Researchers who spend their careers in carefully controlled laboratory-esque settings have tried to change every aspect of education over the last fifty years. Except one.
Why has that one aspect been ignored by the education elites? Could it be because their bottom line would be upset? Only those inside the world of public education can even come close to understanding how money has become the final arbiter in every decision made. It's not what's best for students, regardless of what the politicians may say. It's money. Money in the form of discretionary funds, publishing contracts, cherry-picked programs, and the ability to say, as a principal, "My teachers can do miracles with their students, just because I have inspired them to do so."
So what's that aspect of education that is routinely glossed over as inconsequential? Why, class size, of course. Teacher - to - student ratio.
The experts have no idea what they're talking about.
Education elite and policymakers believe that class sizes and behavior are negligible in determining how well students learn. This is because things like class size and behavior are simple to fix, and the administrators and education gurus cannot claim expert status over them.
Teachers in the trenches know better. They understand that low student engagement is at the heart of poor academic performance. Make learning and academic achievement count for the students, and we'll see a rise in testing outcomes.
Concentrating on only one aspect of the equation (teaching) does not address the entire issue. You can lead a horse to water; you cannot make him drink.
Here's a plan that no one in power wants to consider: Get rid of the
one-teacher-per-class-of-30 idea that has permeated
public education for the last 100 years.
In a world where kids sit, teachers present lessons, and parents are informed of the results a few times a year, it might be fine to have a ratio of 30 students to one teacher.
In today’s world, that ratio is not workable, and the only ones saying it is are those who don’t have to actually perform the impossible: principals, district elites, education researchers, and politicians. The result is that we now mostly pay lip-service to the idea that we’re providing quality learning.
Here's my plan:
Arrange students in classrooms of 20 learners
Assign three adults per classroom: 2 teachers and an aide.
Place children in learning groups (e.g. classrooms) according to aptitude, motivation, achievement, and behavior. Allow for fluid placement: if a child achieves more rapidly than estimated, change his class.
Diminish the need for documentation — the rationale for it was mostly to keep teachers honest about what they are doing, anyway.
Install cameras in classrooms to monitor how teachers are working with children and how children are behaving. Discipline for improper behavior choices should be swift and concise. Kids who can’t or won’t learn in a general setting should be removed. Imagine how much better your child’s classroom could be if an adult came to the classroom to remove a misbehaving student based on the surveillance from a CCT! The teacher didn’t even have to stop teaching — someone just came because the cameras were being monitored.
Make standardized tests count for the kids. At this point, the students, generally, don’t care while the teachers obsess continually over them.
Abolish complex and arbitrary teacher evaluation schemes that require a lot of time, paperwork, and people power to administer. These schemes are a waste of money and only encourage corruption, among teachers and administrators. See my book for more on this.
I know what you're thinking:
Where will the money come from to devote 3 adults to a group of 20 students?
Redistribution of resources, that's where.
When we eliminate the (usually high-paying) non-teaching positions necessary to administer the elaborate teacher evaluation schemes detailed in my book, we'll find most of that money.
When we add in the funds recovered from eliminating wasteful programs that do nothing for learning, we find even more money.
When we reform our school disciplinary systems to put the onus for good behavior back on the kids (using modern technology to help us minimize the "he said/she said" conundrum we now find ourselves in), we regain even more funds.
Schools should be in the business of educating children. That's it. But where we find ourselves, currently, is that schools seems to be in the business of lining the pockets of people whose thirst for money is eclipsed only by their ambitions for power and glory.
Caught in the middle are the teachers, thousands of them, who want only to educate our nation's young but find themselves unwilling participants in the fraud and corruption hidden within our school systems. For more realities of education, gleaned from my 27 years as a public school teacher, please see my many columns posted to Quora, the online question and answer forum.
Education researchers have been trying to change how we deliver instruction and how we work with children for the last 40 years, at least. In our frenzy to enact meaningful change, however, we’ve forgotten to employ honesty about human nature: when we require people to do the impossible, they’ll figure out how to do the end-around instead.
Impossible is impossible, after all.
More on the Subject:
Why should you care how hard the job is for teachers?
Current education philosophy ask teachers to perform these tasks:
The bullet points to the right may have merit, but they’re not doable when you’re working by yourself in a classroom full of kids, many of whom appear to have a different agenda for their school day than what the teacher has envisioned.
What we need to do is change the paradigm of one teacher to 30 students.
So why should you care?
Because you're a taxpayer, and your dollars are wasted. And because a job that is set up for failure will not get done. That's the real bottom line.
design instruction individually according to every child’s level of ability and interest in the subject;
engage collaboratively with learners, individually and in groups;
hold regular conferences with learners to determine what they think is important for their learning;
create individual tests that are based on a kid’s abilities, intellectually and emotionally; analyze assessments so we can improve them;
analyze data from tests so we can improve what we do tomorrow;
document every kid, every day;
give instruction individually, to small groups, and to the entire class, based on the subject matter and each child's preferred mode for learning;
correct misbehavior positively, without interrupting instruction and learning;
turn the classroom into a gaming situation so that kids will increase their ‘engagement’ in their learning (there are online programs for this, all of which take time to implement and manage).