America must demand a great discipline plan. Our education system is being paralyzed by poor discipline. School discipline is the huge elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge. Everyone knows that the elephant is there but no one will step forward, because if you admit to having a discipline problem, you are now obligated to solving the problem. Very few people are stepping forward to address this problem head-on because they don’t see  any plausible solutions. America, we have a huge discipline problem. I am not afraid to say we have a discipline problem because I have a school discipline plan that works. This discipline plan has changed, low-performing, out-of-control schools into disciplined, safe, and productive schools.

The golden bullet that leads to solving all of America’s educational problems is great school discipline. Therefore, to start the process of solving school problems it is important to know and understand the differences between great school discipline and poor school discipline.

Great school discipline acknowledges a problem and develops  the will to solve the problem. Poor school discipline will not admit to a problem and points blame at others.  Great school discipline is the process of identify and solving big discipline problems and then identifying smaller and smaller discipline problems and solving them. This process leads to safe and productive schools.  Poor school discipline identifies and solves problems as they show up at the office. This process leads to more and more problems of increasing severity showing up at the office. This process leads to administrators being trapped in their offices and an increasingly unsafe and unproductive school environment.

The goals of mutual respect, proper manners, and proper individual and social behavior are constantly demanded by a great school discipline plan. This  plan demands the adults in a school to model, show, and teach these behaviors and skills.  Armed with respect toward students, proper manners, and behaviors, the adults of a school can confront bad behavior and thinking and demand a change in thinking and behavior. Poor school discipline sees these problems but has no mechanism or plan to solve the problems of lack of respect, poor manners, or bullying problems.

Great school discipline has consequences that change student behavior and a plan on how to deliver those consequences in an effective and efficient manner. Lecture And Pester (the first part of the school discipline system that I provide) offers  the mental consequences that changes student behavior. The Proactive and Persistent Discipline Plan (the second part of the school discipline system that I provide) offers an effective and efficient  system of constantly confronting students with the Lecture and Pester process. When these two processes are combined students change their behavior and schools become safe and productive.

Poor school discipline is the result of not having a process or philosophy of  mentally challenging students about their wrong behavior or thinking. Changing student behavior with detention halls, suspensions, and Saturday classes will not work with today’s student and  is a low percentage game. Throughout the school year the percentages decrease as students lose respect for the discipline system and the adults trying to enforce the discipline system. This downward process leads to bullying, out of control schools, community frustration, and low performing schools.

Every student in a school has a problem. Half of great school discipline is identifying and solving student problems. Often there is a underlying problem in a students life that causes a discipline problem. A great discipline plan is in the business of solving problems. When a school discipline plan solves problems more and more students bring more and more underlying problems forth to be solved. This leads to an upward spiral of happier students with less discipline problems. This upward spiral leads to high performing students and schools.

Great school discipline is a constant upward spiral. A great school discipline program does not stop when a school is safe and controlled. Every hour of every day, a great school discipline plan demands a higher level of achievement, responsibility, and self-discipline from each student, parent, teacher, and administrator. A disciplined school and student body will naturally develop programs and goals of ever higher success.

The underlying common factor for all of our education problems is poor school discipline. When the discipline problem is solved, the other educational problems in the school can be solved.

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One of the big catch phrases in education is ” silver bullets.” Everyone is in search of silver bullets to solve problems in the educational battlefield. One group is looking for the silver bullet for the dropout problem. Another group is looking for the silver bullet for the bullying problem. Other groups are looking for silver bullets in the areas of student achievement, school budget shortfalls, teacher retention, etc. There appears to be silver bullets out there, somewhere, on the educational battlefield, that will solve our educational problems.

Some groups believe they have found the silver bullets that have the power to transform education. Bill Gates and the “Billionaire Boys Club” have found the silver bullet of Charter schools. Charter Schools have a nice, bright shine of silver bullets, but they have  lead cores. Generally, charter schools are artificially created success stories. High achievement, success, and good discipline is achieved by selective entry of “good students” and dismissal of “wrong” students. The Charter School Solution does not solve the problem of where are all the low-performers, discipline problems, ESL students, LEP students, special education students, etc. will go to school. If public schools disappear, the Charter Schools Solution is doomed to failure. The ‘Silver Bullet Charter School Reformers’ will discover their false solution was standing on the shoulders of hard-working, dedicated, and self-sacrificing public school teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg has found some different silver bullets. It appears all he needs is enough silver bullets to shoot all the bad teachers and union members and his educational problems will go away. Hopefully, he will have enough silver bullets for all the new “bad teachers” that appear and are created by poor test scores, bad  administrators,  lack of funding, poor school discipline systems and plans, low- performing students, or any other education problem.

President Obama and Arne Duncan have found their silver bullets in the ‘Race To The Top’ agenda and  ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB). ‘The Race To The Top’ silver bullet has at its core  testing and the belief that only the  results of  tests can be the true indicators of success or failure. Only through constant testing can true silver be discovered. Everyone and everything must be tested and a value and a consequence assigned for each result. Poor test results demands a teacher to be fired, a neighborhood school closed, or a state denied funds. High test scores justify the argument and rational behind merit pay, charter schools, privatization of schools, and federal funding of schools. NCLB is the moral lightning rod and justification behind the ‘Race To The Top.’ They believe the combining of these two programs will lead America to the educational promised land.

There is such moral smugness about these programs created by the people at the top,  who as children were never left behind.  Race To The Top allows the blame for the achievement gap to be transferred to ” bad teachers”, ” bad administrators”, and “bad schools”. The inconvenient truth is the policies and programs created by people at the top have created these problems. For decades, we have know the schools with achievement problems. They are the schools with low funding, crumbling buildings, few resources, large class sizes, and segregated student bodies.

With the transfer of blame to others, Race To The Top policy makers can come up with more top down solutions for the problems. These solutions appear to be more and more testing, firing of teachers, closing of schools, privatizing schools, and providing funds to those that buy into Race To The Top policies.

No Child Left Behind works much the same way. The thoughts and concepts behind NCLB are noble and just. The problem is that much like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign, NCLB is too simplistic and not based on reality. Nancy never had to walk home from school in a neighborhood controlled by violent gangs pushing drugs. Nancy was never in a situation where a no response could lead to a serious beating or death.

NCLB  is often used in a” bait and switch” way to transfer blame. The bait of NCLB is the truth that children have been left behind. The switch occurs as the truth is twisted to serve different agendas. The inconvenient truth, for the people at the top,  is the educational philosophies, policies, and programs created by people at the top has left half the children in America behind. The convenient truth is these same people are not held responsible for the failures of NCLB. Another convenient truth is that the parents, teachers, students, and schools that have suffered the most can now be made the scapegoats.  These scapegoat  groups should, next,  accept the blame for the problems in education.  After accepting the blame, these groups should also accept the punishments, sanctions, and new solutions presented by the people at the top.

Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind are doomed to failure. The people at the top confidently assume they have the answers to America’s educational problems. They came up with these answers without teaching , being a student, or living through any real life public school issue or situation. The elitist thinking of these programs is exposed in their solutions to educational problems. The solutions of charter schools, closing neighborhood schools, firing of “bad” teachers, etc.  are based on their school experiences.

This arrogant and elitist thinking never allows them to extend a hand down to the people that suffer the consequences of their decisions. This elitist thinking assumes that no solutions, thoughts, or educational programs could come from people living on the bottom rungs of the educational ladder. Only when the leaders at the top reach down and allow ideas, discussion, and solutions to bubble up from the bottom, will solutions to educational problems be found.

It appears everyone in education is looking for silver bullets to solve education problems. The truth is these silver bullets won’t work until you find the golden bullet. The golden bullet is fixing school discipline. America must demand good school discipline. When the school discipline problem is solved, all groups will be able to come together and work together to find and use the silver bullets.

P.S.      If you know anyone at the top, please let them know I have a discipline system and plan that will solve America’s discipline problem.

Hope:
1) to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence
2) to believe, desire, or trust
3) to feel that something desired may happen

The  educational battle has heated up. Large foundations and “big money” people have entered the fray. Education reformers are to be found in many different forms with ever increasing passion and anger. Old voices and new voices argue passionately over every issue, every success, and every failure. The problems appear to be too big and too many to be solved. The arguments and anger of the combatants becomes more heated. On every issue there is less willingness to compromise or even to work together to solve the problem. The feeling of hopelessness, despair, and loss of hope grows in everyone. There appears to be no way to solve these problems.

Wait a minute, I have been through this process. This same educational battle was waged on a much smaller scale at Austin HS in the early 90’s. The Shared Decision Making Committee (SDMC)  made up of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders had fought the same educational battles. The SDMC, after many heated arguments and anger, eventually  realized what was the real problem.

Austin HS had every educational problem. The SDMC set up sub-committees for every educational issue. There were sub-committees for the school budget, school pride, student achievement, teacher performance, discipline, dropouts, etc. The sub-committees  and SDMC argued and sought solutions for every school problem for weeks. After months of meetings, very few solutions had come forth to solve our school problems. One huge truth had emerged from all the sub-committees and SDMC meetings. The underlying cause of most of our school problems was the school discipline problem. Until we solved the school discipline problem , we could not solve the other school problems and educational problems. The same truth applies to America, if we want to solve our problems in education, we must solve our school discipline problem. Fortunately, for America there is a school discipline plan that can solve our school discipline problem.

One saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This saying rang true for the Discipline Committee of Austin HS. We, as a committee, argued and sought solutions for our discipline problems. Only when Ms. Judy Dew stood up and read a definition of discipline did we start to solve the problem. It’s the definition of discipline I still use today : a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make a person change their behavior. The ultimate goal of  discipline is to become self disciplined.” Contained within this definition are all the reasons America has a discipline problem and all the solutions to our discipline problems.

Eventually, I developed the Lecture and Pester methods and the Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System. The Lecture and Pester process delivers the unpleasant consequences that changes students behavior. The Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System is the process of identifying the biggest problems and going after these problems. The combining of the LP processes and P&P Discipline processes are efficient and effective in solving the school discipline problem. Quickly, 90-99 % of student discipline problems disappear without taking students to the office, detention halls, Saturday classes, etc.  The combining of these two systems puts time, numbers, and control of the discipline problem on the side of the adults.

Using L&P with P&P Discipline, I was able to, by myself, clear hundreds of students from the hallways, decrease the tardy problem to zero, increase in class instruction time by 20,000 hours each month, stop bullying, cut visits to the AP offices by 90-95 % , and save tens of thousand of dollars each month in vandalism and graffiti costs.

This is why I have hope for America. If I can affect these changes in a school by myself, what could parents, teachers, and administrators accomplish working this discipline system together in a school? What would be the results if every school in America used this discipline plan?

I believe every school in America can be made safe. I believe we can eliminate the bullying problem in schools. I believe the cost of disciplining students can be reduced by several billions of dollars each year. I believe this saved money can be used to solve school budgeting problems and other school financial problems. I believe that by solving the discipline problem, we will bring different groups together to solve other education problems. I believe solving the school discipline problem will lead to solutions for all other school problems.

There is hope for America’s public schools, and it is one discipline plan away.

The teaching profession  and teachers are a strange mixture. There is no greater profession. Without teachers there would be no doctors or lawyers. Without teaching, humans would be little more than protozoa. Teachers and society inherently understand the value of education.

Teachers have pride in their profession that few outside the profession comprehend or understand. Teachers receiving 40 year pins get standing ovations from the entire staff. As the staff claps, everyone expresses admiration and amazement at the fact that a human being could last so long in such a hard and unforgiving business.

Teachers, stay in the profession and fight on against incredible odds; much like a mother lion protects her cubs. Teachers know that without a teacher fighting for them, many students have little chance in life. This dedication and tenacity is both a blessing and curse.

The blessing of such passion are teachers that take on all challenges and obstacles in order to provide an education for students. These are the teachers who will fight through every humiliation, abuse, evaluation, or lack of respect provided by students, administrators, parents, and fellow teachers. I have known teachers that died  from stress, heart attacks and allergies to chalk dust, as their doctors begged them to leave the teaching profession.

This tenacity and determination to teach can also be a curse and a hindrance to the teaching profession. Teachers will  retreat to the classroom and lock the doors when dissension,  controversy, or issues become a problem. The classroom is the safe protected area where attacks and controversy can be avoided. One  of the quickest ways out of education is to challenge the principal or power structure of the school. Another quick ticket out is to question any policy, law, or theory about education. Also, a quick exit out is to say there might be a problem with discipline, student achievement, merit pay, teacher moral, or anything at all. In order to keep one’s job and help students it is often prudent to retreat to the classroom.

This retreat and isolation to the classroom has saved and prolonged many teaching careers. The retreat to the classroom and the isolation of the classroom is also a great weakness of the teaching profession. Because of this isolation and retreat by teachers to the classroom we have become the whipping boy of America. If there is a problem in education or America, then it is blamed on the teachers. We are the easy target that will not fight back.

Where is the collective will and voice of the American Teacher? When are we going to stand together and say enough is enough? When are we going to get mad enough to unlock the doors, step out of  classroom and fight for our students in the public arena? We are the sleeping giant of the professions. How many more Pearl Harbors do we have to endure before we wake up?

Teachers, we must wake up and take the whip from the insulting hand. The time has come to stand together on the local, district, state, and national levels to solve educational problems.

At the school level, honor and protect all teachers. We should honor and respect teachers of high performing classes and programs. We must also honor and respect teachers that take on the challenges of teaching low performing classes that also include individuals who may be a threat to society. We must not allow different forces and powers to divide the faculty into good teacher-bad teacher groups. There are few truly bad teachers in schools, there are many more bad teachers created by poor school discipline and policies. We must fight as one for the rules, policies, and attitudes that make us and the school the best.

The same process must occur at the district level. We must not allow low-performing, highly accredited school issues to  divide the profession. We do not allow Special Education students to be called low-performing. Perhaps there are schools in America that are more challenging than other schools?

At the state and national level, we must develop our voice and power to determine our future. We allow too many people outside our profession to speak for us. The policies, direction, and attitudes in the education arena are created without a strong input from teachers. Everyone else speaks up for teachers. The next time the Texas Legislature steps up to use funds from Teacher Retirement funds, may we have enough voice, unity, and political power to stop them.

As a nation we are aware of a huge bullying problem in our schools. Are we aware that not only the students are being bullied but also the teachers? As adults and teachers we must stand up to the bullying. The passive attitude of retreat and isolation must be replaced with an aggressive and united attitude. Teachers must develop the voice, unity, direction of purpose, and power to say,”WE WILL NOT BE THE WHIPPING BOY OF AMERICA”.

The sleeping giant of passiveness in the teaching profession must wake up. Only by waking up and standing up can we truly protect and fight for our students, the teaching profession, and the United States of America.

EDUCATIONAL SHELL GAMES

August 18, 2010

Movies from the 1930’s often show the “con game” where the con man has three peanut shells and one pea. The con man is matched up against someone trying to pick the correct shell the pea is under. A great con man is a manipulator and juggler of psychology, motivation, and odds. He knows the pigeon cannot win. The art of the con is keeping the pigeon and the crowd in the game, thinking they can win until they eventually lose. Educational shell games are set up the same way with the added bonus of the con men believing they are helping the pigeons win.

The Charter School concept is an educational shell game. Charter Schools  are the hidden pea under the shell. If you go to Charter Schools, then the gold will come your way. The idea is that Charter Schools will solve our education problem.

Charter Schools are a crooked shell game. They play the game with all the rules slanted their way. Charter schools pick  and choose who attends their schools. Only students that make a commitment to the school and themselves are allowed to attend. Students that fail to maintain this commitment and motivation are dismissed from the school.

Public schools cannot select who they want to teach. Public schools are required to teach whomever shows up. Therefore, when muggers, robbers, stalkers, and other categories of juvenile delinquents are released early from detention centers, they end up in public schools. The removal or expulsion of disruptive and dangerous students enrolled in public schools is a long and difficult process.

Years ago, Austin High School went on a campaign to expel disruptive and dangerous students from the school. Community leaders and politicians quietly and discretely asked the school not to expel so many students. An epidemic of break-ins, robberies, and vandalism were occurring in the neighborhood. Expelled students with too much time and opportunity were creating a serious problem for hard-working families. Austin H.S. cut the number of expulsions to the minimum.

Charter schools, magnet schools, etc. are set up to be successful. They are promoted as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Everyone associated with these charter schools goes around high-fiving each other and patting each other on the back. All those associated with this charter school sham should take a second look at themselves. The heart and soul of teaching and saving America is the battle in low-performing inner city schools. Two years of teaching in tough schools would drive charter school teachers away from the profession. Real teachers fight the battle in old schools,with limited resources. They use their own money and time to reach as many students as possible. Every day they worry or cry about the ones they can not reach. They suffer further the indignity of being labeled low- performing by grading systems that do not test for real learning or teaching.

Testing is another pea in the shell game. Pass the test and you are high-performing. All schools have to do is pass the test and all of our educational problems will be solved. The gold will come when we have high test results.

We should ask some questions before playing this educational shell game.

How come they keep changing the name of the state mandated tests? In Texas , we have had TAAS, TAKS, TAGS titles for tests.

The first year I taught I was excited because our students had improved so dramatically. The test scores had gone up in every area. The dean of instruction quickly tempered my excitement. He told me the principal had opted out to take the easy Metropolitan Achievement Test. The dean said there were different levels of difficulty to the same test. The principal decided how he was going to explain the test results. Either test results were lower because the test was harder this year or test results are higher because of exceptionally hard work by students,teachers, and administrators.

The constant improvement in schools and districts tests scores and rankings for the past 20 years can not be rationally explained without changing the name of the test. By changing the name of the test are we playing an educational shell game?

Why are colleges saying students are less prepared for college? Why has the time new college students need to be in remedial classes increased over the years? Why do we have these trends in colleges when test scores and the number of exceptional and recognized schools has been going up decade after decade? Why do we put such faith in these tests when there has been no clinical studies to determine if these tests really test what they are suppose to test? Where are the tests to check how well prepared students are for life? Teachers teach the whole student. Teachers teach the rules and values of civilized society. Without the rules, ethics, philosophy social behavior, courtesy, respect for others, desire to learn, will to win, and teamwork taught by teachers and coaches, I believe our democratic society would have disappeared long ago.

How does the increasing number of dropouts and lower graduation percentages correlate with 20 years of improved test scores and higher school rankings? Hello!!! Are we looking at a bunch of educational shell games?

All this shuffling of peas in the educational shell game. These fixes will not solve our educational problems. The key to solving educational problems is establishing well-disciplined schools. Charter schools establish discipline by selective enrollment, picking students that have made a commitment, and dismissing students that do not fit into the mold. Public schools will be as successful as charter schools when discipline is established in our public schools.

One final thought, Professor Steven Unwin informs me that the word “education” has  Greek roots. In Greek, education also means “to lead out of.” Therefore, teaching is more than passing tests. Teaching is also leading students out of poverty, out of ignorance, and out of the darkness of despair to the light of hope.

School budgets across America are at a breaking point. Teachers are losing their jobs. Schools are closing. Enrichment programs and extra curricular activities are disappearing. School administrators are searching and asking for more money. President Obama is predicting more teaching jobs will be lost. School districts are facing huge shortfalls or deficits in their financial pictures. Why are we in this current situation?

The main contributor to our current school financial disaster is years and years of poor discipline in our schools. Poor discipline leads to billions of dollars being wasted each year. American schools can solve their financial problems by fixing their school discipline systems.

How can I make such statements? Because of what I have seen and experienced in the school system. It’s devastating. However, I have also implemented a school discipline program that quickly and effectively reversed the loss of money created by bad discipline.

My observations and statements have no statistical backing. Hopefully, common sense and rational thinking will overcome the need for statistical support. Personally, after years in school systems I don’t trust school statistics.

Austin High School  in the 1990’s had 3,000-3,400 students. The school had five full time police officers assigned to the school. Two Houston ISD officers, two Houston Police Department officers and one substance abuse monitor(SAM) made up the police force. Houston ISD has several hundred police officers on their payroll. These officers need cars, offices, command centers, communication devices, etc. Millions and millions of dollars spent each year for a police presence in schools.

Vandalism was rampant in the school. Windows and doors were constantly broken. The plumbing and toilets were persistent targets. The flooding of hallways and bathrooms were not an uncommon occurrence. How many tens of thousands of dollars were used for constant maintenance?

Graffiti covered every wall and door of the school. The plant operator and several custodians worked one or two days a weekend painting over graffiti, and the  anti-graffiti paint was very expensive. Thousands and thousands of dollars were spent every month on this anti-graffiti campaign.

Poor discipline starts adding up to real money when you start factoring in the cost of alternative schools, detention referral centers, after school detention halls, Saturday detention sessions, and extra assistant principals and secretaries to handle heavy work loads. Millions and millions of dollars involved in this process.

The above expenses are some of the more visible costs of poor discipline. The covert costs of poor discipline permeates throughout our society.

The major contributor to our dropout rate is poor school discipline. Students drop out of school when they feel vulnerable and at risk. Just saying ‘no’ and avoiding gangs and bullies are not possible in undisciplined schools. Poorly disciplined schools lead to situations where tens of thousands of instructional hours are lost each month. Schools lose money that come from average daily attendance and higher test scores. When bullies and disruptive students destroy the learning environment of a classroom, how much money is being lost?

The dropout and discipline problem becomes a billions and billions of dollars problem. Communities start after-school programs to try and reach these students. Community colleges and four-year universities are adding more remedial classes and time in an effort to get students to the college level. All these duplicate programs being implemented to get students to an acceptable level of knowledge and life skills. Then, let’s add more billions as the U.S. builds more jails to house those that don’t have the skills or knowledge to make society better. We all know it costs much more to jail a person than educate a person.

Finally, the U.S. loses an unmeasurable amount of money each year as our population becomes less educated. In an increasing competitive world we are less able to compete.

Therefore, if we truly want to balance our school and national budgets, we must fix our school discipline problems.

Everyone knows that we must do something to improve our schools.  There is so much yelling, screaming, and argument about public education. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students are frustrated and anxious about the safety, achievement level, and money needed for good education.

As parents, teachers, and administrators we all want the same thing. We want the best education for our children. As a discipline committee, and chairman of the discipline committee, we argued for weeks about education and the problems of our school. The first discovery made by the discipline committee was no other school problems could be solved without good school discipline. Solve the school discipline problem and problems of dropouts, attendance, bullies, and achievement disappear. Every school problem has at its core a discipline problem. If we solve the discipline problem in our schools, we will solve the money problems of our school systems. Billions of dollars are wasted on poor school discipline.

The second discovery of the discipline committee  was we needed a definition of discipline. As a committee we argued about discipline for weeks. We argued about all the problems of the school: violence, drop out rates, tardiness, bullies, poor achievement levels, etc. In truth, we were arguing about the effects of poor discipline. Our country is doing much of the same thing as the school discipline committee did at Austin High School. We all knew where we wanted to go and we all know what discipline should look like, felt like, and should be. We never solved any problems until we came up with a definition of discipline.  The definition of discipline I now use is:

discipline: a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make an individual change his/her behavior. The ultimate goal of discipline is to become self-disciplined.

Contained within this definition of discipline is the reason and solution for all our school problems. Our schools don’t have effective consequences for bad behavior. Too many students don’t change their behavior. Hard working teachers, parents, and administrators are overwhelmed with ever-increasing numbers of discipline problems. The problems of our education system is not caused by a shortage of hard-working, dedicated, and professional administrators and teachers. We, as a society, are left with arguing over the effects of bad discipline.

The second major problem in our schools is an ineffective and inefficient system of administering school discipline. The consequences that are intact in public schools now are ineffective and do little to solve the problem of discipline. School personnel are burdened with a system of office visits, paperwork, and record keeping that overwhelms everyone involved. The combining of an ineffective and inefficient school discipline system with consequences that don’t change behavior lead to Columbine-type situations.

There are thousands of schools in the U.S. with huge discipline problems. This leads to a third huge problem. A problem solving strategy of denial, blaming others, or minimizing the problem of discipline within a school. These strategies indicate a lack of success with the current discipline systems and set of consequences available to school personal.

I am starting this blog to change the way we look at school discipline. I know how to establish an effective and efficient school discipline system that combines a set of consequences, which I call Lecture and Pester, that changes student behavior and will quickly allow our schools to succeed.

Please help me in this process of changing the way we look at educational problems and how to solve these problems. I will continue to be blogging about different issues and solutions that will transform our public education system.