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The Education System

We can’t afford to wait for the education system to change from within to improve teacher training in reading instruction. The reading crisis is an URGENT problem.

Changing the education system to directly benefit students involves navigating through all of the decision makers below. Meanwhile students are attending school and with each year they continue to fail at reaching grade proficiency.

Boon is a nation-wide education non profit. Through the Boon National Scholarship program it currently funds teacher training in the science of reading, structured language instruction methods at best of class independent training organizations operating outside the education system in the majority of states.

Education Decision Makers

Federal Leadership

“Congress: The House and Senate oversees all federal policy, and provides annual funding and policy guidance to federal agencies. Political leaders and specific legislative committees lead this process. The majority party sets funding priorities and their direction. Since the national debt, the economy, and tax revenues are at issue, funding for education is unpredictable.

Department of Education: The department has a $68 million dollar budget, and is responsible for the federal role in education, and to ‘promote student achievement and for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.’ It creates federal funding policies, distributes funds, and enforces federal discrimination laws.

White House: The President is the CEO and responsible for administering the federal programs in education. Challenges: Substantial changes in education reform and funding can only be accomplished with congressional approval. The political party in office, and many other factors influence the impact of executive leadership.

National Associations: These are groups of individuals that are organized in unions and advocacy groups. These groups vary in effectiveness as the political environment changes, and where unified action, staffing, and funding are continuing issues.

State Leadership

State Board of Education: State boards typically establish policies and rules for academic content standards, accountability and assessment programs, and high school graduation requirements. They are responsible for teacher certification and licensure even though the ESEA sets standards for highly qualified teachers in most core academic subjects. State boards are political in nature and slow to change, with unpaid members that may be appointed or elected. With state leadership changes, an environment effected by state and federal legislation, they face significant hurdles.

State Universities: State universities provide accredited, teacher-certificate and licensure level courses and degree programs to prepare teachers. The National Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) oversees this process, and the state board or department of education endorses university courses under state certification requirements.

State Department of Education: The department is responsible for the administration and execution of education policy and legislation. It also enforces the regulations set by the board of education, state and federal education law. The department works to implement state standards, assessment, professional development for teachers. They can be bureaucratic, short of staff, underfunded, slow to change, resistant to advocacy, and impacted by the turnover in state political leadership.

Teachers Unions: State unions are funded by membership dues, and provide benefits such as insurance, and health benefits. Unions have policy councils that adopt policy toward pending state legislation. They are often viewed as organizations that adhere to traditional educational practices, unless the suggested reforms directly benefit teachers.

State Legislature: State legislatures enact laws on education, and may also direct state department of education activities. Obtaining adequate funding for education, particularly in states that must balance their budgets, is an ongoing issue, with many competing factors like low-income school districts, diverse student populations, and students with special needs. State action is also controlled by federal mandates like the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA).

Governors and Lt. Governors: Governors and Lt Governors can make appointments that might impact state education policy or reforms. In 2010, state governors proposed the Common Core Standards for K-12 education. The Council of Chief State School Officers developed the guidelines in partnership with the National Governors Association. Common Core Standards have been accepted by 48 states.

Local Leadership

Mayors: Mayors do not have any direct control of the school system with their jurisdiction, but in a crisis, when the public demands action, educational standards are substandard, or violence becomes an issue, mayors have been know to intervene. For the most part, the mayor has influence and a voice. The mayor’s office does have some fiscal power that can impact parts of the education budget that state law doesn’t cover.

Superintendents: The superintendent is the executive officer of the school district who generally reports to the Board of Education. The position is responsible for supervision evaluation; school finance; management; community relations; curriculum; board relations; staff and personnel development and management. Politics can determine their impact and tenure which can be as brief as three years.

Assistant Superintendents & Director of Instruction: Assistant superintendents and directors of instruction report to superintendents. They are responsible for district wide implementation of policy, state and local curricula, content standards, and assessments of schools. Often they are involved in preparing budgets that impact curricula. Their success can be measured by test scores, NCLB mandates, the public, parents, and management skills.

General Classroom,Elementary School Teachers: Teach reading, language arts, social studies, mathematics, science, art, health, physical education, and music to students in a classroom, utilizing course of study adopted by the Board of Education, and other appropriate learning activities. As generalists teachers must balance the requirements and influence of a number of constituencies including, federal, state, local government, school board, administration, parents, NCLB, and the use of standardized tests. Their control of the curriculum is an issue to consider.

School Boards: School board members are locally elected, subject to political pressures, and may serve a multi-year term with or without pay. They are state officials working with the legislature to administer the school system in each district, making the policies, setting long and short term goals, and approving the budget. The board hires and evaluates the superintendent, and tracks student achievement, balancing federal and state mandates.

Principals: Principals manage the school itself. Typically, they have a masters degree, at least three years teaching experience, and special license. They report to the superintendent, and maintain all the working parts of school, which includes managing faculty, schedules, budgets, policy, assessments, student achievement and behavior, parent relations, and the competing needs of the district, state, NCLB mandates with teachers, and unions.

Teachers Unions (Local): Contracts between teachers and school districts are negotiated by local teacher’s unions, and they include salaries and benefits. Individually, teachers do not lobby as employees of the school district. Most of the union power is at the state and national level. Classroom Teachers (Secondary) Secondary school teachers instruct students in middle school, junior high and senior high schools, where they conduct classes in specific academic subjects. Teachers who work in public secondary schools must be certified, and qualifications vary and change, but typically include examinations, bachelor’s degrees, student-teaching experience, and course work in education. Many states now require teachers to have or be working toward master’s degrees at the time of certification.

Parents (PTA): The PTA is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 which is operated by its members. As such, it must be run by nonprofit rules and regulations, and PTA presidents are the legally recognized leaders and spokespeople for their nonprofit. It is a forum that connects parents to teachers and school administrators, making it possible for parents to work and influence the school’s decision making process, raise separate funds to augment the school’s budget, and address educational issues. As a national organization it lobbies Congress.

Special Needs Teachers: Special education teachers help to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each special education student. The IEP sets personalized goals for each student and is tailored to the student’s individual learning style and ability. Special Ed teachers generally have a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, are required complete an approved teacher training program, additional training in special education, complete a student teacher internship; and pass a state licensing exam.

Parents: “The custody, care and nurturing of the child resides first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.” Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944) Parents can examine text books, lesson plans, the curriculum, and can observe their child in class. They also have a right to meet with teachers, school leadership, and any professionals that might interact with their child. School records, medical services required, disciplinary activity, and other information is available to a parent, and school policies and procedures can be appealed. A parent can also request evaluations that might contribute to the development of an Individual Education Plan to meet their child’s individual education requirements.”