If I Had A Million Dollars…

Or what about if you had $5 billion? What would you do with $5 billion to improve American education? It’s about one percent of what we spend annually on public schools. Leave your ideas in the comments section below.

Most interesting idea, as judged by my completely arbitrary and due-process free decision, wins a free book. You can comment and even win anonymously (but if you win you’ll need to contact me to collect).

57 Replies to “If I Had A Million Dollars…”

  1. I agree that I would change it so that all the teachers in the country were to be trained and teach the exact curriculum.

  2. new york schools–if you take drugs, then I suggest you stop and go on a long walk west until you reach…say Missoula and check to see if your mind has cleared. If you don’t take drugs, I suggest that you get high, read the Federalist Paper 84, and see if that helps. It was once very helpful to past citizens in New York.

  3. Given that $5 billion on a national program isn’t a lot of money, I will say this:

    Have a program to create teacher’s assistants. Not teaching assistants, but Teacher’s Assistants, that is administrative professionals who can perform all that paperwork and documentation that teachers spend hours upon hours doing.

    One of the complaints that I see and hear all the time is that NCLB, other federal laws, state laws, local regulations, etc. create a huge mountain of paperwork that requires teachers to devote probably 3-5 hours a week of paperwork and even more at grade times.

    So like lawyers have paralegals and executives have executive assistants, have a classification of job where professionals can help teachers with all the paperwork, allowing the teachers to focus on teaching. Some of hte jobs a Teacher’s Assistant would do include:

    Recording grades from exams/homework/quizzes into the appropriate software.

    Read, organize, classify and prioritize communications and where possible and appropriate, respond to communications from parents. For example, routine matters like “Please excuse my daughter early because she has a doctor’s appointment” don’t need to be handled by the teacher themselves.

    Schedule volunteers who want to come to help in class.

    Manage equipment/technology and resource needs for teachers based on lesson plans, i.e. calling the library or media center to get videos, etc.

    Data compliance matters required by federal, state and local authorities–i.e. filling out reports, etc.

    In most schools, you could have a Teacher Assistant for a group of 3-4 teachers, perhaps more, who could handle the administrative needs of teachers allowing the teachers to do what they should be doing–teaching.

  4. When I met my husband, I was teaching at an innercity middle school and he was teaching at a technical college preparing adult high school graduates to become aircraft mechanics. Guess which one of us got a full day each week for planning and evaluation?


    I would use the $5 billion to kickstart a year-round school model that would give teachers a full planning day every Wednesday. If the realities of the cash wouldn’t go far enough, I could see starting with an early dismissal day every week.

    The program on a large scale would cost quite a bit more than $5 billion, but private dollars to enrich the non-core Wednesday curricula with art, music, physical education and other activities would come. It would likely also be easier to use volunteers and other types of “not highly qualified” personnel (who are cheaper) during this time.

    I choose Wednesdays because of research and anecdotal evidence that show that kids retain more at the beginning and end of study sessions and that shorter periods with some time to reflect lead to greater retention of material. I also think Wednesdays would force teachers and administrators to think of the planning days as work days rather than opportunities for long weekends, etc.

    I think we can make great gains toward professionalizing teaching by acknowledging and valuing the importance of planning and evaluation and the time these activities necessitate. At present, attorneys bill hundreds of dollars an hour to prepare a case they will present in court, while effective teachers give up their unpaid personal time with their families to grade papers and plan lessons. We have to stop pretending that effective teaching can happen off-the-cuff.

  5. I know you already announced, but reading through more suggestions gave me more to say.

    I was really attracted to the idea of trying to shift the role of education in American culture, but how to do that? That money could create some schools here and there and buy small changes, but a culture shift is huge.

    My idea is to use the $5 billion to create a prime-time reality show based on the importance of education. Not exactly sure what the premise would be, but I’d hire some big name reality show creators to figure that out.

    My thinking is that TV is, right now, the way to enact swift cultural change. Reality shows like Trading Spaces, Queer Eye, Biggest Loser and fictional shows like Sex and the City have had subtle, permanent effects on how the nation sees their homes, their bodies, the people around them, and their lives in general. We talk about all kinds of things on blogs, and news media stories spread like wild fire, but they don’t have the lasting impact needed to change the nation.

  6. I would use three billion dollars to invest in 100+ “Invention” schools. Each school would be given several authentic problems to solve. Within each school would be several classes that would become a team of working inventors. Every team would be responsible for going through the design process of researching, investigating many ideas, narrowing options and constructing a solution. They would be solving a problem together- just as in real life. Relevant curricula that worked towards the solution would be designed to include math, science, writing, reading, theater, music and visual arts. The team of students would have to creatively present a working model or viable product within a set time period. Results could be published via UTube or other popular methods to showcase the inventive thinking power of our youth. Only committed, outstanding teachers would be allowed to participate. I would also require that all staff and students participate in at least 1/2 hour of physical activity before each school day to get everyone mentally and physically fit to take on the challenge. Dan Pink’s recognition that we need to foster creative thinking in our students may also provide the answer for our nation’s economic progress. Am I dreaming? You bet.

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