4 May, 2016
Public education is constantly under scrutiny.
It is frequently believed as broken by the media, politicians, and education reformers. While this has been overstated by groups such as those listed above, it is true that public education will always have room for progress. Contrary to popular belief, most educators welcome and embrace change that will give advantages to the students.
Educators will rally behind true reform strategies that do not apparently make the teachers themselves the villains. Teachers are not scared to work hard, but they want assurance that they are not blindly throwing darts hoping that one of them will hit the bull’s-eye.
There are 10 approaches that can be implemented to quickly enhance public education.
- Invite Educators to the Table
One of the biggest problems in education is that there is distrust between those making educational policy and those carrying out that policy.
Educators have not been invited to table and feel like they are not listened to. They need a voice in educational policy, and that is happening less and less at all levels. Educators are the resounding experts on education. They live it and breathe it every day, but their thoughts and ideas on education reform are often not given consideration or ignored altogether. Great improvement will be challenging to achieve unless teachers are invited to be a part of the discussion.
- Less is More
Educators have been blitzed by a bevy of moving targets seemingly designed to guarantee failure. By this, it means that the blueprint is constantly changing. Teachers have been bombarded with mandate after mandate to the point that it borderlines on absurdity to think that teachers really have time to do everything that is mandated.
Charter schools have been hailed as the answer to fix public education. One of the biggest benefits that charter schools have is that they are often deregulated meaning that they are not responsible for many of the mandates that regular public schools are required to follow. This has freed up teachers to do what they do best, which is to teach. Demanding less of teachers will free up teachers for more preparation time and let them to be more effective in the classroom.
- Hold Parents Accountable
A child’s first and most significant teacher is their parents. Those first few years lay the foundation for educational success. There are always exceptions, but children whose parents value education and are continuously engaged typically are academically successful. Research has validated these claims.
Though it would be controversial, lawmakers should begin to pass laws or provide incentives to hold parents accountable when they fail to give their children with basic educational needs and support. For example, offering a tax incentive for parents of students who meet grade level proficiency could help boost parental involvement. Likewise, a tax penalty could be issued for those who fail to meet grade-level proficiency. If parents were held more accountable, our public education system would likely be significantly progress from its current state.
- Provide Adequate Teacher Training Programs
Most teacher preparation programs give future teachers with a solid background in methodology on teaching. However, that background seldom translates to the real world. On the job training is arguably the best teacher preparation program. Arguably, most teachers learn more in their first year as an actual teacher then they did during their entire college experience.
Teacher preparation programs must become skillful at providing future teachers with more training in an actual classroom environment. Furthermore, they must ensure that every graduate is well versed in current educational trends and policy. The current model can be enhanced which will translate to an improved product in every school.
- Provide Professional Compensation
Education reformers grow tired when the conversation turns to teacher pay. Reformers want to place blame on the teachers, but dismiss the fact that teachers are greatly underpaid for their services. The truth is that you get what you pay for. To expect more, you have to offer more. When compared to other professionals with a Bachelor’s Degree, teachers make significantly less than average. This almost makes sure that some of America’s best and brightest will never entertain the thought of becoming a teacher.
It is essential to know that the profession is already filled with a lot of great teachers, but there are also several bad teachers that schools have been forced to hire due to a nationwide teacher shortage. Increased compensation will lead to an increase in competition for teaching jobs. This in turn translates to better teachers in every classroom that ultimately leads to enhanced academic results.
- Regulate Corporate Interest in Education
Corporate America should have a vested interest in public education. After all, many of their future employees will have a public education, and a good education can only help boost the economy resulting to a larger bottom line. They should be investing in education, but sadly many corporations perceive public education only as a money generating endeavor.
Many of the companies earning their money from public education are the same companies that privately lobby against public education so that their products will continue to be used. Eventually, corporate America would rather perceive that schools are failing because anything to contrary would hurt them in the pocketbook. Schools would develop tremendously if corporate America became joint partners with public education instead of viewing it simply as a money-making endeavor.
- Improve Academic Counseling Services
Academic counselors offer a priceless service to the students they serve. The good ones have a lasting effect on the students with whom they work. They find ways to get students scholarships or financial aid. They provide advice for choosing a career path. They assisy their students think about the future and set goals that can lead to tremendous focus.
Academic counselors have real educational importance and are often underrated when discussing what they bring to public education. Every school needs to offer intense academic counseling services beginning in middle school. It is never too early for students to start thinking about their future. Discussing options and setting goals for the future is one approach to help students develop academically.
- Narrow Academic Focus
Public schools have been required to take on many additional roles. They are responsible for much more than they were just a few years ago. Gone are the days where students are only taught reading, writing, math, English, science, and social studies. Now schools are responsible for courses such as sex education, personal financial literacy, character education, drug and alcohol education, etc.
Schools have been forced to include these as parents have failed to take on this obligation themselves. With all these extra responsibilities added, the school day and school year have remained basically the same. Schools have had to take out valuable instructional time to meet the requirements of all the additional things they are now required to teach. This of course limits the job that teachers can do in those core areas. If the focus were narrowed, it would give a boost to the overall academic success of every school.
- Limit Standardized Testing
Education reformers would like you to believe that standardized testing is the end all be all to determine the success and failure of public education and their teachers. Sadly, many people have bought into this fabrication. The truth is that standardized testing is a snapshot of where a student is on a particular day. They do offer educational value, but currently too much is being placed at stake for a single test. Teacher assessments and student promotion/graduation requirements should not be tied to standardized test scores.
Teachers will tell you that high stakes testing has taken away valuable instructional time. Reformers will claim that these test do not take up much class time, but reality says that when there is that much at stake, they become the leading driving force in the classroom. Teachers spend weeks on test preparation that could be better spent on more authentic learning opportunities.
- Provide Educational Options
Nowadays, public education has established age requirements for students to attend school. Unfortunately, not every student is ready to attend kindergarten at five years old. Students who are not ready (either academically or socially) only create problems for the teachers and the other students. Students would ultimately be better served if they were given readiness test that consider both academics and behavior to determine if a particular child is ready to begin school at five years old. If the child is not ready, then the school could give strategies for the parents to employ at home before trying again the following year.
Beginning in middle school, students should be given options to meet different career tracks. All students should take a basic set of courses, but then options should be offered according to various factors involving academic attainment, personal interests, etc. Students should not be punished for trying different choices, but instead should be motivated to try multiple possibilities to figure out what is right for them. Public education must do a better job of preparing our students for all options in life after high school.