WHAT ARE THE BETTER SCHOOL SYSTEMS DOING?

More and more, there has been a considerable emphasis on: Vouchers; Magnet Schools; Standardized Testing and Teacher Evaluations. Our former Republican Governor Jeb Bush has been in the forefront of this movement. He works through his Non-Profit Foundation, FEE (Foundation for Economic Education). Basically, FEE seems to be financed, to a large extent, by for-profit corporations that can profit from this movement, or other conservative supporters.

There are a few points to keep in mind: Vouchers (which provide, let’s say, $5-6,000) will never be enough to enable underprivileged students to go to the best private schools (with tuitions in the range of $25,000); a number of Atlanta School Administrators were arrested earlier in the year for changing test scores, as were the Washington, D.D. schools, reportedly during the tenure of the highly-touted Michelle Wie; the Indiana Superintendent of Schools was accused of changing the score of a magnet school, named after a Republican and Magnet Program supporter, and he later resigned from a similar position in Florida, once the corruption in the Magnet Program came to light; etc. Jeb Bush backed him throughout the turmoil.

Just a few weeks ago, a Magnet School, which was funded by the Miami-Dade School System, gave a $400,000 grant to an unaccredited medical school, which is owned by the same for-profit corporation. And, keep in mind that, magnet schools generally have students with much more involved parents, and yet, their average test scores basically fall in the range of the Non-Magnet Schools in the same district.

With regard to basing Teachers compensation on the test scores of their students, how accurate can that be? Especially in the poorer neighborhoods, were children might not be properly prepared for testing. I’m not talking about the educational side of the issue; however, many poor schools have nowhere near the funding of those in the wealthier neighborhoods. Did the child come to school having eaten any breakfast? Are the parents or family members drug addicts? Did the child actually get a good night’s rest?

How does a test measure the Heart or real talents of a Teacher? Is She or He making sure that their students understand what has been covered? Are the children encouraged to speak-up if they don’t: remember that one who didn’t follow the lesson plan might signify that others may not, as well.

The South Florida newspapers recently reported that almost every high school in the Region received either an A or B Rating. So, in an Area that includes several hundred schools, that is statistically impossible. The normal “bell-shaped” curve would usually have some participants (i.e. schools) scoring at the lower-end, some toward the higher-end, and the majority are arranged across the middle.

So, with conceivable corruption among some corporations that run Magnet Schools, financial hocus-pocus shifting public funds to outside for-profit entities, only the Wealthy truly taking advantage of the Vouchers and the questionable measurement of Teacher Evaluations, what are the better school systems doing?

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) was established in 1961, by 34 countries, to stimulate Economic Progress and World Trade. It regularly surveys school in its member nations and publishes the results. Finland generally lands at, or near, the top. The country doesn’t necessarily pay much more money to its Teachers; but, rather, it has raised the status of the profession considerably. Schools are free and there are not any Teacher Evaluations; however, each teacher is free to develop their own syllabus.

Perhaps providing a free education emphasizes the commitment of the country to the fact that a well-educated populace is easier to train for the jobs, not only for today, but for tomorrow, as well. I believe that that viewpoint flows through, in turn, to the Teachers who feel even more empowered–and committed to their students.

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