Crisis in Education

May 10, 2013


Almost everyday the media highlights troubling bits of information about the state of education in the United States. These stories no longer arouse people’s interest. One looks at the title and skips the content. We already know the sordid details.

The new story we would like to read about is that the state or federal government and their respective education departments have stopped complaining and wasting tax payers’ money and are doing something about this national crisis in education.

Recent topics include:
(1) The sorry state of public schools – they are failing. Solution: close them.
(2) The administrators who are under arrest or are going to jail for corruption – viz. grade inflation / grade fixing. Solution: give them more power.
(3) The unqualified teachers with Masters Degrees in their subject who have permeated the classrooms and are responsible for the rotten system our kids have inherited. Solution: More training, deny tenure, tie tenure to # of passing students.

Let’s look at these complicated stories and perhaps suggest some simple solutions for this national disaster which the politicians can’t seem to sort out.

Let’s use New York City as our model:
(1) Approximately 150 failing schools in NYC have been closed or are closing soon. One problem is money. Real money has not been invested in these schools for decades. Many of them are in poor districts, populated by minority students. Are we doing the minority population a favor by closing their schools, or should we do them a real favor by making their schools learner friendly and improving their daily needs – health, housing and food?

There are those who say we do invest money in these schools. And it is true. We do invest millions in electronics which entertain the kids, but hardly teach them to read and write. (Contact mayor and former chancellor who benefits from …) All those standardized tests are prepared by Bearson and other book companies – lots of wasted money on these experts. These holes suck the tax payers’ dollars.

Charter schools accept carefully screened and selected students and eliminate those who do not fit their criteria. So what happens to the 80% of students (including immigrants, minorities, special needs) who are excluded from the exclusive charter of the charter schools? What happens is that their district schools are closing and they are stuck in purgatory. They return to another failing school with a new name.

Schools began to fail seriously and at a rapid rate when administrators began to receive bonuses for their good works. The more students that passed, the bigger the bonus. Well, principals and assistant principals began instructing (sometimes threatening) teachers to inflate those grades and pass all students who show up. All students that show up – no work necessary. The administrator’s bonus became the driving force in education, and not the quantity and quality of the students’ work.

(2) This goes back to #1 above: wasted and stolen tax payers’ money on electronics and book companies, and corrupt administrators sacrificing the kids. Grade inflation became the source of their evil.

(3) Everyone needs a scapegoat. The mayor, the chancellor, the politicians, the administrators, the parents, even the students. And who more readily available than the stupid teachers. Well, the teachers are neither stupid nor unqualified. Every teacher in NY has a Masters Degree in his subject (some have two Masters and dual certification), and 99% of them who teach 5 classes per day do the best job in the world with limited resources, corrupt administrators breathing down their necks, and a student population that includes young parents, gang members, students who check in with their parole officer weekly, the homeless, foster kids, to name a few groups – yes, NYC teachers face quite a cross section of the population every morning.

Perhaps charter schools should consider a branch for these special needs students. So yes, the NYC teachers are qualified and doing the best job they can, and it is not their fault that the schools are failing.

SOLUTION: NYC teachers do not need more training, and tenure should not be tied to the # of students passing. This is an insult to the students, and it leads to grade inflation and bigger bonuses for the administrators.
– Stop investing tax payers’ dollars in electronics – find out who is getting richer from the deal.
– Stop investing tax payers’ dollars in standard tests – it encourages teach to the test and the students learn nothing this way.
– Stop the charter schools. Somebody’s friends are reaping tax payers’ dollars and robbing and cheating our kids.
– Finally, end the administrators’ bonuses. This encourages fraud and corruption, investigations and arrests, and has no place in education.

This whole scenario – corruption in education and possible solutions – is spelt out in The Other Side of Teaching.

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