Now and then, I enjoy a buffet. You are presented lots of options, free to pick whatever is preferred. At one time, I didn't pay much attention to my choices. As I grow older, I am more selective while thinking about what particular foods will do to my body. I also find myself limiting my total intake knowing too much of even what is good can do harm.

Lately, I have been thinking about comparing the food buffet with the education platter. I am quite concerned about the load on educators, the hours they must spend to meet the demands of that load. Due to being a former teacher, to having several teachers in our family, to having many friends in the profession, I have a good sense of what teachers are expected to accomplish.

What educators do is becoming more and more dictated by policy makers in Washington and in Indiana who may not realize all the intricacies related to their decisions, who don't always revisit their decisions. In a 2005 policy brief from Indiana University, 95% of Indiana school superintendents stated education is over regulated. I suspect the percentage would be even higher now. It is no wonder Indiana legislators are being asked this year to deregulate schools.

It is difficult to get a handle on the job description of educators. It has changed so much, just in the five years since I retired. An alarming 50% of teachers are leaving the field within five years. While more are exiting the profession, fewer are entering. Local school boards and communities must embrace their educators and do a check-up on how we can help.

I would encourage the following:

  • We must continuously examine the education platter to determine what should remain on and taken off understanding the consequences of overloading teachers and students. Deregulation must be a goal in Washington, Indiana, and our school corporations.
  • Let's frequently celebrate the many great things happening in our schools and be very careful about strictly judging performance on a letter grade derived from a known flawed system.
  • We must see through the smokescreens of those without degrees in education who indicate they know more than teachers who have earned education degrees.
  • Standardized testing should not have priority over engaging activities.
  • The importance of technology is undeniable. The importance of a good educator is unforgettable! There must be sufficient funding for both.
  • If Indiana can spend millions of dollars on standardized testing, then it seems reasonable to include a section at the end to survey students and teachers for the state to reflect on their responses.
  • Best regular and special education practices should be supported with staffing, time, and material.
  • There must always be a community network of professionals partnering with our schools.
  • Education is a competitive market. An entering and exiting questionnaire should be given to teachers. Responses should be carefully studied.
Many of the challenges in education are related to the challenges in our society. Over the years, I have compiled the following information: One baby is born every hour in the U.S. addicted to drugs. There are children not living with their problem parents with some of these children even homeless. Hunger is a concern for many with the number of students qualifying for a free or reduced-price lunch increasing with each year. Communities are battling a shortage of mental health facilities and professionals. Domestic violence shelters are serving more victims while being stretched at times to their limits. Teen suicides are increasing. Reports suggest case workers for the Indiana Department of Child Services are being overloaded. Most Indiana schools are far from the recommendation of 250 students to 1 counselor by the American School Counselor Association. ... Let's not state "for the kids" and then slash funding for much needed programs for them!

I would encourage the watching of Rise Above The Mark. It presents even more of a picture of the education platter. We must find a way to change the weight of it for the future of our education system!