By Paul White
A young child watched a sculptor chiseling a lion from a block of marble.
“That looks hard;” said the child, “how do you do it?”
Replied the sculptor, “It’s simple; just take away everything that isn’t the lion.”
Creating great schools is just that simple, if you have the courage to wield a sharp chisel. You merely take away anything and everything that doesn’t provide the best possible learning experience for students.
ANY public school in America that “chisels” the following items into their program could become great almost overnight.
Great schools have ALL of the following features.
1) Great schools have zero tolerance for the current chronic absenteeism of 30-to-60%.
Even the best teachers cannot educate students who don’t attend regularly and show up on time. Efforts to correct this serious problem with weak in-house attendance committees, “attendance officers,” et al. are ineffective. Begging students to come to school demeans the wonderful opportunity of free public education. All states have criminal statutes that provide strong consequences – for parents as well as children – for poor attendance. Great schools ENFORCE these laws.
2) Great schools do NOT practice “Restorative (no-accountability) Discipline.” They restore TRADITIONAL discipline.
Great schools have students who clearly understand two things.
a) Students understand they have to show up in class on time – stop talking when the teacher begins to teach – give their best effort to learn the lessons being taught, and behave respectfully.
b) Students understand that if they REFUSE to comply with these expectations, immediate removal from class and strong punishment are a 100% certainty.
3) Great schools fearlessly and publicly confront the epidemic of student drug use and practice voluntary drug-testing programs.
Great schools are almost 100% drug-free. They accomplish this by implementing the West Valley Voluntary Drug-testing Program, which builds school pride and personal integrity, increases learning, decreases violence, and saves children’s lives.
4) Great schools practice total transparency regarding their operations.
They encourage parents, media, and the community to freely and spontaneously visit campuses and classrooms at ANY time, and do NOT pass policies that prevent this.
5) Great schools demand parent involvement and accountability.
They require ALL parents to do at least ONE half-day “shadow” visit with their child every semester. Not sure that mandating a parental visit is necessary.
6) Great schools have teachers directly teach full lessons in all subjects.
They use computers to SUPPORT great teaching, but NOT to SUBSTITUTE for it.
7) Great schools encourage strong and effective parenting by eliminating free lunch programs and pre/post daycare services.
Both of these programs encourage parents to shirk the responsibilities that are – and should be uniquely theirs.
8) Great schools have “closed campuses” at lunchtime.
Of all of the things that can happen off-campus at lunchtime, almost ALL of them are bad.
9) Great schools assign little or no homework because there’s no proof that it accomplishes anything.
It guarantees cheating and disrupts family activities. That time is more productively used with having students work part-time jobs and internships, participate in extra-curricular activities, and help out at home.
10) Great schools eliminate almost all lower-level Special Education classes except for the most severe mental or physical disabilities.
Giving more and more students a COMPLETELY subjective Special Ed. identification as “learning disabled” or “emotionally disturbed” accomplishes nothing but provide students with pseudo-scientific excuses for why they cannot learn OR behave.
11) Great schools get comparison cost estimates from the private sector on ALL in-house, non-teaching jobs.
It can save 25-30%, improves work quality and productivity, and eliminates paying lifetime pensions.
12) Great schools do NOT have “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity” departments.
They treat ALL students the same – give ALL students the same opportunities, and reward-or-punish ALL students based on individual accomplishment and behavior, and NOT on their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual identification.
13) Great schools do NOT employ School Social Workers or School Nurses.
It is the PARENTS’ responsibility to hire private therapists and counselors if their children have mental or emotional problems.
It is the PARENTS’ responsibility to seek private medical help for their children if they are injured or sick.
Schools should provide NOTHING more than minimal first-aid.
14) Great schools understand that a “Non-Teaching Educator” is an oxymoron.
ALL of their administrators, including the superintendent, teach at least a few classes EVERY week. School leaders who have not taught children for many years, have greatly diminished credibility with current teachers … and rightfully so.
15) Great schools maintain libraries with child-appropriate literature.
They have a diverse committee of community members work with school librarians to determine the difference between quality literature that discusses coming-of-age issues, versus pornographic materials that lack literary quality and promote aberrant adult lifestyles.
16) Great schools’ sex education curriculum is 1 part biology and 5 parts laws, values, morals, and medical/scientific facts.
They do NOT use sex education curriculum that encourages promiscuous sexual behavior. They present homosexuality in all its forms as a non-hereditary, legal lifestyle choice for adults, but use scientific data to prove that it is NOT a normal and harmless choice for those who follow it.
17) Great schools have students pay for every dollar of vandalism they cause.
EVERY dollar – EVERY time … and as a result, they have almost NO vandalism.
18) Great schools offer few, if any AP classes.
They realize AP has been heavily oversold. The performance bar has been greatly lowered, and most students do NOT score high enough on AP final exams to receive college credit. Students who are truly academically advanced should begin full-time college ASAP so they can receive higher-level instruction from more qualified college teachers.
19) Great schools require paid employment experience and community service hours as graduation requirements.
Developing a strong work ethic and an unselfish attitude toward others are acquired the same way as academic knowledge: through consistent, structured practice.
20) Great schools don’t award unearned, worthless diplomas.
They make sure that senior competency exams have been passed, and class grades and diplomas have been earned. Great schools do not create special “diplomas” that are essentially attendance certificates, to hide from the public and parents the growing number of students who leave high school functionally illiterate.
Paul D. White is a lifelong educator, currently living in Reno, Nevada. He’s the co-author of “Saving Our Youth, One Kid at a Time” (Random House), and “Bible Morals for Children – A Parent’s Guide.” He welcomes feedback at [email protected]
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.