By Victoria M. Young

DSC_0300_ppI say potāto; you say potåto. Some say, “blueprint”; others say, “roadmap.” The way Betsy Russell rightly put it, from her perspective at the statehouse, “everybody overall agrees” — at the statehouse —with the 20 recommendations made by Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education.

Objection; foul; time out!

We learned from the “resounding rejected” of the Students Come First LAWS that process matters. Right? Those laws passed despite demonstrative objections in hearings, on-line, and in the streets. THEN, they were defeated by voters as referendums. That process squandered people’s time and it put Idaho two years behind others in a true improvement process.

But something good did come out of it.

Legislators in 2012 requested that the Office of Performance Evaluations analyze the “workforce issues that affect Idaho’s public school teachers.” The bad news is that the words “a strong undercurrent of despair” hit the news and lost in the discussion was the final analysis’ intended use “as a starting point to inform” public education reform.

Superintendent Luna, legislators, and the governor ignored the findings and instead, we have the task force recommendations. They do not address the problems identified in the evaluation report. So instead of meaningful oversight to jump-start the systemic changes we need, as identified by superintendents, principles, and teachers, we are set to jump into a complete “overhaul” that may not be necessary.

We should look closely at the details of the task force recommendationsprior to pushing them through without proper vetting. (More details to be blogged here at a later date.)

The workforce evaluation report was focused, inclusive of all school personnel, and addressed the number one thing people understand will improve education — the improvement of teacher education tailored to Idaho’s needs. The report suggested that policymakers consider investing in increasing the number of teachers with multiple certifications to better serve our rural communities, and in better training in classroom management and the integration of technology in the classroom.

On the other hand, the task force process was selective, controlled, and produced recommendations predictably in line with the prevailing national agenda — the Luna Laws (StudentsFirst™ political agenda) and Common Core National Standards.

In the Students Come First process, harm was done by not looking critically, sooner rather than later, at the ideas behind the laws.

“Critical thinking,” “courage” to face the facts, and the “grit” to stand up for what is right — empty rhetoric or a recipe for pragmatic solutions?

What will it be? Moving forward with informed decisions or watching our lawmakers going along, to get along, and get out of this legislative session in plenty of time to campaign for reelection?

I think it will be what we will let it be. People, please, let’s put students first this time and above all else, do no more harm.


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