The New Super
Thursday, April 13, 2006 :::
The TD has this on the state's new superintendent of public instruction, Billy Cannaday.
The usual educational buzzwords are thrown around -- "excellence," "empowerment" and "global economy," all of which make me wonder just what in the hell educrats put in their coffee.
Cannaday does raise a number of issues that are worth debating. One of them is the SOL's, which "have been seen by some as a barrier to learning because they force teachers to teach to the test."
That's true. I see it in the assignments my son brings home. Some of them are laughable, some head-scratching, some complete wastes of everyone's time. As the school year has progressed, it's become clear to me that these tests can stand in the way of real learning -- where far more time is devoted to building reading and language skills, basic math skills and a healthy dose of exploratory learning.
If Cannaday is able to bring some balance to the SOLs, then more power to him.
But I suggest, too, that some of the challenges facing public education aren't external requirements, but internal bureaucracy.
For example, I'm taking the family to London next month. It's the only time I can go, due to my work schedule. It means pulling my son out of class for a week, too. We had to receive the principal's approval for five of those days, but had to make a formal request of the school system for an additional two days. So far, we've had no reply (well, it is Spring Break). We were informed that without the district's approval, we would be visited by a social worker who would lecture us on truancy. From the first grade.
I suppose missing a couple of extra days learning to count coins would make young Jack less competitive in the global marketplace...for cashiers.
In those same two extra days, we'll take Jack to the British Museum, the London Zoo and perhaps a Shakespeare play, on top of everything else on the (growing) list of things to see and do.
But the point is that perhaps instead of giving "incentives" to "push" teachers and administrators, as Cannaday wants, he should look more closely at ways to streamline the education bureaucracy -- getting the administrators out of the way of learning and look for ways to make curricula more relevant and meaty.
I hope he does. And the sooner the better.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 4/13/2006