Monday, January 21, 2008

Education - Dino Style

So I'm browsing a local conservative website (always interesting if not funny). There was this discussion about education and they referenced Dino Rossi's website. Below is his education brief. Now as someone who wouldn't vote for Dino Rossi (I had something very funny to say here but alas! I know I'd offend someone out there), I was a little surprised. Naturally, if you read between the lines there is a lot to wonder and worry about. But I wouldn't have thought he would be against the WASL or want to allow qualified people to teach (in areas needed) without having to take a year+ to get certified. (I also didn't know that there could be districts with less than 180 teaching days a year.)

However, I did hear Dino shining through in his statement on WASL reform:

"As governor, I alone would lead discussions with the legislature on how to best improve it."

Dino as decider.

"When it comes to education, I have one simple test: What is in the best interest of the children?
We have a serious problem with education in our state when two-thirds of our 10th graders do not pass all parts of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and around 16,000 students dropped out of our high schools in 2005.
It is time for serious education reform that will put students first.
Making education our paramount duty
  • Today, too many politicians in Olympia do not treat education funding like it is their paramount duty.
  • As governor, I will make funding education one of my top priorities.
Teaching a full school year
  • One-third of our public school students are in districts that do not teach a full 180-day school year. I will change that.
Rewarding successful teachers
  • We must reward success. Where we see teachers and principals succeeding consistently – I want them to be paid more.
Focusing on math and science
  • Our students need to do better in math and science and we must focus our resources on these crucial subjects.
  • The current system does not give school districts the flexibility to pay qualified math and science teachers higher salaries. That needs to change so we can attract and keep good math and science teachers.
Letting talented people teach
  • Did you know that Bill Gates is not qualified to teach computer science in our schools under current regulations?
  • We must make it easier to allow talented people to teach part-time by changing the rules on accreditation.
Overhauling student testing
  • I join those who are concerned about whether the WASL is the best measuring tool for student performance.
  • As governor, I alone would lead discussions with the legislature on how to best improve it.
Demanding success from our schools
  • Standardized testing should be used to judge the system – not just the students. And failure must be dealt with accordingly.
  • When we see consistent failure, I want to make it easier for local school districts to encourage failing teachers to find another profession. When a school or school district consistently fails, I want to empower principals and communities to be able to select better teachers and new school board members.
Creating alternatives for students
  • The state needs to understand that students who are not successful on the WASL still have the potential to succeed.
  • Our schools need more alternative pathways for students who do not necessarily excel on the WASL."


Charlie Mas said...

I don't think that anyone would oppose most of these statements. I suspect that nearly all major party candidates would offer the same statements. These statements are all so vague as to be meaningless. The critical question isn't what he says, but what he means.

I wonder how he thinks that the Governor has the authority to tell a school district how many days of instruction they are going to have. I don't think the office carries that power.

We all want to reward succesful teachers, the question is how to measure teaching success. Is it just how many of your students pass the WASL? That's hardly fair. Will he use some sort of value-added measure? How would that work for special education teachers? How would that work for art teachers or music teachers? This is a lot easier to promise than to accomplish. It's hard to even clearly envision it.

His cure for the crisis in math and science is to pay the teachers more. That doesn't sound very Republican of him. Will he solve the low performance in other areas by paying those teachers more as well?

What makes him think that talented people want to teach part-time? What makes him think that Bill Gates would be a good teacher? Just because you know a subject doesn't mean that you can teach it in a public school. What makes him think that Bill Gates wants that job?

Why does he think that the discussion on how to improve the WASL should be with the legislature? Why wouldn't he talk to the Superintendent of Public Instruction about it?

How would the governor make it easier for school districts to shed ineffective teachers? What is the governor's role in this?

I think it's funny that he thinks that in a failing school we should keep the principal and replace the teachers. I would think it should be the other way around.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what he says about this. First of all, he is unlikely to get elected governor. Secondly, even if he were elected, he couldn't do any of these things - the governor doesn't have that kind of authority. Third, even if he could do some of these things, he won't. Politicians make promises about education - they don't keep them.

Christine Gregoire has been no better or worse. She made a lot of bold statements about education, but her Washington Learns Committee was a bust. A lot of press and puff, but no substance and they failed in their primary task - to propose a means for fully funding education.

Anonymous said...

Reading Charlie on a regular basis is a bona fide civics lesson. While reading the Rossi piece, all those same questions went through my head, most of them in Charlie's voice. How many of these points are within the authority of the governor? As Charlie points out, none.

The one point that really gets me is the assumption that we would want Bill Gates to teach. As a former teacher, I know it takes more than knowledge of subject to teach well. Much more. Mr Rossi seems to be belittling the professionalism of teaching by assuming otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Dorothy says: "As a former teacher, I know it takes more than knowledge of subject to teach well. Much more. Mr Rossi seems to be belittling the professionalism of teaching by assuming otherwise."

I couldn't agree more. It's probably easier to teach a good teacher a new subject than it is to teach a subject-matter expert to teach. Not sure that holds true for higher ed, but certainly for elementary, and probably for secondary, as well.