Effective System of Public Education
Education is something that everyone should be concerned with. Our culture prizes the process of furthering one’s knowledge of the world and way of things. But there is an underlying question that many may struggle with: what makes a school effective? How do you know that you or your child is receiving a quality education?
Naturally, there is a lot of debate about how people best learn. And pedagogy, the the method and practice of teaching, is comprised of many different strategies. In essence, one teacher may approach the process of educating her class very differently from any of her colleagues.
However, there are certain criteria outlined in Lawrence Lazotte and Kathleen Snyder’s book What Effective Schools Do: Re-Envisioning the Correlates, that universally help make up an effective system of public education while still allowing for these differences, and they are as follows.
Providing a Safe Place
Students find it difficult to learn if they feel threatened or unsafe. Thus, teachers and administrators must work in order to make students feel safe both physically and emotionally. To achieve a safe environment, schools must work to curb bullying and fighting.
This criterion simply stands to reason. Would you be able to focus on your personal growth and learning if you felt threatened? Likely not. And this element is out of the students’ own control, making it essential for the public education system to provide this key environment.
It often seems today as though students merely expect grades to be handed to them. If they do the work, they often think that they deserve an A based on that alone. This kind of thinking is highly toxic to learning. It keeps students from feeling challenged and pushing themselves further.
Thus, it is up to the public education system to ensure that all students are being pushed to do their best, within reason. You don’t want to create such a competitive environment that stress and anxiety become too prevalent. However, teachers should expect their students to improve. They should set a high standard for all students to aspire to.
Schools are primarily concerned with evaluating students’ success. That’s the whole point of handing out grades. However, schools need to take it further than that. The more feedback that students receive from their teachers in terms of their progress, the more likely they are to succeed.
This again stands to reason. If you were in a class and never received feedback, then how would you know if you were doing well or not? Learning or not? Standardized testing is not the only means to achieve evaluation though and it is highly important for schools to implement other means of measuring students’ success.
Providing Learning Opportunities
There is only so much time in a school day, and that fact is one of the biggest constraints that educators face. Within that very limited time, teachers must ensure that they provide students the appropriate amount of time in order to absorb and master the content at hand.
Oftentimes this means that teachers need to have crafted a flexible syllabus that they can adapt if students are behind in one area. Rigidly pressing ahead despite the fact that students are struggling to keep up will hinder their education. Sometimes it may even cause students turning to essay writers for help. Readjusting instead so that students do have time to master a certain area is essential.
The Bridge Between Home and School
For learning to be truly effective, parents and educators need to be on the same page. A parent must trust that the school meets the above criteria and will thus provide a quality education to their children. On the other side, the school must trust parents to get their kids to school on time and in a positive state to be receptive to learning. Furthermore, teachers only have so much time in the day to teach, as mentioned above.
Parents, however, can and should, continue that learning by offering help to their children with their homework. For that to work smoothly, teachers must provide clear instructions for assignments that parents can then pick up. This doesn’t necessarily require that parents and teachers are in frequent, direct communication, but parent-teacher conferences are helpful.
The above criteria help ensure an effective public education system. They are hardly the only elements at play when it comes to education, but they are the elements most commonly shared amongst schools that are considered to be effective and therefore they should be prioritized when determining whether or not a school is effective. Other criteria that are mentioned in Lezotte’s work include having a relatable leader and stating a clear mission, which should also be considered important elements of an effective school.
Measuring the effectiveness of schools in a tangible way is difficult, but these criteria have popped up in many of the schools that are considered to be the best at what they do, setting a precedent for others to follow in their footsteps and hopefully continue to improve the education systems.