Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fixing Our Schools

The A&C take on the following piece from Parade Magazine 07/06/08. . .

(news source:

Former Labor Secretary William Brock leads the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, created to report on the state of U.S. education.

How can we fix American education?First, we have to agree that we have a problem. In the last 25 years, spending has risen 240% while performance has barely changed. Only 68% of students graduate from high school, and many states require only eighth-grade skills in reading and math to get a diploma. We need to start with better early-childhood education. We need the very best among us to become teachers, and we need to ensure that standardized tests of rote knowledge don’t drive education away from the very things that have made America special: critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and teamwork.

A&C Response
The graduation rate in most areas is dismal. Even in my own district I saw the reality of low graduation rates. High school principals were called in for an emergency meeting with the superintendent on a Sunday to come up with ways to combat these laughable rates. Their solution? Change the graduation requirements midstream so that their numbers looked better for this year! This, my friends, is a problem.

You’ve said publicly that we are failing our teachers. How?We recruit new teachers largely from the bottom 30% of entering college students, train them, and then assign them to the toughest jobs in the most challenging schools with very low pay. When the results fall short, we tell them, “You just have to work harder.” Most feel that they have no voice in their schools. This is no way to treat professionals.

A&C Response
This is true and quite complicated. There is a teacher shortage crisis and in order to fill classrooms universities and colleges have taken any live body who walks in the door and wants to teach. It is a direct response to the market, however, it has come back to bite us. It used to be that people went into teaching because they felt "called" to this vocation, but more and more it is the consolation prize and second choice.

Why isn’t education a bigger political issue?Primarily because there is no quick fix. It’s complex. Perhaps most of all, no one really wants to admit that we are leaving millions of children behind. Education is the key to better jobs, higher incomes, and greater growth in what has become an extremely competitive global economy. Nothing is more important than education. Absolutely nothing.

A&C ResponseEducation is just as, if not more, complicated than health care and you've seen how hard it is for politicians to solve that mess. Education is the great equalizer; it is an experience we all share. Until our country decides it's important enough to pay attention to with our time, our talents, and our treasures, we will remain left behind.

What can you do to fix our schools? (A&C Question)Make choices with your wallet, your words, and your ballot. Take care of your children and show them by your example that you value education. Then appreciate the teachers who prepare our futures.