The Condition of the Public School System
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Where do I even begin to address the condition of our educational system? With all the constant changes being thrown at administrators, teachers, and students, it’s no wonder many of them are frustrated, worn out, and discouraged.
Curriculums have been changing year after year, never allowing teachers the opportunity to master a teaching plan for the material, and leaving students with no consistent flow from one year to the next.
Funding is in short supply, so attaining newer, updated resources is often not an option. For example, my son is presently using a five year old science book that is on its last leg and doesn’t even contain information he needs for the new EOCT’s. And let’s discuss the EOCT’s. Leaders in Georgia and all over the country have been making noise for years about the negative affects of NCLB. The main point being that it created an environment where teachers were forced to abandon in-depth teaching and teach to the test. During those years, we watched creativity in the classroom virtually disappear, the teaching of real content go away, the stress of both faculty and students sky rocket, and we saw discouragement set in. Only the very best teachers – those who refused to be defeated in their quest to shape lives – were able to squeeze in motivational, creative teaching. Sadly, today I see many of those teachers also beginning to shrink under the continuing demands.
Now we have moved toward a nationalized education system, which is ultimately worse than NCLB. They call the main piece of this, Common Core Curriculum. It’s purpose is “supposed” to be to align curriculums around the country so when a family relocates, children move into a system which is teaching the same thing as they were being taught in their old location. It’s also supposed to strengthen crucial thinking skills and help students dig deeper and work harder. Work harder….. rigor is the word we assign to this. Our teachers and our students are already working too hard and too much.
So what is the difference between NCLB and Common Core? I don’t have a huge problem with the “idea” behind Common Core, except that it limits a teacher’s independent ability to teach a subject in the way they feel will be most successful. Since when did our educators become classified as inept to the point that we no longer believe they are capable of putting together creative, motivating, quality lesson plans which challenge students to think outside the box, and write their own test to measure what has been learned?
The common denominator between the two programs is that they both teach to a test. That is not the common thread we need, nor is it what we should want. We will never reach our goal of delivering quality instruction in the classroom as long as we have to teach to a test. And we will continue to see higher than desired dropout rates. I have watched even very bright students become discouraged and frustrated under these systems.
If we feel the need to utilize “the test” to determine how well a teacher is teaching – which is another discussion – and to measure student progress, then let’s not use this test to decide whether a student can pass to the next grade level, or as part of their grade for the class. Use the test purely as an assessment tool to identify common areas of weakness.
Another problem with the EOCT is that teachers often don’t get to see what’s on the test. The entire purpose of testing in general is to test the knowledge of the student regarding the material they have been taught. A teacher cannot be expected to teach poignantly and clearly something they have not been made privy to. So now we have left teachers in a position of having to teach a curriculum they’ve been given, which is usually jam packed with far more material than they can effectively teach in the time allotted, and they have no way of knowing how the EOCT will be worded, what will or won’t be on it, and it counts as 20% of your students grade. We need to bring a stop to the micro management of teachers and allow them to sink or swim on their own merit.
Now let’s examine the jam packed curriculum. I find more and more quality teachers discouraged and worn out trying to figure out how to teach all the material that is now required. It is common knowledge that “repetition is the best teacher”. When we have time to dig in to a subject or skill and do it more than once, we begin to learn; to retain. When we are rushed through it in order to stay on pace, we have to resort to “rote memorization.” This is memorization of answers rather than in-depth learning of concepts. And yet Common Core wants us to believe it will create the opportunity for more critical thinking? There is just plain no time for critical thinking.
We have some very gifted teachers in every school system. If we would allow them to have input and give them room to teach to the material in their own unique way, we would see tremendous results and many more enthusiastic students. Sadly, we may lose some of the most valuable teachers as they become burned out and discouraged by a system that is failing our students and insulting them. We also have some teachers who are just not cut out to be teachers. Somehow we need to find ways to re-direct them earlier in their college careers or earlier in their professional careers.
Teaching is more than just receiving a diploma. It’s a special gift that many people have. It’s the ability to effectively communicate information on a given subject in a manner that connects with the student and develops curiosity and a love of learning. It demands compassion and dedication. It requires relationship and the development of trust between the teacher and the student. And it must have the desire to help every student succeed.
People in higher places decided we needed more rigor. They define rigor as “hard work”. But rigor doesn’t always mean more work. Look at these actual definitions of the word “rigor”.
1. severity or harshness: unrelenting strictness or toughness in dealing with people or things and an unwillingness to make allowances.
2. use of demanding standards: the application of precise and exacting standards in the doing of something.
3. hardship: an experience of great hardship or difficulty.
I believe definition number two is the one being applied to our school systems. However, the result of the ongoing changes has created an environment that more closely resembles definition one or definition three. This should absolutely not be what our schools are about.
The ultimate decision was to add more science and math. That’s like saying to a hungry child, “I think I’ll give them more liver and onions.” Students are hungry to learn, but it has to be interesting, and it ought to be fun. Many of the best teachers whom I know possess all of these qualities. When we finally realize that we need to remove all the paperwork and pressure created by these recent program requirements, and we let our teachers teach, then and only then will we see higher success rates in the classroom.
The public school system needs a complete overhaul. It needs to be simplified. Most often more does not equal more. Less equals more. The majority of teachers are good, qualified teachers who want to help students succeed in the classroom and succeed in life. They are the life-changers. It is this group of educators that we ought to be, not only taking care of, but listening to. Like soldiers on the front lines of battle, they know what they are up against, and what resources and assistance they need in order to win the educational fight. It’s time to bring education to the forefront of discussion and take back our public schools. They are – after all – “Public” Schools.

Latest Activity: Feb 06, 2013 at 3:46 PM

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theflyonthewall commented on Thursday, Feb 07, 2013 at 09:18 AM


As long as we seek answers to educational problems from business we will have a problem.The current "reforms" may all be traced to Lean Six Sigma---great for producing widgets but not so good for human beings.Let teachers run the schools. Let businessmne run their businesses if they can.The current infatuation with charter schools and vouchers is also suspect if you follow the money.

Bryant commented on Thursday, Feb 07, 2013 at 14:20 PM

Susan, a lot of what you say is true and I agree with it. But, "Our teachers and our students are already working too hard and too much." ? Would you include all students and all teachers in your sweeping generalization? Is it because of all this "working too hard" that Georgia's graduation rates are so abysmal?

There are myriad issues impacting public education. Lack of parental involvement and interest, lack of funds, NCLB, too many administrative positions (to meet the numerous state and federal reporting/monitoring requirements), incompetent or unmotivated teachers who are allowed to remain employed, and the list goes on.

Taking back our schools is a great slogan but a lot of what you point out as being ineffective arose as the result of parents, teachers, and local/state politicians not being involved in the first place.

And I agree with fly, kids are not widgets and you cannot make them conform through test results and measuring them through whether or not the results conform within an arbitrary standard deviation.

alikitty55 commented on Thursday, Feb 07, 2013 at 16:18 PM

I remember when I moved from GA to FL in 1975. I was in 10th grade and had taken two years of typing in jr high and one year of French. When I moved to FL, they did not teach those classes until high school and wanted me to take typing I and French I even though I had already taken those classes - I knew then I was in for a challenge. I was so surprised that FL was behind GA in class curriculum. More amazing was we had no Florida History class whatsover. I was oh so proud of my GA History Scrapbook that was a requirement in Jr High. Now the FCAT's have further ruined the public school program and all of our teachers do teach to this test. What a waste. We no longer have many electives and I don't think any school in the surrounding three counties teach drivers ed anymore. I feel bad for the teachers and for the students because Susan, you are correct, it is all about teaching to the test and everyone will suffer because of it. And the amount of homework given to students beginning in 1st grade, is ridiculous. It became a point in my home to priortize which subjects and assignments were most necessary as homework assignments in six classes every day could be a minimum of six additional hours of homework every day - and who has the time to do that and to make sure it is getting done? Maybe the old way isn't the best way, but I think I turned out pretty smart and well rounded without having taken a single state or national standard test throughtout my elementary, jr high or high school years. Not a test that would hold me back and keep me from being promoted to the next grade anyway. I have a good job and make a decent living and, to this day, I'm still truly proud of being a 1978 graduate and wear my high school ring with pride.

theflyonthewall commented on Thursday, Feb 07, 2013 at 21:25 PM

The public school is a barometer of the health of the nation. Just now the public schools in this country are failing,but that is not because public schools are "government schools" despite the loud harangues of the Neil Boortz tribe.The public schools are failing because the economy has left far too many hard-working Americans high and dry, because parents work long hours to keep body and soul together and have little time for their children, because many Americans simply do not value education, because barbarism begets barbarism,because many Americans are mired in generational poverty and a culture of poverty that eats the human soul, because ideologs blame the public school for every social ill,because we have forgotten that the public school has been the linchpin of democracy, because of a rabid consumer mentality that prefers the customer over the citizen, because individualism has metastasized into solipsism,because the American Dream has been trivialized, because the Protestant work ethic no longer has the slightest nexus to God, and finally because we have lost the capacity to love each other.

Sparklebeam commented on Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 17:18 PM

This is a very interesting discussion and I agree that our public education system is crap. I wish I could go back in time about 15 years so I could home school my child. He was (and still is) hungry for knowledge and curious about so many things but he ended up dropping out and getting his GED when he turned 18. He was so bored in school, his prescription glasses were stolen as were his tennis shoes for PE. What a waste.

Back in the day, I was a student at Marvin Pittman Laboratory School. I think we need more schools like that, if possible.

And don't you think we could just do away with the Federal Dept. of Education? Take all the money spent on administrative costs and give it to the states...

theflyonthewall commented on Sunday, Feb 10, 2013 at 09:40 AM


Redistributing money to the states will have absolutely no effect as long as the current educational philosophy remains in place.If governors like Bobby Jindal,high priest of the "party of stupid," are given a free hand, we can kiss the notion of the public school goodbye.

Parents need to assume more responsibility for the children that they bring into the world. They need to encourage a love of learning and a respect for education in their children. They need to recognize that they too are teachers.

Bored teenagers would not be so bored if they would open a book from time to time, stopped living in a Facebook/cell phone fantasy world, and took some interest in the world in which they live.

Businessmen need to go away. Their rather limited business school education does not confer universal wisdom. In fact, it can be argued that the reigning business philosophy has had a deleterious effect on the long term health of business in this country.It most certainly has had a deleterious effect on our politics.

The schools need to be given the freedom to do what is required.Teachers should not be punished for upholding standards. Initially this will mean that many more students will not graduate from high school.It will be painful and the pain will continue until it begins to dawn on parents and students that graduation from high school is not a given,not a universal right but requires some effort. We need tough love and not warm fuzzies. We have dug ourselves a deep hole ,and we need to begin the slow climb to the light.

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Fly.... I agree with your first comment.
Scott.... Working too hard and too much. Yes, it could be part of why grad rates are in the toilet. I generalized that only because I could write an entire bog on that topic alone.
Teachers are required to do so much paperwork these days that they have no time to plan creative teaching plans or grade work that must be individually evaluated. Therefore, many teachers have resorted to scantron testing and multiple choice work. There is too much material packed into a one semester class causing the information to never be tight in depth.
Yes, I totally agree that parent involvement is key for a child's success and we don't have nowhere near enough of it.

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:32 AM

PS... Yes Scott.... A lot of this did arise because parents gift complacent. That does not mean that we shouldn't get active now. Teachers were never complacent..... They have never been given a voice.

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Allikitty.... I so agree with you. Homework is over the top because there is too much material crammed into a semester course, and the teachers are trying to make sure the kids get through t all. But.... Kids need time to be kids. I would love to see a billboard say that right now. I do not think there should be homework on weekends unless a child has make up work to do. A little math review at night is plenty.
And... Yes, I think our generation has been very successful and had far better quality education than kids today.

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Sparkle... Why was he bored? Education specialists (otherwise known as those who have absolutely no business dictating how education should work), say these kids were not challenged enough. The Orkney ended to be more rigorous. This makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs.
They are bored because creativity and fascination ave Ben removed from the classroom and replaced with worksheets and standardized test questions.

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Fly... I really like what you are saying here. Fly and Susan agree on something! It's gonna snow! LOL!!

SusanS commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Ok... Except that I don't support calling Jindal the high Priest of the party of stupid. When we stop the party stuff and work together as Americans, we can solve problems. Right now both parties totally disgust me.

Charles_and_Angie_Howell commented on Monday, Feb 11, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Susan and Fly, Charlie.

I think I once heard Fly mutter, "You can have the party when i am done with it. You can pry it from my cold dead hands"

Cold from no heat, dead from starvation.

Just kidding, but Susan is right - the more American that will put aside party differences (and slander, and lies, and abuse) th ebetter we will be able to solve the problems facing the nation

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