Students need more than brick and mortar

A letter to the editor in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune brought up some good points to ponder while debating whether or not the community should support a $40 million bond referendum to upgrade facilities in the Marshall Public Schools District.

“Our public schools are designed like factories, rather being a reflection of the communities they serve,” the letter stated. “Million-dollar, state-of-the art facilities with the latest technology are not what our teachers need to succeed.

“Strict schedules, one-size-fits-all curriculum and an emphasis on indoor work is not helping our national test scores surpass those of other countries.”

The letter writer has some good points and recent data suggest Minnesota public education faces problems beyond brick and mortar.

According to a February Star Tribune article, hundreds of school districts in the state are not making significant progress in closing achievement gaps. While the state did see high school graduation rates for 2016 reach a record-high 82.2 percent in 2016, Marshall’s rate fell to 83.5 percent. Marshall recorded a 88.8 percent rate in 2014.

“Why can’t our public schools evolve? We should be empowering teachers to creatively form their own learning spaces, rather than focusing on fulfilling bureaucratic testing goals. Our kids need art class more than iPads, outdoor learning more than technology and play time more than work sheets,” the letter also stated.

Are we giving teachers enough support to be successful in the classroom?

Right now, Minnesota faces a teacher shortage crisis. Becoming a teacher takes a lot of education, and sometimes the salary compensation isn’t enough to compete with the private sector.

The state’s largest teacher union, Education Minnesota, released a report a year ago that shows school districts are having a difficult time filling positions in special education, math and science.

The responsibility of educating our children doesn’t just rest in the hands of teachers, principals and superintendents. If education is going to evolve, as the letter writer suggests, it’s going to take a team effort involving parents and concerned citizens as well.