Parent training, not teacher increases, will improve performance of NM students
The currently raging public debate about how to spend extra money on education has boiled down to a binary argument: give teachers a raise based on student performance or give teachers a raise regardless. student performance. Although teachers should be paid well, I firmly believe that paying teachers more will not improve student performance. And improving student performance in New Mexico is the central issue that should be targeted with any new money. I propose to think a little differently on where and how to apply this manna.
Education is a three-legged stool, where one leg is made up of the students, the second leg is the entire educational infrastructure, and the third is the parents, or home support. And, like any three-legged stool, when one leg breaks, the system collapses. New Mexico’s public education stool collapsed long ago, as New Mexico still falls to the bottom of any national education measure.
In the student body branch, individual abilities are distributed normally. Natural ability can be thought of as inherited, given by God, or as the sum of a set of unique DNA sequences, but it is the unique stuff we are born with. Some people are naturally good at math, while others are not. Some like the theater, while others like science. Some people work with their hands, while others prefer a desk. Teachers understand this as a critical factor in their profession, but there is not much a teacher or a school system can do to change or improve that first leg of the stool.
In the infrastructure side of the school system, facilities, programs, administration, programs, bus services, classroom supplies, teachers, etc., are all essential. Currently, the debate on the remuneration of teachers is… part of this foot of the stool. Of course, money has always been needed to establish and maintain that foot, and most of the money spent on education should go under that foot of the stool. Most, but in my proposal, not all.
The third leg is the support structure that students have at home. This is the most difficult part of the stool to influence and control, so this leg is mostly ignored or, at best, given lip service. However, if it is strengthened significantly, this is where student performance would improve. But, beyond traditional words, what can a system do to strengthen that leg?
My approach is to teach parents and guardians to be better parents and guardians, at least as far as their parenting role involves the education of their child.
Here is the plan. The school year lasts 10 months. Once a month, each school offers a 60-minute evening seminar for each level from kindergarten to college. Parents and adult guardians are paid to attend. Five of the 10 seminars would cover specific topics at the school level, such as performance standards and expectations, where and how to access tutoring, reading requirements, discipline, homework, in-class book reviews, use classroom technology, development issues, etc.
The second five would deal with more general educational processes and child development issues appropriate for each grade level. Topics may include the need for exercise, diet, cell phone downtime, dealing with peer pressure and bullying, setting up a homework environment, learning online, how to talk to kids about drugs, safety, processes for… tackling performance issues etc. If parents attend seminars, they receive money from the state at a rate based on attendance. Let’s say $ 100 per student per session taken. Some might argue that it is inappropriate to pay parents to attend these sessions, but I would consider teaching parents how to better care for them as an investment in education.
First, implement a testing program. Teachers and administrators who develop and deliver this evening presentation would be paid. However, some expenses, such as purchasing new programs, starting optional building improvements and staff salary increases, would be suspended for four years. Assessment parameters could be established and remain unchanged for four years. Let’s try this approach and see if it helps. If after this trial period performance improves, the program becomes part of the school process and factored into future budgets.
More money for teachers has not improved student performance so far. Our rating is so bad that we should try something different.