Nice post, TCL.Originally Posted by The Cryin' LionI'd just like to point out that this isn't, at all, my experience with my kids (who are in various stages of elementary).
I think you'll find that it varies mightily from district to disctrict.
Good districts are likely to unanimously share these traits:
1. Support of the parents
2. Administration that is competant and involved
4. Quality Teachers
I think it probably flows in that order too.
Parents: If you don't have parents that care and are directly involved in keeping their children in school, on task, and who voluteer to support as needed (teacher helpers, chaperones for trips, volunteering for special events, fund raising, etc...) then nothing else is going to work. If the parent isn't the most concerned person in the world about their childs education then they are failing as parents.
For example, I think parents are, far and wide, the primary problem with the Detroit Public School system. In Michigan everyone pays taxes toward public education and that money is divided up evenly among all students and distributed to the public schools (or private schools via vouchers, I suppose). The only criteria the schools have to meet to get that money is 'Making sure 75% of your students are in school on the days we do the annual state attendence check.' and without fail DPS loses a portion of that money every year because more than 1 in 4 parents can't be bothered to make sure their kid gets on the bus or gets dropped off or walked to school. If they aren't getting their kids to school you know damn well they aren't checking their bags for homework when they get home, or reading a book with them now and then.
A former HS classmate of mine posted on facebook at she, being a teacher in Detroit, had been sitting in her room for two hours during parent-teacher conferences and not one parent stopped by to talk with her about their kid. Not even a friend of the parent or neighbor or relative stopped by to cover for the parent (who maybe had to work). Unforgivable.
50 miles away in our disctict parents are involved. Every day kids fill out a daily planner that enumerates what lessons they learned that day as well as what homework they have and when it's due. The teacher reviews and signs it at the end of the day and sends it home. Each night the parents review it, see to the homework, and initial the page so the teacher knows it made it to the parents. For the middle schoolers they've even added an online mechanism that allows parents to see an current progress report on their kids. I check it every week to make sure we aren't missing assignments and get an idea what areas we need to put extra time into.
I communicate with each of my kids teachers at least once a month via email or face to face. For the past two weeks I've been battling with my older kids band teacher and principal (5th grade) to get her transferred to a different instrument because she hates the one she started out with. Phone conversations, emails, and just today I requested a sit-down with both of them. I have no doubt they'll agree to meet me by the end of the week.
You have to be your childs advocate. If most parents are advocates for their kids you probably aren't going to have a bad school district.
Administration: You need people that care, have a vision, know how to make the most of their resources, and also know how to motivate (manage) their staff. Every school district can suffer from cash crunches but a good administrator can shrink the budge while minmizing impact to the product.
Again, Detroit... they've lacked this as well. There are some popular urban spelunking web sites that have documented the Detroit Public School Book Depository.
It used to be a place where DPS stored their surplus supplies (books, crayons, papper, etc...) but there was a fire in 1987 in the building and it was abandoned thereafter. For reasons of 'bad managment' the good supplies were never removed and millions of dollars in resources were left to rot.
Conversely, the principal at my kids elemantary is brilliant. She plans regular activities for the students after school (skating nights, movie nights, activity nights, scavanger hunts, etc...) She seems to have a great repertoir with her teachers. She knows every student by name and knows which parents to which they belong. The principal at the middle school seems equally competent He and I had a 20 min conversation last week about my daughters band experience and he was very knowledgable regarding national statistics on how band participation is links to all sorts of positive achievements later in life.
Cash: Not much to say on this. If you don't have cash you aren't going to have modern facilities and you won't be able to lure top talent.
Teachers: You need motivated teachers with a willingness to communicate to and work with parents.
My experience is that if the Parents and Admin are doing their jobs you probably won't find bad teachers lasting very long, or at the very least everyone will know who they are provided the union is able to protect their job. Almost all of my problems with my kids teachers were a result of poor communication, quickly resolved after a conference.
If you don't have parent, admin, and cash covered your district will likely only have a few of those 'difference maker' type teachers (See Stand And Deliver)
In our district the teachers far and wide are better than those I had in elementary and I only live 1 district away from where I grew up. Everything about the schools is better than what I knew and my district was pretty good back then (they still are, actually)