There is a lot of brouhaha over Common Core right now. Personally I am tired of idiots blaming every stupid Obama Administration policy, every idiotic Dept. of Education directive, every factually incorrect statement made by a book publisher, and every dumbass move by an individual state on the Common Core. The Common Core is minimum standards dealing with math, reading and writing and a nation wide test that comes with those standards. Is it as high as we really need? No, but it is higher than what most states used to have. …but guess what, any state that adopts Common Core can put in standards that exceed it. Also the Common Core standards were a state pushed initiative, not a federal one, so stop saying this is overreach by the federal government—it isn’t.
We are conservatives, we’re supposed to be the informed and educated people…but if we keep stupidly blaming things that have nothing to do with the Common Core on the Common Core then we appear uninformed.
We don’t blame science because liberals shout their BS religion of global warming.
We don’t blame the Constitution for the fact that liberals violate our rights in the name of the Constitution.
Then why should we blame the Common Core standards, read them there is nothing wrong in them because some idiot liberal states are doing a lot of things that aren’t in the Common Core (but using its name).
The standards are fine. Read them and tell me if you find anything objectionable…it’s certain that liberal states and the way they’re implementing them/adding to them that is the problem.
If we don’t attack the right thing, if we don’t understand who the enemy is, then we won’t win.
But since some people need to attack something in education let me suggest 9 other things we could focus on that would actually lead to better schools.
1.Get Rid of Useless Professional Development
Tied to a lot of complaints about Common Core is the whining about it will cause teachers to teach to the test. This (A) assume that one on can only teach the standards and nothing else and (B) that teachers can only teach in one way. In reality there is a simple truth—Bad teachers will only ever teach to the test, good teachers will always teach what is on the test and go beyond. The reason you have standards is that you’re trying to limit the damage done by bad teachers. I know everyone likes to point out all the terrible points of No Child Left Behind (and there are many) but the fact is that putting in testing put in a lower bar that even bad teachers had to meet. This was a great thing because you at least had a standard, any standard, in some parts of the country finally and not just bad teachers skating students without any concern for whether or not they learn anything. And teaching to the test is teaching the minimum standards which is what we want if the standards are high enough. Tests are supposed to reflect the items learned – duh!
If you actually want teachers to not teach to the test then get better teachers, don’t get rid of the test.
And how do you get better teachers? Well the first thing you need to do is get rid of the things that drive good teachers out.
One of those things is professional development. What is professional development, you ask? Standards vary from state to state, but professional development is a requirement that to keep your teaching credential you have to take so many hours of professional development or courses so that you can continue to improve as a teacher. It sounds like a good idea, that teachers should continue to refine their craft. But while it sounds really nice, it isn’t. What it turns into is taking state approved courses on teaching strategies that no competent teacher would ever use or lectures on information that has no discernable use in education.
For instance I had to take a two week professional development course last year on “Structured English Immersion” to keep my Arizona teaching credential. Structured English Immersion is fancy teacher speak for “how to teach English to kids who don’t speak English.” It cost me several hundred dollars to take this course. I teach high school and not a single thing discussed in this waste of my time and money could ever even theoretically be used in a high school course. Professional development is supposedly there so we can learn the most up to date research on child development and teaching practices…but strangely enough the most recent study listed in the course material was published during the Bush Administration (no…I don’t mean W.). Yeah real cutting edge right there. Not to mention the entire tone of the course was that you have to coddle children who don’t speak English and not encourage them to actually learn English, speak in English, read English and use English in every aspect of their life (you know, what actually works).
All other professional development is like this. For instance I’m also going to have to take a few college courses between now and then (again out of pocket) to keep my credential up. Now while I’m going to try and pick courses that relate to my field, most teachers pick college courses that relate to Education…Education courses are a lot like the above described Structured English Immersion…outdated bullshit that will never help you reach students.
And we charge teachers for this…because teachers make so much money that they can just easily drop money on things like this without any worry.
Or maybe a lot of good teachers realize they can get jobs in other fields that don’t attempt to fleece them at every turn (you don’t want to see my fees that I also have to pay to keep up my teaching credential).
But, some schools pay for their teacher’s professional development, so it’s not like every teacher is getting fleeced (they’re just losing time). A lot of public schools have in-service days every year to ensure their teachers get their hours. On average they’ll hold about 5 of these days a year…now let’s say your school of 700 students has 20 teachers, each teacher making $52,000 a year on average (over the course of about 190 contract days, or about $273.68 a day), so to have those teachers take out 5 days out of the year for this sort of in-service professional development costs the taxpayer $27,368.42 a year for a school of only 20 teachers (plus of course the costs of time it took to set this up, to bring in someone to do the training or have a teacher trained to do the training, and the costs that administrators will also participate in this stuff…so let’s round it up to $30,000). $30K a year for each school in America paid with taxpayer dollars (2009/2010 – 98,817 total public schools = $2,964,510) wasted on irrelevant information that won’t help you be a better teacher.
How about this, let’s just require every teacher to get a subscription to the Journal of Higher Education and Kaplan which will actually keep them abreast of research in education and save about $29,000 a year by not having this bullshit.
The fact is this is a scam. It’s a scam for states to make money off approving the courses, off of charging teachers over and over again, for the colleges that make money after forcing teachers to participate. In all my years teaching I have had nearly a month of my life taken up in professional development…not one iota of it was worth a damn. Teachers get better by teaching, by observing other teachers, by talking with their colleagues and by self-reflection. THEY DO NOT LEARN BY SITTING IN STUPID COURSES HEARING OUTDATED MATERIAL THAT IS NOT RELEVANT TO THEM. This is a scam for states and colleges to make money and nothing more. It wastes taxpayer money and drives out competent people from the field who have better things to do than deal with this stupidity.*
2. Fire Administration.
Administrators are something that schools tend to pile on. Superintendents. Assistant Superintendents. Principals. Vice Principals. Deans. Counselors. This list could go on for a very long time. In fact since 1970 non-teaching staff has grown by 138% while student enrollments have grown only by about 8%. Any test standard you want to look at for quality of education has remained about the same in that time. So all those paper pushers seem to do nothing…but they do get paid. And if you think teachers getting paid 52K a year is high, you should see what administrator’s charge.
I think it is safe to say that 90% of school administrators and non-teaching staff are there only to fill out federal/state/local red tape. Get rid of the red tape and get rid of most of the administrators. They serve no real purpose. And the few that do serve a purpose are grossly overpaid.
And more often than not they serve as a hindrance to good teachers rather than help. The fewer administrators you have I promise you, you will see an improvement in the quality of education.
At the very least the next time your local school tries to pass a bond or tax ask them how many administrators have been axed and how many have taken major pay cuts. If everyone doesn’t fall into one of those categories then vote anything they want down until they make serious cuts of useless people. Do it for the children.
3. Hold Back Students Who Aren’t Making the Grade
Lots of people are whining about how this hurts the poor students who are already struggling…What people should be bitching about is that we’re not holding students back in grades K-2 and 4-11 as well—and in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. If children don’t understand something they need to be held back in the grade they were having problems in until they get the needed understanding. I don’t care about complaints of self-esteem…trust me students will feel much better about themselves if they aren’t constantly behind and constantly feeling like they’re too stupid to get it. And holding them back a grade can help in preventing this. Not everyone progresses at the same rate mentally and some students (a lot of them in fact) need to be held back.
And the added bonus is that teachers in higher grades will now no longer be wasting time going over concepts from previous grades because half the class should have been held back at some point or having to waste half their day on the kid who should have been held back two or three times. This means all the students will get more out of every single course.
Coming tomorrow suggestions 4-6