Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Education: Crist's biggest challenge is before him

With the resignation of Education Commissioner John Winn last week, Gov. Charlie Crist faces the first big test of his governorship. In what direction will the state education system go? Will Crist, as he vowed in the campaign, continue the course of accountability set by Jeb Bush and John Winn, or will he retreat from accountability and move in a different direction?

As a teacher (that's the first time that I've mentioned that here), I would urge the governor to stay the course. Admittedly - and I think that former-Gov. Bush would be the first to say this - adjustments and improvements can be made to the current policies. But Crist must not submit to the whims of teachers and parents - yes, parents - and scrap testing and high standards. Right now, testing is a major burden for all involved. That is not because testing is inherently bad, but because we have failed for so long at "teaching" and "demanding" a higher level of work from our students.

The St. Pete Times, reporting on Winn's address to the dropout prevention task force, mentioned the dissatisfaction with current policies:

His (Winn's) fingerprints are all over high-stakes use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to grade schools, retain third-graders and award teacher bonuses - all policies that polls show are unpopular with most Floridians.
Yes, parents are also a major - if not the major - part of the problem. Higher standards demand more from parents. Parents must take an active role in educating their children. Perhaps Stephen D. Marshall, headmaster of Christ Classical Academy in Tallahassee, put it best when he said that all parents should consider themselves homeschooling parents.

It is hard work to sit down with your child and do homework every night, but it must be done. It is time consuming to institute a summer reading and summer bridge program in your home, but it must be done. Ask a bookseller in your local bookstore about the parents that rush into their store over the last couple weeks of summer to buy summer reading books, because they failed to develop the structure in their homes to get it done earlier. You may be surprised at the answers you'll get.

It is not often that you'll read anything on this blog suggesting that you read Thomas Friedman of the NY Times. But if you doubt anything that I'm saying, read is latest book, The World is Flat. Friedman does an admirable job at explaining just how high the stakes are for our kids.

This is the issue that we at the Sentinel are most passionate about, so look for more as the governor starts answering some of these critical questions and challenges.

Finally, we want to thank Commissioner Winn for beginning to move Florida in the right direction. While there is much work to be done, Winn has made the hard decisions and taken the predictable fire from the education establishment. We urge Governor Crist to appoint an education commissioner as courageous as Commissioner Winn. More importantly, he should select one that will pickup the course set by the Bush/Winn team.

1 comment:

Scottie said...

if you wre awed by Fridman's Flat ...

Best wishes,