Thursday, July 17, 2014

'You don't have to reform your entire school system'

I'll never forget something I read many, many moons ago, around the time Lincoln was starting first grade. "After a combined total of forty years in education," wrote Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, "we have come to one simple conclusion: if you want your child to have an excellent education, you need to take charge of it yourself. You don't have to reform your entire school system. All you have to do is teach your own child."

Through the years I have frequently had occasion to reflect on that thought. Usually it's when there's trouble in socialist paradise — not just your everyday run-of-the-mill trouble, but something that borders on the farcical. Today, for example, The Oklahoman provided a helpful summary of how Oklahoma state officials plan to begin developing new academic standards. Enjoy:
To develop new academic standards, a steering committee composed of several state government education officials will appoint four executive committees of up to 21 members apiece.

The executive committees will include everyone from parents to tribal leaders to business leaders. Then, 28 Standards Creation Teams, comprising mostly teachers, will draft the new standards with input from executive committees.

And then, Draft Review Committees, which can include Oklahomans from all walks of life, will examine standards.

Throughout the process, 12 Regional Advisory Committees will gather community input. Later, an Assessment Design Committee will review standards content, alignment from grade to grade, and assessment design and structure.

Proposed standards will then be submitted to 45 days of public comment. After that, the state Board of Education will have to approve the standards. ... [And] all the aforementioned work can then be thrown out the window on a legislative whim.

To which I can only respond:

As a policy wonk, I will leave the committees and the bureaus and the five-year-plans to those who still don't trust the free-enterprise system. I will continue to emphasize the one reform which the empirical evidence consistently shows improves student performance in the government-operated schools.

But as a parent, I'm exceedingly grateful for the truth expressed so well by Jessie Wise and her daughter: "You don't have to reform your entire school system. All you have to do is teach your own child."

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