LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Don’t blame teachers for poor test scores

Jun 6, 2011


Our national and state governments have tried to improve education by focusing solely on teachers: criticizing job performance, reducing union powers, tying pay to performance, etc. However, these strategies forget that teachers don’t “learn” students; each student learns as an individual. Teachers can guide, present, motivate, entertain, test, plan and demonstrate; but, in the end, knowledge can be laid before the student, but only the student can take it in.

So, if students aren’t learning, our focus must start with them.

Students must be prepared to learn and for that their parents own a big share of the responsibility. It’s their job to help define expectations, to give children a healthy psychological environment, to set an example, to care about their educational progress, to help children envision a future that requires knowledge. In other words, they must actively set their children up for success — not defer this responsibility to teachers, and then behave like angry customers when things don’t go well.

When half of the student population in our big-city schools fails to graduate from high school, but most of the students in wealthy suburban districts go on to college, we must conclude that many factors are important to successful education. If the children in these two different communities were asked a series of questions about their expectations for the future, the importance of a good education, the value of reading and inquisitiveness, and the likelihood that they will succeed as adults, we would see dramatic differences — and that should tell us that a student’s preparedness is a consequence of living within a family and a community, and the resulting expectations and values they instill.

I’m not saying that quality teaching is unnecessary for public education — it is. What I am saying is that good teaching is not sufficient. Moreover, as long as we focus on just one part of the problem, we will remain disappointed with the results. To have any chance of solving a problem, the complexity of the thinking must match the complexity of the problem. Unfortunately, the current remedies are the result of thinking that is too simplistic to ever succeed.

— Richard Kamischke, Grand Haven Township


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