Friday, December 20, 2002
DEAR SANTA: WISH LIST FOR NEBRASKA EDUCATION
We Nebraska taxpayers have tried our best to be good this past year. Here’s what we would like to find under our Christmas tree to make Nebraska’s K-12 schools the best they can be:
1. A new state law making it illegal for a Nebraska school district or educational agency to receive federal funding, so that we can avoid getting sucked in to the nationalization of our schools that is the actual intent of the No Child Left Behind federal education legislation.
2. Cancel Nebraska’s goofy assessment system because it is attempting to take methods that work well for individual students and classrooms and distort them into statewide, standardized and comparable measurements, which they are not and can never be. Instead, pass a new state law mandating that Nebraska schoolchildren in 4th, 8th and 11th grades all take the same commercial standardized test . . . from at least 25 years ago. That way, the test will reveal academic achievement, which the more recent assessments do not.
3. Cancel the state standards that go with the goofy assessment system, because they are goofy, too. They are boilerplate from what all the other states have as standards and that happened when Nebraska caved in to Outcome-Based Education. After the public squawked about OBE, the educrats just kept it in place but renamed it “Standards-Based Education” and other cute nicknames that unfortunately worked. So instead of “outcomes,” we got “standards.” Same old, same old. It’s got to go. Teachers, parents and taxpayers should be the ones setting and measuring educational objectives, not the educrats.
4. Close down the University of Nebraska College of Education and use some of the money saved from that move to help subsidize student teachers, who would now work under a teacher mentor for one year instead of just a few weeks after completion of their bachelor’s degrees. Offer education courses among regular liberal-arts fare, including child development, pedagogy (how to teach) and teaching reading with systematic, intensive, explicit phonics; the latter is not now offered as a semester course in any Nebraska college. From now on, college students who want to become teachers will major in a content area such as math or English or psychology, and districts can hire them even if they haven’t had a jillion hours of goofy ed psych classes that turn their minds into mush just to get that education degree. Instead, they’ll be disciplined professionals because they’ll have been educated within an academic discipline . . . not indoctrinated into the Nonsense Industry by the grand poohbahs of the Nonsense Industry, the teachers’ colleges.
5. Pass a state law mandating a moderate level of performance audits on the skillions of dollars of state aid to education that now flows from the state’s taxpayers to the K-12 school districts. At present those skillions of dollars are given only a cursory lick and a promise by pro forma school-district audits as for how they are being spent by the schools, and that’s it. That’s nuts. Use the skillions of dollars that will be saved with this sensible watchdogging of public funds to cover some decent teacher pay raises, and return the rest to the long-suffering taxpayers.
6. Mandate parental choice for kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. If a district receives state aid, then parents must be offered a choice of either a traditional classroom that is teacher-centered and uses only systematic, intensive, explicit phonics to teach reading (which is what we all want), or the crazy, chaotic, child-centered, whole language based classrooms that currently are the ONLY choice in the vast majority of Nebraska school districts, because that is all the educators know about and it’s what THEY want, not us. Watch everybody flood the phonics classrooms and all that will be left in the whole language ones will be a lonely cricket and a John Dewey disciple scratching his or her head. Watch the learning-disabled rolls dwindle down to next to nothing since kids will finally be taught to read properly. Watch the special education (SPED) budget shrink to manageable proportions so that the real SPED kids get the benefit of the SPED dough, not the false SPED kids who were not begotten that way, but made that way, by bonehead teaching methods.
7. Consolidate Nebraska’s 19 Educational Service Units into three, one for each of Nebraska’s congressional districts. Duhhh.
8. Pass a law requiring a CUT in pay for any teacher who becomes nationally certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, since that designation has been shown to REDUCE academic achievement, not improve academic achievement, and minimize Nebraska’s teaching certification requirements so that all a prospective teacher must do to become “employable” in Nebraska is pass a simple literacy test and a criminal background check. Take the educracy completely out of the hiring, evaluation, compensation and staff development processes.
9. Bust the union in general and collective bargaining in particular by passing a law making it clear that it will not be a condition of employment for a Nebraska teacher to be bound by the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the union. Essentially, let’s be pro-choice for teacher employment freedom and allow each teacher to either opt in or opt out of the collective contract. Don’t you suppose the good ones will opt out? That way, districts will be free to pay merit pay, hiring bonuses and all that other good stuff that has been proven to help kids. Right now, they aren’t free.
10. Pass a state law requiring State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen to write 100 times on the blackboard, “I will not install goofy assessment systems that will run this state’s education establishment into the ground.” Put a gigantic poster that says “ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT” in the meeting room of the State Board of Education so that they will quit ignoring that as the purpose of K-12 education. Most of all, Santa, please put a Valium salt lick in every teacher’s lounge in the state. Until all of this gets straightened out, they will really, really need it.
Merry Christmas to everybody who loves children and cares about Nebraska’s schools. Let’s make 2003 the best year ever for public education in Nebraska.
GO BIG ED!
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