Our educational system has a great structure and we have great teachers within this structure. Today the methods being utilized to teach subjects are far different than in years past. The technological age has brought about more opportunities and methods to get the message across for each subject being taught. This is great.
Many say our educational system needs reform and to some extent I agree. Reform should take place but the question to be asked is what reform is needed? One of the big areas needed is to instill integrity principles within the system. Many teachers exhibit integrity in the way they teach as recognized by various programs to recognize teachers for their efforts. The problem is not the teachers but the system in which they are operating.
Today there are many types of schools and it appears they are all measured against the same set of criteria for success. Evaluation criteria can have some commonality elements but the overall methods of evaluation need to be drastically revised considering the technological advances in recent years. Teachers appear to be the scapegoat when problems surface within a school system. While teachers may have some contributing factors in some cases an honest evaluation of all the elements need to be examined.
Examination of a failing school needs to be compared with what is considered to be a successful school of the same type. There needs to be better communication as to what is working and what is not for the same type of school. When a school is considered to be failing against some degree of criteria several things need to take place. Teachers are only one part of a school system and should not automatically be blamed for failure as identified in some news reports where teachers were fired and replaced.
The remaining part of this article will present other elements to be evaluated for a school’s success or failure. The first is whether all the needed resources are available for teachers to adequately teach the subjects they are assigned. This involves not only textbooks but equipment that helps to present information in a way that better communicates with students. Money needs to be prioritized to ensure the critical resources are in place to provide a quality education. This involves great teachers and the educational material/equipment to give the school system a chance to succeed. Doing anything else is unacceptable. There have been examples identified in news reports where expenditures do not fall in line where parents feel they should when they are discovered. Parents have a right to know where their tax dollars are being spent. Schools which project inefficiency in the way they manage their tax dollars have a hard time getting the public to provide additional funds through bond issues on election days. One way to address efficiency is to collectively buy textbooks, material and equipment with other school districts. Volume often provides a reduced cost helping to make the limited funds of schools get the most for the tax dollars they receive.
The next element to be examined is the assignment of teachers for various subjects within the school system. Are they qualified to teach the subjects they are assigned or are they assigned a subject as a result of not having a teacher with the experience or education related to the subject? This can and does happen and when it does teachers should not be blamed for failure as fault lies with the decision to place them in the situation.
In addition to the elements in the preceding paragraphs comes the ethnic background of the students in the student body. It is a proven fact that some ethnic origins need their educational approach to be different. One size fits all will not work in an environment where students need to use the methods that will help them absorb the content of the subjects they must have to succeed. Part of this involves knowing the limitations and strengths and to adapt the teaching methods to accommodate the needs of the students. Teachers who do not have the capability or the training background to teach specific groups of students should not be assigned or placed in a position where they have little chance of success. This example points out one critical point that needs to be considered for any classroom or school. Different students learn at different paces and the school system needs to help teachers accommodate these differences.
The last critical point to be made is the management of tax dollars by schools. Today there are financial problems in many schools throughout the United States. Schools need to manage the money they receive wisely. This is not to say that those individuals involved with teaching the leaders of tomorrow should not have a proper salary for what they do. Sometimes the salaries of school officials seem exorbitant given the financial condition of a school district. When this occurs sometimes teachers are forced to lose their jobs due to budget cuts while salaries remain the same for other school officials. This situation presents a lack of integrity in the decision process.
In summarizing the content of this article it is important to properly examine the reason why schools are failing in addition to why schools are succeeding. Schools can learn from each other both from their successes and their failures. Our schools can learn to resolve issues by communicating with other teachers or districts on the methods they use with success. In addition with the various levels of learning between schools, teachers can learn from each other to help them adapt to the needs of their students.
The last point to remember is that one person does not know all the answers. Communication is the key between school districts and teachers to make improvements in the way teachers teach. The current system of evaluating school districts for success or failure needs to be closely examined and revised to ensure all the elements analyzed before jumping to conclusions as to the problem. What often appears to be the problem is only a symptom. Problems exist even in successful schools and whether a school is determined to be a success or failure makes no difference. There are always going to be opportunities for improvement to make any school system better. A key element in the evaluation process should be the teachers. They are the ones that have direct input as to what is working and what is not. Management makes decisions, but not always, without getting input from those who can provide critical information to make the right decisions to address issues.