Editor's Note: This is from the desk of MSTA's Executive Director, Kent King,
Remember the TV game show, “The Price Is Right” with host Bob Barker (I think someone else hosts it now...)? The contestants would work their way through a variety of challenges and if they were ahead of the others at the end, got to choose a grand prize hidden behind one of three curtains. Well, DESE -- while our minds are focused on family and the holiday season -- has decided to play a high-stakes game show with our public schools called “NCLB Waivers.”
The contestants (students, practicing educators, school districts and boards) have worked their way through a variety of meetings, webinars, stakeholder meetings on a variety of topics including standards, teacher evaluation system tied to student achievement, scoring guides for assessments, ad nauseam. While our input was welcomed, our advice was rarely incorporated.
Because no one is watching this show (it is occurring during the Holiday Season after all), the results may wind up being spectacular, (not good, just spectacular). It raises the question of who wins and what do we, the contestants, get?
If we select door No. 1, we get new federal guidelines, which are really state mandates with no supplemental resources. You know, the contestants (districts and patrons will pay for it out of our pockets). More state mandates. (To see how one district in New Jersey is taking back local control, see this New York Times article.)
Door No. 2 features teacher evaluations tied to student achievement data and/or testing. (To see the potential consequences of tying standardized test to teacher evaluations see this blog post from Ed Week.) Doesn’t matter that this four-wheel drive SUV has never really been road tested and validated, but hey, it looks new and shiny for our viewing audience.
Behind door No. 3 is a vague and unspecified plan to be implemented ASAP. There’s a giant check on a tripod facing the audience, but there are no dollar signs in the blanks because there are no federal or state dollars to pay for this trip. Just a promise and a sweet “Trust Me” sign from DESE for us to view.
I don’t know about you, but the timing of the show and the really bad door prizes are a turnoff. We need to tell our DESE hosts: “NO THANK YOU. I DON’T WANNA PLAY.”
We are currently in the midst of a 30-day comment period on this federal waiver application process (ends Jan. 5, 2012). If it passes, DESE will submit it to the feds who will probably approve it, and voila, MSIP 5 will get a new birthday at the end of 2011-12, not 2013 as originally approved by the State Board this month. It makes you wonder if they were not aware of this fast-track approval when they passed it.
If we fail to register our dissatisfaction before the holidays, there is no telling what Santa might bring down the chimney or what the New Year may entail.
Whatever happened to my favorite TV show, “To Tell the Truth”?