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February 19, 2007


Alfred Thompson

Great post. I think that many parents don't feel like they have control because they don't feel like they have options. Parents of kids in private schools know they have options and so do not hesitate to influence what goes on in those schools. Not only that but since they are paying twice for education their money really is where their hearts are. Getting parents of public school children to feel the same way would go a long way towards improving things but things are stacked against them especially in larger districts where one vote doesn't seem like a lot.

Itamar Shamshins


I totally agree, and suggest we can sum it up: Accountability (or lack of it) is the single most influential reason for success (or failure) in any system made up of people.

The thing to notice about accountability though, is that all players in the game must share it, or else mediocrity sets in. I think your addition of students to the equation (and through them, their families) is the right way to go.

Kartik Agaram

"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."

It's more than that. Tech bloggers and readers are the most idealistic group I can think of, combining articulateness with experience as makers/designers. We dream about redesigning social systems just like computer ones.

Jason Rubenstein

Right on Don - I agree!

Somebody please do something about education and health care!!!


One of the worst decisions government has made is to make primary education universal service. Even though its aim was to give every kid a shot at an education, what has resulted is that most schools have devolved into little more than child care operations with textbooks.

Parents can offload their kids onto the backs of teachers for most of the day without sacrificing their jobs. If schools could selectively admit students with the consequences that parents would have to alternatively home school then it would force parents to put greater effort into raising their kids better.

Keith W

I agree with your points completely. I've seen my father's experience as a High School teacher, and it is not pretty. I'm glad you bring up the accountability of the students and parents, as it is popular to just blame the instructors. I think all three parties need to be working together in order to extract the maximum value from the time spent. If any one of the three, be it the teacher, student, or parent is absent or lacking it can seriously disrupt the learning process.

Mack D. Male

I think parents should have more than an equal share of the responsibility. My Mom was a preschool teacher for many years, and when the students are that young, it's easy to see which parents are involved and which are not. The kids with involved parents do MUCH better.

Yin-So Chen

Great point, Don. It makes no sense to keep the good teachers together with bad teachers, and good students together with bad students; no one benefits.

I do wonder what would happen to the bottom of the pile in such cases - would places that have difficulty to attract teachers today able to innovate? It is hard to imagine what it would be like, which is probably why we have public school systems the way it is today to ensure that everyone will meet minimum standards.

Also another question that constantly comes up - would parents opting for better educations for their kids able to opt out on their tax obligations. That would be another interesting development.

Nick Fera


Great points to start a debate.

I sit on a local school board where >90% of the funding comes from local taxpayers, nearly all residential. It's a tough message for our community (property value increases do not equate to increased school funding, though the state sees it that way), but it makes the role of the administrative staff and board very focused. Our goal is to great a district where "every child thrives."

With one of the bottom 10% of funding per child in our state, our district ranks in the top 10 (yes that's 1 through 10) in performance each year. Why? Because of the successful partnership between teachers, students, administrators and parents. Everyone clearly understands what is at stake, and even the children who are "bored" by school or are having a more difficult time, are differentiated in the classroom by marvelous teachers, and encouraged by loving parents. We believe, I believe, every child wants to learn.

Funding, or lack thereof, doesn't get in the way of progress and success. It's but one issue to resolve annually. Unions are not the problem...in fact I beleive they can encourage good staff to develop a life long love for teaching, when the relationship with it's district is sound, and grounded on one simple principle...we're all there for the children.

I think funding, government interference or lack of support, "good" versus "bad" students (your words not mine), and all the other things mentioned are excuses for failure. Of course there are tough choices, and there are going to be some setbacks. But when a district gets behind a common purpose as simple and "every child thriving", the chance for succes is real. The future can be bright. And, quite frankly, I see it as the community's, parent's adminstrator's, board's and teacher's moral obligation to get it right.

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