Opinion

Extend school day, not the school year

While I rarely, if ever, write letters to the editor or respond to newspaper articles, I could not let your statement (in a recent column) slide by, writes a Whitman County resident who must be Egyptian, judging by the hieroglyphic used as a signature.
I wrote that to make up for the poor test showings in mathematics by Washington students, the school day be extended rather than the school year since teachers are paid by a set number of days per year they work. Devote that extra time exclusively to math teaching after making sure the teachers themselves can pass the WASL test.
Teachers dont need insulting comments from you or anyone else, responds the reader. They need understanding and respect or there will be no one left to teach your children. Oh, how I wish you would spend the time: 1. Talk to my son and daughter-in-law, both teachers, who struggled to pay off student loans teachers starting salary is $30,383 per year or $2,531 per month before taxes, before NEA and WEA union dues, before health insurance deductions.
2. Follow a classroom teacher for two days. A typical teachers day includes before school meetings and after school meetings four out of five days. Sit in a teachers home in the evening and see how many hours of preparation go into each hour of instruction.
3. Talk with teachers to understand their frustration with the WASL, and about feeling the need to refer every slow learner for special education because their scores will lower the class average. Walk through a college campus and talk with science and math majors who will laugh at you when you suggest teaching instead of working in industry. Why start a career making survival pay when private industry will pay double with pay raises and bonuses?
5. Talk to the teacher recruitment and retention programmers at Washington State University. They are trying to make education more attractive but low pay, long hours, lack of respect, regimented teaching curriculum, tough kids, and parents, many of whom are critical and demanding or absent are reasons many teachers are fleeing the schools.
Attend parent-teacher conferences. Listen to teachers express concerns when parents dont show up or great grandparents attend because they have custody of twin fetal alcohol girls as parents and grandparents are so drug involved they cant care for them.
I have said enough says the reader. Please realize that teachers are experiencing the Rodney Dangerfield I cant get no respect world. People quote the mean income level of teachers as around $48,000. They dont realize that a majority of teachers are closing in on retirement at the top of the salary schedule and the number of new teachers coming in to the field will not be adequate to replace them. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for writing. I am as frustrated as teachers and parents over why our kids do poorly in school. A longtime educator I knew told me the change began when educators, once proud to be regarded as professionals, came under the control of the labor unions.
Emphasis by the unions shifted from improving curriculum and teaching methods to the almighty buck. They promote smaller classes because that requires more teachers, i.e., dues-paying union members. They fight proven methods of improvement such as vouchers and charter schools because charter schools mean fewer members. They resist identifying and weeding out poor teachers because poor teachers pay dues just like the good ones. Many top teachers seek administrative jobs where the
money is.
I dont oppose higher pay for teachers but I dont like rewarding them for a job not well done. Maybe salary increases should be tied to improvement in WASL results.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, Wash., 98340.

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