Every child deserves a quality education and Republicans are committed to helping children achieve their fullest potential by ensuring they attend terrific schools, are taught by great teachers, and live in safe neighborhoods. Our Nation’s tried and true tradition of parents taking responsibility is important when those parents have the choice regarding their children’s schools. That’s why America’s education reforms like charter schools and tuition tax credits are helping improve the education landscape.
When it comes to education we also need to think about trade schools and internships. With so many manufacturing jobs gone we've lost a big part of what makes up the American fabric. It's important that we provide re-training for people throughout their lives.
Education Overview by Idaho Senator Steven Thayn:
Education is a critical function needed to prepare the next generation to reason, learn history, the challenges of limited government, and prepare for adulthood and its accompanying responsibilities such as: parenthood, employment, and community involvement.
Much of this education takes place in the home while much of it takes place in the school. Public education has been an integral part of American history since the mid 1850s. Public school has had its detractors.
There have been complaints concerning subject matter, methods of instruction, cost, and quality throughout its history. Many of these complaints can be traced to four basic assumptions of public education. These basic assumptions have shaped public school policy. Unfortunately, these assumptions are incorrect.
Policies have been developed based upon these assumptions need to be modified and replaced based upon an updated set of assumptions.
The school system of the future can go one of two different directions; one that empowers parents and one that empowers the education system. Empowerment of parents with choices, options, and ability to choose between curriculum, flexible school schedules, and more control over how the money is spent will result in a more cost-effective, successful system.
Empowerment of the system will not achieve the desired educational outcomes.
There is a danger with the nationalization of public education that would lead to standardization, increased cost, loss of parental control, and reduced student outcomes. If Common Core is a way of standardizing and nationalizing education with a corresponding loss of parental control, it needs to be opposed.
If Common Core is simply a set of standards that states and parents can use as a guide, then it is probably acceptable.
Basic Assumptions of Public Schools with Suggested Reforms
Horace Mann first introduced public education to the United States in 1852. Mann set up an educational system based upon several assumptions that, we now know were incorrect; however, the current system has vestiges of this faulty thinking that need to be addressed and changes.
The future of education requires active involvement of parents (cannot be mandated by law; must be encouraged by choice). Children must be allowed to go at a faster or slower pace than the class average. Mastery must become the focus rather than time in school. The reason seat time has been so important to educators is because funding is based upon time is school. In Idaho, schools can receive funding based upon learning rather than seat time.
We live in a different age than Horace Mann. We live in an age of individualization. The next step in education reform that will stabilize funding and improve outcomes is to focus on creating independent learners by the 4th grade and reward students who become independent learners with longer recesses, the ability to move ahead, scholarships, or other rewards that motivate students.
The best school system requires an active partnership between the parents and the teacher and the student. Too often public education policymakers focus too much of their time and energy on funding and teacher quality when there are two other factors of equal value – the parents and the student.
A formula that captures current public school thinking is:
A better formula is:
The formula that includes the role of parent and student has policy implications. While funding is critical, it places less emphasis on funding and more on parental choice. What can be done to increase parental involvement? What can be done to increase student desire? Simply increasing funding will not improve student outcomes if parental involvement or student desire decreases.
What can be done?
Common Core: data mining, federal control, standards, testing
Common Core concerns are divided into four main areas. Common core is still being defined. This section addresses some areas of concerns.
The concept of having standards or educational goals is, in and of itself, a good goal. However, standards can mean standardization of instruction and standardization of learning. If this means a return to the factory method of learning, this is a movement in the wrong direction.
Teachers, local communities, and states need to have flexibility. If common core requires standardization in teaching, then it cannot be supported.
Common Core and federal requirements demand a longitudinal data system that tracks student performance, testing, attendance, and other data. This data needs to be protected and the federal government should not have access to individual student data. The only data the federal government should have is aggregated data with no individual student identifier.
Many are concerned about federal control and takeover of public education. This is a concern. Education should be a local matter. The centralization of education can lead to standardized thinking that rewards those that think and believe in a prescribed manner.
The final piece of common core is the testing component. This is also a question that needs further questioning. What is the purpose of the testing? Is it going to be used to sort students? Who controls the test content? Will parents and state officials have access to the test questions to see what the questions ask?
Early education is absolutely critical; however, the best form of early education is done by a loving parent in the home. The danger of state early education programs such as Pre-Kindergarten is if the program encourages or discourages parental involvement. An early childhood education program that allows parents to withdraw and do less is actually counterproductive. Successful early childhood education programs need to include the parent/parents.
There are many young parents that have not been around young children and don’t know how to parent or are overwhelmed with life. A successful early education program must be sensitive to the needs of the parents as well as the child and try to build the capacity of the parents as well as the child.
The parent-teacher partnership is critical. Students only spend about 7% of their time in school between birth and the end of the 3rd grade. A school system that does not include, value, increase, and celebrate the role of parents is incomplete.
Education Reform: Next Steps
Education is always changing. I would suggest four things that need to become a focus.
First, work on reducing teacher stress. Teachers work hard and deal with all sorts of demand on their time. Parents and lawmakers cannot continue to place more responsibility on teachers. There is a physical limit to their abilities.
Second, increasing the number of independent learners can reduce teacher stress. This means by the end of the third grade most children should become independent readers. An independent reader can become a self-learner who requires less teacher time. Teachers could focus more of their time on the students that need extra instruction. With online, blended, and computer curriculum that could supplement face-to-face teaching, the possibility exists to enter into a new age of individualized instruction.
Third, have high expectations for parents to be involved in the teaching. Parents are an underutilized resource. Furthermore, parents should be able to choose between different ways of learning reading or math. The school should provide options to the degree that it is possible. Allowing parents to have more control over curriculum will encourage them to work with their own children.
Fourth, adopt a shared responsibility model of kindergarten delivery where the parents can do some or all of the teaching with a stipend based upon student success. This would allow for the building of strong teacher-parent partnerships beginning at the very beginning of a child’s education experience. It would incentivize parent involvement. And, it would be budget neutral.
Federal role: the problem with standardization; limited, best practices, flexibility
Education is first a parental responsibility. The state government, under America’s federal system, has been charges with assisting parents with this responsibility. The role of the federal government is limited in scope. A problem with federal control over all education would be the danger of national standardization. Standardization could lead to inflexibility and substandard educational practices. The states are better suited to take the lead responsibility in this area.
Funding: how to stabilize
Many school districts struggle because of lack of funding. The dilemma is that funding is shrinking because of many factors. If more funding is not available, what can be done to reduce costs? There are several areas to consider:
It is the parents’ responsibility to see their child educated. The public school system is a resource to help the parents fulfill their responsibility. Parents and students should be given flexibility and choices to access the public education system in a way that best fits their individual needs. This will give parents more buy-in. Simply imposing a one-size-fits-all curriculum on all families is costly, disrespectful, unwise, and causes parental apathy.
School vouchers and charter schools are mechanisms of school choice that may be helpful to some parents. In some states, parents are able to take the voucher and attend any school that meets their educational goals including attending parochial schools. Many other options could be available within the public school system. Such as:
Many of these school choice options are truly win-win-win options. The student is motivated, the school still gets its money, the parents see a reduction in college expense, and the taxpayer actually saves money.
Barriers to Parental Involvement in Schools
According to Family Support America there are common barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools and community programs. The four common barriers are:
There is growing recognition that support is needed to address challenges and barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools. The National Center for School Engagement offers local schools and districts information and materials to expand parent and family engagement. School districts are encouraged to think of parental involvement in broader terms. There are models that can help schools reshape how they look at parent and family involvement such as, Epstein’s Framework of Parent Involvement. It is based on six types of parent involvement identified by Joyce Epstein from the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships.
Epstein’s Framework of How Parents Can Become More Involved in Schools includes:
Technical assistance is also available to help education systems with these issues. For more information on this assistance contact Judith Martinez at the National Center for School Engagement – JudyM@coloradofoundation.org.
The importance of parental involvement in schools is well documented. Over 30 years of research shows that one of the most effective ways to increase student achievement is for parents to be actively involved in the education of their children. A 2002 National Education Service study indicates that when parents are involved students tend to achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background or parents’ educational level.
Given the research it is advisable for education systems to promote and support parental and family involvement and invest in activities and strategies that foster parent and school collaboration. There is, however, some resistance and hesitation associated with allocating resources to promote parental involvement in schools. Both school personnel and parents struggle with the “how tos” of getting more parents involved.
Reduce College Education Costs
College or professional technical training is critical. Without an education, people usually have to settle for low-paying jobs. However, a college education can be very expensive.
Parents of potential college students usually begin preparing for college in the junior or senior year of high school. This is too late. If a student starts preparing for college in the 7th grade, college expenses can be reduced by 50%. The “8 in 6” program allows motivated students to finish junior high, high school, and the first two years of college (8 years) in 6 years. This is accomplished by taking online summer classes paid for by the state. Students can finish their high school curriculum at the beginning of their junior year of high school and spend the last two years in high school taking college classes while still in high school. This can reduce the cost of college by 50%. (Idaho Code 33-1628)
For more information, contact Senator Steven Thayn at email@example.com
Open Source Education
Enjoy this video by Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk who has a giant vision to create a free global online education system that puts the power of creation and collaboration in the hands of teachers worldwide. He's realizing that vision with Connexions, a website that allows teachers to quickly "create, rip, mix and burn" coursework -- without fear of copyright violations. Think of it as Napster for education.
Connexions' open-source system cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share course materials, modify existing work and disseminate it to their students -- all for free, thanks to Creative Commons licensing. Baraniuk envisions Connexions as a repository where the most up-to-date material can be shared and reviewed (it's far more efficient than waiting for a textbook to be printed); it could become a powerful force in leveling the education playing field. Currently encompassing hundreds of online courses and used by a million people worldwide, Baraniuk's virtual educational system is revolutionizing the way people teach and learn.
This is not to say that this is the right model but thinking outside the box is what's needed to reverse the declining United States educational system.