Behind the Classroom Door; 29
But topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from northern Illinois University's College of Education is how good our our public schools. There's the model writer Dean Robert as taught one of the wonderful things about America is that it has always supported its public schools. Americans have through money and through moral support continuously indicated that the schools are essential for its people. And it is true. We have supported the school as well. We have tried to see that every child should be educated to the maximum of his ability perhaps even at times we have exaggerated the impact or estimated the impact of education and felt that it was a key to success. Well that may not be the key to success but in America at least we think its essential to success. Now as one approaches the problem of
selecting a school or judging the schools in answer to the question How good are our public schools. There are some criteria. There are some standards. There are some things we can look at in making this judgment. And perhaps Dr. Leonard you can indicate some of the criteria that you think are important in judging the excellence of our public schools. Yes if we were going to examine the criteria for schools to determine how good they were. In a community I think we'd have to take a look first probably at the staff what were the qualifications of the staff the teachers the administrators supervisors. We have to look at the physical plant how adequate were the facilities for all of the different subject areas that they were teaching. For example. I think we have to look at the at the curriculum in the school what kind of experiences were being offered at the different levels. We have to look at instructional materials in the
school. How adequate are the materials how adequate is a library and educational materials center for example in our school and I think probably one other one that I would look at is the relationship in the school between faculty and between school and community. In other words to home school community relationships where you know you as an experienced educator could probably walk into a school building and chat with the principal and the teachers and look around a little bit and get a feeling about that school. But what about a parent moving into a community where it's essential from the viewpoint of the parent the schools measure up so they can enrol as children and feel fairly secure that he'll get a good education. Right I think if a parent has been communicating with the schools and other communities. I think when they go into a new school that they probably would be sensitive to the to the environment in
relationship and so forth very quickly. I wonder what right when you look for specifically in terms of the faculty what would be desirable in terms of coffee creations of a faculty. Well of course certification would come first. Are all the teachers fully certified in the school. Then I think are the teachers teaching in the areas in which they are qualified. For example if you have a music teacher is she qualified or he qualified as a music teacher if you have a special science teacher is this person qualified in a field. You know the size of the classes would be significant too wouldn't it if you discovered in one school that the average class size was 45 and the teachers were serving as a policeman so to speak. Another school system you had a small class of 30 or 25 or 20 to give you some insight and the type of school system.
Well I'm glad you said average class size because I think that to be true. However if I were going to visiting a school and I happened to visit a class of 100 it might be perfectly alright because it might be that this particular topic or subject being taught could be taught efficiently in large numbers but so I think there we need to think in terms of the average per pupil teacher ratio for example. Lloyd as a parent I think I'd be very much interested in the extra trip curricular program which the school might have. Such things as forensics dramatic music vocal instrumental band orchestra. I would be interested in the athletic program and I should think that any parent thinking about moving into a community could determine the extent of the extra curricular program simply by buying a newspaper in that community and looking at the news items and see how the school was active in extracurricular activities when that be related to the
size of the school. Oh very much so. I think you're mentioning you'd expect to find in a large school. Oh you have greater Lee. Well a large school can be too large too until it's impersonal. What do you mean by size. Is it better to have a large one or a small one. I think at the secondary level the content in his study recommended that there should be a minimum of 100 students graduating from the high school each year. It's true there are many small high schools aren't there and what happens to the curriculum. I think I wrote all school and Sim possible that offered the extra curricular activities that Leo mentioned because the school simply does not have in sufficient number of people who could participate in each of the extracurricular activities. Now the reason if they're out for one activity they can be in another activity at the same time so that you do restrict. The number of extra curricular activities. If a school becomes very
small and very small I would say a high school with a graduating class of under 100. It also be true reign a small high school such as you described it. A teacher would be responsible for more than one subject matter area. For example a teacher might be required to teach in field a social science. And also some mathematics classes or something like that. You could how you could not expect this teacher to be fully prepared in all these areas in which she was teaching. That's right and one of the things that Lloyd mentioned that I think is extremely important is that you need value in a school run by a criterion that should be checked. Does the teacher have a major in the area in which he is teaching. And as we know says if you move into a small school the chances are that an individual is also teaching in a minor field which may not be bad if he has for
example one class but I think. In many cases teachers are mis assigned. There is an oversupply of teachers in some areas such as social studies and as a result teachers with majors in social studies may be teaching most of their time in areas in which they have only a minor and some cases not even a minor I should think that as long as a teacher is teaching within her major or minor field that the situation is not too bad but when teachers are compelled to teach in areas outside of their mind major or minor area then we have a problem that should be considered very carefully just looking at the course offerings in a high school you can get a good idea about the actual ance of it. You may discover in a small high school that foreign languages. Are absent actually because they can't employ full time foreign language teacher. They're scarce and they don't have the need for the services of a full
time foreign language teacher. I suppose a parent going into a community who has children and a high school has an advantage over a parent with children at the elementary level because the North-Central accrediting association does accredited high schools on the basis of curriculum staff facilities. Well in the North Central Association covers these Midwestern states and the entire United States is blanketed by these regional associations extending from the East Coast to the west. And of course they all do the same thing don't they really. Yes except I think. Someone wants a person an elementary a child in the elementary grades cannot rely upon a credit in association to the degree that this is done with secondary. Right I was wondering what's what's happening in terms of. Credit in agencies for elementary schools.
Well although we don't have such accrediting agencies for elementary schools and such as the North Central Association. There has been a lot of talk and a lot of work going on in the last 10 years I would say it enough in this field in that many elementary schools have developed what they call evaluated of criteria or evaluated instruments for their own schools. Many large cities have have developed these instruments and have been using them for at least the last 10 15 years. Now high who actually uses these are going to just be more for the administrators to use in evaluating their own school system. Yes those that I'm familiar with are can be used by the staff. What I represent is of self-improvement that so that's exactly right now Minnesota developed one about. Oh about seven eight years ago I was in Minnesota at that time and I worked on the Instrument instrument. Right now the elementary principles in L.A. I
have a committee that's just in the initial stages of making such as let's say developing such an instrument for use in Illinois schools by principals and teachers. You know one of the points we're making here in our discussion how good are our public schools is that schools vary tremendously across the country on the basis of the support that's given to the schools and the accrediting associations for the high schools at least give you some insight into the excellence of the schools not the accrediting associations extending as they do from coast to coast and border to border have as their purpose indicating to colleges. Who might admit the graduates of high school in those high schools meet their standards when they have fairly strict standards they look into the problem of Miss assignment of teachers for example the degrees the teachers hold the size of classes and the excellence of the school plant. Now I keep
asking myself what about a parent who wants to find out about a particular school I suppose what you would say to a parent is walk into the superintendent's office and say Are you accredited by the regional association. And if not why not. Before you decide to locate in that community or if you already live in a community then do anything in your efforts anything in your power to increase the efforts toward accreditation. The trouble is I think that many communities. We are putting forth the effort to have better schools but they don't have a local well-off. In other words I think it's very important to find out what the level of support is. Since most of the support of the public school system would come from local sources and many communities simply do not have taxable property in order to support the type of schools that they would like. In other words I really think that all parents would like
good schools for their children. But if a school has if a community has industries that are taxed at a rather high assessed valuation they can support very good schools so that we find wealthy suburban areas with wealthy families having very good schools. If you move on toward the western part of the state and the rural areas in many cases the communities are small and they simply do not have the tax base to support a good public school. There's a great variance from state to state in within any state. There are regions that don't have the local support that is necessary for good schools nice rose. Well I'm sure that recent federal legislation by way of federal support to school loose. Been very separated by the fact that some communities no matter how hard they try can't provide adequate schools. And I suppose this is one argument in
support of federal aid to schools. I think it's too bad because it seems to me that the schools that need good educational systems in order to make up for the poor are having backgrounds that many children have. Tend to be young to communities that simply do not have a high tax base so the general community is that are made up largely of middle class or upper class wealthy families maintain very good schools but school is made up of communities made up largely of the lower socio economic families have poorer schools so the child is doubly hurt he is hurt by a poor home environment and he's hurt by a every school situation. So what I'm advocating is that something be done on either the national or the state level to equalize the amount of money that is spent for a school system.
I know this is been an argument a course or been in debate in education for as long as I've been around and which is the last 25 years plus but I know that there is and you certainly have given a good argument here for state support and federal support for schools. And no matter how selfish you might be you just cannot justify completely depending on local support for your schools. And I remember one time in a debate in my one of my classes where one student was very and about this and he said well what do I care he said all I care about is the education of my own children and someone other bright student said Well someday your children are going to grow up and they may marry some of these children who are educated in these other schools. Well of course the population is so very fluid. You don't know who your neighbors are going to be next year. Right. And your neighbor your neighbor could be either a product of a poor educational system somewhere in the Deep South. And we've made tremendous
strides and I have a feeling that if we were able to compare in any valid way the quality of the schools in this country now as contrast it to 25 years ago there have been enormous strides made. I think our movement toward mass education and other education of all students in this country has caused many businessman and many parents to feel that. The schools do not compare favorably with schools in the past. Of course what they're doing is comparing all children today with only the elite who attended schools in the past. I think at the present time over 60 percent of the students finish high school in Illinois. That's still a lot. Certainly having one third of people drop out of school before they complete high school is too large of a percentage. But business men hire individuals who graduate from high school and immediately seek
a job. Therefore they tend to be hiring people who are from the lowest part of the class over one half of the students who graduate from high. From my schools in Illinois I immediately go on to some form of higher education. I could be a four year college or junior college or trade school or or some type of vocational school but they are not on the job market. So when a businessman employs an individual directly out of high school it may be true that that person does not compare favorably with high school graduates in the past. Because of course a larger number of people are going on to college or some type of post high school education. And what's happening as a businessman is hiring someone who is graduating in the lower third of his class. And Ray you know this is an awfully important point in what you're saying in effect as yours is that the range of individual differences across our population is tremendous. Somehow or other people who don't understand seem to
think that every young person who graduates from high school should know as much as any other young person graduating from high school. And it's just not true because people are not created equal in that sense of the word. So because this large percentage of our population goes to high school and a large percentage of that group 60 percent graduate from high school there are bound to be some that are not great scholars. They're capable of finishing high school. We want them to finish high school and they're acquiring a lot of skills they need in life but they're just not going to be as actual want in their various types of work as those that might go on to college or those that are in the upper half of say a graduating class as we compare the schools of today with the schools of previous years I'd like to point out that the American public schools apparently were always adequate to provide for the needs of America at that particular time. A number of years ago there were no
compulsory attendance laws children could drop out of school at the end of the third grade or the end of the fourth grade. Then we had our first compulsory attendance laws and children were required to attend school until they were 14 years of age. While our schools took care of that group quite well and I think many of these parents and employers of today who are employing present day youngsters are looking back at graduates of those schools of their era when we had these dropouts and they could drop out or they were encouraged to drop out so that we had only the elite finishing high school so naturally those were some very gifted youngsters. Comparing those with the children who are graduating today who are well they are compelled to attend school until they are 16 years of age and many are finishing high school today who would not have completed their education back and in those days former times.
I think parents also may have a tendency to overestimate their own abilities with basic skills and a parent may think of himself as being a good speller for example. The fact is no one is testing him and therefore he doesn't know if he spells as well as a student. Today. I heard a superintendent in a St.. Who had a Chamber of Commerce meeting and was questioned by members of the Chamber of Commerce in terms of the high school turning out such poor spellers that here they were people with high school degrees and they couldn't spell. So he said that he would like 30 members of the Chamber of Commerce to come down for an old fashioned spelling bee against thirty eighth graders in his school. And the Chamber of Commerce accepted. However when the date came back the chamber of commerce was supposed to pick out the 30 best spellers. But when the day came for the spell down only about fifteen
of the Chamber of Commerce members showed up the others all had to be out of town on business. Suddenly you know where to write to spell down. And at the end of a spell down many of the eighth graders who are still standing well of the Chamber of Commerce people were already seated for making mistakes. Someone made the remark once that the school started to deteriorate the day he graduated from high school. In other words implying that everything went mad Well we look back in retrospect and perhaps we get a little older and we could become a little more critical. Well we've got a number of studies haven't they're comparing children of 20 or 30 years ago with modern children has one that I'm familiar with was made by reading a specialist but he compared the achievement of youngsters today with the achievement of youngsters in the past. Equal to any IQ is another with the IQ. Students today were matched with those of students of the past. And he found that in reading and of arithmetic and language
arts that students of today did as well or better than students of the past. I think it is important to stress the idea that this is when the students were created on the basis of IQ because obviously mass education means that many students with lower IQ use are in school today who would have been in a group that we all mentioned earlier dropouts in the past in other words never would have attended high school. Well the changing nature of our country. It has to be take into consideration these matters. DELIO was talking about how our country was essentially rural and the complexity of the education was necessary it was certainly not as great as it is today. Now we see a rapidly approaching the time when 85 percent of our entire population will be living in about 15 huge metropolitan areas
and people have to live together interdependent Lee and everybody has to have a skill by means of which you can produce and by means of which you can make a living. And so our high school education is becoming to be minimal actually even for those that perhaps a generation ago wouldn't have been able to complete high school and certainly would have been inclined to do so I suppose. Many people think about the high cost of schools today as compared to the low cost of schools yesterday. And I think that many things to be considered here. For example today I think the annual per pupil cost for educating children in United States. The average for the United States is something slightly over $600. And I think that day in the state of Illinois the annual per pupil expenditure for education is just slightly higher than the national average. And but I think that what we need to think about is that we're doing so many more things today that cost so much more and cost much more
money as compared to the schools of 50 years ago. And even the cost of a building today on the school building and comparison with the past. Well and teachers salary in the wide range of materials text books library books and other materials that are needed today. All of these add up. You know it wasn't so long ago that I remember somebody making a little study to determine how much it cost to parents through his property taxes to keep his children in school. And after he had completed his calculation he decided that it would cost him more just to pull up provide a babysitter for his children than the sending them to school for the hours they were in school. And of course from our point of view as educators any amount of money we spend on the education of children as long as it's economically used is desirable is justifiable. I think this is the only answer to the upgrading of our population I suppose.
We're looking at a school in terms of how parents can evaluate how good a public school is. And in my opinion it's the most important single criterion would still be the ability of the teachers and of course that's very difficult to judge. But there are some objective measures that could apply and I think the educational level of the teachers would be very important. Recently I saw that for the year ago one third of the teachers who received new certificates at the elementary level in Illinois received provisional certificates. In other words they had not met all of the requirements to receive a standard elementary teaching certificate in a state. And of course those people who are presently teaching in elementary schools in addition not a large number of people who graduate with secondary majors in other words are prepared to teach at the secondary level because of our certification are enabled to teach
at the sixth grade level. And. If a school has a self-contained sixth grade certainly that person's preparation does not qualify him. So I do think that one thing that the parents should be very concerned about would be whether the teachers are qualified and what the educational backgrounds of the teachers would be. I have repeatedly said that if I could only have one fact about a school district by which I would judge the excellence of that district. That fact would be related to the average salaries of the teachers paid and who are employed in that district. Now I am sure that the jet that the correlation isn't 100 percent but I have a feeling that where teachers salaries are alone you're going to get inadequately prepared teachers and the turnover is going to be tremendous. You know I think before we close we want to react about college students because nowadays
college students and the protesters the Asian The odd and unusual college students seem to be getting so much attention. I think we need to see that the Manship college students are more serious harder working and better students than a generation ago in the classroom door produced by W.S. and cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Raymond B Fox associate dean of the College of Education. Dr. Leo lawful and head of the Department of Administration and services. And Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of the department of elementary education. Next week's topic will be the
junior high school purposes and practices this program is distributed by the diacetyl educational radio network.
- Behind the Classroom Door
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- Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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