Fixing Public Education—A Place to Start II


Anyone who follows this blog knows I'm fighting tooth and nail right now to get the principal of my daughter's elementary school to enforce even simple, baseline teaching standards. Trusting the teachers, principals and district administrators to do the right things has proven unwise. Hours in meetings and email communications presenting actionable, bulleted items of basic teaching techniques have evoked no changes to the troubled school. I've been racking my brains for some sort of system that would give parents input and teachers insight into their effectiveness. STAR tests and API scores alone don't provide an accurate assessments of an educators abilities or progress.

The idea of STANDARDS came to me when I was running the other day—actionable requirements that could apply to all teachers, anywhere, any grade, any level.
STANDARDS give teachers specified, attainable goals with measurable results.
STANDARDS give student/parents up-to-date and actionable information.
STANDARDS require teachers to continually demonstrate their level of proficiency to student/parent, principal/school.

STANDARDS MUST be imposed on and adhered to by our educators, principals and admin, but should begin at the teacher level with in-classroom best practices. Regardless of the grade, the level of learning/understanding, the socioeconomic status of the school/district—simple, baseline academic STANDARDS should apply to ALL TEACHERS at all grade levels of K-12.

1. Teachers must assign students homework of grade appropriate material [per State guidelines or better!] with a specified deadline date for student to return completed. 

2. Teachers must correct all homework assignments and return corrected homework to students within 3 to 5 days of completion, sooner is optimal, for continuity in learning.

3. Students must be tested on all subjects frequently [per school/district/State requirements, or better] to assess student understanding and target learning hurdles.

4. Teachers are required to return corrected tests to students within 3 to 5 days, sooner is optimal, for retention in learning.

5. Teachers must notify parents with failing or potentially failing students.
The simple requirements above are deliverables, like in real business, where employees are required to do a job and deliver results. Returning homework and tests to students properly corrected and in a timely manner:

● Demonstrates teacher follow-through, models consistency, self-discipline and builds trust.
● Lets the student know their work is being scrutinized which motivates students to do better work.
● Corrected work and tests returned within days reinforces the process/methodology student used to study and/or complete work, and promotes learning retention.
● Returning corrected material quickly helps track student progress and knowledge base.
● Requiring teacher deliverables—a maximum 3 to 5 day time-frame to return corrected work and tests imposes specific, actionable, accountable guidelines.

Simple. Right? Except most public school districts across the country have NO real standards of any kind directing teaching excellence. Parents/students are at the mercy of the quality of the teachers/principals their district hires. We must then pray that they are responsible because they haven't any firm requirements to adhere to.

Good teachers and principals create their own standards of excellence, which often far exceed school/district/State standards. But educators who DON'T challenge themselves or their staff to excellence, or don't have a clue how to without guidelines to follow impedes the learning process, taking down classes/schools/districts/States, as in California, which ranks 46th nationally, though we have the highest paid teachers nationwide. (So much for it's all about money...)

Educators don't want STANDARDS. They want to preserve their omnipotence. Who wouldn't. They can't be fired for just about any reason, save offenses of the most egregious sins. Most educators salaries exceed average full time jobs, when most work less than two thirds of the year; and they receive, at minimum, cost-of-living raises annually regardless of job performance. Where is the incentive for excellence in our current education system?

STANDARDS impose incentive. Meet them, as good teachers will, with or without them, or exceed them, and realize built-in rewards with measurable milestones. Teachers that consistently miss return dates; return sloppy, few or no corrections on work and tests; neglect [frequent] testing and/or giving homework assignments...and after a couple warnings the principal, who uses STANDARDS with deliverables to monitor teacher performance, has the discretion to fire them. Unpaid suspension with specified retraining, maybe, but teachers who can't perform even baseline job functions after multiple opportunities should perhaps seek a different profession. Public school teachers mold the bulk of our society into the producers of tomorrow, or not. Elementary school teachers are especially important. Modeling and teaching consistency, creativity, organization and discipline early on sets our kids up for a lifetime love of learning.

Public/private/home schooled, STAR tests through college and professional boards requires our kids to prove what they've learned again and again. Business requires employees to consistently prove their value. Without any standards of excellence to build on, educating our kids becomes hit and miss at best. In the broader view, society becomes complacent, and mediocrity becomes the norm. And our kids need to be more than mediocre to compete in our now global economy.

DEMAND STANDARDS from your teachers/principals/schools/district. Public education must be accountable to the public they serve.

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