Today’s news:

City should bring back system of vocational schools

TimesLedger Newspapers

The policy of teacher evaluations has been with us during the last several years. This issue is constantly being brought to the forefront in terms of improving the public education system in New York state and especially New York City.

We have just seen a breakdown of negotiations between the city and the teachers union over a new teacher evaluation system.

For years vast efforts have been made to improve city public schools. The blame for poor student performance is now being given to poor instruction by some of the public school teachers. The results are that teachers will be observed more closely by city Department of Education administrators to make sure teachers are performing according to a set of standards.

Teacher performance is only one aspect of students successfully learning. Teachers in various neighborhoods are faced with students with serious domestic problems. They come from environments where educational values are not stressed.

In addition, it seems that a significant percentage of students are not geared toward working within the public school learning process. They have little interest in learning academic subjects other than to achieve passing grades.

Public schools have acquired a group of students with little desire to study or measure up to a set of standards. Teachers can do only so much in motivating students, especially in schools where discipline has broken down. Teachers cannot be blamed for that. They can only do so much to correct a social environment that affects their schools.

When we focus on high schools, it has been emphasized that students should be encouraged to pursue college, but college education is not for everyone. Not all students are prepared, interested or have the ability to go through college. The presence of poor-performing college students in college classrooms makes it more difficult for college professors to teach and qualified students to learn.

When a situation exists in some city high schools and community colleges where a considerable number of students miss classes, do not show up for examinations or hand in research papers late and at times not at all, this has a negative effect on the entire educational system.

Teachers can try to improve student performance. The problems of society at large can sometimes be overwhelming. We need to make some comprehensive changes in the system.

Years ago, before and during the 1950s and ’60s, we had a system of vocational high schools geared to teaching students not interested in going to college or pursuing an academic education.

These schools taught academic subjects in the morning of the school day and trades in the afternoon, such as skills needed to become carpenters, electricians or auto mechanics.

The system seemed to work well. The important thing was that it gave teenage students a choice in choosing careers. If this vocational training could be brought back, it could go a long way toward improving our society’s educational needs. It could improve the educational environment not only for our students, but for our teachers as well.

It is going to be a long and difficult political year in New York City with all citywide offices up for election. The reality of term limits will have a strong effect on our City Council races. Many Council offices will be open seats with no incumbent to face. This situation will encourage more primary candidates, especially in the Democratic Party.

Some things in politics, however, never seem to change. Candidates will be busy putting together a campaign organization, raising money, gaining name recognition and working on getting the majority support of voters in their districts.

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