More Options for Students, More Appreciation for Teachers

By Jackie Cushman

April 12, 2018 6 min read

We need to expect and receive more of our educational system and students, while supporting, thanking and training teachers. Our future will be determined by our students' current educational experiences.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. It found connections between our education system, our economic future and national security, connections we should keep in mind today. It was not a flattering report. President Ronald Reagan noted our educational system had "low standards, lack of purpose, ineffective use of resources, and a failure to challenge students to push performance to the boundaries of individual ability."

Three decades later, there have been pockets of progress but no real upward bounds across our nation. We must do better for our children and for our future as a nation.

We have to radically change education and focus on long term solutions to educating our citizens and ensuring prosperity for our country, for the sake of both our economy and national security.

America works best when Americans are working. This requires a robust, individualized education and training system that not only prepares children for college, but also provides vocational training. As a nation that believes in the value of individuals, we must work to help every person reach their full potential.

In this week's National Review Article, "American Education: 35 Years of Mediocrity Since A Nation at Risk" by Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., Allen wrote, "the results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress," (which measures students on core subjects based not in comparison to other students, but based on knowledge), are "dismal."

"Fewer than half of students are rated 'proficient' in each of these subjects. The only significant change since 2015 is a one-point increase in eighth-grade reading. Otherwise we look a lot like we did in 2011," said Allen. This is unacceptable.

However, she did provide a glimmer of hope and a call to action. "Researchers studying state NAEP data have reported substantial improvements in student performance in states that provide more opportunities for students to find the schools that best meet their needs, have high academic standards, and work hard to attract diverse professionals to the teaching ranks across all school sectors."

Specifically, Allen called out "the state of Florida and two of its biggest districts — Miami and Duval. ... significant gains were made across the board, by low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities." According to Allen, these results are due to the fact that "Florida adopted measures that held schools, students and communities accountable for results... [Florida] adopted an expansive array of opportunities for students, including public charter schools, private scholarships and tax credits, innovations in online learning, early-college programs and more."

The real key is for us to challenge ourselves and our educational systems along with the times. "The schools available to most students today were designed in a different era and structured for a different society. Teens understand time, technology, and how to get what they want and need. But we saddle them with a school system that still looks like it did not just 35 years ago, but 135 years ago," wrote Allen.

While we push for policy and systemic changes, there are also actions that can be taken by us individually today. Only one third of our teachers report being engaged while teaching; this is lower "than the 46 percent of teachers who say they have high daily stress." according to Shane McFeely in a gallup article, "Why Your Best Teachers Are Leaving and 4 Ways to Keep Them."

So, low engagement and high stress. Not a good combination for high performance or student engagement. Teachers are on the frontline of our educational system. They are the key to high quality education.

While the school administrators are tasked with teacher developmental plans, anyone can thank a teacher for their work. And teachers need more thanks according to Tim Hodges' article, "Why Appreciating Teachers Is More Important Than You Think." Less than a third of teachers stated, "in the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." There a so many teachers that don't feel appreciated.

Teachers who receive regular recognition and praise perform better, according to Hodges, Director of Research for Gallup's Education Practice. With regular recognition and praise, teachers are more productive, more engaged and more likely to stay at their job and perform better according to students and parents. So while you are pushing your policy makers to provide better and more individualized educational opportunities, also stop and thank the teachers.

To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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