Monday, March 5, 2007

Think Tank --"Schools are failing students and putting nation's cometitiveness at risk"

Today's Washington Post has an article stating the opinions of 2 non-education groups "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, and the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank" were "at loggerheads on a number of other issues, said they came together" regarding concerns with the US education system.

Their conclusions: "U.S. schools are failing children and putting the nation's competitiveness in the global economy at risk."

Their recommendations:
  • "Among the document's most controversial proposals is a call for states and school systems to "fairly and efficiently remove ineffective teachers."
I think they are on to something here. When I taught, we earned our tenure after just two years of successful teaching. Once you were tenured, you were set for life. Job security is a wonderful thing, but it also breeds mediocrity, if not worse. I don't think the majority of teachers need any more demands placed on them, however, those ineffective teachers need to know that their employment can be terminated if they don't meet expectations. It works in the business world-- you don't do your job to the satisfaction of your employer, you are dismissed. Why aren't schools similar?
  • The platform also urged the development of statewide data systems to help track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
Using data is great. However, it should never be used as the only measure of achievement for students or teachers.
  • It also called on schools to expand student learning time -- which encompasses classroom time, tutoring and after-school and experiential programs --
Sounds good to me. Imagine what could be done with all the extra time! More time for the arts, more time to teach students about technology, perhaps more interdisciplinary learning adventures. .... The possibilities go on and on, but are bound to be rather expensive. Teachers are already working 40 hours a week, so this means we need additional staff and programs...which cost money.
  • and called for states to adopt a common definition of graduation rates.
Makes sense. We may as well all be aiming for the same goal and be compared based on the same criteria.

This is all very interesting... especially in light of a recent article that I read stating (again) that more and more high school students are bored with school and many seriously contemplate dropping out. We're missing the mark somewhere. Learning should be FUN. Learning should be COMPELLING. Learning should be ENGAGING and MEANINGFUL. Most importantly, students should be LEARNING-- as documented by gains in local, national and international tests.

I fear that we are still in the understanding the problem phase of this crisis when we need to be acting on some of the more reasonable theories of school improvement.

1 comment:

edrogerick said...

When talking about education one could compare it to many factories turning out mostly consumers and not producers. Even the producers will be headed to the non-productive fields.
The factories create highly dependent people who require services their whole lives. We need reforms that take courage to teach students how to make, create, resist, think for themselves and do it with joy. If we don't create schools of minimal consumers that can make and create things, we will be "reforming" schools for another 60 years while the Empire collapses.