Better Teaching, Parenting Are the Answer

Article excerpt

Okay, okay. Our schools aren't the greatest.

Our best students are equal only to the average Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese students. But maybe our schools do no harm.

And if you think that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona you may be interested in.

When U.S. students are tested on what they learn in the classroom, the gap between them and Asian students widens. When our youngsters are tested on things they don't study in school, they come up even with the Asians.

That sounds like schools being harmful to little intellects.

American schoolchildren are just as smart at very young ages in "common knowledge" of such things as "why blankets keep us warm," Harold W. Stevenson, an American psychologist, told the National Governors, Association. "There are enormous gaps that increase with age. Our top 3 percent who study calculus are the equal of average students in other countries."

Are smaller classes the answer? Class size doesn't seem to make much difference. A teacher who is well-prepared and organized can teach as many as 50 students, which is the number most Asian teachers have in their classes.

Marginal teachers are a major problem. By some estimates 5 percent to 15 percent of our public school teachers are incompetent and ill-prepared. Such teachers contribute to the dropout rate and reduce student motivation and parental interest. Yet the law makes it difficult for administrators and school boards to dismiss teachers, even for good cause. Such teachers usually are transferred to another place to do harm. This is called the "the turkey trot."

Average teachers must be reeducated and retrained; bad teachers must be shown to the schoolhouse door. Teachers unions must stop setting up obstacles to excellence. Union opposition to merit pay and rigorous teacher testing, and union insistence on tenure for the inept and inefficient, inevitably doom our children. …