Monday, February 18, 2013

Improving Public Education & Economic Growth

Years ago, this Blogger taught public school at the junior, senior and adult school levels for six years in the inner city of Los Angeles.   Since I hold a Master Degree in Education Administration, during the last three years of my experience in teaching, I served as Reading and Language Development Coordinator in a junior high with 2,600 kids.  Though I only worked in education for six years, plus the year that I spent in student teaching, I actually worked in three high schools for student teaching and summer school, one junior high school and one adult school; so five different public schools.  

And, with the musical chairs that often exist among administrators, I closely worked with many different administrators and teachers, particularly while serving as a program coordinator.   I saw the good, the bad and the ugly.  These schools were all Title I schools, which means we had millions of dollars in federal money coming into our schools, along with free breakfast and lunch programs.   While it may not be completely fair to generalize from just six years of experience in the public system, based on the poor results we see in our public schools today, I feel pretty sure that what I saw was the rule and not the exception, certainly in inner city schools. 

About 10% of the teachers I worked with were great teachers.   About 20% were good teachers.   Perhaps, 60% of the teachers I worked with were burned out and mediocre at best.   10% should have been FIRED immediately because they were completely incompetent.   I would rate a very small number of administrators I worked with as exceptional.   Most administrators I encountered were just bureaucratic paper pushers waiting for retirement and fat pensions. 

Just maybe the same could be said of employees in the private sector, human nature being what it is, but the difference is that mediocre, or completely incompetent employees in the private sector can be FIRED.   It is nearly impossible to fire a tenured public school teacher, which is a big problem that must be fixed if there is any hope of improving public schools.  

Obviously, school districts should have the right to fire an incompetent teacher without the probability of a court case.  That means Tenure must be eliminated.   It also means that there must be effective and meaningful annual teacher evaluation procedures in place to really make certain that teachers are doing the job of achieving learning, not just baby sitting.  This also means that Collective Bargaining must be eliminated to break the power of teacher unions that protect incompetent teachers.  In addition, compensation and benefits and particularly pensions for teachers and all public employees must be brought in line with what is common in the private sector to allow more money to go into the classroom.   This is the way to lower class size.    

Good and Great Teachers should receive merit pay.   These are the teachers that make a difference on every campus.  In addition to being effective in the classroom, these are the teachers that sponsor all the extra curricular activities that keep kids in school; yet they get little or nothing for doing it, other than personal satisfaction.  We have to reward good and great teachers for going beyond the call of duty. 

Disruptive kids that are incorrigible and or that have mental disabilities should be sent to "reform" schools and or other public schools better able to deal with them.   Very often today, these kids are mainstreamed and as a result teachers must spend a considerable amount of time dealing with disciplinary issues that take time away from kids in school to learn.    It is impossible to improve learning when teachers must spend so much time disciplining kids that have serious problems.  

Parents with kids in failing schools, particularly in the inner city, should be given the right to send their kids to private schools by use of School Vouchers.   Rich parents, like Socialist President Obama, would never send their kids to Washington DC public schools, among the worst in the country, even though more money is spent on a per pupil basis in Washington DC than most other cities.   Poor parents should have the same rights as rich parents to break the cycle of poverty.  

Finally, we must make certain that all kids are either college bound, or headed to vocational schools to learn a trade if we are going to restore economic growth and job creation again in America.   And, we must focus on a no nonsense curriculum, rather than feel good education to make sure we can compete in a global business environment.  The fact that about 25% of kids either don't graduate from high school is bad enough; but even worse, most kids that do graduate, that are not college bound, have no marketable jobs skills.   Many of the 23 million Americans that are either unemployed, under employed working part time, or that have just given up looking for work altogether, are in this predicament because they lack education, or job skills.   In many cases, this is because our public schools have failed to provide them a worthwhile education.   We have to fix this. 

Of course, President Obama and his Socialist pals in government will do nothing meaningful to improve public education because they are owned lock, stock and barrel by the teacher unions.   Their answer to every problem is just more money.  Instead, it is time for tough love, not more federal money thrown down a rat hole for programs like Headstart that do nothing to improve student performance.   Though the United States spends more money on public education than any other industrialized nation in the world, our student results are mediocre at best.   Doing more of the same is obviously not the answer. 

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