Scott versus Scott

Welcome to our blog. Here we will debate the days most serious topics and allow users the chance to discuss the topics as well. The range of topics will vary, but one thing will remain certain, the debate will rage on. Scott Lesinski is a proud conservative and Scott Jones is a proud liberal. However, the roles will switch on some topics. Stay tuned.

Scott Lesinski is currently an actuarial associate for a large human resources and insurance consulting firm in Saint Louis. He is also an avid student of US history and enjoys following current events, with an eye to their contextual relationship to the past. He is also, in fact, a former student of Mr. Scott Jones. Scott is working toward his FSA credentials, which is akin to earning a PHD in Actuarial Science.

Scott Jones is currently a high school social studies teacher at a high school in suburban St. Louis, MO. He teaches World History, AP American Government and Senior American Foreign Policy. He has a BS. Ed. (Secondary Social Studies) from the University of Missouri - Columbia and a M.A. (History) from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on a dissertation in character education to earn a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fixing American Public Education

I posted this some time ago as a note on Scott L.'s Facebook page. Since I've been on vaction last week and it continues this week, I thought it would be a good time to post this on this blog.


Education is the single most important a society based on the principles of democracy can do for its citizenry. In fact, it was the development of civic character (i.e. literacy, respect, responsibility, civic participation, a commitment to social justice and rule of law, etc) that our Founding Fathers thought was the most important task of the schools (Pangle & Pangle, 2000).

This important purpose of education was shared by people of diverse political philosophies as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (ibid).Other educational theorists have developed this purpose even further (Dewey, 1916; Westheimer & Kahne, 2000). Essentially, the best development of civic character comes from the direct teaching of civics and character (i.e. character education) and allowing students to practice these skills (i.e. service learning) as well as indirect methods of teacher personality, teacher actions and teacher commitment to students. Fleming et al (2006) found that students who had a teacher that was committed to practicing the ideals of democracy in the classroom had students more likely to become active politically and committed to the democratic process.

So what is happened? I blame two things: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 (No Child Left Behind) and teacher special interest groups (i.e. National Education Association, National Federation of Teachers).NCLB in and of itself is not a bad idea. After all, no one is in favor of leaving kids behind. However, it is the continuation of scary trend in public education.

Prior to the Soviet launch of Sputnik, character education and civic (citizenship) education was the core of what was taught in schools. Whether the subject be math, science, English and, of course, social studies, everything was framed in terms of civic responsibility as the key of why the subjects were important to learn (McClellan, 1999).

However, since the 1960s, schools not only have been loaded with other programs (i.e. breakfast and lunch programs, practical arts programs, special education) that while are important things a society needs to do for its less fortunate, but drain resources from public education that, when adjusted for inflation, remains at the 1950s level (Tuerck, 2008). In other words, schools are asked to do more, but with less real dollars. On top of this, schools must now use these limited resources (and in many cases, inefficiently, but no more inefficient than the Department of Defense) to not only serve these other functions, but also make sure that students succeed in developing literacy and numeracy skills that are the focus of the standardized tests brought on by NCLB. Furthermore, a school’s accreditation is dependent on enough students passing this test.

While NCLB has its flaws, in and of itself, I can’t disagree with its goals. However, NCLB becomes a problem because teachers are too insulated from the realities of poor student performance.

This is because of the teacher tenure system, which has destroyed teacher initiative to improve their practice (NOTE: While I will argue against teacher tenure, I am not volunteering to give up mine so long as the current system remains in place).

Why on earth should I be rewarded with consistent pay raises despite my inability to motivate students to perform? Yet, under the current system, my job is perfectly safe and there is no real motivation to improve.Closely related is the way teachers are paid. I argue all time about teacher pay with my more politically conservative colleagues who ironically support collective bargaining for teachers. I am close to earning my doctorate and I am paid at the same basic level as other teachers. My dissertation will prove (I’ve already run the data) that students who take my sophomore world history class score higher on the MAP test and have significantly higher junior American History grades.

My reward for my own personal research that has guided my efforts to get better as a teacher, NOTHING!!!! A BIG FAT 0!!! I guess I can say that I sleep better at night because of my hard work, but….

Furthermore, I have found that students who take my Honors Government class have significantly more complex understandings of the Federal Government and the United States Constitution than before they took the class. This is due to my direct instruction, the issue debates, moot Supreme Court and, online current events discussion board and class discussions on the issues related to the Federal Government. Students who take my International Relations class start with very little understanding of how American foreign policy develops and through my direct instruction, online discussion board on international current events, in class policy discussions and my National Security Council simulation.

My reward for my own personal research that has guided my efforts to get better as a teacher, NOTHING!!!! A BIG FAT 0!!! I guess I can say that I sleep better at night because of my hard work, but….

In other words, I’ve worked my ass off to improve as a teacher However, my efforts are not just for those who have academic success come easy from them. From my own research and discussions with students, not only have I found the academic success I mentioned earlier, but I’ve also found that over the last three years, I’ve had 100% of my students report that they love my class and appreciate my efforts as a teacher. (NOTE: my overall failure rate in my sophomore classes is around 13%). I have no discipline problems; in fact, I tell students I will NOT send them to the office or write detention, which has resulted in exactly zero incidents that would even warrant outside interventions.

My reward for working to get ALL gets to learn, NOTHING!!!! A BIG FAT 0!!! I guess I can say that I sleep better at night because of my hard work, but….


I don’t favor vouchers, because it doesn’t fix the problem. Sure, it would help a small percentage of students who probably don’t need help anyway. With solid parental guidance, a student will have academic success despite the school’s condition and the teachers. Anyway, most of the arguments I’ve heard about the benefits of vouchers has sounded like conservative attempts to get around the Supreme Court’s Brown decision. Vouchers would essentially re-segregate schools with only a few “acceptable” minorities accepted into the private all-white schools. The Declaration of Independence states that “all” have inalienable rights, which education is the best known way to guarantee life, liberty and pursuits of happiness.

Vouchers would seriously violate the ideas of “all” having access to this system that allows for success in life. Also, many teachers in private school have some of the same afflictions as those in public schools. The main difference is that they are easily fired if they don’t perform well and financially rewarded for making improvements (i.e. higher test score performance, advanced educational degrees). Once the slacker teacher is removed, the climate of teacher performance becomes the norm and the group of teachers inspires other teachers to become better.This professional environment does not exist in most public schools, at least at the high school level that has been my experience and the focus of my doctoral studies.

There are no avenues for a teacher to seek ways to improve instruction within the school (I had to commit to my doctorate in character education in order to seek improvement) and no reward/punishment for improvement, or the lack thereof.

Therefore, my solutions to fix the main problems of public education:

1) Return to a focus of character and citizenship education. Many research studies have shown schools that have focused on these original purposes of education have fewer behavior problems and higher test scores than comparison schools. The other things added to the school day that includes practical arts, fine arts, etc are valuable programs for students, but we need to return to a more simple purpose for schools. Teaching respect and responsibility. Once we do that, then the other programs became even better. This is not take something away to add something new. It is creating a foundation of character so that the other programs in the school become stronger.

2) Professionalize the teaching profession. Teacher associations and unions have for too long controlled the way teachers are viewed. We are professionals with college degrees and many with advanced college degrees and a few with advanced advanced degrees.

3) Get rid of collective bargaining. Teachers should not be paid just because of the number of years they’ve taught. They should be paid like every other professional person in the Western world – on their performance. In education circles, this is known as merit pay.

4) Destroy teacher tenure. If you aren’t doing a good job, you are fired. Isn’t that at the cores of being a professional?

5) Increase funding to lower class size (this can be done, in part, by streamlining local educational bureaucracies and reducing the number of programs expected of public schools). Let good teachers have ten students per class and watch them solve motivation and behavior problems. Then test scores will go through the roof. America has for too long tried to educate its population on shoestring budgets.

6) Stop using age as a measure of achievement. Sure there are things that we are able to do cognitively as we get older, but just because I am 13 years old, does not mean that my development is uniform. We all develop cognitively at different times. If I am 7 years old and I can do the work of someone who should be in sixth grade, then I should be allowed to do that work. At the same time, just because I am 14 years old, does not mean that I am at the same level of development as others my age. I might need to be doing working that some 8 years old are doing, because that is there level of development. Once a student gets to the high school level, then allow for yearlong classes because the academics become more specific to its discipline. Also, cognitive development becomes more uniform around the age of 16. For younger students who already show the cognitive ability of a 16 year old, why not allow them to stay cognitively challenged? For students who are 16 years old but do not have the cognitive ability of their peers, why force them to continue to fail? While some people have argued this is a bad idea because of the problems of having a 16 year old boy in class with 8 year old girls, there is no reason to discredit the idea. After this problem could be easily avoided by adopting same-gender schools. This is another benefit because boys and girls develop both physically and cognitively at different ages.

The reform of public education is critical to the continued success of our democratic principles. However, this must be for all Americans. The number one cause of poverty is the lack of a good education. Poverty causes almost all of the societal problems in America (i.e. crime). California, after all, is able to predict the number of prison beds they will need based on third grade reading scores from 10 years ago. THIRD GRADE!!! Voucher programs will not fix this. You want to get rid of welfare programs? Solve the problems with public education and watch poverty disappear. Watch poverty disappear and watch crime drop. Watch crime drop and watch every politician try to take credit for it. Education and crime, not only are the highly correlated inversely, there is a direct cause and effect relationship as well.

Let's be honest about the state of our education. If you are a white person, you will receive the second best education (minus good character education for the most part) in the Western Industrialized world. However, our education for minority students ranks 24th out of 25 Western nations when compared to the minority education in other countries. We must do better and reward those teachers who strive to make American education more equitable, more character based and more challenging.

I’d be willing to listen to everyone’s comments on these solutions. I know I haven’t thought of them all. I think there is enough in here to upset both liberals and conservatives. My professional colleagues (most of whom are conservative) call some of my ideas too radical. Most of my doctoral school colleagues (most of whom are liberal) call some of my ideas too radical.


  1. Hi Scott,

    "First-time visitor" and great post! My wife and I have long wished we were members of a professional association instead of a union.

    Also, I can TOTALLY relate to your frustration regarding good teaching not being rewarded and really bad teachers being protected by their unions. It's so, so frustrating.

    Just wondering if you guys had any solid ideas - given your HR and Ed.D readings/research - on what measures/indicators pay-increases could and should be linked to ... in a way that doesn't lead to neopotism and politicking in schools, districts, classrooms, and with parents? You guys don't strike me as 'standardized exam' end-all, be-all advocates, so I'd love to learn a bit about what you're thinking.

    Regan Ross.

  2. Scott,

    Im not to sure about same gender schools. Will this increase the gender gap and cause for an even more patriarchal society?

    Matt Huber

  3. I have to use my comment from an earlier post since it is now more pertinent.

    "education for minority students ranks 24th out of 25"

    I just don't get how, in the liberal point of view, it's ALWAYS the majority SCREWING over the minority.

    As an example, I'll use the Hazelwood School District.

    Here is a breakdown of each high school's demographics, their combined MAP scores in the areas of Math and Communications, and their Missouri High School Rank based on the combined MAP scores.

    HE 2007 69-White 1772-Black 4-Hispanic 1-Asian
    Combined MAP Test Scores: 22.8
    MO HS Ranking: 472/490
    Student:Teacher 19:1

    HC 2007 921-White 1914-Black 25-Hispanic 22-Asian
    Combined MAP Test Scores: 53.5
    MO HS Ranking: 443/490
    Student:Teacher 23:1

    HW 2007 1409-White 520-Black 50-Hispanic 34-Asian
    Combined Map Test Scores: 69.9
    MO HS Ranking: 384/490
    Student:Teacher 23:1

    In terms of percentage, Hazelwood East has the highest percentage of minorities. How exactly are we passing off a horrible school on to minorities in this situation? Maybe with you working in the district you know something we don't. Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong but doesn't each school get equal funding and work from the same curriculum? What gives?

    Conversely, the best high school in all of Missouri is Metro High School in St. Louis Public School System. It's ranked in the top 50 in the nation!

    The breakdown:

    2007 138-White 167-Black 6-Hispanic 16-Asian
    Combined MAP test score: 188.6
    MO HS Rank: 1/490
    Student: Teacher 17:1

    I know you say class size has a lot to do with it. It doesn't seem like 17:1 is anything amazing and I'm not a teacher but would it make that big of a difference between the 19 at East and the 17 at Metro?

    Side note: One of the worst schools in the state is Vashon High School in the St. Louis City School District and it's student to teacher ratio is 9:1. Their combined MAP test score is 5.9!

    According to parent comments and the school code of conduct at Metro High School, discipline is STRICTLY enforced. No fights, no bullying. It also seems like challenging class work and parental involvement are big at Metro as well.

    Could it be that we don't just pass off the "bad schools" on the minorities and that it has something to do with culture and family values and how each perceives education?

  4. Scott Great post!

    I do believe the break down in the American education system is the simple fact of complacency that hit America like a tidal wave called, “winning the cold war”. NCLB has helped contribute to the never-ending snowball effect of Americans becoming even more apathetic towards the education system. Regardless if the voucher system used by NCLB works or not, in our efforts are we not leaving our school behind. Instead of fixing the system we simply just outsource students to county schools & simply wonder why SLPS cant get their act together.

    Teachers should have incentives such as lucrative bonuses or salary brackets based on performance in the classroom. Why shouldn’t a great teacher who inspires his students be compensated for their hard work?

    If poverty causes all societal problems in America aka crime….so how do we explain such things such as Enron or Bernie Madoff, crime is crime but then again nobody really cares about white-collar crimes.

  5. OK. Let's try this. There is so much here.

    First, Scott, I disagree on the pay issue. More money will not motivate teachers to do better. I doubt that you can find a teacher who would work harder if only there were more money.

    Next, I agree that it would be a good thing if we treated teaching as if it were a profession. No unions, no merit pay, no guarantees of any kind; I think this would work great. We all go to a principal and get what we can. If the principal hates our work, we're fired. If the principal loves our work, we negotiate for more money. If they don't pay and we don't like it, then we go to another district. Lawyers and doctors aren't guaranteed anything. However, there isn't enough money for such a system, as great people would be attracted to teaching and would win terrific salary hikes. Our flawed pay system isn't going away, because teachers want to be paid more but don't want to give up the protections of being paid like factory workers.

    Obviously, there are people like you and me who don't care about the money. We're trying to do a great job because of our pride in doing a great job. How many teachers are sorry when summer arrives because they'll miss teaching?

    Obviously, NCLB is insane. Multiple choice tests don't mean much. You and I can score high on them, and so can others who learn how to write and evaluate, but they're really nothing but torture. Evaluating, writing and speaking are the real skills that we need to teach. However, we won't do that because we don't trust teachers or students.

    I don't think class size is as big an issue as many suggest. I had great classes at UCLA with 500 people in an auditorium. It got very hot in the debates, and those were exceptional. Of course, the rooms were filled with motivated students, though all were mostly just out of high school.

    In our inner cities we've got a problem, but it's not because of teachers. It's a result of social conditions. Money would help. Great and motivated teachers would help. However, as you pointed out correctly, we're often just trying to get around Brown v. Board of Education. Let's spell it out. We want black kids in their own schools where we can spend less and get low scores for reduced funding. That's not even separate but equal. We would like separate and despised, which has always been a big part of our system for blacks. No wonder their scores are so low.

    By the way, Metro has great scores and great kids because if you don't act right and score high, they throw you out. Metro's black students are the very best in every way; so, of course they'll score high. If they don't, they're gone.

    I do want to be very clear about merit pay. Pay should be based on politics, but not, of course, on nepotism. In a political environment, those who did the best job of selling their skills would win out. Let principals evaluate teachers and pick the ones who they want. The superintendent will get rid of bad principals, just as bad principals will get rid of rotten teachers. Allowing teachers, or parents, or test scores to be used to judge teachers is crazy. Teachers may be jealous; parents are ignorant and don't belong anywhere near any of this; and test scores won't help since many students don't want to answer those idiotic test questions. I wouldn't.

    Empowering teachers to be creative in order to produce super classrooms, enthusiastic students and real schools of character (meaning environments where everyone's voices are valued)would be a great start for reinventing education.

    Now, we know none of that will happen; so relax and enjoy.

    Mark Kasen

  6. "We want black kids in their own schools where we can spend less and get low scores for reduced funding. That's not even separate but equal. We would like separate and despised, which has always been a big part of our system for blacks. No wonder their scores are so low."

    That explains nothing about why test scores are so low.

    St. Louis City Schools spend WAY more money per student than any other school district in the area. At what point does money stop helping? Over $11,000 per student and you think they need MORE money?!?! For the love of!

  7. Wardo,

    A quick clarification on Mark's post. While you point to the $11,000 per student, Mark argues that most of that money never gets to the student. The bureaucratic nightmare that is the SLPS has evolved into a black hole that sucks money into it and never gets to the student.

    Mark argues here, as he has before (in our classes together), that there is never any serious reform in the bureaucratic structure of the SLPS because it serves a black consituency. If it were a school that serves mostly white students, then the reform would've happened decades ago.

    However, no one seriously considers reform of the SLPS because as one MO state senator said "who cares about the education of those f***ing ni***rs."

    That is the attitude that we must work to change if we are serious about educating our minority citizens.

  8. Mark,

    I know merit pay won't motivate poor teachers to do better, but it does create an environment of improvement. I do agree test scores are not a evaluative tool. However, advanced degrees (Ph.D or Ed.D), service to the profession at conferences, attendance of conference, participation in professional learning communities, etc are examples of things that our pay structure should reward.

    Accusations of nepotism can be avoided if the merit scale is explicity detailed in what it takes to receive more money. People who aren't working to gain these merit points should be weeded out and fired and not able to hind behind an antiquated idea of teacher tenure at the K-12 level. I would argue against it in higher ed as well, but that is a topic that is not part of this post.

  9. SJ

    As I've stated before, we agree quite a bit about how to fix our educational system. Essentially, capitalize the system, as you have pointed out. Merit pay, get rid of the unions, add back a competitive market place.

    The voucher system in DC was working quite well for minority students...until Obama and others decided to squelch the program and force those kids back in to the abysmal DC area public system.

    I'm appalled any senator would make such a racist comment. Who said that?

    I'm going to say something that you guys, as liberals, will probably not want to accept at first, but here goes:

    The vast majority of racism in this country is on your side. Beginning with slavery in the Democratic south all the way to today with Democrats continuing to push their failed social programs onto their hopelessly dependent black constituencies, we see this endless spiral of brainwashing to believe that Democrats are for the minorities. They can count on 90% of the black vote in this country, but for the love of...what have the Dems done for them? This education problem is just another in a long line of examples of problems created and perpetuated by liberal democrats for blacks in America.

    NCLB was written by Ted Kennedy. Bush shouldn't have signed it, but he was "reaching out".

    Please do not take me wrong. I'm not calling you racists. I'm just pointing out that the problems with our educational system, poverty, "race gaps", and whatever other race classification problems Democrats come up with are often times caused by and inflicted by Democrats.

    Its a sad shame that their hopelessly dependent voters don't wake up and see what utter chaos their elected officials have wrought.

  10. I think that they need to est more money into these low benfit schools that don't make as much for there students learning! Everyone students deserve to learn and get a great education. it's wrong for students to just go to school o just to pick them out of trouble!

  11. Hey Scott L...
    You ignored Scott's point relatd to my point. In white schools there would be instant reform. No white school would allow a suit salesman to run the show; nor a construction worker who builds houses. If they tried to put that into Clayton, there would be a riot. SLPS money goes to everyone but kids. There was over $100 million owed to SLPS, but it was stopped by the white Democratic Attorney General, who is now the Missouri Governor. Both sides are loaded with racists, those who hate blacks and pretend to seek a "color blind" society. Most of the conservatives are really for affirmative action, only it's affirmative action for whites. That was just affirmed by the Supreme Court. I doubt that you'd agree to be black if we could wave a wand.


  12. Hey Mark...

    You ignored MY point. WHO has been running the education system in this country for 50 years? WHO runs the NEA, the DOE, the national federation of teachers or whatever? It sure is not conservatives. We have been largely ousted from the academia and the positions of power within the educational hierarchy.

    Most conservatives are AGAINST any form of race-based anything! Mark, again, I'm not saying that YOU personally are racist and I believe you are not, but listen! You clearly have some anger toward conservatives and you are projecting racism on us. Our policies are about individual freedom and liberty! We don't play identity politics like you do! We don't talk about getting different groups of people to hate each other as you do with all of your class-warfare and racial comparisons.

    I'm really pissed that you would call the SCOTUS' decision reverse-affirmative action. There was an hispanic who brought that suit as well. Just so happens that no african-americans did well enough on the test. ITS A CERTIFICATION EXAM! You have to know that material to be promoted! Study harder!

    I look out on our country and I see 300 million individuals. I don't see groups based on race, sex, orientation, age, income level, or any other. Democrats and liberals are the ones trying to group everyone and pit those groups against each other. Like this absolutely MORONIC hate-crime legislation that Eric Holder was discussing last week. It will only apply to groups of people who "have been targeted for hate in the past".

    When asked if a gay person sat through a baptist minister's sermon against homosexuality, got angry, and went and attacked or killed the minister on that basis, Holder replied that the minister would not be covered under the hate crime legislation. THAT is just as ludicrous as having anybody covered under hate crime legislation.

    Please put aside your own inner biases against people like me and realize that we are not disparate groups in this country, but rather individuals, all with the God-given right to pursue whatever makes us happy. God blessed us with citizenship, He expects us to figure out the rest.

  13. "I doubt that you'd agree to be black if we could wave a wand."

    Wow, really? You honestly think Scott wouldn't be where he is today if he was black? Are you serious? That's low man. I read that as you directly calling Scott a racist and that's maddening. I've known him for 20 years now and I can assure you that racism is one thing that really gets under his skin.

    "Most of the conservatives are really for affirmative action, only it's affirmative action for whites."

    Wow, your really know how to choose your words. I think I speak for all conservatives when I say, "I am not for any kind of affirmative action!" Affirmative actions does nothing but ruin credibility. Say I did wave that magic wand and I was black...I recently got promoted at work, I'd hate to think that I got promoted, not based on my hard work and success, but only because the color of my skin. Moreover, I'd hate to think that's what other people were thinking. I want people who are the best at what they do to succeed to the fullest extent of their abilities. I prefer to live by the motto, "As far as you want to go," NOT, "As far as my skin color can take me."

    "That was just affirmed by the Supreme Court."

    Uhhhh, what!? Now my blood pressure is skyrocketing. THE PEOPLE THAT PASSED THE FREAKIN TEST ARE THE ONES WHO SHOULD BE PROMOTED!!!!!!!!

    "If it were a school that serves mostly white students, then the reform would've happened decades ago. -SJ"

    I need some clarification here guys. I want to hear the "whys" to that. Why do you think that would happen?

    I think parents would have a whole heck of a lot to do with it. That leads us back to my point that I brought up earlier, that was apparently ignored, that could the problems be tied to how cultures view the importance of education? Now, for those of you who think the government is the answer to practically everything I pose to you the question of, "Which is the political party typically in control in these constituencies?"

    BTW, "However, no one seriously considers reform of the SLPS because as one MO state senator said 'who cares about the education of those f***ing ni***rs.'"

    I think that's a pretty unfair assumption that because ONE MO state senator said that then NO ONE considers reform of the SLPS. Who was the senator that said that anyhow?

  14. It seems that education is the key for everything. If you are not properly trained to enter our workforce, upward mobility in society (both socially and economically) is nearly impossible. This is scary for a country that praises its democratic system. We can only have a true democracy if the people are informed and educated enough to participate in the governmental system. However, with the way our school systems are set up, we are not preparing students to do this. Generally, private and middle class districts get more funds since the property taxes are higher, allowing for a more modern and advanced curriculum that adequately prepares the students better. The main difference between the higher and lower class districts seems to be that the latter just teaches the student to get by, whereas the former prepares and expects students to go to college. Is this fair? No, we are basically perpetuating the same ongoing problems from former generations.

    There needs to be change, change that I think few would be willing to adopt or incorporate. For example, I know there would be much resistance if we were to make parental participation mandatory. However, in other cultures (my own, for example, Korean) mothers are responsible for making sure the children learn what they need to know. They take this role very seriously. They find study groups or tutors to ensure their child doesn’t fall behind. Many also send their children to Saturday school, where they simply learn about the Korean culture.

  15. Jenny, I believe you have hit the nail squarely on its' head.

    Parents need to take a MUCH more active role in their children's education.

    Ask just about any successful student who manages to navigate through high school and college and they will likely tell you that they had strong parental support. They probably come from a household with both parents, still married. Academic excellence was likely demanded, not just encouraged or welcomed, and their parents probably spent time tutoring or finding someone to help tutor them at some point in their life, even if it was just exposing their vocabulary to up to 65,000 words by age 5.

    This is what Wardo is getting at. Parents (plural! not that single parents CAN'T do a good job, but its much less likely) need to put their children first and do whatever it takes to encourage and promote and help their children to succeed.

    One side-note, you mentioned that white, middle to upper class districts get more money. That may be true in some instances, but the vast public is not footing that bill...the individual community is doing so. They voted as a community to increase property taxes to better fund education, so I say, fine.

    On the other hand, as has been pointed out, SLPS gets around $15,000 per pupil, twice the national average for public schools. And they are terrible. If you have corrupt bureaucrats, you have to start weeding them out. More money will not solve any problems.

  16. Scott-

    I agree with your discussion about how to fix the educational system. I find that there is one thing that is missing from the current educational system that a lot of us had when we were groing up: A VILLAGE!!

    What do I mean by that, might you ask? Simply that "It takes a village to raise a child!" When we were coming up, we learned about character building by watching our parents, their peers, and other adults not in our circle, and we assimilated that into our own beliefs and behaviors. We were able to become an individual whom had respect for others and themselves.

    As times have changed, we see less of this kind of character building, and we see children assimilating things that they see on TV, hear on the radio, or see their peers doing. This is happening because society has become such that the family is broken:

    1) women are left to be mom and dad

    2) women have to be in the work force

    3) positive role models are scarce

    4) children are asked to grow up faster by helping to take care of siblings while mom is working to support the family

    5) educational facilities are failing to help promote character building

    and finally

    6) fathers are no longer being fathers

    How can a buliding stand without a strong base of support. It cannot, will not, and shall not. A child is like a building. You have to start off with a strong base (the Village), give it support (Mom and Dad) and allow for the child to stand on his/her own (education) or they are doomed to collapse.

  17. Scott,

    I completely agree with your issue about merit pay and tenure. At this point in time (in this country, at least), teaching has not elevated itself to a profession. I am a MO certified teacher (science), and I have been working in the st. louis public schools for the last 5 years. I was asked to consult (ie leave my own classroom) and go to the failing schools to help improve science classrooms. I have not regretted the move for the most part, but the problems are mind-boggling. We have PE teachers "trying" to teach Chemistry! Can anyone tell me how this makes any sense? I have degrees in both Secondary Education and Biology and continue to work on my practice on my own, but in many places, science teaching is tantamount to baby-sitting. In some places, Teach for America kids (they try their best, bless them), are just thrown at the problem, only to be eaten alive.

    When I consult, Teachers usually fall into 2 categories. I have worked with some good, smart new teachers who want to help kids learn (and most importantly, LIKE the things they are learning), and these young people have been a pleasure to work with and coach. Others, usually older teachers are either burned out, pathologic, or just plain uncaring. These teachers are the reason that I will be a scab forever. They have been teaching longer than I have (albeit poorly) but have yet to discover that their students will learn how things work better if they have the materials in front of them. Hands-on learning is not something new in the Science Education world. So why are they being paid more instead of being fired? The problem is, there just are not enough good teachers out there.

    Add to the personell problems the absence of proper materials, supplies, and facilities for teachers who want to do well, failing schools just shortchange students all the way around.

    Of course, this type of thing would only happen in places where the entire community is troubled. Parents are disengaged, and often students have very little supervision or guidance. Imagine a school in a rich neighborhood with lots of parental improvement trying to install a PE teacher as a Chemistry teacher. Or a random Teach for America candidate with a business degree teach social studies? It just wouldn't happen.

    The kids know they are being short-changed. Many of my students in the Wellston school district actually have been "caught" trying to enroll in the neighboring University City high school. Although both schools are fairly close, the schools are radically different because some of the UCity school parents are Washington University staff, and they watch the school carefully. Eskridge High (the wellston school) has a very small student population of which 100% lives under the poverty line.

    This just can't keep happening, but it will. It will happen this upcoming school year, and the students who are behind in the education game will be even more behind starting on day one...

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Education is very important subject. Even though I am young adult, I still think that education subject. These children are our future. We need to have children be educated. I think that it needs to be a law that everybody needs to complete high school diploma. If a person is dropping out, then it should be a law that students need to get a GED. My economic teacher suggested that we take away something that is important like getting a driver’s license. A person can receive a license when he or she completes high school or GED. I agree with her because children need to be educated. What can we do to make school more interesting? There needs to be extra curricular activities that can be for students that have money and students who do not have a lot of money. I bet that there are studies that show that if children are in extra curricular activities, are less likely to join gangs, drugs, and more. We also need to get teachers that get involved in teaching children, and make learning fun but educational.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. I have noticed that you blame the parents for a lot of things. I agree that it is the parents’ job to teach their child to have manners, respect, do well in school, and a lot of other things. A parent can only do so much before. When a child is 16 or older, it is a parent’s hope that you have taught your child enough to be to be able to choose between right and wrong. There are children who grow up in a loving caring environment that was taught values and what is right and wrong, and the child grows up and gets in trouble. On the other hand, there are children that have grown up in a horrible environment and children have grown up and are assets to society. When do you stop blaming the parents and start the responsibility on the child?

    Sorry about the deleted messages. I keep thinking of things and I do not know how to edit when it is already posted.

  23. I can’t agree with you more that public education is in need of fixing.

    I am a student that had gone to a public school for most of my life, 3rd grade till graduating high school. Public schools today spend way too much time making stupid rules when they should be focusing on teaching. The stupid rules I am speaking of is when you can or can’t use the bathroom, eating in the classroom, and what classes you have to take to graduate. None of my teachers taught me respect or responsibility, my parents and grandparents taught me respect. Responsibility there were none, if a paper was due and you didn’t have it done you could have extra days.

    As in the solutions to fix the problems of public education I agree with some of them. Teachers shouldn’t be paid for how many years they have taught. They should be paid by their performance and how high their education goes. As for destroying teacher’s tenure, I think that is drastic but you should be fired if you are not doing a good job. I am going to become a nurse and if I do not do a good job you can be sure I will not be able to keep my job. Increase funding to lower class sizes is a great idea, in some classes teachers do not even know the first names of their students, not because they can’t remember but because there are just way to many kids in their classes.

    Public education to me is a joke, but in defense private education isn’t much better. Education needs to be redeveloped but I doubt our government will agree.

  24. Do not get me started on the MAP testing that in school districts. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, and the school pressured us into doing really well on our MAP testing. Some school depends on the test scores. It really makes me mad that the state requires it. Why??? You take two weeks of testing, and get a score. I am a student with a respectable grade point average; you would think that my scores would match my grade point average. WRONG!!!!!! I do not know why, but I have a very hard time with taking standardized tests. What should be done is have an average of all the students’ grade point average from the graduating class. A group of people take a test, and make a decision. Just on that one test. The teachers do not even make up the test, and have no say in what goes on with the test.

  25. Standardized tests are given all the time. Let’s use the example of the MCATS. You need to take that to get into medical school. This test does not predict how well of a doctor he or she will be. All this really predicts is how well he or she knows the material. It is how a person does in his or her field. A person can be a genius when it comes to the classroom, but when he or she gets out on the job, he or she freezes up. Think about this: Who do you want working on you or your child---a person who finished top of his or her class in medical school, but is not very good in the field. OR do you want a doctor who is not at the top of his or her class in medical school, but is good in the field. Personally, for me, I would want the second option. If he or she knows why and how to fix while keeping me alive, I do not care about what place he or she was in the classroom.

  26. I said before it is how you do in the field, not how you do in the classroom. This works for me. I am not school savvy. I have a hard time in school. I am a student with a decent grade point average, but lower test scores. I am better when I am learning hands on, and this is what happens in clinical. I think that we need to get rid of standardize test, and focus on the overall grade point average. When standardize test scores are look at, the person can make a conclusion how the type of student he or she is. Have you ever thought you did not like a person, and then you start hanging out with that person then make a friend? This is kind of the same idea. If you just get one side, then you do not get the whole picture. What needs to be in the picture is student’s grade point average.

  27. Melissa,

    Would you be comfortable on the first flight of a pilot who didn't do well in school, barely passed their test, but the teachers all feel he/she will do a good job if given a chance?

    What about your surgeon?
    What about your air traffic controllers?
    Other drivers on the road?
    Your accountant?
    Your stock broker?

    I think you should see my point. We tend to want excellence out of others, but make excuses for our own shortcomings.

    I love it when I hear someone say their are not booksmart, but they are street smart. That tells me they are not bright, but try to develop something else so they don't feel as stupid as they actually are.

    You want to get rid of standardized tests, and I agree they are not the whole picture, but shouldn't there be a minimum level of knowledge for people so that we know they know something in their field?

    I want a doctor that knows the difference between a drug with a Greek name or a Latin name and what the prefixes and suffixes mean. My life depends on it. I think we should test to find out if they know these things. Without the book knowledge, hands-on learning becomes an experiment. I don't want my doctors/pilots/nurses learning on me. I want them to know what they are doing and why.

  28. First I want to say the No Child Left Behind Act is the stupidest act I have ever heard of. This act takes the average of all kids in class to tell the supernatant if the students have failed or passed. The act is supposed to show that if students fail then the teacher hasn’t done their job well enough. This act can not possibility show if it is the students or teachers fault for failing. If children want to learn, they will and if they don’t care about school then their not going to fail. I work very hard at my school work and I should not be punished for other students who do not care about their grades.
    Next I think the whole tenure for teachers should be taken away. Just because a teacher is at a school for a long time does not give them the automatic reason not to be fired. I feel that once a teacher reaches the 10 year mark, should be treated the same as a teacher that just started teaching. I once had a teacher who taught for 30 years and she was the worst teacher ever. She never taught us anything because she expected us to know everything already. If we knew everything why would we be in school then? I think the school system in some departments is corrupt, but I don’t think anyone is ever going to make it better.

  29. Public Education for blacks is merely a joke. We will never get the same equal education that whites receive . There are many reasons why the system has failed blacks when it comes to education and some of those reasons involve lack of interest in the students, lack of support from parents, lack of proper materials, over sized classes, and lack of support from Board of Education. So many of our schools today look down on providing for and teaching black students. When the desegregation program started so many black parents transferred their children to white schools in order to have a better or fair education for their child. I don't think our children should have to or would have to transfer to county schools if the public school officials, the parents, and teachers of these students would take a deeper look at the causes of our black student failure rates rather than at black students as a failure.

  30. I feel in our society that teachers are not valued enough. Teachers are what shape and mold the future of the young students now. Without these teachers, we would have unqualified and uneducated people trying to get jobs or continue onto college without proper education. I feel teachers should make more money. I have a friend who is a 3rd grade teacher with a master's degree. She is making less than her brother who does not have a college degree and is a manager at a local retail store. How is that fair? My friend and I talk about this all the time. She is educating young children to better their future and he runs a retail store. Teachers these days should certainly be paid more than there are now.
    I also like everyone's comments on the parent's role of the child's education. It is very vital that parent's play an important role in their children's education. Parent should always be willing to discipline, help with homework, talk to the teacher when necessary, and do whatever they need to do to ensure their child's success at school.