Whose Responsibility Is Education?



I am an educator and a parent/grandparent.  I understand how children learn, how to teach them to learn, why they learn differently and why some face huge obstacles to learning.  My knowledge and understanding are based on research, training and experience.
  I have no interest in nor authority to develop pedagogy that produces a single philosophical, religious, sociological, economic or political ideology.  Those beliefs and theories are the products of individual minds that are developed through study and exposure to diverse ideas. They grow out of each individual's personal experiences and realities. They evolve as a result of having learned critical thinking skills and having had the opportunity and freedom of youth to test their ideas without fear of failure when they don't align with a pre-established or common standard.  

No Child Left Behind diverged greatly from the "freedom of thought" concept that this country was built on.  While NCLB was not the genesis of the standardization school of thought (history recounts many disastrous examples of that), it produced a LAW that mandated the tool, or weapon as I refer to it, that allowed it to grow roots and to be firmly planted in the soil that used to be our foundational system of democracy - public schools that serve every single child.  

The "consequential accountability" mandated by NCLB with the belief that we could force educational results by requiring every student to show proficiency as measured by one HIGH STAKES standardized test has PROVEN to be a failure.

  Consequences were interpreted by many states to imply punitive measures - a definition counter to the premise that education should be a constructive process and that consequences should be constructive.  Punishment always has and probably always will be embraced by society as a deterrent to perceived or real negative behavior, but it has NO beneficial or constructive effects in changing the conditions or thinking that caused that negative behavior.  In the sphere of education, limiting behavior purely via a fear of punishment creates a chilling effect on critical thinking and discourages children from learning in their formative years through the extremely important exercise of risk-taking.  

We have been told that "raising the bar" on expectations is a cure-all for low performance.  The ONLY way to give credibility to that inane statement is to lay blame on teachers and accuse them of self interested or discriminatory motives, so that has been the strategy.  My friend, highly accomplished and esteemed teacher and writer Dr. Mercedes Schneider,  is famous for her insistence to "meet students where they are and lead them to where they need to be."  It would be anathema for her to insist that her students must start where a set of standards say they should be, to ignore their individual strengths and weaknesses, and to tell them that if they don't meet a set of defined expectations at any given moment they are failures.  THAT would be the action of an incompetent, uncaring and abusive teacher.  

Our legislators have been put in the position of choosing how public education will best serve our children.  That should be and traditionally has been the responsibility of qualified educators in collaboration with parents through our elected board of education with the SUPPORT of our state department of education, but because our education policy making bodies have been turned over to or influenced by unqualified groups and individuals who have produced highly controversial, unresearched, unproven theories, legislators are being forced to mediate, negotiate, referee and intercede by making decisions that they are also not qualified or prepared to make.  

It would be best that laws regarding education in our state be limited to laws that ensure the PRESERVATION of our public education system and respect the rights of parents and the expertise of certified educators to create policy in the best interests of our children and our state. That would align with the mandates of our state constitution.  

Under our current situation with policies forced on us by an unqualified state superintendent and rubber stamped by a compliant BESE board who are not responding to the concerns of their constituency, it seems lawmakers are best advised to provide us with statutes that prevent the overreach of powerful, wealthy, private influence from outside our state and the interference of the federal government that has bribed, coerced and threatened our schools into compliance.  That would necessarily mean returning the development of standards, curriculum and testing back to our citizens.  

It remains our individual responsibilities as taxpayers, parents, educators and citizens to hold our policy-making bodies responsible for addressing our concerns.  We are prepared to do that unless statutes are created that prevent us from exercising our constitutional authority.  

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