The midpoint of another school year has passed. Guidance counselors and parents are asking, “How do we get this child to pass?” Administrators are asking, “What can we do in the weeks leading up to the state assessments to raise test scores?” And through it all, teachers are asking, “Why is everyone looking at me?”
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for teachers to forget they are the most direct point of contact with the student, and for that reason, everyone is always going to be looking at them. Administrators need to realize that the state tests reflect what’s inside the mind and heart of a child, and that is not created in the weeks leading up to a test. As for the counselors and parents, the teachers don’t get a child to pass. Students either meet the requirements of a class or they don’t.
As more and more statistics show a national decline in educational progress, everyone wants to know how to reprogram these failing students. Many educational entities seem to believe that new computer programs are the solution. At what point did people become convinced that you could reprogram failing students by throwing money at them? It simply does not work.
Students at many middle schools now use iPads, MacBooks, computer labs, iPods, and a variety of online programs. Many of these programs attempt to convert the educational process into a game and have the students learn by playing during class-time. Do kids need more time in school to play? Most of them are not spending much time at home on work. If they play at home and at school, when do they get educated?
Most teachers agree these extracurricular items do not contribute much to the education of their students. Some work for particular kids with certain types of problems. Some don’t work at all. Most of these programs address a lack of skills instead of the real problem, which is a lack of motivation.
How do you motivate kids to be successful? This is the problem faced by most public schools these days. Kids have goals, and they want to achieve. However, the challenge goes unmet by many of them once they realize work is required. This problem is serious and growing rapidly, but the answers won’t be found in a computer program.
So much money changes hands whenever a new program is introduced to the school system. Much like what happens in Congress, lobbyists from various companies go to schools and endorse their products, attempting to persuade prospective clients that their program is essential for the success of today’s students. School representatives are then trained on how to use the products, followed by the teachers, followed by the students.
The greatness of each product is emphasized while the true problems of the children are ignored. By the time a program has been evaluated, the outcome is meaningless because everyone’s checks have already cleared, and lobbyists for the next big thing have already begun work. Much like the health industry, the true profit is not in the cure, but in the medicine.
You can provide someone with the best available equipment to do a job, but if the person has no desire to do it, the equipment being used is irrelevant. If low achievement in schools is to be changed, the question that guidance counselors, parents, administrators and teachers need to answer is simple: How do we motivate students to learn? I have yet to uncover the answer, but I doubt it can be purchased.