Education in TN – part II

The Importance of Local Control – part 2 in a series of 4

Before the Gubernatorial debate I mentioned in the previous post, I had the good fortune to talk with two public school teachers from rural Tennessee for over an hour. They were interested in how the teacher evaluation component would correlate teacher compensation and bonuses to student progress. The reasoning: Weed out bad teachers and fairly compensate good teachers. Their judgment: not one of the candidates had any idea what the average teacher experiences in the classroom and should not dictate how they were paid or bonused.


I could not agree more. In fact, it is entirely possible that the “educators” working in the state county education offices are equally out of touch. If they were “in touch”, they would be opposing this evaluation method. No two schools are the same. No group of students in the same age group is the same. No mixture of capabilities in a classroom is the same. There are too many variables to be considered from such a distance.

Sadly, our teachers are often placed in impossible situations, given fewer materials than they need, and given students who need more than they can provide in a classroom. Discipline is often non-existent and students are poorly prepared for school. They are asked to be “parents” and use their own money for supplies without reimbursement. All without complaint. I will complain for them. The key for evaluating teachers is in local control, not federal control.

Locally, we must employ the best principals and let them run their schools with common-sense guidelines from local school boards. Allow them to pass or fail based upon their results. The community will judge. Decentralize each school and let them run their own budgets, hire and fire teachers, bonus good teachers, recommend upkeep and remodeling, and be rewarded themselves financially for doing a good job. Stay out of their way and they will give their communities the results they want.

We must employ the best teachers and evaluate them at the local level through a combination of parent satisfaction, basic skill acquisition, grades, and test scores in the lower grades. Let math and science skill development rule the middle grades. Allow writing, critical thinking, and language skills to the critical factor in the high school grades. Consider graduation percentages and stop assuming that all successful education sends all high school graduates to college. The last time I paid my plumber (who did not go to college), I was reminded once again that college is not the singular path to financial success.

The most difficult portion to stomach relates to the students. We must stop wasting money on students who refuse to cooperate with the mission of the schools, either through truancy or discipline problems. Publicly funded education is not a right, it is a privilege. If students cannot behave themselves nor meet the requirements of the staff, then they should be dismissed and the parents required to find other means of education.

Far too often teachers are blamed for the lack of student success.  The education of young minds must be a group effort of teachers, administrators and parents. If these groups work together, the education system will perform at a much higher level than if one were to excuse itself from the process. Our students mus have the support of all three groups. Without this support, the road to success becomes far more difficult.

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