If We Only Had More Fingers ….. to Point

                                                                                                                                                                                                           By H Mac Wooten

If we only had more fingers …… to point                                         

Kansas City Public School System is yet the latest to make the news …. again.   For those of you who failed geography, KCPS is in Missouri.  In September 2011, the Missouri Board of Education voted to revoke the accreditation of the Kansas City School District voted to revoke the accreditation of the Kansas City school district because it failed to reach state performance standards.  This is the second time in 11 years that the district has lost accreditation. Of 14 standards, school districts generally must meet six to be provisionally accredited and nine to be fully accredited.  Missouri has three unaccredited districts and nine provisionally accredited districts.  Missouri State law requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation to send students living within their boundaries to accredited schools in the same or an adjoining county. That law is presently being challenged in court as KCPS refuses to pay the full amount to other school districts accepting their students.  Missouri House Speaker Tilley, R-Perryville, previously said when discussing legislation on changes to accreditation and related transfer student rules that any plan to address those issues should include measures that have had difficulty finding legislative success over the years, the Kansas City Star reported in late January. Those would include expansion of charter schools, elimination of teacher tenure, teacher pay based on student achievement and an offer of tax-credit vouchers to parents who want to send children to private schools.

Someone is to blame!       Let’s point more fingers.

Is it our legislators, is it federal laws and mandates, is it a declining economy, is it lazy children who don’t want to learn, is it sorry school Superintendents, budget constraints, lack of money, low income, high unemployment, poor neighborhoods, declining enrollment, rising dropout rates,   poverty, overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers, bad teachers, bad systems, pressure on teachers to raise those scores by any means possible or just global warming?  Yes!  (E) all the above.

What’s the answer?  Throw more $money$ at the problem.  Of course I wish our government had thought of that!  Put someone new in charge!  Who; new teachers, a new superintendent, turn it over to the state, leave the school district alone and let them work it out.  God forbid you ask THE TEACHERS.

Spend money, don’t spend money?

Missouri spends an average of $9751 per student. KCPS spends $ 15,640.00 per child, out of their $259 million budget.  More than 80% of students in KCPS qualify for free or reduced – price lunch. In the mid-1980s, Kansas City had a few good public schools in mostly white neighborhoods, and some badly performing schools in poor, minority neighborhoods.  In 1985, a federal district judge took control of the district and ordered that nearly $2 billion be spent to bus students and integrate and improve the schools.  This year, the district opened a shop with school supplies and uniforms – even socks and underwear – for parents who can’t afford them for their children and I heard something about dental assistance?   In 2010 Missouri had 9 school districts that had provisional accreditation.  To reduce costs last year, the district closed almost half the schools in the city. By the district’s numbers, roughly 9 percent of Kansas City public school students are homeless.  It seems the demographics change  huh?  All the rules change.  What used to not kinda work well, still doesn’t work well.  But, let’s completely start over, change things, buy new books, buy into another program, put someone new in charge and throw money at it.  This year, KCPS district opened a shop with school supplies and uniforms – even socks and underwear – for parents who cannot afford them for their children.

Who’s the best, who’s the worst?

Well, this, probably is the easiest question to answer.  In 2009 District-o-Columbia  public schools spent a reported average of $28,170.00/per student from their $1.29 Billion budget.   Harvard’s (2012-2013) tuition for full time students  is $36,992.00   For just $9000.00 more take your child out of DCPS them in Harvard.   In 2010 California had a school budget of $47.2 billion which averaged to $8452.00/ per ADA (average daily attendance).  If you break it down to SAT Spending: Utah ranks among the best in the nation with an average SAT scores 1114 / $5216 avg per student.   D.C.P.S. the worst in the nation (remember, that’s OUR NATIONS CAPITAL) avg SAT score  940/ $13,348.00  avg per student.  

Still , somehow, it must be the teachers fault!

What are a few more kids in the class?  The teachers can finish grading test during those months of vacation during the summer.  Official (state law) Student enrollment for the state of Missouri (Minimum number of students)  K-2  25 students    Grades 3-4 27 students    Grades 5-6 30 students     Grades 7-12  33 students.  Yes, of course they left legal wiggle room to put even more pressure and work on the teachers.  Student enrollment in a classroom may increase by as many as ten (10) students for any period that a teacher assistant assists the classroom teacher full time.  A teacher with a half-time teacher assistant may be assigned as many as five (5) additional students.

St. Louis Public schools lost accreditation 2006 and are still not fully accredited.  Missouri state law states adjoining Districts may share Superintendents.  Let’s double their workload too.

I’m certainly not picking on Missouri.  Pick a state … almost any state! (Georgia, Texas, Arizona)  If I left your state out, please forgive me. I was either being nice or my typing finger is getting tired now!

Nationally, Asian students continue to post the greatest average increases among racial and ethnic groups, and blacks score the lowest.  Average scores for students from wealthy families were among the highest of all.  Nearly 1.6 million students of the class of 2010 took the SAT test, a new record.  Of that number, 41.5% were minorities, which is up from 40% last year.  The USA, once a world leader in the proportion of adults 25-34 with college credentials, now ranks 12th among industrialized countries, according to the College Board.   “America’s students are not completing college at a high rate because our education system is not preparing them to succeed in college.  The federal law (No Child Left Behind) has been continuously given credit as the greatest contribution to the problem.  Many of those critics are teachers… the ones who know!).  The law, which went into effect in the 2003-04 academic years, requires states that want to receive federal funding for schools to develop skill assessment for all students in certain grades. Since enactment, reading scores have declined from 508 to 501, math from 518 to 516. Writing scores have dropped 5 points since that section was added in 2005, from 497 to 492.  Average composite scores on the ACT college entrance exam have fluctuated between 20.9 and 21.2 (out of 36) since 2003-04; this year’s scores, released last month, averaged 21.0.At the same time, racial and ethnic gaps in test scores are not narrowing; since 2006, average scores for Asian Americans are up 36 points, while scores for blacks are down 14.

No heading for this paragraph.

There isn’t necessarily a direct correlation to pay and job performance, (especially with many of my friends) but, for the most part, Teachers should be paid much more.  If you really think about it, their job is really important. Do you think?  Just because teacher pay has increased over the years, they still fall far behind many other professional’s salaries.  It is obvious that you’re not teaching just for the money.

I’m not a big fan of tying teacher’s pay to test score performance for several reasons.  Many districts force you to accept a contract that allows the district an easy way to fire you when your salary is based on performance (which is a code word for increasing test scores).  This also could lead to pressure for some teachers to help too much and end up in tons of legal trouble for being caught giving/selling/coaching test answers (remember where that happened)?

The Answer?

Gosh, I really hope you did not read this far and expect me to have the answer,  but … I may have a temporary solution that will work until we figure it out.  Get rid of the bad teachers (if you are an educator, you will probably admit that there are some of the very best and very worst in that profession …. as there are in many professions)   and….. Let the other teachers do what they know to do.   TEACH!

Thanks for your indulgence,

H Mac Wooten

President of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit Organization

Consider making a small Donation to: Teach a Teacher 201 Chestnut Street Missoula Montana 59801

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2 thoughts on “If We Only Had More Fingers ….. to Point

  1. It’s a shame that things like this happen – Teachers shouldn’t be blamed for the financial struggles a school district has -> They’re the problem of financiers and politicians.
    What needs to be done is to promote alternative methods of teaching. They’ve been a few schools that have done that over the years, and it may work in this case. They should attempt to make it easier for things to get done, too. Not harder.

    The uniform shop reminds me of one of the worst things that happened at my high school. They updated the uniform, justifying that it was going to be cheaper. Mind you, the current uniform was just fine. Two years later, the cost of uniforms at my old school was almost 20% more than what they originally were – Not great for an area where a lot of families barely scrape by.

  2. There are many challenges that we teachers face. I don’t mean that as a form of whining but as fact. I am tired of hearing everyone claim they have the answers which of course always start with poinitng at poor teachers. It would be nice to not be balmed for all of society’s ills.

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