Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

The following comment was written by a young man just returned from teaching in the Peace Corps. Responding to a request from the Network for Public Education, he wrote a letter to Congress about NCLB:

 

Diane-

 

I would like to share the letter I wrote (at the urging of NPE) to my congressional Representative concerning H.R. 5:

 

This time last year I was a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer, coming home from service as an English teacher in a Cameroonian public school. Shortly before I left Cameroon I attended a disciplinary hearing convened for the purpose of meting out punishment. I sat with other teachers in a ring at the edge of the principal’s office while students were shuffled in by grade level, given the chance to explain their infractions, then made to lie on their stomachs on the dusty floor while an administrator whipped them. It was against the law, but they did it anyway. This policy was intended to regulate student behavior, and it was shamefully successful. They followed an ideology of control and never have I seen such a passive group of students. My colleagues and the administrators managing us weren’t bad people–or even bad educators. I still marvel at their drive to impart knowledge, but their instructional model followed a paradigm that mirrored their discipline: students are, to lean upon a cliche, vessels to be filled, objects to be acted upon.

 

It may be hard for us to see, but their ideology is our ideology. By conventional standards I was a good student; in me the systems of reward and punishment accomplished their goals. My success, however, was bounded by its context. The social psychology research that claims traditional classroom practices limit student interest, reduce depth of thought, and discourage a challenge-seeking orientation resonate with my experience. When I reflect on my education I feel the deep tragedy of my untapped potential. Here was the refrain of the times: “Why would I put more effort into this? I already have an A.” I was lucky because many other students repeated its more destructive corollary: “Why would I put any effort in to this? I’m just going to get an F.” No matter what a student’s place on this artificial spectrum, reducing performance to an externally imposed measurement of a pseudo-objective standard constitutes control. When, later in my academic career, I did fail one class, I imagine the emotional pain I felt was a close cousin to the physical pain of my future Cameroonian students.

 

Whether or not there are legitimate uses for standards in today’s world, the current political environment has paired standards with a toxic accountability. There’s an or else. Pay teachers following our formula or we won’t send federal money your way. Raise your students’ scores to the level we say or we’ll give your school a failing grade. Do better or we’ll close it entirely. As a country our greatest shames have been perpetrated under contingency and duress. This is no different. My educational history has been filled with motivated teachers who didn’t require bribes or threats to seek self-improvement, who didn’t need standardized tests to gauge student proficiency.

 

If we want our students to learn to function in a democracy, why are our classrooms structured like dictatorships? Why are we pursuing a path that further alienates students from content by adding additional separation between teachers and curriculum? Why, if we expect students to learn independence, are we stripping it from educators?

 

Best Regards,

 

Jakob Gowell

 

B.A. English, Grinnell College 2011
RPCV Cameroon 2012-2014
Education Volunteer (TEFL)

Last year, when I spoke in Indianapolis to the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, I was interviewed by Gregory J. Marchant, professor of educational psychology at Ball State University. He published the interview, and it was recently selected as the most read article in the journal in 2014. Greg asked some penetrating questions about my personal journey in the world of education research. You might find it interesting to read. He is a good interviewer, and I was very colloquial, as I tend to be.

Mate Wierdl, a professor of mathematics at the University of Memphis, explains to another reader why the management model of education is different from that of business:

 

 

“Another reader wrote: “Before you even ask those questions, I believe you have to establish a consensus about purpose. What are public schools supposed to accomplish? Then you ask, Are they accomplishing it? How well?”

 

“I gave my opinion on this in other posts in this blog thread: in math, kids need to understand math (calculating using crazy formulas they forget within a week is unimportant), they need to enjoy thinking, problem solving, experimenting.

 

“What teachers don’t accomplish very well is to get kids excited about learning. I submit, the main reason for this is overwork: US teachers and students have to work way too much. For example, in Hungary, a teacher’s daily load is four 45 min classes with 15 minute breaks between classes—about 60% of what US teachers have to endure.

 

“Since teachers have to keep kids excited, they also need to be excited, enthusiastic, but that’s impossible to do 6 hours a day—plus grading, preparing, communicating with parents. If we want to improve education, the first thing to do is reduce teaching load, and reduce school and home work time for kids.

 

“My understanding is that you are worried that if the public doesn’t look over the teachers’ shoulders, they won’t do a good job. But teachers have a completely different management style from corporations.

 

“Simplistically, there are two kinds of evaluation/management systems. One is what we can call the military style with its hierarchical chain of authority. This is what seems to be preferred by big corporations: the “CEO system”.

 

“The other one is the democratic management system where each worker has full authority over her work. In this system, the quality of work is ensured by a peer review process. This democratic management system has been used in education, but many small businesses have been using it too.

 

“The controversy is that powerful people like Gates, who believe in the almighty CEO system, refused to believe that the democratic system works well in education—or anywhere, and so they decided to implement the military style management in education. This happened despite the fact that the US had the best higher ed system in the world and it’s based on the democratic management system.

 

“When people on this blog are pissed about, say, Gates, and they say, they don’t want to be evaluated by a military system Gates invented for them, they don’t imply that they don’t want to be responsible to the public. No, they just have a democratic management system that has been working very well for decades, and in some instances, for centuries. What teachers see is that outsiders want to force a different management style on them which has been proven ineffective in education numerous times in the past.”

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

 

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

 

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

 

Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.

 

Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

 

Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..

 

That is how it begins.

 

For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.

 

 

 

Peter Greene has a problem. He is at the top of his district’s seniority ladder. His wife is at the bottom. Under seniority rules as currently written, she would be first to be fired. He says she is an awesome teacher. Everyone tells him so.

But if the legislature eliminates seniority, he will be first to go, because he is the most expensive.

“This is exactly the sort of law that would conceivably save my wife’s position. Ironically, it would probably end mine. For a district in economic hardship, the most attractive layoffs would be to axe the most expensive teachers. Under an “economic hardship” rule, my career would have ended a decade ago. So in state like Pennsylvania where the legislature has been systematically underfunding schools, either my wife or I are vulnerable to furlough.

“I asked her what she thought about devoting herself to a career in which every step up the ladder of success would mean one step closer to being fired. She responded with some NSFW language (my wife is quite the sassmeister when she wants to be). And that’s the thing about non-seniority rules. Under the current system. it’s hard to get a lifelong teaching career launched and safely under way. Under anti-seniority systems, it’s impossible. The world needs more teachers like my wife, and my wife is not a dope. How do you recruit and retain her by saying, “You can have a short-term job in teaching, but you will never have a career.”

“Look, nobody has to tell me that the way this is working sucks. Sucks with a giant suckness that could out-suck the suck of the biggest darkest suckingest black hole in the universe. But as much as this sucks, every alternative proposed by reformsters sucks even more. Pennsylvania schools should be properly funded. My wife should be in a classroom for the rest of her life, and all present and future students deserve to have a teacher of her caliber and dedication. That’s the world we ought to be living in; destroying seniority gets us further away from that world, not closer.”

Despite the challenges, despite the toxic policies, despite the outpouring of “I Quit” letters, young future teachers are taking a stand.

Stephanie Rivera describes a new organization called the Young Teachers Collective. They will plow ahead. They will stick with their chosen profession. They are not afraid. They want to teach. They want to have a voice in the national debate about teaching. They want to give each other hope.

Stephanie started a resistance movement as an undergraduate, inspiring other young teachers to persist. Now she is a graduate student at Rutgers, and she believes in teaching and wants to work with others who have the same aspirations.

Here is the website for the Young Teachers Collective.

 

They say:

 

The current climate of the education system is not inviting. We constantly see poor reforms implemented by people the most distant from the classroom. We constantly hear “don’t go into teaching.” Regardless, we see the profession as something worth fighting for. In order to win this struggle, we understand the importance of coming together to support each other and lift each other up–even if it’s only through an online community. By creating this collective, we hope to:

 

Develop political consciousness among our peers that will be entering the education profession.

 

Develop the tools/skills necessary for young people to organize themselves.

 

Create a network of support while in college and during the first years of teaching

 

Provide young teachers with both a sense of hope and tools on how to fight for a better education system.

 

Advocate and work towards a common vision for the future of education

 

Strengthen our presence in discussions about education

 

Create a space to share\suggest resources to build consciousness as well as materials to use in the classroom

 

In order to do this we plan to engage in the following:

 

Weekly blog posts by members of YTC discussing an issue of their choice

 

Host monthly Twitter Chats. Our past chat includes improving teacher education.

 

Host monthly Google Hangouts

 

Host webinar workshops

 

Host workshops and\or discussions on our campuses\in community when possible

 

IMPORTANCE OF YOUNG AND FUTURE TEACHERS’ VOICES

 

“While many of us have been inspired by teacher-activists currently in the field, we have come to recognize the importance of creating our own collective voice. The voices of young and future teachers are largely ignored in the education movement. We are often dismissed because we are viewed as not having the experience to truly understand the issues facing public education. However, there is no doubt that our voices are valuable and even necessary in this struggle. We are in the unique position of simultaneously facing issues affecting both students and teachers. At the same time, this position presents different challenges that students and experienced teachers are not aware of. Young and future teachers are the only ones who can really speak to these challenges, which is why it is so important that we speak out and have our voices amplified.”

 

While it is heartening to see Stephanie Rivera and other future teachers taking action to save the profession they want to enter, there is something terribly sad about the fact that future teachers feel they must act to do so. In what other profession would future professionals feel they must try to save the profession before it is destroyed by malignant outside forces?

Thank you, Susan Jolley, for sending this comment. I love this line from one of my favorite works of literature (yes, fiction, not informational text, which can teach us so much about the world and what matters most even when it cannot be tallied):

 

There is a line at the end of George Eliot’s Middlemarch that I have always loved about the value to society of the many people who never become famous but add immeasurably to other people’s lives: “for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” It reminds me of the good but unheralded work done by so many teachers,

Stephen Mucher, director of the Bard Master of Arts Teaching program in Los Angeles, warns about the precipitous decline in enrollments in teacher preparation programs.

Teachers are demoralized by scripted curricula and overemphasis on testing. They feel their voice doesn’t count in their workplace. Given the tide of teacher-bashing and mandates, they are right to feel demoralized.

“Career-minded college students are not oblivious to these developments. Since 2008, enrollment in teacher education programs in California is down 53%, and other bellwether states report a similar trend. Nationally, U.S. Department of Education statistics that include both traditional and alternative preparatory programs show that there were nearly 90,000 fewer teachers in training in 2012 than in 2008. Teach for America, which once celebrated 15 consecutive years of expansion, peaked in 2013. It is witnessing as much as a 25% drop in applications this year…..

“Our most promising educators crave work that honors their creativity and intellect. They are suspicious of easy answers. They need to hear more than the cliche that a great teacher can make a difference in a student’s life. They want to know whether this profession will make a difference in their own life.”

The teacher-bashing that has dominated the mainstream media in recent years has undermined the prestige of teaching. The insistence by the Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and many governors that teachers should be judged by student test scores has undermined the profession. What other profession is told how to evaluate its members by state legislators and governors?

Frankly, it is tiresome to hear critics say that teachers are not our “best and brightest.” Neither are our critics. I doubt that most critics would know how to teach a classroom of 30 children of any age, but they feel emboldened to complain about those who do it every day.

As we see the pipeline for new teachers growing smaller, and many veterans taking early retirement, where will we find new teachers? Who will be held accountable for this crisis in the teaching profession?

Nancie Atwell, a teacher of literacy in Maine, won the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million prize as the Global Teacher of the Year. This is like the Nobel prize of teaching. She was interviewed on CNN about teaching, and she talked about encouraging children to read and write, following their interests and passions. She is donating the $1 million to her school, which needs a new furnace and other improvements. When one of the interviewers asked her what she would tell a young person interested in teaching, she said she would tell them to go into the private sector, not into public school teaching. The interviewers were taken aback. Atwell explained that the Common Core and the testing that goes with it had turned teachers into “technicians,” making it hard for them to teach the best they knew how. She would urge them to find an independent school where there is no Common Core and no state testing.

 

Please forward this interview to your legislators, your governor, and especially to Arne Duncan.

A few weeks ago, I heard from Alex Suarez, a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a B.S. in Bioengineering from Rice University. Alex read my book “Reign of Error” and asked if he could propose an new approach to accountability. He put his ideas on paper, and I am glad to share them with you. What do you think of Alex’s ideas?

 

Alex writes:

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has watched “Waiting for Superman” or listened to the endless educational debates will be quick to hear how our public school system is failing. Who’s the culprit in their opinion? The teachers. Contrast that with my own experience of seeing countless dreamers poised with incredible capabilities to inspire and teach, get put into incredibly challenging situations.

 

Teachers can start in a classroom of 22 students; they don’t fare too well. With the current system based on standardized testing, poor performance strips resources. There goes the budget.

 

What does that mean? That same teacher struggling with 22 students is now being asked to teach classes of 30. It doesn’t make sense. Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error sums it up best: Let’s say the national goal is to be 100% crime free. Depending on the severity of the failure, you lose resources. Imagine the inner city of Chicago versus the upper middle class suburbs. After one year, the inner city of Chicago fails miserably at the goal compared to suburbia so the government heavily restricts the resources allocated to their local police. How do you think the crime rate is going to be next year?

 

We operate on the assumption that any teacher can help any students reach the best score despite anything. No excuses, right?

 

Let’s take a quick look at the metric of how standardized testing affects motivation of teachers and students. Teachers come in with the idealistic dream of inspiring the next generation to love learning the way they have. Once they enter the school, there’s one goal: high standardized test scores. They get pushed to try to meet test standards that ruin the beauty of learning. You suck out their motivation to teach. It isn’t much better from the students’ perspective. Students enter a classroom and are told, “It’s important to learn.” They then quickly lay witness to why they “need” to learn: to get a high test score. Educators try to plead with their students that learning is more than this.

 

Educators are right, there should be more. Why is our current education system’s assessment so focused on these standardized tests?

 

​I would like the opportunity set a few items straight. Many Americans have heard the statistic that public school is broken, that internationally we are fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science, and twenty-fifth in mathematics. It’s time to sound the alarms and kick our butts into gear.

 

What if, however, I were to tell you that further analysis of these international test scores sheds a different light on the conclusions that can be drawn? If you took the scores of American kids who were in schools with less than 10% poverty, they would be identical to Shanghai, the number one scorer on the exam.

 

Further, Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein believed there to be a sampling error in the test where a higher proportion of American schools in poverty were evaluated. Adjusting for this, the United States public education system ranked fourth in reading and tenth in math.

 

Let’s take one-step back, why are these international tests all that important? Reformers say if our students are scoring poorly on international assessments, these future business leaders and our economy will not be able to compete. It makes sense. Right? The data does not seem to corroborate this. Keith Baker, an analyst at the Department of Education, looked at the relationship between how well countries did on international testing and its future GDP. He found that “ the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth.” We have put all our belief behind a relationship that does not exist.

 

Now, the one thing that American students have that no country can compete with is our level of creativity and innovation. As we push more and more resources to attaining higher scores on standardized testing, we are sacrificing what makes America great. Look at the many schools that are dropping critical components of a liberal arts curriculum to pour more time and energy towards standardized tested math and reading classes.

 

​Legislators attempting to change education have this contrived notion that teachers are machines. Representatives argue that better teachers=better results. They treat teachers much like production lines of old. They argue that streamlining the production line for the purpose of increasing test scores is the way.

 

They say it’s the corporate way, the American way. They are right, kind of. That was the corporate America… of the mid to later twentieth century. They don’t acknowledge the industrial/organizational psychologists research that is driving the best global companies. Workers are not machines. Workers are human. Motivation is critical. Take these two for example: Google and Apple. Look at their campus. Look at their work schedules. Look at what their culture promotes. It promotes health, inspires creativity, and most importantly sparks motivation.

 

They understand that workers are humans and are driven by psychological needs.

Now what are these specific “psychological needs”?​
​In his TED Talk, Tony Robbins best highlighted what he feels to be the six universal needs.

 

The first four are of the body: certainty, uncertainty, significance, and love/connection. The final two are of the spirit: growth and living for something greater than yourself. I believe that if we are able to create an environment that better facilitates public K-12 educators meeting these six needs, we will revolutionize education. How do we go about this?

 

Change the metric, change the country.

 

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg recalls Paul O’Neill’s reign as CEO of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). During his first meet and greet with share holders, where CEOs typically declare their vision for boosting profits by lowering costs, he shocked the audience. He set out his vision: making Alcoa the safest company in America. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing the habits across the entire institution. All the stockholders were caught aback. They thought the company was going to crumble. Within a year, Alcoa’s profits would hit a record high. Thirteen years later, the net income was five times its original size; its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion. What shareholders didn’t fully understand was that in order to have the safest environment, the company had to establish several procedures. These safety procedures demanded a streamlined corporate structure and a production line that avoided injuries that would slow production. The important thing here to realize is that people operate within a system defined by its metric.

 

Turning to education, we have seen administrators’ decisions to cut classes of the liberal arts education to solely focus on areas that would be tested by the standardized test. Our metrics are out of whack.

 

I move for a change in the strived-for metric from high stakes standardized testing to teacher satisfaction.

 

Teacher satisfaction will be obtained by asking each teacher the following questions. Each of these will be rated on a 1-10 score, with 10 being the highest.

 

How much pressure do you feel that you could lose your job?

 

How comfortable do you feel asking for help?

 

How much autonomy do you feel in the classroom?

 

Do you feel like you are making a significant impact on your students?

 

How supported do you feel by your fellow teachers?

 

How supported do you feel by your administrators?

 

Do you feel like you have the resources you need to do your best work?

 

How collaborative of an environment do you have?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better teacher?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better role model?

 

These scores will be tallied and will be the primary determinant of how schools will be evaluated. The school’s score will be made public. Schools that perform poorly will have leading educators come to the school and help the school get back on track.

 

We will no longer strip resources from the schools that are most in need. If the teacher’s answers to these questions are yes, they will feel fulfilled by their career and intrinsically motivated, the most powerful driving force. Teachers dream about intellectually stimulating the future generation. They want to develop meaningful relationships with children. They want their kids to escape poverty’s grasp. We must create an environment that helps,not hinders, teachers.

 

Evaluation of teachers will consist of a student questionnaire and student testing. The student questionnaire will read as follows (Note: language will be geared to that grade level; it will be completely anonymous, with the option of the student to right their name if he or she wishes)

 

​Do you feel safe?

 

​Do you feel comfortable with your teacher?

 

​Can you be honest with your teacher?

 

​Do you feel cared for by your teacher?

 

​Do you feel understood by your teacher?

 

Do you look up to your teacher?

 

​Do you enjoy school?

 

​Do you feel like you’re learning?

 

​How much do you think about things learned in school at your home?

 

​Do you feel that your hard work is noticed and rewarded?

 

​Do you feel like your hard work is paying off?

 

​Do you feel if you have an error it is caught?

 

When it is corrected, do you understand why?

 

Do you understand how to fix it/ prevent it from happening again?


​​
The questionnaire results will be shared with the school’s principal and the student’s teacher.

 

The second component will be student’s scores on the exams that are a part of the school’s curriculum. The student’s scores on these will be compared to their standardized testing at the end of the year (in a diagnostic fashion) to ensure the teacher’s curriculum is up to par with national standards. This check is intended to prevent a situation where curriculum exams become super easy and everyone gets As, but at the end of the year all the kids fail to be proficient. In that case, the local school curriculum and tests will need to be made more rigorous.

 

Low scores on any of these metrics will not be immediate grounds for firing. The teacher will collaborate with other teachers and the principal on ways to improve his or her score much in a similar way as the Peer Assistance and Review program in Montgomery County, Maryland. New teachers with no experience and teachers who receive low ratings on these are assigned a “consulting teacher” to help them improve. The consulting teachers help teachers plan their lessons and review student work; they model lessons and identify research-based instructional strategies. The obvious follow up question is what if this teacher doesn’t or can’t improve?

 

That question brings up the idea of tenure and how to remove a teacher. Now, I believe K-12 “tenure” plays an important role in meeting the teacher’s psychological need of certainty. Much in the same way that you wouldn’t be able to focus on reading this article if the ceiling above you could cave in at anytime, the teacher struggles to take innovative risks with the thought that he or she could get fired at the end of the year based on high-stakes standardized tests. However valuable I believe tenure to be, I do believe that some districts make it a near impossibility to remove a poor performing teacher. In those districts, it should change.

 

I support the PAR model for removing poorly performing teachers. A panel of teachers and administrators at that school reviews the performance of the new and experienced teachers who have received one year of PAR support. The panel decides whether to offer another year of PAR, to confirm their success, or to terminate their employment. This method of teacher evaluation has the support of teachers and principals in schools that have adopted this model. In Montgomery with PAR, they have fired over 200 teachers with this new model; in the prior decade to PAR’s implementation, only five teachers had been removed.

 

A few additional principles will get us back on track and help us achieve this new metric of teacher satisfaction.

 

• I call for classroom sizes to be 12 students. Low socioeconomic students need attention. In Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code, he explores why some environments keep producing unbelievably successful talents. He breaks it down to three key characteristics that are needed: deep practice, ignition, and coaching. Deep practice is the process with which people focus intently on trying to achieve something and every time they fail, they acknowledge why they failed, how to correct it, and go about it another time. Classrooms need to be small to allow for the teacher to execute this oversight. The coaching relationship is key, and I think it’s pretty evident in the questions that are on the kid’s questionnaire above. Having a mentor who you trust and can provide a meaningful relationship is also something that I believe can only be fostered on this scale. I want to take a quick moment to expand on how important a role model can be.

 

According to Paul Vitz’s discussion on “The Importance of Fatherhood” in Eric Metaxas’s “Socrates in the City,” there are plenty of poor environments where the fathers are present and there is no criminality: “We think of criminal behavior as somehow related to ghettos or the inner city or something like that. When the social scientists take out whether the father is present and whole issue of the stability of the family, there are no ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural factors related to criminal behavior. There have been examples of people who have been step-in fathers that have achieved the goals a father should for their kid.”

 

I think the heart of education for lower socioeconomic children is providing meaningful and trusting relationships with teachers so that they can guide them out of their troubles. Additionally, the classroom of size of twelve students can be broken into pairs or groups of 3, 4, or 6 to compete in challenges and activities.

 

• As for Coyle’s ignition, students need to be surrounded by triggers that further their drive to learn. They need to be exposed to what can happen if they work hard in the classroom. As one example, I recommend after school programs where students have the ability to paint murals in their hallways of prominent historical figures. Even hanging up pictures of people nominated for Time’s People of the Year with a short descriptor below could do the trick. One of the telltale signs of a great school is its relationship with its community. I also wish to support bringing in prominent community members who can serve as role models for these kids and further ignition.

 

• Getting a higher percentage of teachers trained for a year or two before starting in the classroom.

 

• All schools should be staffed with a child psychologist, health care worker, social worker, and school counselors as recommended by the teaching staffs.

 

• Education should include physical education, health, literature, history, music, etc. (all the strong pillars of a liberal arts education).

 

• Teachers should be well paid. Payment should follow a curve similar to an enzymatic curve of saturation. Payment should be a function of three things: overall years of experience, how many years you have been at that one school, and performance. Let’s say a teacher has been at a school for 10 years, and wants to change schools. There should be some deterrent for having the teacher leave schools. Potentially, her pay will be lowered (to 8 years of experience [subtract 2]) with the aim to keep teachers at a particular school over the course of career. Low turnover is an important factor for students.

 

Now, there may be many contentions to what I have offered. One of the main ones against smaller classroom sizes is the cost. Administrators know teachers are the highest cost to education, yet they are the most valuable. People say we can’t spend this amount of money on education. This argument hits at one of the human rules of thumbs that tend to make us err as stated in the book Nudge. “According to economic theory, money is “fungible” meaning that it doesn’t come with labels. Twenty dollars in the rent jar can buy just as much food as the same amount in the food jar. But households adopt mental accounting schemes that violate fungibility for the same reasons that organizations do: to control spending.”

 

Now, as I respect any public official’s attempt to have a balanced budget, it’s important we realize the impact on our budget if we don’t do anything. We will continue to spend over $30,000 per inmate per year, yet $10,000 per student per year. Why do we continue to invest our money and efforts to far downstream of someone’s life?

 

​To meet the class size, we will need more teachers. Economically speaking, we know one thing: a strong middle class yields a strong economy. Increasing the strong middle class jobs (number of teachers) with reliable income will only be good for the economy. They will purchase goods and spend their money, thereby keeping the money in the economy.
​In general, it is my belief we need to spend more money on human capital that will be present in kid’s lives at the school. People and relationships make the differences in kids’ lives.

 

​Overall, the recommendations presented will create a profession that will be respected and desired. This will promote high caliber individuals entering the field. Right now, 40% of teachers leave the profession sometime in the first five years. I am confident that changing our metric would decrease high teacher turnover and burnout, which are highly problematic for struggling schools and more importantly struggling students. It will drive highly motivated individuals towards teaching. The metric will finally allow instructors to inspire curiosity and the love of learning in all their students. Instead of castigating teachers, let’s help them. Crazy idea?

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