Sunday, January 19, 2014

Still Missing the Big Issue

As expected Common Core is becoming one of the big issues this year in Pierre with three bills related to the Common Core already in the mix.  The first Senate bill, SB 62, seems to be one that is coming a little late and is repetitive of a process that was already followed.  The main focus of the bill is to establish a committee in Pierre made up of politicians, educators, and parents to study the impact of the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced testing will have on our state.  This bill seems to represent the idea that there had not been any public meetings on the previous standards or the overall implementation of the common core standards in our fair state; however that is not the case:
South Dakota is one step closer to adopting the Common Core State Standards. At its Sept. 28 meeting, the state Board of Education voted to move the Common Core to a public hearing in November.
In fact the DOE has put out a simple power point to clear up some of the misconceptions being dealt with this and other bills with the common core.  In the end I view this bill as harmless and more public hearings on the issue before adopting new standards and hearings about the Smarter Balanced test are never a bad thing.

Then comes along SB 64.  This one is more of a head scratcher.  I get the purpose, to try and slow down implementation of the Common Core, but it would have no impact on the current standards over math and English that have already been adopted.
 Prior to July 1, 2016, the Board of Education may not, pursuant to § 13-3-48, adopt any uniform content standards drafted by a multistate consortium which are intended for adoption in two or more states. However, this section does not apply to content standards whose adoption by the Board of Education was completed and finalized prior to July 1, 2014. 
 Plus adds the word "implemented" after adopted.  So the idea is that the standards might be adopted but not implemented.  More meetings are not a bad thing overall, but this also misses the mark I am going to talk about a little later.

The third is SB 63, or as I like to call it: The Tin Foil Hat Bill.  This bill has several problems with it and tries to stop things that are not happening to my or anyone else's knowledge.  Pat Powers at SD War College points out some of the problems with this bill.

So, how on earth do the sponsors of the measure expect schools to evaluate children for things like autism, dyslexia, ADHD, or a tremendous host of any other of dozens of learning disorders, if they are prevented from “analyzing or evaluating” students? 
And those more serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia? A lot of times those are noticed & identified by school personnel. 
Unless the legislature is going to direct schools to fire all of their school psychologists, this measure has parts that need some serious reworking.
I wonder if the government teacher will be able to talk about the different political parties and have them do an project that identifies where they may fall on the political spectrum.  I also don't know of any schools surveying students on if they or their parents own a gun.  This kind of bill hurts the chances of real educational reform, because it is too easy to dismiss those "silly" bills.

The biggest problem is that all three of the bills miss the mark.  While they are willing to come after the education department, they fail to find a way to help teachers become better.  They fail to provide anything that will give teachers tools to become better instructors.  Things like focusing on any test results as a judge of schools or teachers do not make our schools better.  Even though Secretary Melody Schoop is willing to fight for the testing,
Testing also will show how students compare with those in other states, Schopp said. The first online tests under Common Core will be given this spring but will be used mainly to determine how the test works and whether districts have sufficient Internet capacity and equipment, she said.
It is never been clear how this will have any effective information that your classroom teacher will be able to use.   It is things like HB 1005 and HB 1002 that look for ways other than testing to improve education.  Push for more meetings with Common Core, but how will that encourage more of our young, talented South Dakotans to enter the teaching profession?  How will is build teacher moral and keep our experienced teachers in the state?  How will it give teachers the tools needed to continue to provide quality education in our state?  That should be the biggest focus in Pierre when it comes helping education.


  1. It's nice to be able to measure things - but measurements are NOT education.

  2. Data can be useful when it is seen as a tool for the classroom teacher. It is not a tool to measure effectiveness of the teacher.