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Politics and Policy: Irreconcilable differences?

Tragic and unnecessary
Politics and Policy: Irreconcilable differences?  

(Baton Rouge - July 18, 2014) The political feud between Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White must be resolved quickly so that teachers and their students can get down to the work of education, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said today.

“The state has had since 2010 to discuss standards, to develop curricula and to design assessment tools,” Monaghan said. “That was when Governor Jindal and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education signed on in full to Common Core standards.

“But instead of preparing teachers and children,” he said, “our state set sail on an educational misadventure of faux reforms that disrespected our constitution, vilified teachers, siphoned funds from already underfunded public schools, and resulted in endless legal battles. Political ideology masqueraded as educational reform.”

Those distractions made it impossible to have honest discussions regarding the standards, Monaghan said. The failure to fully inform and adequately prepare led to the inevitable botched implementation of the new standards and associated assessments.

“While there is plenty of blame to be shared, none of it belongs to teachers or their students,” Monaghan noted. “They are the victims of wasted time and wasted funds.”

Perhaps the hiatus in testing resulting from Jindal and White’s confrontation can be the silver lining in the cloud hanging over public education in the state, Monaghan said.

“We now recognize the error of emphasizing the testing of children over teaching them,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make education learning-centered instead of testing-centered.”

“With just weeks left before schools open, now is the time for statesmen to step forward and give public education a badly needed sense of direction,” Monaghan said.

Before schools open, the state has a moral and legal obligation to provide:

  • A set of standards that spell out what students need to know at every grade level. The standards should be appropriate for the developmental level of the child, rigorous enough to be intellectually challenging, and aimed at preparing the child for success in life.
  • A curriculum aligned to those standards. The curriculum should be structured enough to ensure that all students reach the goals of the standards, but flexible enough that teachers can adapt them to the particular needs of their students and their community.
  • The resources that it takes to successfully bring the curriculum to the classroom. That means adequate preparation and professional development for educators, safe and welcoming schools, learning materials and technology that meets current standards, and appropriate compensation for the people responsible for our children’s future.
  • Instruments to accurately and fairly assess student progress toward meeting goals. We should replace low-level standardized testing with assessments aligned with rich curricula that encourage the kind of higher-order thinking and performance skills students need. Testing should be a diagnostic tool, and not a threat used to punish teachers and unfairly label schools and students.

Thus far, Louisiana has failed our children, our teachers and our schools on all these counts, Monaghan said. Hope for the future lies in a speedy accomplishment of all these goals.

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