Friday, February 4, 2011

So What is Wrong With American Schools?

We have looked at several pieces of data this week and here is what I learned:  Nothing.  Students in other countries don't spend more time in school.  They don't spend more time on science and math.  So what is the answer?  Here is my question.  If American schools are so bad, why are so many foreign students studying in them? It has been estimated that 12% of total American college students were foreign-born.   According to Wikipedia 33% of all U.S. Ph.D.s in science and engineering are now awarded to foreign born.  

Yes we need to improve.  Everyone does.  How do we improve American schools?  Here is my personal formula.
  • Get parents more involved in schools.  I once worked for a principal who said, "If you want grades to improve, don't print the honor roll in the newspaper.  Print the failures and their daddy's name beside the student's.  Grades will improve."  Research shows that the strongest indicator of how successful a student will be in school is the level of involvement by the parent.  Parents need to be involved in the governing of the school, curriculum taught, and most of all, the discipline of the students.  Attempting to maintain discipline in the school without parental support is like going hunting with your best gun and no bullets.  You won't accomplish much.  Without parental support the student, administrators and teachers are powerless.
  • Get the politicians out of the schools.  How is it we allow politicians to govern our schools without stepping inside?  We don't allow them to govern the refineries.  Even OSHA goes inside the plants before making a ruling on an incident.  Yet our politicians sit in Austin and determine what subjects our students are required to master before graduation, how much time they will spend in school, even the choices for dates to begin and end school.  When was the last time the politicians determined what schedule the refinery workers would follow?  I have no problem with the politicians making decisions for schools, as long as they are making informed decisions.  If they are going to make these decisions, let them go into the schools and teach for a grading period.  Handle the curriculum, attend the committee meetings, deal with the discipline, contact parents about problem students.  Then tell me what to do in my classroom.
  • Allow teachers to teach the curriculum.  I am in favor of End of Course Exams.  They should show exactly what was taught in that classroom.  The scores of each classroom should be analyzed by administrators and reviewed with the responsible teacher.  If the scores are consistent year after year, then the teacher is not growing and neither are the students.  The district needs act in the best interest of the students.  In case you are wondering--I don't believe in tenure.  Everyone should be accountable to someone.
  • Put discipline back in the schools for every student.  The rules are the rules are the rules.  Teachers can't teach if they are spending class time disciplining students.  Let the administrators discipline.
  • Accountability for everyone: Teachers for not teaching.  Students for not learning.  Administrators for not disciplining.  Parents for not being involved.
This blog won't be popular with some people, but these are my feelings.  Feel free to click "comments" to share your feelings.
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