"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, March 12, 2012

A Retired Math Teacher Wonders "What is a Failing School"?

The "regular" people are smarter than the Washington and financial elites attempting to control education.  Forget the teacher evaluations foisted on districts which are dependent upon student assessments that may/may not successfully measure a child's knowledge.   A teacher may have a low performing class for a year, not because he/she is a "bad" teacher, it could stem from a class full of children with special needs now having to abide by "common" standards unreachable for those kids, students with no desire to learn, or students so far behind from previous years of being socially promoted they can't reach the goals for the year.

Instead of persecuting teachers and establishing national curricula, standards and assessments, schools should be allowed the freedom (it is the constitutional right of the state to set standards and assessments and of the district to set curriculum, NOT the Federal government or national consortia) to teach the students in the manner the teacher and principal believe appropriate for students' specific needs and styles of learning.

This letter to the editor in the Jacksonville Times-Union (3.10.12) from a retired teacher sums it up perfectly:

What’s a failing school?

My wife and I have been coming to Jekyll Island for 35 years. I am a retired math teacher from Ottawa, Ontario, and have always been interested in education in Florida and Georgia.

If I had kept the Time-Unions from way back, I’d find that opinions, no facts, have not changed: lousy teachers, underpaid teachers, teachers from the bottom half of graduating classes and so on.

It seems that the only thing teachers are not responsible for is teen acne.

Try as I might, I can’t understand what a failing school is.

I did teach in one school where my grade 12 class median grade was 80ish. What a terrific teacher!

Then I went to another school known as “Last Chance High” where my class median grade in calculus was low 50s. What a lousy teacher!

Classroom discipline, support for teachers and principals and realistic expectations for students is paramount.

Not every kid can become a rocket scientist. Many do not have the intellectual ability nor the interest in such subjects; I didn’t.

My first job was in the High School Of Commerce, which is just what you would expect. Not many doctors or lawyers but a lot of superb secretaries, bookkeepers and employees that you would find in offices and businesses.

The best schools I taught in were those that had good compassionate administrators who made sure that their teachers were respected and happy.

Happy teachers make good teachers.

Richard Elichuk, Jekyll Island, Ga.

None of this billion dollar "beat a teacher up" evaluation system will help students.  It makes for unhappy teachers teaching to the test which makes for unhappy students graduating out as parrots unable to think for themselves. 

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