The 12 Education MYTHS

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Moments before a famous Shakespearean actor was to perform Hamlet to a packed house in New York, he dropped dead. The house manager solemnly went onstage and announced, "We are sorry to bring you this news, but our performance tonight has been canceled due to the untimely demise of our featured performer." From the back of the theater a voice cried out, "Give him some chicken soup!" Startled, the stage manager cleared his throat and replied, "I apologize if in my grief I have not made my solemn message clear. The man is deceased." Once again, but more emphatically the voice rang out, "Give him some chicken soup!" Having had about enough, the manager bellowed back, "Sir, the man is dead. Giving him chicken soup couldn't possibly help." To which the voice replied, "It couldn't hurt!"

Rather then design an academic program that specifically addresses the subjective needs of the student population, those in power propose ideas that are non-sequiturs that have no chance of success, because those in power know that successful public education means their demise and an end to the obscene waste that public education continues to incur throughout this country with no significant positive results. Most programs and reforms today accommodate to failure rather than address it.

Good public education requires a huge bureaucracy with many levels of administrators, counselor, coaches, and coordinators.

The fundamental function of education takes place between a teacher and a reasonable number of students. Everything else is just expensive window dressing. With the intelligent use of computers: databases and networking, teachers could work together to make sure that students' subjective needs were being addressed, there was cross-curriculum coordination by a student's teachers, and parents had access in real time to what their children were doing. At the very least, such a system would significantly lessen the number of out-of-classroom positions that presently have more to do with escaping the presently untenable reality of discipline free classrooms that they do with actual need. Furthermore, the vast majority of administrative time is spent dealing with a relatively small percentage of students who are acting out, who should either be engaged at their subjective level or removed from the school- there really is no other alternative.

Social promotion is necessary to avoid the emotional trauma sustained by a student who is retained.

Statistically, moving a student to the next grade without mastery of prior grade-level standards, is a formula for student failure. The more times it is done, the less likely it is that a student will ever catch up to their peer group.


Grade retention is necessary to give a student more time to attain mastery of grade-level standards that they were initially unable to master.

Student grade level failure is more reasonably attributable to prior grade or age level foundational skills that have not been mastered and which are presently not dealt with if a student is retained. Therefore, social promotion or retention as presently implemented do not address the student's problem with an approach that is likely to succeed.


Single-subject credentialed teachers are capable of teaching students who are years behind grade level.

The training and credentialing of the vast majority of secondary public school teachers is as single subject, e.g. Math, Science, English, Social Studies, teachers. They have no relevant training to address the foundational skills of students who are not at grade level and, given the exigencies of teaching the courses that they are credentialed to teach, have no time to accomplish this task.

Eliminating seniority will address teacher incompetence.

 In all professions, the longer that a person practices their profession the better they get at it. Where this is not true a process of objective peer assessment needs to be implemented. At present, seniority is used to dump the most problematic classes on the new teachers with the least amount of seniority, which assures a 50% attrition rate among teachers within 5 years. While some form of merit/hazard pay might be paid to any teacher with the experience and skill to take on these difficult classes, correctly placing students by subjective ability and not age would most like obviate the necessity for any teacher to have to suffer the present inappropriate behavior of students that is being driven by student frustration about being asked to function at a level that is impossible for them.

Eliminating tenure will address teacher incompetence.

 In talking not of the present hostility toward all teachers in an orchestrated media attack that seems to want to assign blame for failed public education to teachers, the necessity for keeping tenure is more reasonably proven. Teachers are not responsible for the existing failed structure of public education and have no authority to change it. Furthermore, to make their jobs contingent upon how well students do in their classes that fails to take into consideration the years of academic deficits that the vast majority of these students bring to a teachers class unfairly holds teachers exclusively responsible for student failure more reasonably attributable to administrative and political decisions beyond their control. This is patently unfair.

The more money one spends on education the better.

The Cartel film shows that New Jersey spends more money per student than any other state in the union and has little to show for it. Public education fiscal and pedagogic policies, like New Jersey, have more to do with politicians jobs and union support in elections, business interests that make fortunes supplying goods and services to public education of questionable necessity, and school district level jobs. The actual process of education between a teacher and a reasonable number of students is a comparatively less expensive process and rather straight forward.

Empowering parents is always a good thing.

Public education has failed miserably over the last half-century and was not very successful before that in educating parents to be effective advocates for their own children. By turning 18 or having children, parents do not automatically obtain the skills or social capital they need to be effective advocates for their children. Rather, they are likely to be manipulated by "education reformers" far too many of whom only seek to advance their own economic or political self-interest. Programs that are successful in empowering parents seek to educate the parents and get their knowing consent and buy-in as a precondition to addressing their children's needs.

Billions of dollars for school construction is necessary.

The jury is still out on this one. It is costing billions of dollars in bond money for LAUSD to build 150 new schools that it claims are very much needed to end year-around schedules and campus overcrowding. At the very least, alternatives like staggering school start times to keep schools full from 7am until 10pm might more inexpensively better utilized existing campuses and education personnel while accommodating to the student work schedules and educator desire to work during a different time frame. Whether it is campuses of the University of California or LAUSD, politically powerful construction companies seem to be more concerned with generating lucrative construction contracts than objectively assessing whether new schools are needed and in what form they should be built.

Small schools are better

Whether a school is large or small is not really the issue. If the students subjective level is addressed in either one of these types of schools they will be successful. The reason that big schools exist is to offer the rich diversity of educational possibilities that is not often present in a small learning community. In reality, there is already a small learning community at all schools, it is called a classroom.

More police will solve the problems of behavior, crime, and gangs that presently infest most LAUSD schools.

The necessity for school police is created by LAUSD's long term failure to assure that students receive time sensitive education. When this does not take place, the behavior, crimes, and gangs grow. Fix education and eliminate the need for an expensive school police force.

Charters and other reforms are inherently good because they create competition.

Charters and other reform models of education are no more effective nor do they have any more oversight than presently failing public school districts. Don't accommodate to public school failure, fix it by establishing independent oversight of any public school entity by people whose own well being is not threatened by them doing the right thing.

You will know when our government, education bureaucracy, and families are serious about public education reform when the programs they propose rationally relate to the educational problems that exist. Proscribing chicken soup for the potentially terminal disease that afflicts public education - unlike chicken - soup can hurt.


2 Comments

Brian, Thank you for the kind words. You are part of the silenced majority that could fix public education if allowed to do so.

One idea that could get a contract taken out on you by the school book publishers would be where the school district was the publisher and owner of the copyright and intelligent and dedicated teachers like yourself could share in the copyright royalties to the extent that the district(s) used the books or chapters to a textbook - they might even publish on line where they could be updated and reprinted without the constant unnecessary cost of paying for new editions.

LAUSD is about jobs and suppliers, not about doing what is best to educate and make the environment teachers need to accomplish this task. They have precisely the education system they want.

LAUSD derives its power from builders that get to build $421+ million RFK Learning Centers at the old Ambassador site with talking benches and without lessening teacher to student ratio or continuing to buy inappropriate textbooks that the students don't have the level to read for about $100 a pop.

This year, perdaily is going to go national to show you that this fraud in public education is going on throughout this country and is the greatest threat to this country surviving as a democracy.

In Los Angeles public education that I think is much better public education is not only possible, but a rather straight forward process if we get the crooks out of it.

Let's join to make our majority voice finally heard. In that reality, your book idea would be adopted in a second.

Stay in touch and look for us to update on a national level in the next couple of weeks

Leonard,

Your blog is full of what I would term "uncommon" sense, because if most educators and administrators followed your practical advice and had half as much sense as you do the school system would be much better off.

I am a high school special ed teacher in LAUSD and have written a series of novels for struggling readers, which I've coined the City Tales novels. The kids love them, the teachers want them, but the school is at best luke warm about purchasing them because of a potential "conflict of interest".

Is there anyone in the district that you know of that I could speak to, or is in charge of book distribution or on a committee that decides what will be bought? I feel like a blind man stumbling in a warehouse and have no idea where to really begin.

Any advice or help you have would be appreciated. Sincerely,

- Brian

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