Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fixing Schools - Attack The Right Problem


Every article and editorial I read about education these days has two themes:. 1. Someone must be held accountable for the success or failure of the school and, 2. The solutions discussed say nothing about the key element of achieving that success, poverty and the parents’ role in education.

The measuring stick for how well a school and/or teacher is usually some kind of standard test of the student and if the students are doing well it is concluded the teacher must also be doing well. This concept is seriously flawed.

Albert Einstein had the following quote hanging on his office wall:
“Not everything that counts can be counted; not everything that can be counted counts.”
Unlike what we like to say, not all children are born intellectually equal. We all know this; however, we must acknowledge it. One test does not fit all. Not all children have the same parents and background. When results are being measured this must be taken into account. This is why standardized test scores cannot be the primary measuring stick as to how well a teacher is performing. Instead, standardized test scores should be used to measure how the students are doing and administrators, managers, must do their job of measuring how well each teacher is doing.


The definition 0f management is getting things done through others. School administrators have failed to do this. When is the last time you are aware of an administrator sitting in a classroom to observe the teacher’s performance? Instead, most of the time they are busy with paperwork, kissing up to school board members or some other perfunctory activity.

Teachers do need to be held accountable, but not by only measuring how well their students are doing on standardized test scores. Any use of test scores needs to reflect the progress the student made; not just his final score. In addition, their are other variables that must be considered.

It is widely accepted that parental attitudes, mores and abilities have a significant, maybe the most significant, impact on how well a child does in school. If a parent cannot help a child with their homework because they are working two or three jobs to put food on the table, or if the parent has a drug problem or mental disorder and just does not give a damn, this will seriously affect the results the child has in school.

I have been a member of senior management of financial institutions throughout my career. We had branch offices across a wide range of socieo-economic regions. If we only measured results of the branch manager by his ability to attract deposits and make loans in his region, we would be continuously replacing managers in certain branches. This would have been the case even though much of the poor performance was outside of his control. The result may have been that the wrong person was fired.

It appears society as a whole is saying there is nothing we are willing to do to help this victimized child. We are writing them off. “It isn’t our problem.” We either need to make it our problem or don’t hold someone who s not at fault for the child’s situation, the teacher, accountable. I hope we decide to make the problem one that society tries to fix. There is an organization in Minnesota, Growth & Justice, that has published a plan that makes allot of sense. Read it. http://goo.gl/w6z1n

3 comments:

Oz7 said...

Phenomenal article: I hope Obama reads it!

Anonymous said...

He won't, nor will anyone else who is apart of the movement to dismantle teacher unions even if it means dismantling entire public school systems in the process. The alternative to public education, charter schools, is currently the solution offered by the powers-that-be, even though that entire concept is racist to its core....and less effective because of its profit making underpinnings which deny public school teachers much needed fiscal resources for their classrooms.

Anonymous said...

The comment by Anonymous is right on target. Growing up in the inner city(ghetto) the day to day struggles along with the social ills plague the community. Entire families have been inured in a repressive system that shows no interest in the issues they face,sometimes generational.When a child is not nurtured that means their innate curiosity is not being cultivated. Then of course the factors surrounding that child's life will be the deteminant of whether that child can proceed successfully, depite the impediments. The public school system esp. inner city must be of highest quality because of the many obstacles students face before entering the classroom, and when they leave. To vilify teachers is not an answer,yes, get rid of those teachers whose agenda is something other than affording these marginalized children a chance at a better life through education. The scapegoating is disingenuous and counterproductive; no other developed nations treat their teachers so irreverently.