Although our state's politicians and educators are unlikely to agree on much, they are more than likely to acknowledge that our K-12 public schools would benefit from additional manpower resources. Unfortunately, any effort to find a solution to this dilemma will trigger the kind of bickering we have grown accustomed to in recent years. It is time to work on solutions that make sense - the kind that come from thinking out-of-the-box. At a time when we are adding students to the classrooms and reducing the number teacher assistants, we need to be more creative in our approach to helping our students get the individualized attention they need - especially those students who are academically at-risk.
One option that gets scant attention has to do with making better use of our college and university students. Every college student should be required to complete no less than 20 community service hours each academic year. What better place to complete these hours than in our public schools? If properly organized, our state's college students can become a force multiplier in our efforts to improve education. Such students could help with one-on-one tutoring in the classroom, grading homework, and anything else that would ease the teacher workload. They could also assist in after-school programs that offer remediation to students who are struggling academically.
Today, even our college education majors - those who seek to one day work as classroom teachers - do limited work with the public schools near their colleges and universities. We simply need to do a better job of harnessing their collective energy and putting it to practical and good use. The first step would be to have each college student complete a background check - this would be part of their admissions process. Next, at the beginning of each school year, the respective college students would be assigned to a specific public school where they would volunteer under the supervision of a classroom teacher. Each college would be responsible for assigning coordinators to this program and the public schools would do the same. There is no better way for our college students to serve their communities - it's a win-win for everyone.