*Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Julia Penman* has been a teacher for 5 years in her local public school district and this is her last year.
“I just can’t do it anymore.” says Penman.
“The parents hate the schools, the schools are failing the students and the students have just given up. Have you ever seen a 5 year old who has given up? I have and it’s tragic.”
Julia holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and is leaving her teaching career for a job in sales.
Carrie Quinlan’s* mom pulled her daughter from 3rd grade after an unsuccessful year at a religious private school.
“I decided that I could do a better job homeschooling her. She’s reading on a 10th grade level but the school refuses to give her work that will actually challenge her,” says Miss Quinlan. “She started school in the best public school in our district and I transferred her to private when the administration there told me that ‘there’s no such thing as an intellectually gifted student’. What do you do when the public and private schools refuse to help? “
These stories are not anomalies - according to NCES data, homeschooling is the fastest growing form of education in the United States and newspaper stories about teacher turnover have been seen nationwide.
In May, the Orlando Sentinel ran a story about talented teachers leaving Florida classrooms and referenced some shocking statistics:
40% of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years after they start.
Florida’s attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20% higher than the national average.
According to a 2014 study this constant turnover costs tax payers over $130 million a year.
A school for every child and a child for every school
Despite the results of study after study confirming the fact that students learn best within the constructs of a personalized curriculum our schools largely balk at attempts to transition to a student centered model of learning. Teachers often cite student resistance and deviation from the required curriculum as reasons not to allow students to take the lead. This mindset begs the question: "What is the purpose of Industrial Education?"
In a country where innovation and creativity are prized attributes the majority of our schools fall woefully short of creating a framework where student individuality is celebrated. Students hear the message loud and clear: What you are good at doesn’t matter.
Despite this there are those who are listening.
Education pioneers are bringing concepts and learning philosophies to the United States from countries that have educational systems which consistently top world rankings. Alternative educational environments like Forest Kindergartens and Nature schools are gaining popularity across the nation for their commitment to hands-on learning, active environments and outdoor education.
Many private schools are even beginning to offer flexible day options that give students the ability to attend school two - three times a week and spend the rest of the week exploring topics of personal interest.
So what is everyone looking for? What is the perfect educational environment?
Julia Penman is not sure that it exists. “I would go back to teaching if I could find a place where teachers could teach and children were allowed to be children.”
Interestingly enough Miss Quinlan’s vision of a perfect school is not all that different: “I just want a place where my daughter can be herself.”
A free, appropriate public education is still a dream yet to materialize for many families. Until it does, the search for greener pastures continues.