Education policies were a major discussion during the hearings of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.  Some senators were concerned that she had no experience with the public sector.  Other congressmen worried that she may have an ulterior motive in securing funding for the private sector.  All agree that she needs a plan for the future.  Below is a detailed education plan that explains, quickly how education works in the United States, and how it could become much more effective.  DeVos has full access to these initiatives; a letter has recently been declared to her office outlining these plans.

Recognize the Situation in Education

Education Policies in classroom

Public education is a special task for government officials.  Developing education policies that are amenable to all stake holders is challenging for leaders.  This is because everyone wants a “fair chance” so long as “my child” gets ahead of everyone else.  This is true in business, politics, sports, and life.  We all want a fair playing field, but we also want to be the only people with the “inside” knowledge.  Bernie Sanders is correct:  “The system is rigged.”

But that rigged system can still function positively for all students and families.  Cheaters will always exist.  Manipulations abound within us all.  This is not to call “cheating” an evil.  It is a fact of life.  Cheating takes many forms.  Sports coaches tell players to “cheat up” or “out,” meaning that the coaches want the players to anticipate the next move of the opponent, so the players “cheat” by moving into an advanced position.

education with computers

Some parents put their children in advanced classes earlier than the average students enter them.  In a sense, they are cheating because they are putting their children in positions to be in the top 5% early in the education world.  Just for reference:  Most schools only require 2 or 3 years of a foreign language for graduation.   However, a student who started French in 6th grade, and continues through 12th grade, will have 3 or 4 years of ADVANCED instruction, but the student who started in 10th grade will only have the three years of standard instruction.

The system is rigged!  The education policies favor the families that know the system.  It is in favor of the college graduates who understand how education works.  Thus, few inner city students, and children from non college educated parents, grow beyond their world of knowledge.  This is why 50% of Black inner city students do not graduate from high school and nearly 60% of them in up in jail or prison at some point.  This is what they know.

Identify the Problems with Education

Many blogs, websites, and infomercials share several reasons why public school systems are failing.  They are able to cite sources of private institutional success.  They offer business models.  Each time, the blame starts with the parent and ends with the student.  “We do not spend enough,” one stake holder lamented.  “There are not enough resources,” said another.

These complaints are like blaming the Flu on the fever.  Or, suggesting that is raining because the wind pattern changed.  Nay, schools fail because the students that enter the school fail.  That is the reason.  A successful private school knows that for it to stay successful it must enroll successful students from successful families, and hold them accountable.  Public schools do not have such an option.

education around the world

Although it is true that principals may remove certain disruptive students from the classroom or school (a topic that is currently being debated); overall, leaders can not dismiss students due to low academic performance.   Imagine if the the NFL athletes were chosen not by draft, but at random.  How may the NFL teams appear?  Would the same teams be the stand out leaders?  Would the “amazing” coaches be so great anymore?  So, from an NFL reference, is it the coach or the player who makes the difference?

So, the students who attend school do not come from the same means.  Yet, the system teaches to the the more “sophisticated” of those means.  Public education is currently designed to send students to college.  How many college students do we really need?  What is “so” wrong with earning a living as a sales clerk, janitor, teacher, policeman, or any other “entry” level position?

Be Honest about the Education Plan

Business leaders love to share ideas with educators about how great things work with a model or plan developed from a business mindset.  These same leaders never express the results when the model fails.  Yes, sometimes plans fail.  In the business model, failure equates to firings.  These are not things that the public sector recognizes.  Leaders are not fired when SOL scores do not return with a favorable ranking.  Nor, should that be the case.  Therefore, we must remove the business model and develop education policies that represent the desired outcomes of all stake holders.

What is missing from education is middle-management.  At the moment, in order for teachers to earn greater pay, they must “move up” to administration.  They must leave the classroom and become discipline specialists.  How does that equate to good leadership?  The educator who once was wonderful at helping my “problem” child learn must now be the “arbiter” in whether my child stays in school?  Is this justice.  Please, please, please— pause and ponder this for at least 30 seconds.

All of us have witnessed great teaching.  Now, recognize that great teaching is rewarded without a pay raise, with more work load, and with less personal time.  “Oh, but you have the summers off!”  These moments of “off” time are times of unemployment without unemployment benefits.  This is not to diminish the benefits of free summers, but to put into perspective what that really means.  In order for a teacher (or policeman or firefighter) or anyone at an entry-level position to gain greater salaries, that person must stop doing what she or he has been so successful at doing.

So, what is the purpose of public education?  If it is to put the best teachers in the best environment, then pay increases are necessary. If the purpose is to follow a business model, then SOL scores must result in firing, hiring, and offering new benefits.  The results must matter.  Is this truly how we envision public education?  Are we honestly going to fire principals every time the students fail?  Will we replace the teachers whenever the students do not succeed?

Create a Real Education Plan

Although it seems absurd or impossible to develop a plan that meets the needs of all students, accounts for cheating, and pays quality educators a fair wage a(without raise taxes), there are possible options.  Here is an option that may very well work, with little complication.  School systems must remodel how they introduce, evaluate, and administrate education policies.

  1.  All teachers must undergo an evaluation process that is thorough.  At the end of the course, students and colleges provide feedback about the lessons.  Teachers are ranked based on how the fit the mold of the school.  Teachers that are above or below the standards are high scrutinized by assistant principals.  This is to prevent courses from being too hard or too easy.
  2. Decrease the initial pay of new teachers by 1% and the entry pay for new leadership by 2%.  These education policies instead will use these funds to account for potential leaders.  Educators that perform well consistently, should be offered quasi-leadership positions.  This is essentially middle management.  For example:  Assuming teachers work for 6 out of 8 blocks, award some teachers discipline positions, so that these educators instruct for 5 blocks and handle discipline for one block.  This frees up assistant principals for monitoring and supervision.  It also, acts as a way to determine which educators are qualified for educational leadership roles.
  3. Offer courses and classes that “make sense” to the population.  There are three types of students in education.  Either the student is bound for college, not college, or unknown.  The traditional setting should be geared for the unknown student.  These students advance through school the way it has always been done, with tests and homework and graded assignments.
    1. College-bound students should be paired with specific instructors who constantly evaluate the students’ natural inquisitive state.  At any point, these teachers may relegate the students to the undecided realm.  Rules must be in place for how often a student my be reassigned.  This is geared to those who are honestly intellectually driven.
    2. Non-college students begin work in fields of study that are relevant to their futures.  Mechanics work on creating manuals, sales-men work on pitches.  Everyone has a nitch that makes sense to her or him.  Schools should encourage this, even more students along the lines of college or undecided to non-college, as the situation presents itself.
    3. Undecided students make up the majority of the student base.  These students should continue with education the way that it is.  As they discover potential they should be given the chance to explore it.  Thus, a general education student who does well in math should be given college-bound math courses, but standard or non-college level courses for English or Science.  These choices must be available for all students.
  4. Keep parents informed correctly.  Parents must provide food, shelter, and clothing.  It is the school’s responsibility to provide learning opportunities.  Blaming parents for failed success is easy and baseless.  Educators instruct, students learn, and parents provide.  That is the order of education.

Secretary’s Education Plan

Will Mrs. DeVos follow a plan similar to this or develop her own?  We do not know.  However, we are aware that many of President Trump’s plans have come from sources other than his presidential cabinet picks.  For example, although the president toted a great health care plan during the elections, he has completely endorsed the House proposal (rather than share is own ideas).  If you like this plan, please send word to the president and his cabinet to consider a model that is fair and balanced.

Private education is very different from public schooling.  The purpose and intent of the two are philosophically separate.  Tax dollars should be spent on public, not private, needs.  Betsy DeVos’ education policies derive from her experiences, which have almost entirely been in the private sector.  It is imperative that she have a team of advisers that have clear knowledge of public issues.