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updated 9/27/2010 10:22:42 AM ET 2010-09-27T14:22:42

As part of NBC News' Education Nation summit, readers were asked to write in about what they thought was the main issue that needs to be dealt with in any conversation about education in America. Below are many of those thoughts, and click here for more on the summit itself.

The best way to approach our education system is to determine if any learning disabilities exist.  Some read left to right, or right to left.  If this type of disability goes undetected, this leads to a school career of very little achievement, if any.  They can lead to incorrect assumptions about one's intelligence when they actually maybe a genius.  I believe that the tools are already in place, we just need to be more proactive as to how students learn as individuals, not as a group.

William Richardson
Tulsa, Okla.

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The issue that is never spoken about or brought up is parents and parental responsibility in a child's education. When no person at home helps the failing/unsuccessful child with their homework, provides them a time to work, or even encourages them to do their work, how do we expect the child to succeed?

Classrooms are overloaded and it is difficult for educators to meet the needs of all those students. They can't be the parent and the teacher for each and every child. Children need parents in their lives to simply let them know they care about their child's education and they expect success. Public education and public school teachers and administrators are the scapegoats for a bigger issue- Education IS NOT failing students; parents are!

Becky Norman
Brooklyn, Mich.

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As a teacher for nearly 42 years at all levels of education (middle school, high school, community college and university) I can state unequivocally that there will be no change in the quality or number of graduates from the nation's public schools until two groups are held accountable for their role: students and their parents.

Thirty years ago, most students who didn't do their work had more to fear from their parents than anything the school could do. Today, parents constantly alibi for their lazy and underachieving kids and blame the school and the teacher when things don't go the way they want things to go.

Yes, we as teachers need to accept our share of responsibility and help change the system.  But if parents don't insist their children be held accountable, then when do they think kids will learn the lesson of accountability?

Ralph Converse
Silver City, N.M.

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I work for our public high school as a special education teacher associate. In my opinion..."No child Left Behind" has been a complete waste of time, money and effort! Special Education students are never going to be proficient; yet the federal government is requiring them to take the same standardized tests as the so called normal students. These kids will never learn geometry, algebra, the Krebs cycle, trigonometry etc....  Yet our school has been put on the "watch list" because of special education scores. 

And what about the students who are just plain lazy or whose parents don't encourage good grades, respect for teachers and one another.  You can't teach kids who don't want to learn.  We're in Iowa and you wouldn't think we'd have these problems in small midwest schools but, in my 15 years in education...the kids are refusing to do homework, they are disrespectful and are never held accountable for their actions.  We teach the test, not the students because it's all about the numbers and the scores the government expects

Jodie Huff
Algona, Iowa

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Schools need both additional funding and training to help kids with learning disabilities be as successful as possible. I had to take my son out of public school and homeschool him because the school system could not meet his needs (and his disability is not that severe). He now has a GED and an Eagle Scout award.

Janet Mercer
Lutherville, Md.

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The "traditional" public education system is not working.  Our small town created a Public Charter School after our high school was closed by the local school district.  The concept of charter schools is absolutely wonderful!! While we are considered a "public charter school", we operate under a charter through our public charter school district. Our teachers and administrators have more  options in choosing curriculum and are allowed to use teaching methods that  help achieve the best results for our students. 

Charter School students are subjected to  the same state standardized testing as any other "traditional" public school but are held to an even higher standard set by their charter school district and the provisions of the charter under which they operate. Our students have excelled under this unique educational setting. We had 36 students in the graduating class of 2010 and those 36 kids earned almost $900,000.00 in scholarships, that's impressive!!  It is even more impressive considering 80% of the students at our Charter School qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

However, since Charter Schools are so under-funded they rarely survive more than two years from their inception.  Charter Schools do not get any of the local tax dollars and are totally dependent on state funds. Charter Schools are forced to try to operate on  about 30% of the funds that a "traditional" public school gets.  Charter Schools are not provided buses to transport the children, our students are brought to school by parents or another student with whom they carpool.

Our Charter School is going into its 3rd school year and is likely to close within the next 3-4 months due to lack of funding. Please consider Charter Schools as an alternative to the current system, CHARTER SCHOOLS  WORK!  However, they MUST be better funded or they won't survive and what a shame that is. PLEASE HELP US SURVIVE !!!

Karen Sorrow
Calhoun Falls, S.C.

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I would hope the focus on public education in the U.S. will prominently include actual teachers who are working hard every day in classrooms.  I would hope you would include real, research-based solutions to help student achievement like lowering class sizes and expanding opportunities for students in schools, NOT more testing of only a few subjects.

I hope you do not paint a broad brush of all public schools in this country as failing.  The vast majority of schools thrive and provide many positive opportunities for students.  Not all schools in this country are not like most inner city schools.
 
I also hope you focus on the root of many of the problems of our society (including schools)  - that is poverty.  We have too high of a poverty rate in this country.  This affects the success of struggling schools more than anything in this country.

Coy Marquardt
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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As a classroom teacher with a wide variety of experiences in the classroom, I feel the main issue that must be dealt with is attitude in the home toward education and the entire experience of education.

Over the years it has become easier and easier to identify students whose parents value education and transmit that value to their children. They are appropriately involved and committed to excellence for their children. Their children usually respond positively to that and are intrinsically motivated to work. Children whose parents are unclear about the value of education or are hostile to schools quite often end up struggling and questioning why they are being forced to do this thing called school. Even when it is obvious how smart they are and how it easy it would be for them to be academically successful.

Involving parents in school is so natural at the elementary level, but by the time students reach HS some parents stop actively reaching out to schools for a variety of reasons.

In today's economy I cannot stress to my students enough the value of education beyond high school. If further higher education is not an expectation at home all of my soapbox speeches roll off their backs. Why are we losing our respect for education?

Corrine Kveseth
Anchorage, Alaska

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We move around a lot.  My 2 kids have been in six different public schools in a Gainesville, FL, Columbia, SC and in rural central PA; I would characterize the schools as typical. The kids have also been in two public schools in both Melbourne, Australia and Edmonton, Canada (both in very nice areas), and now my daughter is in an expensive private international school in Italy.

The US public schools were FAR superior to the other schools.  They offered better teachers, better facilities, and a better variety of courses and services offered.  I am not saying that there are not problems with US education, but many Americans who complain about our schools have no idea how good they are and how well US children's needs are addressed compared with the rest of the world.

Karen Herschell
Rome, Italy

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When I attended school, EVERYONE was taught the same things/read the same books etc...Some of us "got it in three weeks, other took longer but there was NO "this is too hard" or "that kid will never get it."  I had dedicated teachers whose primary focus was educating young people so that they were prepared to go on to what ever future they chose, be it college or the world of work.

Sadly it appears that the focus in education has shifted from what's best for kids to what ever makes a school or school district look good.  I think that it should be made clear that charter schools are successful because NOT everyone is allowed to go to one, strict codes of conduct are enforced and class sizes are small.  Public schools, funded by taxpayer dollars can be just as successful if the same standards are applied and maintained.

Robin Douglass
Jay, N.Y.

It seems the top 1/3 kids in schools are being left out of most solutions. This obviously has a huge impact on those kids, many of whom tune out school (who wants to learn things you already know?) but it also has an impact on all kids.

By implicitly saying that schools do not have to teach to these kids, society is saying that learning itself is not important. Kids are shown that achieving more than minimal bar is not something that schools acknowledge or that is even desirable (and, teachers may in fact be punished for teaching these by virtue of many of the current assessments that are in vogue).

Kids lose because there is little incentive to do more and society loses because all children are not achieving their full potential.

Cathy Smith
Boulder, Colo.

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Until such time as teachers are not allowed to hide behind unions, i.e. use unionism to strike and or hold our children as ransom, our school systems are screwed, as are our children ...

It is unfortunate that our history warranted the need of union protection, but those days are gone, and teachers above many other trades should be more then qualified to justify/fight for their own individual needs, and be rewarded for their own individual merits.

But until teachers are paid a 'comparable' wage and treated as comparable 'employees/assets' any and all discussions are moot.

Unless an organization is created to be equal to the teachers' union to protect the students and their families, this and all other discussions are a waste of time as we know nothing will occur until the teachers union leaders agree/approve it.

Bill Bergovoy
Monrovia, Calif.

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The biggest problem with our flawed schools is that all students are lumped together and taught at a level that doesn't go too fast for the slowest learners, and all the course study is geared for college preparation. 

This generalization that all students are of like intelligence, and they are all going to be attending college is crazy. 

Students that are smarter than the average are bored and lose interest, while the less gifted students, many with no interest or means to attend college see no point in participating in "college prep" and drop out. 

In the meantime, many industries are struggling to find workers skilled in trades (ie, carpenters, mechanics, masons, etc.) and those jobs get filled with migrants, legal or not, from other countries where young people are mentored in the trades. 

Our high schools need to provide opportunities for students not planning to attend college to learn trades. Wood shops, auto shops and the like are being cut, while classes in diversity and other social engineering agendas are being pushed. 

Why not provide vouchers to inject market forces into the education system which would allow parents and students choose the difficulty and direction of the education received, and force the bloated, public employee union driven, short sighted pubic schools adapt or die. 

Vouchers which could be used to educate students in trades that could be marketable immediately after high school and at wages much higher than the minimum wage a high school drop out, or a high school graduate for that matter, would get with their "college prep" education. 

Our high schools need to provide skills for people to make a living with, not just preparing all students for a college education that only 20% or 30% will actually use.  Imagine the drop out rate being cut in half, because the students will see the benefit of learning to weld or fix computers, instead of dropping out because they see no future in learning algebra or regurgitating obscure literature. Get the red tape out of schools and let the market decide what is taught and we all will be better for it.

John Bell
Sacramento, Calif.

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It's quite simple, stop debating the issue. Just "FIX IT"!

Once this is done, everything will fall into place. Common sense and logic should prevail in this debate.

The simple, logical and quite sensible analogy would go like this, "Plant a seed in fertile soil, add water, sunshine, support and love, and it will sprout, develop deep roots which will provide the foundation for unlimited growth. In turn, the plant would provide oxygen in order to survive. This is the potential that education can and will have on our world if we just view and treat it as the seed.

That is all there is to say.

Primo Iglesias
Locust Valley, N.Y.

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We should stick to the basics of our educational agenda. The three R's as they say. Let your choice of loyalty to your God be a private family matter or individual matter. Freedom of choice ordained by God, our Creator, he lays before us choices. Free will.

Respectfully, why can't we live and let live.

Rev. J.L. Thornburg D.D.
Old Station, Calif.

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Producing skilled readers always lay at the heart of my efforts as an urban school teacher and principal. As a teacher, I contributed to the implementation of school improvement plans and laid my soul on the line every day in the classroom. I continued in that same tradition as a principal, engaging in a host of strategies that included the use of monitoring conferences in which I met with each teacher, looked at each and every one of their students - where they were, where they needed to be, what we would do to make it happen, and what resources  and interventions were most likely to produce the desired results. I was fortunate to be among competent and dedicated staff. We always worked as a team, respected one another and viewed our efforts as a shared responsibility.

But try as I might, the reality was that too many of the kids in my school left their grades reading below level. I see that as my failure more than theirs.

The matter so haunted me into retirement that I decided to conduct my own investigation into the science of reading. I discovered that I had been oblivious to a body of knowledge that could have addressed the learning needs of our at-risk children to an infinitely greater extent. I was at once outraged at those whose job it was to call it to my attention, and disgusted with myself for not being smart enough to find it on my own.

It is not easy to admit that we have had the knowledge to teach every kid to read, but somehow that knowledge had evaded me. Now that I am retired, my fear is that too many others will follow that same blind alley unless we use different tactics to address the issue of teacher and principal quality. Yes, we can fire those who are poor and marginal and link their evaluations to student progress. But the problem won’t go away until schools of education and state licensing authorities do something to improve teacher training.

In a follow-up to its landmark study, the National Council on Teacher Quality reported in 2009 that “Taken as a whole, state teacher policies are broken, outdated and inflexible.” The report goes on to point out that “…only half of the states require that teacher training address the science of reading, and only five use an appropriate rigorous test that ensures teachers are well-prepared to teach their students how to read.”
We must give educators the appropriate tools to do an effective job. It is cruel to throw them into the field then cast them as the default scapegoats when what they have been taught proves woefully inadequate. Unless we provide them with training that leads to the best outcomes for all kids, especially kids at greatest risk for reading failure, the ubiquitous mantra of "children first" will continue to ring hollow.

Anthony Pedriana
River Falls, Wis.

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The main issue that should be dealt with is that our children get a TRUTHFUL and well rounded education. 

I suppose everyone is biased in one way or another. And it will show as they speak, and in their writings, and other creative outlets if enough of those things are exposed in large numbers.

However, when it comes to school books, those biases need to be edited out by editors. Also, having the "state" dictate what specifically can and cannot be taught in school is treading in dangerous waters. 

Taz Mage
Henderson, Ky.

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The main predictor of good education is parents who value education. Train parents. If parents push their kids to succeed in school and get upset with low performance or poor behavior, that's the key. 

With that, "bad" schools will get better, influenced by "pushy" parents. Without that, you can spend all the money you want and it won't do much good.

Donald Sockol
Warwick, R.I.

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Education costs far less than incarceration … and gets better results.

Average annual State expense:
K-12   $8,701
College   $10,674
Prison $23,876

That is $147,108 to educate … versus $286,512 to incarcerate.

With that education, rates of incarceration go down, there is increase in economic competitiveness, and health-care costs are lowered.

The US ranks 18th among the 36 industrialized nations for Education. The United States now has a higher percentage of its citizens imprisoned than any other country in the world.

Source: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/03/26/29carroll.h27.html?print=1

Robert Rawley
Cathedral City, Calif.

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I think the largest issue we face is not what is taught in our classrooms but what is not taught — creativity and research.

Ever since I graduated from High School I was so happy to go on to University because I knew there I would not be subject to standardization (tests) everyday and I was free to explore my world. I did this and excelled academically more than I did in K-12, graduating with honors from Central Connecticut State University and traveling the world.

I worry for my son now, because I wonder with more tests coming and textbooks possibly getting re-written to satisfy fascists in Texas if he will ever have the chance to keep and open mind and learn about the world around him and not just what a select few want him to know. I guess I will just have to take it upon myself to make sure his education isn't tainted.

James Whalen
Southbridge, Mass.

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One of the biggest problems in public education is the lack of funding. More and more government education programs are taking money *away* from public education instead of providing money for it. Money is being diverted to things like charter schools and vouchers. 

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In regards to charter schools, of course they appear to do better than regular public education ... they are funded better. 

Fund public education better and it will do better. Fund it as well as charter schools and it will do as well as charter schools.

Right now, schools across the country have been closed because of lack of funding. Classroom sizes are increasing because of it, when it's common knowledge that students learn better in smaller classrooms.

Another major problem in public education is that government officials who are designing plans to "improve" education are listening to other politicians (people who haven't been in a K-12 school in decades or who have only stopped in for a short time a few times in the past 10-20 years in most cases). 

They are also listening to parents, who in most cases have no idea what is required for successful education and are not in the classrooms to see what will or will not work. Parents think they know best and politicians listen to them. The problem is that parents usually have no experience in teaching and have rarely stepped foot in a classroom while class is being taught. They don't have the knowledge to make good decisions over what will and will not work in education. 

The one group of people who actually know what will or won't work (teachers, principals, and other school staff) are mostly ignored when making new policies on education. Just one example: Mitt Romney in Massachusetts wanted to make all schools teach only in English. To most people, that sounds like a great idea. And I believe that all people living in the US *should* speak English. However, it takes years of learning English before a child has enough grasp on the language to learn more complex things like Math and Science, which use more complex words. 

A child can usually learn enough English to communicate well with other children in half a school year. It takes 3-5 years of learning English before a ESL child knows English well enough to learn Math and Science and some other topics very well when taught only in English. By not allowing these children to be taught in a combination of English and their language, they will usually do poorly in those classes. That's not an improvement on education regardless how it sounds. That's just one example of many I could give.

With little space left, I'll make this short: standardized tests are another major problem. Most of those are made in California. Things they find important there aren't important on the east coast. Teaching to the tests harms local education in other areas of the country. Not all students do well on tests. Using the tests as a benchmark is fine; as graduation requirements it isn’t.

Jeremy Hatfield
Winston-Salem, N.C.

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Education?

We succeed in educating others when we INVITE, rather than arrogantly, abusively, dysfunctionally ORDER. We invite by respecting individuals — for THEIR needs, interests, values, motivations and circumstances. We encourage self-discipline, rather than hopelessly and counter-productively ramming crippling forced "discipline" from without. (I am not your conscience; nor can I be.) So long as genuine respect and invitation are present, learners will be delighted to realize true education, as judged by their OWN standards.

Some examples of routine disinviting abuses that inhibit healthy education: Mythic "standards" fail to respect individual needs, interests, values, motivations and circumstances.  They betray our natural, healthy uniqueness and diversity.

The practice of teaching AND grading, as left to one "authority" is fatally flawed. It strips the learner of the possibility of genuine ownership of their learning, and presents as a conflict of interest. Imagine the arresting officer acting also as your defense attorney.

You are welcome to embrace or reject the above as you see fit. You will not be graded, ordered or expected to accept it, or punished by me for any sort of refusal. What a concept, eh?

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick
Indianapolis, Ind.

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I have believed for many years that the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to improve public education in this country is quite simple.

Pass laws that require all elected officials to put their children in public schools. 

Seems like a stretch. But give it a thought.


George Horton
Corvallis, Ore.

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The documentary "the Lottery" shows that a lot more NYC parents want their children in the Harlem Success Academy charter schools than there are available openings. Why doesn't NY City increase the number of charter schools so every parent who wants can have their child to go to this type of charter school?

Why haven't charter schools, on the whole, been able to produce the kind of academic/social success that the Harlem Success Academy schools have achieved?

Ben Ziesmer
Sugarland, Texas

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New teachers MUST have a mentor and they MUST not be pawned off of a school or class that needs an experienced teacher.

The teacher MUST recognize a child who needs more support in their school work and offer it to them at a before school program or an after school program. This should be a force for the child who does not have the support at home.

Standardized tests are a joke!  ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL!

NO heterogeneous class rooms.  IQ tests should help in placement and a retake of the IQ test should be done during the 8 years of primary school.

High School should be gender based. Uniforms should be the dress code.

Teachers should be teachers and not friends of the students and should dress accordingly.
With all of the above addressed maybe we will get back to RESPECT for THE TEACHER.

Judith Rogers
Hendersonville, N.C.

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I am responding as a parent of two, and as a former teacher.

PARENTS are the biggest problem with public education. Their children are always "gifted" and/or "sports stars." The educational process taking place in the classroom, day-to-day, is not relevant or important to parents. This attitude naturally flows over to their children.

Homework? No time — football practice.

No cell phones in class? Gasp, but I need to call/text my angel student.

Communication? Can't I just text the teacher and tell her/him what my child can/cannot do?

Without parents creating an environment in the home that values education, the students have little chance of success.

Margo Valentine
Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Too much of the budget is spent on special education students. We should spend the budget equally amongst all students. Very little to no money is spent on gifted students.

Catherine Winslow
Ballston Spa, N.Y.

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I am a Sgt. USAF, and my spouse is a high school English teacher. When it comes to reforming education the first thing that MUST be addressed is the destructive effect standardization has taken on the system and the second to immediately follow should be teacher pay.

Standardization tear's any good teachers creativity away and substitutes a low bar, one size fits all solution that is responsible for our falling behind nationally and then that issue is made exponentially worse by teachers who make a sad excuse for a living because the get paid not nearly enough to work the 50-70 hours a week that any teacher has to put in grading papers, dealing with parents, designing lesson plans and attending meetings and all of the extra curricular activities that communities demand. There is no motivation for them to tech well and that shows in their students performance. We expect far too much of our teachers and don't give nearly enough in return.

Kevin Court
Springfield, Va.

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Thin out the exceedingly top heavy school districts and use the money for teachers — or insist that administrators teach a class — it's appalling when a school district has more administrators than they do teachers. Thank the Unions.

K.H.
Los Angeles, Calif.

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All public school requirements, operation, funding, and testing should be done at the state level.  Federal level should have nothing to do with education. Only maybe provide a standard minimums test. That is all and I really don’t see where that is needed.

Private schools: everyone with school age child should get a voucher to be used either at public schools or private. The present system only hurts the middle class. Rich can still send their children to private schools, but middle class cannot afford to pay for both public schools (through the tax system) and private too. 

No child left behind translated really means no child gets ahead. Everyone is dummied down to the lowest in the class. Children are so bored with school that they hate to go. With all this time they get into trouble. I know this for a fact; a high school education can be achieved with average students by the 7th grade. If the teachers are good, are trying, and the students are serious. Since the children are occupied there is no discipline issue.

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At private schools there is better discipline because the parents are paying money, they get more involved. Then, there is extra penalty because of removal from school. In public schools the worst they can do is send discipline problem children to another school, ooooh big threat.

A private school must produce a product or they go out of business. A public school has no incentive to produce high quality students or anything else for that matter. Glorified day care. 

What incentive is there for a teacher in a public school to produce exceptional students? They are only going to get the "standard" wage whether they teach or just sit there and ignore the mad house. At private schools exceptional teachers will be recognized and receive more certificates of appreciation (money).  

By centralizing the educational power (federal education board) it is much easier for corruption to occur. A very small group of individuals control what we are taught. This is great for a dictatorship, very easy to become a mode for propaganda, not good for a democracy. To remain world leaders we must decentralize educational powers. 

We do not want to segregate schools, but it is very stressful for slower students to try to keep up with the others.  Then, I don't care what anyone says, they feel bad about themselves for holding others back.  A lot of times this manifests itself in disruptive behavior to mask their feelings.  Segregation is good; I know I don't want to be in the same class as an Einstein. 

All public schools do is expose our children to drugs and violence. An unacceptable percentage of high school graduates cannot read nor do basic math, science, or history. Put your children in a trash can they come home stinking. My child talks about the other children doing drugs on the bus, smoking cigarettes. Putting you children indiscriminately with all children will not lift them to your child’s level but will drag yours down to their level. 

Besides, I would simply like to choose for myself. Like in a free country or something.

David McNitt
Pine Bluff, Ark.

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One of the topics in any conversation about education ought to be whether or not the student id getting the support needed from their respective families.

That support begins right from the very beginning. Head Start has a family component that is as important as the early learning in the classroom.

Sounds simple, but is almost off limits to most thought. I don't mean turn them in to Children's Services for removal from the home, I mean supportive actions that help develop the child rearing tools that every young parent could use from time to time.

We are trying to correct a broken educational system without including the mechanisms that support children.

This becomes more and more important as the economic pressures are ratcheted up on a majority of the folks producing children.

There will always be those that make it out of poor situations, but we need the majority to be properly enlightened.

This family support is as subtle as a kind, loving vocabulary coming from parents.

My wife is a Head Start Center Coordinator, the things we discuss are a nightmare of casualties within the community of reproducing young people. It is no wonder we are seeing such high rates of drop outs within our schools.

That's just one issue, solicit my attention I'd be happy to add my two bits.

Jess Tremaine
Sutton, Ark.

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I think too many school administrations are purchasing curriculums from "innovative" companies, such as EveryDay Math. These types of "fuzzy" programs are not helping kids learn math fundamentals, and contribute to an entire generation who do not know math facts. I think going back to the basics is what schools should be focusing on rather than programs that "spiral" with regard to their content. 

I also think elementary schools give too much homework. All kids in K-3 need to be doing is reading, reading, reading. Schools give students "busy" homework to make the parents happy, so everyone things their child is learning.  Homework does not equal learning in the early stages of school.  Down time and imagination play are still very important at these ages for proper brain development to occur.

Carol Johnson
Edwards, Colo.

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As a retired English teacher with 35 years experience in public schools, I know the main issue that must be discussed and successfully dealt with is this country's extensive apathy about education: its all-pervading lack of desire for school and education:

  • Society and parents do not believe they should have to make the least effort to make learning desirable and necessary.
  • Students believe they "don't need no education" so they make no effort and do no work.
  • Corporations and their sponsorships/advertising obviously and consciously promote the dull, the stupid, the irresponsible, and the dangerous. 
    [I know there are many arguments around and against these ideas but have no room to refute them now.]

This fragmented, weakening civilization of ours was designed as a participatory democracy, built and dependent upon an educated populace: a citizenry that is able to think and reason, decide and vote.

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Without education and knowledge, people will believe anything, buy anything, vote for anything, and expect everything ... especially the American Dream.

Thus, as this "not-my-problem" era has come to pass: citizens must be required to obtain a minimum level of schooling in order to vote. In addition, citizens should be fined if they do not vote.

I know education, knowledge and understanding are hallmarks of our flickering American character.

I believe and fear the "rot" inside us is already well begun. Time to get very serious. Time to listen to teachers who got the job done: the ones who really taught us and didn't just give everyone stickers.

Maryann Jennings
Asheville, N.C.

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We have to change NCLB. This piece of legislation is minimizing history and science and focusing on English and math. It has lead teachers to teach for the test and skip the learning. NCLB does not really take into account the different socioeconomics and demographics of school districts. It generalizes the districts.

What most politicians are afraid to mention is PARENT ACCOUNTABILITY. It is easy to blame the teachers, but we are not responsible for the poor child that has parents who don't care, take drugs/drink, or the other dysfunctions that these students have to face. A broken home can be a major factor in a broken education.

President Obama, I voted for you and am still glad I did, but don't offer us teachers "merit pay". That will just open up a can of worms .. .even my students figured that one out. Just pay us according to our contract ... nothing more or less.

Robert Sundre
Porterville, Calif.

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Paying attention is not the key to education.  Being engaged is the key.  Paying attention is simply looking at the teacher and maintaining the sense that a student is learning.  Being engaged, however is different.  Being engages is working on the edge of ones knowledge to synthesize new or different ideas.

I am a former principal, instructional coach, regular education teacher, and special education teacher.  I currently teach 7th and 8th science at Pitkin High School in Vernon Parish Louisiana.  We have honors and regular classes.  Any teacher in the US will tell you disciple is the key to education.

When kids are free from inappropriate distractions and become engaged in the lesson, real learning takes place.  No fancy program will work if the child is not listening.

Getting kids to perform required behaviors because they are the most efficient is sometimes elusive to teachers.  I would love to see year around school for students with D and F averages. A-C students will continue a 9 month program.

Jerome Henson
Pitkin, La.

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Parents should be FINED if their child fails. The foundation of education rests on three groups: teachers, students and parents. In the past teachers and parents worked together to make sure that children were being educated. These days, parents are not doing their part. Parents do not actively take part in their children's education.

Parents are not doing the basics: discipling their children; ensuring that homework is completed; tracking class performance; talking with teachers; helping their children with assignments; and the list goes on. 

In the current educational equation, only teachers and students are held accountable for poor performance. I think that parents should be held accountable first. Parents should be fined the full cost of each class their child fails. 

School systems constantly relate student progress to the parents by phone, email and report cards, without getting any support from the parents. It's time that the parents be made aware that their chldren's welfare is their first responsibilty, not the state's. 

I am tired of hearing all the complaints about the schools not doing their job, when parents are the main point of failure.

Anonymous
Eufala, Ga.

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The best way to approach our education system is to determine if any learning disabilities exist. Some read left to right, or right to left. If this type of disability goes undetected, this leads to a school career of very little achievement, if any.

They can lead to incorrect assumptions about one's intelligence when they actually may be a genius. I believe that the tools are already in place, we just need to be more proactive as to how students learn as individuals, not as a group.

William Richardson
Tulsa, Okla.

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