BY SHARON MARTIN
It starts with an attitude. Pick out the worst behavior one can find, or the lowest performing school, and let it stand for the nation’s education system. Say the system needs fixing [and there is always something that does]. There … now you are ready to knock down the schoolhouse walls and start with something new. Never mind that the new is unproven and expensive.
The oligarchs have been trying to get their hands on education money for a long time. They’ve managed to get chunks of it with overpriced textbooks and endless tests. They’ve pushed for publicly funded private schools, especially virtual schools where there is little oversight and big potential for profit. Despite evidence to the contrary, an awful lot of people have been gulled into thinking this is good for them.
Here’s what’s good for students and this country:
Safe, comfortable school buildings
Research-based, teacher-created standards
Libraries and librarians
Classes with 14 to 18 students
Pull-out programs and specialists for the kids who need more
Respect all around
Real professional development
Time for teachers to work together
Is this cheap? No, but it’s cheaper than either ignorance or profit-driven schemes. Common sense will tell you that when you need to make a profit, either it’s going to cost more or you’re going to get less.
What’s the role of technology? It has its place, but it won’t replace teachers.
As a reading specialist, I can listen to a child read aloud from a list of words and short passages. Within a few minutes, I have a pretty good picture about the child’s fluency, decoding skills, and vocabulary. A few questions later, I have a handle on the child’s comprehension skills. It is time intensive, but it works. And with manageable class sizes, it’s an ongoing process.
There’s a computer test that will do all this for me. I can test a whole class at once in the school’s computer lab. Print off reams of paper and pore over the results, but I still need to listen to the kids read. Really. If you don’t hear the child read, you just don’t know what’s going on.
Nothing will replace qualified teachers. Computers don’t build community or foster intelligent discussion. One look at online comments proves the point.
Patriots should see it as a solemn duty to invest in public schools. Tax dollars should educate children, not enrich shareholders. Successful education builds lifelong learners and strengthens the country. This, not profits, is what education should be about.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer