Tag Archives: Teachers

Education Recommendations for Federal and State Agencies

7 May

The following list of fifteen recommendations is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for federal and state level governments.  This list is provided to these bureaucracies as they consider future development and implementation of education programs that come packaged with national implications.
Recommendation #1: Transparency. Transparency would have provided the necessary debate and open sharing of costs, benefits, and public concerns.  Changing programs from one thing to something else should never been undertaken without open discussions. Understand that government does not know best, but that an honest and open government that lifts up people to the changes they view as best is a government of the people. Such a government works best.
Recommendation #2: Remain Politically Neutral. Remove the political aspects of agenda from partisanship and political maneuvering. Validate Americans, and not political parties.
Recommendation #3: Focus on Students First. Focus efforts to change education upon students and families, and not the types of jobs required for future corporate employers.
Recommendation #4: Consider the Arts, Music, and Trades. Consider how all the areas not included in Common Core standards can be incorporated.  After all, students in America are not students in Europe or Asia.
Recommendation #5: Place Less Emphasis on International Assessments.  Be wary of utilizing international assessments for the basis of changing entire systems of education in the United States.
Recommendation #6: Avoid a National Curriculum. Steer completely clear of any discussion of a nationalized curriculum, or a one-size-fits-all area of content. The United States is not Europe, and many foreign nations that have national curricula have lower academic performance than America.
Recommendation #7: Develop More Accurate Domestic Assessments.  Understand that assessments are not the picture of whole persons; they are snapshots and moments in time. Reliance on imperfect assessments does not tell the whole story about American education. Continue development of more and better domestic assessments.
Recommendation #8: Empower States to Step Up. Enable states to compete for federal grants to establish exciting and different programs that include trades, technology, and innovative careers geared toward the future.  Empower entrepreneurialism, beginning in elementary school.
Recommendation #9: Do Not Force All Students into a College Mold.  Understand not all students are college bound and that forcing students into a federal blueprint for education is perceived as control and not as freedom to choose.
Recommendation #10: Allow States to Structure Teacher Accountability.  Allow states to hold their own teachers accountable for education. Allow universities and colleges of education to ramp up their requirements to enter programs of teacher training. There should be no federal punishment for teachers struggling to finds ways to educate the masses in inner cities.
Recommendation #11: Provide Block Grants for Trade and Tech School Startups.  Support states with block grants, so high schools can partner with businesses and create jobs for those who wish to work in high school, as they train for a trade, or experiment with business start-ups online.
Recommendation #12: Attract the Best and Brightest to Teaching.  Mount a campaign to attract the best and brightest to colleges and universities to train to become teachers.  Focus on demand, not just supply. Find those called to teach and invest in their lives.
Recommendation #13: Cease Partisan Argumentation. Cease the side-taking and partisan bickering over the direction of education. Allow more local control of decisions on education. Enable states to work together to create regional hubs of excellence, so that regional certification can be added to state certification. In the process, focus attention on impoverished areas and bring communities and families together to brainstorm ways to move forward.
Recommendation #14: Be Proud of Our American Heritage.  No nation is perfect.  Do not be ashamed of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, as it provides a mooring to our purpose as a nation.  Students need a sense of purpose for their existence.  Not everything in American education should be about individuality. Common good should also be in the equation.
Recommendation #15: Recognize School Choice. Recognize that there are models of schools that meet the needs of families throughout the nation.  Support these families for their choices. Whether public schools, private schools, private religious schools, or homeschools, support all of them and encourage all models that parents deem best for their children.


*Excerpted from Ernest J. Zarra, III, The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pp. 260-262.

Common Core: Sharing Responsibility for Education?

20 Jul

 Could we also PLEASE pass and enforce laws that hold parents and students accountable for attendance, cuts, disciplinary actions, homework, and their own education-especially at the middle and high school levels? You know, I think large numbers of secondary students would be just as absent and uncaring about their education, as they would be if they were taking their classes online, rather than the classroom. What then? Would we blame the “boring” online course for students not completing their requirements?

Placing the vast majority of school accountability on teacher performance provides for those unwilling to admit larger problems a scapegoat, since bureaucrats have stripped 90% of the authority away from classroom teachers.  Common Core advocates want to ramp up rigors, then how about ramping up expectations, discipline, authority of teachers, and accountability for parents.  While you are at it, why not tighten up what is ramped up?

In fact, parents cannot discipline their children at home for messing up in school. They are told they can be arrested for any physical contact. The easy route is parents excuse their kids when they cut classes, like it is no big deal. Taxpayers should be angry over the tax dollars thrown away when students do not come to school.  Children are not the center of the universe in education, but they should be the focus.  The former has lead to an entitled group that fears little and has even less accountability.  The latter brings with it what is best for all, including the students and holds them accountable.  Yet, all we hear about is how bad teachers are and why they should be fired.

If we really want to hold teachers accountable, then culture has to change to allow teachers more authority over their classrooms, grading, and policies that enhance learning.  At those junctures, teachers with tools to succeed may result in surprising results.

Schools must get tough on attendance and students being must come to school prepared to learn. Families are not doing their jobs, like they did in the recent past.  Some of this is not their fault.  The federal government creates classes of people, demarcates them further by divisiveness, and then points fingers.  You see, with government taking care of nearly 60,000,000 families with all sorts of social entitlement programs, school is just another of the entitlements.  Perish the thought that those who serve on fixed incomes at schools with expect students and families to work together with them.  Most teachers,truly believe schools are where kids go to learn.  Subverting this belief are parents who do not see that the primary educational functions belong to them.  Without that, it is neither fair, nor just, to hold teachers accountable for things within which they cannot make a difference–especially when students are not in class.

Bureaucrats have gotten in the way of teaching–my teaching, your teaching.  So, I am speaking out. These same bureaucrats, with their policies, have gotten in the way of student learning, by enabling them to be irresponsible. Think about it. Why has the culture changed to allow the vast majority of students the freedom to feel empowered to cut school, or class, with seeming near-absolute impunity?  Government gives them a pass.  Schools give students and parents multitudes of chances, in the hope that one day they’ll come around.  Love should be unconditional, yes.  But should education be unconditional?

I am “all for” holding teachers accountable. But the question is, “Hold teachers accountable for what?” Student learning?  If so, get them in class and get them to do their work.  If bureaucrats and parents won’t do it, why are teachers held accountable for that reality?  Likewise, if they do not come for “good” reasons, why should teachers be held accountable if students have to work to support their families, or teenagers choose to have sex and make their lives messier?  I could go on!  Teachers are told to understand the plights of today’s families, accept every definition of family, and treat everyone as equals.  While practicing this, teachers are going to be evaluated when outside influences and cultural plights get in the way?  This is bureaucratic insensibility in what is completely a socialistic system called “education.”

In addition to holding teachers accountable, I am also all-in for holding bureaucrats and families accountable. While we are at it, why not restrict students’ behaviors so that it hurts?  Why is one political party allowed a stranglehold on policy in some states?  I know I am speaking to the wall, because bureaucrats are fearful that someone would feel bullied, offended, or singled out for improvement.  Litigation threats stifle truth and any real significant movement forward.

As an educator, I ask for more authority. But please do not hold me accountable as a teacher for students and families who are not Americans, or are here under the radar.  We are compelled to serve all students, even if it means citizens receive less attention.  However, if you must evaluate us, may we teachers hold you–THE BUREAUCRATS accountable for the lack of achievements of the same group and diminution of assessment scores?  May we tie student assessment scores to YOU and YOUR tenure in office?  May we have a voice on policies that place teachers in nearly impossible situations?

Hey bureaucrat, “If you want some evaluative authority, give some evaluative authority.”

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