Now What?

Smarter folks than me have blogged about Oklahoma losing its waiver from the US Department of Education this past week. Smarter folks than me have made some very good points, here are my thoughts…

Having not ever been involved in the finance side of public education, I cannot say exactly what will be the result of the mandated restrictions that we will now have to work with.  But I do know that the $30 million amount being tossed around sounds like a large sum of money.  If we look at experienced teachers on step five of the minimum salary schedule as posted here, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree would earn $33,500 (I am a math teacher, please double check me).  If we were able to use the $30 million to hire teachers that would be 857 teachers.  Smaller class sizes anyone?  The biggest impact on learning is relationships.  As a teacher, it is easier for me to make great relationships when my class sizes are smaller.

As I understand it (see statements above) that money cannot be used by a failing district to hire those teachers.  It must be used for professional development to help teachers learn strategies to increase student learning.  That would mean that $30 million is now leaving public education for the pockets of consultants or organizations that will show us what we are not doing.  Don’t get me wrong – there are great consultants and organizations that truly help.  There are tons that don’t.  The person leading this PD session was paid to help these teachers be more effective.  Tell me how effective this session is going to be…

About that 100% learning goal that was supposed to be reached this year?  I look around my building and see brilliant students.  I also look around my building and see students who will NEVER, EVER, EVER pass a standardized test.  Why should my building be punished for something that is totally impossible.  We are encouraged to differentiate instruction, by our policy making leaders, yet they continue to demand standardized testing and I do not understand that.  Don’t get me wrong – hold the kids accountable, teach them to be responsible, show them the value of hard work.

Did No Child Left Behind have good intentions?  I believe so.  Was it poorly written?  I believe so.  Do most people including the politicians that wrote the bill think it has had unintended consequences?  I believe so.  Then why, why, why are we still using it??  Why has this not been addressed at the federal level??

As for my state government – I truly feel we were a bit hasty.  School districts had been preparing for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to train teachers, to make the change to Common Core.  I do not think that you should make such a huge change in educational policy without a plan already in place.  If you don’t plan ahead, then you plan to fail.  Having said that, in Edmond we taught the Common Core standards last year and we took the PASS end of instruction exams.  My school hit it out of the park on test scores!

It is also my opinion that some students have a much more supportive educational environment than others and this makes a difference in the classroom.  My children get home from school and this is what the routine they follow:

  • No TV during the week.  Zero.
  • Homework after snack.
  • Read.  The older the student the longer they read.
  • Spelling/Vocabulary practice.
  • Games: Uno, Sorry, creative play, legos…

I know that not every child goes home to a place where is learning encouraged and practiced at home.  Some children go home to empty homes.  Some children go home and wonder when they eat next.  Some children go home and have to work.  Some children go home to parents who are not supportive.  Some children do not speak english.  Some children do not have a home.  How do we address these issues that have a major impact on student learning?

Oklahoma has put itself into an awkward position – we must use wisdom with our next steps.  We must listen to the teachers on the front lines, we have practical ideas and we have been educated in education.  Use our thoughts and our input.  Let us all craft a strong set of standards for our students.  Let us create ways to help those that struggle, not punish them for the zip code they live in.

What if we try building up public education instead of tearing it down?

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