False Assumptions that Drive School Reform

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You cannot open a newspaper, watch the news, or get on the Internet without finding something negative about public education. Public education is under attack like it has never been before. School reform is being touted harder than any time in history. Teachers and administrators have somehow become a scapegoat for a system that they did not develop, nor implement.

There is no denying that there are flaws in our current educational system.

However, there is not an instant fix. Those wanting a quick fix are not realists and in turn become part of the problem. It is going to take years for true school reform to take place. It will start with small changes eventually equating to the greater goal.

The sad reality is that while school reform has been a pressing issue for decades, no true reform has occurred. The same issues we had in 1960’s with public education are an issue today. There are many assumptions made by those outside of public education about public education. Assumptions are typically misleading. As valuable as children are, it is difficult to understand why many Americans continue to make assumptions instead of searching for a deeper understanding and a solution to the problem.

There are many assumptions made about public education that drives school reform. Here, we dive into a few of those assumptions to shed some light on the truth.

Assumption #1 – Most teachers are bad teachers.

There are bad teachers just like there are bad lawyers, bad doctors, and bad politicians. Every field has that rotten egg that makes you want to throw out the remainder of the dozen. However, the majority of teachers are excellent teachers that are there for the right reasons and who work extremely hard to educate the students entrusted to them.

Many teachers have a significant enough impact that they can indirectly influence generations of families. Being a teacher is a powerful calling. It isn’t as easy as it seems, but the great ones make it seem effortless. Teaching is much more than an 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. job. Most teachers spend hours at night grading papers, planning for the next day, and looking for ideas that will make them a better teacher. Sure they get summers off, but many spend their summers attending professional development workshops to improve.

Here is a challenge for those that think teaching is easy or that most teachers are bad teachers. Set up a visit with your local school’s principal. Explain to them your perception of teachers and ask them if you can volunteer in a classroom for a couple of days. I guarantee you will come out of that experience with a new perspective and deeper appreciation for those in the education field.

Assumption #2 – Every child learns the same.

The United States is the only country that requires its schools to take every school age child. In a single classroom, you can have a wide range of intelligence, disabilities, languages, etc. This provides a particularly difficult challenge for teachers to overcome.

Part of the issue comes with the fact that public education has for the most part always grouped students according to their age. For the average student, this is not a problem. For students, who fall above or below that average mark, then that can either hold them back or leave them trying to catch up. The truth is that not every child is ready to begin kindergarten at age five. There are some three year olds that would thrive in a kindergarten class, and there are some seven year olds who would struggle.

Not every child learns the same way or at the same age. There are many external factors that influence this. Grouping according to age does make a teacher’s job more difficult because of the varying levels, but when you have an estimated fourth of your population starting school too early, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Assumption #3 – Education is the teacher’s job.

The most frustrating assumption is that the responsibility of education falls solely on the teacher. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes a total community effort to educate a child successfully.

This does not just include the parents and teachers. To be fully effective, the entire community must value education and make it a priority. Too many people want to gripe and complain about education and not enough want to get involved and make a real difference. If communities would come together and create symposiums that value education, we would see a dramatic improvement on the overall quality of education in our schools simply through increased support.

With many teachers having class sizes above 30 students, it is virtually impossible to give every child the individual attention that they need. That’s why it is so vital for the community, beginning with the parents, to get involved and stay involved in their child’s education. A level of commitment within a community where academic successes are valued and praised would be the largest step a community could make towards true school reform.

Assumption #4 – The media is unbiased.

Negative stories about teachers and schools far outweigh the positive stories. The truth is that across the United States, there are much more positives than there are negatives. Why does the media concentrate on a school’s failure or a teacher’s mistake? The bottom line is that these types of stories sell more papers. We have become a society that feeds on negativity. We love to read about how a school’s test scores are low or about the teacher who had inappropriate relations with their students. These things do happen, but if the media were truly unbiased they would feature more articles that highlight positive aspects of schools and the teaching profession.

Like it or not the media shapes many American’s perception on a variety of topics and education is no exception. What sells and what is right are two different things.

Media pundits could make substantial contributions in the school reform movement simply by producing more stories with positive overtones concerning education.

Assumption #5 – Schools are not what they used to be.

This assumption is actually a truth, but not with the intended context that many people use it. The truth is that schools, administrators, and teachers do a far better job of educating our youth than they ever have before. Many people see published reports of how our schools are failing and think that they were taught more than what students now are taught. That could not be further from the truth.

Media scrutiny of schools has increased throughout recent years as standards have become more rigorous and the emphasis on standardized testing has increased. Teachers today are responsible for teaching far more content than those of previous decades. Where schools used to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, now there is a much broader focus on what is required in education.

The technological explosion of the 21st century, along with the need for our children to be equipped to compete in a global economy has forced radical changes in the way schools, administrators, and teachers focus on education. Step into a classroom today and it won’t look anything like the school that you went to.

Summary

The upcoming implementation of the Common Core State Standards will again transform education unlike anything in the history of the United States. The education that the average child receives in public education today is vastly superior to the education many of us received. School reform is an ongoing process, and there will always be ways to improve our public education system. Five years from now schools will not be as they are now. They will be better, but the improvements will likely go unnoticed because of the many assumptions that people make about education.