March 03, 2007

Essence of a problem

kavips' comments over at this First State Politics post really made me chuckle. In a sarcastic way, that is. He wrote:

There are three parts to education: the teachers, the administration, and the parents. Parents have the least influence.

My emphasis. I am aware of certain studies that claim teachers have more impact on children['s education] than parents, but I've yet met anyone who actually believed this. This is no way an attempt to "absolve" me or any other educator from their responsibilities in the classroom. It is, however, pointing out the reality of the situation. I will never forget a good friend of mine who relayed to me (years ago) what his [education] professor told him off the record in one of his masters classes: That he could accurately predict how a student would do in school just by knowing his SES (socio-economic status) and home situation.

Ask any teacher what their #1 concern is in school. A majority of them will indicate discipline. I highly advise you all to check out today's Philadelphia Inquirer. One report notes that the Philly School District is "losing control" due to chronically disruptive students. Another details the severe beatings of a couple of teachers in Philly schools -- one who recently suffered a broken neck, and another recuperating from a busted jaw.

Philly schools CEO Paul Vallas nails the gist of the problem, in my opinion, right here (again, my emphasis):

"Some schools are getting it right. Some schools aren't," said Vallas, the district's chief executive officer. "The bottom line is this: There are two things that you need, and it goes far beyond coordination. You need to be able to expedite the discipline process, and you need to be able to expel students permanently."

He maintained that state law, which allows expelled students to return to regular schools eventually, and other regulations tied the district's hands.

Indeed. If "expelled" students are permitted back into regular classrooms, it is not actually an "expulsion." It is a "suspension." Being able to actually make it an expulsion would certainly help classroom discipline by making permanent the absence of the chronically disruptive.

However, there are those who believe it is the "right" of any student to "get an education." First, that phrase "get an education" is a total fallacy. They are not getting an education. What chronically disruptive students do is prevent others from getting an education by their constant misbehavior. I am always fascinated by this [liberal] belief in individual rights when it comes to education. Usually more concerned with the group, this worry is of no apparent consequence when it comes to the collective known as "the classroom." Education is a right, sure. But it not an absolute right. No right is absolute.

Now back to kavips' assertion. Do parents have "the least influence" -- especially when it comes to student [mis]behavior? One thing that has always intrigued me is how many parents of the chronically disruptive are nowhere to be found when teachers/administrators attempt to contact them and inform/discuss what is happening with their child. However, the moment their child is suspended, arrested or threatened with expulsion, then these parents are at the school in a flash -- supporting the "rights" of their child to the Nth degree. They may also have an attorney with them or a "child advocate" to tell the school in no certain terms about the child's "rights." Of course, the concern for the other children in that chronically disruptive student's classes is non-existent.

Be sure to view the Philadelphia Teacher Survey here (.PDF file).

UPDATE: More in today's Philly Inquirer.

Posted by Hube at March 3, 2007 07:25 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

The legal problems with expulsion are compounded by federal Special Education Laws. Students classified as special ed. are given additional rights by federal law that makes expulsion EXTREMELY difficult. Ironically, disruptive students are frequently put into special education programs so as not to continually disrupt the regular education class. Ironically, this has the effect of making it more difficult to eventually expel them.

Posted by: orestes at March 3, 2007 10:02 AM

Have to say I agree with all the comments. So why the sarcastic chuckle?

Maybe perhaps had I substituted the words "teaching the quadratic equation" instead of education in my lead paragraph, a clearer reading of the passage would occur.

Administrators determine the curriculum, teachers teach it. Parents most often do not have the resources to explain to their own children, concepts such as absolute value, irrational equations, rational equations and inequalities, for textbooks have been replaced with handout sheets to 1) reduce costs, and 2) cover what the DSTP requires since no one textbook meets the DSTP requirement.

As a result, parents have less of an impact than they used to, on what their children are studying and learning. They used to be able to fire the teacher,since they were supporting him/her if their children did not learn. (Now, with some of the parents out there, it is a good thing they can't fire a teacher.)

As far as the "character" of the student goes, we both agree that parents are responsible and accountable for the actions of their children.

As for fixing the problem, someone had a good comment in the NJ forum about that.

Posted by: kavips at March 5, 2007 08:12 AM

A fair point, kavips. If I misunderstood your point, my apologies. But I am we're on the same wavelength on this! :-)

Posted by: Hube at March 5, 2007 05:55 PM

I am a high school teacher and i agree with everything in the article above. I do not get to teach, i get to babysit and be a policewoman. Discipline is a real problem with those students that are chronically disruptive. It takes an act of God to get them out of the classroom, where they ruin education for every other child.

Posted by: Mica at March 25, 2007 12:30 PM