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Peoria Perfect

Peoria is my kind of town. All the women are beautiful (including my 5-7-9 granddaughters and their mom) and all the men are handsome (well, most of them).  Your don’t have to be in the 1% to own a nice home in an Andy Hardy neighborhood — kids playing across wide green lawns, dogs romping off-leash, dads coming home for dinner at a decent hour.  Despite its share of recession and too many pervasive pockets of poverty, it’s a great place to live and work and raise a family. Provided, of course, that you have the grit it takes to fight for your public school.

Our middle GD goes to an elementary school where a diverse community of parents, teachers, students and administrators wrestle daily with the shortcomings of  public education. Swollen class sizes (25). Low entry level teacher pay. Skimpy supplies. Textbooks that don’t get there on time, or not at all.  Less-than nutritious lunches.  All against a backdrop of much-needed, but sometimes self-defeating education “reform.”

For instance.  The school principal announces at a PTA meeting that NWEA reading and math scores will be publicly posted.  Kids need to own their own data, work harder, become more competitive.  Students paste stickers imprinted with their beginning-of-the-year scores on a poster outside the principal’s office.  No names, of course, but the kids watch each other closely and pretty soon everybody knows who’s a dumb-dumb and who’s a baby genius.

What team of adult geniuses dreamed this up?  My bet is it wasn’t a group with teachers, parents and students included.  If this makes sense for schools, then maybe we should encourage businesses to post employee salaries on a bulletin board outside the boss’s office.  Make sure we include all the executives. Send all the info the stats to the stockholders.  Get the old competitive juices flowing.  Boost productivity.  Pay for performance.

Even on a hot day, my IQ jumps up only to about 99.9, but I’ve got a couple of ideas about education reform that might be worth considering.

First, let’s cough up enough cash (raise taxes) to reduce average class size to less than 20 students, closer to where most experts agree it needs to be in order to have any impact.

Second, let’s increase salaries (raise taxes) so teachers can support their families without having to take second jobs, high enough to recruit the best and the brightest into careers helping our best to become the brightest.

Then let’s evaluate and hold our teachers accountable and, yes, even include standardized test scores in the process.

That, of course, raises another question: who’s going to evaluate the evaluators and hold them accountable?

Watch this space …..


  1. Hilary
    October 3rd, 2012 | 12:10 pm

    Another nice one, Ray. True, education is in horrible shape. You should check out the blog Yinzercation, written by a dynamite young woman and teacher here in Pittsburgh. moke comes out of our ears here too!

  2. Ray Abernathy
    October 3rd, 2012 | 1:05 pm

    thanks! i’m hoping to do more on education reform through the eyes of the kids — cheers on your move!

  3. Anne S.
    October 3rd, 2012 | 3:13 pm

    You tax raiser, you! (Sad but true story, Ray–I shared on my FB)

  4. Ray Abernathy
    October 4th, 2012 | 9:45 am

    yup, iam i am

  5. Kate Mattos
    October 4th, 2012 | 1:36 pm

    Looking forward to the next installment! You might learn % of students eligible for free & reduced meals. Increasingly, students are coming to school hungry–but sometimes feel stigmatized about eating free/reduced meals at school. Result=hungry and unfocused.

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Any newspaper, newsletter, blog or individual may reprint or publish this commentary without compensating me. Just make sure it carries my byline, by Ray Abernathy, and my website address,

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