The World Of Possibilities: Public Education Reform

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Jan
  • 06
  • 2006

I’ve been thinking lately about how I would change the public education system if I could. A friend of mine thinks that we are teaching in “dark times.” And, while I agree, I go a step further and say that, not only are the times dark, they bring with them a horrible realization: the public education system is broken (and maybe it always has been).

I used to be against things like charter schools and voucher schools, but I’m not so sure any more. The prospect of experimenting with a better way to build an education system seems more necessary now than ever before. If I could…

  • politicians would hold true to their word and put money into the public education system
  • in a much larger proportion than currently is paid out, money would go directly to the classroom and classroom teachers, to be spent on the systems that directly effect students on a daily basis (currently, much of the money set aside for public education fades away at various levels of administration and funnels out to multiple state or federal requirements that are not always in the best interest of students and regularly do not impact students in the least)
  • money would never be the thing that prevents better education from happening
  • money would neither be the thing that stops a really cool idea dead in its tracks
  • the course catalogue of every school would be full of elective classes in every content area
  • industrial arts classes would make a triumphant return to high schools
  • a course would be able to exist even if as few as 10 kids signed up for it
  • students who are failing classes would be provided time during the school day to work on homework, potentially being pulled out of some of their classes to provide such time and attention (anecdotal evidence suggests that students fail largely due to not doing the work associated with the class, not necessarily due to lack of skill)
  • semester finals would be culminating activities for a student’s entire workload, not just individual finals for each subject – a project that requires mastery of different aspects (and different standards) of each academic area
  • teachers would all behave in a fashion fitting the profession, every day
  • teacher salaries would be the envy of lawyers around the world
  • parents would know as much about how the school works as the students who attend
  • programs like School Loop would be a required part of every teacher’s, student’s, and parent’s daily routine
  • professional development at schools would be exactly that: a way for the professionals who work there to develop their craft
  • teaching would become a job worthy of the title “profession” by adopting things like peer review and other accountability measures such that not even one teacher could ever get away with the lesson plan: 1. Put tape in VCR; 2. Press “play” (mind you there are teaches that use this lesson plan for weeks at a time)
  • students would learn at least one new thing every single day they attend school
  • all classrooms would be equiped with a minimum of a 10-computer lab, a laser printer, a wireless network, an LCD projector, a VCR-DVD player combo, sliding whiteboards, ample storage, windows, wall space appropriate for hanging student work
  • all teachers would have his or her own classroom for the entire school year
  • students would only transfer into a class in case of extreme emergency or at the beginning of a semester
  • student conflict with teachers would be resolved and noted somehow, not ignored
  • student conflict with teachers would never be a reason to transfer out of a class; instead, a parent-student-teacher-counselor (-administrator, if it came to that) meeting would air grievences and teachers would face penalties if warrented, as would students

Agh! I’m exhausted just scratching the surface! So, what do you think should happen to reform and improve the public education system?


1. John Little says:

[1/7/2006 - 10:19 am]

We’re going to start test-using PowerSchool this spring, with a goal to using it school-wide starting August, ‘2006. My hope is that it will address at least two of your points, including increases in student and parental responsibility and teacher “professionalism,” given that there is almost instant parental access to what is going on in the classroom. But, ah, to have my own classroom and lab!

2. Paul says:

[1/8/2006 - 2:21 pm]

Couldn’t find you name or bio on the blog, but I would like to initiate a converstation with you and others like you on education reform. I like what I read you saying about this issue.

Please visit my blog and see what you think about some of my efforts, thoughts and/or philosophies toward the reformation of public education in our country today.



3. Mike says:

[1/11/2006 - 6:58 pm]

Three more suggestions:

(1) Once the classroom door closes, there will be no interruptions of any kind (bonafide emergencies excepted).

(2) Sports will be extracurricular activites with no school day time devoted to practice or any other aspect of sports.

(3) All extracurricular activities will be recognized as and treated as a distant second in importance to academics and will not, under any circumstances, displace academics in any way. Nor will a penny be spent on extracurricular activities unless every teacher has everything they need first.

Talk about pie-in-the-sky ideas, no?

4. wendy says:

[1/12/2006 - 4:52 am]

Interesting points. It’s good to hear you trying to puzzle out solutions. I’m a homeschooler, directed over by the Carnival of Education. I’m mostly concerned about your last point, in which no child is ever removed from a classroom due to conflict with the teacher. The power balance in the classroom is grossly unfair, and people do have biases. I don’t think children should be forced to be at the mercy of someone who is biased against him.
Also, I wonder what your ideas would be on providing for challenges for kids who just aren’t challenged in the classroom.

5. wendy says:

[1/12/2006 - 4:51 pm]

I would have left well enough alone, but for your what do I think.

I think we’re risking the best and brightest with policy (like that of my state, Massachusetts) that gives resources to the bottom nearly without limit, and then doles out the remainder. Legislatives mandates fund SpEd first, before every other kind of program. Legislative mandates for gifted and talented don’t exist. The best brains are left to fend for themselves. I’m concerned about what that means for the future of our society. That sounds melodramatic, but I mean it.
A 10 year old might not work too hard to find a challenge worthy of her time.

6. Todd says:

[1/12/2006 - 10:17 am]

Wendy: I mean that to indicate that all conflicts between teachers and students are completely worked out, with either party appropriately apologizing and/or changing their behavior. I agree with you about that balance of power and in my dream world, that balance is shifted a bit, yet somehow still prevents teachers from being censured simply because a student wants to get back at the teacher for low performance on a test or something. See what I mean?

As for kids who are not challenged, that’s an interesting point. I think that all kids can be challenged as much as *they* want to be. If a teacher is poor, that doesn’t mean that a student can’t find challenges in the class. Lots of conversations on this topic revolve around a belief that the teacher is the only one who can provide the challenge and I just don’t think that’s true. Students who are not feeling challenged need to work with the teacher or the parent or the administration or themselves to find challenges worthy of their time. If we are to consider students as a part of the learning community, it’s not up to the teacher to provide that challenge 100% of the time. Maybe the teacher just needs to focus on providing a stimulating environment for the majority of the class. What do you think?

7. Angel says:

[1/14/2006 - 12:33 pm]

Liked the list, but I have reservations about the last item. Then again, I do understand the list is an ideal. Having said that, if a kid is simply a disruption and/or an actual risk (as in extreme discipline problem), I don’t think a little sitdown with everybody involved is going to solve the situation. Sometimes, removal is warranted.

Also, Mike makes an interesting observation about sports. Indeed, a few extra problems in schools might be solved if schools actually got their priorities straight and realized there are there to provide an actual education, not to be some football powerhouse (or insert your favorite sport).