What Is Really Wrong with Public Education?

Many people outside of the field enjoy diagnosing what is wrong with our system of public education. If those who have proved their worth in increments through years and years of work, training and trial and error were consulted, the "problems" they list would be quite different than those that the individuals in the "ivory towers of education" seem to think.

It is not just about funding, although there are many who say it is, but about how the money is being spent. People who spend very little if any time in the classroom decide which books to buy, which programs to fund and run, and what everyone should be paid. They also decide what to build, including large inefficient buildings to house those not in the classrooms, and these buildings are many times built on some of the most expensive real-estate in the area. They then have to spend money lobbying their states for adequate funding because the state can see or believe to see where the money is being misspent. Why not ask the people in the trenches what they need? That type of logic, of course does not come in to play.

In addition, many in the press and those in political office like to blame "bad teachers" for the lack of progress in schools. The absurdity of this statement is obvious to those who choose to stay in the classroom. The people who are in administrative positions fall into a few categories.

The first is made up of those who know someone within their own power structure. It is as the old cliché quickly points out, "it is not what you know, but who you know" that rules this group. These individuals spend the least amount of time possible in the classroom before moving into administrative positions. In Florida, an individual only needs to have three years of experience in the classroom before becoming an administrator. In most cases, because they know the "right" people, these individuals don't even spend one entire year with a full classroom load because they receive "special assignments" that allow them to earn money, receive benefits and of course obtain the tenure necessary for their eventual promotion.

Another category of Administrators is those who have taught classes in which there has historically been little or no accountability. This has allowed them the time to pursue the graduate degrees necessary in order to obtain a position of power. Many of these graduate degrees come from what are known as "diploma factories" which have Saturday discussions classes and which do not require a thesis. These people are then judging which teachers are effective in the areas that are held accountable for their work through student scores and ever more complex evaluation processes. How does a former Physical Education teacher decide if someone is doing an adequate or exemplary job teaching the intricacies of the characters, plots and historical references in the works of Shakespeare?

Then of course there are those who cannot handle the classroom or the kids, or in many cases don't really like either one. They want the benefits that come from working in a school system but forget that the reason that it exists is the children. These might be the most difficult to deal with for those who choose to stay in the classroom because these individuals cannot fathom why in the world anyone would CHOOSE to spend the day with students and in the classroom. These individuals do not understand creativity and reprimand teachers who are using project-based, creative, cooperative groups or any other of the more "unconventional" teaching/learning methods.

Yes, these are the individuals who decide if a teacher is any good in a classroom. These are the individuals who, when held accountable, point to the teachers who were not permitted to teach creatively, who were not provided with the necessary materials, and who were not supported by that same administrator. Yes, these are the individuals who dole out extra monies from the taxpayers as "rewards" to their buddies.

How can this situation be rectified? If the people who are "running things" are so deeply entrenched in their positions of power and have reached levels of "the Peter Principle" heretofore unknown, is there any chance of saving the public school system? Of course there is. Just ask the right people what should be done. You know them as teachers!

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I am a proud teacher!