Teachers make the difference
Research shows that it is teachers that make the difference – not the latest technology or an abundance of money. They have the ability to spark the interest in learning or to squash it. Studies also show that people teach as they were taught (Johnson & Seagull, 1968); therefore, it is in our best interest to only retain the best who achieve the greatest results. Although schools tend to be at least a decade behind society in technology, if teachers are comfortable with technology, children will tend to be comfortable with technology and use it more effectively. Teachers are extremely important!
Most teachers at the elementary through high school level work 185 days a year, compared to the 260 working days, not accounting for vacation time, of most other jobs. Many people overlook that fact that teachers continue to work AFTER they leave the building as there are lessons to develop, papers to copy, website to visit, resources to find, parent-teacher conferences, plays, sports, and papers to grade. It is certainly not an eight-hour a day job. Many school districts pay teachers in accordance to length of time served AND education level; in addition, many teachers are reimbursed for the classes they take to further their education. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, and many other professions must take classes every year in order to stay certified, but their pay is not based on their education level. School districts publish the average salary of teachers – take a look!
Cutting teachers across the board by seniority is a bad idea, but cutting bad teachers is a good idea. Cutting out services to children if the levy doesn’t pass is blackmail on the part of the administrators. Cut the administrators or, at least, their salaries. Eliminate paying for teacher’s educations and then increasing their pay based on education level and longevity. Combine facilities between adjoining districts when possible; many districts already share teachers. Don’t cut cafeteria staff or custodians, they are not the problem. Look at the highest ranking schools in the nation and determine why they are successful. How many money are they spending per student to attain those results?
The last several governors of Ohio have all claimed to be education governors while in office; however, Ohio continues to hover at the mediocre to poor levels of education quality (Ladner & Lips, 2011). In the 2011 Report Card on American Education, authors Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips (2011) analyze student scores, looking at performance as well as how scores have improved over recent years. Additionally, each state is graded based on its current education policies. For 2011, Ohio’s performance rating is 21, an increase over the 2010 score of 35 (Ladner & Lips, 2011). The performance score of 21 means that Ohio performed better than 29 other states in the measures for overall 2011 scores for low income students (non-ELL and non-IEP) and gains/losses on the National Assessment of the Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics exams from 2003-2011. Sadly, the scores indicate that Ohio is still at the basic level, and has improved only slightly over 2003 NAEP scores, which were also at the basic level. The 2011 Report Card on American Education also assigns an Education Policy Grade to each state. The Education Policy Grade contains scores and grades for policies that allow the state’s education system to make available high-quality education through accountability, high standards, public and private school choices, high-quality teachers, and innovative delivery mechanisms (Ladner & Lips, 2011). Ohio’s overall Education Policy Grade is B, an increase from 2010’s grade of B-. Of concern is the C grade for 2009 State Academic Standards and the fact that the standards were lowered since 2003 (Ladner & Lips, 2011). Of most concern is the overall grade of D+ for Teacher Quality and Policies, which includes a D grade in delivering well prepared teachers, a C- grade for identifying effective teachers, a C grade for retaining effective teachers, and a D grade for exiting ineffective teachers (Ladner & Lips, 2011).
The current solution? Vote NO on levies
The bottom line is that the educational system needs to be over-hauled. We have been placing Band-Aids (passing levies) on a critically-wounded system. Lobbying the policy makers and the Department of Education may be effective in changing the current system, but who would lobby? Certainly not universities with teacher education programs already in place and currently acceptable to the state; current teachers probably would not lobby to change their pay or the current system; school administrators probably would not lobby for anything that would cost the school district and themselves more time and money; and, parents are usually not well-versed about the problem or organized enough to take action. There does not seem to be one unified group of individuals whose only interest would be quality education for students to lobby the policy makers to make a change. By voting down levies, changes will be inevitable; unfortunately, the current system will die a slow, painful death and students will suffer (along with other “innocent” staff members). But, will students suffer anymore during this process than they are now by being under-served by the system?