The Formula For Success Part Two

I’m giving a talk about part one at TedxABQ on January 11th, if you wondered how I got to the sequel.  In part one, I explain how our  current system of accountability is getting off the mark.

Herein, I would like to suggest the solution.  Not just to accountability, but pretty much the panacea for the whole thing.  There will be no surprise here.  You already know the solution, too.  Before I go there though, let me say as a teacher for over twenty years in public education, that we have chased many trends pushed by publishers and salespeople who have used the words “research based”, a term with no standard definition, to provide all kinds of smoke-and-mirrors solutions for the classroom, and data to try to disprove the solution I suggest.  But the solution I suggest  has solid, consistent precedents and results,  and was even used by God himself.

Education really hasn’t changed much.  Sure, we have iPads, and smartboards, and the internet, and our knowledge has changed.  But education itself is and always has been a conversation.   And the more specific the conversation is, the better it is.

The specific conversation has to have a manageable number of students per teacher  (Pupil Teacher Ratio, or PTR in educator jargonese).  This is something we knew clear back before the one-room schoolhouse, before Christ, when Socrates used dialectic some 400 years B.C..  Socrates had discussions that were one-to-one.  That helped his “great teacher” status, he had the PTR for the specific conversation.

Another great teacher, Christ, had a pretty good PTR going too, right?  The Twelve.  And this guy was good.  So if that is God, who can handle the Whole Deal, why do public school teachers get asked to do more than God?  You’d think that would at least get them a pay raise.

Then to the one-room school house of legend.  My grandma taught there.  She had eight students.  Now we’re talking.  Literally.  Because, with eight students you can talk.  To each other.  Everyone is accountable, nobody can disappear without being noticed.  Everyone contributes.  Good practice for a democracy.

And of course, Finland.  They all know it.  That’s a major part of the reason they are #1 in the world in education currently.  Here.  Almost everyone one of those articles will mention special help or attention, or two teachers in a class, or some other PTR reducing scheme.

And you know it, too.  The people I ask about they why go to a private school, say the reason:  smaller classes.  “My kid isn’t just a number”.  Yep.  We all know it.

So why, when we’ve known it all along, do we keep throwing money at solutions that will “save us money” by promising to minimize the number or need for teachers?  We have “saved” more money this way spending it on the research, the materials, the smoke and mirrors, that if we would have spent it on lowering the number of students in the first place, we would be there.  The place of educated students.   We want that.

The two teacher per classroom solution will not cause additional building costs, and there other solutions besides spending money outright to get the personnel, too.  Cooperation with teaching programs, even high-schools and senior centers- there are precedents here, too.   But why have we abandon the goal entirely?  To save money.   Our first priority can’t be saving money.  We shoot for the goal, and then get creative to meet the budget.  It is a goal we must aim for, if we don’t pay now, we will pay later.

This system also addresses accountability, it is the solution for the accountancy distraction.  If two adults are in there, it creates an implicit co-check on the professionalism of the teachers, and there can be the mechanism for an explicit check system for investigating teachers who are not holding up their end.

There it is.  It’s simple, straightforward, and it will work.   Let’s not avoid it any longer.  We must get back to the basics.


Filed under Education, education solutions

2 responses to “The Formula For Success Part Two

  1. Dave Dallas

    Nice job Jeff. I teach at a school where kids are not a number – it’s a magnet school, one class per grade. Small. Every teacher pretty much knows every student, not just the ones in their classroom. We’re a community. Not necessarily the best and brightest, but we act like our students are, and they truly believe it. We don’t give out grades we write narratives. We have conversations, not conferences. Parents are a partnership in our educational philosophy. Self advocacy is an important part of each child’s journey. We don’t focus on testing yet have some of the best scores in the state. Keep up the great work.
    Dave Dallas
    Bend, OR

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