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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rick Scott's education reform heads in wrong direction

Those seeking to steer the course of education reform in Florida, which includes many of Governor elect Rick Scott’s education team, would have the public believe several falsehoods.

Poverty is just an excuse. The truth is, poverty is a huge issue. Kids that come from homes with absentee parents, where a lack of food and violence are constant factors often perform poorly in school. Quite frankly they have more serious issues to deal with than learning the capital of Alaska and dividing two digit numbers.

Class size doesn’t matter: Class size is extremely important. It allows students to gain more valuable face time with their teachers and fewer kids get lost in the crowd. The Heritage Foundation (Jeb Bush’s education think tank) recently touted all of the great progress that Florida’s schools have experienced over the last decade but completely ignored the fact that most of the progress has occurred since 2003 when the class size amendment began to be phased in.

Test scores are the way to measure student learning. Test scores should be a component of education not the end all be all that they have become. Some kids don’t test well, some kids have bad days, and no kid should be tested at one time over a whole year, or several years’ worth of material.

Reform MUST be driven by external measures such as comprehensive tests. Assessments are most useful and reliable when they are closely connected to classroom instruction. Furthermore just who is going to get rich creating and scoring these tests? The Bush family profited greatly from the F-Cat and No Child Left Behind.

Classroom experience doesn’t matter. Most teachers don’t hit their stride, where they are most effective, till they are several years in. Unfortunately about half of all teachers do not last five years.

Tenure provides teachers with lifetime jobs. Teachers do not have "jobs for life"; they have due process and what’s wrong with allowing professionals who sacrifice so much having at least that.

Charter schools are deserving of public funds and support. Actually, charters have not been shown to have better test scores, on average, than regular public schools, their teachers aren't certified and they pick and choose who they allow in and retain.

Data must drive our children’s education. How about having a child’s ability, aptitude and desire drive their education; that might prove more effective.

Vouchers give parents choice. Vouchers also provide welfare for the well off and take much needed resources from cash starved public schools. The answer at least in the short term should be to improve public schools, not further erode them by siphoning money away.

Performance Pay for the most deserving teachers. This sounds great in a vacuum, unfortunately when put in practice it is arbitrary and hard to quantify. Somebody way smarter than me would have to come up with a way for this to be done fairly if it is to be both effective and meaningful.

Advanced degrees do not matter. I find it ironic that in every profession but education, do most people feel the need for more education is a good thing, ironic and disingenuous that is.

Improving teacher quality is the number one issue facing our schools. Improving teacher quality should always be an issue, but as long as we keep doing things the way we do now; we will never have meaningful improvement. Teachers don’t set the policies that put them and their children in no win situations and teachers did not choose to erode discipline nor bury themselves with mountains of superfluous paper work. Teachers did not decide to practically eliminate the teaching of the trades, skills and arts and put every child, regardless of aptitude, desire and ability into a one size fits all curriculum either. Yet teachers, not the policy makers, politicians, absentee parents, the public and children devoid of discipline or a work ethic are the ones who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the problems in education.

Education without a doubt needs to improve but many of the ideas put forth by the “education reformers” will do more harm than good, and serve interests other than schools and children. The truth is it wouldn’t take reinventing the wheel, breaking the bank or demonizing teachers to make things dramatically improve. Bring back discipline, develop alternative, rigorous and realistic curriculums, that play to children’s strengths, abilities and desires, and then stop overloading teachers, try giving them autonomy and encouraging creativity instead.

Governor Scott I can make the time if you need some help, unlike most of your education team the only special interests I serve are our children and the teachers who toil selflessly day in and day out.

Above was inspired by (and a tad bit was borrowed from) the Blog Lessons Learned:

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like nobody saw 'Waiting for Superman'

    Yes, children from single parent, drug addicted, generational welfare 'families' are at a disadvantage, (duh!) And government policies created them with a trillion dollar Great Society program. Also created our open borders so we have drug dealing gangs run from Mexico in our schools. Some states don't even have an official English language policy, so we must offer multilingual lessons.
    The IQ gap between students in an inner city elementary school is 3 times greater than homo sapiens and our nearest primate relative; and until we reduce that gap we will have social promotion and affirmative action programs and that finally is the only valid reason why in some cases teachers 'pay for performance' might be a little unfair.