You Pays Your Money and You Takes Your Choice

This was originally posted on the Kennewick School District Citizens web page and is reprinted here in the hope of reaching a different audience.

The following pairs of choices represent contrasting views of public education.  Please read each pair, then circle the view you would like to see in place for the schools of your children or grandchildren.  Following the pairings we will tell you how to tally up your selections and lay out some options.

STUDENT PROGRAMS

1.  Academics

a.     Elementary schools are places where playing and learning are combined with alternative pedagogic approaches to academics.

b.     Elementary schools are places where the focus is on specific, narrow areas of the curriculum selected at the national level and the pedagogy favors teaching to the mandated tests.

2. Learning Environment

a.     The focus is on learning in a fear-free environment where creativity and risk-taking are encouraged.

b.     Creativity and risk-taking are avoided in an environment where testing failure looms at every turn.

TEACHERS

1.  Respect

a.     Teachers are highly respected and appreciated.

b.     Teachers are regularly ridiculed in the media and by national leaders.

2.  Training and Selection

a.     All teachers have a master’s degree and selection into the profession is difficult.

b.     A master’s degree is not seen as beneficial by national leaders.  The current trend is to hire beginners with as little as 5 weeks of training in pedagogy.

3.  Autonomy

a.     Teachers are given considerable independence to select methods and materials appropriate for their students.

b.     Curriculum is set at national and state levels.  Even the pacing for classes may be mandated at the district level.  Materials may be selected at the local level but only from a prescribed list.

4.  Unions

a.     The labor union works cooperatively with the schools and government to improve educational opportunities.

b.     Teacher unions are seen primarily as protectors of incompetent teachers and are regularly bashed by the media and by highly-placed Federal officials.

SCHOOLS

1.  Delivery of Services

a.     Schools have full autonomy in developing daily delivery of education services.

b.     The district determines the schedule and content of the services.

2.  Curriculum Decisions

a.     Schools plan their own curriculum to reflect local concerns and needs of children.

b.     Curriculum is determined by state and national standards and mandated assessments.

TESTING

1.  High-Stakes Exams

a.     No mandatory state or national high-stakes exams.

b.     Mandatory state standardized tests for students determine student progress, Federal funding, and even teacher retention.

2.  Test Development

a.     Teachers at each school develop their own tests and use descriptive feedback rather than numeric grades.

b.     Mandated testing is developed at the state or national level based on pre-determined standards for each grade level, is usually machine scored, and provides little useful feedback to the parent.

3. Cost in Time and Resources

a.     Little extra cost since the tests are teacher developed as part of the regular instructional process.

b.     State-level costs are in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually and time lost to test-prep and actual testing is measured in weeks of lost classroom time.

DIRECTIONS FOR FOLLOWUP

Step 1: Add up all of the “a’s”.

Step 2: If you had 3 or less, do nothing.  You are getting what you want.

Step 3: If you had 4 to 6, start calling or writing your school board and/or legislators to get more of what you want.

Step 4:  If you got 7 or more, move to Finland.  It is your best chance to get what you want for your children, because all of the 11 “a” choices are currently in place.  Ironic, isn’t it, that a country that does not do mandatory standardized testing produces the highest average scores on international tests in science and math.

As we said, you pays your money and you takes your choice.  Our choice is being made for us by corporate leaders, legislators, and Federal officials.

Is it your choice?  When are you going to speak up for the children?

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