I had no idea that tech blog readers had such an interest in public school education, although it makes sense that we all should. We have all been through the school system ourselves, and probably have children in it now. Alfred Thompson was a teacher and has some thoughts. Robert Scoble keeps his readers focused on the issue. Dan Farber has an audience too. Comments and links to my previous post were awesome. Techmeme keeps track
of all the the most popular conversations. Shelly Powers suggests how high school might look if Steve Jobs was in charge.
The main premise of my last post was that there need to be incentives and rewards for great teachers, and the ability to fire bad teachers. Let me add to that. There need to be incentives for good students and the ability to (fire) divert bad students to more appropriate programs.
If we are going to hold teachers accountable for performance we need to hold students and parents accountable too. We also need to offer alternative programs for students with different learning styles and different interests. The "one size fits all" public school education program doesn't work well for teachers or students.
Students should have incentives, recognition, and rewards for achievement, just like teachers should. Recognition is the best reward in most cases, and it doesn't cost much to do it. Rewards can be simple things like time off, first pick of some programs, special parking spots, free passes to school events, free lunches, whatever... it doesn't need to be expensive. Ask the teachers...they have hundreds of ideas...but no power to implement them.
Students should also have consequences and alternatives. Lets face it, not all students are in the classroom to learn. Some don't want to be there, don't care about learning, and are very disruptive. Get them out. It is a privilege to be in the classroom...make them earn it. If the student can't perform at that high level, then offer a lower level course. If they aren't interested in a college prep course then offer them other vocational programs, or just life skills classes. Some kids learn more about life playing sports than any experience in the classroom. There are lots of ways to learn and lots of different things to learn about. Why tie all students down to one education path?
Parents share an equal part of the responsibility. Every teacher will tell you that most learning happens in the home, especially the life skills and character lessons. If parents aren't involved and working in cooperation with the teachers...they have no right to complain.
Schools are all about local control. Your local school board really controls the school administration, who gets hired, how much they get paid, what curriculum gets taught, how big the class size is, and what programs are offered. How many parents have ever been to a school board meeting? That is where all the important decisions are made.
Presidential candidates, senators, and congressmen have almost nothing to do with public education. They talk a lot, but they really have zero impact on the education process. Governors and state reps have a little more impact because they make the decisions on how much state funding will be allocated to public schools. But, in most states, more than half of public school funding comes from local property taxes. And, the total amount that will be spent is proposed by the local school board and approved by local voters.
It all comes down to incentives and consequences for teachers and students. Unions have taken away incentives and prevented consequences for teachers. The union wants everyone treated and paid equally regardless of ability. All rewards are based on seniority. What a stupid way to run things.
The school boards have not put adequate rewards, consequences, or alternatives in place for students. They need to get creative and get out of the "one size fits all" education program.
Parents are in control. Parents are voters and taxpayers. Parents vote for the school board members and they vote to approve the budgets. Parents pay the taxes that support the schools. Parents teach and motivate their own children. If parents aren't doing their job and making the right decisions...the teachers don't have a chance.
I promise I will get back to my regular topics after this post. :-)