Bob Barboza

CEO and Founder Kids Talk Radio, Kids Talk Radio

This conversation is closed.

Can you give me one idea that would help to save public education?

We can't and should not close down public education in America. However, we have to fix it and fix it fast.

The Big Question: What would it take to fix public education in America?

You can come close to solving this huge problem by getting involved in this conversation. We suggest that you deal with one or more of the following questions. We are the folks from Kids Talk Radio and we want to start this important conversation with you. Will you help us to get a conversation going?

1. How can we pay for public education?
2. How should we train teachers?
3. Should we have teachers organizations/teachers unions?
4. What do we do with children that don't behave?
5. Do we make an investment in training teachers?
7. What do we do with students that don't speak English?
8. What do we do with students that fall behind?
9. What do we do with students that are gifted and talented?
10. How do we fire anyone in the public school system?

We would love to start a conversation with adults dealing with any of these questions. Our next project involves getting kids in on this same conversation.

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    Jun 7 2011: My one idea to save public education is to eliminate standardized testing. How does it help students? I contend it does nothing for students and takes away time and resources that could be going toward actual education, as opposed to test taking.
  • Jun 18 2011: If you listen to Sir Ken Robinson's talk on the learning revolution, you may find that your questions need "dis-enthralling". Without seeking to be critical, may we suggest that your questions seem stuck in the system that is the problem. In essence, they seek to tweak a fundamentally flawed system.

    When the canary dies in the coal mine, it is not because the canary is sick or has reached its normal end of life, it is because the coal mine is toxic. The same holds true with the education system. The system is flawed.

    So let's look at the bigger picture, dis-enthral ourselves from salary levels, teacher training, unions, disruption, student classifications or personnel questions. These are symptoms.

    What happens if instead we seek to redefine what zoologists call "the home range"? The home range is a concept coined by WH Hunt in 1943 when he mapped out the boundary of a pack of animal's movement during the course of its daily activity. When applied to a community of 10,000 people whose home range is extended by cars, that community drives over a quarter million miles a day! It is that car-based home range that mutilates education. It also pollutes, destroys quality of life, isolates young & old, wastes precious resources & time.

    What happens if instead, we begin to build communities of 10,000 around a strong local economy whose purpose is to enable its citizens and youth to enjoy "a good life", understood as the social pursuits of conviviality, citizenship, artistic, intellectual and spiritual growth? What happens if we build a cosmopolitan town centre surrounded by say 20 villages and an industrial park, where the home range is half a mile... no cars within, everything within a 10-minute walk.

    And then, on each village plaza, we build the classrooms, so students study surrounded by working adults - not only the role model of their teacher, but thousands of adults. They eat in the cafes with adults. They participate in life. To learn more see
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    Jun 15 2011: Educating people is a multi-dimensional endeavor and not surpising the roadblocks to providing our children with a relevant, education that develops them for the challenges of our era are also multidimensional. We must consider or perhaps reconsider the following relevant factors: social/media environment that trains our kids to be consumers rather than builders. I taught middle school for ten years and I found kids of all capacities and socio-economic standing will respond to a classroom that is fair, creative and relevant. Fair in that a teacher can lead them to edges of their abilities if kids are graded on process more than outcomes. Creative in that a teacher weaves together multiple learning strategies that address the growing person where their current abilities lie plus access to their next level where their abilities are only beginning to develop. And this toward learning outcomes that fit the true developmental level of the developing person. Relevant in that a teacher can always answer the question "why is this important?" However, all this rests on a more fundemental question: what is the human being for? a complex question to be sure. Now, what practical structual changes do we make to save public education? The structure of public education must conform to the processes necessary to realize a fair, creative and relevant education. This requires establishing several capacities in public schools: teachers must be philosophically oriented. That is they must engage in and foster good thinking habits. Teachers must be astute compassionate leaders of developing people. Teachers must have a proper number of students enrolled in smaller schools and be accountable as professionals for choosing and implementing learning and assessment protocols appropriate for each of their student cadres. I belive the transition to this kind of educational environment can only happen through charter schools run by informed, caring professionals; not by most school districts.
  • Jun 5 2011: These are great questions- and none have an easy answer. The fact of the matter is because every one has gone through the education system, every one feels like they are "experts." So, in that regard, since I have had surgery must mean that I can now perform that same surgery on someone else?
    I think those who are going into education should be exposed to the classroom early on in their college career. The sooner they set foot in the classroom, the better they can figure out if it is the career for them as well as pick up as many tools they can for their teaching toolbox. They should also be paid to be in the classroom when in training. Teaching is the only career that you do an internship for up to 18 weeks - UNPAID.
    I think with the current education system and government, teachers should have the right to join a union if they would like. Everyone would like the support and ability to have representation if they are needing it.
    Children who do not behave need to have consequences that fit the misbehavior and PARENTS should be included in that decision as well as making it important (if not mandatory) for parents to take parenting lessons. I know that some people will say that there are kids who do not have control of their actions/behaviors but that is why the schools have IEP's and then tailor the child's education to their learning and behavior issues. Students who do not speak English should not be in the education system. They should have to pass a test or somehow show they can understand and fluently speak English at the grade/age that they are at. If they can not, then they can not enroll. It'd be great if there were specialized schools that would target these kids to be able to get them up to speed while still educating them in their native language. Students have a responsibility to study, prepare and execute skills when they are asked to. If they do not, and fall behind, they should NOT move on.
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    Jun 1 2011: Other than North Korea, and perhaps Cuba and Albania to a lesser extent, the world has abandoned planned economies because they evidently do not work. North Korea, for example had to recently reduce the height requirement for the military after years of self inflicted malnutrition. Dictating what, where and how a person will work with a quota thrown in does not work efficiently especially when there is no recognition for extra effort and creativity. Why then do so many Americans still support the Idea that we can tell a child to jump on the standardized conveyor belt of factory style public education and still be chagrined when it does not work well for most of the students? It is obviously more difficult to measure the results in the black box of the brain than in a grist mill.
    How many Teachers does it take to change a light bulb? One or a hundred it still won't happen unless the light bulb is motivated to change! People are not like Cheetahs who are nearly genetically identical speed specialists. We are instead specialists in specializing. Other than twins we are all different like gem diamonds. If you send diamonds through an ore crusher you get a lot of dust suitable for nail files. If you want to help a student achieve their potential you must study each one individually before you start polishing for brilliance. Freedom, responsibility and empowerment are the key tools to maintain motivation. Requiring that every student take so much math and science so we can compete with other nations is ludicrous. How many rocket scientists do we need? We often seem to end up with mostly competent generalists who have B.S. skills and little creativity at the outlet of so called higher education and not the natural specialists who have discovered and developed their unique talents, the sort of creative innovators that society so badly needs.
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    Jun 1 2011: That public education, as it is now, needs to be fixed is an understatement. But can a hide bound conservative institution be "fixed" is an unanswerable question at this time. To some extent Charter schools are forcing Public schools to innovate in order to compete, at least in Arizona, so I have heard. In Finland, which rates #1 world wide year after year, they spend less money, days and hours on Education and yet get better results. How?
    First they do not have School Districts in the sense that we do. All the schools compete with all other schools and students and parents support schools with total freedom of choice. WOW! What a concept! Sounds suspiciously like free enterprise. Result? they have no bad schools because a school must succeed (at least in the eye of the consumer) or close their doors.
    Second, teachers get respect in School and in Society, but then they all have at least a Master's degree before they can lead a class.
    Third, These very competent teachers often stay with a group for three years or more so that they are really involved and can really get to know their students needs. They also do not group the students rigidly by age or ability so that in effect the students team up with the teacher to help each other learn, while learning to value their differences.
    Fourth they Do Not have a sacred cow curriculum! Every school Leader decides with the teachers and students and parents what they want emphasized. They tend to focus on learning skills rather than facts.
    In America several studies have shown that one year after graduation the better students retain only about 20% of the content. What a waste!
    This consumer centered approach then gives students more freedom AND responsibility and helps retain motivation (the single most important factor in education, don't you think).
    Sir Ken Robinson's talks showcase the need to respect the differences students have in learning styles and talents.
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    May 30 2011: I think we need to stop looking for a magic bullet theory and focus on reducing student-teacher ratios. Teachers care, and if they had the time to adapt lessons to reach the kids in their classes with different learning styles and different ability levels, to talk to the parents of every kid who is struggling, and to give kids time to explore creative solutions/approaches, then the vast majority of them would, and there would be a huge step forward.
    • May 31 2011: I have taught for many years. In many different environments -even a few different countries. The single most influential factor was classroom size. The second was curriculum. For students who struggle, that is another can of worms and each child must be looked at in a wholistic way. Many things can be contributing to misbehavior. For example, Did they get enough food that morning? Was there some crisis in their personal life? Does the teaching methodology match their learning style? Do they view what they are learning as pertinent-is the teacher pointing this out? Are they asked to think for themselves and contribute rather than simply mimic. Another, I am reluctant to say is the culture of media. A doubting Thomas was I but now I have seen how young children's behavior changes dramatically and older children's problem solving capabilities grow when media is restricted. I believe you are right, there is no magic bullet, though that appears to be the easy way out.
  • Jun 5 2011: The last topic of "how do we fire anyone in the public school system" is just like any other workforce. You fire the ones who are not working. And you can NOT base their achievements or lack thereof on students scores of state or national tests. The entire nation has the wrong idea about tenure. Tenure does not mean you can never be fired. It simply means you can not be fired without due process. Any teacher can get fired, at any time. If you are tenured, and you are fired, you can ask for a hearing. You have to have a hearing within x amount of days and you have an educational lawyer that represents you. The district has to prove that they followed the law, gave several warnings or situations to improve what needed to get better as well as document the situation. If the district did not follow the law or code then the firing can be reversed- ONLY if the teacher has asked for their hearing. Also tenure helps in the fact that if you are working in the school system for 25 years and there is a budget short fall (imagine that!) and the district is looking for a way to make cuts- and you just happen to make the most amount of pay out of everyone in the district- they can not fire you due to that reason. And speaking of pay- I think a) teachers should get paid MORE than they do now and/or B) those who teach for 6 years in any district (not just low income) should get their college tuition wrote off. Now, of course, if you went to Harvard to be a teacher, that may be a different story... but that is just my ideas on how to make the system better. Other professions do similar things, I don't understand why education is not run that way.
  • Jun 5 2011: Statistics show that those students who fall behind or do not do well continue on that downhill slide and most often drop out. If they have not mastered the concepts in which a teacher is required that their students master, they should not move on. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. I also think kids should be exposed to countless, creative and different classes early on. If I wanted to be a firefighter, why would I want to sit through music class? Why would I need to take French? Why would I have to be assessed on my writing skills of a persuasive essay? Why not give that student the classes he/she needs for their future EARLY so they can see the importance and determine if it the right path for them?
    I think all kids are gifted and talented, yet the education systems only qualifies those in math and language/reading areas. What about those who can play Mozart at the age of 7? What about those who have great hand eye coordination or can throw a ball at 98 miles per hour at the age of 15?
    And the question of "do we invest in training for teachers?" To me, that is a no brainer and here is why. Most of the teachers in today's society are set to retire in the next 10 years. That means that the majority of those in the education field are 50 years or older. So, that being said, do you want your child to have a veteran teacher who never uses technology in the classroom because they do not grasp it? Or the veteran teacher still lectures to the kids all day because that is how they were taught to teach? I know I wouldn't and I would like to see those teachers continue to take classes and have the community invest in their training so it will be a pay off in two ways: all teachers will be up to date in current curriculum, technology, training, processes etc AND students will benefit from it thus creating more successful students out in the workforce.
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    Jun 4 2011: Smaller schools?
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    Jun 3 2011: Hire competent Teachers.

    Make public school teachers publish work related to their field.

    Challenge teachers to create consumable workloads for students.
    • Jun 5 2011: Teachers are going to be competent in their fields. They have to take courses and continue to do so in order to keep their license. Most teachers are teaching outside of their fields because of budget cuts- why pay 4 teachers when 1 can do the job of those other 3.

      Why would public school teachers have to publish work? I may not understand what you are saying here, so a little bit more information is needed. From the way I understand it, you want teachers to not only teach but also do research or write journals/articles relating to what they are teaching?

      And I'm a bit confused on your last point as well- what do you mean "consumable workloads'? Thanks for clarifying!
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    Jun 1 2011: Years ago the eclectic inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller observed that the time lag between discovery, development and market acceptance varied widely in different fields. In electronics for instance it seems to be about eighteen months (and two years later it is half the price). In Automotive innovation it averages about twelve years after you see something exciting at an auto show that you can finally buy a watered down version. In Building Construction it often takes 25 years before a material or process is widely accepted by the codes. The slowest of all is Education after all old professors never die they just smell that way. Yes we get lots of new theories and bells and whistles but real change is glacial, about 100 years if you look closely. All this is not surprising when you think about it. Who keeps a cell phone for more than 5 years? Even a inexpensive car if well maintained can last a decade with luck. On the hurricane coasts or in tornado ally a manufactured home usually lasts a quarter century or betteron average. I myself however had a silver-back phonetics professor who passed out a mimeograph (remember those?) in 2001 quoting his mentor. "Phonetics is now recognized to be essential in the study of modern languages" Date? 1890! I heard another department grey beard say to a colleague that they must never allow a certain student to get his diploma because his attitude to education was suspect. This autocratic power to perpetuate their views is almost the norm in universities around the world. It seems to me that until we can loosen the power of these self-fossilizing institutions change will be difficult to achieve. It may almost be necessary to let the current system come near to collapse before a consensus can be found. Till then end runs like charter schools seem the best path forward.
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    May 31 2011: Education is one of our basic rights that the government should provide for the people and if funding is not enough, we rally a unified and clear mandate to our political representatives.

    For misbehaving children, parents and teachers need to make a team effort first in learning how to give our children unconditional love - see

    Look into for a system that will help teachers and students learn more efficiently and effectively. In this system, students learn at their own pace and the teacher can spend more time caring for each student. uses the "intuitive" style of learning and we might need to collaborate for expansion of the subjects currently offered on the site.
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    May 29 2011: First of all i think parents are responsible for there children so first step should be guiding and making them aware about public education and how it is important for them and there country as they are contributing to it by working.
    Teachers should have a better understanding with the students so that they can find out how to deal with students who do not behave. Students who has talent, we should provide them opportunities to go ahead in life. No offense but in India we have very good educational environment and understanding between children and parents and teachers which help the students to get back on track!!
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      May 29 2011: how much freedom teachers have in india? is there a fixed curriculum? are there fixed tests or exams or anything of the sort?
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        May 30 2011: yeah there is fixed curriculum for studies like we have class test every month and mid term examination, end term examination in school. Every school follows the same pattern and talking about colleges its the same for engineering too but i don't have much idea about other fields!! Switching to teachers they are free to do anything to control students, they can even slap students for their mistakes but it mainly depends on school, some school allow teachers to have freedom and some don't!