Continuing my thoughts on how we can re-vamp the current educational system. At the end of the first part, I listed what needs to change in order to make an educational system that benefits the teachers, the citizens, and most importantly - the students.
1) Hold Teachers accountable
2) Hold Students accountable
3) Privatize the educational system
4) Reduce governmental involvement to oversight
I have friends that are teachers and they would (attempt) to beat the snot out of me for even mentioning this: remove tenure for any educational system below the university level. Teachers kill them selves to get tenured, once tenured it's nearly impossible for them to be fired. Because the teachers are not held accountable, in general, they no longer care for the individual student. They just are "punching the clock" until they can retire. Only in extreme cases have teachers been held to task for how they treat the students. My fourth grade teacher survived calls for her termination for 10 years before she retired on a fat pension. She wasn't a teacher, she was state-run day care.
If through standardized tests, students are not getting what they need to know then the teacher and school will get in trouble with government oversight. That's when the beauty of private schooling is revealed - the teacher gets fired - a better one is then hired. Teachers have more motivation to help the students. In a privatized system, the teachers benefit as well, more on that later.
Now we hold the students accountable for their own education. If you don't hand in you homework, parents get notified. Because schools will be competing for students, you can bet they will have "value-added" services like comprehensive reporting on the student's progress, virtual parent-teacher conferencing, and excellent care for the student's education. Additional tutoring will be available for the students either as an added fee, or as a value-added program of the school.
If the students misbehave, they can be tossed out on their ass. Bring a gun to a private school, and your PHUCT. As a private institution they can have drug-sniffing dogs walking the halls every day. I like the idea of that. As the situation progresses, private schools will be able to rapidly change their security situation. Gangs becoming a problem, hire armed security guards, dress them up like SWAT and roam the halls. problem will be solved quite nicely, I think.
Privatizing the school system reduces governmental waste. Teachers can be paid according to the school they teach at. If they want more $, then the can go to another school. Part of the issue with teachers is once they are settled in at a school there is no longer any room for growth. Sure, they can become a principal, or whatnot, but their career is stagnant. I think this is one of the leading causes of the apathy of so many of my teachers in public school.
Schools will specialize. I see schools that are devoted to special needs. Those working there have the training and desire to work with special kids, rather than forcing them to integrate with regular student populations. Some schools will be known for engineering, others for religious education. If your a creationist, then send your kid to a creationist school. I'm big on the separation of Church and State, and all lot of the bullpucky with creationism, vs. evolution vs. Intelligent design goes out the window. All three classes can be offered in the largest schools, and you tell your kid which one to take.
How would teachers benefit under a privatized system. For one, they might not get as good benefits, but they also would not be shacked with students that were forced to be there. Their jobs would become easier, as they would specialize in what curriculum they taught. Security would be increased as the school was on private land, and could hire Blackwater for security if it was needed. Since it's easier to dismiss problem students, the threat of gang violence is reduced to nil. From the teachers I know, most would saw off their own right arm for a room of students that actually wanted to be there. Although state pensions would be gone, and the school year would probably be longer, teachers would have choices in which 401k, or health plan they would get. Also with the adoption of technology to make their lives easier, they would have the benefit of being able to work on other projects, research, writing books that could not be done under the current load of paperwork. Imagine teaching in a facility that is kept up maintenance-wise! The past threats of black mold and such would never happen in an environment where schools were competing for students.
Now how much of your tax dollar goes to the school system? How much of that $ is wasted on no-bid government contracts? How much is wasted on the lunch program for kids that don't eat the food because it's gross? If we ran education like a business, then a lot of cost-saving technology would already be implemented, instead of waiting 10+years for them to finally adopt it. Tele-learning for kids out sick from school. Online recorded lectures so the students can review for study? A secure, online, examination system so teachers can work on lessons and tutoring instead of grading exams. In high-school, give seniors part-time jobs as teaching assistants helping with tutoring freshman algebra?
The government would be there as a independent, fair, and logical body to determine what is the minimum to graduate from one grade to another. This governmental body would ensure a minimal quality for sanitation, food services, etc.
Perhaps a rating system like we have for restaurants could be established. This rating would track the core knowledge of math, English, American history, reading, health education, basic sciences, etc. and post it for the world to see. So if a school wanted to charge a lot for tuition, then it'd better have the basics down cold. Note that a large amount of some schools curriculum is not included. I had to take four years of Religion in high school, and under this system those classes mean squat for the rating. However, the Catholic Church could post whether or not the school is teaching correct doctrine. Likewise, a commie-pinko school could be endorsed by the US Communist Party.
Changing the way we educate our children should be one of the top priorities of the next few Presidents. The US has fallen way behind in how our students compete vs. other major industrialized nations, and to compete in the global markets we need new ideas and big thinkers. With the current educational system, the crop of such gifted students is rather thin to say the least. This is something that can be changed now, even with the government clusterfuck we live under now.