The perfect public high school
I have written a lot of posts about public education and how I think it can be improved. Here is my vision of the perfect public high school.
Every student has the opportunity to be successful. To me that means that any student who works diligently in a class should be able to earn at least a B. That doesn't mean that classes should be made easier. It does mean that expectations should be clear, teachers should make clear to students what they will be expected to learn, they should teach that, and then they should test that. It also means that if a student can't earn at least a B by working diligently, he or she doesn't belong in that class. And that means that classes have to be set up for kids with different abilities. If a student can't possibly earn a B in my regular American History class, then that student belongs in my basic class.
To me, every student having the opportunity to be successful also means having a good extracurricular program which enables students to excel in something that they're really good at. It might be football or hockey, it might be in music, or it might be in speech or drama.
Every teacher in my perfect school is constantly working to be the best he or she can be and to improve. The teachers know that if they are one of the best teachers in their departments, that they will be a valued member of that faculty, and they will have job security, regardless of how long they've been at that school. They know that if they get lazy and decide to coast, they will be in danger of losing their jobs. They also get paid a reasonable salary because they have a union negotiating for them.
The teachers are using the most effective methods for teaching their students because colleges of education and workshops present only those methods that have been shown to be the best by research. They have not been taught methods based purely on theory that are based on somebody's ideological agenda.
The administrators in my school are administrators because because they were the best teachers in their schools. They are NOT administrators because they didn't like it in the classroom, or because they simply wanted to make more money. They are the best of the best, and each one of them teaches one class so they can keep in touch with what is really going on in their school.
Every student makes a reasonable effort to be successful. I'm not talking about doing hour after hour of homework like that expected in places like KIPP schools. But I am talking about students doing those basic simple assignments that are expected in so many classes. There are students who sluff off now and then, and once in awhile a student gets an F in a class. But they know that if it becomes clear that they won't do what is necessary to pass a class, they will be taken out of that class. And they know that if they do this in more than one class, they will be out of that school. Because of that knowledge, it rarely happens.
Every student is also under control when it comes to behavior. That doesn't mean that the students are all a bunch of little angels. That doesn't mean that there are no students who cut up in class or who talk too much from time to time. It does mean that students know that if they don't at least try to control their behavior, the teacher has the power to kick them out of class and the principal has the power to kick them out of school. Once again, because they know that--in other words because they know there are limits--drastic measures by teachers and principals are rarely necessary.
You might notice that I don't have anything about parents in my vision of the perfect public high school. There is no doubt that parents are important, but parents cannot be controlled by public policy. Everything in my perfect public school can be.