Tags: Public | School | Gets | Lesson | Work | Ethic

Public School Gets Lesson In Work Ethic

Tuesday, 21 September 2004 12:00 AM

Here's what occurred.

The City's cumbersome school department summoned the will - for once - to act quickly and decisively in the interest of the public and the students, handing out pink slips to the school's Principal, an Assistant Superintendent of the school system's Senior High School Division, and a staff member in the Office of Information and Technology. Why? Students arrived at Eastern on opening day only to find that there were no class schedules. Schedules should have been prepared by mid-August. Robert C. Rice, Interim Superintendent of Schools, had been led to believe that everything was fine, only to discover early in the morning of the opening day that he had been misled.

Rice expressed an anger heard too rarely from school officials in Washington, a system that has become notorious for excusing inefficiency and incompetence. "The school leaders who allowed this unacceptable situation to transpire failed not only my team, but [they also failed] the students and parents of D.C. public schools who rely on us. There is no remediation for this kind of failure," he said.

Day in, day out, students in American public schools - not just Washington's - either witness failure go uncorrected or see it portrayed as success. Finally, one problem too large to be ignored has prompted the very kind of action that will await many inadequately prepared students once they enter the adult workforce, particularly if they choose to embark upon a career in private enterprise where they will be forced to learn quickly that more is required from them than just showing up for work; results are demanded. Competency in the required skills to do a job is paramount. Even if those lessons are being taught in our public school system, they frequently are not reinforced by example.

One measure is money. The teacher unions always complain that not enough money is being spent on improving American public schools. The National Education Association had this to say about the Bush Administration's Fiscal Year 2005 budget request: "...[It] fails to provide the resources necessary to ensure great public schools for every child. For the Department of Education, the Administration proposes only a three percent increase, which would be the smallest percentage increase (as well as the smallest dollar increase) in nine years."

Jay P. Greene, Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office, recently told the Rocky Mountain News that after adjusting for inflation the rate of spending per-pupil on K-12 education has doubled over the last 30 years. Despite the increased investment, student achievement has failed to make corresponding leaps in improvement. Greene insisted: "Nobody can function in the private sector without in fact improving their productivity, getting more out of their resources all the time. In education we're doing the opposite, getting no more even though we're spending a lot more." Greene and Manhattan Institute Research Associate Marcus A. Winters estimate, based on U.S. Department of Education estimates for 2001-2002 and adjusted inflation rates, that $10,000 per pupil annually is spent by public education.

The failure to achieve high standards in public schools can be measured in more personal terms, however. Take the recent study conducted by David N. Figlio, Professor of Economics at the University of Florida, and Maurice E. Lucas, Director of Research and Assessment for the public school system of Alachua County, Florida, that was published in the Spring 2004 edition of Education Next. They discovered that only 9 percent of the students who received A's from their teachers received a correspondingly excellent score on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Fifty percent received the equivalent of a "B" on the test. Even worse, the overwhelming majority of "C" students failed to match that level of competency on the test.

Figlio and Lucas also concluded that teachers demanding higher standards often motivate low-achieving students to perform better academically. Parents tend to become more involved in helping their children with their schoolwork when their child has a more demanding teacher. However, the researchers reported that one "intriguing finding from this survey is that parents do not perceive tougher teachers to be better teachers...Parents were 50 percent more likely to assign a grade of B or below to a tough teacher than to a relatively easy teacher."

Students who have easy grading teachers and incompetent administrators in their K-12 education, very likely encountering similarly low caliber professionals and standards in college, are likely to be in for some severe shocks upon entering the workforce. They then will be expected to have the skills necessary to achieve results. Unfortunately, the current state of American public schools too frequently fails to provide the competent, demanding instructors and the necessary level of instruction that can help students reach acceptable standards of proficiency. Parents either fail to recognize the lack of quality instructors and standards in their children's schools and demand more or they are willing to overlook mediocrity.

It was reported last year that approximately forty percent of Georgia students who earned a Hope Scholarship in 2000 to attend a public university in the state ended up losing it after completing a year's worth of work, based upon their failure to perform at a satisfactory academic level. In Nevada, nearly a third of the students who received scholarships to attend public universities need remedial classes.

An embarrassing snafu such as the one experienced by the students at Eastern High School shouldn't have to occur to shake things up. That, however, is the reality for too much of contemporary American public education. Left unsolved, many of today's highly graded students face less promising futures as they discover the hard way that lower standards in schools can easily lead to lower levels of achievement in adult life. American students need to be taught by example that meeting high standards is the route to success. There's no better way to impart that lesson than by raising the standards of achievement in America's public schools.


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Here's what occurred. The City's cumbersome school department summoned the will - for once - to act quickly and decisively in the interest of the public and the students, handing out pink slips to the school's Principal, an Assistant Superintendent of the school...
Tuesday, 21 September 2004 12:00 AM
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