How to Spend $100 Billion to Fix Schools (Cont.)
Readers, bless them, buried us in votes and comments when we asked them last week to rank 10 ideas for fixing America’s schools with the expected $100 billion in education stimulus funds, and offer their own suggestions. The top five ideas, ranked in the order of reader approval, were:
1. Help students at least two years behind.
2. Higher standards for most U.S. schools.
3. Better, more robust and useful test data.
4. Create a national teacher evaluation system.
5. More training and power for principals.
The list proves, among other things, that few readers are so weak-minded as to be influenced by anything I say. I openly derided the ideas that rose to 2nd and 4th place. Of the five ideas I contributed to the list, only one (No. 5) made the top five, and just barely.
Which is good, since the proposals readers made in e-mails to me and comments on the column were more imaginative, and often wiser, than mine. I personally sympathized with some of the wilder suggestions, such as the suggestion by josephkee to close all of the education schools and jbel48’s call for improvement in school boards since most members were “ignorant and incompetent.” Many ideas not only had that attractive edge, but had some chance of being enacted, such as these:
Dick Diamond, an experienced educator, recalled a somewhat longer day at one school that allowed teachers to meet formally once a week to go over every student’s progress. “Each teacher was able to give input, especially with the students having academic as well as social troubles,” he said. “It also enabled teachers to decide which one of them could best handle those students needing counseling.” Online poster rrap1 endorsed a similar initiative.
Tom DiFiglio, an experienced teacher and writer, suggested we “bring back the concept of truancy. You cannot learn when you are not in attendance.” He didn’t mean just asking the assistant principals to check the local pizza joints and street corners for missing students, but using every precious minute of the day for instruction. No more field trips or assemblies during class, he said. No more pulling students out for a few minutes to talk to a coach or counselor.
Bruce Brown wanted to kill off the prescribed, timed lesson: “It is like hiring me to coach the team, then giving me all the plays to run for the entire game.” Elaine Wiener extolled the power of getting every student in the habit of studying in the same quiet place at the same time every day.
Many readers wanted longer school days and smaller class sizes, but they were outnumbered by those who thought discipline had to be restored. I am in that group. More training, better rules, stronger principals -- anything necessary to turn each class into a place where students focus on learning. I will be looking for real-life examples of such fine ideas in action. Keep sending them to me.
Washington Post editors
| May 19, 2009; 5:00 AM ET
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