Failing Schools Blame Game

“The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation
will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
~Abraham Lincoln

American public education must be reformed. Looking around at the new leadership in Washington, we are in big trouble! Our schools, once built on a foundation best suited to a free society, where good and taught truth in a positive learning culture. We need schools that provide quality, rigorous instruction, but more importantly instruction of civic virtue, moral character, and a comprehension of vice vs. valor that expands our children minds. We need great teachers who care deeply about education, who are willing to sacrifice higher salaries because they love the craft of teaching life-long learners.

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars has been thrown into school districts that do not teach their students the basics of how to read, write or even make change. With the State of Missouri focused on Workforce Development, we need to wake up to the fact that no employer is going to hire someone who cannot read at grade level. The sad truth in Missouri, our graduates are not ready to work in today’s market. Our students today will become our leaders in our communities, running businesses and expanding new industry. They will contribute to the health of their community or they will drain its economic resources with dependence on others.

Education across the county is in serious trouble, but many states are seeing better results. In fact a research performed by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) showed that states that performed in the bottom half of all states were also states with little on no school choice options.1 Yet the debate over school choice continues; whether expanding charter schools, ESA’s, virtual schools and more; the debate has revealed the chasm in our failing educational system and offer only band aide fixes to the deeper root problem in our education. Who do we blame?

DESE? Plenty of folks from superintendents, teachers, even legislators want to blame DESE. The DOE? (the Federal Department of Education) 40 years “in business” and we have lower test scores, lower SAT/ ACT tests standards, and we just keep pushing new, costly, unproved programs like NCLB and Common Core or Next Generation Science.

Teachers, are they to blame? Once a prestigious calling, one children ascribed to follow one day, they are treated with disdain; from parents, their students, and even the school boards. And unfortunately for them, they have bought into the myth that they are substantially underpaid which causes many to grumble through the day to day forced to “teach to the test”, unappreciated and disrespected, rather than educate their students using their talents as respected instructors.

State Legislators? Surly they must be the biggest ones we can blame. If they would stop listening to the special interests groups, lobbyists and superintendents and listen to reasonable ideas for changes that work in other states, then vote accordingly, wouldn’t we have amazing schools then? What if they approved more money? Disregard the statistical proof that spending billions hasn’t improved education; underfunded schools are a great place to place our blame.

Are parents to blame for the failing students in Missouri? Listen to conversations in the teacher’s lounges or attend a monthly PTA gathering and you may give a resounding “YES!” Parents no longer partners in education, but use the local school as free day care demanding their students be treated as rock stars, don’t get their feelings hurt, and abdicating any personal responsibility for their child’s behavior. Also, many are not equipped themselves to help their child work on homework, because they barely finished school themselves or cannot possibly understand the new math.

And the blame game could go on and on. If we find blame outside of ourselves, then we do not need to take any responsibility for failing our children and our schools. We blame rather than work together to incorporate proven educational methods, and stamp a one size fits all solution into our state education mandates.

Even with all the blame going around, I believe the one thing we can agree to blame why our schools are failing to educate our children: the Status quo. American public education must be reformed, but more importantly, Missouri must take a hard look at education. It is a complex issue with many factors working against us. However, we must stop digging in our heels in turf wars and join together as a team of pro-education advocates who want all children in Missouri to receive the highest quality education. An education that fits the unique needs and strengths of each child it serves. Doing so will not only improve the education our children receive, this will result in strong public schools, both traditional and charters, great virtual options, and better choices for all families no matter where you live.

1 2 Teacher Are Great, and the Pay Isn’t Bad! by Dr. James. V. Shuls

Jay Greene, Distinguished Professor of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, wrote about it in his 2005 book, “Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe about Our Schools and Why It Isn’t So.” Greene argued that when we compare a teacher’s hourly rate to those of other professionals, the pay is quite comparable. He also noted that we must consider other employment benefits, such as health care and retirement, which are typically more generous in education than the private sector.

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