Education Questions All Mississippians Should Ask

Over the past several months I have written about Common Core Standards, MAEP, and other topics related to Mississippi education. I have given my opinion as well as presented facts in an effort to understand what is going on in Mississippi. However, a year later I along with many other educators are still asking questions that fall on deaf ears or are completely ignored. The questions we are asking are not questions that just educators need to be asking; all Mississippians who are concerned about the future of our state and children should be asking these questions. Although there seems to be few willing to listen and even fewer willing to take action, the bigger problem comes in the form of those who “know it all,” those who are apprehensive about saying anything, and those poor apathetic souls who stick their heads in the sand and ignore what is happening. Education in Mississippi is coming unraveled around us, and because of these attitudes little is being done to stop it. State leaders in Jackson have made it clear they believe the education system in Mississippi is broken primarily due to the incompetence of educators across the state, and that they alone know how to fix it. With the exception of a few, education leaders across the state have been strangely silent on the issues, and when they do speak they tread lightly for fear of possibly angering the leadership in Jackson and bringing down more condemnation on their heads. Many teachers have simply battened down the hatches to weather the storm with the mindset “this too shall pass,” and maybe it will, but at what cost? When it comes to education, there are few on the same page anymore. Little trust or respect remains between educators and those they elected to represent them in the state legislature. Legislators have made it clear they do not want to be bothered by educators; they believe they know what Mississippi needs educationally, and that educators should stay out of their way as they go about taking control of the state’s education system. The Governor has made it clear that when it comes to decisions regarding education that he, the legislature, and the public are the ultimate decision makers regardless of what educators say. The 2015 Mississippi legislators have made it very clear that educators do not have a voice in Mississippi, and it has become painfully apparent that educators no longer know which way to turn or who to turn to.

Any group without a voice is an oppressed group, and lately the most oppressed group in Mississippi has been educators. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.” In recent memory, I cannot think of any greater oppressors of a single group in Mississippi than the oppression that has been demonstrated by Governor Phil Bryant and his Republican buddies in the state legislature toward state educators. When a bill is introduced such as HB 449 that advocates silencing educators, that bill is an act of oppression.   When comments of expertise by the state’s top education leader on an impending education bill is solicited by Democrats but denied by Republicans in favor of hearsay and parking lot opinion that is oppression. When the unqualified opinions of a few regarding state standards are given consideration over the expertise of state educators that is an act of oppression. For whatever reason, Republican legislators headed by Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves would rather bruise the heads of teachers and school administrators under their boot heel than work side by side with them to improve Mississippi. What a shame! The current state of affairs in Mississippi differs little from what can be expected of children fussing and fighting on the playground. We could accomplish so much more if the boys and girls in Jackson could learn to play together and with others more effectively.

Unfortunately, that will probably not happen, which means we most likely will be asking the same questions we are asking this year again next year. Of course, who’s to say anyone will listen next year any more than they have listened this year or any previous year for that matter? Until someone truly listens, questions about Common Core Standards, college preparation, MAEP, and the Third Grade Reading Gate will always be on the table; down the road they may be called something different, but the issues will remain the same. So, why not address the questions now, so we can regain a bit of our dignity and move Mississippi forward? Anyone looking at the questions understands all it takes is a little common sense and gumption to do what is right.

Education Questions All Mississippians Should Ask:

  1. Common Core Standards:
    1. Would it make sense to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to build a bridge and then refuse to use it and demand it be torn down because it was discovered Federal dollars may have been used to construct the bridge?
    2. Would it make sense to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to build a bridge and then without ever conducting the first structural analysis or running the first vehicle across the bridge call it “failed,” and demand it be torn down?
    3. If neither situation makes sense, then why does it make sense for Common Core Standards?
  2. 50% of high school graduates are not prepared for college:
    1. If 50% of Mississippi high school graduates are not prepared for their first year of college, why are state leaders condemning education as a whole?
    2. If 50% of Mississippi high school graduates are not prepared for their first year of college, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at the data to determine who the students are who are not prepared, where they come from, and the demographics of the schools they attended before condemning all schools and teachers? What if we found it was a poverty related issue and not an instructional issue, or what if we found it was indeed an instructional issue? Isn’t that what we need to know and address? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pinpoint the problem rather than to lay a blanket of blame on all teachers?
    3. Also, wouldn’t it be much wiser to look at the 50% who are prepared for college and study why they succeed when others fail. Wouldn’t it make sense to take what we learn from the study and replicate what led to the upper 50%’s success?
  3. MAEP:
    1. Why are so many state legislators opposed to fully funding MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program)? Do they have an agenda, and if so, what is it? Obviously they know something the rest of us do not know, or do they?
    2. Instead of all the games, wouldn’t it be smarter to change MAEP to the MISSISSIPPI ALMOST ENOUGH PLAN, and forget it?
    3. Wouldn’t it be smarter not to worry so much about MAEP and focus on establishing bread lines and shelters for the unemployable, funding larger prisons, and improving airstrips and shopping malls for corporate America as they flock to Mississippi to take advantage of the state’s billion dollar tax breaks as well as a minimally educated cheap labor force?
  4. Third Grade Reading Gate:
    1. I don’t always agree with Phil Bryant, but Mississippi needs a reading gate (I believe the gate should actually be a year earlier, but third grade is a start), so wouldn’t it be wise to go ahead and hold students and schools accountable for the Third Grade Reading Gate this school year as planned?
    2. What will delaying the reading assessment for a year accomplish? A year from now, education will most likely still be underfunded and most likely, there will still not be enough reading coaches in place to make a dramatic difference, so why bother to delay?
    3. On the positive side, wouldn’t taking the reading test help the schools gather baseline reading data that can be used to make a difference? Does it really matter if it’s 25% who fail this year or 14% who fail the reading test a year from now? Aren’t both unacceptable? Who are we protecting by delaying, the children or the adults?

Isn’t it a shame we have to ask these questions over and over – year after year? Why can’t legislators and educators work together for the common good of our children?  Why do our elected representatives insist on being adversarial?  Believe it or not educators are the good guys!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 22, 2015

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