very proud of annoucing that they don't believe in evolution and the earth is only 6,000 years old. Our public schools are choatic and produce students who have no clue as to how to focus for 50 minutes in a college classroom. But they are all Christians who go to church regularly, and do have homogenous values and beliefs.

Panhandle Poet said...

I'm curious Sue, what is the percentage of single-parent homes? How about the percentage of minority students?

You specifically mention church attendance -- how many of the fathers are in church? -- or is it just Mom and the kids?

Yes, the educational level of the parents impacts the learning environment. My job is such that I teach daily -- although not in a school system. I teach my customers and their employees. I have taught parolees to use a computer and better their job prospects. I have taught Hispanic illegal immigrants to wash their hands before eating. Education goes beyond the classroom. Learning must become a lifestyle.

If regular church attendance is common in your area, perhaps the churches are a venue by which to approach some of the root issues. Enlist the aid of the pastors in specific areas of education that need to be addressed. You never know, they might respond.

Saying that parents have to have time to parent is back to the "victim" mentality. The statement is true, the context reveals the feelings. Yes, there are deep-rooted social issues at work throughout our country that cause many to become "failures" within the system. But they have neighbors that have come through the same situations and excelled. I know a Hispanic immigrant who worked two full-time jobs. He spoke little English when he arrived, he learned the language, his 5 children all graduated from college and were at the top of their respective classes -- right next to classmates with similar backgrounds that ended up in prison. What set that particular family apart? Is it genetic? I don't believe it is cultural. I think it is largely desire. How do you instill that desire to learn? Show them the value. Show them examples. Find the trigger that causes it to "click" for them. It is individual. It isn't a mass process -- which is what our school systems attempt. Our schools are designed to produce factory workers. They aren't geared toward entrepreneurs, or artists, or scholars. They are geared toward the average -- and by focusing in that manner, they shoot too low. If you want to hit the moon, aim for the sun!

I've felt for many years that we need at minimum, a two-track educational system. One geared toward college-bound kids and one geared toward a career-skills track. The downside is that you can easily mis-identify a child. The upside is that you can better fit the "bent" of a larger number of kids.

"Raise up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." -- that verse has been misinterpreted many times. What it means is that a child is born with a set of skills, abilities and desires that uniquely fit him for something. Find what that is and point him down that path and he will excel. Point him otherwise and he will struggle his entire life.

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue said...

Letcher county (Kentucky State Data Center)
Population: White non-hispanic 99.1 percent, (the majority of Scots-Irish and English descent);
Black 0.5 percent
99.5 percent are U.S.native, 83 percent were born in Kentucky.
98.3 percent speak English only

Family households 74 percent (higher than U.S. as a whole), female headed households with children 5.5 percent of total households, approximately six percent of family households (substantially BELOW) the U.S. as a whole.

80.9 percent of housing units are Owner occupied (higher than national average).

22.7 percent have less than a 9th grade education, another 18 percent have more than 9th grade but less than H.S. diploma.

93 Percent have income from wages or from earned retirement (e.g. Social Security)
the median income is $21,110 less than half that of the U.S. as a whole. The poverty rate is 27 percent.
It's not religion, it's not race, it's not ethnicity, it's not language, it's not single parent famillies, it's not failure to work. It's the economy....

Panhandle Poet said...

Sounds to me like they need to emmigrate. The economy is booming here.

If coal mining is the primary industry there, what happens when they shut the mines?

Sue said...

PHP -- first an apology, when I cut and pasted my last post, the last few lines were cut off. The post was suppose to end:
It's the economy...not just the short term fluctuations and downturns that are often meant when that phrase is used, but the inherent structure, that can make whole communities and regions losers in the economic process.

That said, about the coal mines, individual mines may get worked out, but there's no "closing" of the mines in the this region. There's enough resource to last hundreds of years, especially if mining companies continue on the track they are on for more and more destructive methods of extraction (destructive to communities as well as the environment). More than wice as much coal is shipped out of Letcher County today, as was shipped out twenty years ago. Part of the regions problem is that new mines -- strip mines and mountain top removal mines -- are opening up every month. Even as more and more of our natural resources are exploited, fewer and fewer workers are needed. Today it takes less than one-third of the workers of twenty years ago, to produce more than twice as much coal. That's the way our economy is designed, to do more and more production with fewer and fewer workers. Which is okay, if the profits are used to create new enterprises that will absorb those workers. Two problems with that, one is that the new jobs are rarely geographically located where the discarded workers are, and two the discarded workers are older and less well educated, so even if the jobs are where they are, they lose out on those jobs to young people coming out of school; leaving middle aged workers who once made good money barely scrapping by. I saw this happen in the steel regions of Pennsylvania in the 1980's as well. See Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison The Deindustrialization of America for an excellent analysis of this.

Many do emigrate, our population is declining, lost 3 percent in the first half of this decade. The ones who emigrate are the better educated middle class folk. The poor can't afford to move. To move some where else for work, you need to have the right education and skills (lacking because our educational system is poor), you have to know the jobs exist (which also requires education), you have to have a means to apply for those jobs (many jobs that a poorer, less educated person could qualify for require in person applications, so you have to be some where before you get the job), you have to move to the job (which requires at least some resource), and you have to find a place to live and pay for that and living expenses before you ever see a check (if you are affluent you can borrow that money from your family, but if everyone you know is poor, you can't get the money you need to make the move to make more money). Once you get there, in the new job, you have no kin or established church or neighborhood networks to help you with child care and the myriad of other issues that come up -- you have left behind the personal safety net that you had at home. You have even one health, child care or other financial set back and chances are, you have to quit your job and move back home where there are kin folk to care for you. Legal and illegal immigrants from places like Mexico, make it because they move into poor but supportive networks of people who came from the same village, same kinship group, who find a place for them to crash, and food for them to eat, and direct them to places to get work. Historially Appalachians had the same type of networks that helped them leave to find work in Detroit, Cincinnati, Dayton, and other manufacturing centers between 1940 and 1970. Unfortunately, those types of jobs are exactly the ones that went elsewhere in since 1970. The new jobs are either such poorly paying service jobs that they can't cover the costs of relocation without extensive kinship support, or they require education and training that just aren't available. There are plenty of places just like Letcher County, rural areas in California, Oregon and Washington, in Nebraska, Montana and the Dakotas, in Vermont, western Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. I imagine there's also places like this in Texas too.

Panhandle Poet said...

Yes, Sue, there are poor areas everywhere. Yes, many of the illegal immigrants have a "network" in areas where they seek employment -- but I think something important was left out of your analysis. They also are not dependent on government largesse. They escaped poverty so great that they had no choice but to leave. Even with a new job in a strange land, they face what most of us would consider poverty conditions yet they are grateful for the improvement and generally work hard to further improve both their own, and their children's situation for the future. Poverty is generational. Since the socialist-leaning programs implemented within this country beginning in the Great Depression, more and more have joined the mindset of dependency on the government to provide them with a minimum living. That mindset of dependency is passed on to their sons and daughters and is perpetuated. We must break that cycle of dependency. Perhaps conditions aren't bad enough to force such a break. That seems harsh, but I believe it is a reality.

Sue said...

Poverty Can Hurt Brain Development

Chemicals released by the body in situations like poverty and violence alter the hippocampus and affect cognition in the brain

by UPI NewsTrack

BOSTON, MA -- (UPI and OfficialWire) -- 02/16/08 -- Poverty appears to have dramatic affects on the brain development and function of young children, U.S. researchers said.

A panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science said children who grow up in environments with "family stress, negative social and environmental characteristics, and little cognitive stimulation" may not fully develop the parts of the brain critical for learning, memory and language, the AAAS said Friday in a release.

Harvard researcher Jack Shonkoff said chemicals released by the body in situations like poverty and violence alter the hippocampus and affect cognition in the brain.

The researchers suggested that encouraging parents to read to their children can help counter the negative effects of poverty early in life.

Progressive said...


Can you point me towards any articles or books on your idea of government dependency?

Is it this passing of dependency we see, as you state, or could it be that familial and economic stability are declining?

Sue said...

Prog -- may I suggest a twenty year old, but excellent book Fighting Povert Edited by Sheldon Danziger and Daniel Weinberg , thoroughly anchored in empirical data from one of the most thorugh research studies of its kind, the Panel Study for Income Dynamics (which is still going on). This book was published at the time that the "welfare dependency" theory was first floated by people like Charles Murray (infamous for The Bell Curve) and George Gilder, and contains several research articles that explicitly counters that theory with solid empirical data about welfare use and poverty.

Panhandle Poet said...

Prog: You might begin with "Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980" by Charles A. Murray. I believe there is reference material available from the Heritage Foundation as well.

Like most soft sciences, there is evidence that supports many different theories on the issue. The result of analysis is skewed by the agenda of the one doing the analyzing. Our individual world view deeply affects acceptance or rejection of the various theories. I am of course biased by my Judeo-Christian, Protestant work ethic.

I believe there are many factors that contribute to chronic poverty. We as a society certainly don't help the situation by "legitimizing" being on the dole -- whether from government, private, or other charitable sources.

Panhandle Poet said...

Prog: As to social instability -- it contributes to poverty and poverty contributes to social instability. I believe it becomes a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

As to economic instability -- yes, it also contributes to poverty. It also creates opportunity. Instability isn't necessarily bad -- it is just the way it is. Some could argue that under Stalin, the USSR was economically stable. It also wasn't a very pleasant place to be. Germany under Hitler was stable with a very active economy (at least in the military arena), but it wasn't a place I would like to live. Scotland -- the land of my ancestors -- has a history of economic struggle yet it produced many great minds and great leaders.

In many ways, whether the argument be social, economic, or education, it always comes back to values.

Progressive said...

So, lets say that poverty is caused by some combination of social, economic, and values based issues. Then lets say that, because of the many comments left here, a lack of a good education or educational infrastructure is a function of poverty and thus social, economic, and values based issues.

What policies, broad or specific, could be implemented to begin fixing education then?

Panhandle Poet said...

1) Begin by eliminating the NEA. Let's tie teacher compensation to some national standard with basis adjustments for a) critical needs skills, b) geographic location, c) classification of school -- i.e. high-risk students, high-risk environment, inner city, tiny rural, economically depressed, etc..

2) Make it easier to fire under-performing teachers. Some states have what amounts to a tenure system by which it becomes virtually impossible to fire an incompetent teacher.

3) Place penalties on parents as well as the students themselves for disruptive behavior.

4) Retain testing to minimum performance standards -- but make it a subject-based exit test upon completion of each course.

5) Make the school environment safe again. (this one is a post unto itself)

6) Focus the curriculum on basic skills -- reading, reading, reading, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Then, provide a branching track. a) college prep track with science, language, etc. and b) career track with technical skills.

7) Examine our colleges and universities that produce the teachers. Something is "broke" there that needs to be fixed. Too many teachers come into their career with an agenda that is totally unrelated to the subjects they are hired to teach. Whether is extreme feminism, socialism, sexual tolerance, religion, or whatever -- it has no place in the classroom. Such values are most properly placed in the homes. A minimum of social interactive skills is all that should be taught.

The above items are just a part of the puzzle. You can't fix in one fell swoop what it took several generations to break.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I’m generally anti-union. A system that requires a labor union is wasteful; the need for unions is a symptom of bad management. Moreover, I have specific problems with certain actions of the union you mention. But, if we eliminate teachers’ unions without creating some kind of mechanism to ensure fair pay, who on Earth would want to become a teacher? It’s already a profession with mediocre to poor pay, while requiring a 4-year degree, and in many cases requiring a master’s degree. Teachers early in their careers often struggle to pay-off their student loans, let alone invest or buy a home. I think we need to make some funding assurances or other incentives before we can dismantle the union. If the taxpayer wants rid of the union, the taxpayer must commit to paying a fair price for the services provided to the community. I think raising the minimum qualification standards for teachers is the best starting point for addressing performance and compensation.
As for stressing reading and basic math at the expense of everything else, I think this is a recipe for mediocrity. Even students who are not bound for college need to know something of natural sciences, history, and geography. People who lack basic knowledge in these areas are dangerously ignorant; they are easily misled or manipulated. At some point, educated or not, these people will be eligible to vote. We face social issues, environmental problems, and foreign policy issues that require some basic knowledge in these areas.
Likewise, the best schools in the world, and the best school systems in the country teach music and art. These can be tools for teaching students about other subjects, and can be particularly useful for teaching social history. Advertisers use music and art to sell virtually everything. Students should understand something of these methods. Beyond this, these are all fundamental areas of human inquiry.
I also think we need to add some basic economics and finance to the high school curriculum. It’s fairly ridiculous that students will be obliged to pay taxes, will be eligible for credit, and will have to finance their grandparents’ and their own retirement upon graduation, but we as a society don’t see fit to teach them to manage money, or how their taxes are spent.
Returning to Brooks’ Op-Ed that Prog used to kick this off, I think the idea of public service for people in their late teens and early twenties is a good idea. I’d like to see expanded recruiting for the National Guard, as well as increased activity from the USA Freedom Corps and the Peace Corps. It would also be great to see a return of the Civilian Conservation Corps-proper, and expanded programs through cultural institutions. Giving out money for college in exchange for working for the community is a win-win proposition.

Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: You may have missed one point that I made on teacher compensation -- that of a national standard with adjustments for the various factors that I listed. I come from a family of teachers. I understand very well the economic situation of many teachers.

Reading is fundamental to everything. It is also the one area where I believe the public school system consistently fails. If a child can read he can pursue any field he chooses (within, or outside the public school system). Mathematics is fundamental. It is the language of both science and economics which you mention. It is also the area where many graduates are weak. My brother-in-law teaches math in a community college. He claims that over 90% of the kids entering JC are deficient in math skills. We can teach kids how to balance a checkbook and the basics of chemistry until we're blue-in-the-face, but if they can't read and can't add, divide, subtract and multiply we've wasted our time.

First things first. I agree that all of the areas you mentioned are important. But they are second tier to the fundamentals. Both a career track and a college-bound track should include the things that you mention. They should be geared to the kids in those tracks. The kids should not go into those tracks until they have mastered a basic level of the fundamentals.

I am a musician. I love music. I also enjoy theatre arts, athletics, woodworking, welding, and writing. There are places for them in the educational system. But until we can master the art of getting all types of kids to learn some fundamental things, those kids will always have difficulties functioning in society and society -- and our political system -- will suffer for their lack.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I haven’t missed your point. National “standard” or not, taxpayers in local communities must commit to funding their local schools and paying their local teachers. This is where I see the stumbling block in obviating a union. Communities and parents must be invested (socially and financially) in any improvement.
As for reading and math, while many school systems are indeed following the reasoning that you’ve outlined, there’s scant evidence that students who are denied other subjects at an early age pursue them or understand them when the curriculum actually begins to offer these subjects. Beyond this, natural sciences can be used to teach reading and math, as can the various social sciences. Good teachers do this all the time. It’s developmentally appropriate for young children, and it creates opportunities for students with a variety of learning styles. We can’t simply leave behind all of the students who don’t respond to 90-minute reading blocks when they’re six.
The major disconnect I see is with the parents. As I mentioned before, it’s easy for politicians to sling mud at teachers when parents complain. After all, the teachers are a small number of voters as compared to parents, and –let’s face it- teachers are accustomed to being publicly insulted and are going to keep teaching anyway. Likewise, it’s easy for parents to deflect blame from themselves, especially when the solution would require acknowledging culpability and engaging in the difficult and time-consuming endeavor of educating someone.
I see parents who don’t read to their children, who don’t send their children to school knowing how to tie their shoes, parents who tell their children that they don’t have to listen to the teacher complain about how bad the schools are. Until we re-establish that parents are their children’s primary educators, metrics, accountability programs, salary guidelines, or any other bureaucratic control is going to fail to fix failing schools.
While we’re about it, we should also take time to recognize how many successful schools we have in this country. Aside from the schools that do well on the ubiquitous performance metrics, we can also use the economy as something of a barometer. While we have ups and downs, the US has the strongest economy in the world by a number of measures, and has generally been increasing for decades. We need to figure out where we’ve gone right and repeat this anywhere we can.

Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: So tell me. What solutions do you offer? Not generalizations, be specific.

E. R. Dunhill said...

1. Reduce middle management in the various school systems. Mid-level administrators increase the overall cost of service, and in my opinion, contribute little to the quality.
2. To replace the career path available primarily through promotion into non-teaching middle management positions, school systems should establish and expand teacher-mentor, teacher-leader, and continuing teacher education positions. We should be leveraging and rewarding the skills of the best teachers, not promoting them out of the classroom. Likewise, positions such as curriculum developers should have mandatory classroom time, whether that’s achieved through an ongoing small course load or through a “back-to-the-classroom” sabbatical program.
3. We need to expand National Board Certification or something like it. By incentivizing voluntary certifications, we can ultimately require a more stringent professional standard. In a similar line of reasoning, expand requirements for continuing education. Accountants have to do it. Surveyors have to do it. Engineers have to do it. Why shouldn’t teachers?
4. Expand student-loan forgiveness programs for highly competitive college students who want to serve as teachers. Plenty of talented people avoid teaching careers because they can’t afford to take an entry-level teaching job. The poorest schools suffer from this the most.
5. Expand programs to recruit and certify mid-career professionals as teachers. A friend of mine is leaving her career as a molecular biologist to teach high school biology. Engineers and financial analysts should be teaching math. Likewise, we should encourage businesses to develop programs that provide temporary summer employment for teachers. I investigated this idea a little in my previous job: Science and social studies teachers “interning” for a cartography firm. These would create a greater exchange of ideas and practices between schools and (for brevity’s sake) the real world, and would increase community investment in schools.
6. Establish (or re-establish, really) housing programs to help teachers and other community-workers live in or near the communities where they work: Poor communities benefit from having more educated people with stable incomes in the neighborhood; wealthy communities stop treating teachers like servants.
7. Accept private money from both individuals and businesses. Sell the name of the football field. Contract-out food services.
8. Increase foreign language education. When my wife and I were in Prague last summer, we had more than a couple of high school-age waiters and waitresses who spoke near-fluent English and German (not to mention Czech, which is hard enough). They started learning both foreign languages as young children, and by high school, they took other academic subjects in those languages. For crying out loud, it’s just embarrassing how little Americans value languages other than English. Would it kill us to require a little Spanish, and to offer Chinese, Arabic, and Portuguese?

Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: All interesting items.

1)& 2) My brother is in mid-level management in a very large school system. They work his tail off. A large part of his job is mentoring teachers -- especially the newer ones. He also conducts workshops for continuing education for teachers -- as well as attends multiple continuing ed classes, seminars, etc. himself -- frequently in other parts of the country where he is exposed to other school systems.

3) Teachers must be certified. It is state certification currently -- just like most other licensure programs. A national certification system is interesting but most things at the national level become extremely politicized.

4) & 5) There's an old saying that "those who can, do; those who can't, teach." While I generally disagree with the statement, there is some truth to it. We need teachers who feel "called" to teach. If we create programs that pull individuals into a teaching career -- either through high salaries, loan forgiveness, special programs, or whatever, we run the danger of further lowering the quality of instruction. While there are gifted individuals in the business world who make wonderful teachers, there are many more who would not. As for summer employment programs, many teachers do that on their own. However, there are so many programs that have been implemented in schools around the country that would interfere with summer employment that it is more difficult than ever for that to happen.

6) Most of the schools that I am familiar with who once offered teacher housing stopped doing so because the teachers wouldn't live in the houses offered. Granted, they weren't much. Perhaps some form of non-taxable housing subsidy for living within x-radius of where they teach would be a solution.

7) Selling the name on athletic fields -- already being done. Contracting food services, bus services, etc. -- already done.

8) Most of the schools around here require foreign language to graduate.


Aside: I have been immersed in public school culture throughout my life. My father was first a teacher, then an administrator, and then a counselor before retiring. Then he was hired back to teach remedial math to struggling students -- in one of the poorer school districts in the state of Texas. My mother was a teacher's aide (another glorious, high-paying job). Her focus was on migrant students -- those who spent part of the school year in the Rio Grande Valley and part of it in the Texas Panhandle. She worked extensively with their parents. She did everything from reading to them, to teaching them to wash their hands to checking on their family situation. My father has a brother who was a college professor in a disadvantaged area of Oklahoma. One of his sons taught in Oklahoma and Texas -- in economically depressed areas. My father had two sisters and another brother who taught school in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas -- two of the three in economically depressed areas. My brother and his wife are educators -- he as a mid-level administrator, her as an elementary teacher. My sister is a teacher who is currently staying at home with small children, and her husband is an instructor in a community college. My daughter aspires to be a teacher. Me, I'm the black sheep in the family -- I chose business. Interestingly, I find myself teaching almost daily.

E. R. Dunhill said...

On 1) and 2): I’m happy to hear that your brother is making a difference. I happen to live in an area in which the school systems’ middle management layers are dysfunctionally bloated. I don’t have time to run down the articles, but a few researchers found that when organizations across the US reduced middle management and “flattened the pyramid” in the nineties, school systems as a group missed out.
On 3): I am aware that teachers have to be certified by their respective states, with a few caveats. There is also an existing (voluntary) National Board Certification program offered by the Nat’l Board for Professional Teaching Standards that has high level requirements. It was to this program and its requirements that I was referring.
On 4) and 5): This old saying is simply offensive. Beyond this, I disagree that increasing supply of qualified applicants relative to demand is going to be bad for the quality of education, particularly when I’m suggesting making the position compensation-competitive with other professions. Getting the right people into any position upfront is the best way to avoid HR-related problems later.
As for summer employment, yes many teachers do find summer jobs on their own. The most common summer job for early-career teachers is waiting tables. My point is that many firms have more meaningful work that could be done by teachers. This sort of relationship allows business needs to be directly parlayed into the education system.
On 6): Just because someone’s program has failed because it was designed or managed poorly, doesn’t mean that such a program can’t work. One good example of a failed program is HUD’s Officer/Teacher Next Door program. We need to try harder, next time.
On 7): Many school systems have rules specifically banning this. We need to accept money when it’s available.
On 8): Most schools in my area strongly encourage foreign language education as well. Here, as in many school systems, this means passing a couple of introductory classes by the end of high school. This is very much the problem I’m writing about. This passes for foreign language competency in many jurisdictions.

Aside: I was raised by a former research psychologist and a special educator, and am married to a music teacher. I work with university administrators on a daily basis.

Sandy Kessler said...

Reward the good students - Big I've been in education all my life- It seems we are always always helping the students underprivileged - with problems, etc. Fine equal opportunity - but the really really good students those who listen, are respectful and have real dreams and goals are overshadowed by the rest. Give them a reward in school, make it big..Give them a big jumpstart-perhaps all that goes to problem areas could pay their first year of college free and clear. They earned it ..The energy in school now isd going to the TEST to send data back to Washington, and problems, The other kids are left in the lurch- as well as splendid teachers. I left teaching at a figure that would make you ill after 42 years!!

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Interesting thought, Sandy. It's amazing how people will perform if the reward is high enough.

Rick C. said...

Everyone has ideas on how to "fix" education, which implies that it needs fixing. No one ever argues that just maybe education is fine (or at least not as bad off as many claim) and it's society that needs changing. If you look at SES among students, for example, education in the US works very well for the majority in the middle and upper classes, and, conversely, not very well for the majority in the working and lower classes. I will go so far as to say that if education went away altogether, how individuals turn out would not differ significantly than the way they turn out now.

Sue said...

rick c. -- although I probably could find a few things to fix even for middle class students, I tend to agree with you. The problems that appear in education derive primarily from the structures of inequality in society, and those arise from the economic and political institutions -- education while occasionally providing a channel for upward mobility for a small number, primarily reinforces the inequality structure for most.