Alabama strikes a blow to understanding…

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Ah, my good ol’ home state shines again–not in the best way, of course…

Editorial by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, PhD

The Alabama Legislature gave final approval Wednesday (3/18/15) to a bill that would authorize charter schools in the state of Alabama, sending the bill to Gov. Robert Bentley.

It has been a beacon of shallow thinking for all to see…and that is a good thing. We need someone to bite the bullet and stand up and be an Idiot for Education to show us how to NOT think when it comes to what is best for our nation’s kids.

The first wrong turn…

The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would allow the establishment of up to 10 start-up charter schools a year for five years, and allow an unlimited number of conversion schools. Teachers working in charter schools would not be required to have certifications.
Hmmm, wonder why we have insisted on certifying teachers for so long? Could it be so they Knew How to Teach with Best Practices? Could it be so they understood child development and knew how to match curriculum to kids’ levels and needs? Could it be because they develop a versatile toolbox of teaching and assessment strategies? Could it be because they are trained on the effective way to encourage internal as well as external discipline in children? Being a trainer of teachers I would say yes to all of those most emphatically. So just WHO are they going to put in the teacher’s role in these Alabama schools? None of that was decided…or even discussed. Why? I guess because everyone knows teachers are not that important. Somebody needs to remember their years in school.

The second wrong turn…

Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, a former chairman of the Alabama House Ways and Means Education committee, said that the bill was the “most damaging piece of legislation” to public education. “Ultimately, the people who are going to have control of these charter schools are for-profit corporations rather than local boards of education,” he said. [Ah a voice of sanity…but wait…]

Here it comes: A lesson in shallow thinking by people who control our schools

Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, said many public schools already contract with for-profit companies for services, such as transportation. “When they sell them computers, all those companies make money,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Not the point, Representative Rich. You not only missed the bulls-eye on the target…you missed the field it sits in!

OF COURSE we have always had for-profit companies selling schools furniture and equipment, transportation and food services, etc. What IS new and damaging is for-profit companies controlling staff, curriculum and testing – FOR PROFIT. Selling computers and furniture does not alter children’ future for profit. Hiring unqualified teachers (cheaper), selling your own curriculum to the school (making money from what is taught), and mandating teaching to the tests – that will determine how much profit is made – by the uncertified staff, is less than conscientious to say the least.

Another way to say it: “Making money from kids as if they are ATM machines without giving a hoot about their future success after graduation.”

Here is the nucleus of WHY professional educators should be in charge of school and curriculum

Professional educators teach and assess for the improvement of learning. They care about kids and know them as individuals with diverse needs, strengths and interests. They are up on the latest trends, programs, materials, effective schools and the learning brain research. They are in touch with parents all the time. They UNDERSTAND how schools work (and don’t). Legislators are basing their decisions on the least amount of knowledge about the science of teaching and, just as importantly, they know little or nothing about how schools really function on the inside…the “informal organization” that truly runs most everything and is not what the public usually sees. Teachers see it every day and know how to maximize utilization of that environment for the benefit of kids – not profit figures. Basically, certified teachers base their decisions on what is best for EACH of the kids. For-profit companies do not.

So, thank you Alabama legislators for showing us how not to think progressively and compassionately about kids and their welfare. Just because you sat through 12-16 years of school does not mean you understand teaching and true education of our young.

I wonder, is anyone asking professional educators, including professors of higher education who know the research and effective practices, what is best for kids when making these decisions?

Probably not.

[NOTE: All comics were created for this column by Zak, Wisconsin graphic artist.]

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