So why is the public education system so reluctant to institute the same approach? We educate our kids by committee, with school boards, superintendents, state bureaucrats, and legislative meddling. Principals who supposedly run a school are often looked on as an after thought.
Why not take the football coach approach? Hire an elementary of high school principal that meets strict qualifications. Them turn them loose. Let the principal hire the school’s teachers, set specific academic goals, and run the program without outside interference. Pay such a principal well; much more than they are receiving now. But make it clear that, just like the football coach, the public will expect results.
The new governor needs to reshape the educational debate in Louisiana. Right now, there is no sense of urgency at the high school level and below. The recent gubernatorial debates were all about higher education. But colleges spend a significant amount of tax dollars doing remedial work for kids who unprepared to attend. There is not a college in the state that is ranked in the top 125 colleges in the U.S. And one of the reasons is that these Louisiana institutions are bogged down with many unqualified students.
When picking a principal to lead a school in a low-income area that is underperforming, you need an educational gumbo that mixes high standards, discipline, kindness, and individual student concerns. Look at what principals have instituted in numerous charter schools across the country.
They begin with respect. Students answer a teach with “yes sir” or “no ma’am.” Students stand up when the teacher enters the classroom. If a child has trouble paying attention, they sit on the first row. Students are randomly called upon (no show of hands) so that every child is required to pay attention. The principal aggressively institutes a strong outreach program within the local business community to fund laptops for every student. In bulk, laptops can be obtained for as little as $50.00 a piece. Without a laptop, today’s child is functionally illiterate.
I was born up in the St Louis area, and there is an elementary school in Jennings, Mo. that is showing astounding results where a “hands on” principal is involved in every aspect of the school’s operations. Just like the football coach. Teachers go into the homes of underperforming, low-income students to meet with the parent or guardian so as to get a better sense of the child’s environment. Principal Tiffany Anderson heads up this school, and her presence is felt everywhere. Between classes, she is in the hallways smiling, encouraging and visiting with students. She often acts as a crossing guard to send off kids with a smile and words of encouragement.
Principal Anderson is insatiable in hustling the local businesses for financial support. The school is open on Saturdays for extra tutoring, a college prep program, and enhancement programs like art, dance and music all manned with volunteers in the community. The students maintain the school grounds, and there is a food bank and even a homeless shelter for kids in need. The school has it’s own non-profit foundation to raise dollars for these varied and worthwhile projects. If a teacher does not buy in to this aggressive educational approach, out they go. Isn’t this how public education should work?
Simply put, a committed principal, unburdened from cookie cutter, one-size fits all rules has shown that dramatic results can be achieved. There is no secret here. Schools that have leadership like Principal Anderson are winners in many ways. She is held to high standards that are results oriented, and she produces. Just like the football coach.
A good lesson here for Louisiana’s new governor and educational leaders all over America.
“A substandard education will always result in a substandard nation.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.