The following is a submission from an educator as part of the Your Soapbox feature, which explores the experiences of educators in North Carolina through their own words. Check out more first person stories here, or if you are an educator, submit your own.
It’s clear to say that our American education system needs a reform, and not just a reform, a culture change. Our world ranking is 33rd when comparing scores in reading, math and science (OECD-2009). This has made the government pass legislation that harms the education system instead of helping it in a scramble to improve our world ranking.
The million dollar question is what is it that makes our students perform well? Bill Gates spent millions of dollars to research the education system. His findings confirmed what all teachers know in their hearts. It’s great teachers. In an article explaining his research, it states, “Teachers have long been shown to influence students’ education more than any other school factor, including class size and per-pupil spending” (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424053111903554904576461571362279948).
So now to the current problem in North Carolina. If teachers are one of the strongest influences to students’ educational performance, why pass legislation to discourage teachers from truly teaching and instead teach to the test? Why pass legislation that cuts school funding that aids in paying for supplies that teachers need? Why pass legislation that has cut teacher assistants who are a key element to a teacher being able to teach to full potential? Why pass legislation that discourages teachers from being lifelong learners and continuing higher education to help them be BETTER teachers? Why? Why? Why? These are only a handful of recent examples (I haven’t even mentioned teacher pay yet) of how legislation has created a culture where teachers cannot be the greatest influence in their students lives.
The solution: start legislation TODAY that will create a statewide and nationwide culture of respected teachers who can truly use their gifts, talents, intelligence and pedagogy to enhance student performance. Increase teacher pay so that not only teachers receive the compensation for their hard work and countless hours but so that the teaching profession can be seen as an honorable, prestigious profession (this will help with the whole “changing the culture” issue). Reinstate teacher compensation for earning a master’s degree (let’s encourage lifelong learning!). Give the money back to the schools for supplies and teacher assistants. Let teachers have accessibility to the supplies and assistance they need. This is only the beginning of the solution. It is a journey to create a new education system, one where the greatest asset, teachers, are able to flourish and mold the future citizens of America.