School Vouchers

What is a School Voucher?

School vouchers is a trend that has many people in an uproar. Some say that school vouchers will equalize educational opportunities for students, while others say vouchers will widen the gap of inequality. School vouchers are supposed to give parents a choice as to where their children can go to school, but their choice is not necessarily the only factor in determining the school their children end up in. So, the question is: what is a voucher and what does it buy?

School vouchers are a way of helping low income families give their children a better education by allotting them money in the form of a coupon. In doing this, the state has to provide vouchers for every child attending school, not just children of low income families. The value of a school voucher has been determined at $3,000 per child. This voucher is used by parents to pay for a school of their choice. It is said that vouchers open the door for children of lower income to enter a public or private school.

Pros and Cons.

This is not entirely true. Although a parent can chose a public or private school, private schools are not obligated to take the child. Most private schools require an interview and check academic achievement. If the child does not meet the requirements, then he/she will not be admitted. On the other hand, all public schools have to accept everyone that comes through the door. As long as the private schools have this admission policy, it is unlikely that this will equalize educational opportunities. The equality issue seems to be lop sided with regard to the admission of students because private schools do not have to admit everyone who comes to them and public school do.

With the $3,000 voucher, a parent may choose a private school and their child may be accepted, but there is still another factor involved in this equation. Private schools charge tuition and that tuition may be greater than the amount of the voucher. This may not be a problem for the middle to upper class family, but a low income family would not be able to afford the extra money to send their child to a private school. Again, this seems as though the schools would still be unequal in its giving parents a choice because only those who can afford the private school will be attending them and those who cannot will be forced to go to a public school.

Although, for those low income families the opportunity of choice may be giving some children privileges of a better quality of education that they may not have otherwise been able to take advantage. Parents who have a choice will try to choose the best school for their children. A competition between schools may occur, where teachers will have to improve in their teaching to draw in or keep students in their school. It will become important for schools to have parents choose them, so the quality of the education may increase.

The Controversy.

Vouchers may be used for schools that are public or private, religious or non-religious. Of the private schools, 85% are religiously affiliated. This brings up the issue of how constitutional vouchers are. There has been a separation of church and state for decades, yet with these vouchers, the state is allowing funding to go to religiously affiliated schools. Should the state allow funding to go toward something it has been trying to separate itself from or should the state just turn the other cheek and focus on the advantages it will be giving the students?

What Do You Think?

It seems as though school vouchers are supposed to mean well, but financially advantaged families still have the upper hand. It does not seem to be creating equal education for all students, but it does give low income families more of chance to send their children to a better school than they had before. Students will achieve in any school situation as long as the quality of education is valued. Public or private, everyone should have a choice, but it does not seem as though the choices are on equal terms.

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Year Round Schooling

What is Year Round Schooling?

Year round schooling – if you are a teacher or administrator, you either love the idea or hate it. It is a term that is all about change, and we know that change makes people nervous. It means having the school open all year round, changing schedules, and more teacher preparation. Sounds scary, but it does not have to be because there are many forms of year round schooling that could be beneficial to the increasing population of students within the schools today.

Teachers are faced with large class size and inclusion and tend to get burned out very easily. Teachers who are just starting out and teachers who have been teaching for years are trying to teach too many children with a broad range of ability levels. Scheduling could be a solution to this problem by spanning school education over the whole calendar instead of the current ten month plan. Some examples could be 9 weeks in school and 3 weeks vacation, 12 weeks in school and 4 weeks vacation, or 18 weeks in school and 6 weeks vacation. The single track option of year round schooling would reduce the number of vacation days and teachers would be able to spend less time reviewing and more time teaching new material.

Year round schooling may not be the answer, but it sure is a push in the right direction. Schools who are looking for a change in how to handle the overwhelming number of students can certainly take a look at this option. There is a multiple track scheduling that will accommodate groups of students (K-1, 2-3, 4-5, etc.) and each would rotate following one of the year round calendar option. The school would essentially be open all year, but would be able to handle the enormous student population.

The Controversy.

There are plenty of reasons why schools would not want to adopt this type of calendar schedule. For one, cost effectiveness may decrease due the school being used for twelve months instead of the traditional ten. There are mixed results on whether or not student academic achievement on tests increases, decreases, or stays the same. Teachers would have more planning to do and less vacation time to do it. Older students would not be able to get summer jobs, due to the lack of a summer vacation, and younger students would miss out on summer camp activities.

With that in mind, would schools benefit from adopting a year round calendar? Would students benefit from being educated all year instead of the traditional nine month block? Some say yes to both. Schools would be able to handle the increase in students and teach them more effectively. Students would be more likely to retain information and therefore learning would flow instead of being received in chunks. Intersessions would be able to provide remedial help or enrichment programs to better meet the needs of the students. Teachers and students would have steadier breaks which would lead to decreased absenteeism.

Year round schooling alone cannot guarantee success for teachers and students. It is a process that must be accompanied by improvement of curriculum and instruction. Resources must be provided to facilitate the necessary changes, new activities must be initiated by the school and the teachers to promote learning, and communication is a necessity between administrators, teachers, and parents in order for this to continue to work and be successful.

What Do You Think?

If a change is needed then this seems to be an option that could be feasible for any school district. Sometimes we have to take a look at what we have, what we want, and try to decide which is best. Tradition has its place, but we have to decide when and where it is appropriate. The schools are in dire need of a better way of functioning, with so much emphasis placed on them and so little support for them. We need to stop thinking of ourselves and start thinking what is best for our children.

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Multiculturalism

What is Multiculturalism?

Multiculturalism – if you are a teacher you have probably heard this word many times. You may have also come across many different meanings of this term. To some, this is just another item to “fit” into the curriculum, perhaps in language arts or social studies. And to others, it is a cultural day/week/month that will occur and not resurface again. Breaking the word down “multi-” = many, “culture” = ways of living of a group that has been handed down from generation to generation, and “-ism” = practice. Simply putting these definitions together, it may be assumed that multiculturalism is the practice of studying the ways of living of many different groups that has been handed down many generations. Yes, this does sound like something that could be incorporated into a social studies lesson, but is this what we really mean by multiculturalism?

Meanings Have Changed.

Over the years, our country has been called the “melting pot” and this meant that those who came to this country would “melt” into our culture. Everyone came from far away lands to fulfill their “American dream” of getting a job, raising a family, and living a happy life. Today, we are no longer referred to as the “melting pot,” because there is no longer this desire to be the same and do the same things. We are more of a “mosaic” or “tossed salad” where, rather than dissolving and reforming, we piece together each individual to create a total collection. We now have to understand and accept the differences that occur among us because without one piece or ingredient the mosaic or salad is incomplete.

With that in mind, we can redefine what is meant by multiculturalism. It is no longer just studying the different cultures, it is acknowledging that our country is made up of all the cultures of the world and this diversity must be understood and accepted. So, we can now say that multiculturalism is a philosophy or awareness that shows this understanding and acceptance of the diverse world we live in. This is not to say that we do not need to study the different cultures, because that is just one of the ways to begin to acquire an understanding.

The Controversy.

Multiculturalism has many different issues that go under its umbrella. Although one may think that they understand multiculturalism, it is possible that some of the issues were not considered. Culture is the first issue, being the base root of the term, which can be studied and learned. Other issues are race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and even those persons who are physically and emotionally challenged. Every classroom may not include all of these types of students, but sooner or later students will face all of these differences through their family, friends, coworkers, or even just in everyday living. It is our job as teachers to expose students to these differences and give them the tools to say that it is okay to be different.

What tools and how? This question runs through the mind of every teacher for every subject and lesson. But what are we talking about, a philosophy and awareness with regard to all of the issues that are covered under the term multiculturalism. To do this we need to model a positive attitude toward all of these issues, that the children will, in turn, model that behavior. If we become aware of any biases that we posses then we can learn to overcome them and teach the children to overcome theirs as well. Becoming familiar with these issues and understanding them will reduce any apprehensions we have and will in turn give us the tools we need to posses this positive attitude.

This sounds like it could be very simple, just be careful of what you say and how you say it, right? There are other things that need to be considered. Some feel that teaching cultural appreciation can be misleading by discussing the stereotypes of the cultures. Others feel that multiculturalism has been taken too far on the politically correct spectrum and that it takes away from the quality of learning. With these things in mind we, as teachers, need to be aware of the stereotypes, recognize them, but not place too much basis on them. We need to be conscious that there are differences among people within the different cultures and to stress that it is okay to be different.

What Do You Think?

This is the attitude we want to be instilling in the students we teach. This is what students will remember and help give them self-esteem. In addition to trying to teach the students subject content, isn’t this positive attitude of themselves and others what we are trying to give them?

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