The degradation of the educational system in America is the result of many factors: the erosion of the family unit, the unionization of teachers that focuses on protecting the welfare of teachers instead of the education of children, and the Prussian Model used as a basis of our educational system through twelfth grade which is better designed for indoctrination than for learning and independent problem solving, among others. The focus on the family cannot be recreated by any government. It must come from the people. Likewise, a desire to change our educational system from one of standardization to one of maximizing individual learning must also develop from the people and the teaching community working together.
But perhaps if the educational professionals themselves considered a radical change in their way of organizing, they might lead the way to improvements in the other two areas. Here is one possible approach for consideration.
This involves a great deal of spending up front and that will turn many people off. But if we look at how much money has already been appropriated only to fail to improve education in this country, perhaps we could at least try something a bit different.
How much more respectful and empowering would it be if all educators ruled themselves through a Professional Association matrix instead of a union matrix? If administrators and teachers ruled their own membership in a manor designed to mandate good teaching methods as well as results, with awards and raises given by their own judgment and standards based on the achievements of their students, they would achieve three things:
1, They would insure that all of them were dedicated to educational achievement, with the ability to set and demand high standards of each of their members based on their own self-interest;
2. they would have professional respect from parents as well as the general public; and
3. they would have the self-satisfaction of knowing that their students would be productive citizens.
But...how to implement this? One idea would be to approach the teachers and their unions with the concept that ALL salaries for three years would be tripled. Yes, tripled! In return, the teachers would create their own Professional Organization empowered to rule itself, set minimum requirements and methods for self-evaluation based on student achievement as well as the teachers' Organization evaluations, and give up all tenure.
During those three years the teachers would themselves select those who's performance on behalf of the students qualified them for terms of tenure...which would be for a set number of years (perhaps 8 years), upon the expiration of which the Teachers Professional Association would do a review evaluation, the satisfactory finding of which would provide for an additional 8 year tenure. At the same time, the Teachers Professional Association would be tasked with reviewing the educational program for learning efficacy, seeking improvement in the learning matrix and experimenting to improve the educational system with the goal of enabling and insuring that all students reach a certain minimum standard of reading, math and general knowledge while those with exceptional or advanced abilities are nurtured to maximize their educational growth. But the key would be to put the responsibility AND the rewards for achieving that goal in the hands of the teachers themselves.
When Teachers and the general public come to see that Teachers are dedicated professionals exercising professional ability to regulate themselves to excel every bit as much as Doctors and other professionals and demonstrably requiring that all their members perform at the same high standards, they will:
a. receive the admiration of the public and parents;
b. which will give them greater authority to enable changes in education that will provide better results for all students;
c. which in turn will demonstrate value that will provide for remuneration that all excellent teachers deserve; and
d. the increased status will draw highly motivated and able new recruits into the profession.
At the end of the three year period of adjustment, re-selection of teachers deserving tenure and the creation of the basis for self-regulation and self-evaluation, the salary level would initially go to double the original (or, decrease one-third from the then effective level). As time passes, the Teachers Professional Association can develop payment rates. Perhaps they will decide to create a hierarchy of teaching ability (level 1, 2,3, Masters) either generally or by subject that would stay with the teacher and set the level of pay regardless of where or at what school he or she worked. And/or there might be set adjustments based on cost of living when a teacher moved from one area of the country to another. And, if a teacher moved during a tenure period, that tenure would continue until the expiration of the current term, with the usual re-evaluation to be conducted by representatives of the Teachers' Professional Association.
Just one idea to consider. It seems wrong to criticize without attempting to come up with a way of improving or changing what seems currently not to be working.