There are a lot of things that can be done right now by the state legislature that would make a difference. Below are a few thoughts on education reform.
1. Must implement better management of discipline and respect
2. Give school districts relief from lawsuits – school systems are an “easy touch” for a quick settlement.
3. A teacher can never touch a student. This is not a law; it is school policy to prevent lawsuits. First person teacher reports:
- Girl has tantrum in front of classroom door, room must be evacuated awaiting arrival of parent. Since girl is in front of door, principal advises evacuation of room by taking student out the windows. Lost instruction time – one hour.
- Fifth grade teacher comes to school in pigtails; a girl student latches onto pigtail and will not let go – teacher carries girl to office while she is dangling from pigtail. Lost instruction time 20 min.
- Many more – all colossal time wasters. This is an example of a common school flaw; many times, schools sacrifice the many for the few.
4. Foster the return of consequences – many school systems avoid student accountability for bad behavior, poor performance. Many schools cannot/do not fail children. I hear of students who seldom come to class and do absolutely no work, but the teacher cannot fail them. Is this out of fear of a lawsuit? Life is full of failures; school can teach how to deal with this experience.
5. Toughen up grading, 43% of all high school grades are “A”. Gives false impression of student excellence. One survey asked parents if their children were performing at grade level; 90% said yes; in fact, only 30% were.
6. Each school should have a career path for teachers – the highest and most respected level teacher is the school kaizen leader; they work full time to assure never ending improvement.
7. Teachers must be paid enough to draw them from the general labor pool into the classroom. There are no longer enough who see it as a “calling” to fuel the ranks.
8. A common ingredient of top schools is empowered teachers. Teachers need to be represented in the management circle directly instead of through labor negotiations.
9. In the best international systems, the majority of high school grads take the vocational route. Forget the theme that all students should attend college; all should attend either a college or trade school.
10. A student on a trade school track will have a different curriculum. For example, the level of math they need is middle school; a research finding.
11. In many of the top international systems the schools give their students a high school education in 10 years instead of our 12 yrs. Their students spend the remaining 2 years taking college courses (just like our AP courses) or in the pursuit of a trade certificate. We must accelerate our programs.
12. The state of Maryland just completed a large and comprehensive study; in the past they have been a top system. They were surprised to find their CCR (College or Career Ready) number is 40%. The goal of their reform is to raise this to 80%. Indiana and Wisconsin are probably around 35%. States should set a CCR goal of 80%.
13. Begin the education of for the neediest children at 3 years old. Among other things, teach these children good behavioral habits. This will serve them well for the remainder of their lives. Character and grit are the antidote to discipline.
14. Stop social promotion; the shame of not being with their peer group is of little consequence if they go through life with the shame of not being able to read. Students learn to read from PreK to grade 3; after that they read to learn.
15. Pay particular attention to overhead. In a recent (2020) study the author estimates that only 52% of the Wisconsin ed budget goes to support instruction; the rest is overhead. A study of Illinois and its 102 counties had 852 school districts. An estimate of the cost of these high-priced employees gives a number of $900 million. Where possible, in smaller counties, shoot for one superintendent and staff.
16. Bureaucracies have a terrible pattern of constantly getting bigger. What keeps a bureaucrat busy? It’s reading reports that they have insisted the teachers and principal’s office submit to their office. This is particularly true for the bureaucrats in the Department of Education in Washington. If I were king, I would dismantle about 90% of that office. Student performance in reading and math has not changed in 50 years in spite of all the national programs coming out of Washington.
We must take action. Write to your local and state Chamber of Commerce. This is the organization that has a high vested interest in seeing education improve; after all the graduates of the state schools are a major source for their employees. Once they decide that educational reform is needed, they have plenty of influence on the legislature to set up a study commission. Here’s a template to help you get started.