I was extremely impressed with Barry Paschals July 31 column, School choice is bad answer. The column addresses the most overlooked, but important, issues in education today.
I have been very disturbed at the flak going out to the Harlem-Grovetown area schools. As Paschal points out, these schools preformed much higher in test scores than many other schools in the CSRA. One of my children attended Euchee Creek Elementary for two years, and the other for five years (and they were at North Harlem Elementary for a year before that). They got an excellent education at both places.
The staff of Euchee Creek is very dedicated and hard-working, and deserves recognition, not this namby-pamby criticism. ...
I am utterly sick of all that is being laid on the backs of teachers these days. Have we forgotten that teaching is a low-paying, disrespected profession? Teachers are now saddled with tons of paperwork and non-teaching responsibilities, in addition to their regular teaching expectations. ... Teachers must either cut corners somewhere or work after hours, which can severely interfere with family responsibilities, personal time, and physical health. Students refuse to do assigned work and will not study, but the teachers are blamed for their performance - not the students themselves!
People seem to think that a better school means better teachers. This is not necessarily the case. I know there are fantastic teachers at the better schools. ... They are working their hearts out and making a big difference in the lives of the children they teach. However, I have taught school for 21 years, both in rural areas and in the inner city. Those schools were not the better schools of the areas. In them, I found intelligent, talented, well-educated, dedicated teachers. Some of the best teachers I have ever seen have worked in the most difficult conditions, and have not necessarily had the top-scoring students.
So what does make some schools better? According to most present-day measurements, the better schools are deemed so by test scores. That means the better schools have high performing students - not better teachers, not even smarter kids, but better test-scorers. Paschal points out that the lowest schools in Columbia County are in the poorest areas. Educational research has consistently found correlation between lower school achievement and lower socioeconomic status. However, more recent research has shown an even higher correlation with another factor: parents attitude toward education.
I have seen kids who excelled beyond all odds because their parents wanted them to have a better life. I have seen parents remove children from classrooms over racial and personal issues with teachers. I have even seen parents who helped their kids cheat on their homework because they wanted their kids to get better grades, but they did not understand that better grades do not always mean better learning. Of course, this is not true 100 percent of the time. There are children who have disabilities or learning problems, whose parents work with them day and night to help them. Those parents need to know that even though their children may not score high on standard tests, the parents effort makes a difference in the childrens lives!
Our society once valued education. Now, in many areas, we no longer embrace that value. Sadly, you cannot legislate educational interest in the home. Changing policies, curriculum, and laws to try to force higher scores in the classroom will just result in chaos. We are seeing only the beginning of that now. When I did my student teaching in Tennessee many years ago, I heard my mentor teacher say something I have never forgotten. She used to tell students, I cant crawl under your skin and make you do the work. I cant get in your head and make you learn. This, however, is exactly what teachers are being told they must do.
Karen Q. Rushing
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