Subject Areas



Too many ideas, too little understanding

Don't just blame teachers when schools are failing

Our local school systems have been (deservedly) criticized for many things. However, if you believe that our public school teachers are responsible for the so-called "failing" schools, you have been misinformed.

Volumes have been written about the problem, and many find fault in our public schools. Blaming "failing" schools creates an easy scapegoat, but provides no solutions, because it misidentifies the source of the problem.

Schools have been successfully educating students for centuries, so why would they suddenly be failing? A large majority of schools continue to do the best that schools can be expected to do. Certainly, in some individual schools the faculty or management does about the problem, and many find fault in our public schools. Blaming "failing" schools creates an easy scapegoat, but provides no solutions, because it misidentifies the source of the problem.

Schools have been successfunot meet the highest professional standards. However, these deficits are no more prevalent today than in the past, and no more so in schools than in other aspects of society. Corporate CEOs, banking executives, or politicians are hardly examples of unfailing professionalism or sound management!

A simple thought experiment will demonstrate the falsity of labeling teachers and schools as the culprits in this problem. Suppose there are two otherwise identical elementary schools. One is considered highly successful while the other is labeled as "failing." If teachers were the culprits, exchanging the faculties between the two schools should reverse the conditions. In fact, it would have very little effect because the faculty is not the problem.

The basic problem is that many students are not prepared to learn what schools are required to teach. The difficulty begins in the early years when far too many beginning students start the first year of school one or more years below the knowledge level of the average beginning student. Schools create special classes that attempt to match lessons to the knowledge level of these students.

Sadly, try as they might, teachers can help these students to progress only so far in each school year. As they move through their school years, they do advance academically, but most will never catch up with their peers who started at a higher knowledge level. Slower progress will plague them throughout their school lives. They will attend less rigorous classes, be more inclined to drop out, and if they graduate, will have received an inferior education. When taking standardized tests, most will be found to perform below grade level. Recent reports show that some students achieved high classroom grades (because their classes were less-demanding), yet failed the standardized test for that subject. This result supports the fact that teachers can only teach at the level at which students are prepared to learn.

Many poorly performing students have been deprived of both childhood educational experience and motivation to learn. These shortcomings derive from dysfunctional families that do not provide educational opportunities or encourage learning. Such families are typically headed by parents, often single parents, who themselves have failed at education. The numbers of failing families is rapidly increasing. Because it is primarily a family and social issue, education "failure" will be exceedingly difficult to overcome, but it desperately needs to be recognized and addressed. The first step for a solution to any problem is to discover its cause. In this case, the origin lies, not our schools, but in our society's decaying family structure

The testing required by No Child Left Behind has highlighted the disparity in test scores and has brought the problem to public attention. When a large proportion of under-prepared children attend any single school, their lower test scores suggest - incorrectly - that the school is failing. Awareness of the depth of the problem has brought calls for action.

Programs such as Head Start were created to help prepare children for school, but much more is urgently needed. Neglecting to properly educate our children is a grievous injury to them; a shameful waste of their potential, and huge burden on our economic and political survival. Allowing our youth to continue to fail puts us at a severe disadvantage in a highly competitive and potentially dangerous world. But, we can't correct the problem until we face reality, and stop blaming our schools for something that is beyond their responsibility and control.

Family is the first step in education

By Rod Paramoure - Columnist Marietta Daily Journal Published: 03/16/200