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LETTER: One size fits all in education?

LETTER: One size fits all in education?
Posted: Feb 8, 2015
Comments: 0

By: Brett Duncan

I am often amazed at the ability of those who can absolutely ignore facts and evidence in mindless pursuit of their narrow personal or professional agendas. Today, however, my amazement escalated to appalled and offended as I read this morning's Daily Star Editorial. Of course, we have all been aware for years that Dr. Kirylo's agenda is to remove all forms of standardized test and accountability from our public schools. This is a long held ideological belief of his and he writes about it eloquently and often. Ignoring facts and evidence that don't fit his belief structure is something that we would expect from an extreme ideologue like Dr. Kirylo. However, it was quite unexpected to see the Daily Star editor join in this nonsense when, the paper itself is regularly reporting the very facts and evidence that demonstrate the fallacy of Dr. Kirylo's argument.

Here is the claim made by narrow, extreme education "reform voices like Dr. Kirylo (Which apparently now includes the Daily Star.): "The accountability system (A system where we set a standard for kids to reach at each grade level and then have them take a test at the end of the school year to see if they met the standard.) is zapping creativity and creating a "one size fits all public education system." Therefore, it's fine to keep the standards, but we should continue to give educators over $10k per child per year in tax dollars without taking any measurements to see if the standards are meet. This argument is usually followed up by one that argues that the solution to our education problems in this state is to demand more tax dollars from our citizens for education.  

Here are the facts:

1) Standards and the tests to measure progress toward meeting those standards have been a part of public education for decades. For each of those decades they have always been imperfect and have constantly gone through various degrees of changes/ improvements.

2) PARCC and CCSS are just the latest attempt to improve on the standards and the tests. In fact, much of the emphasis in developing PARCC and CCSS was to address the complaints that the old system focused to much on regurgitating information and "math tricks" rather than critical thinking and true problem solving.

3) Momentum in the anti-CCSS and anti-test movement did not truly heat up until test performance was tied to the job performance reviews for teachers, principals and administrators. It was at this point that we started hearing the "one size fits all" mantra.

4) All Tangi Schools have been transitioning to CCSS and PARCC for the past 4 years.

5) In those same 4 years, Tangi began implementing various pedagogy "Themed Schools" throughout the parish. Each school was  designed to teach students in various creative, and individually tailored ways, while at the same time meeting the new standards. We call these "themed schools" IB, Montessori, STEM, Communication, Performing Arts, Traditional, Medical, Career, etc...

6) We have empowered parents to choose which school best meets their child's needs. Thus, the educators at each school are motivated to ensure that each individual child's needs are being met as best they can.

7) Each year that we have further implemented these various themes and pursued the higher Common Core Standards, our students have shown improvement on those "evil state tests."

8) Because we showed the taxpayers, partly via those tests, that our schools are both improving and are no longer a "one size fits all" system, the taxpayers agreed to provide the schools more funding last year.  

I would submit that the facts and evidence are clear. CCSS and PARCC are not creating a "one size fits all" system in Tangipahoa, quite the opposite. When the facts and evidence demonstrate the fallacy of various arguments, independent thinkers should regard those arguments as nothing more than an attempt to further the narrow, adult-oriented agendas of those who are making them.

Brett K. Duncan
Tangipahoa Parish School Board, President
Louisiana State Accountability Commission, Chairman
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