« on: May 15, 2008, 03:00:35 PM »
ok, so I am not an expert on education or education policy (and I imagine most of you aren't, either), but I do have several friends who have been teaching for a few years or are in grad school in and education program and will be teaching next year. I think there are a lot of different issues affecting education in our country and, unfortunately for politicians, each issue is complex in itself, and the various issues interact in complex and nuanced ways, which means no straightforward or simple fix. So, here are the issues as I see them:
1) Students are coming in to the school systems less prepared, and now learn in different ways than in most of our previous history. For a great (though depressing) discussion on this subject, check out the book Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It By Jane M. Healy. Much of this has to do with home environment. FWIW, this problem has been observed in all socioeconomic and racial groups.
2) Inequitable distribution of educational resources across socioeconomic lines (which often mimic racial lines). For an excellent (and even more depressing) explanation, read Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathan Kozol.
3) Lack of institutional support for teachers. This is a problem in a lot of the graduate programs in education and a problem in the schools once graduates start teaching. This doesn't just include salaries, although they are pretty low, especially when you consider that most teachers are probably coming out of school with student loans these days.
4) NCLB. Most educators really dislike this. From what I've heard, the consensus seems to be that it unnecessarily restricts what teachers can teach, and the emphasis on testing is detrimental to actual thinking skills and learning, b/c it forces students to focus on memorization. Also, funding is an issue in many ways.
I don't know about merit pay, b/c I can see how it could be both beneficial and harmful. I do think teachers should receive funding to help them improve their teaching, for things like continuing education and workshops. Perhaps bonus may could be tied to how much a teacher actively strives to improve his/her teaching? Anyway, I wish more people in positions of power were having more nuanced conversations on this topic, b/c I think we (as a country) our setting ourselves up to fail.