By Dr. Cletus R. Bulach, Special for USDR
The pro’s and con’s of the Common Core are being debated across the country. There are those who do not want the feds to set the standards because they believe this is a State right. I do believe there is a need for standards, and my preference is for each State to set them. The State of Georgia is very different from Alaska, Florida, Hawaii and many other states. To legislate that all states should have the same standards just does not make sense.
The bigger question is “Why is there a need to change the existing standards?” The answer is because lawmakers want to improve education and raise test scores. Based on my 50 years of experience at all levels of education, improving standards will not improve education or raise test scores. There are 6 reasons for low test scores and standards are not the cause. Here they are in the order of importance:
poor school culture and climate cause most of the problems. In a school with a less than positive culture and climate faculty and students are in a protective mode and are not fully motivated.
time lost to the instructional process because teachers have to stop teaching to correct student misbehavior. This occurs on average 5-20 times a day causing on average a loss of one hour of instruction/day. One hour times 180 school days a year or 180 divided by a 6 hour day equals 30 days of instruction lost each year.
the five basic needs of students and faculty are not being met. These needs are life, happiness, control, purpose, and caring. Many kids go to school believing the teachers and other students do not care about them. They have no purpose and they have little control over what happens and they are not happy. Teachers are unable to motivate students to study if their needs are not being met.
the forms of powers used to control students and faculty are often the wrong forms of power. There are nine forms. Five are freeing forms because they give control without giving it up. These help meet the control needs of teachers and students: one of life’s five basic needs. The other four forms are controlling forms, and these are the ones most frequently used. The controlling forms lead to resistance and a lack of motivation. However, these forms of power must be used in certain situations.
parents and community are not involved. If you believe “it takes a community to raise a child” we need to involve parents and the community.
levels of openness and trust in most schools are at very low levels. School climate scores on openness and trust are always the lowest. Openness and trust are at the heart of human relations. Many students do not trust their teachers. Many teachers don’t trust their principal. Without trust there is no openness. Without openness learning cannot occur.
Each of the above is a cause for low motivation. Without motivation students will not learn and that is the cause for low test scores. On average, 50% of students are lacking in motivation and do not study. In some schools that is as high as 75%. Many teachers in low performing schools also are lacking in motivation. If the motivation of students and teachers improves, the quality of education and test scores will automatically improve.
The common core, no child left behind and other initiatives by the feds do little to improve education. The focus needs to be on the culture and climate that exists in each school. Roughly 10% of all schools have a good culture and climate. The rest have a poor culture and climate and about 25% of all schools have a toxic culture and climate. A survey that measures school culture and climate is on my website and it is free to school officials who wish to use it.
If readers want more information on this topic my website at www.westga.edu/~cbulach has much more. It is all free. There are six surveys there that measure the six reasons for low test scores. Send me an e-mail and I will attach the survey.
Dr. Cletus R. Bulach is a retired Ohio school superintendent and associate professor emeritus at the University of West Georgia. He is the author of numerous articles in educational journals and is co-author of the book Creating a Culture for A High Performing School: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform, Dropout Prevention, and Bullying Behavior. His website is www.westga.edu/~cbulach. The reform and school culture described in the book create a learning environment where students’ five basic needs are met. This leads to improved test scores and a 75% reduction in student discipline and misbehavior problems.