By Mark Mitchell
What are the effects of politicians, above the local school board, getting more involved with education? My observations:
l Small class size is a big issue at the elementary level. Class sizes increase as funding is cut or local schools are mandated to shift money in other areas.
l Paying educators according to the students’ progress on tests is the new mantra. Educational systems move from teaching for understanding and comprehension to how to take tests and strategies for getting test answers correct. Lower-functioning students are being moved to certain teachers to protect older teachers and/or classified as special education cases to avoid being tested.
l Some mandated tests require a classroom teacher to leave the entire class of students to evaluate one student at a time. These are inefficient tests. Up to nine weeks of instruction time is lost because of yearly testing. Funding for non-classroom teachers to administer the tests is the answer.
l More is being added to curriculum but never is anything removed.
l The top 20 percent of students sleepwalk though school. Material is paced for the middle and is boring for them.
l Is it realistic to ask an educator to have three or four lesson plans for low-, medium- and high-functioning students? Special education students and behavioral problem students are now mandated to be in the main classroom, often to the detriment of the majority of students. Shouldn’t there be some specialization of coursework, pullout classes appropriate for different levels of students in key areas?
l Flexibility. Mindless rules mainstreaming lower-functioning students into the classroom can lead to the students’ frustration and humiliation. What is missing is flexibility to tailor an educational program to maximize the educational relationship for each individual student. Only an engaged parent and educator can make the call.
l What do you do for discipline when students in the elementary school openly defy teachers? Iowa is seeing more of these students and school systems do not know how to handle them.
l Technology. School systems and government demand “forms” be filled out in computer systems. The current systems and software are not up to the task. The state should pay for easy-to-use software development and make it available to school systems.
l If you look on the teachers of Iowa as the “customers” of the Iowa Department of Education, then it is reasonable to ask the educators if the department is helping the customers or strangling them?
Mark Mitchell of Solon works in the printing industry and is “surrounded by educators.” Comments: email@example.com