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Making K-12 Less Expensive: Fire the Teachers!

Jun 17, 2016 by

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. –

National outrage over the status of public education continues to mount as taxpayers realize they are paying more and getting less.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States amounted to $621 billion in 2011–12, or $12,401 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 2013–14 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index).

Citing White House figures during testimony before a U.S. Senate education subcommittee in 2012, Neal McClusky, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at Cato Institute, said the cost of education rose 375 percent, adjusted for inflation and including federal stimulus funds, over the 40-year period from 1970-2010.

For all those billions of federal dollars, McCluskey said that student performance has not increased. From 1970 to 2010, math and reading scores on  National Assessment of Educational Progress tests have been almost flat for 17-year-olds.

Actually it’s worse than that. Recent NAEP test scores show there has been a decline in student performance.

However, just maybe we have a solution for burgeoning costs and poor academic results. Get rid of teachers and let the students teach themselves!

Wait! In many schools, the classroom already has been turned over to students – student-led learning. Once quiet knowledge-based environments, classrooms have been turned into chaotic communal ones with student-led learning.

Proponents of student-led learning — cooperative learning — boast about the benefits: deeper thinking, higher level learning, higher level thinking, oral communication, self management, and leadership skills.

However, students paint another picture.

Education policy writer, Maureen Downey, met recently with various students about their top school gripes. Surprisingly, their chief complaint was about wasted time and learning disruptions that occur during group work. They said that:

  • they could learn twice as much in half the time because teachers allow students to disrupt classroom discussions;
  • too much time is sacrificed to irrelevant chatter or tangents; and
  • students end up being in charge of the classroom which leads to “diminished learning.”

The students also said they hate group projects and cannot understand why their schools are so enthusiastic about them. According to the students, there is an unwritten goal about group projects — students want to be placed in a group with academic achievers because they will do all the work to get good grades.

Throughout our nation’s history, our schools have used the classical teaching model and have stressed individualism, creativity, and self-reliance. However, in the mid-20th century a group of socialist philosophers and behavioral psychologists pushed for moving away from content knowledge and using the classroom for testing behavioral science theories. The goal was to use the social system of education to change individual citizens’ values, attitudes, and beliefs in order to achieve political and social change. The vehicle would be student group projects – the cooperative learning used in classrooms today.

Cooperative learning advocates have convinced educators that team work is vital to prepare students for success in a global society. Students are pressured to conform to the group in values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Many school districts have even been convinced to assume massive debt for the construction or redesign of current schools to accommodate group settings.

Naïve Americans don’t recognize a collectivist society in the making. More frightening is that they’re willing to fund its creation.

Proponents of student-centered learning claim that deeper thinking is promoted because students learn the content more deeply by teaching their peers.

Now that is irrational thinking! Since Progressive teaching – the underlying philosophy of Common Core — trashes factual learning, how can students teach their peers when they have little factual information about the topic in their young brains to impart?

Students are told they are smarter than the teacher who has become merely a facilitator.

Then why do we need certified teachers just to facilitate? Getting rid of them will surely enhance education’s bottom line.

Cooperative learning supporters claim that students will learn vital team skills necessary for the 21st century global work force.

However, unlike the real business world where each employee is expected to pull his own weight, students in a group project receive a group grade, allowing lazy or slower students to ride the coattails of the hard working students. Hardly a recipe for learning true team skills!

Since adults are doing such a sorry job of administering public education and teaching students, perhaps the students can better manage their academic learning and get rid of layers of needless bureaucracy – something our elected officials and bureaucrats seemingly can’t or won’t do.

Now that could be a great cooperative learning project!

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1 Comment

  1. Ron W. Smith

    Rather than a screed, what say we have a debate that engages the facts and proposed solutions? What about training only the best and brightest students to teach, recruiting only the best and most classroom worthy of those for our K-12 classrooms, supporting and rewarding them in their professional careers sufficiently to retain them rather than lose them to discouragement?
    You’d have no argument from me if yours were fair and dealt with the issues.

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