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Weigh In: What do politicians get wrong about education?

Administrators propose their dream education laws.

Original Focus
"Legislators and policy makers are quick to look for simple solutions to what might be considered a complex challenge," says Ben Kiser, superintendent at Gloucester County Public Schools in Virginia. "Educating children, K–12 and beyond the secondary level, is a little more complicated than the politically expedient solutions that are getting attention.

"We need to get back to the pedagogy of serving children. I would like to see legislation that includes flexible time and flexible means of providing professional development for teachers. We need to focus on helping teachers become better teachers as they move through this very difficult profession.

"I'd like to see legislation at the federal level that gets back to the original focus of providing parity and equity of services throughout this country. I'm looking for a comprehensive approach that is not punitive and is broader than just the one or two easily articulated strategies that are not necessarily good pedagogy.

"I would love for our policy makers and legislators to bring educators to the table who not only have a passion for what they do but want to improve services."

Appropriate Funding

"Politicians lack an understanding and appreciation for what our children must be able to do in the 21st century," says Dorothy Perkins, superintendent at Gallatin County Schools in Kentucky.

"Students must be imaginative and creative while being problem solvers, critical thinkers, and team players. They must be lifelong learners to be able to analyze information and apply knowledge to new situations.

"Standards are nice, but real learning is better. Assessments do not truly measure what goes on in a classroom. A standards-based education limits students to what they can respond to.

"Politicians often look at bottom-line numbers—how schools perform, how students perform—to determine which schools and school districts are successful, without looking at what barriers kids come through the school doors with.

"My law would fund education, with no unfunded mandates. We need to put our money where our mouth is. It bothers me immensely that we don't flinch when we build a prison in this country, instead of putting more money into education.

"A world-class education for students in this country has to be paid for by training our teachers and administrators to deliver."

Team Approach

"Our legislature, in many cases, still thinks that the system created to rank and sort kids and compartmentalize learning in 50-minute blocks can prepare kids for a global future," says Jeff Turner, superintendent at Coppell ISD in Texas.

"We helped write and pass Senate Bill 1557, which is allowing 20 districts, up to 250,000 students in Texas, to begin working on what a new system should look like, focusing on the transformation of the system.

"Once selected, that group of 20 will work to set up a pilot and present it to the legislature in January 2013. We maintain that if you let 20 schools go out of the system, let us out of the mandates, out of these boxes, we will outperform the system in five to seven years.

"The pendulum has swung as far as it's going to go toward standardized testing. More people are waking up to the idea that it's not telling us what we need to know about student mastery."

—Fall 2012—

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