There’s an on-going debate in education over what truly affects student learning. Is it the family demographics and stability of home life; or is it the quality of teachers and instruction that most affects performance?
This debate has gotten new life in the last year as financial cuts have put increasing stress on public schools and teachers.
Certainly, there is a strong statistical link between a student’s family background and educational achievement. Typically, the more education parents have, the more successful a student will be.
A lot of theories surround those numbers. Some believe that more educated, wealthier families have more resources to expose children to learning at an earlier age and to sustain that learning with enrichment opportunities outside of school. In addition, some argue that this demographic sets higher expectations for children than families that are in poverty, or that are unstable.
School officials complain that the parents of struggling children from poor backgrounds are often the least responsive to meeting with teachers to discuss problems. Many people would be surprised at just how many kids today come from difficult homes where drug abuse, physical abuse and instability are the norm.
Still, there’s a growing body of research that suggests despite the family problems faced by some students, a bigger difference in school success is with the quality of classroom teachers. Studies in some inner city schools where virtually all children come from disadvantaged homes show that the quality of a teacher can make a huge difference in academic achievement.
Many education lobbying groups and unions would probably deny that. Those defenders of the status quo like to pretend that all teachers are identical in ability. That’s why they decry merit pay ideas and helped create the system where teachers are rewarded not on performance, but rather on tenure and degrees.
But it’s clear that teacher quality varies, just like any job. Some are simply better than others. Some have a good work ethic and some are lazy, the same thing you’ll find in any office building in America (or any other country for that matter.)
Unlike the private sector, however, getting rid of bad teachers is almost impossible. Fearing litigation, school leaders often prefer to put up with lousy teachers than deal with the legal fallout of firing them.
The interesting thing about this debate is the politics that surrounds it. On the one hand, many education leaders blame a school’s low performance on demographics and lack of parental support. On the other hand, they decry budget cuts saying cutbacks will harm “the children.”
Well, which is it? If parents are the main determining factor in education success, then budget cuts shouldn’t affect education quality.
Maybe it’s both. Perhaps the expectations of a community affect the quality of teachers a school system employs; low expectations would yield lower quality teachers and the combination of the two would produce less successful students. But communities that have high expectations would get better teachers and consequently, have more successful students.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mikes logic is flawless. I found none of these logical fallacies in his argument (eye wink).
1)destroying the exception, a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid
2) Irrelevant conclusion, Ignoratio Elenchi
3) Petitio Principii, Circulus in Probando, arguing in a circle, assuming the answer
4) Non Sequitur
5) post hoc ergo propter hoc
6) and of course the Straw Man fallacy.
What awesome logic he has! I am just happy he uses it to complain about schools! Keep up the awesomeness!!!