New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he argues for education reform.Â He quotes a statistic from a study group that will release its findings today:
Only 18 out of 100 high-school freshmen will graduate on time, enroll directly in college and earn a two-year degree in three years or a four-year degree in six. Just 18!
Furthermore, Bloomberg compares the (I am assuming that throughout his essay he not speaking of higher education) education system in the United States to the troubled domestic auto industry–pouring mounds of cash into a bloated and inefficient system.
Here are the changes that he recommends:
The choice is clear, but the challenge will not be easy. It will require a top-to-bottom rethinking of our school system, one that insists on a performance-based culture of accountability that is oriented around children, not bureaucracies. It will require us to offer higher teacher salaries to attract more of the best and brightest, and to offer financial rewards to the most successful teachers. It will require us to set and uphold high standards, encourage innovation and competition, and end social promotion — the harmful practice of advancing students to the next grade despite their poor academic performance. And it will require us to invest in early childhood development and distribute funding more equitably.
I am in general agreement with many of his proposals, although I would want to see the specifics of implementation before I would whole-heartedly agree.Â For example, I agree that we should link compensation to teacher performance but measuring this performance is very difficult.Â Measuring instruments of this fashion might provide a disincentive for good teachers to teach troubled students as well as provide an incentive to teach for a test instead of teaching what students really needed to learn in order to succeed in their careers and personal lives.Â I also agree that teachers should be paid more because many good teachers opt for more lucrative careers leaving many students with teachers that couldn’t find employment in other sectors of the economy.Â However, the money for pay raises must come from somewhere.Â Lastly, I don’t think just moving money between school districts to provide “equity” is the answer.Â There have been many studies that disprove the direct link between money spent per pupil with educational success in the lives of these students.
I think we also need to think about fostering the proper culture in our schools in which everyone including teachers, administrators, and students are exited and motivated to learn and teach well.Â Some of the traditional models of education should be rethoughtÂ in order to provide a more interactive learning environment for high school students.Â Colleges are getting very good at providing internship opportunities for their students with prospective companies, maybe we should try to expand this to the last two summers of high school education.
Lastly, the purpose of education should be recast as well.Â The mentality that I see so often is that the goal that students and teachers work toward is either passing a test or gaining admittance into a certain college.Â Education is ultimately not about these things–it’s about giving students the tools, motivation, encouragement, and vision to fulfill their dreams.Â If both teachers and students viewed each day of school as one more opportunity to fulfill their dreams we would see some very different schools.
What are your thoughts?