Schools are not factories

Every week there's a news story about poor test scores, No Child Left Behind, teacher accountability, principals being fired or shortfalls in educational funds. Certainly, there is reason for concern in high dropout rates, low test scores and other dismal educational news.

But the proposed solutions to America's educational woes are shockingly lop-sided. The critics of U.S. schools act as if the only thing wrong with our system is the staff. Have an under-performing school? Fire the principal! Fire the teachers!

The problem with this simple solution (even if you could find enough educators to replace the ones you fired) is that teachers and administrators are just one set of players in this drama.

Educators are only part of the problem, so teacher accountability can only be part of the solution. Our educational problems will not be solved until students, parents and community members are also held accountable.

A school is not a factory. Students are not manufactured products.

If a school were a factory, taking in absolutely blank raw materials and processing them into identical products, then it might make sense t o blame the staff. But students enter the school system with widely varying backgrounds and many of them with serous problems.

The school staff tries to "even the playing field" with activities, meals, health services, counseling, tutoring, discipline plans, referrals and numerous special programs. But there is no way that schools can counteract the combined influence of family, friends and pop culture.

A community with under-performing schools always has other problems as well, and often attitudes toward educational achievement are casual or even negative. So how is a new school principal or a bunch of new teachers going to turn this situation around?

/s/ Holly J. Adiele, Sunnyside


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