Friday, April 27, 2007

Schools an all day affair?

“Schools may be an all day affair” is the header of an article appearing on 2/25/07 in the JS. The article points out that U.S. students average less time on instructional school hours during a year than most other industrialized countries. On the average, U.S. students go to school 6.5 hours per day, 180 days a year, fewer than in many other industrialized countries. Some Massachusetts private schools are experimenting with classes starting at 7:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. The extended day costs an average of $1200 extra per student. One model is “Knowledge is Power” program used in public charter schools.

To prevent boredom, the students’ do such things as stage musicals, design book covers, learn to cook, forensics and plan new school cheers. I’ve said over and over that schools are not all about academics and teaching to pass tests. Schools are to develop a well rounded product; some of these products who may have skills and interests far beyond what can be developed by an over-emphasis on memory and testing.

For students involved in other school extra-curricular activities; which should always be encouraged, excuses could be granted or schedules rearranged.

Even Ted Kennedy, usually in the Teachers Union back pocket, is considering allowing schools that fail to meet annual progress goals to extend their day as a possible solution. As one might expect, the National Education Association has no official opinion on extending the school day. Considering and no opinion. What would you expect of a system that promotes tenure over ability, poor teachers making the same as good teachers, and bad teachers who can do bad teaching for their entire career?

As Congress considers updating the somewhat effective NCLB law, they might observe what is really happening in other countries public school systems and why other countries are catching up with us. Also include some of the most successful programs bein run right now in this country. Some countries are surpassing us now and in the next decade, so will many more. I guarantee one area that we will surpass all other countries, if we do not change our ways, is the number per capita incarcerated in our prisons and jails. We lead now and unless we change the direction we are heading, we will not be caught.

The system, as I’ve written over and over needs an overhaul from top to bottom. Expand on the good, improve what needs improving and weed out the rest.

Along the way, forget the ideal that all kids are going to college and all have clean nails, desk jobs and soft hands. Otherwise, illegal immigration will fill the needs of businesses..

And yes, teachers who read me, I know many of you are doing your best under trying circumstances in many cases. And yes, board members and administrators, I know that many of you are doing the same.

But any of you who do not support performance pay and competition, I thank you for what you do but you are out of step with most private sectors.

A story I read recently, decried the conditions of many of the schools and the plight of many good teachers; 18,000 teachers in Los Angeles left the system recently feeling that the school systems had deteriorated so badly that they no longer wanted to teach.

I’ve heard the same thing here in Peoria and I know that in talking with High School Principals recently, our systems here in Peoria are extremely challenged and progress is slow.

Until kids who aren’t interested now, get interested in what schools have to offer, we will continue to see them dropping out at an alarming rate. To get them interested, the Peoria Public School System needs more counselors at all grade levels and all interested and involved need to do a better SELLING job to get kids to enroll and apply themselves to what is already being offered.

And by the way, new schools are absolutely not proven to increase the value of the product that new schools turn out. On the other hand, this community does not want kids in schools that hinder or impair their ability to succeed. If I recall, Abe Lincoln learned by candlelight and fireplace and my family grew up and succeeded without air-conditioning, school buses, cell phones and text messaging.

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