I think I'm right when I say number one first problem of failing schools is TRUANCY and suspension. Students get suspended for truancy --and for disruption. The combined days absent guarantee these students an automatic F --and that they will be behind those with better attendance. To hide their ignorance --and because they are inevitably getting an F at that point--there is no reason to pay attention or try --so they use the classroom as a platform for "ATTI-TOODE!" and their social objectives.
Students who are headed for F's come in late --the teacher has to stop and mark them tardy--they ask for passes out to look for lost item, to the rest room, to the locker --you name it --and argue because they don't get them--then they disrupt, fail to cooperate, act like drama queens and kings, and teacher has to take the time to write out a pass to the office with reasons why the student is being kicked out of class today --
SOLUTION: If they can figure out how to get whole neighborhoods to prioritize school attendance and bedtimes that make getting up possible, we'd be on our way to school improvement. But too many families are so dysfunctional that their kids don't have any clean clothes to wear in the morning--and the kids AND parents don't want to get up after watching TV all night. They can't find the shoes and the school bags in their upheaved homes.
My solution is radical: court-ordered faith-based or secular boarding schools designed for the children of the dysfunctional who fail to get their kids to school with any regularity. As for the home-schooled, all need to have measurements or affiliations that measure progress and be accountable to the state to indicate that their children indeed are getting an education. And finally, give vouchers to the students who WANT a good education –and let them attend wherever they want. If they fail to make good at the private schools, they lose the vouchers and go back to the public system.
Besides attendance, school discipline has been abysmal starting in the elementaries --because the principal cannot spank --and some students really are begging for someone to MAKE them mind. Some of them are WAAAAYYYY out of control--so they created special ed category for them.
It would take a little corporal punishment to regain control in some schools. Instead, they start the suspension cycle and some of these students would rather stay at home anyway. AREN'T WE BIG ENOUGH AS ADULTS TO MAKE KIDS GO TO SCHOOL AND MAKE THEM BEHAVE --without resorting to suspension? We would be if we could spank.
When I was a kid, the occasional student got a whack at the principal's office and came back thoroughly chastened, humbled, and no more "'TUDE!'"
But nowdays we wouldn't want to wilt their bloomin' self-esteem, would we?
And so the dysfuntional home produces dysfunctional student who contributes to dysfunctional classroom and slows down every class he's in --thus, even the better students are held back with a teacher who loses time trying to cope with and catch up the dysfunctionals.
Teacher quality may or may not be an issue --it's hard to tell until you have functional families behind the students and administrations that effectively discipline with the tool for discipline, i.e. the bd. of education to apply to the seat of the problem.