Why We Should Cry for Change in Education, Part 1

3 May

I’m not one to proclaim my opinions loudly, in public or in print; in fact, I can be a bit wishy-washy. But there’s one area — the American public school system — where I have first-hand knowledge and have listened carefully to plenty of relevant discourse. It’s an area where I know I need to be more opinionated. I have been out of full-time teaching for nearly a year now, and when I’m at school to substitute I am quickly reminded of the obstacles to a better education for American kids.

So here goes: a few strong beliefs of mine that it’s time to voice.

For this blog (and more to come) I am helped by a 2009 op-ed piece in The New York Times by Harold O. Levy, a former NYC schools chancellor, and author Diane Ravitch, whom I’ve come to admire from her TV appearances.

Number 1: Lengthen the school day, lengthen the school year, even lengthen kids’ time in the school system from 13 years to 14.

Why? Consider that many kids going home from school after a 6- to 7-hour day are not going home to enriching activities. Homework and organized sports, maybe, if parents push it. But more likely, it’s brain-deadening video games and TV. For high school kids, part-time jobs are great if they can find them; but too often I’ve seen high-schoolers turn into mini-adults, letting the shifts at the pizza parlor cut into their studies, even taking “urgent” calls from their supervisor during class time.

As for the school year, many have rightly argued that a nine-month span is a fusty relic of a century ago, leaving kids with way too much time for summertime brain drain.

And Levy’s idea of using one more year past the traditional end to high school to let teens experience post-secondary education makes a lot of sense. He echoes President Obama’s recent suggestion that an additional year could be directed toward a four-year university, a community college, a vocational school or an apprenticeship — a wealth of choices. In any case, it might prevent students — diploma in hand — from taking the first minimum-wage job they are offered. High school counselors could do a better job of presenting career options to teens so that they could “buy in” to that extra year as setting them on a valuable path.

Levy would make the extra year compulsory, with the government picking up the tab. I believe we ought to quickly transition the school system into a 14-year, extended-day framework, with the message to kids that they will graduate from high school with a more solid plan for their future.

Next blog — Number 2: Push online education, special charter schools and other alternatives for kids 14 and older whose lack of motivation and classroom disruptions hurt the kids who really want to learn.

Levy, Harold O. “Five Ways to Fix America’s Schools.” The New York Times, June 8, 2009.

another good link —


Dave Eggers and co-founder of national tutoring network give good reasons as to why there’s not better teacher retention.


One Response to “Why We Should Cry for Change in Education, Part 1”

  1. toasty redhead May 14, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Keep up the good work on this blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: