“What is the most effective way to encourage student excellence?” That was the question of the day on one of my local television stations, and I was shocked when they graphically listed the responses received from their audience. The answers were all over the map, but some of them called for additional spending from federal and state governments.
Shockingly, only a few comments addressed what I believe are significant core ingredients to achieving educational excellence. Your Commander believes that educational excellence begins within the home of each student. Without role models and strong parental support of achievement, student motivation is frequently lacking. I always felt it was important to not let my parents down or disappoint them, so strived throughout my school days to receive good grades.
Your Commander believes that our schools are weakened by politically influenced school boards, and teacher unions frequently have a misdirected mission of teacher protection when, in fact, student achievement should be paramount. This is not to say that all teachers are politically corrupted, but far too many are unqualified and greedy.
Teaching is not an easy profession today, because parental support is frequently lacking, particularly in inner city schools, i.e. the importance of homework assignments. Good teachers face daily discipline as their first priority, while educating their students becomes secondary. Government throws money at education without proper accountability due to political considerations brought forth by teacher unions and their political campaign contributions.
Again I call for a review of teacher tenure and restrictive clauses in union contracts that binds the hands of school boards. I also question the high cost of administrative overhead. I do not believe the federal government should be in the education business, because it is a state and local obligation.
Don’t get me wrong. I strongly support and appreciate the value of teachers to the educational development of all children. My grandson has proudly served for three years in a John Hopkins University education program in the inner-city of Baltimore.
After working for one year after college graduation, he felt the corporate world was not for him and tried his hand at teaching 7th and 8th grade mathematics through this program. He took this position very seriously and usually spent 80 or more hours a week in class or preparing lesson plans in a school that did not give the children text books! (The school experienced huge losses in text books, so only issued them to the teachers.) He was able to markedly increase his student test scores and was named Teacher of the Year at his school.
I also have a niece who teaches in the Chicago Public School System at a unique high school that only serves special needs students. I hear first hand stories from both of these young people about their jobs and feel very comfortable in saying to you, “Teachers deserve our sympathy and strong backing.”
Accountability is a three-legged stool that supports educational excellence and achievement. Any weak leg (parents-teachers-school boards) will result in a poor educational environment with equally poor learning achievement. This also causes massive financial obligations upon the local, state and federal governments in future years that bear little fruit.
It is essential that we stop buying votes with federal funding of education, and address the educational experience rationally and objectively. Accountability, leadership and achievement leads directly to educational excellence.