We asked readers “If the state put you in charge of San Diego Unified School District, how would you fix things?”

One thing many people forget when trying to “fix” public schools is that students are clients, not “products.” When we warehouse kids and expect them to all fit into the same mold, we do them a disservice. After decades of dealing with public education, both from the inside as a teacher and SDSU supervisor for student teachers, and as a parent, I see that the system in general is broken.

We spend huge amounts of money to deliver subpar education to hordes of kids who are lacking in basic skills and self esteem. The issues are complex, but most of the problems can be boiled down to two things: huge class sizes (leading to lack of connection with adult role models) and focusing on the wrong things. State testing is a joke. Most public school teachers spend most of the year teaching to the test so they and their administrators have jobs the following year, and most of them hate it, but that’s today’s reality in the classroom. But kids are more than test scores. Good teachers are creative, and the best love their jobs so much that “term limits” aren’t necessary. The burned out ones need to go, and many burn out quickly because of huge class sizes (try working with 200 to 220 clients per day, including 1 to 3 documents for each client, day in and day out).

Some charter schools and magnet schools have figured this out. Pay attention to the schools that don’t have their first focus on test scores, then go watch teachers with their classes. You can weed out bad teachers within five minutes. If they don’t treat “clients” (students) with respect, they should be fired, tenured or not. Or just ask the kids. They know who should stay and who should go, and it has nothing to do with money.

Monica Hagen lives in San Diego.

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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