The State of Education
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 by Laramie Boyd
        California reports that the state faces a teacher shortage, while at the same time 32,000 teachers in 230 school districts are laid off work due to budget cuts. Chicago reports that 26,000 teachers walked off the job over pay raises, benefit disagreements, teacher evaluation methods, the recall procedures for teachers who lose their jobs, and whether or not the principal should hire the teachers, rather than a personnel department or teacher union supported group. Needless to say, school districts throughout the country are experiencing similar crises in education. I wonder if there are any wheels in motion that can help prevent the schools from losing the very people given the job of educating and watching over our young people? And do we need to better educate our teachers to make them more valuable and therefore less expendable in the eyes of school boards of education? Some would even suggest that watching over the young people, keeping them off the streets, sometimes getting into trouble, is close to being as important as the three R's. In Chicago during the walkout, more than 350,000 children are left idle "in that war zone," as police officers were taken off desk duty to deal with any students who are roaming the streets protesting or otherwise causing trouble.
        There are a large number of committees, panels, and study groups that have been formed to supposedly explore some problems in education. At election time, politicians are good at announcing how important the education of young people is to the future of America, how we need to give each and every student the very best learning experience, so that they are ready to meet the demands of life when their schooling is done. But sadly, come budget priority time, it seems teachers, not administrative personnel, are the first to feel the knife when their jobs are cut off, leaving the students high and dry, so to speak. I have heard school principals state that it is not the teacher in the classroom that is the foundation of the education process, but rather the principal and his administrative staff that are the crucial elements to the learning environment. Can you believe that? A brief look into some "research" that is being done under the guise of "improving teaching and learning" in the schools could be very enlightening.
        One Commission was formed on "The Appropriate Federal Role in Education: Some Guiding Principles. No formal report was turned in on completion of the study. Another study was called "The Nation's Report Card: Improving Assessment of Student Achievement." The Commission that was to receive the study results of this research on "sampling data, consensus processes, and critical issues," was abolished before the study was complete.
Policy-relevant research, whatever that is, titled "Improving Education Through Standards-Based Reforms" was followed by "Research For Tomorrows Schools-Disciplined Inquiry for Education." These reviewed the state of the field of education. Then there was the "Research and Renewal of Education" group. I do wonder if these groups are getting paid with tax payer money?
        The "Commission on the Improvement of Education" aimed to strengthen the scholarship of education, while a separate committee was formed to develop "a set of understandings about pedagogical knowledge indispensable to good teaching," and another related committee was assigned "to synthesize social science research." What does that all of that mean?
        To top off the uncounted panels, committees, and projects, with a stated purpose of finding solutions to current problems in education, another commission was formed "to determine which topics had already been explored in considerable depth, and which topics needed further examination to develop research capacity." This last attempt "to help policymakers better understand problems and issues and research information" seemed needless and repetitive, to say the least. And there are more like these. Do we have to ask why the state of education improvement needs some repair?
        You do have to ask though, how high, or low, is "improving the quality of education" on the agenda of the candidates for the office of the Presidency of the United States, even of state and local officials running for office in November? Could we agree that, number one, quality teachers are needed, and respectable pay scales are a must to achieve that. Unruly, disruptive students need to be identified and corrective measures taken to insure that the students who attend classes who want to learn will get the full attention of the teacher. Codes of conduct need to be enforced, including not only foul language but appropriate dress also. Students need to feel safe from violence and bullying on campus. Curricula and textbooks and other teaching tools need to be brought up to date to allow for the advances in computer technology that relate to better and more instruction in the classroom. Aren't these some of the issues that committees and panels should be addressing, and advertising? Unless some or all of these goals, and surely there are others, are at least strived for, the status quo seems unavoidable. And that's not good enough for our young people, is it?