Thoughts on improving education in the US

First note, this topic isn’t aimed at education of kids with a hearing loss, it’s just about education in the US in general.

Last week I saw someone post an article on Twitter about all the funding towards increasing technology for schools. Computers, networks, infrastructure, educational software programs, etc, etc. Billions of dollars each year. (That article is here: http://www.citejournal.org/vol1/iss1/currentissues/general/article1.htm but that isn’t the topic I’m posting on here, it’s just what inspired thought on the topic).

A discussion about this with Don got us talking about how the problem with education in this country is two fold. 1. Our society (at large) doesn’t value education. This is further emphasized by the second point. 2. Compensation for teachers is too low.

Ironically there were two articles in the NY Times that very day that covered both of these topics.

In Rising Above IQ the columnist discusses how the attitude of people towards education can lead to their success. He brushes on nature vs nurture and how IQ is not determined by genetics. I’m sure ‘home environment’ plays a key roll. People who are well educated themselves are very likely to push their children to reach high goals.

Perhaps the larger lesson is a very empowering one: success depends less on intellectual endowment than on perseverance and drive. As Professor Nisbett puts it, “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.”

On to point two, improving education by getting the best teachers. How does a corporation go about finding the best candidates for a job? They offer something attractive and then choose from the best resumes they receive. Does a school get to do this? Not with the salaries they typically offer. The average according to CBSalary.com is $46,000. Salary.com lists the 25th-75th percentile range as $41,000 and $61,000. This doesn’t as bad as I’ve heard, but it isn’t exactly prestigious either. As comparisons, an engineering manager averages $82,000 and ranges from $62,000 to $110,000. 25th percentile for Attorneys is $140,000 with bonuses and almost $200,000 for the 75th percentile. Since I have a lot of cochlear implanted readers, how about our surgeons? A Surgeon of Neurology ranges from $375,000 to $600,000 a year! That’s how you get the best people interested.

Yes, I’m glad my surgeon is highly trained and I suppose you don’t need that much training to teach kids to do math and science, but what happens when you increase the benefits of teaching to attract a wider range of experienced, motivated, well educated people?

The second NYTimes article (Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers) is a followup to a story I read last year. It’s about a charter school in NYC that will pay its teachers $125,000 a year. They are using all public funding except for that which covers their location. This means that the main difference in this school versus other charter schools is the teacher salary. They had over 800 people apply, interviewed 100 in person and chose 8.  They are starting with just one grade and will add another grade next year.  It’s an experiment that I’m looking forward to following along with.

I’m not saying that teaching school is easy and that paying a higher salary will solve all the problems.  I just think that raising teacher salaries would kill two birds with one stone.  We don’t value education, we don’t value our teachers, our country falls further and further behind.

6 Comments

  1. Derek J. Punaro
    Jun 10, 2009

    The aspect of this that you’re missing is that you can’t simply give out large salaries for teachers in public schools without basing it on some sort of performance requirements. Public school teachers unions make it nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers and simply reward longevity. Once tenured, disenfranchised teachers have no compelling reason to perform.

    So yes, when corporations want a quality candidate, they can offer a big salary and be picky about who they choose. But you can guarantee that if that person doesn’t perform, they won’t be kept around for 30 years.

    Derek J. Punaro’s last blog post: Gil Perreault’s 500th Goal

  2. Sara
    Jun 10, 2009

    Good point and definitely harder to change the status quo in that respect. That charter school in the NYT article points out that teachers can be fired at any time and that’s just as important as the salary used to attract them in the first place.

    • JB
      Jun 10, 2009

      Howdy! 🙂 I’m JB. Born and bred in NY! 🙂 allow me to blog here, this is my first time on this particular site. however i do find things interested…in educational technology. i am myself a computer technology instructor for a private facility. i do find it that deaf individuals who can qaulify certain high paying technology related jobs are at some point in frustrations with companies. little or large corperations as such. these companies are not too keen in hiring disabled individuals. some are willingness to hire. some are not. for those who are not are the biggest losers in this country. why? because they didnt take the chance in hiring at the first place. duh! i beleive that deaf individual can do ANYTHING except hear! period! 🙂 i know what im talking about cuz i have been through high/low through out my life. made through countless barriers with little or alot of patience! in todays world with the technology that is guiding and leading many deaf and disabled individuals to a more independent and productive lives. it really changes the way we live today. right? yep! alrighty, thats it for now…i will check back later. have a great day! 🙂

  3. Lauren
    Jun 10, 2009

    Okay….I can’t help but reply. By the way….hey Sara…it has been awhile. I hope all is well with you. All of the stuff with education is ridiculous right now. I will say this as I am a teacher. The pay is ridiculous; a lot of teachers in my school system have to work second jobs just to pay the bills. Right now…most of us are wondering if we will even have jobs next year. As for the first commenters post about tenured teachers slacking off….yes….it happens. However, things are changing. Next year in NC we will be finally going statewide with a new evaluation model. If teachers do not score at certain levels, they can and will be eliminated, regardless of teunre, etc. This is a good thing, and it has actually happened this year in a number of counties in NC. Right now however, the budget for education is very bleak. In my school alone we have lost four teachers for next year, while increasing class sizes to 26. We have also lost all of our tutors, and others that help us out with children that struggle.

    Anyways….education….first of all…I think year round schools would be a good start. Second of all, actually pay teachers something. Third, supply us with what we need to run the classroom. Just last year I spent over $1000.00 dollars out of my own pocket for my classroom.

  4. Dan Connell
    Jun 11, 2009

    Hi Sarah !

    I agree that it’s a terrible issue with the school systems here in the US. That’s why my son, even though he’s about to turn 4, lives in China with his grandparents for the school year. He already can read/write, add/subtract count to 100, play the piano and do lots of other things (China starts school at age 3).

    Back in January this year, I was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review Journal Newspaper concerning my thoughts, from a CEO position, as to concerns with the local school system ( see: http://www.lvrj.com/news/38442504.html ). There was also a follow up editorial ( http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/38589704.html ).

    After my comments were published in the paper, a very po’ed school system lobbyist tracked me down to my San Jose office and demanded to know how much tax I paid and insisted that I send him my grocery bill receipts to “prove” I actually lived in Las Vegas. Turns out that this guy was the head of the group that oversaw and wrote the math exit exams for Clark County Schools.. the very same exam that 91% of high school students failed… yes, 91% failed his exam… He has web pages up as a professional tutor of math on the side.

    This was too funny to me. My key comment written in the paper was that there was an apalliing lack of critical thinking skills in the general population of Clark County. I guess that “teacher-turned-lobbyist-tutor” just had to go and prove my point.

    Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice this line from your blog – “…He brushes on nature vs nurture and how IQ is not determined by genetics….”

    I don’t know where that guy got his information, but IQ is, in fact, determined by genetics. There are many studies that show this to be the case and there are, quite simply, many people who can not learn, no mater how hard they try, no matter the “perseverance and drive” of the person. Maybe that author intend to relate his statements to folks with “normal IQ” ?

    For example, below is from a book on my shelf here … this is an extensive study of heritability traits in twins. (there are tons of similar studies on the web, google “IQ and genetics”…. )

    “The first law of behavior genetics states … ..cognitive abilities (IQ) show a strong genetic influence. Developmental comparisons yield the finding that the heritability of general cognitive ability increases from infancy (20%) to childhood (40%) to adolescence (50%) to adulthood (60%). In other words, the older you get, the more your IQ resembles that of your biological parents (even when you are not raised with your biological parents). The finding that heritability increases with age stands in stark opposition to the common notion of environmental influence….. The second law of behavior genetics is that the effect of family environment is not as great as the effect of genes…. … so overall the INTERACTION between genes and the environment make us what we are. Genes are the scaffolding, but the fine details are from interaction with the environment” (Ethical Brain, Michael Gazzaniga, Dana Press).

    Dan Connell’s last blog post: (NL-0038) Mock-O-Polo (mock the deaf guy)

  5. Sara
    Jun 18, 2009

    To add another issue with the US education: students who can show off their math and science skills can also easily jump grades, years, schools and go straight to college. But what about the excellent musician? They have to struggle through many years, become discouraged and drop out, even though they could’ve become the next Vivaldi or something. Art students are forced to go through an abusive system.

    Me and my roommate discuss this a lot, and so far we’ve only come up with one semi-decent solution. We thought it’d be best to make all kids go through grade school, and at that point there’s an assessment. if they want to continue to piddle around in general areas, they go on to normal middle school. If they don’t show any passion for learning, they’re thrown into a vocational school to learn a trade. If they show excellence in an area they more into a more specific middle school (while still learning, yet less emphasized, the basics) Do the same for high school and college. College would be paid for, for those really skilled and what not.
    But even that would take a lot of government intervention and patience that people do not have.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge
Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin