Bohac OPED: To best teach our children, we need a diverse marketplace

By State Rep. Dwayne Bohac
Houston Chronicle OPED

In our education marketplace - like in all other marketplaces - it is imperative for long-term success that educators work relentlessly to deliver superior customer service by knowing their customers inside and out. One size no longer fits all. The status quo cannot prevail. It doesn't have to cost a great deal of money. But it does require a paradigm shift and out-of-the-box thinking.

For too long, "education" and "marketplace" have been two words that didn't go together. Public education was set up as a public enterprise designed for students and parents from similar backgrounds and experiences.

However, just as the private sector continues to identify and cater to a multitude of needs in the areas of business, health care and more, schools must to do the same to effectively hone students' intellects and skills so they can reach their full potential.

While many schools remain on target in this mission, those that educate children from economically disadvantaged households have a greater challenge. These schools must be willing to become marketplaces, if you will. They must reinvent themselves to meet the specific needs of their students, who should be inspired to learn, determined to graduate and encouraged to seek higher education.

While a high school degree was once sufficient to enter the workforce, more entry-level positions require some form of higher education. As the Houston Endowment Inc. reported last year, only 21 percent of Texas schoolchildren earn that level of certificate or degree.

We must look at those who leave high school prematurely and who choose not to seek higher education and encourage them to stay in the classroom.

As a father of four and 11-year member of the Texas Legislature, I have had countless opportunities to witness the challenges of many families and schools. After years of research and numerous conversations with educators, parents and students, I have realized that to best serve disadvantaged communities, the education marketplace must design new schools supported by five fundamental pillars:

A relentless focus on a new mission statement: "Students are expected to attend and graduate from a technical school, a two-year college, or a four-year university." All activities, projects, evaluations and testing should constantly be measured by whether or not they support the mission statement. If they don't, they must be jettisoned.

A culture of high expectations: Values such as hard work, self-discipline, commitment to excellence, integrity, imagination, kindness, gratitude, respect, self control and "no shortcuts" must become the new language, not just buzz words. Because children spend more time awake in their schools than they do in their homes, the new marketplace must acknowledge and accept this responsibility.

Strong campus leadership and powerful teacher collaboration: School leaders have local control with oversight over budgets and faculties. They must run their schools instilling in students the importance of higher education while building a culture that ensures intelligent and kind leaders of tomorrow.

Parent commitment: A partnership involving both family and faculty working together and focused on the individual child. If parents or guardians won't or can't come to the school, the school must go to them. Parents must understand and commit to such things as a structured, predictable time for learning at home.

Extended Learning Time: This new school model involves longer hours for student learning to mirror the 8-5 workday and may involve some weekends and a modified summer break. Learning and understanding difficult subjects can only be mastered by spending more time studying those subjects or by offering two blocks of key subjects such as math, grammar and science. ELT includes such integrated experiences as including sports, dance and the arts.

Several charter schools like KIPP Academy and YES Prep, along with Spring Branch ISD, have already employed many of these pillars with success.

One size no longer fits all. If we truly care about effectively educating all of our children, this is the new formula.

Bohac, a Republican, represents the Houston area.

[via the Houston Chronicle]

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