What are all the people in education doing? Why are children failing? People have so many ideas, but I have heard very few identify the real problem. I spent many years in business before I came to education, and I have witnessed many misguided theories.
After years in education, it is time for me to add my opinions. Many things are being said as to how to solve the complexity of our education problems. Money seems to be a big buzzword. But has anyone really figured out where the money goes? Schools buy computers, textbooks, and consulting services, but what good has it done them? Scores fall, and children are still not learning. Then there are vouchers and charter schools, but there have been no significant studies to confirm the latter's success. The other notion is longer school days or school years. These are not the answers.
A popular notion is to blame the teachers or administrators? Get rid of tenure, make more assessments, test children, develop new curriculum. Hold so-called "bad" teachers more accountable. Are they easy scapegoats of a failed system? What about our society? Have things changed? Are we looking at societal changes?
Then, of course, we have the government suggesting how, what, and when things should change, because of course they know exactly how schools work? Sorry for the sarcasm, but this is where we are.
Is this the best we can do? I come from an entrepreneurial background and I have witnessed all the gimmicks, Band-Aids, and quick fixes. Guess what? None of them work. Successful entrepreneurs constantly work and search for the best. We take what we have and make them into something better. We think out of the box. That's what I do. In education I have seen too many theories that totally miss the point. I realize that the buzzwords look and sound great, but they do not work. They are repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
It is time for a change! Parents and educators need to change the way we look at things and to look for solutions. Schools need entrepreneurs to lead them; they need parents to get involved. We need the government to be realistic in its demands on these two groups so that, together, we can start to make the changes that can help our children learn.
It has become apparent to me, as an educator, that no one is searching for answers to questions in education. They are looking for blame. Sure, this may be human nature, but when are we going to solve the problems?
Take the idea of standardized tests. People accept the fact that the government has created tests that don't measure what a child learned. The tests only assess what the children are supposed to learn at a determined level. Shouldn't we be happy with what a child learned over a period of time. So, to put this in lay terminology: "We are assessing children as not what they did learn but what they are supposed to have learned"
In one state several years ago, students did so well on a standardized test that the passing grade was changed after the fact. Children completed the exam in May. The results were compiled in August. At that time, it was determined that the students' scores were too high -- that is, too many children were passing. So the education department changed the percentage needed to pass. How in the world could a school perform well when the passing grade is changed after the tests are given and scored? No one questions this? No one knows? Why?
With a business background, I find it interesting that the established educational system never serves its customers well. We give our customers, the students, gimmick after gimmick, with the hope that the children will learn. When does it stop?
I have a message to education in this country: Use basic, sound business principles that are being taught in every major university, and you will find success. Empower your employees; learn to do more with less. This does not mean to cut; it means to shift resources so that employees, a firm's greatest asset, can perform their job better.
Recently, at a function sponsored by the government regarding "best practices" in education, this is what I heard. A consultant was hired to determine how a school system could become more parent-friendly. So the consultant determined that the best way to achieve this was to have one day a week where the parents could make appointments with the main office.
One day a week! I don't know about you, but if any business that I deal with told me that I was only allowed to contact them one day a week, I would be quite upset. Yet some school administration paid this consultant thousands of dollars to tell them this! Where are the parents? They should be saying, "This is a waste of taxes and I will not accept this type of treatment!"
Another notion that doesn't work? The idea that teachers should be paid based on the success of his or her students. Think about the recent scandals, which have yet to be resolved, in cities where teachers and administrators were given higher salaries based on student achievement. The teachers and school administrators were told, "If the children you teach do not pass an exam, then you will not have a job or not receive a bonus." What did this promote? Greed, cheating, and deviation from what we are all supposed to care about -- the learning.
We all want children to learn. This is a very basic concept, yet the basics are what seem to be ignored, again and again and again.
Parents, teachers, and administrators need to get together and finally make the changes we need so that children can learn. At my school, we brought about this change using a business philosophy: learn about your customers, identify what needs to be sold, and find a way to get the product to market. This is the foundation of my Triangle Theory as described in my book, Blue Ribbon Story: An Entrepreneur's Success in Education. This theory allowed me to turn an under performing elementary school into a 2010 National Blue Ribbon Award winner.
With the Triangle Theory, each corner of the triangle plays an important part. If all of the angles push with the same amount of pressure, then the child in the middle always moves up for success. At my school, my Triangle Theory is the system we use every day to make decisions that encourage learning.
The Triangle Theory incorporates all of the stakeholders, allowing them to get on the same page and begin the journey of educating our children together. The time is now. No more excuses. It has to be done for this generation and the next. Test scores are low, spending is high, and we are stuck in the blame game. When is it going to stop? We are forgetting the basics, and it is time to identify the problem and solve it.
Wake up, world! The education system in this country desperately needs your help. Let's begin now.