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The new buzzword is “accountability.” The city Department of Education will spend about $350 million for accountability in the form of tests, in addition to the state and federal tests already being given. Many parents and teachers are unhappy with testing and teaching to the test at the expense of teaching children creativity and culture.
Are parents or society being made accountable? The media discovered that on any day about 20 percent or 30 percent of children are absent, about the same as the 30 percent or 40 percent of students who dropped out of high school. Unless parents and children are helped, the dropout rate will rise. The new, smaller schools are supposed to reach individual children and parent coordinators are supposed to reach every parent.
Some of the reasons children fail academically are dysfunctional families with drugs, alcoholism, low income, family joblessness, poverty, mental illness, lack of educated parents, mental retardation, physical illnesses, young girls having babies and crime−ridden neighborhoods.
Problems students may face are alcoholism, drug use, autism, mental illness, dyslexia, poor eyesight, bullying, gangs, celebrities who seem more interesting than school, ridicule for being smart or being picked on for sexual orientation. Due to these problems, students may not attend school and many do poorly on tests. There are programs to help these students, but are there enough and can the problems be overcome?
Officials say reading and math tests will measure accountability. But there are a number of ways to fix tests: make them easier, drill students on the answers, always give the same or similar tests, extend the time on a timed test, encourage students to pick the correct answers during a test and erase the wrong answer bubbles and put in the correct ones.
Some school districts are now getting away from the notion that all students must take academic subjects and are reinstating vocational subjects, which can provide well−paying jobs.
Drugs cause crime so addicts can obtain money to pay for drugs. Gangs use violence, which can destroy a neighborhood. This must be corrected before we can improve test scores. Some officials say middle school teachers with high test scores should be put into poorer neighborhood schools to help those children score higher.
Officials who never taught a day in their lives devise programs for teachers who are pulled out of their classrooms and presented these new ideas while students sit with substitute teachers.
Teachers should follow a strict, timed lesson plan and not go over things even if students do not understand. Save money by putting more students in a class in spite of the United Federation of Teachers contract or create a charter school and ignore the contract.
The DOE decided that it will pay part of teachers’ salaries, as did the old city Board of Education. Teachers are required to obtain a master’s and paid more money. Even though they have higher pay, they are undesirable in some schools.
Our nation is competing with highly motivated and industrious workers who study hard because it is a national trait. We have to partner teachers, parents, supervisors, students and government leaders to create an innovative, educated workforce.
We are already $10 trillion in debt. We are lost if we cannot bring our students up to speed.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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