The Crimson White

We need education reform

Parker Grogan, Staff Columnist

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I recently watched the documentary Waiting for Superman, which explained the effects of the education system on the youth of the United States of America. The movie revealed that children in the United States face severe educational obstacles; for instance, most kids in every state maintain below-average reading and mathematics abilities.

Furthermore, many public schools are underperforming and, therefore, do not give kids the opportunity to further their education past elementary and/or middle school. Thus, according to the documentary, a majority of people who attended failing public schools during their childhood do not attend college, causing a large portion of Americans to be undereducated and, therefore, harder to employ. Education can either provide a person with or deprive a person of a promising future, and in this nation, deprivation seems to be more prevalent.

Many people see failing schools as products of their environments, claiming that poor, crime-ridden areas have worse schools; however, Waiting for Superman revealed that cities are failing because of schools–not the other way around. This notion supports the idea that education can truly change the world; by providing a better education, schools may be able to create better communities as well.

Thus, the problem is not the environment, but the schools themselves. Without proactive, passionate teachers, it becomes increasingly difficult for children to perform well, as they do not learn, and, for the most part, do not care. Kids learn from the adults in their lives, and if their teachers present no concerted effort in teaching, then children will do the same in learning.

The teaching industry changed with unionization and the implementation of tenure. Initially, teacher group sought reconciliation of teacher inequality, but rather than simply ensuring teachers couldn’t be fired because of a racist or sexist supervisor, the policy of tenure gave teachers a way out of working hard. Tenure, today, has become so easy to attain that it is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. This policy of people having job security so easily is only seen in schools; in nearly every other profession, employees get paid based off of merit.

The most reasonable solution to this problem would be for schools to adopt the idea of the former Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, Michelle Rhee. She thought that teachers should and would opt to give away their tenure status if given the option of higher pay based on merit. Her idea failed when she attempted to implement it because teachers unions refused to stand for such activity. Teachers unions continue to claim they work for the protection of the teachers, but in doing so, these organizations are just hurting the future of children in America.

The actual process of proposing Rhee’s solution would most likely never happen, simply because of the resistant nature of unions, but also because a meritocracy would be difficult to uphold in a public school. For instance, teachers could potentially be discriminated against based on age, gender and race without repercussions to their supervisors with a meritocracy.

Also, teachers could be fired very easily or paid a very small amount because of the opinion of the head of the school. Thus, it would be most beneficial to have an unbiased outside observer to come into each public school within a district and make notes about the teachers and give them suggestions for a whole week, and then when the same designated official comes back to the school in six months for an entire week, if the changes have not been made, that teacher should be fired or receive a lower salary.

Another potential solution to the problems that could be created with a meritocracy pay system and the suspension of tenure would be to judge teachers based on their students’ state test scores. However, this practice could also be tainted, as different kids perform differently depending on their natural abilities and inclinations, regardless of their teachers. Thus, the only real way to implement Rhee’s policy effectively would be to have the chancellor of education of every district or state observe schools in their area and allot pay accordingly and fire teachers when necessary. This way, students would become the priority for teachers, not money, and students would become the focus of the school, not teachers.

While this arrangement would be very difficult to implement, the improved structure it would provide kids with would be unimaginable. The best way to create efficient public schools in America is to become stricter on the teachers and to model after successful charter schools. For some people, charter schools are the only chance they have at attaining a good education, which definitely speaks to the much needed and wanted improvements of the public school systems in the United States.

Nearly every president has spoken on the issue of public education and tried to accommodate it or improve it by spending more money on the system; however, money can solve a portion of the issue. The main issue is the lack of desire and motivation of teachers to effect change in the students they teach and in the communities they live.

 

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We need education reform