Friday, March 2, 2012

SB 1581/Achievement Compacts Get an ‘F'

“You just clicked on any answer to get through the test?” “Yep!”

“Does this affect my grade? No, but it may affect your schedule as you may need to take support classes rather than electives if you don’t meet.”

“I hate state testing.”

Not surprising refrains from some of my conversations with kids when it comes to state testing. Sadly, the education reforms in SB 1581 are not getting us away from this model.

As a public school teacher at a high poverty school full of wonderful kids, the rhetoric of education reform doesn’t connect to what these students really value and need: relationships with caring staff, smaller class sizes, experiences with field trips, a well-rounded curriculum, access to books, after-school support, a school nurse, wrap-around services, more classroom time devoted to learning from their teacher rather than losing time to testing, and more time for their teachers to develop, plan, assess and collaborate on engaging curriculum.

As a parent, my two children have experienced the narrowing of the curriculum as they have lost time for hands-on science, art, library, PE, music, and field trips. Add a large class size and you start to see cracks in their desire to learn and fewer opportunities to tap into their potential and curiosities.

Furthermore, our current cultural climate of dysfunction, stress, and poverty has led to more children who are emotionally and physically challenged to be ready for school each day. We as a state and nation are ignoring our responsibility to take care of our children.

The Achievement Compacts and NCLB Waiver do not begin to solve these problems. Instead they create more problems. Primarily, there are too many unknowns: cost, outcomes, and loss of local control. Furthermore, the Achievement Compacts are set to open the door for the NCLB waiver approval: and the waiver is more dangerous than it sounds.

In this brave new world of the NCLB waiver, schools will compete for state dollars; schools who don’t meet outcomes will be put into receivership; the waiver will still rely on high-stakes testing to measure student, teacher, and school success; schools will still be labeled; curriculum will continue to narrow; and our precious resources will go into data collection, new assessment and testing programs, and new curriculum and training.

How is this better for our kids?

To financially starve our public schools and then demand a corporate education reform model is criminal and negligent. Instead, we should be asking our state: “What are you doing to provide and fund an equitable education for all of Oregon’s children?”

We all want a quality education system for all of our state’s children. The question is in how we get there.

A no vote on SB 1581, will allow our state the time it needs to determine the best path to take in providing the quality education we want for our children.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No to SB 1581: Give Our State the Gift of Time

With three days left in this legislative session, it seems imperative that we as a state need to take a collective breath and give ourselves more time to truly create an education reform plan that we can all understand, live with, and buy into: parents, teachers, students, grandparents, community members, legislators, school boards, school administrators, and businesspeople. This will take a no vote (or no vote at all) on SB 1581 this week by our legislators. It will take guts that is for sure as the pressure has been placed by the Governor to push it through. However, we don't have to rush. We have until 2014 before we are punished by the NCLB 100 percent meeting requirement.

Still, this is a big decision. There are a lot of details to wade through and discern as well as plenty of questions to be asked. There are other successful education models we can study and assess such as that of Finland. Don't we as a state only want to have to go down this path once? Don't we want to feel good about it? Don't we want to practice what we preach when we tell our children it is important to have and use high level thinking skills such as analyzing, researching, reviewing, questioning, and evaluating when trying to understand complex issues of our world? This OEIB/NCLB Waiver/Achievement Compact decision requires very high level thinking, which no doubt our legislators have, but the other luxury that is needed to accomplish this task is time.

We can give ourselves this time by waiting on SB 1581. Let's do this right. Contact your legislators starting Monday. Thanks!

“To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.”
William Shakespeare