When I decided to start this blog, my intent was to provide an “informed” voice to educational issues in the face of the overwhelmingly combative slurs and slanders being spewed by Dr. Barresi and regurgitated by the Daily Oklahoman. I was sick and tired of important educational issues being hijacked by the corporate reformers and taken to the pantheon of the privatization movement. Well, the wicked witch is about to be out of office, but those educational issues are still being hijacked. Only now they are being hijacked by the other end of the political spectrum. And it bothers me.
Let’s talk about some of these issues. First issue up: Testing. Does anyone in education think we test too little? The only people who think we do not test enough are the corporations selling the test and test prep materials to the schools. You want a litmus test for testing; did you give a test at the end of the first 9 weeks? Did your child take tests at the end of the first 9 weeks? Seriously, aren’t we just a bit hypocritical if we decry testing as an unnecessary evil while continuing to assess students and give out grades based on chapter tests, quizzes, and such? Is giving a test bad? NO. Is too much testing bad? Hell yes. It is the summative nature of testing in which is a poor practice. You add the dimension of high stakes to the mix and it borders on insanity. But we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Teachers teaching to a set of educational objectives and monitoring student learning through a formative assessment is good professional practice.
I don’t understand why school choice is such a tumultuous issue. In my 17 years of education I do not ever recall any student being denied a transfer. I guess my arrogance gets me here: if parents do not want their student to follow the rules and work hard in school then I am happy they want to go somewhere else. It is better for the students who want to be here. Furthermore, I never understood the concept behind denying a transfer. A parent can move in or out of the district and there is nothing a school can do. However, if a parent wants to drive their child to a different school we act like it’s an act of treason. I don’t get it. In America where we have the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, right to bear arms , and the freedom of religion we shouldn’t have the freedom to say where our children go to school. Students should not be commodities that can be bought, sold or owned. Public, Private, Religious, Charter, or Magnet schools should all be available for our parents to decide which is best for their specific need. Isn’t this the greatest example of local control: letting the parents decide what is best for them and their child?
With all that said I do have a problem with virtual online charters and using taxpayer money to pay for private educational expenses. Our parents should have the choice to educate their child in the manner they think is best for their child. However, I don’t think they should ask for taxpayer money to pay for it. And don’t give me any BS line about how they pay taxes too. I pay more taxes than some and less than some others. I don’t get to drive the Fire truck, fly the stealth bomber, or land on the moon all of which are paid by taxes. If you want to send your child to a private school then pony up the tuition. I’d be okay with online charters if they operated under the same rules as every other public school in the state, but they don’t. Just ask your local school how many students so mysteriously get kicked out of their online charter the week after Oct. 1st? Those online schools are mostly corporate- for profit schools maximizing their profit margin by taking the State Aid on the student and then sending them back to the public school.
The last issue I want to discuss is accountability. What is wrong with being held accountable? My dad held me accountable for my actions. My school board holds me accountable for the job I do for my school. Society holds me accountable, my banker holds me accountable, and so on and so on. Do I think educators should be held accountable? Yes. I think teaching is a professional profession just like doctors, lawyers, and architects. They all have professional accountability measures. However, I think trying to summarize all the strengths and weaknesses of a school into a single letter grade might be the second dumbest idea the Barresi administration brought to us from Florida (3rd grade mandatory retention is by far and away the dumbest if you are keeping score & all this TLE BS is 3rd and gaining…). But the conversation concerning accountability has centered at the two extremes: the incredibly useless current A-F system or no accountability at all. Surely we can all agree there has to be some form of accountability which meets the Federal standard, gives accurate and actionable information about school performance, and doesn’t cause educators to flinch in pain.
Every one of these issues and more are important to me. As a parent I want better for my children than I had it growing up. As a school superintendent I want a better educational system for this generation than the generation before. Barresi grabbed these issues and ran so afoul even true conservatives were embarrassed by her actions. What we need now are conversations about using assessment results to drive instructional practice- not blanket statements about abolishing all testing. What we need now are procedures in place to ensure every child as a great school to attend and every parent has a choice of where to send them-not hyperbolic statements condemning educational options. What we need now is to come together and improve our educational standards and our professional accountability-not statements of unattainable promises of yesteryear. What we need is for Joy Hofmeister to bring everyone to the table to solve some of these issues and not someone who promises us free pizza and longer recess. Free pizza and longer recess might help Dr. Cox win some votes, but it won’t make our jobs any better and it won’t make our kids educational futures any brighter.