Have you ever pondered this? We normally think about students – and cheating by students is rampant at all levels because of expectations of parents and others. The amount of stress that students are under is high – and teachers and counsellors see the signs of mental anxiety. This is not helpful to students.
But what about schools? We rarely wonder that. If teachers and principals are being measured against a bar. Does this really create an environment for learning or one to weed out poorer performing students? Does it encourage charter schools to grab the higher performing students at the disadvantage of public schools? Does testing encourage teaching the test versus true learning? Is the desire to keeps moving, allow poor performing students to advance. For example, when Rod Paige was hired as Education Secretary, he was hired because of the turnaround in the Houston schools, where the reported dropout rate fell to 1.5%. Later is was determined that the real rate was 25%, not nearly as impressive. Regionally, dropout rates vary – the upper Plains have very low dropout rates while much of the South has fairly high rates. For rural southerners who lack job opportunities, this is a never ending cycle.
There are struggling school and school systems. Enrollment has dropped in many of these schools, while those qualifying for free lunches, and indication of economic distress in the community. Some of these school systems have as many as 80% of their kids on free lunch. That means parents struggle to make ends meet, and de-emphasizes education in favor of economic survival. Parents, often single, do not have time to invest in their kids education. Many of these parents are not well educated, and lack job skills that their kids desperately need. Kids emulate their parents which means the issues go from generation to generation.
How do we fix this, as if affects all industries including the utility industry. Finding qualified workers remains an issue across all employment sectors. Reading, writing and math skills, things that one expects children to learn in elementary school, are cited as the most lacking skills. Civics, basic science, history and the context for history are rarely to par. It means the educational system as envisioned by industry when they lobbied Congress 100 years ago to set standards, is not working. It worked better in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps we should go back and figure out why.