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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ideas from a teacher

A teacher from Tennessee who teaches in VA has sent me some ideas to help our education system. I always say the person at the ground level usually has some pretty good insight. Many of the ideas are similar to the post I did on my ideas for education. Feedback is more then welcome.

Suggestions on education:

Reduce the number of degrees issued to qualified students. Make the standards higher. Have students prove they are qualified to begin matriculation. If they are just there for the money, not good enough. Make better use of the Community college system to filter out the unqualified. Definition of qualified may be hard to pin down, but necessary.

Reduce the variety of degrees available. How many "Bachelor of Basket Weaving" type degrees do we really need? How does it advance Tennessee? If a department can only support one full time professor in that discipline, how can the institute say that they offer a degree in "X"?

Increase number of employers (or positions at current employers) for earning degrees. We don't need Bachelor of Science graduates to flip burgers. At some point, I would like to be working in Tennessee again.

Reduce the size of state supported higher colleges. I find that the current administrations of many of our colleges/universities are top heavy. For the tuition that the student pays, only half should go to the administration and facility. After all, the student is paying for the professor to teach them, not the administration. Based on my last class, two thirds or more of the student tuition went to the administration/facility, not including what the state kicked in on top of that.

Change the lottery scholarship system. Provide qualified grants to those attending community colleges (freshman/sophomore level) to encourage finding out if they are qualified for college and that discipline. Change to reimbursement for higher levels, if they pass the course. Stop calling it scholarship, as the student has not earned the money, it was just granted; unless there is some type of academic competition for the reward.

Public Accounting for lottery expenditures (check written to who, how much, and for what reason). Graduation rates of recipients vs others. Are we getting the best value?

Provide for separate facility/resources (outside of college system) to provide the transition between high school and college just to get a student to the qualified freshman level.

I may be in the minority as far as unionization and/or tenure, but I think that both systems should be abolished. It keeps qualified instructors out (including those without "teaching" certificates), as well as "fresh" ideas. How many tenured professors are aware of modern technology to teach with? I was watching fellow instructors this semester using the old fashioned paper grade book to turn in their grades and roll sheet, when technology is available to avoid that hassle. I watched my son go through our college system not learning about latest technology or ways of communicating. If we want Tennessee to be teaching the next generation, this generation of instructors had better get with it.

Reduce the federal mandates or requirements on colleges (and all education levels in general). Many decisions need to be made at the local level, not the state or fed. Research institutes should be the ones seeking federal grants. "Publish or Perish" at the university level can only be supported if the freshman/sophomore classes are eliminated from teaching loads.

Encourage endowments. Better management of and tax benefits of same. Instead of being used to pay admin salaries, distributions should be restricted to scholarships and facility improvements.

Tax supported Vouchers, charter schools, home schooling, and other private educational systems need to be encouraged. The state can't answer for every situation. The more choices, the more competition, the better the systems will become. The state does not have a God-given right to provide all education for everyone. It is a Government Sponsored Enterprise. Sound familiar? Think Fannie Mae, All State of Tennessee is required to do is be able to "certify," or verify, that students that graduate are qualified for that level, especially if they receive tax funds.

Institute financial education from kindergarten to college graduate. Include mandatory courses in basic finance (savings, checking accounts, etc.), cd's & mortgages, taxes, bonds, stocks, real estate, entrepreneurship, capital finance, retirement funding, etc. By teaching our students how to manage money, they can learn how to take care of themselves, have more discipline, and plan for life events. By the time they are of age, many will learn how to be business owners and create new jobs for fellow citizens. I learned more about money in five years of Texas schools than many of the students ever do here in Tennessee. Keeping our citizens in ignorance about money management is a great disservice.

A different system to handle dropouts and trouble makers. Not everyone is able to handle school. Encourage apprentice exceptions and scholarships to encourage these children in real world expectations.

Grades are only useful to other educators. Employers only need to know: is this person trained and qualified to do the job? Focusing on grades and not outcomes is like measuring how much oil is under the sea: we won't know until we pump.


  1. As one who has been deeply interested in the issue of education both from a policy perspective and as one who is seeking a bachelor's degree in physical education, I think this particular teacher has some ideas that I wholeheartedly concur with. Ultimately, genuine reform will come from the grassroots level, not the top down approach.

  2. I really don't see why public school teaches have tenure. Tenure is supposed to protect professors' right to free speech. It's completely useless in the pre-college school system.


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