Thursday, September 23, 2010

Schools Under The Microscope!

Summer is over, and schools have started. Everyone, including the janitor, dreams about that outdoor vacation, even if he didn't go on vacation. Summer will linger in his soul for a long time.  School, like work, is where we return, after the fun, the recreation, the time off. School is where children spend most of their young lives.

Lately, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon on the subject of school reform. Chatrooms are filled with all kinds of people who believe that schools need reforming and the best thing to do is ....

Everyone has a solution.
Everyone has an opinion.
Even my oral hygienist.
After all, we have all been in schools.

As you know, I'm a retired educator, and presently serve as a member of the local school board.  In addition, two of my children are teachers in public schools. If I look at all the people that are teachers and follow this blog, we now have a very good sample of professionals who can jump in and get into the conversation.

Historically, in my lifetime, schools have never had adequate resources. Many teachers supplement their classroom libraries, supplies, videos and outdoor activities with their own moneys.  I go back to my first teaching days when sets of textbooks had to last ten years or so, and things have not changed much since.

When President Johnson's War on Poverty brought some needed funds, training and supplies into poor schools we began to address  the disparity of educational opportunities in different neighborhoods.  Rich neighborhoods had great schools; poor neighborhoods had poor schools.  The rich children had parents with books and accessibility to cultural activities.  Poor children had illeterate parents, no books, not even enough food. 

Now, Title One funds have continued to flow into schools with poor children, and the funds have done tremendous good to those schools. But, the dispararity doesn't go away. 

Rich folks will continue to have the advantages because they can afford to supplement their public schools with PTA and Booster Clubs funds and parent led field excursions, and parent volunteers, and mentoring. They can tax themselves to construct new schools or repair present ones.  Poor schools will have a portion of their funds cut, as of this writing, if the children do not make adequate progress. The local parents are too poor to provide supplemental funding to maintain the facilities, or to provide field trips and other enrichment activities.

There are five  issues schools face:

1. Motivate students to do their best and stay in school.
2. Provide  rich curriculum offerings, including the arts and outdoor education.
3. Achieve Adequate Progress as measured by standard and non-standard methods.
4. Maintain facilities so they are safe, pleasing, and attractive.
5 Hire and retain the best qualified teachers.

(to be continued...)


Donna said...

Boy, you are preaching to the choir! My parents were both teachers and two of my three children are. You hit all the high spots! My mom always used a significant amount of money from her household budget for the classroom and we had very little as she was teaching in the parochial school system at the time. I started a backpack project m,any years ago because I saw the need in our community to provide students with just the basics as their peers. In a country so rich by world standards, we are so behind in identifying what needs our schools have and try to meet them. Thanks for a good post!

Unknown said...

As a former teacher, I too feel strongly about education.

potsoc said...

When it comes to education, the powers that be are long on words but short on actions. My wife was in the education system and my work kept me very close to it.
I have always witnessed the devotion most teachers gave to their work and how they, most of them litterally created their own tools.
Unfortunately what was volunteerrism became expected by the authorities and even the parents themselves who were only too happy to unload their responsibilities on schools and associated professionals.
Today, I see education personel fed up with the situation, too bad.

Ann Best said...

One of my granddaughters is going to declare elementary education as her college major. We need good teachers, ones who love to teach children. I'm concerned for her; right now she's an optimistic idealist. The facts will subdue this, but I hope not enough that she won't pursue this low-paying career choice.

Rob-bear said...

I'm no expert on this, but it seems to me that money — targeted money — would help alleviate the problem. Money targeted to areas which need a real funding boost.

Even up here in Canada, I've read the stories of many teachers being laid off in the US. What a sad waste of an investment — investment in teachers and in the lives of children. How will children learn if they don't have good teachers?

What I do recall is a saying, thought I cannot remember the source. "If you think the cost of education is high, think of the cost of wide-spread ignorance."

Brian Miller said...

well you summed this up nicely...have you heard about the schools cutting bus routes...i am thankful we still have an art teacher thoguh now she is spread over the county...we do what we can to help...but...they are cutting 2 more schools at the end of this year to cram them in more...

Cloudia said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important subject.

Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

yaya said...

Your school board is very lucky to have you on it. Great post that hits the mark. A wonderful teacher can make or break a many wonderful teachers are sitting at home and hope to get a job, or worry that they might lose one?

Alexandra MacVean said...

You hit it right on the nail. I have a friend who is a band teacher and their school is considering cutting music and art classes. He is desperately trying to raise money to keep these kinds of classes/programs in the school as it is important. I'm eager to read more of what you have in store.

A Cuban In London said...

I might sound absolute in the opinion I'm about to voice, but experience hasn't contradicted me yet. A teacher has the most important job in the world. We're all teachers in a way. When you teach your child how to walk, or your niece how to ride her bike, you're teaching and educating.

This was a fantastic spot, and I can't wait for the 'to be continued' to turn into another post. :-)

Many thanks. And by the way, I'm one of those lucky guys who still enjoys picnics, but scroungers? Shoo them away, like the wasps! :-)

Greetings from London.

Arkansas Patti said...

We really have to do something. Our children are so far behind other counties and these are the same kids who will someday run this county.
I'd support anything that would improve education.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I am always mindful that desiring equality / social justice doesn't mean that everyone should end up the same but people should certainly have the same opportunities. How to achieve this? It's hard enough on a local scale, as you observe, but when you start looking at the developing world ....... gets even trickier. Very thought-provoking. Have a great weekend!

Helen said...

Well said, Rosaria! Today I watch as my grandchildren make their way through school - the Bend/LaPine District (in my opinion) is one of the best. Years ago I was very involved in the academic program of my 'special needs' son .. providing good special ed programs are also a huge component of any school system.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Great thoughts, Rosaria!!! Our schools strike at the very heart of our nation and our families!! So very important!!! Education should always be a top priority! ~Janine Xo

Woman in a Window said...

I am at a loss. I only know what I've experienced and it has been so little, my own education and that of my two children, and then preschool, as I ran a daycare/preschool for a few years in the states. This is my opinion and as I say, it is very little; those who have had the greatest influence on myself and on my children, and those children around me, are those who love what they do. It had very little to do with money, I'm afraid, and very much to do with a genuine love to see beyond the academics and into the life and spirit of the child. That is a difficult thing to mandate and budget.

That is not to say, and I say this loudly, that is not to say that money, supplies, support, just compensation and a positive physical environment are not important, but my god, after we address these, and perhaps before, do we ever need to focus on the spirit of the teacher and the child.


Rosaria Williams said...

Erin, you nailed it! Yes, the spirit and committment of that teacher and the relationship with that child. When children love their teacher, learning occurrs.

Amanda Summer said...

a powerful rally cry, rosaria. i look forward to reading the next installments--