Whose fault is it?

Published 11:09 am Friday, September 27, 2013

by Clyde Johnson

Recently a number of articles emerged in The Tidewater News that are relative to the Franklin City Public School System (FCPSS). These articles piqued my interest because I was an educator for several years prior to transitioning into another career. Apparently the FCPSS has an accreditation problem with the State Department of Education. Along with other issues, student performance on standardized test is below the state’s requirement. The number of fully accredited Public Schools in Virginia has dropped from 96 percent in September of 2011 to 77 percent in September of 2013. Per state education officials, this decline is due to the more rigorous test assessment. Perhaps the FCPSS was caught on the slippery slope. Be that as it may, this does not justify poor test performance. How did we get here? Who is the blame? How do we overcome and get back on solid ground?

I believe that any discussion on student performance must include student motivation. This is necessary in order to get a fair assessment of the total situation. My experience in education has led me to understand that there are a variety of factors that feed into developing the innate potentials of individuals. A child does better in school when he is motivated to learn. That is a given. The bulk of this motivation comes from the home. A child is born with innate potentials and five basic senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting). These senses gather information from his environment that helps him develop his God-given potentials. As a result, a child develops according to what he is exposed to. One coming from a wholesome, loving, caring and discipline environment that prioritizes education is very likely to do well in school. A discipline environment is not one that uses physical confrontation, which may lead to abuse. On the contrary it is an environment that sets expectations and administers consequences if the expectations are not met. A child reared in this type of environment becomes motivated and focused at an early age. This sets the foundation for establishing positive behavior patterns. A child reared in an environment that does not prioritize these attributes is not likely to do as well.

The discipline instilled within a child at an early age will help him discern between right and wrong as his environment expand beyond the boundaries of the home. These values will help keep him focused enough to weather the ills of society. Please understand that I am not suggesting that this is absolutely true in every situation.

There are very few absolutes in life however; most results verify that children experiencing a home environment that prioritizes sound educational principles do better in school.

Because children are different, learning is more challenging for some than others. I think teachers that are better facilitators should be placed with less motivated students. A teacher that is a good facilitator is usually a good motivator.

A well-motivated student requires less facilitating than the one that finds learning more challenging therefore, it stands to reason that a teacher with a good facilitating skill set can promote a higher quality of learning in the less motivated student.

I can recall when there was a group in place called the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The group was made up of parents and teachers. I don’t know if this association is still in existence or not; however, it played a vital role in bringing the parents and teachers together to address problems and concerns relative to the child.

It served as a good medium for honest and productive discussion between the parents and the teachers. It can also be used for one on one dialogues between the teacher and the parent to address personal issues pertinent to the child.

We did not get where we are overnight therefore, we cannot expect a quick fix to the problem. Along with all other corrective measures, I think the FCPSS should put something in place to profoundly intervene in early childhood education. It is critical that this area is addressed because this is where attitudes, focus, motivation, etc. are formed.

This is where the foundation for learning is set. It is easier to build on a strong foundation than on a shaky one. The best way to correct a problem is to prevent it from occurring in the first place rather than placing blame. Certainly there is enough blame to go around. We may point fingers at the home environment, society, teachers, administrators, or whomever. All of these definitely factor in the FCPSS dismal position.

Franklin, we are better than this. Let’s straighten it out!

CLYDE JOHNSON of Franklin is a retired health physicist of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth. He can be contacted at 562-4402.