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From Smart Kids, Bad Schools:  38 Ways to Save America's Future (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2008):

The Problem  
Today’s educational system is yesterday’s educational system.  Imagine if medical care today employed remedies of a century ago. “Oh, that finger hurts?  Let’s cut it off then.”  We treat people differently today, thank goodness, so why shouldn’t we educate them differently as well?

            Yet no one seems to have the foresight or fortitude to create a new vision for public schools, from the buildings that house students to the subjects taught to them to the food that is fed to them. 

            After nearly 20 years of teaching high school English and journalism, teaching over 3,000 students, mentoring dozens of new teachers, teaching university credential courses, and becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I see what works, what’s wrong and so I have a plan."

The Hope

"The world is changing.  But America’s public schools are not.

If nothing else, may this book spark a national discussion on how we need to prepare America’s children for the future.

A transformed public education system will make our country stronger.  Often it is said that a country is as strong as its army.  I say a country is as strong as its young people.

Every day 47 million children attend schools and they do so for 13 straight years.  What type of experience do we want to provide America’s youth?" 

The Hard Facts

"How well are schools preparing the youth for this kind of future?  Let’s look.

  • The U.S. ranks 9th out of 12 industrialized nations in math skills, tied with Latvia (wherever that is).

  • One out of every four children reads below grade level.

  • Two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds cannot find Iraq on a map; one-third can’t find Louisiana.  Americans are second to last in geographic knowledge.

  • American businesses spend an estimated $50 billion on training their employees in basic skills that schools should have taught them.

  • One-third of all high school students, one-half of African-American and Latino students, do not graduate—unchanged for 30 years despite reforms.

  • Half of all high school dropouts are unemployed.

  • Two-thirds of prisoners are high school dropouts.

  • In the future as many as one-third of the country’s total available jobs may be outsourced.  That’s 42 million jobs.

  • Almost half a trillion dollars is spent on K-12 education each year."

From The $100,000 Teacher:  A Teacher's Solution to America's Public Schools (Capital Books, 2002):

"Students are the ultimate beneficiaries of the professionalization of teaching. More government programs, more staff development, more grants, more school choice, and more standardized testing combined cannot equal the power of solid teaching. Pay is going to have to be increased, career ladders need to be established, means of evaluating teachers to hold them accountable need to be in place, teacher training needs to be retooled, and power needs to be handed over to those who do the work of educating-- the teacher."

On Salary

"Good teachers deserve $100,000 and more if public education is to serve its customers, the students, well into the 21st century. Increasing teachers' salaries significantly is the best way to markedly improve the state of public education."

"Teachers should be paid based on competency, not on years of service or units of college credit."

"Exceptional teachers should be able to earn more money than principals."

"Teachers in high-demand fields, such as math and science, should be paid more."

On Attracting Better Qualified People

"Until the applicant pool is enlarged to attract more talented individuals from more lucrative fields, the most critical job in America will remain in critical condition."

On Bad Teachers

"Principals should be able to fire incompetent teachers."

On the Importance of the Teacher's Role in Student Learning

"Too much money has been wasted on experts, consultants, programs, and computers.  It is time to focus on the teacher for there is a teacher crisis in America.  It is a crisis of quality and quantity.  And if enough people do not wake up to this realization, especially those with the power to influence real change, then this country's children will suffer substantially."

"To improve student learning you have to improve teacher quality, period.  A highly competent teacher is able to help students to achieve more than an instructor who isn't."

"The public is becoming increasingly aware that the professional teacher is the key to a better public school system."

"Polls all across America show that people believe the best way to improve student learning is through improved teacher quality."

"The most important component in the classroom to make a true impact on the student is not the 2.0 gigahertz Pentium IV computer; it is the well-paid and much more thoroughly trained teacher."

"The teacher is the foundation of a productive learning environment and, if that teacher is no good, the students suffer.  All the reading programs and computer hook-ups will be wasted if that classroom teacher is not capable of performing at an optimum level."

On Creating a Career Ladder for Teachers

"Creating a more private sector-like pay schedule with a true career ladder is the most immediate change that needs to be implemented."

On Unions

"Unions must give up the notion of protecting the rights of all teachers no matter how bad they are and allow teachers to be paid according to their performance."

On Politicians

"Politicians have to relinquish taxpayers' money earmarked for special programs, be it Title I or Internet connections, and pool the money to create a legitimate professional pay scale."

On Holding Teachers Accountable

"Teachers themselves need to be willing to be evaluated by peers and sweep out the incompetent instructors who make all teachers look bad."

"Teachers should know (and be held accountable for knowing) the subject area they teach."

On Working Conditions

"The daily working conditions of the teacher need upgrading.  Teachers should not have to do secretarial work such as answering phones and photocopying."


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