As a Black male that grew up in the inner city of Cleveland Ohio, I understand what it means academically and personally, to be in a failing school system. My high school was a place where I found myself wrenched inside an atmosphere where I only had a 40 percent chance of graduating and an even smaller probability of making it into the neighborhood community college. This perspective is not one that I would of wished for a birth, but it is one in which I look back and wonder how my education system could have been better. The most frustrating thing about my whole educational experience was those teachers who choose to vent their discouragement over building strong relationships with youth that has the potential to save lives. The teachers that truly believe their students aren’t smart enough to go to community college (or even a four year university) should not be teaching.
I will give a critique of the current education system and in doing so attempt offer solutions to the nuances of our both struggling and disparity stricken education system.
Bureaucracies- We all hate it, we all experience it in some shape or form, and we see a clear picture of how it burdens the education system. In the film Waiting for Superman I can still remember one of the pundits state how “bureaucracies have become an impediment for reform.” And I agree one hundred percent. Between school boards for each school district, state laws, local influences, federal law, superintendents and more, it is not a surprise that our country has difficulty finding any clarity or continuity within the education system. However, as superintendent I would not be in control of all levels of the education system, but I would ensure as quickly as possibly that the bureaucracies put in place do not becoming barriers for bringing equality, high level instruction, and services to the students, families and communities.
Teachers and Tenure- This was one of the more controversial themes in the education system right now, only because some view this dialogue as “attacking teachers.” I would argue the contrary. The discourse on teachers, tenure, and unions is not meant (at least by me) to be an attack on teachers, I think it is meant to be an attack on bad teachers. (which to me are two different species). While hearing Geoffrey Canada speak at University of Chicago on MLK day this past January, I believe he said it best: “If a baker, cannot bake, then he might not want to be a baker.” In the same sense, if a teacher has been teaching for several decades and is simply not effective, then I believe we need to challenge that practice. The theme of tenure for teachers comes up as a negative aspect that is hurting our school system. We need to challenge this theory that teachers should have automatic tenure. When it comes to bad teachers in the school system it becomes problematic when they become too comfortable, too complacent, and too eased when educating young people (or not educating). In the film Waiting for Superman they throw out a statistic (I just recently re-watched the movie). One statistic that came up in the movie was how 1 out of every 57 doctors lose their license to practice, 1 out of every 97 lawyers are stripped of their bar, but only 1 out of every 2500 teachers lose their credentials. If I became a superintendent I think this issue would have to be addressed in some way.
Funding- Any successful education program in the country has one common theme, and of course it’s a theme that demands more funding and implores citizens, politicians, private organizations and everyone else to demand funding for our education systems. We pay more for prisoners each year than for students. This has to change. As superintendent I would have to think a new creative way to ensure that funding and resources in my district are both equal, fair, and that opportunity given to all students.