Top-down approach to improving state’s education is a spinning top

For several years, legislators have expressed a need to “increase local control” and “let teachers teach.” The only problem is the lack of action from our legislative and education leaders to actually do that. As President of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia, I’ve witnessed cuts to K-12 and higher education funding, mandated instructional days, reduced healthcare and retirement benefits, increasing alternative certification pathways while decreasing hiring requirements, implementation of a failed accountability system and attempts to defund our public schools.

Throughout these actions, policy makers have ignored pleas from educators for competitive salaries/benefits, calendar flexibility, a hiring process to ensure the most qualified applicant, instructional resources, relevant professional development, collaboration opportunities and wrap-around services to support the social, emotional and health needs of our students.

Others express a desire to “go back to the basics.” Given the rapid rate of technological advancement, people can’t enter the workforce today with the basic skills required of the workforce thirty years ago. While my generation struggles to use an app, the current generation struggles to create an app that’s better than the billion apps already available.

We need innovation, conceptual knowledge, problem solving and critical thinking to thrive in the current economic climate. Providing students the skills and strategies to work together to solve a problem, develop a project, debate an issue or engage in community service is the true learning model we should support, encourage and expect in public education.

Teachers and service personnel are trained to strengthen the development of the whole child and facilitate learning through real-world experience, in schools and beyond. Instead, we have become data managers, timekeepers, and test administrators. The latter does nothing to develop a productive workforce.

Our children, our schools and our communities deserve better. Policy makers claim public education is standards, assessment and accountability. Public education wasn’t designed that way. It wasn’t meant to be a free-market enterprise where corporations profit from public tax dollars. Charter schools and voucher programs take the “public” out of public education and create a system of haves and have-nots, which won’t meet the needs of all our children. Privatization of public schools not only increases the achievement gap but also divides the students based on socio-economic status.

Public education should promote our children’s well-being, support powerful learning and foster collaboration. Public education should inspire and encourage, while providing the tools to become compassionate, hard-working, life-long learners who make all of us proud when they go out into the world and succeed.

It’s time to reclaim our schools for our communities and our children.

It’s time for all educators; teachers, service personnel and administrators to speak out for our students. We can provide the tools needed to become successful, educated adults but resources are critical to meet the needs of every child.

It’s time for all parents to encourage and support our children’s education by standing up for our neighborhood schools. The loss of revenue and drop in enrollment reduces funding for our schools, which are already struggling to meet the needs of our students with the resources available.

It’s time for local businesses to stand with educators and parents to provide learning opportunities outside the schoolhouse walls. There are successful, talented people in every community who can make a difference in the life of every child just by sharing their expertise.

Let’s join together and commit today and every day, to proudly stand up and speak out for our state, our communities, our public schools and the future of West Virginia, our children.

[Source:-The Register Herald]