Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Would Legislators Want Our Kids in Public School MORE?

Several months ago I wrote a blog, "Please Put My Child In School MORE to Learn Less". I chronicled how I'd read Karl Springer's (Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools) idea to increase the number of hours children should be in school. In fact, Springer wanted the Legislature to mandate a seven-hour school day to improve "education standards". 

[Education standards. Is there a definition for this phrase? I haven't really been able to find one as it appears to be nebulous and apply to whatever money-grubbing activity or liberty-stealing legislation the speaker intends.]

In the blog I outlined the many things my two children still in public education do during a day that apply to absolutely NOTHING educational (as would be indicated by my title). 

Though I am loathe to finish out the school year with the two (especially since our school adopted the absolutely HORRIFYING math curricula, "Everyday Math" - see below), it is certainly a way to keep tabs on the educational nonsense spewing out of even one the most affluent, well-placed elementary schools in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district. For examples, see my posts, "The Zombies Are Coming" (on the global warming nonsense and how it affected my child), and the Pièce de résistance "One Oklahoma Teacher, "Do I Teach To The Test or Teach for Knowledge" (where my youngest son's teacher basically tries to explain why she can't keep my child on a single task long enough to actually master it - basically, I've found, it's my responsibility to do it AFTER school).

So, can you imagine my glee when I found this while reading through the bills assigned to committees for the week - HB3089; Schools; changing the length of the school day; effective date; emergency. The bill was authored by Representative Jason Nelson of the larger Oklahoma City metro area. Guess who argued FOR the bill? That's right - none other than Superintendent Springer.

Peter J. Rudy at Oklahoma Watchdog provided the blow-by-blow discussion on the bill in the Common Education Committee this morning. 

Lynn Habluetzel - ROPE Board member - was watching Watchdog's tweets today and forwarded this tweet to me in a text, "Nelson: we’re trying to make value statement as a legislature that we want a longer school day."

What? A VALUE STATEMENT? Wait a minute. I guess I must be wrong on the whole idea of this Constitution thingy. Apparently, the objective of the legislative process is NOT to create freedom for citizens, but to tie them up with mandates and laws to make VALUE STATEMENTS. The only problem here is that my VALUES are apparently not those of the Oklahoma City Public Schools and Representative Nelson.

I think the final sentences in the debate are important here:
Kern: I think there are more fundamental problems in education. This isn’t increasing time teachers would be working. I don’t think this bill is the answer to what we need.
Nelson: there are some things I’ll never understand. We have people concerned we’re mandating we go 6.5 hours. Well we have a mandate for 6 hours right now. Let’s take that away and give districts billions of dollars to districts and let them do what we want. We’re not talking about creating a standard, it’s increasing the standard. We’re talking about establishing a new base so we’re not the bottom of the barrel. To me this is a common sense approach. We’re not micromanaging any more than we are right now.
Clearly - and according to the first hand knowledge I have of my two children - a longer school day will not solve the issue of the mess that has become public education. How Representative Nelson feels this idea is a "common sense approach", "I'll never understand". 

Trapping children longer in a building where - no matter how much many teachers want to make sure their kids leave their classrooms schooled in needed subjects;
  • the curricula school boards adopt are HORRIBLE - and in some cases hurtful, 
  • there are too many outside hour-eaters (assemblies, plays, field trips, etc.) that take time away from actual teaching and study,
  • teachers have to 'teach to a test' to the extent that they can't teach their children to the level of mastery or the kids won't score well on the tests, but the test scores have to be good to keep the schools AYP number up and eventually to keep from being fired
  • kids don't get the support they need at home because the family unit has been destroyed and teachers aren't to be babysitters (and simply can't be) - nor schools a home or substitute for family

Fortunately for us, the bill didn't pass in a 4-11 vote (I would like to know the four that voted yes, but the votes have not been posted on the legislative servers). 

Unfortunately for our kids, the common sense approaches that will work best for them, don't cost enough money, provide enough kick-backs, elevate anyone's political standing enough or rely on yet another 'program'. Taking off the mandates, letting teachers teach, giving them good resources and concentrating on only Math, Science, Reading, Language Arts and Social Studies, will do the trick. When will we find enough legislators and administrators to concentrate on these factors before themselves? I hesitate to guess, which is why my children will never darken the door of a public school again after this year. 

Reviews of UCSMP Everyday Mathematics (http://nychold.com/em.html)
An Evaluation of Selected Mathematics Textbooks, by Wayne Bishop (May 1997). Prepared at the request of the Core Knowledge Foundation, this is a review of 2nd and 4th grade mathematics materials from Sadlier, SRA McGraw-Hill (CMC), Saxon, and Everyday Learning Corporation (Everyday Math). Bishop ranks Everyday Mathematics a distant last. About Everyday Math 2nd grade he writes: "In normal classrooms with normal teachers, I would characterize these materials as `dangerous.' My impression is that it would be very difficult to be sure that appropriate material has been covered adequately. One can expect a very high degree of teacher variability. Knowledgeable teachers, well grounded in the materials, may be able to pull it off; at least it's clear from the assessment book that there are some things that the children are supposed to know. There is almost no routine practice, although a small amount is built into the activities." The same criticism is amplified for the fourth grade Everyday Math materials.

PS: here is Lynn's letter to Representative Nelson following the meeting:

Dear Representative Nelson,

I was monitoring the Common Ed committee meeting this morning and was glad your bill HB 3089 failed. Once again I think your intentions maybe good, but too many unintended consequences will occur.  Please look beyond the surface problem of "not enough time".   I want to comment specifically on your statement:

Nelson: why do we have schools? To educate children and the longer we can do that every day is a good thing.

I refer you to Jenni White's blog she wrote about how they ( public schools) do so much except TEACH the basics.  
If the schools would go back to the basics  our reading and math scores would go up, which is what everyone seems to want.  
Thank you,
Lynn Habluetzel