24 May 2010: Bad Bill from Gibbs & Scanlan

A bad bill from Gibbs and Scanlan

The ballyhooed drive for school reform got car-jacked by an upstart senator who, in his short tenure as educator and even shorter tenure as legislator, has been ordained the “high priest” of reform by Jane Urschel of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Sen. Michael Johnston was aided and abetted by Summit County’s legislators, Sen. Dan Gibbs and former Summit County Board of Education president Rep. Christine Scanlan.

Their performances would be lauded by the “troops on the ground,” the classroom teachers, had the bill they co-sponsored in their respective houses actually served as a positive step in improving student learning and accountability for every professional from teacher to superintendent. SB 191, however, does nothing of the sort.

Effective teaching is an ineffable concept. It cannot be concretely defined because there is not a singular agreed-upon purpose for kids in school. Should curricula focus on the measurable base of Bloom’s triangular taxonomy, knowledge and comprehension, or should it stretch into Bloom’s upper tier of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, the domain of critical thinking?

Should education be about career guidance? It is true, after all, that Asian nations are kicking our butts in terms of producing engineers.

Should teachers work to inspire and to enhance creativity, piquing the curiosity of their charges, fostering a life-long love of learning?

We can agree that it includes all of the aforementioned. The problem is the only readily measurable component is that darn core knowledge. Two plus two equals four, NaCl is table salt, and “cat” is a noun; but even within those disciplines, the only ones measured by CSAP, knowing those facts tells us nothing of a student’s true level of learning.

Diane Ravitch, former President George H. W. Bush assistant secretary of education and author of “The Life and Death of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education,” makes no bones about it. “By our current methods, we may be training (not educating) a generation of children who are repelled by learning, thinking that it means only drudgery, worksheets, test preparation, and test-taking.”

Drilling and or terrifying students into regurgitating pabulum does not show how smart they are.

SB 191 creates a myriad of problems. Principals, for example, are now required to evaluate every teacher every year. Given that, one of two things will need to happen: principals give up sleep or they get more help in the form of assistants. Hence, a legitimate question to BOE’s asking for more money: What portion will be dedicated to hiring more administrators to do the task of firing more teachers?

SB 191 violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Testers who reduce learning to its basest level have yet to define proficiency when it comes to shooting baskets in PE and perspective in photography. They have yet to explain how counselors’ effectiveness can be measured in terms of making kids right with the world and guiding them to their life’s work.

“Accountability” is the buzz word of late — and understandably so. As such, legislators who took the lead in forcing this poor measure into law must be called before the bar of public scrutiny to explain how it enhances excellence in education.

Gibbs and Scanlan owe an accounting for enacting a law that equates learning to crass test scores and tying teacher accountability to that flawed standard. They have broken a trust with their constituents by not reaching out to them to seek guidance in an area in which neither is an expert, pine-beetle guru and school board experience notwithstanding.

In the Summit Daily News

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