Letter: Disrupting Education

In light of the two nice articles on education you ran in your last issue ["Scotty Hicks and Rob Kuban," Street Talk by Rose Kennedy, and "The Education Playbook," Frank Talk by Frank Cagle, Aug. 1, 2013] I will make two points about public education that so far have gone over like a lead balloon. I lasted one year teaching middle school math, which was long enough to see some troubling things. And lest you are inclined to dismiss these statements as the venting of a failed teacher, there are two inconvenient facts that give them validity: high teacher burnout rates and low student test scores. So, here we go:

1. The only problem with public school is that we cannot get disruptive students out of the classroom and keep them out until they are willing to behave (and learn). Parents won't allow it, but is it fair for one student to be able to disrupt learning for every other student in that classroom? Maybe. Maybe this is what America is about, not just academics. But don't hold your breath for test scores to go up significantly. Ain't gonna happen.

2. As long as disruptive students remain in the classroom, no education program will work, but if point #1 is fixed, then any program will work. Same with evaluating teachers. Pointless.

I saw many good teachers in my brief stint. And there are a few teachers who can even be inspirational and still survive. Teachers are not the problem. Feel free to argue against my two points all you want, but teachers are still burning out and test scores are still not that great. And don't tell me things are getting better until you have enough data to back it up. Like I said, maybe this is as good as it gets. Maybe we don't want to pay the price of higher test scores in grades 1-12.

Bob Denison

Knoxville