YORK — We’re finally enjoying summer, a season that allows everyone to pause and reflect on their concepts of what our public schools should look like and who should be responsible for their performance.
Nobody will argue that people across our nation consider the education of their children very important. Because of this, a large percentage of our tax dollars goes to fund the schools of our communities.
In order to help our students succeed, many today want to eliminate the concept of letter grades, replacing it with competency-based grading. Gone will be the idea of working hard to earn an A, replaced by the idea of assessing the student based on their understanding of what the course is and what they need to learn in that course.
Everyone will be the same because everyone will be told to learn the same thing; nothing more and nothing else, with everyone succeeding and no one excelling.
Schools, along with their teachers and administrators, are told to be held accountable for how well they teach the students. If the student doesn’t learn, it must be the fault of the schools. Many in education call this enabling, since it promotes the idea that student should feel entitled to their education instead of feeling responsible for it.
Gone are the times of our past when our nation led the world in the process of educating their children.
Charles I. Hutchins was the York Supervisor of Schools during the school year ending Feb. 21, 1893. He reported: “As in years past, so in the present, the results have been varied. While some schools have shown a good degree of interest and enthusiasm and have made rapid progress, others have little more than held their own.”
Reading through Mr. Hutchins’ report, it is obvious he did not know how to mince his words.
Mr. Hutchins did not like his students to be absent from school. He explained, “To my mind this irregular method of attending is the greatest evil with which our school system has to contend. Children on the slightest pretext, or without any excuse whatever are allowed to absent themselves from school at their own sweet-will.”
He went on blame the students’ parents for this absenteeism. I wonder how long our present superintendent of schools would last if he took Mr. Hutchins’ lead:
“A trifling snow, or a cold morning, is enough to keep children from school, though the day is generally passed in out-of-doors play, this enduring double the exposure they would have suffered on their way to and from school. Very few parents at the present day, do not own a team, and very few there are who could not, if so disposed, take their children in bad weather, to and from school and also help their less fortunate neighbors in the same way.”
Mr. Hutchins completed this chastisement by asking, “Why are parents so blind to the lasting interests of their children and why so unwilling to put forth any exertion to help them to an education?” As a teacher, I ask myself this same question every day.
The supervisor of York’s schools in 1893 was also a defender of his teachers. He stated: “All of these things and some others go to swell the number of days and half days lost, and then the teacher is blamed because the child fails to make the progress in his studies that ought, under other circumstances, to be made.” He obviously understood that responsibility for a child’s education belongs to both parents and children.
“Where parents are interested in the welfare of the school, and manifest that interest, the teacher will as a rule, feel a greater interest and work harder for the welfare and advancement of the pupils,” he noted. “Nothing is more discouraging to a conscientious teacher, (and if possible none other should be employed), than the feeling that the parents are indifferent as to the conduct of the school, or about cooperating with the teacher.”
Of course his admonishment of his teachers is also implied when he stated, “It may however, be fair to the parent to assume that his indifference is more apparent than real. In that case a word to the wise is sufficient.”
If we, as a society, want to have our public schools be once again the envy of the world, we have to stop looking for a magic bullet in the form of standardized tests and competency-based grading systems and again focus on how our students and their parents are at the focal point of any success.
— Special to the Telegram