We need more charter schools
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September 12th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

We need more charter schools

Editor's NoteCraig R. Barrett is Former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corporation. This is part of CFR's Renewing America initiative, which examines how domestic policies will influence U.S. economic and military strength and its ability to act in the world.

By Craig R. Barrett, CFR.org 

To compete in the twenty-first century, individuals and countries will have to add value in the workplace to command a high standard of living and be competitive in the global marketplace. Education is the key to adding value. The United States recognizes that its K-12 education is not doing the job. You need good teachers with content expertise, high expectations, and feedback systems to help struggling students and teachers. These three requirements are difficult to implement in a massive public education system designed more for working adults than for learning students.

We need to follow the lead of other countries and recruit teachers from the top of universities' graduating classes. We might start by converting all schools of education to programs like UTeach in Texas, a program designed to turn content experts into teachers, letting potential teachers study subject matter they will be teaching rather than the mind numbing theory of how to teach.

The United States needs to open its eyes in regard to expectation levels in our K-12 system. Achieve, a non-profit education reform organization, has been working on a state-driven, internationally benchmarked common core curriculum to replace today's myriad state tests. This will be an effort to get all kids in the United States to focus on learning the same material by grade level, by subject matter, in alignment with other successful education systems in the world.  Driving these changes at the local level can provide the political will to implement change and get states to lead the way.

Read: Other experts on education reform and U.S. competitiveness.

Catalyzing change in education is especially difficult because of entrenched bureaucracies and the K-12 state monopoly. There is opportunity to use competition to effect change via charter schools. In states like Arizona, Colorado, and Indiana, charter schools are given great leeway in how they operate. Schools should embrace more tension in the system through paying for performance, employing data systems that track how much a child learns from a teacher, measuring teacher quality, giving local administrators the ability to manage staff and finances, and comparing results to the best education systems in the world.

There is also room for innovation, such as distance learning, one-on-one computing in the classroom, and software tools. Good tools help make education more interesting and exciting, but ultimately quality of education comes down to quality of the teacher. Without good teachers and high expectations, we will continue to languish behind other OECD countries.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Craig R. Barrett. Read more at CFR.org.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. ajd041

    We don't need more charter schools what we need is a remodeling of our education system and follow many other countries who don't force kids to go to school. And a system that does not involve state tests exams etc. They are a waste of money and don't show what people are learning they show only that people are able to recall facts and aren't actually learning. More so teachers need to be based on a system of merit not one based off of test scores. I could write a book on this subject but that's all I have for now

    September 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Schools are important for the early development of children, but parental support helps more.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:40 am | Reply
  3. george thorn

    For me it seems that the PE system hasn't had fundamental change since inception. I think K-12 is no longer applicable. Before PE was widespread 1-8 was a considered basic education. You were given the basic tools with which you could then choose to continue or not. If not you had choices within agriculture, menial labor and apprenticeships. Or you could go on to a private prep. college and then on to university if you were able. That seems sane as long as the pathways were widely open to all.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Reply

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