Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quality Not Quantity

According to MSNBC’s article More school? Obama could trim summer break, the President wants schools to have longer classes, longer days, and have students on weekends.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again, though many might disagree with me. It is about Quality, not Quantity! It seems like so many non-educators think if we stuff kids in classes for more time, they will suddenly become smarter. Unless we improve the quality of learning that our students are receiving, I don’t care how long they actually sit in a desk, they are not going to learn more. Our schools become warehouses, teachers become high priced babysitters, taxpayers become resentful because they still do not see better results for their money. Is this the kind of educational future we want for our students?

This made me think of a youth league baseball team. Many young boys sign up with dreams of being great ball players and the league doesn’t turn anyone away. Many of the players have different levels of skills and they may all play on one team. Hopefully by the end of the season, many of them have learned new skills or improved on old ones. But do we honestly think if we add more innings, play more games, and extend the season that they become pro baseball players? If the players have certain abilities, I’m not sure that having them play more and longer will actually help them. I see it causing them to burn out, hate the game, resent the coach, and wanting to quit.

What about the other things in life that our children need to become well rounded citizens. What about the families who are involved in their church or other community organizations? Do we think that spending more time warehoused in a school is more important than their family or their church? Do we want our government to determine this? This situation scares me. It seems like the government wants more and more control and is allowing parents to have less and less control. The Revolutionary War happened because citizens felt the government had too much control and now it seems like we are moving backwards instead of forward.

I look back at the education system from the one room school house to today’s system. I know we have made changes and great strides. But I also see over the years that there has been more government involvement, more red tape, and more hoops for teachers to have to jump through. Teachers in the classroom barely have time to teach any more for all the paperwork that has to be done. And every time the powers that be say they will “reduce paperwork,” it seems like 5 more pages of required paperwork are added in order to document what has been eliminated. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny!

Instead of increasing the hours and days that students are in a classroom, maybe the President needs to look at how we can increase the actual quality of the time that the students are already in the classroom. I have talked to lots of teachers that have great ideas and are truly motivated but then are stifled by the overwhelming responsibilities they face every day. Maybe the President should teach a day in a school that follows the exact schedule that a teacher does (along with the 25 min. lunch period that the students and teachers get), and have to follow all the rules, regulations, standards that the teacher actually has to do, plus complete all the paperwork required for that day also. Maybe he might have a different perspective. I foresee adding more time in the classroom, whether more hours or more days, will only increase the paperwork that the government will require to validate this change.

I also haven’t heard of how the government plans to fund this new adventure (and believe me, I do see this as an adventure). Will they increase the educator’s salary for this extra time or do they expect educators to do it for free? If they do plan to increase the salary, will they raise taxes some more? How will homeowners who are struggling to pay the taxes they are already burdened with find money to pay for additional taxes? During these economic times when people can’t get health care, feed their families, and are losing their homes, is this the time act foolishly?
I honestly don’t see how this can be successful. If you do, please share with me your thoughts so I can see it differently. I’m not sure I will change my mind, but I am open to listening.

Original image: 'veritum dies aperit' by: John Harvey


luckeyfrog said...

I agree- quality is much more important than quantity. Students should have weekends, too. Yes, it's unfortunate that so many students lose knowledge over the summer, but I still think they need a summer break for things like camp, sports, work (for high school students) and being outside.

That said, I don't see a big problem with the school day being longer than it is at times. My school is attending for an hour later each day this year, and it hasn't seemed to make kids sick of school- as long as we use that time appropriately. (Sitting in seats working quietly isn't best suited for the end of the day.) I know some upper grade teachers who finally feel like they have time to REALLY teach science and social studies.

Another thing our school is trying is having two teachers in every room. (Either two certified teachers, or a certified teacher and a classified assistant.) It's working very well for more individualized time, and I think we're going to see huge gains. I think if Obama really wants to improve instruction, he needs to talk to teachers and look at ALL of the options, including expensive things like this.

Barb Smith said...

I couldn't agree more! Whatever happened to allowing children to be children? With all the organized afterschool activities and the rigid inschool schedules, children don't seem to have any time just to play. I think that's just as important.

In our school, veteran teachers who have created great reading learning center activities over the years are unable to use them because they are mandated to use ONLY the things that come with their reading series. If they are forced to teach longer days with more mandated materials, I predict a giant trend to teacher burnout!

Who's going to pay for this too? Are we going to print more money? :)

Ms. K said...

I couldn't agree with you more!

Lisa said...

I only had to read the first 2 sentences and I knew I agreed! Very well said!

Mike said...

Hey Pat,
Geez you've been one busy beaver blog poster lately. I get a post in my email almost everyday and I think "How does she do it!" And always a quality post. Especially this one! I was over at Cantankerous Teacher and her response was "Oh Hell No!"

Years ago, my wife told me that eventually the government would just start giving newborns to teachers so they'd be ready to start school at six. At the time I just though she was nuts. Now I wonder....

Teacher Food

loonyhiker said...

@luckeyfrog I think the key were your words "as long as we use that time appropriately." Many schools just add in more assemblies, free time, tests etc. I love the thought of 2 teachers in a room, but that is going to cost a bunch of money! Your school sounds on top of things.

loonyhiker said...

@Barb I loved making my own materials to meet the needs of my students. And it saved so much money for the schools. I'm not sure that all the politicians are really interested in saving money though unless it benefits them in the long run.

loonyhiker said...

@Mike Just wait until your wife tells you "I told you so!" in a few years as you are rocking those babies! LOL

The Creative Lady said...

Great post. Every educator can relate. And you are absolutely correct: quality over quantity. My teachers complain all the time about the increased and redundant paperwork.