Improving the Quality of Education 
By Walter Sorochan, HSD, MSc, BPE, MPH
Emeritus Professor: San Diego State University, 

Posted October 10,2008, Updated August 1, 2014.

 Update Educational Trends 

Posted: June 15, 2012

Immediate concerns in public school education today are many: lack of adequate funding, teacher lay-offs, lack of science and math teachers, improving graduation rates and so on.  Education is also in the midst of a quiet technology-revolution that is about to make the current educational system dysfunctional and possibly obsolete.  You and your school can take advantage of emerging opportunities to help students learn new skills in an out-dated educational system.  This web-site shares the new trends in education that can improve student learning and achievement and update your educational system.

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Cliomuse: Blackboard Jungle Movie 1955

So what is replacing the out-dated educational system of yester year?   Well, such replacement is evolving rapidly.  Several states are re-assessing the power of teacher unions, teacher evaluation and security and curriculum revision.  A silent debate is shaping about who should pay for educating youngsters --- the federal government, the state, local communities or parents!  There are several other interesting trends.  One of these are free on-line internet learning programs.  Another has ipads replacing computers and hard copy textbooks The Austin Public Library system began offering e-books for download in 2011 and has bought nearly 2,600 e-book titles.

Perhaps the most innovative trend is the replacement of textbooks with free subject article databases.  Schools are evolving localized school databases that will provide a school district's own flexible subject curriculum.  Informative articles are a spin-off from e-book article libraries. 

Teacher presentations are being challenged by short length video presentations.   For example, Santa Rita Elementary school, in Los Altos, Calif., in 2011, is part of a pilot program that is making the Khan Academy an integral part of the free u-tube math curriculum.  Egan Junior High in Los Altos, California adopted the Khan series of videos. [ Khan Academy is an educational website that aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free. ]  Another example is TED, in 2011, offering free video lessons for high school and college students.  There is also Bill Hammond, the engineer guy!  Khan and Ted short length videos on specific topics motivate students to learn, at their own speed, without teacher instruction. 

Another learning innovation comes from  cell phones and smart pads allowing mobile and distance learningStudents can use their smart phones to learn away from their schools and teachers. 

Equally important, these innovations are about to change the role of teachers in the Hi-Tech learning process.  There is new monitoring software [ Khan's dashboard ] that automatically follows the progress of each student and instantly prescribes ways to improve student achievement. 

The technology available today empowers students to be more proactive in the acquisition of knowledge.  Students are also learning technological skills that should make them more competitive in the job market.

These innovations add to the controversy over education; with many teachers disagreeing with Khan's video learning approaches.  Khan's approach may be argued as shades of grey --- the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is important to point out that many of these learning innovations are the tip of the iceberg!  We don't really know how effective or valid such learning is in the long run! Today's [ 2012 ] university graduates are having a very difficult time finding jobs that pay them a sustainable income and make them self-sufficient.  The best gauge of an educational system is how productive graduates are 20 - 30 years after having graduated. But the immediate symptoms of an educational system that is not working is reflected in the high drop out rate of high school students and the inability of high school and university graduates to get self-sufficient jobs.

By now, it should be obvious to you that you are not reading anything you have not heard before. 

It is important to point out that many of these learning innovations are the tip of the iceberg! We don't really know how effective or valid such learning is in the long run! The best gauge of an educational system is how productive graduates are 20 - 30 years after having graduated from high school.  But the immediate symptoms of an educational system that is not working is reflected in many ways:

1. the high drop out rate of high school students,

2. the inability of high school and university graduates to get getting jobs that pay them a sustainable income.  

3. the billion dollar student loan fiasco. 

4. the many economic-political problems of a dysfunctional society linked to education.

5. Majority of public not voting nor trusting government and politicians.

6. The accelerating chronic health problems of teenagers and general public.

Your feedback is most appreciated: E-mail

Preamble: As the educational system goes, so goes the country. The wealth of a country is dependent on the health and education of its populace. Lacking good health produces lower Gross National Product or GNP. California is a good example of this! Our national economy today is in a shambles and we have a fair but mediocre school system. As a consequence, we are beginning to graduate our young people as second class citizens in the world! Related issues to our weak educational system are our dysfunctional politicians and corruption in Washington.

kid exam We need to re-prioritize our goals and better manage the monies allocated to education and communities. We have dysfunctional schools that do not function very well in the community setting. Society is split into two invisible factions --- schools and parent communities. Schools seem to function in an isolated manner to communities. There is little support between the two. For example, early childhood rearing receives virtually no support from anyone. Young parents are left on their own in a version of trial rearing of their children. There is very little wisdom given to raising pre-schoolers and children. Recreation and community programs function exclusively on their own, having very little communication from schools.

stages life

So what do we need? We need a coordinated system from the cradle to the grave [ image: stages of life on right ]. We can no longer assume that teens will somehow become parents, that babies and pre-schoolers will absorb good character from the winds blowing in the community, and that politicians will do the right things for their constituents. We need to evolve a system that prevents current problems. Lets lay out an ideal education system for society. It includes the need for continuous learning for all age levels! Essentials of Education

The Ideal system:

1. Parenthood Pre-school Classes: We do have classes for pregnant parents and preparation for giving birth to a baby. But society has neglected to prepare young adults for parenthood; that is, raising a baby after birth. Although many young adults do an excellent job of rearing their children, others flounder as parents. Parenting is not a time for " on the job " training and putting children at risk! The curriculum for such classes should include needs of children, nutrition, health education, character development, fostering creativity and managing family finances. Perspective parents need to become aware of parental responsibilities for child discipline, character, creativity, child developmental needs and so on.

2. Creativity: New born have no inhibitions. Children between the ages of 2 and 7 are naturally curious, with an inquisitive mind about everything they come into contact with. This natural curiosity allows children to use their imagination to solve problems. Their imagination will run wild as long as there are no expectations or outcomes.

When children are hindered or stopped in using their creative minds, then children stop being creative. They become less proficient in solving problems.

Art and music are common examples of creativity, but you can find creative thought in almost all aspects of life -- from the way a parent quiets a crying child to the methods a scientist uses to discover a cure for a disease.

Creativity is the most neglected aspect of child rearing and school education. more creativity info

3. Music: Research supports having children learn music as early as possible and continue into their teens. Children and teens who begin to play music early become better students.

4. Character: inculcation must complement early childhood creativity and music. Ever wonder why so many university and professional athletes have problems with the law?
Character & values

5. Academic: The remainder of this essay is on providing a comprehensive and relevant school curriculum that should include all the above aspects of development.

We also need the political muscle, the moral fiber, the courage to do better and a belief that our children deserve better than they are getting now. We need to be ready to put aside our vested interests and accept a little sacrifice to fulfill educational dreams. School Systems need a comprehensive and bold vision of the future!

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Purpose of this report: Improve education

We need to focus on providing for the needs of our students from cradle to grades K –12. According to national research on health of children and teens, schools are not meeting the basic health, social, moral and academic needs of their children and teens.

The real measure of success of a school system is what happens to its students and how successful they are 10 and 20 years after graduation!

I believe that our schools can do better than they are doing today! We need to focus on excellence and not on just being average or provide sports for the elite few!

And that is the purpose of this report. I have some suggestions on how we can improve our schools, help our teachers and meet the needs of our students!

Many of our epidemic adult health problems are due to lack of good health education programs in the public school system.

Suggestions on improving our educational system:

bullet big 1. Education starts the day a baby is born. The brain of a baby on the first day of birth is virtually empty. It has no information and knows absolutely nothing. It is dependent on others for its survival and future.  Although a baby is born with instinct and natural body functions like urination, defecation and sucking hunger instinct, it learns everything else from it's significant others and its environment.

The point being made is that educators and the general public have been brain-washed into thinking that learning starts when the child starts school. Instead, a baby begins to learn from day one! Parents unwittingly and gradually stuff the baby's brain with tons of information. Babies learn and experience everything, the good, bad and ugly! Moms and dads are the first teachers and in most instances they are poorly prepared for child rearing.  The consequences are .... that many of the teen and adult anti-social and health problems may be grafted during the first few months of life and unidentified and unrecognized, contribute to many social and health problems in later life.  This pre-school time of the child is the most neglected and over-looked part of the child's education.  To offset the short-comings of parents, the entire community needs to participate in the education of the pre-toddlers. The first stage of life cannot be overlooked by government, society and educators.   

bullet big 2. Establish accountable children & teen-goals for all School Districts

Why is USA ranked 13th among other industrialized nations in education?

What plans does a School District have to make in order for its education to be comparable with the best in the world?? For example:

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: YRBSS data were being used to measure progress toward achieving 15 national health objectives for 2010 and three of the 10 leading health indicators. In addition, education and health officials at national, state, and local levels are using these YRBSS data to improve policies and programs to reduce priority health-risk behaviors among youth. Is your school district doing the same?

Focus more on up-grading education and less on playing public relation games with parents!

bullet big 3. Identify the basic needs and problems of children:

Children and teens cannot learn properly if they are disabled, sick or diseased. They need to be healthy to be able to succeed as students. Our schools systems are taking a short-cut to NOT providing an in-school health care system; it is an ignorant and negligent way of saving money!

The most efficient way to provide health care for children and teens is not through the current health care system but through an instituted TOTAL school health program that would be part of both the school system and the health care system. Obama health care deals with insurance companies and does not provide for illness care.  Obama care does not reach all the children and this is the flaw in the current health care system.   Health care for children and teens needs to be immediately accessible.  As a total school health program, it would be housed inside every elementary, junior high and high school system; providing access to all students in a school on a daily basis. This suggestion for fixing the neglected teen health issue is critical because teens are " falling through the safety net."

Related to the total school health program is physical fitness --- considered as a health prevention approach. We need more health prevention for the majority through more and better physical fitness programs like mass participation in intra-murals and club sports. Today, intra-scholastic programs for the few have gobbled up teacher time and facilities away from the deprived majority. Public tax subsidized education money needs to be spent on the majority of the students and not just the elite few. This is the accountability that is lacking in our school districts.

By giving lower priority to athletics, schools would ensure a high priority for physical fitness for all, optimizing for well-being and taking preventive measures to combat the obesity epidemic.

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Problems of children & teens in 2003: [ From YRBSS ]
70.8% of all deaths among persons aged 10--24 years result from only first four causes:
    bullet 1. motor-vehicle crashes
    bullet 2. other unintentional injuries
    bullet 3. homicide
    bullet 4. suicide
    bullet 5. 30.2% had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
    bullet 6. 17.1% had carried a weapon
    bullet 7. 44.9% had drunk alcohol
    bullet 8. 22.4% had used marijuana
    bullet 9. 33.0% of high school students had been in a physical fight
    bullet 10. 8.5% had attempted suicide
    bullet 11. 21.9% of high school students had smoked cigarettes
    bullet 12. 78% had not eaten >5 servings/day of fruits and vegetables
    bullet 13. 33.4% had participated in an insufficient amount of physical activity 13.5% were overweight.

bullet big 4. Improve the curriculum: Consider the best aspects of the “3-R’s “ rigorous education. Focus on quality and relevant subject-matter. There are many good things in the current curriculum. We just need to buttress these with the current technological skills and give these more time to develop. Our schools need to prepare youngsters not just to live in our society but to function in a competitive world!

The most important need is comprehensive school education

bullet big 5. Put morality into the schools: liars Fights between parents, players and referees during soccer and basketball games occur during recreation and school games. Is there a relationship between how a parent drives a car and how a parent behaves during a game? Do kids copy behaviors of their parents?

"To educate a person in the mind but not the morals is to educate a menace to society!” By Teddy Roosevelt

We have an endless parade of national corporate, church, sports and political scandals and disturbingly high rates of cheating, violence and substance abuse among the young. Enron and WorldCom executives involved in fraud and manipulation didn't need more IQ points. They needed a moral compass and the commitment to use it. Many educators have adapted "Enron accounting." We need to somehow implement some effective “ character education “ into our public school curriculum and reinforce it with responsible public behavior. There is no evidence that the current values education system is effectively working in any community [ witness the gun violence and school shootings ]. Honor systems are not working and school districts need to stop using it as a facade!

bullet big 6. Give less priority to athletics.

Many coaches today have more power than teachers and principals. calisthenics School athletics have become the prep-springboards to university sports programs and professional sports. There is a lot wrong with today’s coaching and athletics!!!!

Inter-scholastic sports have usurped and diluted the physical education programs. Physical education in schools has been forced to take a back seat to inter-scholastic sports. Coaches out-gun classroom physical education teachers and majority of students for gym and playground time. many few

Giving higher priority to interscholastic sports than physical education has taken away the opportunity from the many, who are overweight and physically unfit, and given it to the few who need it the least.

Our main priority in school sports should be in improving and maintaining the physical fitness of the majority of students and not the few super athletes. Physical and health education should be helping youngsters evolve optimal well-being. Such a program needs to cater to the many and not the few! Once again, we need to focus on providing essential services to the greatest number; hence educational accountability!

bullet big 7. Implement compulsory physical education for all grades K through 12.

calisthenics Prioritize sports and physical activities:

Priority 1: Mandatory physical education for ALL grades

    bullet  Give awards for physical fitness.
    bullet  Physical education for the majority and not minority.
    bullet  Focus on physical fitness at all grade levels.
    bullet  Priority for minor games at elementary school level.
    bullet  Create everyday options for physical activity.
    bullet  Encourage walking to school instead of car –bus rides.
    bullet  Create more bike racks as needed.
    bullet  Create safe walking & biking paths to & from school.
    bullet  Create incentives for physical activity.

Priority 2: Intra-mural program for the masses.
Priority 3: Inter-scholastic sports. Available only if above two priorities fulfilled. This priority is reverse to what it is in most schools.

bullet big 8. Implement comprehensive health education.

Implement innovative health education Grades K-12. Involve students in personal well-being and preventive illness. Demonstrate “how to be healthy” and how to prevent diabetes, obesity, cancer and so on. Create a culture for wellness and prevention. Involve parents in health classes. [ content example below:]

food
Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet is the best medicine for a healthy life. Children need nutrition education throughout elementary school so they can graft good eating habits. They should know how to select food, read labels and recognize junk foods and understand caloric balance as a way of controlling their body weight.
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Alcoholic beverages, drunk driving and responsible drinking.
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Problem: 1 of every 4 children are obese.  We have an epidemic of obesity in USA. Teen Obesity Is a Ticking Time Bomb. Excess weight leads to serious adult health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease. Need Weight loss classes: Losing weight & self-esteem; Keeping new weight; Develop a consciousness for wellbeing by Locate weight scales in cafeterias.
smoking
Degenerative diseases: Cardiovascular disorders, Cancer, Diabetes
drugs
Habit forming substances: Alcohol, Tobacco, Other
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Disease prevention How to stay healthy, Socially Transmitted Diseases, Sanitation, Food, Safe water.
emotional
    Emotional & Social well-being:
  • [ Mental health ]

  • Coping with stress and pain
    How to solve problems
    Self-esteem
    Making & keeping friends
    getting help
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Driving safely options for driver education
fam educ

Family education for prospective parents. This class should be a pre-requisite before getting married & receiving a marriage license.

Parenting is the only vocation where a parent stumbles and learns at the same time. Children deserve better than to have ignorant parents rearing them.

bullet big 9. Enforce the existing legislation on accountability. legal

We do have the legislation but no one to enforce it! We need to develop credibility in accountability now! We need to get everyone to start believing in the moral aspect of having educational accountability. Along with this, we need to evolve the will to enforce accountability!

bullet big 10. Create economic - merit incentives for all at all levels. merit Educators and school administrators will change when they can have economic incentives by which to improve themselves! Youngsters will also respond to change behavioral incentives. Parents need to have economic incentives to be recognized as "super parents!" Please check into Allan Enthoven, economics professor of Stanford University, and his perceptions on how this may be applied to education.

bullet big 11. Monitor allocation of funding. money trail We must monitor how we allocate educational monies to school districts, principals and classrooms. That is, how money is distributed or allocated, who receives it and how much. Most important, funds are usually ear-marked specifically for specific programs. In many school districts, principals illegally mingle the special funds with their general fund. Although this is illegal, most school boards look the other way. " Follow the money trail!" Get your own CPA to read and interpret the school board budget. Reason: most folks do not know how to read a financial budget!

Monitoring of funds is not being done with any degree of accountability. Instead there is a lot of wasteful spending and diversion of funds. Review how monies are being allocated to schools at the state level; then follow the disbursement of funds all the way to the classroom. There is no accountability on how this money is being spent and whether we are getting anything for our investment as tax payers. In many instances, the money is shifted away from the classroom for redundant issues. e.g. anti-smoking funds.

bullet big 12. Get teacher accountability immediately. accountability We need a national and uniform educational curriculum code. Reason: in today's society, parents often move from district to district and from one state to another, relocating where jobs are. Children go with their parents. A student in any grade should be able to pick up class work in another state or district and not become academically retarded.

Grading is another issue to consider: In any school district [similar in other districts ] two teachers teaching the same course work can teach a different content and grade differently. An A-grade in one class may be equivalent to a C-grade in another. The point here is that, today, there is no common denominator for evaluating students in the same course content / classes or among different schools. This smacks with lack of accountability at the lowest level.

bullet big 13. Standardize the grading and evaluation system for students, teachers and schools. grading Good teachers teach content and create an evaluation system to monitor student achievement and progress. Teachers need to monitor the weekly progress of each student and then give this progress as feedback motivation to the students. Students need feedback to know that teachers do care, that they are learning and that they are also becoming better informed, developing into good citizens and can make better judgments. This is a very simple thing to do, but it takes a lot of time and effort. We do have the computer technology to track classroom learning.  But it is not being done properly for whatever reasons. Hence, lack of accountability in educational quality.

bullet big 14. Increase teacher salaries. merit It is ironic that although the two most important jobs in any society are parenting and teaching, these are given the lowest recognition and pay in United States.

merit pay We entrust teachers to teach but not reward them for their best efforts! We expect them to teach, but instead, many of them end up baby-sitting because many of their students lack the self-discipline to learn! We expect teachers to inculcate values in children but instead, we dilute this process with our poor examples in government, politics and professional sports! We blame teachers when children do not learn enough! And we wonder why school boards cannot attract the brightest stars to provide more sunshine in the schools! Teacher salaries should be commensurate with their abilities and success in motivating all students to perform at their highest levels.

bullet big 15. Bring discipline back into the classroom: discipline Classroom discipline is perhaps the most important need in schools today. Children bring to school behaviors and values that parents raised them with. Thus parents need to be sensitized that the discipline that they impose in their home is the structure that their child acts out in the school. Good discipline builds confidence and security in the child and this must start at the pre-school stage. An unruly child disrupts the entire group of well-disciplined children. Example of getting discipline

Teachers cannot teach without total class discipline; otherwise they become baby sitters and their students learn " nothing;" Indeed teens especially learn to become failures! Teachers need to get class discipline first and then teach; in that order. It is discipline that becomes the rudder in a younster's life and that propels her/him toward a success track!

Children probably won't have self-discipline when their parents, in turn, lack it. Thus to get classroom discipline, teachers need to get parents to implement discipline in homes.

The best way of doing this has already been mentioned earlier in this essay [ Parental pre-school classes ]. Another is to create incentives for parents to enforce discipline with their children. Parents need to be made aware of that children and teens bring to school the discipline they were raised with.

School boards and their teachers need to create incentives for rewarding pupil self-control & discipline. School boards need to hold parents more accountable for a child’s behavior. Instead of punishing a child for misbehavior and lack of discipline, school boards should punish faulty and negligent parents. [ There are may ways of doing this ].

bullet big 16. Give CLOUT back to the teachers and school boards:

The power of education has been usurped away from the classroom since 1960s; it has been gradually eroding. Today, no one seems to be able to do anything, much less teach, without parental interference. It seems that everyone, upon graduating from high school, has become an expert on education.

Well, it is doubtful if anyone is really an expert on education. Granted, most parents do a superb job of disciplining their children and raising them.

But it is the few who are weak parents that often are responsible for disrupting the educational process.

We need to give back the power of teaching to the teachers. Classroom control means discipline in the classroom! Without this first step, all other reforms are meaningless.

Education is in a state of crisis! We need leaders to step up and take charge!

ALERT:  Your feedback on this article is most appreciated. Thank you: E-mail author

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Credits: Walter Sorochan:

1. Expertise as a former public schools teacher

2. Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Health Education at San Diego State University.

3. As a professor, did research and wrote textbooks on how youngsters learn, how values develop, structuring curriculae, teaching methodology and other pedagogy.

4. Involved in helping to develop educational accountability legislation in the mid-‘70’s in California.

Batey Anton, "The Trouble with No Child Left Behind," Ludwig Von Mises Institute, March 23, 2010.   Batey: trouble schools left behind