Rethinking public education

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  • Utah legislature
    Aug. 25, 2008 10:51 a.m.

    Insanity is also demanding improvement with vague goals and objectives; to wit:

    "...a revamped education system that better educates students and makes teaching more rewarding in other ways."

    Revamp what? How?

    More rewarding in "other ways." Huh???

  • Homer
    Aug. 25, 2008 10:17 a.m.

    "Competition" in schools won't hurt or help--it's irrelevant to the educational process. This is not an economic enterprise selling goods and services. It's a life-process in which unique individuals grow and change as they learn knowledge and develop skills. Each student comes to school with their own unique potential for success and failure.

    Public education is a social institution, not a factory. In education we deal with people, not units of production. No matter the eventual outcome, every student is a valued individual. Teachers do not achieve greater results by cutting losses or through survival of the fittest. There is no shareholder equity to dominate decision-making and certainly no need to show a profit.

  • Dan
    Aug. 24, 2008 12:01 a.m.

    Competition is the best way to improve the quality of a product while lowering its price. For over 100 years we have had government mandated and funded education.

    Government has a monopoly on education. Monopolies always hurt the consumer. The result is that education is more expensive than ever and we now have over 65 million functionally iliterate American adults.

    Insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results.

    The only way to solve the "education problem" is for government to get out of the business of education and let the free market determine price and quality. People will say that some will not be educated. Past experience shows that all who want an education will find it.

    When parents are really responsible for their children's education they will take much more interest. When people aren't taxed for education they can find the education option that is best for their child.

  • Lazy Parents.
    Aug. 23, 2008 10:06 p.m.

    I have worked in the schools for over twenty years. There are a few rotten teachers but overall they are good. The biggest problem especially on the West Side are lazy parents who don't make their kids read or pay attention or mind. We need to expel students who infringe on the rights of others to learn. If kids continue to mis-behave their parents should be fined and maybe jailed. It is also a tragic turn that so many of our dirt bag parents are dumping their children on the Grand-Parents. God help us all.

  • Honesty
    Aug. 23, 2008 9:46 p.m.

    The other option is to continue doing things way they are done now.

    That's working out great.

    Children getting mediocre educations.
    Teachers, schools, unions complaining about money every year.
    NO accountibility.
    NO discipline.
    Feds getting more control, dictating what can be taught.

    Yeah it's working out great. why change.

  • Honesty
    Aug. 23, 2008 9:36 p.m.

    Increase pay will bring more people to teaching NOT better teachers.

    A few things can bring much improvement:

    1. Remove tenure. NOthing like threat that you can be fired if don't do good job or perform well.

    2. Already mention, but the school system does not need a lot beaucracy. What is point of all these superintendents, school boards, etc? The princilple , the teachers, the parents, and the community they serve know best and can take of all the day to day needs.

    3. NO federal funding, that just takes control away from those mentioned in 2. If schools need funding then new sources of revenus must be found. Privatization anyone? The only real way to increase teacher pay and realize accountablity to the community they serve.

  • Flummoxed in Zion
    Aug. 23, 2008 8:51 p.m.

    Not much helpful in the editorial or the comments, except the one about the origin of the problem is in the education curriculum foisted upon those who would become teachers.

    This may be incredibly naive, but why not look at the systems in place in those countries where students out-perform US students? Perhaps we don't need to re-invent the system, but learn from the experience of others.

    There are countries where students have several hours of music and arts education daily, yet in the few remaining hours those student learn more reading, writing, science and math skills that our students do in larger blocks of time. I would love to know how they do that.

    That is the school system I would love to have for my children and grandchildren.

    Please don't take personal offense at this, but most of the comments (in both local papers -- on line editions) don't reflect much thoughtful analytical thinking or original thought. They are mostly repetitions of diatribe unsupported by facts.

    The goal should be graduates eager, willing and capable of gathering data and evaluating it appropriately before taking firm stand on policy issues.

    Or do we merely want a compliant workforce?

  • Mormon Moderate
    Aug. 23, 2008 2:54 p.m.

    I don't think that doing more with less is something that we should be proud of, especially when the aforementioned "more" is readily available.

  • Years Ago Women few choices
    Aug. 23, 2008 2:43 p.m.

    Years ago, women had few choices, nurse, elementary ed teacher and little else if she wanted to be a professional.

    Now women have more choices, if we want to attract the best and brightest, we no longer have a "captive" workforce to draw from. We must offer competative pay or continue to suffer from the educatonal fads and lowering of educational standards that have plagued us in recent years.

    This is a world economy, this is the worst time to be accepting of anything but high standards in education.

    Raising teacher pay and standards at the same time would cost more in taxes, but not taking these steps will cost Utah more in lost economic productivity and opportunity for ourselves and our children.

  • evensteven
    Aug. 23, 2008 1:57 p.m.

    This is a safe editorial because the DesNews know education will never change. The educational-industrial complex is so entrenched that no amount of effort will even begin to budge it. We are stuck with what we have and given California's recent efforts to force everyone into public schools, what used to be a constitutional right will soon become a mandate and parents & the public will lose even more control over education.

    Get rid of tenure, enforce classroom discipline, allow easier cross-district employment, require more parental involvement in PEPs, change the focus of compensation away from steps and tracks, allow pay differentials by subject, institute 360 reviews, change the funding mechanism to allow more flexibility, expand open enrollment, expand ALPS and concurrent enrollment, re-focus UEA on education and away from social issues, and the list goes on.

  • Good Job
    Aug. 23, 2008 1:09 p.m.

    Good Job Des News.

    A story about education and only ONE mention of vouchers. I'm sure they are meeting overtime right now at Parents for Choice in Education and Overstock.

  • Liberty
    Aug. 23, 2008 12:31 p.m.

    Would you believe that we are having trouble finding qualified and capable social studies teachers? Most of you know of the shortages in math and science, but social studies???

    Keep teacher pay where it is and it will get worse.

  • Oh Please
    Aug. 23, 2008 12:08 p.m.

    Bad teachers get fired.
    Bad CEOs get a raise. (e.g. GM head who lost billions and got his pay raised by 2/3)

  • Stewart
    Aug. 23, 2008 10:31 a.m.

    One of the major problems is that Utah and other states have to "scrape the barrel" for qualified teachers. A major cause is that the best university students are not going into education, because other professions pay more and have a higher level of respect. In our society respect is often based on income.

    Utah universities used to produce a surplus of teachers from which districts could choose the best. Now there is a shortage, even in elementary schools, which only a generation ago would have been unimaginable. Last year the governor used his influence to obtain visas for Mexican teachers to help fill the shortage in some elementary schools.

    Businesses that expect to hire the best employees available know that they have to pay the highest salaries. When the citizens/taxpayers of Utah come to this same realization, and decide they want better teachers, they will have to pay the price.

    Example, enlisted military pay after four years is higher than Utah teacher starting pay, and the teacher has had to pay for those four years of college, while the enlisted member has been paid all along. An new officer pay is about 25% higher, than a new teacher.

  • Anonymous
    Aug. 23, 2008 9:23 a.m.

    A lot of the problems don't have much to do with the teachers. Frankly, a lot of the curriculum is substandard. Opening a current 5th grade social studies book from a major curriculum publisher the other day, I was appalled at the garish colors, the overwhelming graphics, and the lack of continuity in telling any given history story. There were hardly 3 short paragraphs in sequence anywhere. It was not conducive to learning anything - and I love to read. Much of the reading curriculum is boring - my 4th grader would bring home xeroxed copies of reading comprehension stories day after day, with little "day in the life" snippets of a boy his age, doing nothing particular out of the ordinary.

    The other issue is the strangling effect of rules, bureaucracy, requirements, and over-kill testing all piled on top of the teachers. In elementary school, almost all instructional time is spent on core skills, in order to pass the standardized tests. Where's the history, science, music and art? A unit here and there, spread throughout the year. More maybe, if it's on that year's requirements from the state. It's just sad.

  • Oak Norton
    Aug. 23, 2008 9:23 a.m.

    The solution for math is here. Just unveiled this week is an exciting plan for Utah to leap forward to where the world leader Singapore is performing. Check out Utah's Math Future dot com without spaces or the apostrophe.

  • I'm a Teacher
    Aug. 23, 2008 9:00 a.m.

    I'm a teacher. The argument that educators salaries are tied to student performance is problematic. It suggests I am either refusing to teach correctly because of my pay rate or I am incompetent. Which is it? If it is my incompetence and you will replace me when pay is increased, you will need to fire a lot of teachers. If my pay rate ethical values are the reason I refuse to produce, I need to be fired because I'm teaching flawed ethics to your children.

    I suggest looking at the root of the problem:

    1. Poor education curriculum in the education departments. There has been a shift from basics to philosophy that our education departments look more like sociology and philosophy departments than education departments.

    2. Look at parents. In Utah the Mormons preach the importance of quality education while letting their children off the hook. It seem many treat school as an extension of their sunday school classes. We know the problem, All is well in Zion. As a teacher, I know all is NOT well in Zion.

    My 2 cents, which is perhaps worth about that.

  • Pay More, Get More
    Aug. 23, 2008 8:42 a.m.

    We can pass all the reform measures we want. If we don't have a critical mass of intelligent enough teachers to carry out the reform measures this will do no good.

    For too long, teaching school has been the step child of professions and majors at university.

    Teaching needs to be a well paid profession, to attract people who have intelligence and talent to do anything, but choose to teach because they can now afford it and want to.

    Utah has only itself to blame.

    The legislature to their credit is trying to reform math education, but if we don't get teachers to capable of carrying out these reforms, it won't work.

    Even now, the unions are opposing reform because these reforms would be diffucult for their members to impliment. If we raised teacher standards and pay the new breed of teacher this would attract would welcome the reforms the legislature is trying to impliment.

    Utah need to raise standards and pay at the same time. If Utah does this, the benefit to the economy, the increase in productivity and reputation to Utah would exceed, any increase in taxes increase teacher pay would require.

  • parent
    Aug. 23, 2008 8:20 a.m.

    I attended a Parent Council meeting at my child's charter school the other night. Parents have a good deal more direct input into the policies of a charter school, than they would at a regular public school. On the subject of having rehearsals and activities on Monday nights (LDS family night), there were questions and discussion for 45 minutes. Yet there was not one mention of curricula, test scores, quality of teaching, other than one question I asked in regard to curricula. I was amazed at the parents' "straining at a gnat" while "swallowing a camel."

    Parents need to be very vigilant in overseeing their childrens' education. Pay attention to the big things like is my child learning the core subjects.

  • Raise Standards, raise pay
    Aug. 23, 2008 8:09 a.m.

    In the past several years, we have had the destructive educational fads, whole language reading and investigations math.

    Whole language required a child remember each word individually, and the child not take learn how to sound out words. Ability to read drastically dropped once students no longer learned the sounds that letter make.

    Investigations math refused to teach students how to add, subtract, multiply or divide by hand, either fractions or decimals. This is unfortunate because it is in working with numbers that one becomes familiar with them and their properties, this also prepares the mind for algebra. Calculators were used instead.

    Why didn't educators protect us from these destructive fads? Because to become an elementary education teacher is the easiest degree one can get at university. If you can't qualify for anything else you can become an elementary ed teacher. Standards are quite low.

    As a result, this field gets more than its share of less intelligent people who can't recognize a destructive fad when they see one.

    Utah needs to raise standards on who it accepts to become teachers. This would require that Utah pay teachers more, much more.

    If we don't we will always have problems.

  • orion
    Aug. 23, 2008 7:48 a.m.

    "Changing how teachers become certified." Looks like someone ought to go back to school and learn some critical thinking skills. Who had that great idea?

    Does that mean if there is ever a shortage in the medical field, we can look at methods to change certification methods of those who use imaging machines? Nurses? Physicians?

    Parents should demand a specialist in the classroom when it comes to life-long needed skills like mathematics, reading skills, and writing an intelligent sentence.

    There's no getting around the importance of having trained specialists in the classroom.

    If there is to be a new strategy, it should be in the days students are required to go to school. Most other countries in the world have a year-round system. Another 30+ days in the classroom would make a world of difference. Why didn't we read that possibility in the plan? It all comes down to $$$$.

  • Anonymous
    Aug. 23, 2008 7:32 a.m.

    Utah legislators are so quick to apply the business model to public service, but they don't do this with public ed. They want top dollars to recruit and retain personnel for top-level govt positions, but they don't applay the same rhetoric to education. It's really quite simple: if you want to attract the best teachers, then you have to pay them wages commensurate with the private sector. It's that simple.

  • logic
    Aug. 23, 2008 7:28 a.m.

    If there is a limited number of jobs and
    paying more money would lore "better and brighter teachers" then
    Many of the current teachers would have to be let go.
    I say put more money in education.
    I am tired of my son complaining how boring school is and how unchallenged he is and how so many teachers are lazy because they just show a movie and tell him to take notes

  • Peter Sanko
    Aug. 23, 2008 5:53 a.m.

    Our society better hope that the number of geat people, who love kids and teach to help kids in spite of comparitively meager financial rewards, doesn't drastically subside.

    There will never be enough money to adequately pay the caring, dedicated teachers (a high percentage of the total) for dealing with ADHD, dyslexia, English as a second language, school pictures, playground duty, patrons who know all about education because they went to public schools, ad nauseum. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to raise the bar.

    Certification? It's a starting point but anyone who believes never-ending, read-end numbing, workshops, meetings and classes to stay certified or advance on the salary scale automatically makes teachers better teachers has been smoking brine shrimp. Much of the "certification game" is to ensure job security at university "education" departments.

    The great teachers, and there are many, are great because they love kids, work extremely hard and put up with all the claptrap because of their passion to pass on the best and most important aspects of our culture to the next generation.

    But, of course, an NBA basketball player SHOULD make more in one year than a teacher does in 428 years.

  • Bob
    Aug. 23, 2008 1:30 a.m.

    Students who learn the joy of reading have the foundation of education.

    Parents who participate and add to their children's school experience give their kids a huge educational advantage.

    Educated citizens are crucial for a democracy and economy.

    Educators need more innovative and creative training in how people learn. Many university teacher training programs badly need updating.

    Sylvan Learning Centers charge $30 an hour to educate children.

    The best and the brightest quickly learn that their communication and teaching skills are compensated better outside public education, but some dedicated teachers soldier on. Society owes them a lot.

  • Anonymous
    Aug. 23, 2008 1:01 a.m.

    "There is no correlation nationally between per-pupil expenditures and student achievement. Utah tends to rank near the bottom in this category, but many states and the District of Columbia spend much more and accomplish much less.

    Still, it is true that overall salary increases for teachers would have an effect on luring more bright people into the profession. "

    This is one of the worst editorials I have read yet. You contradict yourself in sequential paragraphs.

    Money plays no part but it is true that more money would lure better teachers?

    Of course money plays a part. The only ones foolish enough to believe that it doesn't are our legislators and the editorial staff of the local newspaper.

    Look. It is simple.

    Pay the teachers a good salary and you will improve the profession.

    Stop treating the teachers like small children. Show them respect. Give them a decent size class to work with. Give them the tools needed to teach. Stop saying we need to "rethink" public education. The only thing we need to rethink is this editorial.