The Lexington Herald Leader this morning rolls out the laundry list of problems with Kentucky schools, calls for differential pay for teachers, and smacks the KEA for playing politics with a sincere Senate effort to help.
Predictably, the Herald Leader stopped there. Saying only that something has to be done -- and throwing in a jab at the Senate initiative for mandatory ACT exams as not being the answer -- the editorial stopped short right in front of the answers.
One of them is raising standards for middle school students. If we are succeeding in primary grades and failing in high schools, the obvious place to start looking is in middle schools. Indeed, local efforts to expect more from middle school students have been effective.
Another is to implement some elements of school choice. An honest discussion about what has worked in other states would be extremely enlightening and productive.
And a third thing to do is to stop listening to the Kentucky Education Association. Their only function is to whine about salaries. Look at their own legislative action web page. They only care about protecting the jobs, salaries, and pensions of teachers and stopping any effort to pay more for better teachers. That's how you protect mediocrity. And I don't blame the KEA for this. They aren't being hypocrites. They are a labor union. They are doing what they are supposed to do and are obviously effective at it. I blame those in the media who expect them to be experts on education and look to them for leadership on education policy. When you want a photo-op with hundreds of teachers screaming about their doctor co-pays, call the KEA. But stop expecting them to fix what ails our schools. Parents need to band together to make that happen. And we don't need state help to do much of that. If we go school to school and start retaining middle schoolers who flunk more than one class each year, most of the borderline students will figure out how to stay on track.
Only then will they be sufficiently prepared for high school. And if we can accomplish that, newspapers like the Herald Leader will be less likely to look to the teachers union for education policy advice.