Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Ass-backwards on education

10th June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

Think about it.

If you were to construct a board or commission to deal with the governance of plumbing, what types of people, what skill sets, what experience would you be looking for? If the board creating policy for plumbers consisted mostly of dancers, cooks, philosophers and linguistics ex?perts would you expect them to be effective at creating good policy? Why not?

If the bodies making policy for medical practices consisted of fashion designers, construction folks and farmers, would you feel comfortable knowing that the surgeon operating on your heart had to do it the way a real estate agent thought best?

So why do we accept the notion that local and state boards dealing with education should be full of people who have never taught or been trained in the field?

None of the Louisiana state bodies that govern and create education policy…the BESE board, most school boards, the education committees of houses of the legislature…None of them require any experience or training in the field of education. In fact, you don’t even have to be literate to get on the BESE board, the state’s highest decision-making body on education. In fact, teachers are rarely included in any level of academic policy making.

And what should you expect from such a scenario? Pretty much what we’ve got. A state that’s at the bottom of the heap in a nation that is academically challenged.

The question is, does this represent incompetence or malicious intent?

The racist/conservative right has been declaring its intention to eliminate public education for over 30 years. They’ve been saying this on right-wing TV and radio shows for years. Now it’s coming to pass. So when you look at the policies and practices you should know that there are those who govern public education who are intent on destroying it. Think about how the whole system works in Louisiana.

If you wanted to enforce accountability in education or anywhere else, where should you start? At the top or at the bottom? Most rational folks would start at the top with ensuring that sound practices were in place. Would you start with testing the students or with an academic audit of each school to make sure that every student in every school had everything they needed to succeed (including qualified instructors)? Before testing students, wouldn’t you first make sure that every teacher in every classroom had everything needed to do their job well, including appropriate training or certification? Would?n’t you want to make sure the physical environment was conducive to learning and that every student had all of the materials they needed before you even thought about testing? Don’t the students deserve to have this before being assessed?

If you did an assessment, would you make it a high-stakes test that most of the professional education bodies on earth say is horrible education policy? Even teacher that help students pass the LEAP know that this is not education. My son’s 4th-grade teacher was one. She had a 98 percent success rate with students passing the test but she felt it was horrible.

Shouldn’t the curriculum and the assessment be student-centered and not test-centered? Then shouldn’t the state be accountable for creating a means of assessment that reflects how learning really happens? Shouldn’t it take into account the four learning styles? Should not a student’s passing or failing a course be based on homework, class participation, quizzes and tests and not a single “do or die” exam? Haven’t we seen enough bright students, even honor-roll students get held back because of one test? Aren’t we tired of having 17-year-olds in 6th and 7th grade?

And shouldn’t teachers be treated like the front line of education instead of the enemies of education? Should teachers be saddled with a documenting process that makes it almost impossible to spend time helping their own children at home? Shouldn’t they be included whenever any policy decision is being made instead of being informed after all the meetings and discussions have been held?

If academic accountability were a factor then how could the October First Massacre remain a statewide practice, to the detriment of struggling schools? For those who don’t know, one institution that keeps failing schools failing is what happens on October 1st of each year. The MFP, or funding for each school is based on the number of students they have on the last day of September. For some stupid reason, the funding is locked in after that.

The very next day the “good” schools dump…I said DUMP…their “problem” students on the “bad” schools. What’s the effect? Do the math. The good schools now only have to deal with their best students. They have the same amount of teachers and resources but a smaller student-to-teacher ratio. The bad schools now have more students per teacher than a week earlier and the additional students probably have more challenges than their peers. What would you expect the results to look like?

Now you have a governor who seems to believe that the best way to improve public education is to remove millions of dollars from it. The man (with the help of your legislators) has cut more than half a billion, that’s $500,000,000 from education in the past six years and counting. Do you really believe he’s so stupid that he is unaware of the harm this does?

Do you really think he does not know that using public funds for private schools will weaken public education on more than one level?

Pulling Black children out of the school system entirely is the best solution. Ho?me-?schooled children al?most always do better than those who are taught a test all year. However, since most of our children will remain in the system we need to hold these people accountable at every level. There is no solution to the educational crises that does not involve YOU getting directly involved.

The other side is counting on our apathy and sense of powerlessness. But we do have the power to change things. Moreover, we have the ability and the responsibility to provide a quality education for all of our children…

This article originally published in the June 10, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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