Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Letter: Why do we have school boards?

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Why do we have school boards?

When the one room school house was the standard school boards held the responsibility for the individual administration of these one room schools. In those days the board hired a teacher, knew all of the kids attending, and made a “on the ground” evaluation for the effectiveness of the quality of education in their community. They probably had less than 60 students that they were responsible for and there was no “administration” of the school except for the board and the teacher. I think that most, today, would feel that this was a pretty effective system. No special education, no “behaviorally disabled”, no chariot racing, no gladiator training and no other peripheral issues to “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic”. The focus for the school day was simply the “3 R’s”.

Over the past 100 years this vestige of these one room school days now has the responsibility for, in some cases, over 100,000 students, payrolls of 1000’s and layers of “administration”. The individual members of the school board may not even know 1% of the students and not many more of the actual teachers in the 100’s of classrooms that the district has in several schools.

While the law, at least in Washington, places the responsibility for the education of each individual child on the school board there may be little, or no, understanding of what is actually happening in the classrooms by board members. Often school board members meetings involve a discussion of arcane policy that has little or no effect upon the education of individual children.

School boards now cede this “administration” to the Superintendent, their only employee, while they try to “invent policy” that is often esoteric and seldom has any significant impact upon that actually happens in the classroom. Most school board members haven’t spent any “unescorted” time in a secondary school to understand that the priorities of the kids that are having achievement problems. My experience has been that these kids have other priorities such as text messaging, skateboarding, video games, and “hanging out” and there doesn’t seem to be any adults in their lives that are moderating these priorities.

Where are school boards in this? In some cases they are accused of “micro managing”, in other cases they just aren’t focused on this as they “struggle” with meaningless “policies” that have no effect in the classrooms and hallways of the schools.

The Washington State Code (RCW’s) places the responsibility of the education directly upon the school boards of the local communities. However it would seem that the citizens of the local communities haven’t held these elected officials feet to the fire. One only has to look at the results on national achievement tests to see that text messaging, gladiator training, chariot races, skateboarding, and other diversions have overtaken the acquisition of knowledge in most secondary schools.

Not elsewhere in the developing, and developed world. Chariot racing, instead of effective government, brought down the Roman Empire.

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