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Education’s Accountability Dilemma

17 Mar

In a recent March 2011, 60 Minute segment, Katie Couric reported on an experimental New York City charter school founded on the idea that paying teachers $125,000 annually would attract the best people for the job and make a difference.

The principal’s name was Zeke Venderhoek. The students were mostly African American and Hispanic and almost all came from poor families. The teachers often put in 80 to 90 hour weeks.

When the fifth graders from Venderhoek’s charter school took the New York State Math and Reading Exam, the results revealed that on average the public schools in the district scored better than the charter school.

At the conclusion of 60 Minutes, Venderhoek said one year wasn’t enough to show improvement.

Halt!

Wait a minute!

I taught in public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005) in a barrio with multi-generation, Latino street gangs, and often worked 60 to 100 hour weeks. From my classroom doorway, I witnessed a drive by shooting one year. Another year, in the evening when I was working late, a student was gunned down outside my room next to the school gate as he was leaving the campus.

However, over the years, district records revealed that my students often outperformed all other student in the district at the same grade level on standardized tests with improved writing skills. District administration said the records showed this to be true year after year and I did not teach in a charter school.

In the early 1980s, one African-American mother with a seventh grade, twelve-year-old daughter came to me. The mother was upset because the previous year’s standardized test scores said her daughter was reading several years behind grade level.

I told the mother the only way that would change was for her to turn off the TV and spend time with her daughter every evening and on weekends making sure her daughter did the homework, studied for tests and quizzes and read at least one hour or more every night seven days a week with a discussion before bedtime about what had been read. If there were questions, call me.

By the end of the year, that student’s literacy level had improved five years. That mother made the difference, and my mother did the same thing for me when I was in grade school. Without my mother’s effort at home, I would not be able to read today.

Why couldn’t Venderhoek’s Charter School show similar results?

The answer may be found from a 2009 Stanford University Charter School study that discovered only 17% of almost 5,000 nationwide charter school delivered on the promise that they would succeed where public schools often failed.

Seventeen percent is a FAILING grade and many of these charter schools had smaller class sizes, longer school years and days with stricter behavior codes with school uniforms.

In fact, students that did not perform could be sent back to the public schools, which is something private school may also do.

When will the country wake up and hold parents and students responsible to turn off the TV, shut down the Internet, study, do homework and read? Teachers cannot do it alone.

Discover why Some Teachers Should Earn Combat Pay

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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