It's that time of year again - millions of students are either starting or getting ready to start the school year, which is why this post is going to be more about education than communication.
Here in Sioux Falls, students begin today and will finish around mid-May with their year. Some things have changed quite a bit: pretty much everyone has a cell phone, there are computers everywhere and the access to the internet has changed the way in which kids read, write and do research. Other things are still the same: students go all day to set class times, most have textbooks for each class and teachers still make bad presentations using an outdated version of PowerPoint (Sioux Falls currently uses 2003).
Being an educator, I strongly believe in the power of education. Education can take someone who comes from a disadvantaged background and it can propel them to greatness. I've seen kids go from being shy and unsure of themselves academically to being some of the best students I've ever had.
However, being the realist that I am, I also see the problems with education. The drive to the middle that leaves the best and brightest bored and woefully behind their peers in other nations. I've seen numerous students get lost in the mix of the routine. I've seen kids slide through their classes and not really learn anything.
I think that it does. Sara Mosle of the New York Times wrote a book review recently of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools by Steven Brill. She states:
Steven Brill is a graduate of Yale Law School and the founder of Court TV, and in his new book, “Class Warfare,” he brings a sharp legal mind to the world of education reform. Like a dogged prosecutor, he mounts a zealous case against America’s teachers’ unions. From more than 200 interviews, he collects the testimony of idealistic educators, charter school founders, policy gurus, crusading school superintendents and billionaire philanthropists. Through their vivid vignettes, which he pieces together in short chapters with titles like “ ‘Colorado Says Half of You Won’t Graduate’ ” and “A Shriek on Park Avenue,” Brill conveys the epiphanies, setbacks and triumphs of a national reform movement.
The review does take Brill to task a bit. She points out that while Brill wants to blame the Unions, they are actually not to blame. Some areas with the strongest unions also have the best results and a lot of Charter schools, which are suppose to be the next best thing since sliced bread, are actually doing worse than the public schools that they intended to replace.
So if unions are not the problem, what is?
There are a lot of things I feel at work that needs to happen and I want to get your thoughts on it.
1. Year-Round School. This is something I think needs to happen. Does it mean 365 days a year - no. What it means is taking a short break after each quarter. If you look at the countries that are taking the lead around the world, they are not taking 3 months off in the summer, and for good reason - it hurts the education of kids.
2. Professionalism of teachers. I don't mean that teachers are not professional. What I mean is that how teachers are trained needs to be ratched up if teachers want to be considered as 'Professionals.' That means going to graduate school for your education certification, doing a year-long residency with a master teacher and doing other placements to truly learn what happens in a classroom.
3. We have to pay them more. However, if we go to a year-round school and make teachers go to graduate school and do a lot more work to get their license, we absolutely have to pay them more. Investing in education pays off. Finland treats educators with respect and truly values education - which is why they rank near the top in educational results.
Those are just some of my thoughts. This is a long discussion. Let me know your thoughts. Do you have some ideas on fixing education? Does it even need to be fixed? Is it more of a parental issue?
I'll be interested in seeing what you have to say.