Mentally compile a list of the most influential people in your life...
I’m certain that your list would include a few of the following people:
- Grandparents and other extended family
- Sports coaches
- Church leaders
- Community volunteers - such as scout leader
- Close friends
These people helped to create and mold you into the person you are today by helping you to explore new ideas, thoughts and concepts. They provided mentoring and encouraged you to always do your best.
And while the people listed above are of an extreme importance in our lives, there was no individual or group that was more influential in my personal development than that of the school teachers that I was so fortunate to have had.
My teachers, as a whole, were patient, kind, encouraging, demanding, intelligent, energetic, understanding, generous and dedicated to the principle of transference of knowledge, experience, and sometimes wisdom to their students... students like you... students like me...
It was through their guidance that traits like perseverance, leadership, ethics, self-esteem, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking were first introduced and developed.
My teachers were selfless and were passionate about teaching... they found ways to motivate students... tailoring their teaching methods to adapt to different learning styles... to put the children and their formal education above all else...
... but then things began to change... for reasons that are very unclear and opaque... (at least to me... )
Along the way... tests scores, as measured against the rest of the world, began to decline... blame for these low scores was soon cast about...
First, the curriculum was the target... "whole language" learning... "new" math... too much time being spent on the arts and not enough time being spent on the sciences... not enough time was being spent on the three "R"s.
Then it became a matter of money... if we just throw enough money at the problem... then the problems will go away... and the test scores will go up...
The problem with this thinking is that each state spent money independently on education... therefore there would always be the highest spending state and the lowest spending state... this eventually turned into a runaway competition... whoever could spend more would naturally have better resources and consequently better test scores...
Consultants were hired... advanced degrees were required... theories and hypotheses about how to fix the problems abounded...
The fingers of blame quickly started pointing to the teachers... "it must be them since they are on the front lines... the teacher, via the unions, are sucking the schools dry of resources and we’re getting very little back in return... "
(A quick side bar: In California, education K-12 funding amounts to $9,375 per child - 35th highest in the nation - the average class size is close to 25 children (depending on grade) - this means that each average classroom is funded to the tune of $234,375... even supposing that a teacher earns 1/3 of the average funding ($78,125)... that still means that 2/3 of the funding is being spent for things besides teacher salaries... definitely something to think about).
The problem with education is not programs... money... teacher’s salaries... or testing...
The problem is the entire system... the rules... the laws and regulations... politics... mandates... lawsuits... tenure... the administration... the unions... THE BUREAUCRACY!!
Education should be about... transferring knowledge... encouraging creativity... developing young and fertile minds into critical thinkers... making learning fun and enjoyable!
In response to the bureaucracy and political problems that now shrouds education, new charter schools have emerged that allow educators, children and parents to start the education process anew.
One such charter school is the Knowledge is Power Program... known as the KIPP schools.
Founded in 1994 by two former educators, KIPP now comprises of more than 125 campuses in more than 20 states.
Over 85% of the children attending KIPP are from low-income families and 95% of the students are African-American or Latino. 9% of the students have special education needs and 14% speak English as a second language.
The basic goal of the school is simple; prepare its students to graduate from a four-year college.
Although each campus is different, they all operate under the school’s core values known as the 5 Pillars:
- High Expectations
- Choice and Commitment
- More Time
- Power to Lead
- Focus on Results
Although they are not paid any better than the prevailing wage, KIPP attracts only the best and the brightest teachers. Each teacher is measured, mentored and monitored.
At KIPP schools, the teachers learn just as much as the students, constantly honing their skills while learning new techniques in a cooperative not competitive environment.
KIPP believes in and fosters team teaching... where multiple teachers work together, not only to teach students, but to learn from each other as well.
At the KIPP schools, they are not satisfied with hiring just good teachers... they want to hire good teachers and make them great.
Students are only admitted by lottery and are required each week to attend over 40 hours of classroom instruction including 4 hours on Saturdays, plus regular homework (More Time - Pillar 3).
With such a rigorous schedule, one would think that there would be high rate of failure; however the school boasts an 89% year-to-year retention rate. In 2011, 94% of the incoming high school freshmen graduated (as compared to a national average of 83% and only 69% for low income families).
A full 84% of KIPP graduates go on to a 4-year college or university (compared to a national average of 63% - less than 40% for low-income kids).
Each KIPP school is measured and monitored independently with a detailed annual report card for each school published on the KIPP website. This allows the schools to operate with complete transparency and work together to continually enhance, improve and repair the ways they operate and educate.
The KIPP schools are public schools and primarily funded through our local tax money, federal educational grants and private endowments (including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). The schools are public and tuition free.
As I was researching the KIPP schools, I was particularly taken by the credo developed by a local San Diego KIPP campus that really sums up the entire KIPP experience:
- If there is a problem, we look for a solution
- If there is a better way, we try to find it
- If a teammate needs help, we give it
- If we need help, we ask
I’m very encouraged by the strides we’re making to reinvent education and finding ways to improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.
So many young people have been locked out of the idea of the "American Dream".
Education and learning are the true keys to unlocking the potential that we all have inside of us...
... inspiring the greatness that lies in each and every one...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse, where we enthusiastically support educational endeavors and hope that we will all become life-long learners...
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