Bless her heart, Representative Terri Collins of Decatur, chair of the House Education Policy committee, has come forward with another education brainstorm. As reported by Mary Sell with the Decatur Daily, Collins says she is now working on education goals for the state.
Such goals as decreasing high school graduates who need remediation when they get to college by 50 percent. Increasing by 25 percent the number of college completers who earn two- or four-year degrees or professional certificates. Increasing elementary and middle school standardized test scores.
And who can argue with such hopes? They sound wonderful.
But here’s the deal, Collins is doing what too many education “reform-minded” politicians do. They think you can reduce education to metrics. They think you can look at a class of 4th graders of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and challenges and treat them as just so many parts used to make into widgets on an assembly line. This is both impossible and demeaning. Demeaning to students, their teachers, their parents and their community.
Has Rep. Collins ignored the lessons of No Child Left Behind? The bill signed into law in January 2002 by President George W. Bush that said ALL children in the U.S. would be above average by 2014. The same law that ended up being vilified and replaced by Congress with the Every Child Succeeds Act in 2015.
If NCLB taught us one thing, it was this. When you forget the true meaning of education which is to prepare young men and women to be thoughtful, creative, engaged citizens–not just warm bodies whose only value is for some future economic use–you are short changing our future.
And when you declare that meeting a numeric goal is all that really matters, you are dictating to educators that NOTHING matters but a test score.
A fine example of legislative number setting is the determination made in the Alabama Accountability Act that SIX percent of all public schools in Alabama are failing. A number, as far as I can find out, that was strictly grabbed from thin air. And amazingly enough, according to AAA, there are NO failing private schools since the bill does not place the same standard on them.
If Rep. Collins really wants to set goals and meet them, then how about working to see that the state fully fund the Foundation program that is supposed to undergird each school in the state. Ms. Collins was elected in 2010. She has never seen a fully funded education budget, and she is on the House Ways & Means Education Committee.
This would be far more meaningful than going to a Ouija board and pulling out numbers to throw against the wall.
Earlier this week Senate majority leader Del Marsh said that he now understands that educators should have major input when education policy is being debated. Rep. Collins would benefit from coming to the same conclusion.