New Century a New Challenge Real Changes, Though, Will Come in the Classroom

By Steinke-McDonald, Ronda | The Florida Times Union, July 26, 1997 | Go to article overview

New Century a New Challenge Real Changes, Though, Will Come in the Classroom


Steinke-McDonald, Ronda, The Florida Times Union


Set aside the window dressing, the public relations efforts and

the cheers led by academia for academia; our schools are in

trouble.

The Duval County school district -- gargantuan compared with

most in the United States -- has established the New Century

Commission on Education to ferret out the basic problems

afflicting our school system. The commission busily surveys

citizens' concerns via public forums.

When the commission held a public meeting at the Beaches in

June, about 100 people showed up to voice long-standing

concerns: overcrowded classrooms, outnumbered teachers, serious

safety issues, lack of academic achievement and standards, and

occasional communication failures between all parties. Nothing

new learned here. This commission is just another toothless lion

designed by political elements of our school district's

administration to quell the demands of taxpaying citizens who

are calling for academic improvements.

If our community wants academic change, then we must change --

every one of us. It is not enough to suggest that our students

should adhere to a stringent dress code. It isn't their wardrobe

that needs to be changed, more, it is their vision of the future

that must be altered. When any person has a believable,

desirable goal set before them, they are more likely to

participate cooperatively. A well-placed teacher can guide a

child's vision.

As adults, most of us can recall personal memories of a very

different type of educator. A punitive teacher or administrator

can cripple a child's hope. It is very uncommon for this

less-than professional teacher to be purged from a faculty

roster. This year only 31 of the 7,087 teachers in Duval County

received negative end-of-the-year evaluations from their

principals. Our idyllic statistics betray our reality. Some

unfit educators are still on the prowl in our schools. They will

open the doors of their classrooms in August alongside the

abuOendance of sincere and qualified teachers. Eliminating the

unfit should be a prime target for change.

But that accomplishment is only one step in a long path of

necessary changes. Anyone who has ever been in seventh grade has

seen the chaos a handful of unruly students can conjure up on a

daily basis. …

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