Jim Thompson is not exactly pleased with the Clarke County School District, and with good reason. We’ve known for some time that the CCSD has something of a discipline problem, and that our children are not being particularly well-served. The big question is: Who do we blame?
Jim does a good job of highlighting the sociological factors that lead to problems in the schools; we would humbly refer you to this thread with reference to those factors. But those problems are not unique to the CCSD by any means. And there is one thing going on in the CCSD that, if it isn’t the primary cause of our local district’s problems, is certainly exacerbating them. It’s also a pretty easy problem to fix.
Here at AthPo, we’ve pretty much had enough. We’re big supporters of public education. One of us used to teach, for Pete’s sake. We’re also both proud to be graduates of public schools in Clarke County. There’s no reason why, with what is probably the state’s best-educated citizenry, and with the State’s flagship university in our backyard, that our public schools should be this deplorable.
You might recall some months ago, when we put out an open call for folks in the CCSD, especially teachers, to get in touch with us and answer a few questions anonymously. We were trying to track down the truth behind some persistent rumors that we keep hearing. According to our sources, the administration of at least one middle school in Clarke County is actively encouraging its teachers to file less disciplinary reports on students (for instance, sending the kid to the principal’s office) in favor of handling most, if not all, discipline problems in the classroom.
You see, if a teacher sends a student to the principal’s office for breaking the rules, that creates paperwork. And said paperwork is a matter of public record. It’s also one of the first things that is checked when a school is being evaluated for Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. But, if you handle the problems in the classroom, without taking the administration’s time away from their busy schedules of surfing the internet, then – voila! – no pesky disciplinary referrals to show up when the authorities show up to check on AYP.
Call us naïve, but we’d prefer that teachers actually – oh gosh, we don’t know – teach. The administrators’ job is to preserve discipline, so that teachers can actually do their jobs.
As we mentioned earlier, we’ve had enough. If you’ve had enough with the tailspin that is the Clarke County School District, then here’s what we suggest – a two-pronged approach.
First, throw the bums out. That means the school board, initially, and with a new board, hopefully the superintendent and the top administration as well. Sorry to sound draconian, but our schools have gotten worse on your watch, guys. We appreciate your service, and don’t let the doorknob hit you where the Good Lord split you. Next, with our new school board, we need to pass new local rules about accountability. Not for teachers; we humbly believe that most of our Clarke County teachers are doing the best they can with what they’ve got to work with. Accountability rules for the administrators of each school are the way to go. Our new accountability rules shouldn’t be based on some contrived yardstick, like No Child Left Behind, but on measurable results based on previous years’ performance. As an example, if 10% of the 9th graders at a school had to repeat, then the next year, anything more than 5% is unacceptable. If a school reported an average of 50 disciplinary referrals per month in 2005, then anything more than an average of 40 per month is unacceptable in 2006.
You want to get serious about education? So do we. But things aren’t going to get any better until we cut the tumor out of the system. Throw the bums out.